Five Times Atlantis Had to Send Someone Home

by Domenika Marzione

One

"... and that's the news from the eyes-to-the-sky-and-head-up-the-ass department," Lorne finished. He and Sheppard had spent a good couple of hours processing the advice and orders from Earth into something (anything) relevant and not-counterproductive to what actually was going on in Atlantis. Lorne loved the Air Force, loved being in the Air Force, and yet he was often at a loss to explain what the brass back on Earth were thinking when they sent stuff to Atlantis and expected it to be taken seriously. "And now on to the homegrown comedy routines. Dave, what've you got?"

Radner, the battalion S1, looked up. "It is with a professionally neutral tone that I announce that we have been granted our request for a new lieutenant," he said, keeping a straight face while everyone else didn't bother to hide their relief. Sheppard, who like Lorne already knew, smirked. They'd only been asking for six months. "I've informed Lieutenant Appleman that he's being re-deployed to Earth and should be ready to ship out when the Daedalus makes her next visit."

Nobody was happier that Appleman was going than Radner himself, since he was Appleman's immediate CO. Appleman was the anomaly in Atlantis, the one lieutenant who didn't strive to outwork his marines or impress his commanders, who didn't seek out extra duties or work to build Atlantis into something greater than it was. And everyone knew it. Among the civilians, Appleman's name on the off-world mission request approval was cause for comment. Even Cadman, the only non-infantry officer among the marines, was more trusted under fire than Appleman. How he'd even been assigned to Atlantis in the first place was one of the greatest mysteries in Little Tripoli.

"Who're we getting?" Hanzis asked. Appleman was Radner's problem first and foremost, but his unreliability and outright laziness had a cascading effect. They hadn't been able to relieve Appleman of duty -- Sheppard had tried, been rebuffed, and then told in no uncertain terms that to do it anyway would cause them more trouble than Appleman was worth. And so they'd juggled duties to keep him away from anything life-or-death important, which in Atlantis could be almost anything. There were some jobs Cadman couldn't be given because of her gender and lack of field experience, so to have two platoons being taken out of certain rotations made a mess of schedules. It was an all-around nasty situation and Lorne had no insight as to why the SGC had chosen the replacement of an incompetent junior officer to be such a battleground. There were plenty of other things, more substantive things, to fight about and Lorne had seen field grade officers thrown off of SG teams for far less than Appleman's typical week.

"Lieutenant James Kagan," Radner read off of his screen to double-check the name. "Looks good on paper and he's got bonus points for the SGC thinking that he'd be a very good match for Atlantis."

Everyone chuckled, since in the parlance of the Mountain's bureaucracy, that pretty much translated into Kagan been too ooh-rah for them. From Landry on down, the SGC wished that their marines were a little less Marines than was really feasible to expect. Lorne had known before he'd come to Atlantis that the Marine Corps was part cult and should be dealt with accordingly.

"He'll have his work cut out for him when he gets here," Radner said, which was about as much as he was going to say on the topic, even among the senior officers. Everyone knew Radner was very glad to be rid of his biggest problem, but Appleman's marines were still Radner's marines and he was loath to disparage them. Privately, however, Radner would admit that he worried about their perishable skills actually perishing. Appleman's platoon sergeant could only do so much.

"Major, I don't want you breaking this one," Sheppard warned and the rest of the room chuckled. Lorne smiled. It had been a while since he'd had any mishaps with the lieutenants and a few very unfunny things had happened since then. It was a positive sign that they could all laugh now. Especially Sheppard.

"I'll do my best," he promised.


Two

The gateroom was full of people and luggage, but Carson was pleased to see that the marines had cleared both a path and a waiting area for the gurneys and wheelchairs. The critical cases had all been sent back already, so the waiting patients were a mixture of those non-life-threatening cases who'd be better treated on Earth and the mildly injured who were simply taking the opportunity to return home that had been offered to everyone, healthy and not. Carson was more than a little bit proud that almost all of the medical section had chosen to stay in Atlantis and so he was one of only three doctors making the trip -- and he was coming back. Hopefully a passel of new personnel were coming with him. He had a wish list for the Santa Claus of SGC Human Resources, not to mention a shopping list of equipment and supplies. When they'd left Earth a year ago, they'd packed what they thought they'd need and for the most part it had been a good guess. But there were plenty of essentials for which the need hadn't been apparent in the planning phase and it was his job to acquire them now.

