As Ye Sow

by Domenika Marzione

"And you thought this was a good idea why?" Lorne asked as he pinched the bridge of his nose. It wasn't actually going to stave off the headache, but it did help a little with the sinus pressure. Between his lingering allergies from Planet Ragweed and the incipient migraine from the steaming piles of shit that were going to have to be cleaned up after Weapons Company intentionally blew up a building in Atlantis, Lorne needed all of the help he could get.

"Colonel Sheppard agreed when I proposed it, sir," Hanzis said and Lorne opened his eyes to glare since they both knew exactly how much of a justification that was. The captains were fiercely protective of Sheppard when it came to interference and pressure from without, but they were not above taking advantage of him -- or at least taking advantage of his sense of whimsy and love of the fun parts of being in the military (namely, access to toys that went boom). Especially when doing so meant a successful end run around Lorne, who was seemingly the officer responsible for common sense in Little Tripoli.

"Mike," he sighed, the plaintive tone wiped out by a sneeze. Fucking ragweed; they'd been there for six hours three days ago and he was still breathing through one nostril. "Of course he was going to go along with it. You probably had him at 'controlled demo'. And none of that would have even mattered if you'd just put more care into deciding on a target. Did you even look at the list of buildings G-2 wanted to go through?"

"It was on the list of unsafe buildings, sir," Hanzis replied, which was equivalent to a 'no' and Lorne took that as such. The building, a fairly small thing out by the west pier, had taken heavy damage during the Replicator assault on the city and it had already seen damage from the Wraith siege two years previous. That Weapons Company had chosen it for an exercise -- an exercise essentially mandated by Marine Corps brass back on Earth (who were worried that Atlantis was turning a Weapons Company into an engineering unit, which they kind of were) -- was neither illogical nor, on the face of it, anything less than pragmatic. Except for the fact that G-2 had asked three different times for permission to make the place safe enough for exploration by the archaeologists and architects and had been turned down every time because of "higher priority activities".

"Well, congratulations," Lorne said. "You've just volunteered your marines for the half-dozen time-wasting missions we're going to have to accept from G-2 to soothe ruffled feathers over you blowing up their 'gold mine of information.' Next time you get the urge to stay local with the exercises, do everyone a favor and consider the long-term effects of short-term entertainment?"

"Yes, sir," Hanzis said contritely, standing up because that was effectively a dismissal. "I'm sorry, sir."

"Make sure the paperwork for Quantico is ready for the next databurst," Lorne said, then blew his nose again as Hanzis left. He had gotten allergy medicine from Medical, but hadn't taken any of it yet. It was a lingering distaste from his pilot days, when a couple of Benadryls would have him too wired to sleep and so twitchy that long hours in the cockpit were sheer hell.

A half-hour later, when Doctor Weir radioed to tell him that Hanzis wasn't the only officer who'd let his inner three-year-old rule, Lorne gave up and took the blue capsules Abelard had given him. He'd be twitchy anyway and it wasn't like he was going to be getting any sleep any time soon.

"...I don't know if you can hear me but it looks like I'm gonna have to ride this one down."

Oh, Christ. Not again.

Lorne was practically vibrating in place from the damned antihistamines (although he'd accept that tradeoff for being able to breathe the canned air inside the space suit), was surprisingly sore from working the blowtorch, and could now add nausea to the mix because he was really getting fucking sick of sitting in a jumper watching Sheppard try to kill himself.

Thankfully, suicide was one skill Sheppard had yet to properly master -- although McKay made it very clear that he was getting far too good at it for anyone's taste. They found him standing rubber-legged by the storage device, anxious for McKay to tell him that it was still functioning and Teyla was fine. McKay could do the former but not the latter and that had to be good enough for now. It was enough to get Sheppard to allow himself to be guided back to the jumper, at least, leaving Lorne with an injured Ronon and McKay to figure out what to do with the storage device.

Once everyone was back to the jumper with Beckett still fussing over Sheppard -- who was a little groggy although probably not concussed ("Hard head, Doc." "No shit." "Thanks, Rodney. You still owe me.") -- Lorne had kept himself busy and distracted by organizing the rescue of the 'stored' people. Everyone was worried about Teyla, despite the fact that she'd been scoopy-beamed and rematerialized once already. Nobody knew what Jamus had or hadn't done before he'd made her disappear.

There was a combination of resigned distaste and a little disbelieving awe -- more the former than the latter after a few years in this merciless galaxy -- in the reaction to the history of Jamus's people. They weren't the first people to sacrifice the many to improve the odds of the few, but the scale of it was still a little mind-blowing. Not that sacrificing hundreds was any better, but intentionally nuking hundreds of thousands of your own people to deke out the Wraith... ("Maybe that's why the Wraith believed we'd done it," McKay had mused aloud, tone bleak. "We wouldn't have been the first.") Neither Lorne nor Sheppard said as much, but Lorne knew that it was probably a factor in their decision to re-materialize everyone on their home world rather than bring them back to Atlantis to ease their way back into three dimensions. This wasn't a people who deserved cosseting and it was for Teyla's sake that they chose to wait until they had additional equipment support before effecting the rematerialization, which meant dragging the module back to Atlantis anyway to analyze it.

