Logistical Nightmare

by Domenika Marzione

"Got a few?"

Lorne looked up to see Sheppard standing in the doorway. "Sure."

He'd been expecting Sheppard to find him ever since the entire city had blacked out and then rebooted on back-up power. Had gone back to his office, in fact, to make himself easier to catch. And to start the benign part of a process that would ultimately be anything but.

Sheppard came in and dropped wearily down into one of the chairs across from his desk. "The fort held?"

Lorne gave him a wry grin. "The fort held," he confirmed, putting down his pencil. "Eriksson passed his crash course in crisis management with flying colors."

The Science Division had been on edge for the better part of a month -- McKay was bringing back his sister, who was apparently so smart that she didn't need to have been part of the program for the last three years to be more useful than they were -- and it was the Science Division who staffed the control room. The gate room officers had been dealing with the increased stress in time-honored military fashion (the Daedalus would be returning with about double the usual amount of bullets and target paper; they had had to ferry in more sand for the butts), but the last few days had been exceptionally difficult. Certainly after the McKay siblings had ripped a hole in the fabric of reality and produced another Rodney. The last few hours had been closer to a madness that had nothing to do with Bizarro McKay ("call me Rod").

"No shots were fired and no scientists were sent crying from the control room?" Sheppard asked jokingly. "Good for him."

He and Sheppard had both left the lieutenants to handle things -- it maintained the young officers' authority and, besides, gate room duty couldn't always be uninterrupted hours of email and tetris -- but he had been in Doctor Weir's office when the blackout had hit. Nominally they had been discussing the list of missions Military Operations had rejected and Science had insisted upon -- a regularly scheduled barter-and-compromise session that they had both learned went a lot faster without either Sheppard or McKay present -- but their hearts hadn't been in it. They'd had been reminiscing about a Colorado Springs pizza place when the lights had gone out.

They'd known since the McKay Trio (Jean Miller had turned out to be completely unlike her brother, but two Rodney McKays had been more than enough for anyone) had briefed them that there would be a power drain and that the ZPM would be substantially depleted. They had even mostly accepted the irony of expending most of their fuel resources to clean up the problems arising from trying to get more fuel. But that hadn't quite prepared them for Caughlin's cry of surprise and announcement that the ZPM was gone.

"The captains know," Lorne said. Radner was the only one of the three who'd been around before Atlantis had gotten their ZPM -- the three days between Everett's arrival and the Daedalus's. He'd joked about how those three days had felt a little like these three days. "I think there might be simultanous company meetings right about now."

The marines were, if anything, looking forward to things. Life in a city that did a pretty good job of taking care of itself made them uncomfortable, Lorne suspected. Or at least bored. But reduced reliance on the ZPM would require increases in patrols to compensate for  the sensors that would no longer work, all of which would keep the boys very busy.  

"It won't turn our lives completely upside down," Sheppard said, running his fingers through his hair. "But it'll be more than the 'slight inconvenience' we were planning on before."

The initial rough sketch, all that they had thought that they'd need until they knew just how much power the ZPM had left, had been two-tiered: the short-term plan for handling daily life and then the longer-term one that would incorporate the naquadah generators the Daedalus would bring them. Both plans had gone out the window with the ZPM depleted. They wouldn't get the naquadah generators for at least three months -- the minimum time for the Daedalus to return to Earth, resupply, and get back -- and, since there would no longer be weekly contact with Earth to update supply lists and critical information, there could be no last-minute requests.

"On the bright side," Lorne said, "our paperwork schedule just went quarterly."

Sheppard grinned, then reached for the Rubik's cube on Lorne's desk. "Once McKay has calmed down and Zelenka's not spending all of his time keeping the Science Division from taking swan dives off of the balconies, we'll get a better picture of what we'll be up against until we can get another ZPM or at least some more naquadah generators."

Lorne knew that Sheppard knew that naquadah generators didn't grow on trees. And that there was no way that the SGC would lift their prohibition on transporting naquadria on board the Daedalus. But they'd be able to get a few. Which was going to be necessary -- their rate of finding (and keeping) ZPMs was not great.

"We managed before," Sheppard went on, attention focused on the toy, "and we'll manage now. We'll just have to manage with less."

Less of what was becoming a question. Reduction of personnel -- both civilian and military -- had been a discussion point when they had thought that they'd still have a ZPM. But now that they had none, it was a far more serious consideration than just Lorne and Sheppard joking that they'd never get the SGC to send them the phantom Alpha Company now.

"We're going to be in for one hell of a fight if it comes down to sending people home," Lorne said, leaning back in his seat. It was a scientific expedition and they should expect to have priority... but what good were scientists who couldn't perform their experiments due to lack of resources? And how could you cut the protection force when the main city defenses were no longer operational? The shield was gone completely and they'd chosen not to dedicate a naquadah generator to the control chair because it was either that or shut down another part of the city -- they'd already cut back -- because they simply didn't have enough power sources.

"I know," Sheppard agreed, looking up. There was a flash of something desolate and grim and Lorne pretended that he didn't see. "We're okay with the power grid as-is?"

"It'll take a few days to sort everything out, but for now we're hanging on," he replied. "Social Sciences is pissed that we had to close them down, but they were the easiest to relocate and the only active building in their part of the city."

Social Sciences had pitched a collective hissy fit because they had viewed their forced relocation to some previously unused storage areas as yet another example of how low on the totem pole their unit stood. They weren't wrong -- Social Sciences was the punchline for most 'three guys walk into a bar' jokes in Atlantis -- but this time, it had been purely a numbers thing. Almost. The scientists were reasonably confident in their ability to fend off any reprisals by even the most militant of linguists, as opposed to what might happen if they had to shut down Little Tripoli.

"Doctor Weir have a meeting schedule yet?"

Lorne laughed bitterly. "Oh, yeah. We are pretty much on our asses in the conference room from 0830 to 1700 tomorrow. Further days to be scheduled. And she said that neither of us are going off-world until at least next week."

Sheppard pursed his lips sourly and made like he was going to toss the Rubik's cube at Lorne's head before palming it. "That's what you get us for being so remarkably unsubtle about bugging out on Tuesday."

Lorne taken his team on a previously scheduled (twenty-five hours before) first-contact mission to a planet with no people. The marines had enjoyed getting out of the city and even Yoni had been remarkably eager. Maybe it was because he'd ended up with the medical exam on the other Doctor McKay. "I backdated the mission file."

Sheppard rolled his eyes. "Listen carefully, my technophobic apprentice," he sighed, leaning forward as if he were imparting a great secret. "You are dealing with a boss who is not above checking file creation dates. Make up a set of dummy mission proposal files like everyone else does."

"Everyone else?" Lorne asked. Because while Lorne had long understood that Sheppard had some mastery of bullshitting his way into missions that hadn't existed but the network said that they did, he was very curious about who else was screwing around.

Sheppard leaned back and smiled. "I'm not giving up my star pupils."

Lorne made a mental note to start checking the file creation dates on the lieutenants' submissions.

feed me on LJ?

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