"You've got everything under control?" he asked Yoni, who gave him a baleful look in response. Carson grinned, unchastened. It was ten minutes until they dialed Earth and he was simply in too good a mood. The last weeks had been so very hard, the last year hard enough. He wanted to see Earth, see his mum, and feel safe for a little while. "Any last minute questions?"

"What madness possessed you to leave me in charge?" Yoni's voice carried from beneath the gurney where he was adjusting Sergeant Mackinaw's IV pole.

"It's a little late to still be griping about that, Jonathan," Carson told him. Not that that had stopped Yoni since Carson had told him on Monday and everyone else on Tuesday. And, despite Yoni's near constant low-grade crabbiness since then, Carson was more sure than ever that he'd made the right decision. Yoni was the obvious choice for every usual professional reason, plus all of the ones particular to Atlantis at this time in her existence. He was the one who'd get the most done in terms of overseeing both the repairs to Medical's facilities and the return to regular routines of the unit's personnel. And while Carson had not ignored the personalities involved, he'd figured that by the time the unit was ready to stage a mutiny, he'd be back from Earth and thus able to head it off at the pass.

In the meanwhile, Yoni was leading by example and forcing everyone else to strive hard (and stop dwelling on what had happened) in order to keep up. The entire unit knew that Yoni had been off shooting Wraith with the marines while they'd been hunkered down, safe and protected; that he was now pulling extra infirmary shifts and supervising the putting away of their new supplies while being a part of the interim government of Atlantis was not something they could ignore. It was a deft power play and Carson knew he should be less surprised than he was about the subtlety.

Yoni stood up, wiped his hands on his pants, and said something to him in Hebrew.

"Don't be obscene," Carson chided him as Yoni moved away, having no idea what had been said. But he knew Yoni and knew that nothing good could possibly come accompanied by a smile that sweet.

Sergeant Mackinaw, watching the exchange, grinned. Mackinaw had an open leg fracture, but would be as good as new once that healed. An orthopedist was on Carson's list nonetheless.

There was a fair bit of bustle on the other side of the human barricade the marines had formed between the injured and the departing. The marines were sympathetic to the civilians who were eager to get home, but they were unwilling to indulge any behavior that would bring disorder to the tightly packed space. Carson saw Doctor Sokolov among the waiting; he wondered if Yoni had said goodbye to her or if he'd conveniently not seen her standing nearby. She smiled at Carson when their glances met and he suspected that the answer was no.

Next to him, Mackinaw shifted in discomfort. He still looked too pale and Carson felt a pang of guilt, even though he was powerless -- at least for the next ten minutes. They'd had to scrounge for blood; a year of surprisingly generous donations from the expedition members had not been nearly enough when they were suddenly faced with complicated surgeries and open wounds by the dozen. The most serious cases had been granted priority, but the lower-risk and those with rarer types had gotten a unit or two less than might have been afforded them in a more populous place. Mackinaw, both a rare blood type and a healthy young man with a relatively minor (albeit extremely painful) injury, had been among the wanting.

"I'm going home to forfar bridies and tayberries, sergeant," Carson said. The marines hated it when anyone noticed their discomfort, so Carson had learned to pretend not to see it when it wasn't medically necessary. "What're you going to eat when you get home?"

Mackinaw looked thoughtful for a moment, as if everyone in Atlantis hadn't been been compiling lists of what they'd hoped to get their hands on now that contact had been re-established.

"McDonald's, sir," Mackinaw finally said, cracking a smile. "I know there're better burgers -- my dad's a real whiz at the grill -- but you can be a genius cook anywhere. McDonald's just tastes like Earth."

"Aye," Carson agreed. "That it does."

Three hours later, Carson barely noticed that he'd been back on Earth. He'd spent the entire time transferring care of his patients to Carolyn Lam and checking in on the ones who'd been sent through earlier. It was another two hours before he remembered, then found an airman and asked him to go find someone who could get a Big Mac to Sergeant Mackinaw.


