blue flamingos

Recruitment Drive

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Gen, PG-13

Year/Length: 2007/ ~5677 words

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

Summary: Become a space pirate, lead a life of glamour and riches, his ass.

Series: Space Pirates 'verse

Author's Notes: SGA flashfic criminal challenge.

Beta: beta'd by [info]enviropony

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


They picked up Zelenka on Praznia, two months after Sheppard tangled with the wrong sorcerer's daughter, and it was a miracle they survived the landing well enough to be in a position to pick up crew. The worst part was, Lorne didn't even know what was wrong, never mind how to fix it.

"What did you do to her?" Zelenka demanded, glaring at Lorne over his glasses when Lorne tempted him back to the ship on the understanding that taking Lorne's money didn't mean he was accepting the job Lorne was offering.

Lorne held his hands up defensively. "I'm a pilot, not an engineer. Why do you think I'm trying to hire you?"

"This much is very clear," Zelenka said, and crawled under the engine. Lorne left him to it, and went to talk to the wall on the bridge until Sheppard deigned to acknowledge his own existence by saying, "No."

"We need him," Lorne pointed out. He still felt like kind of an idiot, talking to Sheppard's voice coming from the wall panels, but he'd tried talking to Sheppard's suspended-animation body and it had been way too creepy.

"You know what you're doing," Sheppard objected, which Lorne knew meant he was close to giving in – praise was always Sheppard's last resort.

"Thank you, sir, but that's not really going to be enough. We're supposed to be three planets over, but we *fell out of the sky*.

"I can help," Sheppard said, and Lorne sighed. He knew Sheppard didn't like strangers on the ship, especially now, but they were pretty much out of options and they both knew it.

"Not enough," he countered bluntly. "We need him."

Sheppard didn't answer, which Lorne took as agreement, knowing it was the closest he was going to get.


"Okay," Zelenka said, when he finally crawled out from under the engine with a list of parts they needed and Lorne asked if that meant he'd decided to stay with them.

"You probably – some of what we do isn't exactly legal," Lorne said. "And payment might not be regular."

Zelenka waved this away. "Food and board, yes? And I am responsible for the engine?"

"Yes. To all three."

"Then, okay." Zelenka was already turning away, and Lorne could have – should have, maybe – let it go, but he'd never lost the urge to tell the truth. It was at least fifty percent of the reason he'd ended up stealing Atlantis with Sheppard and quitting the Space Force a little more dramatically than he'd intended when he joined up.

The other fifty percent was undoubtedly just Sheppard.

"There's something else you ought to know," he said. "The captain – he's sort of trapped in the ship."

Zelenka looked a little startled, then a little more when Sheppard said, "Hi. Welcome on board," and made the lights flicker.

He shrugged though. "Okay. This is not the strangest thing I have worked with. You will not interfere with the ship?"

"Oh, no," Lorne said, quickly. "He'll definitely interfere."

"Hey! Just because my body's in stasis and I'm trapped in the ship, doesn't stop me being in charge."

"Yes, sir," Lorne said dryly.

Zelenka looked at him, then at the approximate point of Sheppard's voice, then shrugged again. "Even still. I will stay."


Having Zelenka on board meant that Lorne didn't feel like he was probably going to come back from a job to find Sheppard had destroyed the ship, and that they were significantly less likely to fall out of the sky, or at least less likely to fall out of the sky without warning.

What it didn't mean was that he had anyone to back him up when they landed on Terra, two clicks from the ruler's palace.

"Three beagles," Sheppard said from beside the door as Lorne checked his gun again. "How hard can that be?"

Lorne groaned. "I wish you hadn't said that." He tapped the comm unit by the door. "Zelenka?"

There was a pause, then Zelenka's voice said, "Yes? I am busy."

"I know. Just – this might go wrong. If it does, I need you to be ready for a quick take-off, okay?"

"You said engineer. You did not say trick pilot."

"I know," Lorne said again. "But desperate times call for desperate measures, you know? It probably won't even come to that."

