Masquerade

by Domenika Marzione

The first time Lorne met John Sheppard, it was by the elevators on Level 28. Sheppard was dressed in regular Air Force BDUs that identified him by name and rank and, by virtue of the fact that he was wearing regular Air Force BDUs, announced that he was a newcomer to the Mountain. So Lorne took the lost look for what it was and directed him to the long-term infirmary ward.

He hadn't realized at the time that Sheppard ("John," he'd held his hand out to shake) was Atlantis Sheppard, instead thinking him one of the boatload of new O-4s who'd shown up to bolster the suddenly depleted SG teams. The SGC had been running through gate teams like popcorn in the past year and Lorne hadn't seen so many unfamiliar faces since his first few months with the program. So he'd chatted amiably with John about how weird it was working under a mountain and did the poor SFs pulling security up top even know what they were guarding and no, they hadn't had any unauthorized aliens running around in the past week, although Lorne was kind of suspicious of whoever ordered a seemingly endless supply of chicken parmesan for the commissary.

It had probably been for the best that Lorne didn't know who John really was because he'd been on his way to General Landry's office for what would become the formal announcement that he would be assigned as the Executive Officer of the newly stood up Atlantis Battalion. A battalion without a commander and one that was made up almost entirely of marines, but it was still a step up from XO of SG-11. Such a big step up, in fact, that he hadn't even thought that he'd be considered. ("Major," Landry had sighed when he'd said as much, "Edwards is as close to a marine as you're going to get without a lobotomy and a tattoo. You've got more relevant experience than anyone else we've got on hand.")

The congratulations came with office keys, a master sergeant to manhandle him, and the news that the marine company commanders would be in on Thursday and were Lorne's responsibility until a battalion commander was named. As to when that was... It was apparently some political mess and Landry was even more irritated about that than he was about the more than two hundred marines who'd be showing up imminently.

The next time Lorne met Sheppard, John was no longer a major and Lorne no longer called him "John."

"Are they always like that?" Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard asked wearily, slouching down in his seat at the conference table as the door closed behind the three marine captains. Lorne's office wasn't really an office. It was a conference room with an anteroom in which Master Sergeant Jefferson held court among the boxes of personnel files and the coffee maker.

Lorne didn't bother asking him to expand upon that statement. "From the two weeks that I've known them? Yes."

"They're like really big puppies," Sheppard sighed. "It's a good thing we've got a big backyard."

Individually, the three weren't so bad and Lorne was sure he could get along with them both personally and professionally. But together, they could be overwhelming. They had some sort of Marine Corps synergy that worked like a swirling vortex, whipping tiny ideas into maelstroms that flattened everything in their path. The dynamic would change in Pegasus -- Armstrong was staying behind because he was the captain of a company (Alpha) that didn't exist yet except on paper and Radner, Bravo's commander, was still in Atlantis as acting military commander. But Lorne got the distinct impression that it wouldn't change much.

"You know the joke about 'securing the building', sir," Lorne said, leaning forward so that he could attack the folders spread across his place at the table. MSgt Jefferson would be appearing with a fresh batch soon, fodder for their next meeting.

He was still figuring out how to deal with Sheppard as his commanding officer. First off, Sheppard wasn't very commanding. Coming after Edwards, who had still given Lorne cock-eyed looks after three years if he dropped a 'sir', Sheppard was informal to the point of distraction. It weirded Lorne out -- Sheppard had given him a what the hell did you do that for? look when he'd saluted -- and it was going to drive the marines batshit. And then there was Sheppard's tendency to play dumb, which was just so counterproductive on so many levels that Lorne didn't even have a credible working theory as to why he did it.

They'd only been working together for three days, but it was obvious to Lorne that Sheppard had a full understanding of Atlantis's security situation and a nuanced grasp of what the expedition would face in the future. But he acted like there was no plan and no lessons learned, like they would make it up as they went along as he had last year. Lorne had spent his first days attached to the Atlantis expedition reading every AAR Sheppard had written; he knew just how much Sheppard had absorbed and had a view into how much the year in Pegasus had changed him (the mixture of fatalism and optimism in the reports had matured, become more subtle and more tempered). But Lorne considered himself lucky if any of that was ever on display in any of their endless stream of meetings with Stargate Program personnel. And while it was one thing to baffle the captains with the happy-go-lucky routine, it was something else entirely to let the generals believe that you were going to be guiding the most important outpost in the program pretty much by the seat of your pants.

That Lorne knew how close Sheppard had been to not going back to Atlantis at all only added to his confusion. Sheppard tendency to be flippant in front of the very brass who'd tried so hard to get rid of him, who were still interested in putting in someone they liked more, someone they trusted more... It was beyond mere perversity and, Sheppard clearly having General O'Neill's favor aside, Lorne saw it mostly as proof that he didn't know anything about John Sheppard.

Breaking up a silence that had yet to become uncomfortable, MSgt Jefferson appeared with coffee (the good stuff), bakery cookies, and a stack of folders. Sadly, Jefferson was the only element of the anteroom not being packed to go to Atlantis.

"Are you sure I can't change your mind about Pegasus, Sergeant?" Lorne asked Jefferson, accepting his coffee gratefully.

"I've got season tickets to the Sky Sox, sir," Jefferson replied, as if that were the reason.

Sheppard eyed the linzer tort on the plate of cookies. The marines had only gotten coffee and fruit. "We'll teach the Pegasus galaxy to play baseball."


The joke about 'securing the building':

One reason the Armed Services have trouble operating jointly is that they have very different meanings for the same terms.

The Joint Chiefs once told the Navy to "secure the building," to which they responded by turning off the lights and locking the doors.

The Joint Chiefs then instructed Army personnel to "secure the building," and they occupied the building so no one could enter.

Upon receiving the exact same order, the Marines assaulted the building, captured it, and set up defenses with suppressive fire and amphibious assault vehicles, established reconnaissance and communications channels, and prepared for close hand-to-hand combat if the situation arose.

But the Air Force, on the other hand, acted most swiftly on the command, and took out a three-year lease with an option to buy.

feed me on LJ?


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28 January, 2007