Future Shock

by Domenika Marzione

one

In hindsight, Lorne figured he probably should have realized something was up well before the marines started bringing in civilian engineers and knocking down walls.

"There's nothing wrong with my office," he told Radner, who was organizing the project. "I'm not pressed for space."

The room next to his office had been a storage area, a break room, the site of the ill-fated attempt to give lieutenants assigned to battalion logistics duty a designated workspace, a carrel for marines studying for remote learning classes, and finally a storage area again. But now it was becoming an extension to Lorne's not-exactly-cramped office, part of the unneeded, and frankly unwanted, transformation into a suite.

"We've got the resources and manpower now, sir," Radner replied with a careless shrug. "They've given us a budget to bling out the new officers' workspaces and Marines require less bling than Air Force officers, so we've got extra funds. Besides, the Colonel can have some shelves now, too."

Sheppard had shelves now. Shelf, at least. And one drawer in a file cabinet. The two of them had made crappy relationship jokes when Lorne had cleared out space for him.

The remodeling took three weeks, one of which Lorne largely missed because his team got itself captured and held for ransom ("We traded beans for your freedom, Major," Sheppard told him, just barely keeping a straight face. "Don't make us do that again. It's embarrassing.") and two of which were extremely frustrating because Lorne was much more a creature of habit than he maybe accepted about himself and was decidedly not a fan of a Sheppardesque itinerant lifestyle, holding court in the commissary or in spare classrooms. His own discomfort was shared throughout the battalion; Lorne was usually in his office and, if Sheppard wasn't there, Lorne would know where to find him. But nobody could find Sheppard if they couldn't find Lorne. And if nobody could find either of them (which, for certain cases, meant that nobody had looked very hard; Lorne wasn't that sneaky), then things didn't get done -- or they did get done even when the offenders had known that if they'd asked, they'd have been told no.

After three weeks of inconvenience, noise, dust all over everything, and wary looks from the marine construction crew every time he stopped by to visit his file cabinets, it was done. Lorne's comfortable corner office now had a smaller side room, separated by a door (an actual Atlantis door, that whooshed open when someone approached, and not a traditional Earth door), and both were served by an anteroom.

"Why do I need an anteroom?" Lorne asked plaintively. "I have an open-door policy."

"I think they're moving your conference table into the other room, sir," Captain Vega offered helpfully. "Maybe it'll serve as a holding pen for lieutenants?"

"That's what the hallway's for," Lorne grumbled, wondering why Hanzis and Radner, talking intently with Doctor Ingersol, the civilian project manager, were so involved. The stooges had been all over this from the start and Lorne knew them better than to think that they were under the impression that either Lorne or Sheppard were feeling deprived of the trappings of rank and command.

All of his questions were answered, however, when the Apollo showed up two weeks later with supplies, new civilians, thirty pallets of ketchup ("Was this a typo or are the Corpsmen planning another mass casualty drill that they conveniently forgot to mention?"), and three dozen new marines. Including one Sergeant Major Olushola "O" Ekim, who was, the Stooges beamed proudly, carrying orders assigning him to the battalion headquarters.

"You pooled together and bought us an NCO?" Lorne coughed. Because there was no other way to have pulled this off without him noticing. The battle to get first the corpsmen and then the chaplains had been long and drawn out. There was no way E-9s appeared out of thin air, not when every dollar of payroll had to be fought for. This could have cost them a marine each.

"Call it a safe investment in the future, sir," Radner replied, looking unashamed. The others beamed proudly behind him. Even Vega, who shouldn't have been here long enough to be corrupted.

Sheppard was far too amused considering this was just as much a surprise to -- and indictment of -- him. "I've told you that you don't delegate well," he said with a shrug. "Now you'll have help."

Since Sheppard generally didn't stay in one place long enough to merit his own desk, nobody was pretending that Sgt.Maj. Ekim was anything other than Lorne's minder, which Lorne took as a vague insult. Apart from the previous month's kidnapping-for-beans, he really wasn't the senior officer with the worrisome track record.

Needless to say, the conference table was out of the smaller room by the time Lorne got back to his office. There was, instead, a desk, a chair, some shelving, some file cabinets, and all of the other accouterments of an office for a marine staff NCO, including the eagle-globe-and-anchor flag and this year's battalion photo.

Lorne was fully prepared to be resentful of the imposition on his routines and his space, not to mention of the fact that their marines thought he needed a babysitter in the city as well as on missions. Especially after Suarez and Ortilla showed up to look smug and give their new 'boss' some pointers in the care and feeding of Air Force officers. But mustering up resentment was harder than he thought; he hadn't realized how much time he spent being both XO and NCOIC until he was only the former. There were definitely advantages to having someone from the NCO side of things handle the marine-wrangling; the line between what the officers knew and "knew" had always been very blurry and while there were times that ignorance was bliss, there were also times when ignorance was essential. Overall, while Ekim made "marine strength" coffee in the anteroom (the marines on KP duty having learned that civilians and Air Force preferred not to drink battery acid), that was his biggest fault and it was minor against the wealth of benefits. Including that he terrified the lieutenants without ever actually doing anything.

Needless to say, he got on fabulously with Ronon.

"The two of them are going to take over Atlantis," Sheppard said one afternoon as they sat with their laptops on the commissary balcony. They weren't hiding from O exactly, although they'd both be hard-pressed to sound convincing giving any other explanation. "Them and Teyla."