"For your sake, I hope you are right."


The palace was worryingly easy to get into – apparently Lord Woolsey wasn't too concerned about security; either that, or his staff hadn't realized that burglars were more likely to sneak in through the small, unlocked back door than through the ostentatious front door.

Lorne pushed his sleeve back to look at the floor plan he'd drawn up the inside of his lower arm. The beagles, the last three of a rare breed wanted by Lady Elizabeth of Lantea, were reputedly kept in a sumptuous basement kennel when Lord Woolsey wasn't in residence. Basement was good; west wing of the palace when he'd snuck in through the door to the east wing was less so, but Lorne hadn't been doing this for three years to be put off by such a minor detail.

That didn't stop him worrying when he made his way across the palace without seeing a single soul; surely Lord Woolsey would have left a household staff behind when he went traveling across the planet, but there was no sign of anyone as he crept through corridors hung with red and gold drapes, or when he descended a flight of metal stairs down to the basement.

The beagles crowded round him, snuffling at his hands and eagerly taking the doped meat Lorne held out to them. "Nice doggy," he offered, stroking one between its ears and feeling faintly ridiculous. Become a space pirate, lead a life of glamour and riches, his ass.

He was almost out of the same door he'd come in through, the beagles doped up in his rucksack, when a door opened and a voice said, "Who are you?"

He thought briefly about trying to bluff his way out, or shoot his way out, but with a bag full of snoozing dogs, neither seemed like an attractive option. He ran for it.

Zelenka got Atlantis in the air as Lorne collapsed on the cargo deck, hitting the button to close the outer door and listening to energy weapon fire hitting it. They'd be safe once they got out of range of the weapons, he thought, which meant he was safe to lie there and catch his breath for a minute, even though Zelenka would complain about having to fly.

He wasn't sure how, but he knew when Sheppard was near enough to talk to. "We need a better plan," he said, sitting up, and Sheppard's voice, right by his ear, said, "Yeah."


They went to Athos, in the end, partly because Athos was known as a safe harbor, partly because Teyla and the Athosians were the only people they knew in that part of the galaxy who didn't want to shoot them, and partly because Teyla could be relied upon to give good advice and not freak out when she found out about Sheppard.

Plus, Teyla was always pleased to see them, and expressed that pleasure with the provision of copious amounts of alcohol.

Halling took Zelenka away to meet some of the Athosians and possibly have a look at one of their power generators – the Athosians, though not pirates in the same sense, technically, as Lorne and Sheppard, were also not above taking advantage, in whatever way they felt best, of anyone who stopped by their planet. Teyla watched the two men go, then turned to Lorne and asked, "Is Captain Sheppard not with you?"

Lorne shuffled his feet – he'd yet to find a way of explaining their current situation that didn't sound as ridiculous as it actually *was*. "No, he's here." He turned to step back into Atlantis and Teyla followed. "He's just – indisposed."

"Indisposed," Teyla repeated, looking around as though she expected to find him hiding behind one of the empty crates in their cargo bay. She looked, even dressed in the home-dyed clothing the Athosians all wore, strangely at home on the ship and Lorne wished, not for the first time, that Sheppard had been able to persuade her to join them.

"Hi, Teyla," Sheppard said brightly from somewhere close to her left elbow. She looked where he would be, then back to Lorne with a frown, and Lorne wondered, again, how Sheppard always knew where they were. "Lorne didn't tell you?"

"I was getting to it. Sir."

Teyla's frown grew more pronounced when Sheppard said, "This is me. In the panel by your arm." There was a pause, then Sheppard carried on, all in a rush. "Look. I kind of upset the wrong person on Jania, and he trapped me in the ship. I need to find McKay, he'll know how to fix it."

Teyla nodded in understanding, and Lorne felt a flash of relief. Sheppard had started talking about McKay - a scientist he knew from before Lorne became his trainee in the United Planets Space Force - as soon as they'd figured out what had happened, but none of the contacts they'd put the name to had known it; he'd been starting to wonder if McKay even existed, and Teyla's acceptance of the name was a relief.

