History Repeating

by Domenika Marzione

"--because Santa doesn't love you that much, amigo."

"Fuck you."

"Sorry, dude, but I'm saving myself for marriage."

"You tell that to Doctor Locardi?"

"Fuck off!"

Lorne let the bickering of his marines wash over him like the rain that was currently falling on them. They were all soaked to the skin -- the heavens had opened up in the middle of their visit to the Olkarans and the distance to the gate was too far to make running for it worth the effort. The planet was warm, the rain was cool, and so after they'd enjoyed the modest-but-effusive hospitality of what looked to be new allies (the Olkarans were mostly cloth-makers, which meant that there wasn't a whole lot Atlantis needed from them commercially), they had carefully tucked the samples they'd been given away with anything else that wouldn't stand up to getting soaked and made their way back to the gate at their own leisurely pace.

"That's not what you told her.... oh, don't do that, you freak," Suarez griped with annoyance and Lorne looked over to see what Reletti was doing just in case it was obscene. "Not on fucking Planet Monsoon."

Reletti was frozen in place with his head cocked, curious instead of cautious, like he was listening to some music the rest of them couldn't hear. Lorne could tell the others were watching him to see if he could sense whatever it was, too, but all he heard was the dull clatter of rain falling on trees and ground and all he felt was the damp cloth of his uniform and not any prickle that might mean Ancient technology.

"You got anything, Sergeant?" Lorne asked. The rain was comfortable now, but he couldn't say that he was at all excited by the idea of an extra couple of hours out here chasing whatever Reletti was trying to tune in.

There was no answer, so Ortilla snapped his fingers right in front of Reletti's face and waited for some kind of awareness to return. Reletti didn't space out all that much anymore -- ever, really -- but apparently he'd done so now. Lorne could only see Reletti's back and Ortilla's concerned expression, so he walked over, Yoni right behind him. Suarez was hanging back, clearly concerned but also mindful of their surroundings.

"It was kind of a sneak attack, sir," a clear-eyed Reletti explained with some sheepishness and not a little annoyance with himself. "I didn't hear anything and then all of a sudden, it was all I heard."

Lorne nodded. He waited a beat to see if Yoni wanted to do anything, but he didn't -- 'distracted by Ancient technology' was a familiar-enough diagnosis, Lorne supposed. "Do you still hear it?"

"Yes, sir," Reletti answered with a frown. "I don't know what it is or what it's supposed to be, but I don't think it's working right."

"Great," Lorne sighed. Chasing down malfunctioning Ancient tech always turned out so well. "Are you going to be good to hunt for it?"

"Yes, sir," was the emphatic reply. Ortilla gave Reletti a knowing look and Reletti made a face. "It's like I've got bees in my ears, but I can kind of ignore it. It's annoying, not dangerous."

A snort from Yoni pretty much summed up what the rest of them thought about Reletti's ability to evaluate his own safety and well-being. But Reletti was probably right -- it wasn't as if Sheppard hadn't ever wandered off in Atlantis guided by the same kinds of impulses and they hadn't lost him yet. They'd lost Teyla, but while that was something else entirely, it also meant that Reletti was probably not going to be out of arm's reach of anyone this afternoon.

"All right," Lorne said, looking around and then at his watch. They were due back in about two hours, but it was probably easier to check in now. "Let's go dial Atlantis and tell them that we're going to be out here for a while longer."

He wasn't quite expecting a rubber stamp from Doctor Weir, but she sounded a little more reluctant than he'd expected she'd be. Sheppard had apparently taken his team out at her request and found something creepy and potentially dangerous on the planet the Taranans had re-settled on; she'd sent Nagley and a fire team out to support them and while everything seemed to be fine -- the Taranans had moved without warning, it seemed -- she was still a little nervous. However, when Lorne offered to return to Atlantis instead, she declined and told him to call in if he needed anything.

"We're on a short leash, aren't we, sir?" Ortilla asked after the wormhole closed.

"Probably," Lorne replied. If it was only Nagley and a team, then she couldn't have been that worried -- but he expected that any missed check-ins or overdue returns would be met with prompt activation of the rest of the ready-room marines. "Let's make the most of the time we've got."

For all of the buzzing in Reletti's ears, he wasn't precisely sure of exactly where the device was ("Dude, why do you get the pixies with no fucking sense of direction?") and it took Lorne fiddling with the energy meter in his PDA to get them all the way there after Reletti led them to the general area.

"If he zones out again, you take him back to Atlantis," Yoni told Ortilla, who ignored Reletti's protest to agree. Lorne had no doubt that Ortilla would fling Reletti over his shoulder and carry him back if it came to it -- and Reletti knew it.

They pulled out their E-tools to dig, since of course the damned thing was under ground. Or under mud, at least by this point. Reletti, annoyed by being closely watched and by the noise in his head ("shut the fuck up already," he could be heard muttering at the device), dug the most enthusiastically and was the one to hit paydirt about a meter down. It was a foot locker-sized case, obviously Ancient in design and meant to protect whatever was inside.

