blue flamingos

First Day of School

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Gen, PG

Year/Length: 2007/ ~2686 words

Spoilers: Post-The Siege, pre-Runner

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: In which Major Lorne learns exactly what "Sheppard's XO" means

Author's Notes: [info]noveltea on [info]atlantisbasics, who asked for "Lorne, and how he deals with not only being Sheppard's second in command, but also being new to Atlantis"

Beta: by [info]celtic_tigress

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

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He's been on Atlantis three days, not even long enough to have figured out where the Marines are brewing something contraband and probably lethal, and he's being called to the control room.

"Major Lorne," Dr Weir says, looking up from the laptop she's studying over a tech's shoulder.

"Yes, ma'am," Lorne says, coming to a halt a couple of feet away from her. He's still trying to break the habit of saluting his superior because Weir looks at him strangely whenever he does.

"Colonel Sheppard's team should have checked in half an hour ago, and we can't raise them on the radio. I'd like you to put together a rescue team, just in case."

"Yes, ma'am," Lorne says again. He's got Sheppard's mission plan in his office, which is a good thing, since he wasn't in the briefing and doesn't know where Sheppard's gone.

"Thank you." Weir looks back at the screen, then up to him, her expression solemn. "We'll give them another thirty minutes."

hr

Sheppard's taken Dr McKay, Teyla Emmagan and three of the new Marines to P3X 726, which, according to his mission plan, is a predominately water planet, like their own, with a well-established city on the main land-mass, and a trading fair that Emmagan knows of. They've gone looking for intel on the Wraith, but he's read Lieutenant Ford's file and he's perfectly capable of putting two and two together.

There are always a dozen Marines on call for just such an occasion, so Lorne has his pick for a rescue team of six, himself included. It's not until he's on his radio calling them all in that he realizes he's picked out five new people, at which point it's too late to change his mind. They've all got gate team experience back on Earth, he rationalizes, and they wouldn't have been sent if they weren't capable. There's something about the original Marines though that makes him a little – nervous is the wrong word, because he's used to starting over in established groups – but there's something about their fierce loyalty to Sheppard that he's not quite comfortable with yet.

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Staff Sergeant Rikeman is in the conference room with Dr Weir when Lorne gets back, pausing in the doorway until she nods for him to enter. He doesn't look injured, but Lorne assumes Weir would have radioed if the rest of them were back.

"Staff Sergeant?" he asks.

"Yes, sir." Rikeman draws himself up to attention and waits for Lorne to nod. "Dr McKay was accused of trying to steal from one of the traders. They called the police and Dr McKay, Colonel Sheppard and Ms Emmagan were arrested."

"Lieutenant Cadman and Sergeant Morris?"

Rikeman shuffles awkwardly. "We attempted to get back to the stargate, to raise the alarm when the police weren't willing to let them go. We ran into... I suppose you'd call them highway robbers, sir, and we got separated."

"You couldn't get them on the radio?"

"No sir, they were only working intermittently when we got away from the gate."

"All right." Lorne files that away in case they end up needing a rescue plan. "Any injuries?"

"Not that we saw, sir. They're like police in the US, really, they weren't violent. They said they'd hold Colonel Sheppard and the others until they could hold a trial, next week, unless we had something to trade for their release."

"Trade?" Weir asks.

Rikeman nods. "Money or goods, they said, but they didn't want anything that Colonel Sheppard had with him."

"All right." Weir pats his shoulder. "Go down to the infirmary and get checked out. We'll debrief when everyone else is back." She waits for Rikeman to leave, then looks at Lorne. "Ten minutes?"

"No problem, ma'am."

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They step through the gate into the middle of a bustling city square, surrounded by thin grey skyscrapers, and no-one gives them a second glance. Two of Lorne's team peel off, armed with life signs' detectors, to track their two missing Marines, while Lorne and the other three follow Rikeman's directions to the police station.

The police officers are polite but firm when Lorne asks about Colonel Sheppard and his team. Dr McKay has been accused of theft. There will be a trial in one week. If he's found innocent, he and his colleagues will be released. If not, they will be able to retrieve them when they have served out their sentence.

"I understand that." Just for a second, Lorne finds himself missing the Unas, who were actually pretty friendly once Jackson talked them round. He'd like to think this is a one-off, but he's read Atlantis' mission reports. "But we kind of need Colonel Sheppard back before then, so we were hoping we could come to some kind of arrangement."

There's a back up plan involving threats of violence, but they seem like nice people, and it would be a shame to antagonize them if it's not necessary; he's pretty sure Weir wouldn't be impressed with that.

"What sort of arrangement are you proposing?" the officer asks, leaning one elbow on the counter dividing the reception from the cells. It's like every police station Lorne's ever been in on Earth.

