Five Times the Expedition Wished They Hadn't Re-established Contact With Earth

by Domenika Marzione

one

"Do we get potty breaks? Or should we go empty out some water bottles?"

Weir stared Sheppard like he'd asked... well, like he'd asked what he'd asked. Lorne bit his cheek to keep from laughing at her expression.

"You each have two breaks before lunch, an hour to eat, and two breaks for every four hours it takes you after lunch until you two are caught up," she replied, incredulousness warring with irritation. She was pissed at the both of them and Sheppard's refusal to take this detention seriously was not helping. Lorne wasn't sure how seriously he could take it, either, but he knew better than to flaunt the fact. "And you'd better hope that today is all that is required. Tomorrow's missions are off the table otherwise."

Lorne kept his chastened look in place, although he wasn't sure how much Weir bought it. Back at the SGC, he'd always been the innocent bystander, the junior officer at the mercy of Edwards' whims. But she'd seen him there and here and he was starting to accept the fact that she maybe didn't buy that as much as Generals Hammond and Landry seemed to have.

"Yes, Mom," Sheppard sighed, opening up his laptop and paying far more attention to the boot-up than was strictly necessary.

Weir shook her head and left the room, instructing the sergeant she'd requested on keeping track of the prisoners' comings and goings. Out in the control room, Lieutenant Eriksson was presumably making himself scarce lest he be given further orders concerning the incarceration of the battalion executive. Lorne had felt bad for the kid when he'd realized what Weir was up to; torn between his CO and the civilian base commander, Eriksson had hemmed and hawed until Sheppard had told him that it was all right and he should listen to Doctor Weir.

"Well," Sheppard sighed once they were alone. "This wasn't how I planned on spending my day."

There wasn't anything to say, so Lorne grunted in agreement and booted up his own laptop.

They'd been summoned to Weir's office for what they thought was a 0900 meeting concerning the marines. It had in fact been an ambush -- they were both more than two months behind on mission-related paperwork, battalion paperwork, and Weir was starting to get unofficial messages from General Landry about the brass' growing frustration with the military command in Atlantis. ("I'm doing this to save your job, John," she'd warned Sheppard, who of course had tried to blow it all off as inconsequential.)

Weir had forbidden Sergeant Holden from admitting any visitors except those bearing documents needed for the completion of any of the array of forms, AARs, evaluations, analyses, and the dumbass State of the Mission summaries that the IOA had instituted when they'd taken over. They were allowed to keep their radios on, but Weir had threatened hell to pay if either of them tacitly or explicitly encouraged the marines to stage an emergency that needed their intervention. (By now, Lorne thought, she should have realized that the marines were entirely capable of coming up with such a scheme without any prodding from above. Also that Sheppard was capable of getting Atlantis to happily do the same and even McKay would have a hard time proving it.) They were to work -- and actually work, she'd be checking the server used as a repository for documents going in to the databurst.

She had not mentioned IM and Lorne had intentionally not asked, so it was only a matter of time before the icon in his taskbar was flashing.

"Matt wants to know if we want to stage a brig break -- he can get a file baked into a cake by lunch if we need it," he reported. "Alternatively, most of Weapons Company is free today and Cadman's been itching for new demonstration sites."

Sheppard grinned. "The look on Elizabeth's face would perhaps be worth the fallout of blowing out a wall, but I'm not sure I'm ready to take on both her and Engineering."

Lorne messaged Polito back to tell him that they would probably ride out their incarceration for the sake of peace in the city, but if he wanted to bring some cookies by in the afternoon, it would be much appreciated.

All in all, it was a fairly productive day -- despite losing a half-hour recovering from the laughter that ensued when Radner, having performed the military's variation of the Jedi Mind Trick ("These are not the coffee cups you are looking for, Sergeant." "I just see files, sir.") presented them with cookies with tiny picket signs on them reading "Free the Conference Room Two."


two

"M34-BF8?"

"Lorne's team went last year. Brought back those weird horseradish things and a lieutenant with food poisoning."

"MB9-447?"

"Didn't we go there back in the first year? Lost Teyla in the tall grass, only found her once she started sneezing?"

Rodney shook his head. "I don't think so. That was--" he made vague hand gestures that John thought could be analogous to dialing a DHD "--okay, maybe that was MB9-447. Strike that one; that dander got in places dander should never get and we didn't find anything. Next on the list is... M7F-5G2."

"No winner," he announced. "We sent Maguire there. It's where we get our Not Really Chilean Sea Bass."

"Right," Rodney sighed, deflating a little. "This was so much easier in the beginning."

John grinned, since he knew what Rodney meant. Back before a battalion of marines made the trivial off-world runs and Lorne's team split the heavy duty stuff, picking a planet for a mission was easy -- find a planet in the database, see if it had a viable environment and a rumor of Ancient technology, and Elizabeth would usually agree. Now? Now they had to pick among planets and situations where they couldn't just send a platoon of marines or a couple of scientists and and an escort. They had to show that it was a visit with a plan, not just a saunter to explore the galaxy. They had to coordinate schedules with each other and with their subordinates. They had to make sure that it would satisfy whatever whims the IOA and SGC had burped forth in the last databurst. They had to be part of a pack instead of lone wolves.