"It's going to be the size of a stamp," Yoni muttered as they struggled to free the large case from the sticky mire in the crater they'd dug. The rain had slackened off for a while, but picked up again while they were digging and it was now coming down in sheets. A large hole was a perfect collecting point for puddles that rapidly grew to wading pools and it took all five of them to lever the thing up enough so that Ortilla could get hands underneath and boost it up to the ground. Not before all of them had slipped and fallen as they'd lost their balance or the mud had tried to take their boots off as they'd fought for purchase.

There was a latch and Reletti had to fight with it to get it to unlock. The contents were bigger than a stamp, but not by much. Lorne had started to sense the device as soon as the case had been unearthed; it wasn't as loud to him as it clearly was to Reletti, but it was a kind of low-grade irritant -- not as low with the case open -- and Lorne was grateful that his gene didn't work as well as the real thing.

"Close it up," he said through slightly clenched teeth. "We'll let the ATA labs dick around with it."

Ortilla carried the box and Reletti didn't bother to pretend that he didn't want to be anywhere near it. Lorne didn't either and it was a brisk walk back to the stargate. The rain washed off the worst of the mud, but they were still more brown than anything else and Lorne tried to be grateful that at least the mud didn't stink.

"I don't want to be the poor fuckers who have to swab the deck after we come through the gate room," Suarez said as he finished dialing the DHD.

The wormhole opened with a kawoosh.

"Atlantis, we're going to need an ATA team to meet us," Lorne said as he sent his IDC. "And a mop, too."

McKay and his minions had developed some kind of portable shielded containers -- they looked like picnic coolers on trolleys -- that could be used to transport Ancient tech from the stargate to the labs equipped to deal with it.

"Roger that, sir," Lieutenant Murray said after a long pause, sounding a little strained. "Doctor Weir says you should come in anyway and wait here."

Lorne exchanged glances with Yoni; this was not standard procedure, although Lorne hadn't said that the device was dangerous. But Weir had been antsy before and maybe now she had reason to be concerned.

"Wilco, Lieutenant," Lorne answered. "We're coming through."

He stepped into the city and immediately looked up at the control room. Sheppard was standing on the catwalk and Lorne could see both Keller and McKay in Weir's office. There were no jokes from the gate room marines about their muddy state and one look at Sheppard's face told Lorne why. He'd seen that bleak expression enough to recognize it -- they'd lost someone, maybe more than one. It disappeared once Ortilla carried the case through; whatever had been making Reletti crazy for the last couple of hours was clearly an unpleasant surprise to Sheppard as well.

Nonetheless, Sheppard came downstairs to meet them as they waited for the ATA team, exchanging knowing looks of shared discomfort with Reletti before turning back to Lorne.

"We lost Nagley and three marines," Sheppard said without preamble. "Ponsky, Howard, and Demetrius Smith."

The others murmured sadly and Lorne nodded, not wanting to ask how just yet; Sheppard obviously blamed himself in part and Lorne wasn't going to force that kind of confession in front of anyone.

The gate room door opened and the ATA team came barreling in. There was an audible sigh of relief as the case was boxed and removed.

"Charlie Company's meeting at 2000," Sheppard told the marines, who were part of its First Platoon. "Captain Polito is with Second Platoon in the ready room."

It was tacit permission for the marines to stop by and Lorne knew that they took it as such; Matt would appreciate confirmation that the rest of his marines had returned safely. It was also a dismissal and Ortilla looked to Lorne, who nodded, before taking his rifle and Yoni's and exhorting the other two toward the gate room doors. The ready room was en route to the transporter.

"What else is going on?" Yoni asked, not unkindly, after they left. He wasn't looking at Sheppard, but instead up at Weir's office. He, too, had seen Keller.

"We stumbled into one of Michael's labs," Sheppard replied, grimacing bitterly at both Lorne and Yoni's surprised reactions. "He's building an army of anthropomorphic iratus bug super-soldiers and he's using Carson's research to do it."

Yoni spat out something that sounded like it might have been in Arabic.

"Yeah, that's pretty much how everyone else feels," Sheppard said. "Why don't the two of you go get changed and meet us upstairs."

It wasn't a suggestion. Lorne followed Yoni down to Medical and showered in the call room there, getting into the stall fully clothed and peeling off the layers under the hot water. He tried not to think about what he'd learned from Sheppard; they'd be going over (and over and over) it all enough that there was no need to start early. But it was still there in his mind -- Nagley had just started to really get into the groove of Atlantis and they'd lost three more marines and Christ, could Project Michael please stop biting them in the ass? He stood with his face to the spray until he could hear movement outside the curtain, reluctantly turning off the water and wishing the trouble could go down the drain like the mud.

feed me on LJ?

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20 June, 2007