Of Mice and Mckay, a Marine Tale

by Domenika Marzione

Lieutenant Aaron Gillick had been sitting in the office he shared with Paik and Patchok, working with his platoon sergeant to put together a brief-back on the night training exercise they'd been ordered to set up, when Tom Salker stuck his head in.

"Don't bother," Tom said, gesturing to the maps and lists of gear he and Gunny Tommasso had been poring over. "You're probably getting another mission any minute now."

"What's going on?" he asked, reaching for a tissue. The cold was mostly gone, but his nose was still running a little when he spent too much time indoors.

"Colonel Sheppard's team got ambushed by the Genii," Salker replied, stepping fully into the room. Gillick felt his heart sink a little. Not again. They'd just finally agreed to stop the hostilities -- or, rather, the Genii had agreed to stop attacking them. It was kind of ironic how Pegasus was so much like Earth in that the ceasefires really meant that the quasi-terrorist states decided to find another target for a while. "The Colonel didn't get back. Doctor Weir's doing the diplomat thing now, but, well."

"Fuck," Gunny Tommasso muttered. He stood up and started putting away the maps.

"Why do you think I'm going?" Gillick asked, mostly to be modest. Tom was never going to be the one getting these sorts of assignments.

Salker rolled his eyes. "Because you're the one who's landed every other Rescue Someone From the Genii mission? Because with Sheppard captured and Major Lorne not here, your commander is the one currently making all operations decisions? Because Osgeny's on ready-room duty and Doctor Weir thinks that Malthusa means that his platoon shouldn't go instead of that it should? Pick one."

In Atlantis, the companies and thus the platoons were nominally equal in status, but the lieutenants all knew where they stood and there was jostling to come out ahead. Captain Polito got better missions than Captain Radner or Captain Hanzis. Within Charlie Company, Patchok got points for one of his teams being chosen by Major Lorne for off-world duty and for being the first platoon to encounter the Wraith. Paik was the best pilot in Atlantis outside of Colonel Sheppard. And he himself had taken the spot of envoy to Ipetia after Polito had assured him that personal ties with Atlantis's closest trading partner would get him noticed. It did, even if it had also gotten him stranded for a month with Lorne's team. But between that and the vacuum left by Brian Maguire's death on Malthusa, he'd found his platoon getting more important -- and more dangerous -- assignments.

In the end, Salker was wrong -- it was half an hour before Captain Polito summoned him to the commander's office.

"--We get in, we get our man, we get out. Stay sharp and stay alive!"

Gillick looked down the line at his marines, all of whom were giving him the 'who the fuck are you?' fish-eye that they couldn't give McKay, who'd circled around behind them. He glared back at them, daring them to call McKay on his bit of absurdist speechifying, and making sure they didn't snicker out loud when Doctor Beckett actually did. The marines were more amused than actually offended -- the squad he'd chosen had been the same one to break McKay out of the Genii facility almost a year ago, so they knew he wasn't a complete blowhard -- but McKay didn't understand marine humor and any reaction would be taken badly, especially because it was easy to see that McKay himself was scared shitless. He was going along because Sheppard was his friend and his teammate, not because he would be of any practical use on the mission. He couldn't not go and Gillick rather thought that his marines understood that. And maybe respected him a little for it. Maybe; McKay treated them all like sentient farts.

Gillick had already given his marines the lock-and-load order, so it was just a matter of moving out once Ronon went through the wormhole. There wasn't any real irony to the reversal of positions -- when they'd gone to Malthusa to rescue Sheppard from the Genii, Ronon had been placed under his command, but that had been at Colonel Caldwell's orders and now, months later, it would have been a little ridiculous to try to repeat that. And, in truth, he didn't really see the need. He trusted Ronon in the field and he'd like to think that Ronon trusted him. Ronon had said as much -- at least in his non-verbal language -- when they'd met earlier in the armory. Or maybe it was just approval that Gillick had asked for (and received) permission for his marines to ditch the unloved P-90s.