"Probably," Lorne agreed. "But part from the fact that we'd all have to run twenty miles every morning, would it really be that bad?"


two

There'd been a couple of familiar faces when he'd arrived at the SGC for inprocessing, but nobody that AJ knew well enough to make it seem like something he'd done before. The first mobilization had been all about keeping the marines away from the stargate and anything else the Air Force types thought the leathernecks would break. The second one had been more about speed -- everyone racing back to Atlantis before someone else came and said that they didn't belong. AJ'd gotten a pass to Earth once before the way station had been blown, but the gate room at the SGC had been involuntarily remodeled a few times since then.

"Stargate looks like a whole big thing," an Air Force major standing next to him began, sounding like he was talking to a third grader on a field trip. "But it doesn't feel like it. You won't notice anything."

"I'm sure, sir," AJ replied, careful to keep his voice neutral. No reason for the guy to know that he was a retread, not new to the Stargate Program. Plus, he'd gotten accustomed to the way senior officers talked down to lieutenants the way they never would have tried with an NCO.

"Lieutenant Reletti's been through a stargate more times than you have, Martinson," a voice said from the bay doors. "He doesn't need any pointers."

AJ turned and grinned at the approaching man. "Glad to see you before I left, sir."

Lieutenant Colonel Lorne grinned back and held out his hand. AJ shook it. The team, long since broken up, kept in touch over the years, mostly through announcements (promotions, commissions, weddings, babies), but Lorne had made a point to try and be around during AJ's once-semi-frequent recalls from school to the Mountain to play Walking ATA gene. Once AJ'd been commissioned, he'd known that it was a matter of 'when' and not 'if' he'd get dragged back in to the alien thing, so the fact that he'd lasted this long before it had actually happened... AJ didn't want to ask if anyone had pulled strings, but he wouldn't have been surprised if they had.

"Got in this morning and I'm due back later today," Lorne explained wryly. AJ'd asked about Lorne when he'd arrived in Colorado Springs, but had been told that he was off-world and not expected back. "I have half a mind to skip out to Atlantis to hide and let someone else handle the negotiations. You want to go to Cerador, Major?"

Martinson, having been reduced to third wheel from wise senior officer, quietly demurred.

The airmen up in the control tower began the prolonged (and to AJ's ear, pompous and ridiculous) ceremony of DHD dialing. An unfamiliar voice asked for and confirmed receipt of a valid IDC and the airman up in the booth announced that they were clear to depart.

"I'll probably get out there without having to go AWOL," Lorne said, gesturing to the rippling wormhole. "I'll see you then."

AJ waited for Martinson to start up the ramp before following. They arrived at the way station a moment later, going through the Asgard-designed security before a different airman dialed Atlantis, this time without pomp. Martinson was just on a TDY and AJ hadn't yet been assigned an IDC recognized by Atlantis, so they had to wait once more for the verifications to go through. Finally, they were cleared to proceed.

After almost seven years away, AJ wasn't sure what to expect. He did remember to brace himself for the rush of the city itself. Not that bracing himself helped; Atlantis still tore through his mind like a flash-flood or a puppy exploring a new home and he had to close his eyes and think shushing thoughts for a long second. Still, it was nice to be missed.

Eyes open again, Atlantis's gate room looked much like he remembered it, right down to the bored lieutenant on the control room balcony. It took AJ a second to remember that (a) he could return the smile of greeting because (b) he was going to be the bored lieutenant on the control room balcony sooner than later. The transition from NCO to officer had had its hiccups, but he'd pretty much gotten over them by now and it was surprising to have to remind himself that he wasn't a sergeant coming back from a mission anymore.

A familiar face was waiting for him and Martinson, who was greeted first but was still looking a little peevish at not being the one everyone was pleased to see for more than just the fact that AJ was a returning prodigal son. More than a decade in to the Stargate Program's presence in Pegasus and, commander aside, Atlantis remained the territory of the USMC and that still got the Air Force's panties in a wad.

"Welcome back, Lieutenant Reletti," Major Radner said wryly, emphasis on his rank.

"Thank you, sir," AJ said with a smile. He had enjoyed his time in Atlantis, no doubt, but he'd also enjoyed being a marine on Earth and hadn't been overjoyed at the re-assignment no matter how inevitable he'd known that it was. But now that he was here, the city murmuring in his brain and the sun streaming in through the stained glass... it didn't feel like coming home, since home was and would be the southwest corner of the United States. But it felt welcome.

"Your CO should be in his office," Radner went on. "You remember how to get there?"

"Yes, sir," AJ replied. He'd been assigned to Charlie Company's First Platoon, which had been his old unit. It hadn't been intentional, but it was still a little funny.

"I'll catch you later, then," Radner said. "Battalion staff meeting at 1500 AST."

AJ nodded at the marines on gate room duty, feeling their attention as they sized him up. He wondered if they knew he'd been here before he'd gone mustang, if they knew he'd gone mustang at all. Probably; he couldn't imagine the marine gossip network slowing down any.

A decade in and Little Tripoli looked a lot like any other impromptu base that had taken on the trapping of permanence, sort of what it had looked like before he'd left, but upgraded in some places and worn down in others. The makeshift noticeboards were starting to look a little ragged, but the wonky light fixtures in the hallway by the transporter no longer did the disco floor thing when anyone with the ATA gene walked by.

AJ found the Charlie commander's office exactly where it had been, although the anteroom looked weird without First Sergeant Backman's Green Bay Packers memorabilia along the far wall. The commander's door was open and AJ stopped in it, ready to present himself, but stopped before he got the first syllable out because his CO's guest was laughing too hard.

"Sorry," Captain Gillick coughed out once he'd trailed off to a giggle. "It's just the punchline of about a dozen jokes all at once."

"You're going to be fun to have around, aren't you, Lieutenant?" Captain Gaspar, his actual CO, asked dryly.

"Not that much fun, sir," AJ answered. "I hope."

feed me on LJ?


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16 June, 2008