"I have not heard of him for many years," she said slowly. "But I will send word to some of Athos' trading partners. There are many who travel in places you do not."

Many who were less involved in criminal enterprises, she meant, but it was hard to get honest work when you'd escaped in disgrace from the Space Force with one of their ships; he and Sheppard had enough trouble, most days, keeping ahead of the SF, who wouldn't hesitate to lock the two of them up for life if they were caught. Disgraced SF officers got the worst treatment of all in prison, and Lorne was under no illusions about their chances of escaping a second time.

"Thanks, Teyla," Sheppard said, remembering his manners while Lorne had been wool-gathering.

"You are welcome. You may repay me when you are returned to your regular state." Her eyes glinted with mischief that Lorne was glad not to be on the receiving end of, before her face turned serious. "I see you are taking on crew."

"Yeah. Actually, that's another part of the reason we're here," Lorne said. Sheppard had disagreed with this, emanating disapproval from every part of the ship, but Lorne was learning to ignore him. Slowly. Lorne was used to being the backup, and while he could take over running most of their jobs, he couldn't back himself up. "We were wondering if you might know anyone who'd be interested in a job. One of your people, even."

Teyla nodded. "This is a fortunate arrival," she said, gesturing for Lorne to follow her from the ship. "I believe I know someone who will suit you very well. John, I will speak with you again before you leave."

Lorne followed her across the open field toward the Athosian capital settlement. "One of the Athosians?"

"No. Truthfully, I am not certain where she is from. She arrived on our world several weeks past, in a ship that I would charitably call a wreck, though she herself did not appear injured." Sadness passed over Teyla's face – plenty of people knew of Athos, and they regularly played host to travelers who had fled their homes and couldn't go back. Teyla took them all in, gave them food and housing, and only let those close to her see how she grieved for their exile. "I do not believe she wishes to remain with us, yet she also is unwilling to return to the place from which she came."

"And you think she'll want to come with us?" Lorne asked, when what he really meant was, 'And you think we'll want her?'

"I believe so," Teyla said, sounding like she was probably answering both questions. "She appears to have some expertise with explosives, and her clothing is –" She glanced down at the cannibalized SF uniform shirt Lorne was wearing, something he only did when he was down to his last few items of clothing – "familiar."


Laura Cadman was indeed wearing what looked like SF issue boots, beneath soft brown pants and a loose white cotton shirt in the Athosian style, her red hair pulled back in a regulation bun. Some habits weren't easily lost, Lorne knew from experience. She listened silently as Teyla explained Lorne's situation, then equally silently to Lorne as he explained the terms he was prepared to offer. It was only when he added, on a whim, that they avoided all contact with planets with a heavy SF presence that she cracked a small smile.

"You'll let me blow things up?" she asked.

"As long as it's not my ship," Lorne said firmly, and didn't ask how she knew about explosives. Cadman nodded and held out her hand to shake; next to them, Teyla smiled her approval at the arrangement.


With three of them, plus Sheppard, things got better: Lorne had someone to watch his back on jobs, and Zelenka had someone to hold things when he decided to take the engines apart mid-flight. Cadman didn't say a lot about where she'd been before she'd arrived on Athos, but that was all right; none of them talked much about their past. Lorne sent out a few feelers anyway, just in case, and got nothing back at all.

They did well on a delivery run for the Lanteans, who were happy to employ them again after Lorne's adventures in beagle-smuggling, and picked up some bigger jobs, which was great, but also meant that they were shorthanded again, which meant turning down jobs, which meant not having the money or the contacts to keep chasing McKay.

"Success is such a hardship," Sheppard said when Lorne complained about having to go recruiting again. At least with the new jobs they were picking up they could actually afford to offer a decent wage.

"We got lucky with these two," Lorne pointed out. "Most people are less inclined to come work for a captain who's part of the ship."