If there was any irony, it was that the P-90s would have been less useless than they normally were because the planet was far more urban than they had come to expect in Pegasus and there was every chance that they'd be doing close quarters fighting. They didn't have places like this to train -- their urban combat training was either within Atlantis (replicating precisely two other places in the galaxy) or in the abandoned mud hut village on M98-412 the marines had dubbed Parris Island because the path from it to the stargate apparently resembled the obstacle course there.

Following Radim's intel, Ronon led them into a building that was a warehouse on top and a complex warren of rooms and cells underneath. Gillick's men had plenty of practice clearing rooms back on Earth, so it was only a matter of time until they verified that neither Sheppard  nor Kolya were on site. They were picking through what they did find -- maps, radios, C4 -- when they heard gunfire. Which turned out to be McKay shooting at a mouse.

There was no keeping the marines in line after that one.

"This is it," Gillick told his marines as he turned from the bulkhead. "They've got Colonel Sheppard's transmitter on the HUD."

He felt a little deceitful keeping up a good facade for his marines; he'd been in the control room for the last video transmission and watched Colonel Sheppard get fed upon by the wraith. "Take your fill," Kolya had told it. And he'd been there for Beckett telling them that even if Sheppard had survived the feeding, he probably wouldn't survive the after-effects. He'd known when they'd piled into the rear of the jumper that they were probably going on a recovery mission, not a rescue. Even if Sheppard technically wasn't dead yet.

"Why didn't they use the Ancient Gameboy to look for the Colonel last time?" Terreri made some sort of hand gesture that Gillick thought was supposed to mimic using the Ancient PDA but really looked like he was playing clarinet with his dick. He wasn't alone in that comparison, apparently, because the others started smiling and Terreri made a face.

"The PDA doesn't have enough juice to pick up the transmitter underground," Gillick replied, adjusting where his rifle strap was resting on his shoulder. The butt was banging into the back of his thigh with each graceless turn of the jumper. McKay was no pilot. "The Genii do everything underground, beneath stone and cement so they can hide from the Wraith. It also means that they can hide from us unless we're using something more powerful."

The transmitters were new, something imported from the SGC and thus far restricted only to the highest officers and the off-world teams. The marines took that at face value -- they weren't important enough to keep track of -- but Gillick personally didn't mind not being barcoded. More than a year into his tour in Atlantis and he still got weirded out by the internal sensors' ability to find anyone (except Colonel Sheppard sometimes) within the city. It was all a little too Brave New World for him.

"How come we didn't take a jumper to the last planet?" Bisniak asked as the ship banked into another sharp turn and Gillick had to reach behind himself to hold on. "Woulda saved us a trip -- and McKay's mouse, too."

Chuckles all around. Between the arrow in his ass the other month and the mouse, McKay had given the marines enough ammo to keep them entertained for a while. Especially because there had been no threat not to mention the mouse, unlike the arrow.

"Because the distance between the stargate and the village was too close," he replied, giving everyone a look to keep them quiet. McKay was ten feet away and he knew better than to agitate the already nervous pilot. "Even cloaked, there would've been no way to hide the noise."

From where he was standing, he couldn't see the writing on the HUD -- not like he could read Ancient, even though they all knew a little bit -- but he remembered what the maps of the planet had looked like and could tell that Sheppard wasn't in the facility. Whether he'd broken out or was in the process of being transported to another world -- or whether they'd simply dumped his body where it would be easily seen -- there was no way of knowing.

It turned out, of course, that their best hopes and worst fears were realized at once. Sheppard had been fed upon too much to survive and then he was de-aged and then they were repatriating the Wraith, which was all sorts of uncomfortable. Not just because none of them liked the idea of helping out a creature that would kill them all if it got the chance, but also because the crowded jumper conditions meant that the wraith was on the floor between them and there wasn't enough room for everyone to sit.

Sheppard was flying, so that bumped one person who'd been riding in the front to the rear. It turned out to be Ronon, who took up far more space aft of the bulkhead than he did before it and was visibly uncomfortable standing so close to a wraith and not being allowed to kill it. Gillick, who did get a seat because his marines were perfectly capable of making a scene by all standing if he refused, did his best to try to draw Ronon into some sort of conversation to distract him. The marines helped out and they were still discussing Semper Fu when they arrived at the planet Sheppard had chosen to drop off their passenger.

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