"Well, we've got lots of good we could offer," Lorne suggests with his best smile. The police officer doesn't seem impressed. "Medicines, food..."

"Major. Take a look around – do we seem like the sort of people who would need to trade for medicines?"

"Not really," Lorne admits. It was worth a try. "What would be a reasonable offer in exchange for our people?"

The police officer leans back to talk quietly to another officer at a desk, and Phull's voice sounds in Lorne's ear piece. "Major Lorne?"

"Yes, Sergeant?"

"Sir, we're got –" The radio crackles then cuts in again – "Sergeant Morris."

"Say again?"

"We've got Lieutenant Cadman –" The rest is swallowed in static again. Lorne looks over to Green, who shrugs helplessly.

"You're breaking up," he tells Phull. "Proceed to the gate when you've found them both."

"Yes, sir," Phull says, and the police officer, conveniently, chooses that moment to come back to them.

"We have a machine that none of the city's engineers have been able to repair. We believe it to be an energy generator. Dr McKay assures us he is a gifted scientist – if he can repair the machine, the charges will be dropped and you may take your people back to your world."

"Sounds like a plan," Lorne says, and doesn't ask about the supposedly stolen item. Sheppard can worry about that one.

hr

"Well," Sheppard says, watching McKay crawl under a machine that doesn't look like anything Lorne's ever seen: large, spherical and silver, with metal rods coming out of it at apparently random intervals. "I suppose it could have turned out worse."

"Yes, sir," Lorne says cautiously. He's fairly sure Sheppard's not serious, but his CO's currently handcuffed between two hulking police officers, one of them attached on the other side to Emmagan.

"I am sure Dr McKay will be able to repair the device," she says calmly.

"Of course," Sheppard agrees quickly. "We'll be out of here in no time."

McKay certainly looks like he'll have it fixed before dinner: he's crawling around industriously, poking at parts and complaining about the inadequacy of the tool kit he's been given. Lorne just hopes they were right about it being an energy generator. The way it's hovering without any visible means of propulsion is making him nervous.

"So, Major," Sheppard says after a while, and Lorne shifts to something closer to attention, even though it gets him a frustrated look from Sheppard. "How do you like your new posting so far?"

"Ah-ha!" McKay says suddenly, and the device starts to hum loudly.

The police officers exchange looks, nodding approvingly. Lorne has to admit he's impressed, and not just because he's been spared answering Sheppard's question.

"See?" Sheppard says, looking between his two guards. "Didn't we say we could fix it?"

"We?" McKay asks, dusting his hands off on his BDUs.

"Fine. You." Sheppard holds his wrist out for the cuffs to be opened. "So is it an energy generator?" The officers tuck their open cuffs back onto their belts.

"Well, it is." McKay looks over his shoulder at the machine and Lorne suddenly gets a bad feeling about this. Next to him, he feels Sheppard tense, obviously picking up the same vibe.

"McKay?" Sheppard drawls.

"They said get it working," McKay says sharply. "If they don't take appropriate precautions with it, they've only got themselves to blame if it turns out –"

"McKay," Sheppard says again, gesturing at the police officers with his eyebrows. "What's it going to do?"

"There's a slight – slight! – chance it might overload and, er – if it's not connected to the right thing, it might, eventually, ah. Explode."

"Oh Jesus," Sheppard groans, too quiet for anyone but Lorne to hear, then turns an insincere smile on the police officers. "Well, it's been great meeting all of you..."

"Major, wait –"

"Colonel," Sheppard mutters.

"Colonel," McKay corrects himself, and bats at one of the officers when she tries to take his arm. "I said, eventually, as in, months from now." He bats at the hands again, glaring. "I'm sure your scientists aren't as good as me, but between us, we shouldn't have any trouble sorting out what this should be connected to well before explosion becomes a serious risk."

"This is good news," Teyla says, in case anyone's missed the point.

"Great." Sheppard claps his hands together. "Why don't we go find your scientists and have a chat?"

hr

Somehow it all ends well, with the town's mayor coming to see them through the gate, ostensibly to wish them well, though Lorne thinks it might be more to make sure they really leave.

Two days later, Sheppard appears in Lorne's office door as he's finishing up his report.

"Seriously," Sheppard says when Lorne stands up. "I know I've told you to stop doing that."

"Yes, sir."

"So stop doing it," Sheppard says, exasperated, then waves at Lorne to sit down again, slouching in Lorne's spare chair, which he wouldn't have thought was possible. Lorne waits for him to say something, until the silence stretches out too long.

"Can I help you with something, sir?"