Rodney's watch beeped on the hour and John sat up with a start. "Crap," he sighed. "I have to go."

Lorne was off-world, which meant that John had to go be the responsible officer and make himself easily found. The afternoon meetings would be over now and there would invariably be someone needing approval for something.

"What should we do about a planet?" Rodney asked, looking a little like John had told him playtime was canceled.

"Keep looking for one," John replied, since that was the obvious answer. "There are how many planets in the database? The marines can't have been to all of them."

And, really, he was just as eager to get through the gate as Rodney was. Cabin fever in Atlantis felt a little disloyal, but there it was.

"But..."

"Go through the list of planets marked for further exploration," John suggested. The marines regularly went on low-level missions and came back saying that they had seen something weird or that one of the marines with the ATA gene had felt something or, on occasion, accidentally turned something on. "There's got to be something there and Elizabeth likes it when we go on those sorts of missions. See if you can find one that Lieutenant Patchok flagged."

Patchok had two marines with the ATA gene in his platoon and one of them was Reletti. Which is usually why Lorne picked those planets first. He thought he was being subtle, but John was on to him. However, since Rodney disliked going to any planet someone else had been to first (explaining "sloppy seconds" to Teyla was an activity he'd like to never, ever repeat again), John let him. The list was long enough to accommodate them both, though, and Lorne had a wider variety of missions to choose from since he didn't actually have anyone with voting (vetoing) power on his team. Technically John didn't, either, but he'd learned that forcing Rodney on a mission he didn't want to go on was not usually worth the effort.

"Hunh," Rodney said, looking over the list, sounding like he'd forgotten it even existed. John tried not to roll his eyes and Rodney didn't even see him wave as he left.


three

"Why can't we just take care of it and report back?"

For once, Lorne mused, McKay was saying what everyone else was thinking. Although, when it came to dealing with the decisions made back on Earth, they all tended to agree more often than not. It's just that at those times McKay usually didn't say anything.

"If it's so important that SG-1 has to commandeer the Odyssey and shlep all the way out here," McKay continued, "wouldn't time be of the essence? It's almost three weeks out here, then whatever time they spend in Atlantis, and then almost three weeks back. That's two months minimum if they're going to make the trip worthwhile. The Ori could conquer the galaxy in that much time and then where would we be?"

Weir held up her hands in both defense and surrender. "I'm sure all of this has been taken into consideration back at the SGC," she said in the voice that it had taken Lorne at least a year to recognize as being her I-agree-but-won't-admit-it tone. "General Landry wouldn't have approved the mission if he thought for a moment that the fight against the Ori would be put at risk."

"How could it not?" Sheppard asked rhetorically. "They're taking Earth's most important battleship out of the fight for at least two months. Even if the Daedalus fills in, they don't have the combat experience, let alone the weapons platform."

Lorne knew that Sheppard, unlike McKay, was more perplexed than annoyed. In terms of how great an effect a visit from Earth would have on Atlantis, the Odyssey and SG-1 was far less than the Daedalus with its normal cargo of food, marines, scientists, and equipment. Colonel Emerson was a nice guy -- too nice, maybe -- with no aspirations to a command other than what he had and if SG-1 occasionally acted like they were the original masters of galactic exploration and that Atlantis was a gift of theirs... well, they weren't entirely wrong. In terms of Little Tripoli, which was as far as Lorne's sphere of influence and concern went, no Caldwell meant no chaos and, selfishly, a little risk back in the Milky Way -- he was sure the SGC had at least considered the possibilities -- was worth it.

"Do we even know what's so important that they're not willing to wait for the Daedalus to make her next run?" Beckett asked. "Doctor Jackson is undoubtedly the foremost expert on the Ancients, but... our people have been working for a few years now uninterrupted by other professional obligations or planetary defense. Surely they have a greater local knowledge by this point and can give him what he needs to know."

Lorne took a moment to appreciate the irony of anyone coming to the defense of the honor of G-2, the common name for the Social Sciences and Humanities unit (it's where their building was on the city grid). G-2 was the black sheep of Atlantis, deemed inconsequential until they were absolutely necessary, and Lorne would feel worse about the treatment than he did if the folks in G-2 didn't revel in their low status as much as they did. That said, Beckett did have a point -- the geeks over in G-2 had nothing to do but research the Ancients.

"Since when has the Mountain trusted us to do anything on our own?" Yoni asked, looking up from whatever he was doing on his note pad. "We are idiots in exile, remember? That's why they let us through the wormhole in the first place."

"I'm sure G-2 will be of invaluable help to Doctor Jackson," Weir said primly, grimacing at Yoni. "And it's going to be a tandem mission. Doctor Jackson will be able to do his research and Colonel Carter will be able to run some of her own experiments, most of which are geared toward the war against the Ori."

"None of which couldn't be accomplished by people here, I'm sure," McKay grumbled.

"Jealous, McKay?" Sheppard asked, mostly to set him off, Lorne thought.

"Hardly."

