No Man's Land drabble

by Domenika Marzione

This is not what I had in mind for my next command, Lorne told himself.

The Orion needed weeks of work, more equipment than they'd been able to salvage out of Atlantis's shipyards, and about four times the personnel than they'd been able to allocate to the project. They were going to launch in a matter of hours without the crew being able to follow emergency procedures in case something went wrong -- likely -- and he was a little dubious about their ability to fly the ship even if nothing did.

"Are you in charge, sir?"

Lorne looked over at where Reletti was holding some bulky Ancient device for a petite engineer with her head half inside the weapons console. Reletti somehow always ended up helping the pretty scientists, although this one could only be assessed from the neck down. The device he was holding looked vaguely like a giant purple accordion and it was still dusty from disuse -- Reletti's face was streaked gray with dirt.

"Uh... yeah?" he replied because even within the broad spectrum of wacky things that came out of Reletti's mouth, that one seemed sort of self-answerable. Considering that Lorne was currently sitting in the captain's chair.

"Dude, do you ever think before you speak?" Suarez asked as he walked by pushing a hand truck. "Did you miss the whole 'Major Lorne, you'll command the Orion' part of the OPORD?"

"No you fucktard," Reletti called after Suarez's retreating back, belatedly checking to make sure the engineer didn't hear him curse. "I meant of Atlantis."

Lorne chuckled despite himself and despite the situation. "I'm not that high up on the totem pole, Sergeant."

Sheppard was missing and presumed dead -- whether he was dead now or later depended on whether you believed that his 302 had been destroyed (most everyone) or sucked into hyperspace when the Hive ship opened its window and he'd run out of air before he could get to safety (Zelenka and most of the engineers currently trying to fix the ship). Colonel Caldwell hadn't taken command of the Atlantis Battalion when he'd been planet-side, so technically Lorne was still acting military commander of Atlantis. It was sort of a moot point -- neither the Orion nor the Daedalus expected to emerge from the coming confrontation intact, which was why Caldwell hadn't bothered to assume command, and unless there was some sort of miracle or the Orion proved unable to jump to hyperspace, there was a good chance that Radner would be ranking officer by the end of the day.

"With all due respect, sir," Lieutenant Paik said as he sat in the pilot's seat and tried to work the console. He was the most experienced puddle jumper pilot still in Atlantis, which by the sort of loose logic in effect lately made him the best candidate to fly the Orion. "The totem pole got a lot shorter in the last couple of days. Doctor Weir went to Earth, Colonel Sheppard is MIA, Doctor McKay is missing/captured, Colonel Caldwell has not attached himself to the Battalion...."

"And Doctor Beckett is alive, well, and in Atlantis," Lorne finished. They had enough experience with certain variations in the order of succession, especially with Sheppard and McKay going missing semi-regularly, but it was the sudden absence of Doctor Weir that threw everyone for a loop. He'd only found out when he'd radioed in to tell her that they'd brought the secondary engines online and Lieutenant Osgeny had told him that she'd gone through the wormhole.

"Carson's in charge of the expedition?" Safir asked, making a face. He was carrying two large duffels full of medical equipment for the ship's infirmary. "And you wondered why I didn't want to stay behind?"

Knowing it was a longshot after they'd gotten captured by the Genii without him, Lorne had tried to convince Yoni to stay in the city, to be around in case the worst happened and Atlantis needed every fighting man they could get. Yoni had cursed him out -- in English, so he'd be understood -- instead, which was about as much as Lorne had really expected. He could have pulled rank and forced Yoni to stay behind, but he did want him along and they were probably going to need a doctor and Yoni was as much a part of the team as anyone else.

"You didn't want to stay behind because if something happens to Doctor Beckett, you might be in charge of Atlantis," Reletti pointed out, adding a cheeky "Sir" when Yoni glared at him.

The way things worked out, at least on paper, Reletti wasn't wrong. When the command element had returned to Earth from Atlantis last year, Yoni had wound up acting head of the medical unit. With the other acting heads -- himself and Zelenka -- on board the Orion, if Beckett were incapacitated, then civilian command of the expedition would revert to Yoni. As it stood now, however, Lorne hadn't the vaguest idea who would assume control if something happened to Beckett.

As if on cue, Zelenka popped up from behind the console Paik was poking at and slapped at the lieutenant's hands until Paik held them up in surrender. "All right, sir, all right!" Paik agreed, wide-eyed in the face of a torrent of Czech invective.

"Why don't you help Doctor Safir with the medical supplies, Lieutenant," Lorne suggested wryly.

Paik unfolded his long frame and stood up. "Aye aye, sir," he said, moving gingerly away from where Zelenka was pointing what looked like a soldering iron at him.

Safir and Paik disappeared into the fast-moving current of people and equipment.

Lorne sighed and gave Zelenka a tired look and Zelenka shrugged and disappeared back underneath the console.

"You ever see Space Camp, sir?"

He turned back around to see Ortilla holding a tablet computer. "No, Staff Sergeant."

Ortilla held out the tablet for him and he accepted it. The screen was full of charts and schematics diagramming the progress of the ship's repairs.

"This kind of reminds me of that," Ortilla said. "Although with all due respect, sir, you're no Kate Capshaw."

For all of the babysitting Ortilla did on missions, Lorne could sometimes forget that he had his own streak of randomness. "I think I'm going to choose to take that as a compliment," he said slowly.

Ortilla was going to say something else, but then Zelenka let rip with another stream of angry Czech and Ortilla executed a strategic withdrawal.

The tablet in his hands told him that life support was at almost 85%, shields somewhere between 30% and 80% (Lorne rolled his eyes at that variability), and main engines were edging past 75% as he watched. Weapons control was flat at zero, weapons supply was growing steadily past 50% -- unless something changed, they'd have plenty of ordinance and no way to use it, and the array of navigational systems were somewhere between 'it'll be a miracle if we can steer' and 'I've flown Stratotankers in worse shape.'

In between answering questions ranging from the idiotic to the impossible, he followed the progress of the ship's repair. When life support hit 100% and engines (primary and secondary) hit 87%, he decided to take a tour of the ship and observe the progress in person instead of via prettily-colored bar graphs captioned in Ancient writing he could only pick at. He was back in the captain's chair two hours later, satisfied that the Orion was something beyond a deathtrap and that maybe she had another miracle tucked into her holds.

There was a sequence of beeps and they all looked around, trying to determine if it was an alarm and what for when Paik -- back at the console, this time with Zelenka's blessings -- laughed. "It's the communications system, sir. We're being hailed."

"Doctor Zelenka?" Lorne prompted. Zelenka muttered something in Czech and then another beeping sequence.

"Major Lorne?" Colonel Caldwell's voice filled the bridge. "We're approaching our T-Zero."

"Zelenka says she'll fly, sir," he replied after Zelenka gestured that he should talk. "But, as of right now, that's about all she can do."

Weapons control was up to 35% and Zelenka was sure -- or maybe sure, it was hard to tell -- that they could get it up to at least 75% in time. Shields hadn't yet decided whether they were at "quick death" or "slower death."

"You'll have thirteen hours en route to get your weapons and shields online," Caldwell reminded him, "But we need to leave right now to make this window. Are you go or no go?"

Lorne looked over at Zelenka, who shrugged. But it was the kind of shrug that Lorne had learned meant that things could be worse. Paik was grinning like a kid -- he was a kid -- and the two engineers who were helping Zelenka looked vaguely anticipatory.

"We're go, sir."

feed me on LJ?


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30 July, 2006