By the time Captain Allen (an X-302 pilot from the Daedalus who'd been loaned to them as a replacement for Paik in the jumper pilot rotation until they could adequately train Lieutenant Cardejo) got them back to Atlantis, the preparations had been finalized and the various teams -- medical, engineering, marines -- were waiting. Cardejo ended up driving one of the jumpers anyway, since it required a veritable space convoy to get everyone back to the planet. Still a little twitchy, Lorne was happy to end up driving Bessie and to have Medical staff who liked to doze on long car rides as his companions. And McKay, but Rodney was clearly drained from the day already and was quiet as he prepared for the task ahead.

They landed on a part of the planet that was less barren than the moonlike surface where they'd found Sheppard -- there was nothing remaining of any kind of advanced civilization, no cities reduced to rubble, no nothing. Time and what had probably been an extreme case of overestimation on the bomb payloads had erased everything and this world that had sacrificed so much to save so little would be starting from nothing. One of the scientists was taking soil samples to see if there was even enough nitrogen in the ground to grow anything.

"It's kind of like last time all over again, sir," Suarez said as they watched McKay harass the engineers setting up the rematerialization equipment. "Except hopefully we won't find ourselves getting chased by Wraith and scoopy-beamed again."

Patchok's platoon was providing security, so with Yoni leading the medical team it was almost as if Lorne had brought his team along. Which was probably for the best because the marines were feeling a little slighted that he hadn't brought them along in the first place despite the fact that they knew very well that two teams did not fit happily in one jumper.

"These people pretty much brought it on themselves," Reletti said, not looking up from where he was fiddling with his thigh holster. "The Hadrapu almost getting wiped out was at least partly our fault."

Staff Sergeant Gustafson's squad was unpacking flats of bottled water and cases of MREs; Atlantis wasn't going to do much for these people, but some minimal level of support was obviously necessary. While it sounded like most of the people collected in the storage device had been handpicked for their usefulness in recreating their world's society, there were also a couple of hundred children and no guarantee that even all of the adults had been willing parties to a scheme that had included their great-grandparents.

"Who the fuck sacrifices their kids -- and their kids' kids, and their kids' kids -- for a snowball's chance in hell?" Ortilla asked, returning from where he'd been organizing security with Patchok, Gunny Haumann, and the other squad leaders. "What kind of fucked-up greater good is that, sir?"

"This is Pegasus," Lorne replied, which was both an answer and an excuse. "Moderation went out of style ten thousand years ago."

How much it went out of fashion in modern-day Atlantis was occasionally a reason for concern.

For better or for worse, they were getting pretty good at the rematerialization business. Even though the technology was different, it didn't take long until McKay was yelling at Yoni to get his people in place. Then some buttons were pushed and ten thousand and two people were suddenly where nothing had been before.

Rematerialization was still pretty much a high-tech overturning of a bucket full of people, so it took time and sharp eyes and strong backs to undo the tangled mass of humanity and triage the recovered -- and find Teyla. The changes in the Wraith process had kept the patterns stable for millennia, but with a cost. There were the usual sorts of after-effects -- rapid heartbeats, dehydration, lethargy -- that came with the process and they were prepared to handle those. But in addition to the expected grogginess, there was a more profound and pervasive memory loss -- a lot of people had no idea where they were or why -- and one fatality. When asked, Keller couldn't say she was sure that they would have been able to save Jamus if they'd done the rematerialization in Atlantis. But they had to watch him die anyway and Lorne felt both guilt and vague irritation that he did so with a smug and satisfied smile on his lips.

Lorne was already starting to sneeze again by the time the marines began packing up for the trip home ("still with the allergies, sir?" Reletti -- who hadn't even noticed the ragweed -- asked, all solicitous concern). They were leaving the people with tents and camping supplies and food and water and would be returning with more, but right now it was time to get Teyla (who seemed fine, albeit weak) back to Atlantis and figure out what sort of long-term aid would or wouldn't be forthcoming. For all of the creepy eugenics and self-inflicted genocide that had brought these people to where and when they were, they weren't a completely bad lot -- nobody could ignore the profound sense of guilt and despair that clung to the survivors. How could you gracefully handle the burden of their forebears' sacrifice that had been placed on their shoulders? Everyone had lost family, friends, loved ones -- parents, siblings, children, spouses -- and though the losses were millinnia old, they were still immediate and fresh to the survivors.

The ride home was subdued. They already knew that Teyla was being kept for observation only for precautionary measures and Sheppard had passed his scan with no trouble, although Doctor Weir had postponed any discussion about what to do with the survivors until tomorrow. Lorne let Patchok supervise the unpacking and the rest of the end-of-mission business; he went downstairs to check in with Weir and then back to his office to wait out the last of the antihistamine euphoria.

note: the Hadrapu come from No Assembly Required

feed me on LJ?

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20 June, 2007