"Most people are just lacking in imagination," Sheppard said.


Three weeks later, Lorne was more than ready to admit that this was true: he'd been rejected by so many people that he was starting to wonder what was wrong with Zelenka and Cadman. He didn't ask them.

"This is what I don't understand," he said to Sheppard, late one night. "There's all these people looking for work, you'd think they'd be more willing to over-look a minor issue like –"

"The captain being trapped in the ship?" Sheppard asked.

"*Temporarily*" Lorne said, even though he'd heard nothing from anyone about McKay's potential whereabouts.

"Told you," Sheppard said. "Lacking in imagination."


For once, it was one of Lorne's contacts who came through. Like half the people in the sky right then, Coughlin was ex-SF, though he'd left peacefully when his basic term ran out, and actually taken up something legal: running a shuttle between a handful of planets on the C Ring.

"Two things," he said, when they'd dispensed with pleasantries. "You're looking for crew, right?"

"Right," Lorne agreed, half an eye on the open comm screen, the other one on the course he was plotting to make sure he intercepted a Genii vessel carrying stolen medicines that he was planning to steal and sell back to the governor of the planet they'd been stolen from for half what the Genii had been asking of their buyer.

"So I know someone. Name's Parrish, worked for me for two years on Annabel. Good worker, good with a gun."

"Okay," Lorne said slowly. "What's the catch?"

Coughlin's face shifted into a grimace. "No catch. Just – he's a bit – he's not your typical crew member."

"We're not your typical ship," Lorne muttered, then offered up a grin. "Okay. We'll pass by when we're done with this job, meet up with him. What's the other thing?"

"Teyla Emmagan says you're looking for a Dr McKay," Coughlin said, and suddenly Sheppard was *there*, right by the comm screen, even though he hadn't said anything.

"Do you know where he is?" Lorne asked.

"Not exactly. But we had Dr Carter on the ship last week, talking about a scientist living out on the edge."

Dr Carter was one of the better known legal operatives in their part of the sky, responsible for some of the recent advances in ship speeds, not that Atlantis would ever benefit from them.

"That could be him," Sheppard said, low enough that the comm wouldn't pick it up. "They worked together, years ago."

"Did she say anything else?" Lorne asked, turning back to the comm. It would be worth following up; Sheppard wasn't the only one feeling antsy and ready for this to be over.

"I asked a couple of questions," Coughlin said, then took a breath like he always did when he was going to launch into a complex explanation. "She needs naquadah for the next stage of her testing, but the only planet 'round here that has it is refusing to sell to her. If someone could get their hands on enough for what she's doing, she'd be more than willing to help them out with something they needed. Like, say, how to contact a scientist on the edge."

Lorne closed his eyes for a moment, trying to think. They had the Genii vessel to intercept, the cargo to sell off so they could buy a couple of parts Zelenka was getting increasingly urgent about, then Coughlin's planet to drop in on and hopefully pick up one more for their crew. Allow a week for all of that, hope Carter didn't run into someone offer her better terms for the job...

"Give me her comm coordinates," he said, opening his eyes.


"Are you sure?" Sheppard asked dubiously over the sound of Zelenka attacking something with what sounded like a metal pipe but was probably actually a hammer; he was still pissed off that Cadman had blown out a secondary circuit when she'd set a little more C4 than really necessary in order to detach them from the Genii ship.

"About Parrish?" Lorne asked absently. The banging was giving him a headache that wasn't helped by trying to make sense of the intricately detailed plan of Unaria. "We need someone, and he seems to know what he's doing."

Which was true, but he could see what Sheppard meant. As Coughlin had said, Parrish wasn't a typical crew member: soft spoken and young looking, he'd seemed more interested in their kitchens than their engines or weapons. That said, he'd also hit every one of the cans Lorne had lined up as an impromptu test of marksmanship, and discussed the workings of the engine with Zelenka to a depth that Lorne hadn't been able to follow.