Three

It had been a quiet afternoon, perfect for paperwork and the lace cookies the marines had baked (it was a shame that they couldn't keep Salker's platoon on KP all of the time so that there'd always be good cookies). Lorne had opened his office windows and there hadn't even been any marines outside making a racket. Perfect. Which, of course, was why it couldn't last.

"Sirs?" Hanzis stood in the doorway looking grim. "I'm afraid I bring bad news."

John exchanged a quick look with Lorne, who mirrored his own 'what now?' feeling. "What is it, Mike?"

Hanzis came into the office. "We've had to throw Doctor Sheahan in the brig, sir."

John sat up. Hot tempers were common, but crime was rare in Atlantis and Hanzis wouldn't have shown up if this was something simple like public intoxication or wandering off into the depths of Atlantis. The most common actual crime in Atlantis was petty theft and even that wasn't very common. Otherwise, the marines had gone too far with the self-regulating a few times and the civilians could occasionally produce a suitably odd case requiring jurisprudence, but Atlantis got away with using marines as policemen in part because there was so little policing to be done.

"Whose is he -- he? -- and what did he do?" Lorne asked with a sigh. He gestured for Hanzis to sit and he did, taking the chair at the other end of the conference table John was using as a desk.

"He's an engineer and he's apparently been filming the distaff side of the expedition in their quarters and in the gym, sir," Hanzis replied as he sat. "The lady scientists, plus Cadman, Teyla, and Doctor Weir."

John sighed, fighting the urge to bang his head on the desk. This was going to be messy and ugly and if Elizabeth and Cadman were among the victims, then it needed to be handled quietly and quickly. Not that the violated scientists were lesser beings -- or, god forbid, Teyla -- but Elizabeth and Cadman held command positions and it would make life for them (and him) more difficult than it needed to be.

"Jesus," Lorne groaned. "Please tell me that we don't have a black market in candid videos?"

"I wish I could, sir, believe you me, " Hanzis replied. "I've got Ogrodnick scanning the entire network for anything that could be videos. The files on his laptop were renamed with various extensions and they're of various sizes, so the search is pretty wide and is going to take a while, especially if there's been any kind of circulation. If we can confirm that there's been any file sharing, we'll confiscate every laptop in the barracks and figure out something to do with the civilians."

If there was any kind of circulation -- and John was perfectly well aware of the trafficking in porn on the servers, even though it was technically forbidden to the marines -- then their chances of ending this quietly went down geometrically even if they didn't have to confiscate every laptop in the city. John didn't care if the marines were watching porn, but he did care if any of them were watching Teyla shower. Or Elizabeth, or Doctor Greenberg or anyone else who hadn't given express permission for the viewing.

"How did this come to light?" John asked. "Someone find a camera?"

"Doctor Clayton heard a beeping in the head in her quarters, sir," Hanzis answered with a nod, "And she happened to mention it to Doctor Esposito before she filed a repair request. Doctor Esposito found the camera -- the beeping was a low battery warning. She found the one in her own shower and then searched other quarters with her authorization as a maintenance engineer, which is how we know who else's privacy has been compromised. She then found out who had been putting in the requisitions for video surveillance equipment and then Sergeants Wiebler and Cross found her in Sheahan's quarters ransacking the place."

"This just gets better and better," Lorne said to no one in particular. "What's been done already?"

"Lieutenant Kagan escorted Doctor Sheahan from the labs," Hanzis began, "and Doctor McKay went on the warpath. Dave's dealing with Doctor McKay, Kagan's men are guarding Sheahan's workspace and quarters, and I've got Cadman working with Esposito and some of the other lady engineers to go through every woman's quarters, plus the gym, plus the ladies' heads, and everywhere else there might be a camera. We're pretty much at the 'informing senior staff' point in the program."

Which came after all of the initial cleanup and before the heavy work.

John mentally ran down the public profile of the incidents, mostly in terms of damage control. Rodney yelling at marines wouldn't even register on the gossip meter, but Doctor Esposito going all boiled bunny certainly would and the search party would be impossible to hide even if it was the middle of the work day and most of the women wouldn't even be home.

"So we've got to figure out how widespread this is and what to do with Sheahan and anyone else who was involved," Lorne said.

"And our first stop has to be Doctor Weir," John added, really not relishing that visit. He'd have to do that himself and quickly; he didn't want Elizabeth finding out from Rodney. "Has Sheahan confessed to anything?"

