A Wraith's Guide to Food and Nutrition
by Eildon Rhymer (rhymer23)
In which the Wraith struggle with their diet, Sheppard and McKay struggle to play teacher, and everyone struggles with chocolate cake and other related evils.
This is inspired by Infection, and should be read in the context of the season five developments with regard to the Wraith's feeding habits.
Their prey was disturbingly passive. News of its capture had spread through the hive, and twelve Wraith now surrounded its prison, studying it as it sat in the centre of the cell.
"Perhaps we should leave it a little longer."
"Perhaps its species is particularly susceptible to stun blasts."
"No, I believe it is conscious, but plotting."
"Can it understand us?" The speaker snarled, baring pointed teeth. The prey did not as much as flinch.
"Nerves of steel. Perhaps we should make it into a Runner?"
They were silent for a while; perhaps all of them were contemplating an epic chase across the wilderness, this one's defiance arrayed against the might of the Wraith. Perhaps they were imagining the heroic paintings and epic poetry that would immortalise their running-down of this foe. Can Wraith show disquiet? Had it possessed eyes, the prey could have answered that.
"I'm going in," one snarled. The ripple of relief was tangible. "Let us end this one way or another."
The cell bars were opened; still the prey did nothing. With a roar of fury, the Wraith sank its talons into its unresisting soft flank. It didn't shriek. It didn't even as much as whimper.
"It is an truly admirable foe. Perhaps we should break it – bend it to our will."
Had Wraith been able to show such things, the disquiet would have deepened into outright perturbation. To visit a rival hive attended by an honour guard of broken, subordinate human warriors was a wondrous thing indeed! To do so with an honour guard of creatures such as this…
"It smells foul." The Wraith on their front row wrinkled their noses.
"Its blood is pale."
"And strangely lumpy."
The Wraith with pale, stinking lumps on its talons tried to find a bright spot in the disturbing void that existence had suddenly become. "It is the aroma of defiance."
"I told you we should have left it longer."
"No," said another, more wise in the ways of humans and related animals. "I have a passing knowledge of their barbaric form of expressionistic scratching, and I believe it has a date inscribed on its hide. 'Best… Before… End.'"
"Which end?" The impatient taloned-one up-ended the prey. The results were unfortunate.
"There are also numbers. I believe they refer to a method of measuring the passage of time, based on the lunar cycle of its planet of origin. I believe…" The scholar looked up. "I believe that this creature's species has a limited life span, and expires upon a pre-determined date."
A shudder ran through the remaining Wraith. How would it be, they wondered, to spend your whole existence knowing the day you would pass from it?
"What is the name of this species?" The scholar turned to the one who had liberated the prisoner from the human traveller that had previously kept it as a pet.
"I believe it is called a milk carton."
The scholar retreated. Some things, it seemed, were just not for eating.
Desperate measures were called for. The message that reached Atlantis was distorted by distance and desperation, but the scale of the Wraith's need was clear.
"Tried… everything… Strange feeling… inside… Can't… Wraith do not beg, but… Help us, people of Atlantis, you are our only hope."
"It's called hunger. That aching, twisty feeling inside you? Hunger. Hun. Ger. It's a permanent state with me, actually, but some people… we're good at adapting – do extreme works of genius despite feeling... Oh! There isn't any citrus on board, is there? Citrus is bad. Citrus is evil. Whatever else you do, you must never, ever--"
"Rodney, you can't send the Wraith on a crusade against lemon trees."
"It would solve our problems, though, wouldn't it? Eradicate the citrus and keep the Wraith busy. Two birds with one stone…"
"Just ignore him, uh, class. It's hunger. Means you've got to eat something."
"Hey, I'm supposed to be giving the first lesson."
"You kept eating the show and tell. So, listen, uh, class. You're here to learn about eating. You can eat all sorts of things – yes, including citrus. But lots of things don't keep well, so you have to put them in the refrigerator. You have a refrigerator, right? Uh… cold place? Oh. O-kay… A freezer?"
"They don't have a freezer."
"I can see that, Rodney, okay? Add it to the list."
"I'm on page twenty already."
"Then add it to page twenty-one. Freezers for all Wraith ships, as part of the necessary cost of the project the IOA are so keen on and practically ordered us to do."
"Have we put microwave ovens on the list yet? D'you think they've already got…?"