That, and he'd looked at Lorne with the same kind of desperate need to be gone that Lorne sometimes felt when they'd been on a planet too long, when things were getting too hot in their patch of sky and he felt like he'd burn up inside his own skin if they couldn't *move*.

Also, he looked good in the leather pants everyone on Roxas wore, and Lorne was perfectly able to admit to himself, if to no-one else, that it got pretty lonely out in deep space.

"If you're ready to rejoin the land of the awake..." Sheppard drawled suddenly, making Lorne jump and pull a face.

"How do you know I'm doing that?" he asked, not expecting an answer. "I think he'll be good. We can use him as a distraction if all else fails. He looks innocent enough."

"He does at that," Sheppard agreed, the verbal equivalent of the shrug he couldn't give. "Well, you're in charge of hiring around here. Make the offer."


Parrish looked like he was seriously considering hugging Lorne when Lorne offered him the job. It was a nice feeling, making someone that happy, and he didn't know what it said about him that he only really got it when he hired someone else to join them.


The run on Unaria wasn't actually all that complicated with him, Parrish and Cadman on the ground and Zelenka back in the ship in case they had to make a quick getaway. "When, you mean," Zelenka said, raising an eyebrow at Lorne.

"If," Lorne said firmly, and brought up the map of Unaria that he'd finally managed to make sense of. "We land here. It's a semi-authorized docking point, so we shouldn't get any questions. The mines are here." He tapped another point on the map, on the opposite side of the forest to the docking point. "We'll need a distraction to get in, but if we can manage one, it shouldn't be too hard to get what we need and get out."

He looked up from his plan to find Zelenka and Parrish looking at Cadman, who was looking back at them with a blank expression. Lorne winced; Cadman had been pleasant enough to the rest of the crew, and was downright affectionate to Sheppard, but he harbored no illusions about what she'd be like if she got angry.

"I'm sure we're all capable of providing the distraction," he offered. "I've always heard the Unarians are a fairly open-minded people."

Both Zelenka and Parrish turned their gazes to him, and Cadman laughed. "Please," she said, "No offense, but I don't think they'll be distracted by any of you." She narrowed her eyes, looking at Parrish and Lorne. "Well, maybe by the two of you together..."

"Okay," Lorne said firmly over the sound of Sheppard's laughter. "Back to the plan."


Hidden by a tree conveniently situated within sprinting distance of the perimeter fence, they were too far away to hear what Cadman was saying to the gate guards, but it was obviously the right thing. Both of the guards had moved away from their positions, guns hanging loosely from their shoulder straps.

"Now?" Parrish asked, shifting behind Lorne.

"In a minute." As well as the gate guards, there was a patrol that circled the entire perimeter once every seventy minutes. It had passed by five minutes before Cadman had strolled up to the guards, and Lorne was tracking the countdown on his watch, well aware of how long seventy minutes wasn't. Unfortunately, the second guard was actually doing his job, and kept glancing over his shoulder for potential intruders.

Cadman reached out to lay one hand on the first guard's bicep and leant back slightly, her hair brushing the second guard's shoulder. It was hard to tell from where they were, but Lorne was pretty sure he was looking down the low cut top Cadman had picked out for the occasion. It was probably as good as things were going to get.

"Ready?" he asked, checking his gun again.

"Sure," Parrish said, with somewhat less confidence than Lorne generally liked from his backup. Desperate times.


He glanced across at the gate as they sprinted the fifty feet of open space, and saw Cadman leaning back into the second guard, the first staring at her with a love-struck expression, both of them completely oblivious, and then he and Parrish were over the perimeter fence and ducking behind a pile of discarded rocks.

Lorne rolled his sleeve up to double check the map – crude, yes, but it worked. They'd agreed with Carter on the contents of one of the many buggies used to transport unrefined naquadah from the mines; a lorry-load would have been better, but the bricks were too heavy for the lorries' engines to manage, and anyway, there was no way they were going to fit a lorry on Atlantis. Unfortunately, that meant creeping past the refineries to the edge of the mines.