This would go a lot quicker with a rough idea of what they were looking for.

Hanzis made a sour face. "Doctor Sheahan is saying he was framed, sir."

"Fantastic," John sighed, standing up. "Alright, let's see if we can stop this from being a complete clusterfuck."


Four

"If it was that useful, sir, why didn't the Ancients grab it to use against the Wraith?"

"It wouldn't be the first time they forgot where they'd put something either important or dangerous," Lorne said without looking up from the tablet Polito had handed him almost immediately upon their return.

They'd come back from the mission intact and bearing good news -- the outpost was intact and the hoped-for weapons cache in fact existed and was undisturbed; even after Reletti had nearly popped a blood vessel activating the generator, they'd had a helluva time getting in to look around. The Wraith, if they knew about the place, certainly hadn't gotten in first. It had been a success and yet Lorne still felt disappointed. He understood why, but knowing didn't change anything.

"Maybe it's just supposed to look important," Suarez mused. "Like all the locks on diaries. Did it feel important?"

There was no 'sir' at the end of that question, so Lorne had assumed that it hadn't been for him. But there was no answer coming from Reletti, either. Lorne looked up to see Suarez looking exasperatedly at his teammate, who was looking off somewhere else.

"Hey, Staff Sergeant," Polito called with a grin. That didn't do the trick, either, to nobody's surprise. This wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last, either. Lorne was proud of Reletti, they all were, but as much as he deserved the promotion and everything else that was coming to him, he was still Reletti and it was sometimes more than just the newness of the rank.

"Yo, Reletti," Suarez barked helpfully.

"What?" Reletti turned to Suarez, completely oblivious and a little annoyed.

"I asked you a question, dumbass," Suarez said. "You were off in Never-Neverland again."

Reletti looked both offended and amused. "Being able to tune out the idiots is a sign of maturity," he told Suarez. "You're like a dog whistle, except for stupid people. You're not in my audible range because my IQ is above 'moron.'"

Next to Lorne, Polito was trying very hard not to laugh as Suarez muttered a quiet "fuck you" and took a few steps away. Lorne was doing a better job of keeping a straight face mostly because he had more practice; he returned his attention to the information on the tablet to facilitate the process. It was all important stuff, but he'd seen nothing so far that absolutely, positively had to have his attention before he'd even put his P-90 away.

"Yep, a real fine addition to the staff NCO corps," Ortilla sighed from behind Lorne. "How're you gonna herd privates if you can't hear morons speak? Good thing the Corps knows better than to give you a platoon."

"The Corps is still going to be giving him a platoon," Polito reminded Ortilla.

"Yes, sir," Ortilla agreed with much (fake) chagrin. Lorne knew how pleased Ortilla had been at both the promotion and the acceptance into MECEP. "But he'll have a real staff sergeant keeping his ass alive."

"I am a real staff sergeant," Reletti retorted. This had been an ongoing 'argument' ever since Reletti had gotten notification of his promotion. Yoni hadn't helped things by calling Reletti 'Pinocchio.' He'd only done it the once, but the marines had picked up on it and Suarez in particular was not one to drop a joke until it had been run into the ground and driven over a few more times just to be sure. "And I'm going to college, not to get a lobotomy."

"You're hopefully getting a commission at the end of that fine education," Polito told him. "And you know very well that 'commission' is marine for 'common sense removed upon graduation from OCS.' Just ask First Sergeant Backman."

Chuckles all around, even Lorne, because everyone in Charlie Company could do a decent impression of Backman's exasperated utterances.

They went off to the armory to return their gear (after Lorne finally found what Sheppard had left for him and told Polito how to deal with it). Suarez was always the slowest, but today they all took their time and Reletti paused with his rifle halfway back to the locker-within-a-locker.

"Should I put this back with the rest, sir?" he asked Lorne. "Or should I leave it in the locker for whoever's going to replace me?"

This had been Reletti's last mission, although nobody considered it their team's last mission since Yoni had not been along. (There was a flu going around and Yoni, for once, had caught it. He had deemed himself well enough to leave his quarters, but a combination of Keller and Clayton and Ortilla had kept him from actually getting further than the hallway. Lorne kind of wished he'd been there to see it since Ortilla swore that he hadn't had to lift a finger.)