"No, Rodney, they haven't got microwave ovens. Why would they have microwave ovens?"
"Uh. That's a good point, given what their food has consisted of until now. So we have: freezer, spoons, microwave ovens, saucepans, tablecloths (though I still contend that they're not necessary, whatever Todd says about having standards), a fully-equipped cafeteria (and, no, we're not getting them a jukebox), fitted kitchen, tupperware (but once again, colonel, I'm not hosting the party; I still say that Ronon should do it, as long as we all stand back), a barbecue for those lazy summer days, dishwasher, coffee machine (and, no, I'm not sharing my stash), vending machines for all hallways, and--"
"They eat life force. That's, you know, intangible. Nothing to excrete. But now they're eating burgers…"
"Do you think they even have…? No, eww! I am not having this conversation."
"No, Sheppard, if you want to turn one upside-down to investigate the existence of the necessary orifices, feel free, but I for one--"
"But if they haven't got… you know, then… well, you get the picture…"
"They'll get bigger and bigger until they explode, yes, but I am not going to potty train a bunch of Wraith."
"Good point. Where were we? Yes. Hunger. It means that… Beer!"
"Hunger might mean beer in your little grunt-world, but…"
"No, I mean beer. D'you think Wraith can get drunk?"
"That's a point. They be unaccustomed to it, too, so…"
"A drunk Wraith. D'you think they'd dance on the table singing Dancing Queen?"
"Thank you for that image. Yes, yes, I'm adding alcohol awareness literature to the list."
"Best get some crates of good Scotch, just in case."
"Which you would of course volunteer to test for quality…"
"Hey, the IOA's paying. Why do you think I made you put surf boards on the list? But where were we? Hunger. It means you have to eat something, and while we did appreciate your earlier questions, I must reiterate that you don't first have to chase it, run it down, stun it, imprison it, or make it scream."
"But you have to admit that the sight of Todd torturing a carrot was one of the better moments of the past few years."
"Dr. McKay is going to give each of you a power bar and we're going to practise biting into them. If that goes well, we'll move on to chewing…"
"And cover swallowing in tomorrow's lesson?"
"Hm. Tempting, but we'd better not. Woolsey's going to evaluate each lesson. He wants to roll out this education plan to the entire Wraith fleet."
"Ah. I see what you mean. Right. Okay. Change of plan. Today's we're going to cover unwrapping."
"Best start with 'food, or not food?' That one's eating his desk."
"Uh. Uh… I wonder how Ronon's lesson's going?"
"Oh God, what was that horrible noise?"
"The answer to my question, I guess."
The Wraith, it appeared, were not good at cooking. Some of the Wraith, however, contended that Marines and astrophysicists were not good at teaching cooking. Only four people were hospitalised as a result of that little difference of opinion.
Two scientists swore never to speak to each other ever again after an argument over the calibration of kitchen scales. Apparently they do have to be accurate to the micro-gram or the entire feast is ruined, ruined, I tell you!
Four Wraith were so disturbed by the concept of yeast that they left the ship, never to return. Millions were later to flock to their cause.
Doctor Rodney McKay and Lieutenant-Colonel John Sheppard spent so long arguing whether eating cake dough would lead to a Hideous Doom that several of their pupils, misunderstanding the instructions on the blackboard, ate the recipe book instead. Their instructors failed to notice. The medical team called in by Dr. McKay declined to admit Colonel Sheppard instantly to the infirmary because he had licked the spoon. The medical book, the Wraith declared, tasted better then the cake made by the said McKay and Colonel Sheppard, even though it had sprinkles on. One, in fact, declared that he would rather die of starvation than eat another slice of said cake. Cake-making, apparently, was not covered either at Colonel School or Genius School.
Prompted by questions his pupils, Doctor Radek Zelenka painted a colourful word picture of fluffy baa-lambs and bouncy bunny rabbits, which resulted in the entire crew declaring themselves vegetarian.
Some unfortunately-timed popcorn led to a ship-wide security alert, and almost led to war. Fortunately, it was discovered just in time that Private James Watkins made a divine strawberry mousse. War was averted, but only just.
