Arboreal Retreat On Account of Hostile Feline Activity

by Domenika Marzione

"So what do you do when you're not running around with us?" Reletti asked curiously, shifting around so that his right arm wasn't awkwardly pressed up against his side.

"I have a lab space," Yoni replied. "I do research, I write, I piss off the other doctors by tying up the machines and processing a month's worth of samples at once."

Near them, Lieutenant Gillick chuckled.

"What do you research? Or would I not understand?" Reletti moved again and stopped suddenly because everything was shaking with the motion.

"Forget that last question, Doc," Suarez said through their radios. "Reletti won't understand."

Yoni smiled, more at the weak humor than at Reletti; Reletti was occasionally a little fey, but no idiot. And, right now, he had no real recourse since the marines did their best to curb their language in front of officers. In this case, there were two of them. Lorne had started taking the battalion's lieutenants out on missions with them, although whether that was because he thought the team needed one or because he wanted to test the lieutenants was still a matter of debate among the three marines.

"Right now? It's a special project from the SGC," Yoni answered. "The Ori are using some sort of biological warfare -- a plague -- to conquer worlds."

"The SGC asks for our help?" Gillick asked, surprised. "It seems like all they ever do is... not ask."

Lorne coughed, but it could have been a laugh. "See? This is why I like Lieutenant Gillick. He's been here a month and already knows what's what."

The resentment of the SGC was deep and wide in Atlantis in general, but nowhere as profound as in Little Tripoli, Yoni knew. They didn't like Caldwell's open interest in Sheppard's job, they didn't like that men and munitions promised to Atlantis never showed up, and they didn't like that their orderly Marine Corps existence could be (and was) overturned by the whim of Air Force brass sitting comfortably Wraith-free in another galaxy.

"There aren't that many people the SGC can talk to about alien plagues," Yoni said once the snickering had died down. "I don't think they're terribly happy about having to ask, but beggars can't be choosers."

Yoni hadn't said anything, but Lorne probably knew that Dr. Weir had successfully fought off the SGC's request that Yoni and three others from Medical be recalled to Earth to deal directly with the Ori plague problem. Carson had been irate at the request, but was also worried that there would be repercussions for its denial later on. They had been back in contact with the SGC for only a matter of months, but had already learned that Mother Mountain could be spiteful in the extreme.

"Uh, Major?" Ortilla sounded worried. "Three more just showed up."

"Wonderful," Lorne replied dryly. "I wanted to spend my afternoon hiding in a tree. Because the AAR for this mission isn't already going to read like a Monty Python script."

More laughter, but of a rueful sort. After a trade negotiation that, while successful, had had more than a passing similarity with the Dead Parrot sketch, they had set back out across the pampas for the stargate, only to be set upon a pack of large, puma-like felines. Gillick and Ortilla had nearly gotten themselves eaten, although they'd thankfully all escaped with only some scratches and torn clothes. Gillick had a bite on his leg that Yoni hadn't been able to examine but had been assured wasn't too severe.

Relatively safe though they may be, they were still stuck in a pair of large trees, having climbed to escape a mauling after realizing that they weren't going to be able to shoot their way out of the confrontation.

"How long before Atlantis sends guys after us?" Reletti asked.

"We're not due back for another two hours, so three after that," Lorne replied.

"I am not going to get rescued out of a fucking tree by my own fucking platoon," Suarez muttered, attempts at polite language forgotten.

Yoni snorted back a laugh and he could hear Gillick snicker. Apparently Lieutenant Patchok was the ready-room officer.

"I don't plan on us needing to be rescued," Lorne said evenly. "Ortilla, do you have a clear shot?"

The trees were about two meters apart at their bases and had grown almost intertwined as they'd gotten taller, so while nobody was that far away from each other, Yoni could not see Lorne, Suarez, or Ortilla.

"Depends on how sturdy the branch is, sir," Ortilla replied. "I'd need to move out a bit. Right now, about all I can do is try and pick 'em off with my sidearm."

There was the sound of motion and then a sickening crack. Ortilla was far too big a man to be climbing trees, even sturdy ones like these.

"Staff Sergeant?"

"I'm fine, sir, but I'm going to have to come back down."

"I may have an angle, sir," Suarez chimed in. There was rustling further away and the leaves around Yoni moved slightly. "Everyone hold your ears."

A short burst of automatic fire and the scream of wounded animals below and then silence. And then a terrible, lion-like roar. Yoni didn't know if pumas on Earth roared or, if they did, what they sounded like.


"The good news is that I got three," Suarez reported. "The bad is that I pissed off the rest."

"Piss 'em off all you want," Lorne said. "Just thin the crowd enough for us to take care of the rest from the ground."

Suarez, eventually joined by Reletti on the other side, judiciously emptied his clip into the pack of circling beasts. The noise was impressive, but didn't seem to scare the animals away; they responded better to the bullets. The wounded and unharmed fled, leaving their dying packmates and uneaten prey behind.

Unable to see the scene below clearly, they waited ten minutes before climbing down carefully.

"Wow," Reletti murmured, looking around. The ground was littered with probably a dozen animals, most very dead and the rest on the way there, their sleek grey fur slick with red blood. He unbuckled his sidearm and moved close to one of the wounded ones that were mewling in pain, intending to put it out of its misery, but as he drew close, it slashed a paw at him. "Fine, have it your way."

Yoni went over to look at Gillick, who was limping slightly. "Let me see your leg," he said, gesturing for Gillick to lean against the tree. He crouched down to peer inside the slash in the lieutenant's pants. There were a pair of narrow furrows on the top of the thigh moving toward the outside, maybe three centimeters in length. It was the kind of wound that always looked messier than it really was, but he hadn't spent time in Africa without seeing plenty of evidence at how much danger could be carried on the fang of a wild animal. Gillick looked appropriately patient and put-upon as Yoni cleaned and covered the wound and thanked him when it was done.

Yoni smiled and nodded. He liked this one.

"Right then," Lorne said, looking around. "Let's get back to the stargate before any of their friends show up."

It took more than an hour to get back to the stargate at a brisk walk, most of which was spent helping Lorne come up with the best euphemism for 'chased up a tree by a giant cat'.


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28 January, 2007