Qui Habitat: One

by Domenika Marzione | art by Ileliberte

Cameron Mitchell looked at his watch and cursed as he ran down the hall, acknowledging the two amused marines walking in the opposite direction. He pulled to a halt a few feet from the doorway, but he didn't think he was fooling anyone when he sauntered into the conference room and smiled benignly at the conference table full of men who were only not laughing at him because he outranked them. On the other hand, Sheppard wasn't there yet, either, so he figured that he still won in the end.

More than six months into his stay in Atlantis and he was mostly settled in. He had quarters that could no longer be called spartan, he could identify by name all of the lieutenants and most of the civilian department heads, and it had been a couple of weeks since he'd had to call the control room for directions because he had gotten lost. He had local foods he liked, he'd met the Wraith (from a distance, thankfully), and he'd learned that officers had to buy their marine-brewed beer from the geologists but even with the cost inflation it was still a better value than the swill Engineering produced because you didn't get heartburn for three days afterward. As far as any other deployment he'd had in his almost two decades of service, this was turning out to be a pretty smooth one. But he still missed Earth with a ferocity that could make him double over in pain if he wasn't careful, an ache far more profound than anything he'd felt during his time with the Sodan. Things were a lot different when you had no home to return to.

"Gentlemen," he said with a nod, going to the empty seat across from Polito and sitting quickly because it would mean everyone else could, too.

"How's the shoulder, sir?" Captain Armstrong asked once he was settled.

"Gettin' there," Cam replied. He'd stopped wearing the sling yesterday, after a long argument with Doctor Chung. The bruises were starting to fade and he could change his own bandages, so while he still looked like he'd lost a boxing match, his visits to Medical had been cut down to once daily instead of thrice. If only the Daedalus would heal so quickly. "Don't think I'll be tossing any split-fingered fastballs for a while, though."

Sheppard showed up a couple of minutes later (he clearly hadn't been running because he'd been ten minutes late), smiling easily as he strolled over to the end where his seat was located. Lorne was at the foot of the table; he'd offered Cam the spot out of deference to his rank, but Cam had turned it down. That he was technically the second-most senior officer presently in Atlantis -- his time in grade put him ahead of Sheppard and behind only Caldwell -- was not something he'd really ever thought to use to his advantage, for the same reason Caldwell was probably down on the east pier inspecting repairs on his ship instead of presiding over the battalion staff meeting. Pulling rank had its time and place, but finding either one of those was near impossible ever since Robler Rock. (That Earth's final submission to the Ori had come by the President in some two-dog town in Idaho was both ironic and suiting, depending on what you thought of both the President and Mormons.) Lorne was arguably the most important cog in the battalion hierarchy's wheel and Cam saw no reason to upset that particular apple cart for the sake of some unimportant perquisites.

"So what've we got?" Sheppard asked, slapping the table next to the notes everyone knew he'd read and would pretend not to have done so. (Which was apparently the opposite of his meetings with civilians.) Now that he was serving 'under' Sheppard, Cam understood both why the SGC had gotten so frustrated with him and why it ultimately didn't matter. It wasn't that Sheppard didn't have goals for both himself and the battalion or that he didn't have a plan, it was that the plan was flexible in a way that tended to stress out a military that thrived on order and precedence and clung to bureaucracy like Linus's blanket. (And senior officers were, in their own ways, even more slaves of routine than enlisted of any stripe.) If asked, Cam wouldn't lie and say that he didn't miss the comfort of doing things as they'd always been done, of having everything spelled out for him in very small words and with no opportunity to deviate from the itinerary. But he was a lot more used to it than he'd been before taking command of SG-1. And it was fun to watch the marines try to keep up.

To answer Sheppard's question, what they had, at least in terms of the agenda for the meeting, was the continued shift of focus from the Milky Way back to Pegasus. The Daedalus wouldn't be space-worthy for another three months at the earliest. She wouldn't be safe leaving the galaxy for maybe twice that. She might never be ready to go into combat, not unless they got some help from someone like the Asgard (which, complete inability to prevent the Ori from taking the Milky Way aside, wasn't out of the question; Hermiod had friends, unlikely as that was), but they didn't talk about that. Their scientists had done more with less in many cases.