"This way," he said quietly, nudging Parrish towards the gap between two large buildings that would take them part of the way. The buildings, tall enough to take Atlantis several times over, looked like they'd been built from trinium, which was reason enough to be glad they weren't going to have to break into any of them, and vibrated when he stumbled and caught his balance against one, presumably picking up the motion of the machines inside.

"You do this a lot?" Parrish asked, keeping close beside Lorne as they moved.

Lorne shrugged. "Often enough. I won't let you get captured, if that's what you're worried about."

"It's not," Parrish said firmly. They walked a little further in silence "Why isn't Carter doing this herself?"

Lorne smiled bitterly. "Because she's an honest trader and we're not."

"What are we?" Parrish asked.

"Pirates," Lorne said with a grin, and dragged him down to crawl under a line of plate glass windows.


By the time they'd made their way through the compound and were crouched by the unguarded mine gate, watching a lone buggy crawl up the side of the mine, Lorne's watch had counted down twenty-three minutes, which was cutting it a *little* fine, even assuming everything went smoothly.

"Worried?" Parrish asked. His hand was resting on his gun, but he looked fairly relaxed, considering this was supposedly his first foray into illegal trade.

"We'll be fine," Lorne said, then realized why that phrase sounded so familiar – it was what Sheppard always said right before things went to hell.

"Good." Parrish looked down at the buggy, which had finally crested the mine and was moving towards them, then across at Lorne. "Because I was thinking, assuming we make it out of here. We ought to practice that distraction thing Laura was talking about."

"What –" Lorne started, before his brain caught up. "Oh."

"You know, since we won't always be able to rely on Laura," Parrish added, a smile slowly crossing his face.

"As a precautionary measure," Lorne agreed, trying hard not to grin back, and to remember that they were in the middle of a job. Speaking of which – the buggy ground to a halt, the driver pulling an access card from inside the door. "Time to get to work."

The gate creaked open, allowing the buggy to lumber through, the bed piled high with unrefined naquadah, and the driver stopped, leaning down to replace his card. When he looked up, his eyes widened in surprise. Lorne grinned, holding his pistol steady on the guy's nose. "There's no need to be alarmed," he said calmly. "We're here to steal your truck."

The driver's hand slid between the two seats, his eyes locked on Lorne. "I wouldn't do that," Lorne said.

"Please. If you were going to shoot me, you would have already."

"I'm not going to shoot you," Lorne said pleasantly. "But he will."

Parrish's pistol slammed into the back of the driver's head before he could finish turning, and he slumped over the wheel. Lorne checked for bleeding – it was always easiest not to kill anyone on a job if at all possible – then gestured for Parrish to help him drag the driver out of the buggy and off to the side of the road. Glancing through the gate, he could see another buggy starting to pull out of the mine. "Let's go, let's go."

Parrish swung himself into the driver's seat and ran his hands over the controls. "No problem," he said, shoving the buggy into gear as Lorne clambered up next to him. "We'll be out of here in no time."

Which was, of course, the exact moment the shooting started.


It was, Lorne would admit as soon as they weren't careening over bumps and round corners at speeds the buggy was never meant to go, a lot easier, not to mention a lot faster, to get through the compound in the open and with wheels. Of course, having to do it at high speed while trying to shoot three vehicles-worth of mine guards before they shot you was something of a drawback, but no job was perfect, and he'd already shot three of the guards, so he was all for calling this a win within the next ten minutes.

He took another shot at one of the guards, who ducked – they were good at that, it turned out – and tapped his comm on. "Zelenka?"

"Did I not say it would be me making the take-off?" Zelenka asked calmly, but he sounded like he was moving, hopefully towards the bridge.

"Gloat later, pre-flight now," Lorne said, clinging to the frame of the vehicle as Parrish sent it flying round another corner. "Cadman?"

"Yes, darling?" Cadman drawled in his ear piece, and Lorne could see how she'd managed to lull the guards into turning a blind eye. He risked a quick glance in the direction they were headed, but the fence still wasn't in sight. At least they were headed away from the well-populated mines.

