QH: Absit Omen

by Domenika Marzione

When he'd imagined his commissioning ceremony, AJ had figured on it being a sunny day with his family and some friends watching his mom pin on his butterbars and him accept the officer's mameluke to wear instead of the NCO's sword he'd worked so hard to earn.

What he got was something a lot closer to when he'd gotten promoted to staff sergeant since it took place in Atlantis, except not really because there was nothing very celebratory about this battlefield commission. Not when Atlantis's temporary moratorium on promotions was being lifted because too many had died to let the status quo stand. Atlantis had always been bottom-heavy, the indian-to-chief ratio much higher than anywhere else in either the Corps or the US Armed Forces, but even the Atlantis Battalion needed sufficient numbers of officers and senior NCOs to continue functioning at some semblance of normal. They'd been letting platoon sergeants hold commands after the deaths of lieutenants, but they were starting to lose gunnery sergeants too, and the center was starting to give.

AJ hadn't really considered himself on the short list for a promotion -- he had added his rocker just before leaving Atlantis for Earth, which even now still made him low on the E-6 totem pole. Which in turn meant that, if anything, he was looking at assuming leadership of the team and maybe the squad if and when Ortilla got bumped up to gunny. It hadn't crossed his mind that they'd be looking at making new lieutenants; the announcement had spoken only about filling spaces within the ranks.

Which was why, when he was told, it was something close to an ambush.

He'd been in one of the barracks rec rooms when he was told to report to Major Lorne's office and he'd taken the summons as relating to an upcoming mission. But instead of finding Doc and Suarez and Ortilla, he'd shown up to find every officer ranked captain and above sitting around the conference table.

"Take a seat, Staff Sergeant," Sheppard said, gesturing to the empty chair next to Captain Hanzis.

AJ did, feeling like he was in the dock at a court martial even though there was no edge of anger in the room. Even though Captain Polito gave him a grim smile that had nothing of disappointment in it.

The spiel was short and to the point: everyone understood why they needed to create new platoon sergeants. But that wasn't going to be enough and so AJ, by virtue of his time on the Major's team and SG-3 and Recon and then his decision to pursue his commission, was their choice to bolster the too-thin officer ranks.

"It's going to be a rough transition no matter what," Sheppard said, sounding almost apologetic. "But it's going to be least rough on you. You were already leaning that way and you've had the most experience acting in the roles we need even our most junior officers to fill."

AJ wanted to protest, but he knew that they were essentially right. It would've been false modesty to say that the last couple of years hadn't been excellent preparation, probably far more practical training than the ROTC courses he'd once been planning to take. He knew he could handle the political part -- which in a time of war really boiled down to being able to shout loud and make decisions -- but he also knew that he'd be torn away from his friends and his platoon, which was the closest thing he had to a family now that his mom and sisters were so far out of reach. He couldn't say that, after leaving Atlantis to go mustang, he didn't want to do his duty because he was afraid of being lonely.

"Your time away changed you," Lorne would tell him later. "You've been grateful for the familiar things when everything else has gone to hell and that's probably kept you from noticing it too much. But the fact is that you've outgrown the place you left when you went back to Earth. You had outgrown it before you were gone -- you were ready to go. And I can already see where you're chafing at trying to fit back into that spot. It's not just that we need this from you, but also that you'll need it for yourself."

He went back to his room in the barracks and started to pack; officers didn't quarter with the enlisted and he'd already been issued new digs. It was the middle of the day and he was grateful; it meant fewer marines he'd run into -- including members of his own future platoon. Ortilla and Suarez found him anyway and brought beer and they had a mini-wake for their team; Manny was pretty much a shoo-in for one of the open gunny slots and Chris would be moved to one of the gaping holes in any of several platoons. They didn't know if this would be the official end of their running around with the Major and Doc -- "Don't want you along if you're gonna be a fucking lieutenant," Chris muttered -- but there weren't that many missions anymore anyway. The days of wandering around the galaxy looking for new peoples and technology were long gone. Most of the time when they went off-world, it was with their platoon and with permission to fire as soon as they stepped through the wormhole.

The actual commissioning was done at the same time the other staff sergeants were getting bumped up to gunnery sergeants despite AJ's hope to not do it publicly; Captain Polito joked to him that going from E-6 to O-2 only felt like a demotion.

feed me on LJ?

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5 April, 2008