With no chance to get back to the Milky Way and fight the Ori there, there was nothing else to do but do what they could locally. The Wraith were still around, the Ori were undoubtedly coming, and there was no shortage of work to be done on those fronts and many others. Splitting focus had been rough on all parties -- everyone in Atlantis had family and friends back on Earth and the marines would have given anything to be allowed to go home and defend them -- but now that that wasn't even an (unlikely) option, the anxiety and eagerness had mellowed into something like determination. Enough time had passed that everyone in Little Tripoli understood that they were pretty much all that was left of the cavalry -- even if they were currently without sufficient horses.

That being said, while Cam had no regrets for how he'd spent his time since Robler Rock -- building and supporting (and, sometimes leading) the resistance movement back in their home galaxy had gotten them plenty in terms of resources both tangible and not -- sometimes he felt like he should have been doing more here all along. Nobody had begrudged him not taking part in the day-to-day running of either the military or the operations it developed and that graciousness had been both welcoming and maybe a little guilt-inducing. He got to do what they only wished they could do -- and if he'd ultimately failed, well then nobody held that against him, either.

After the marine captains finished with the local updates -- killed some Wraith, did some humanitarian work, found a planet where they could maybe convince Botany to grow more tropical fruit, secured three more (non-tropical) food sources and one mining agreement -- it was back to Cam.

"Mr. Quinn and I have decided to join forces," Cam announced when Lorne asked. "At least until we learn the galaxy to an acceptable standard, it seems like the thing to do. We'll accept any marine team that you think to give us -- which, I understand, is opening up all sorts of opportunities to abuse the poor Air Force officer --" he raised an eyebrow at Armstrong and Polito sitting across from him, both trying not to look too eager to do just that, "--but I am going to trust your judgment. 'Sides, I figure you'll be nice to Mr. Quinn."

It had been Jonas's idea, more or less, although Cam probably would have brought it up if Jonas hadn't. Both of them had been operating with their own groups back in the Milky Way, Cam's network focusing on sabotage and refugee rescues and Jonas on theft of non-people resources, but they would have different tasks here. Cam didn't think it would be a problem working together instead of complementing each other's work -- both of them were used to working in a group of (near) equals and it wasn't as if Cam actually expected to be in charge of any team he was nominally leading. He knew that Jonas was as aware as he was of being the poor man's Daniel Jackson to Cam's cheap imitation of Jack O'Neill, but, well, O'Neill was dead and Daniel was in a prison they hadn't even found yet, and copies would have to do.

Cam had read about Jonas and had heard the others speak of him before they'd actually met, but by the time they'd spent anything but the most cursory time together, almost all of the past information had become irrelevant. The Jonas he'd read and heard about had seemed most like Sam -- inquisitive, eager, a general know-it-all in a mostly good way, and determined to find life's pleasures and enjoy them. The Jonas he'd come to know, however, reminded him of Daniel -- inquisitive, eager, a general know-it-all in a mostly good way, and haunted by the people he couldn't save. Langara had fallen and Jonas had done all he could to save it and not only had it not been enough, but it had also cost him what little he hadn't already lost. In the most horrifying ways possible. More than a year later, Jonas had recovered from the worst of his pain and it wasn't hard to find evidence of the man he'd presumably once been, but Cam sometimes wondered if it was maybe for the best that they hadn't met before the Ori lest he be able to see just how much Jonas had changed.

"I suppose this means we shouldn't lend you Lorne's marines," Sheppard mused with a grin directed at Lorne, who frowned out of obligation. Everyone else laughed because they all knew that Cam would be damned lucky to get a trio like Lorne's marines. It was Lorne's epidemiologist that Cam knew to be scared of.

"I'm sure we can come up with a few prospective candidates," Lorne said mildly. "Most of the marines have been housebroken by this point."

Moving on, Armstrong, the officer coordinating the marines' involvement in R&D, gave the update on the Daedalus and any new technology the scientists had either discovered or invented or figured out how to work after it had been stolen from someone else. Armstrong, the newest company commander in Atlantis, didn't have much more than a better-than-average layman's understanding of Ancient technology, but he still managed to translate most of what McKay's and Jonas's explanations into terms they could appreciate. (Which boiled down to "stop asking about the Daedalus", "the naquadria is still too unstable", and "don't throw out the bullet molds just yet".)