"We'll deal with the logistics of the visit when it's closer to the arrival date," Weir went on, pointedly ignoring the byplay. "I think our goal should be to be as accommodating a host as possible without disturbing the regular workflow in Atlantis."

The statement, on the face of it, was both politic and pragmatic, but it was a joke if there ever was one -- there was no way this visit would be anything but a giant disruption -- and Lorne was unsurprised when Weir quickly moved on to the next point on the agenda.


four

"Kneel."

John hears it with his ears but he feels it in his bones and the compulsion is nothing like he imagined it would be. And he has imagined -- Sumner haunts him still. It's like gravity -- all around and nowhere and he can't fight it and he tries anyway because he's always been stubborn and he conquered gravity routinely while in the cockpit of a Pave Hawk.

This time, however, he fails. He's closing in on forty and his knees don't like him that much anymore. He wonders if he'll ever actually hit forty. If Ford or Teyla or Ronon will have to do for him what he did for Sumner. If he will even be granted that mercy.

He's not quite alone in his head, not quite alone in his body, and it's terrifying in a way being half-Iratus bug wasn't -- that was all him, for better or for worse. This is being a puppet and the one holding the strings doesn't have his best interests at heart. Then he was just losing his mind, but now he's having it taken from him.

She doesn't care about his demons or his secrets or his hopes or his desires, all of the things that he keeps hidden from everyone else and sometimes himself. She cares about the details of his job, about the information that flows around him every day because of what he is, not who. She doesn't care who and that, too, is all kinds of ironic.

The Wraith want Earth, want either the Asgard or Ancient hyperdrives to get there in a reasonable time, and they want to know where the hell it is. Because they don't know and it's got to be a hell of a lot more frustrating than driving around looking for the restaurant everyone raves about but you can't find.

He doesn't worry about the hyperdrives business -- he doesn't know how a jumper works, let alone the Daedalus or the Aurora. But he does know where Earth is and, courtesy of meetings discussing optimum possibilities with and without a ZPM, he does have a very good conceptualization of both galaxies, and can imagine a line from here to there. And he's scared, in a way he's never been scared of anything in his life, that he'll be made to draw it.


five

It has happened often enough that there's a pattern to this, which is kind of funny because, once upon a time, they didn't think they'd ever have to worry about promotions ever again. But they do and, like everything else involving the military, dealing with it has been routinized. Stopping by offices and sometimes labs, exchanging handshakes and shoulder pats and conversations that can be awkward or not depending on the likelihood of actually following up on the promises to keep in touch. John hasn't been through this particular gauntlet yet, has always been the one left behind, but he knows that his own time is coming. One day, sooner than later, he'll be making the same tour Lorne has been on for the last few days.

(Lorne is currently down in the medical suites talking to Yoni, who will probably be the next significant departure to Earth.)

Some of these farewells are harder than others. With the lieutenants and the sergeants, it's always bittersweet -- they're mostly young, mostly returning to either accept promotion or marry their sweethearts and these are all good things. The captains tend to be less sanguine -- it's a sign that the ends of their cowboy days are drawing close; all they can look forward to is the bureaucratic hell of field officerdom or cashing out their chips and picking a second career as civilians. Lorne is betwixt and between, being rewarded for his servitude in middle management by given exactly what he wants... and exactly what he doesn't want.

Lieutenant Colonel-elect Lorne is going back to Earth.

John fought the orders when they came -- not the promotion because, jeez, if anyone deserves it, it's Lorne -- but the whole PCS back to the Mountain. John knows that Lorne would rather stay here, that it wouldn't be a problem for either of them to be of the same rank for however long that could be -- John has serious doubts about his own ability to make bird colonel -- but the brass back on Earth have other ideas. And those ideas involve Lorne back on Earth, leading an SG team while being groomed for some kind of upper management position. Possibly John's and they've managed to avoid the awkwardness by admitting both the possibility and the supremely fucked up irony (and stupidity) if it were to come to pass.

They haven't said goodbye yet -- that'll wait until the Daedalus is ready to beam him up -- but they've made the first attempts at disentangling. (They've been functioning as a single administrative entity for so long, partners in crimes both bureaucratic and not, that John feels a little like he's losing a limb. Dave Radner is a brilliant choice as a replacement and both John and Lorne are still marveling both that the brass sent him back and that they agreed to cede an Air Force slot to a marine.) John's a little worried about all of the things someone might expect him to know but that he'd long ago ceded to Lorne's domain. Lorne ran Little Tripoli -- and occasionally the city entire -- and it seems like there really should be a small army replacing him.

But there is only one and he's eminently qualified -- both for the job of Executive Officer of the Atlantis Battalion and for wrangling the commander of said battalion -- and Dave is under no illusions that he can actually fill Lorne's shoes.

Nevertheless, life in Atlantis will go on and John has missions to plan and paperwork to do so instead he decides to test Radner's ability to work without supervision (or, alternatively, to find him when Atlantis won't help) by wandering off to bother Rodney. Who bitches at him for being an interruption and then lets him slouch on a stool at the end of the table and ask stupid questions just to pass the time.

 

feed me on LJ?


back to the yearly index | back to the main SGA page

19 May, 2007