by Domenika Marzione

Epilogue

After three years working next to Pegasus's version of Grand Central Terminal, Elizabeth was very good at ignoring the world outside her office. Which wasn't to say that she didn't notice when the alarm sounded for an incoming wormhole or that she didn't hear the awesomely uncouth sea of words and noise that accompanied the en masse departure and return of marines or the periodic heated arguments that broke out between engineers in the control room. Just that she didn't have to stop what she was doing to register what the sounds meant, to her and to Atlantis.

Right now, the chatter in the control room was louder than usual and certainly more animated. There were voices that didn't belong, although she could tell who they were, and from this she knew that it must be close to the time that the marines would be checking in.

She had been paying attention to the exercises as they'd progressed, interrupted as they were by death and crisis and occasionally the joys of Pegasus. It seemed like they'd been going on forever, but it had only been three weeks spread out over as many months and now it would be drawing to an end in two days.

The marines -- and John, Lorne, and their various civilian accomplices -- seemed to be having a ball, but Elizabeth thought she'd be relieved when it was over. She didn't like having so many of Atlantis's protectors out of the city for extended periods, even though she accepted without question John's assurance that the city would be safe in their absence. And she understood, as much as she could, that these sorts of activities were necessary for the betterment of Atlantis's future defense.

But it was still one week a month where two thirds of Atlantis's military personnel were doing their utmost to at best demoralize and at worst maim each other and Elizabeth couldn't quite get around the idea that this was a positive thing.

Finishing the last of the SGC-bound reports she'd intended to work on this afternoon, Elizabeth stood up and made her way from her office to the control room, smiling at the marine on the catwalk in between. Captain Hanzis was there, as would be expected as he was the 'event coordinator' with the other two captains in the field, and Yoni was there as well. Each round of the exercise had brought its share of marines (and occasionally civilians or Athosians or Ipetians) back on stretchers, but most of the injuries were treated by the hospital corpsmen attached to the platoons and sometimes they wanted confirmation from a doctor that they had done the right thing.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen," she said as she walked up to the small group. In addition to Yoni and Captain Hanzis -- and Lieutenant Murray, lingering off to the side -- Doctor Plesak from Engineering was present, presumably for tech support. If Elizabeth had been mildly horrified at the list of destructive implements the marines had gotten shipped from Earth for this affair, she knew she'd be much more so were John or Lorne to confess to what, precisely, they'd gotten from the bowels of Atlantis.

"Afternoon, ma'am," Hanzis replied with a nod. Of the three marine captains, Hanzis was the one who reminded her most of Marshall Sumner. It wasn't anything in particular, although she could point out vague resemblances in carriage and demeanor, but an overall sense of the man. She didn't know how accurate an assessment it was -- she accepted that the officers had lives and personalities away from their duties that, by virtue of her position, she saw only by accident -- but it had come to her at some point last year and stuck. "Come to hear the tally?"

She'd kept closer tabs on the civilian participation (and John and Lorne), both out of concern and the more pragmatic reason that she needed to know who was actually running various parts of the city at given moments. The marines had generally been careful of their civilian and indigenous colleagues, but this was simulated combat and Elizabeth was under no illusion that everyone could be kept either safe or within their comfort zone at all times. Some of the civilians seemed to generally enjoy the experience, but others -- such as Rodney's 'volunteers' -- were less thrilled for having taken part.

"I've come to make sure everyone has survived this latest clash of the Titans," Elizabeth replied, trying to sound reproachful and knowing she'd failed by the grins from the men around her. "Do I even want to know what's going on this time?"

"Payback, ma'am," Hanzis replied seriously, although Elizabeth did not miss the twinkle in his eyes. "Captain Polito's going to be getting as good as he's given."

Elizabeth arched an eyebrow. "Was the exercise not designed fairly?" She knew Polito had been the architect of the project, but had assumed that there had been equitable decision-making with so many other hands involved.

"Oh, he was fair about it, ma'am," Hanzis replied with a nod. "But there's no reason we have to reciprocate."

The shock must have registered on her face because Yoni laughed, a short, sharp, not entirely pleasant sound. "Polito orchestrated the 'vacation' at the end of Bravo's week and kept most of Weapons prisoner on M94-G32 for two days. Among other highlights."

Elizabeth remembered the first instance, but not as a potential source of lingering humiliation -- she'd just laughed uneasily along with everyone else at the thought of Lorne as sleeper agent. John had been scheduled to be out the entire week with Weapons Company and how he'd spent that week had been deemed nothing she'd needed to be briefed about.

"Charlie Company's already won the exercise, ma'am," Hanzis added. "Between the blanket party they threw for my marines and what they've done so far this week, they've already got the points. We're just making sure they don't run up the score."

Marines, as a rule, did not believe in using a scalpel when a machete was available. "You're not going to do anything that's going to hinder Charlie Company's effectiveness once the exercise is over, are you? I don't want sour grapes carrying over into something that will threaten the city."

"Don't worry, Doctor Weir," Yoni assured her. "This is strictly a blow to the ego. And the nervous system a little, too, but mostly the ego."

"We've got Charlie walking on to a planet with a Hive ship," Hanzis elaborated. "A hive led by Ronon and the Colonel."

The first time the marines had had a war games exercise, it had been on the mainland and it had been a Wraith scenario, one platoon of marines with John and Ronon as Wraith and the rest of the Atlantis marines as themselves. It had been a relative slaughter, Elizabeth recalled. And now a company led by Ronon and John against a fatigued Charlie?

"Remind me not to get on your bad side, Captain," she said wryly.

Elizabeth was back in her office by the time Bravo's captain dialed in. She was figuratively knee-deep in a proposal from Pharmacology about prospective new drugs, advents that made her both hopeful and a little terrified, when she overheard the money phrase from Captain Radner.

"We ran out of 'snack' flags."

feed me on LJ?


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1 December, 2010