Sheppard snaps out of whatever's distracting him and nods. "Yep. We need to talk about gate teams."

Sheppard's team is down to three people, unless Lt Ford turns up, and they've still got more people than any of the rest of the existing gate teams, once they account for dead, culled, injured and transferred. "OK."

"You were Edwards' second-in-command on P3X 403," Sheppard says, looking up at him. "So you'll be fine running your own team."

"Sure."

Sheppard nods. "Great. Let me know who you want by the end of the week. And while you're at it, want to put together some training exercises, draw up a list of potential off-world personnel?"

"Yes, sir." It's been a while since he ran training exercises beyond 'here's a shovel, dig here,' but he's fairly certain he'll remember how. He doesn't ask if Sheppard's going to be picking someone from the list; Sheppard's still talking about getting Ford back, but Lorne thinks he doesn't entirely believe his own propaganda there.

"Great." Sheppard says again. He shoves himself up, hands on his thighs, and saunters towards the door. "Oh," he says, leaning in the doorway, "and I'll take you up in a jumper tomorrow. You remember how to fly, right?"

"I think it'll probably come back to me, sir," Lorne says, risking a grin, and Sheppard grins back before he leaves.

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It's easy to tell the Marines who came through the gate the first time from the new ones, who came through for the siege and on the Daedalus with Lorne, and not just because the new ones still have the same air of combined intimidation and awe at Atlantis. Most of the Marines who came on the Daedalus have the gene – too precious a resource to risk in a fight they weren't sure they'd win – but so do a good portion of the original Marines. It's more than that.

The old Marines take everything to Sheppard, catching him in the corridors and the mess hall, bypassing Lorne and the two captains left from the siege completely. They've got no problem following a direct order, and they're polite, helpful, even friendly, up to a point, but they're definitely Sheppard's Marines. Lorne guesses it comes from a year being trapped with no way home and the prospect of imminent death constantly hanging over them, but still... Sheppard shot their commanding officer and stepped into his place when he was only ever meant to be there to turn things on, and Lorne has no idea how he won them over; Sheppard's brand of laid-back charm doesn't seem like it would work on the USMC.

Which is not to say he wouldn't gladly take any tips Sheppard has to offer after two days of training exercises down the South Pier.

In the end, he picks out Sergeant Coughlin, who was on SG-16 back on Earth, and knows plenty about explosives; Sergeant Reed, who was one of the original expedition members, but not on a gate team, and who has the gene and can thus fly the jumpers in an emergency; and, after due consideration of which scientists get to go where, Dr Parrish, from botany.

"A botanist?" Sheppard asks, the three files pulled up on his data screen after Lorne, figuring it worked for everybody else, caught him having lunch.

"Yeah." Atlantis is blessedly free of jello of any color, but seems to be making up for this with strange colored main courses instead. He pokes at his green pasta sauce and says, "We're still trading for food, right? At least this way we'll have an idea of what's worth trading for. You've got a physicist, Stackhouse has a biologist and Bates' team has an anthropologist. That covers most of the main sciences on Atlantis."

Sheppard just looks at him for a second, like he's not sure what to make of what Lorne's saying, which is fair enough – it's probably the longest consecutive thing Lorne's said since they met, but he's maybe still a little edgy about his decisions.

Sheppard shrugs. "Your team, your choice. Parrish is OK with going off world?"

Parrish was, in fact, the only member of botany to volunteer: they found the Ancient greenhouses during the first few weeks in the city, and most of the botanists are content to do their research there, or to pester those who *do* go off-world for samples. "He's fine, sir."

"OK." Sheppard taps at his data pad, then turns it so Lorne can see the screen, which is showing details of a planet and its gate address. "P3M 736 – it's been on botany's wish list for a visit for months."

Lorne holds one hand over the data pad till Sheppard nods for him to take it, and scrolls down the information. He hopes this isn't Sheppard's way of saying that taking on a botanist to fill his scientist slot means no first contact missions – Parrish can't be any worse than McKay at that. "High levels of radiation from the sun," he reads out loud. Sheppard looks at him over his coffee mug, waiting. "You're trying to kill me off already? And here I thought you liked me."

Sheppard laughs. "You picked a botanist," he says with a shrug. "You brought it on yourself."

"Is it too late to change my mind?" Lorne asks mournfully, handing back Sheppard's data pad.

"Yep," Sheppard says brightly. "We'll put you on the schedule for tomorrow night? Give you time to brief your team, and you can be back for breakfast the next day."

"Sounds good, sir," Lorne says.

He'll remember that, when he's sitting in the debrief with a pounding headache from the stunner blast he took on what was meant to be a simple research mission, and make sure he never says it again, the whole time he's in Pegasus.


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