They finished up with the usual sort of small-fry stuff that always got put down at the end of the list -- who'd swapped which duty when, plans for MRW days, disciplinary problems (as might have been expected, the Atlantis marines were better behaved than their Earth confreres had been, but while Uncle Sam's Migrating Chimps might profess to patrol the streets of heaven, the good Lord ain't never done confused marines with angels), and, everyone's favorite part, the captains' comparison of their platoons' run-ins with the civilians within the city. Radner's second platoon won handily this week, Lieutenant Eriksson and his marines having accidentally overrun an illicit love nest (illicit for being outside the safe parts of the city) on night patrol and catching a couple in flagrante delicto. Consensus was that Eriksson was more embarrassed than the two lovebirds, who'd had to get dressed and be marched back to civilization. Sheppard was looking forward to that disciplinary hearing.

The meeting broke up while Cam was still chuckling over Eriksson's misfortune. Sheppard flagged him down before he could go and he waited as the marines filed by, Polito and Lorne still discussing the best way to convince Doctor Weir about something and trying to come up with a better answer than getting Caldwell to do it.

"How's it going?" Sheppard asked as they started to walk.

Cam knew this was one of those questions that could be taken however he wanted. "Shoulder's better," he replied, since he wasn't sure he wanted to talk about everything else. "Got Chung to admit that there'd be no loss of range of motion once it heals if I didn't wear the straight-jacket sleeve for another week."

Sheppard gave him a pleased look. "You're learning."

It wasn't a matter of Cam needing to learn how to bully his way into medical clearance; he'd been a master of that since the first time he'd shown up at the flight line hung over. It was just he'd gotten out of practice since Carolyn hadn't been the kind of lady you browbeat into an early release. He still missed her something fierce and it still hurt to think about her, so he changed the subject. "You're not gonna let the Musketeers saddle me with a team of crazies, are you?"

Cam liked the marine captains, even if Polito had a habit of talking in dead languages nobody understood. But that didn't change the fact that they were still marines and thus still batshit insane. And, in this case, he was maybe still a little scarred from having to sort through personnel files back when he'd been told that he had to pick a new SG-1.

Another grin from Sheppard. "Nah, I wouldn't worry about that," he assured. "Lorne ended up with his team by accident, but I think there'll probably be some stiff competition for chasing you and Quinn around the galaxy."

Sheppard was leading them in the general direction of Lorne's office and Cam's own was along the way. Cam had been issued the space right when he'd arrived, but there'd rarely been any real need for it -- the briefings he'd led for missions in the Milky Way had been held aboard the Daedalus since they got the most recent intel once they'd crossed back into their home galaxy. So his office had mostly been for hanging out and playing video games and writing in the diary he was keeping for no other purpose than to get things off his chest without a trip to Heightmeyer.

"Who do I ask about AAR files?" Cam asked, stopping when they got in front of his doorway. "I'm going to need to do a bit of reading and I know Jonas is going to want to as well."

Jonas would read everything and remember it all perfectly. Cam's memory was only that good when he had nothing else to think about, which had pretty much been the case during the long months of rehab. Which in turn was why he could remember most of the details of ten years of SG-1 missions and yet routinely forgot names, faces, and where he'd put his keys.

"Lorne," Sheppard replied, a look of fond exasperation on his face. "All of the vanilla reports are in the database and you can call them up whenever, but there's probably going to be a mess with access authorization for the others and he'll have those in hard copy. Forget Snickers bars or Doritos -- the things he misses most from Earth are all office supplies."

Cam grinned because he'd known who to ask, but was instead really asking if he'd have authorization to look at the others. Rank didn't have diddly-squat to do with security clearance. "I'll be sure to bring him a stapler or something for his trouble," he said.

Sheppard nodded. "I'm sure he'll appreciate it."

With that, they parted. Cam waved his hand over the crystals and the door opened for him. They'd shot him up with the ATA gene therapy, but it hadn't taken. Jonas, however, was now making things light up like Christmas trees and loving every minute of it. Even -- especially -- the puddle jumper lessons.

Speaking of, he went over to the not-phone and punched in the extension to Jonas's lab, one of the maybe three extensions he knew without having to look it up. "Jonas!" he called out once the other man had picked up. "We have a hot date with some AARs and we're about to get saddled with three of Uncle Sam's Misguideds. They promised us good ones, but these are marines and I am going to adjust my expectations accordingly."

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16 March, 2007