"Put the rifle back in general supply," Lorne said. "But leave whatever else you're not taking with you in your locker. I haven't put much thought to a successor yet, but at least we'll know where everything is."

Lorne was going to lose all of them, sooner than later, and he'd known that from the start. He'd prayed all along that he lost them to better things awaiting them on Earth and not to the Wraith or any of the other hazards of life in Pegasus and it looked like he would (knock on wood and whatever else he had to do to assure that it came true), but that didn't completely outweigh the sense of something missing, even if no one was gone yet.

"Gonna replace you with an Ancient toaster or something useful," Suarez said. "It can fall into holes as well as you can and we'd get Pop-Tarts out of the deal."

That the other two would miss Reletti was a given; that they'd refuse to admit it was also a given. But when the day of departure finally came and everyone joked about Reletti returning to Atlantis as a lieutenant, Lorne wondered if he was the only one to hear Ortilla admit that yeah, maybe he'd come back to keep an eye on Reletti ("Can't leave you alone as a fucking sergeant, what poor gunny is gonna be able to watch your ass when you're a lieutenant?"). He might have been the only one to hear because everyone else was laughing too hard at what Reletti had said for public consumption.

"I'm not coming back here unless I make captain," Reletti had replied, shaking his head vehemently. "I know what happens to lieutenants in this place."


Five

In her time in the Foreign Service, Elizabeth had come to appreciate the pomp and ceremony that the Marine Corps brought to every formal occasion. In her time in Atlantis, she'd come to understand that it wasn't just every formal occasion. ("We're marines, ma'am," one had said almost apologetically one time. "We like to kick it old school.") History and tradition were supposed to inform their every action and every order and so when it came time for the preparations to be made for this most solemn event, she had allowed Captains Polito, Hanzis, and Radner to have whatever they needed. Atlantis took so much from them all, but she could give them this.

There were too many people expected to fit into any suitable indoor space, so the service was held outdoors, on the East pier. The flag-draped coffins in a precise line, always attended. The marines had not been alone in life and they would not be alone in death.

All of Little Tripoli was present, impeccably dressed in the service uniforms that usually only made appearances at times when the marines would otherwise have gone with dress blues. They were given priority of place (every folding chair in Atlantis having been set up in neat rows), although space in a front row had been left for John, Major Lorne, Colonel Caldwell, and herself. There was a surprisingly strong civilian presence, although Elizabeth chided herself that maybe it shouldn't be that surprising.

John wasn't really in any condition to be out of bed, let alone out of the wheelchair that he'd wept silent tears of pain getting settled into. But nobody had really given serious thought to keeping him from the service and when the time came to stand at attention, Lorne and Polito had simply helped him rise rather than leave him struggle on his own. They'd helped him down just as gently and Elizabeth thanked the gods of small mercies when that turned out to be the only time John tried to stand.

With so much else that had to be done in the city following the ambush on Malthusa, she didn't really have as much time to spare as she'd given to coming up with what she'd say today. But these men had died under her authority if not her command and she still regretted not saying more at the small service they'd had for those who had fallen in the Siege. Mindful of her audience, she'd chosen her words carefully. She wanted to be plainspoken in her gratitude and grief without being patronizing, aware of the differences between the lofty ideals the marines swore fealty to and the more esoteric concepts that too easily flooded any academic's words, and cognizant of the fact that she essentially spoke for both herself and for John.

Judging by the reaction as she stepped down from the makeshift podium, she did all right on all accounts.

After it was over, she watched the crowd slowly disperse. The marines lingered, most stopping at the row of downturned bayonets with boots and helmets that had been placed behind the seats, close to the transporter. She turned to ask John what he wanted to do, but he wasn't there. She couldn't see him in the sea of green uniforms, but Polito noticed her not-quite-frantic search and touched her elbow gently, gesturing with his other hand toward where the coffins rested. He wasn't alone; Radner was behind the wheelchair and she recognized Sergeant Hopewell next to it. The survivors, she realized as Radner said something to one of the other marines and left them. The too-small remainder of Bravo Company First Platoon gathered to mourn their loss in private, plus John to grieve for what he had done and what he could not have hoped to do.

She accepted Polito's offer to escort her back to the transporter.

feed me on LJ?


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29 April, 2007