While waiting for ovens to be brought from Earth, the ship's engines were used to cook food. Over-filling fairy cake cases, it was discovered, does not have a beneficial effect on the engines' performance. Trying to drag the life-force from your still-living fairy cake with your hand results in burns. Kicking the "oven" results in an entire ship almost crashing into the planet below. Chocolate icing on the controls, while enough to hinder last-ditch rescue attempts, does not entirely prevent them. This is Fortunate.
In the absence of dishwashers, the people of Atlantis had to teach the Wraith how to wash dishes. "Use this brand of washing-up liquid," a Marine declared. "It will leave your hands lovely and smooth." The ensuing near-slaughter was only halted when all the parties started choking on soap bubbles.
It was discovered that the living structure of a hive ship does not react well to icing sugar.
The bathroom question remained unsolved.
"So cooking isn't the way to go."
Everyone on the ship was strangely brown and streaky, with soap bubbles in their hair.
The one they called Todd raised a weary head. "We know about fast food."
"By which you mean Ronon, I take it?" Rodney picked some chocolate icing off the back of his hand. "No, I mean proper fast food. If the Wraith can't cook, we should just--"
"I doubt that McDonalds could be persuaded to open an outlet in the Pegasus Galaxy, Rodney." Sheppard's hair was strangely untainted, despite the fact that he had been at the heart of the ice-cream explosion, and had saved three scientists from falling cherries, shielding them with his own body.
"Why not? They get everywhere else. Well, I guess there's the small issue of clearance… But it's in a good cause. A drive-through at every star cluster…"
"Whatever. And some pizza places. When they feel that irritating hunger pang, instead of culling a few planets, they pick up their phone and order a pizza."
Todd had the look of a Wraith tried almost beyond endurance. "What is this… pizza of which you speak?"
"Flat dough base," Sheppard explained, "with toppings on – cheese, tomato, pepperoni, etcetera. You choose what you like from a menu, give them a call, and they show up at your door, you pay them – don't forget the tip! – and… Yeah. Simple as that."
"Who brings it?" Todd asked.
"A boy. Girl. Whatever. It doesn't matter."
"And can you select…?"
"No, Todd, you don't eat the delivery boy. Are we going to have to send you back to the remedial class?"
Rodney sighed. "On second thoughts, I don't think this idea will work."
The Wraith, it seemed, became quite irritable when hungry. Rodney complained about this character defect of theirs at great length. "It's strangely familiar," Sheppard observed. "I can't think why."
On the seventh day, a summit meeting was held. "I hate it say it…" Sheppard shifted wearily in his chair. "We've tried everything else, and desperate situations require desperate measures."
Woolsey, however, vetoed the suggestion of a class outing to a grocery store back on Earth.
"It was probably the wisest decision, all things considered," Rodney observed, afterwards. "Remember what happened when we took Ronon to the supermarket?"
It had not gone well. It had cost a ridiculous amount of money to avoid the eleven lawsuits.
As a compromise, a short trip was taken to a small village market. "Don't scream," Sheppard had urged the stall-keepers beforehand. "Yes, they're Wraith, but they can't feed any more. They're declawed. Impotent. The only thing they're a menace to is carrots. Stand your ground. If things go well today, they'll recommend the treatment to all the other hives, and you'll all live happily ever after. It's your job to ensure they have a good retail experience."
They did not.
Half the stall-keepers fled, and half the Wraith relapsed into old habits, and chased them.
No matter how plaintively it is said, "I'll give you gold; now can I eat you?" does not inspire a seller to part with their wares.
A vegetable stall was destroyed when one Wraith said he didn't like the way a potato was looking at him.
Many Wraith had apparently failed to pay attention during Rodney's lesson on haggling, and thought that it involved guns. They got low prices, though, which Rodney claimed afterwards was kind of the point, so he claimed victory there, with his lesson clearly superior to Sheppard's lesson on the basics of a monetary economy.
Rodney's star pupils burnt a quarter of the village when they spotted a treacherous lemon creeping up on him from behind a pile of loaves. Once again, Rodney claimed a victory for his teaching methods. Once again, everyone else disagreed.
A stall selling gingerbread men proved to be the last straw.
A veil will be drawn over what happened next. It is better thus.
They sat around the conference table, tired, weary and drained.
"On second thoughts…" Who said it first? They were too shattered to remember, but the sentiment belonged to all of them. "On second thoughts, let's forget about this whole gene therapy thing. Let them go back to culling worlds. It's far better that way."