"Ran into some trouble. Get back to Atlantis."

"Of course, sweetheart. Should I put some tea on for you as well?"

"Lorne out," Lorne said firmly, and a rock exploded above his head, covering him and the buggy in fragments.

"That way." He pointed at a narrow path between two high buildings, and Parrish wrenched the wheel round to send them down it. Behind them, Lorne heard the sound of wheels scrabbling to a halt on loose stone and took another glance over his shoulder: the guards were out of their vehicles and lined up in the entrance to the path, taking careful aim.

"Oh, fuck!" He cast around quickly, spotted another path leading off the one they were on and waved Parrish down it just as the shooting started again. Against all probability and experience, the perimeter fence loomed large at the end of the path.

"Oh God," Parrish groaned, and gunned the engine hard. Lorne tightened his grip on the buggy, hyper-aware of the sound of renewed pursuit behind them. "Oh God, please work," Parrish moaned, then they were crashing through the perimeter fence and speeding out into the open field, gun fire following them. Apparently, the guards had decided to take a stand rather than following them on what must have seemed like a pointless run for the trees; score one for Atlantis' cloaking technology.

"Cadman is on board," Zelenka said calmly in his earpiece to the background noise of the engine firing up.

"Great." The beacon they had left to help them find Atlantis again flashed as Lorne grabbed it in passing, and Parrish braked hard, sending the buggy into a spin across the cargo bay floor. Lorne leapt out while it was still moving and slapped his hand down on the door mechanism. "Go! Go!"

The ship vibrated against his hands where he was leaning against her, then he felt her lift away, mostly smoothly.

"Nice job," Sheppard offered from under his left hand.

Lorne shoved away from the wall, reaching out to help Parrish down. "Thank you, sir. Zelenka, you okay up there for a minute?"

"They are not following us. I will set auto-pilot for your course."

"Great. Be there in a minute." Lorne ran a hand through his hair, prompting a rain of pebbles and dust to fall out, then turned to Parrish, who had slid down to sit against the ship's wall, his eyes closed. "You okay?"

Parrish opened one eye to look at him. Like Lorne, he was bruised and a little bloody, but Lorne couldn't see any major injuries. Before Parrish could answer, though, an unfamiliar female voice behind him said softly, "Let me see."

Lorne reached for his gun, whipping round to look at her, but he'd dropped it when he'd climbed out of the buggy, too far away for him to reach easily. Stupid, stupid mistake, he thought, and then Cadman was there, laughing at him and snaking an arm round the waist of a fragile- looking woman Lorne had never seen before. "Something you want to tell me, Cadman?"

Cadman's eyes went wide and pleading as she pulled the woman closer to her. "She knows medicines. She's good with her hands, and she wasn't – they weren't treating her well down there. Please."

Medicine would be useful, Lorne thought, since he didn't like their chances of not getting shot at or worse in future, and it wasn't like they couldn't always use more crew. As he studied her, Cadman ran a hand up her bare arm and she leant into Cadman the way Cadman had with the guard at the mine. Distraction, he thought. That could work.

"Do you want to at least tell me her name if she's to be joining this crew?" he asked.

"Katie Brown," the newcomer said softly. "And you need those cuts looked at if you don't want them to get infected."


Ten minutes later, disinfected and bandaged, feeling every one of the bruises he knew he'd have the next day, Lorne made his way up to the bridge to take over from Zelenka.

"I know I said you were in charge of hiring around here," Sheppard's voice said, following him up the wall. "But I didn't mean for you to take in every stray we come across in the galaxy."

Lorne pulled a face in case Sheppard could see him. "I'll try and restrain myself in future."

"No, carry on," Sheppard said, sounding like he ought to be smiling. "I can always fire them all when I'm back in my body."

"Whatever you say, sir," Lorne said, and went to contact Carter to trade the naquadah for Dr McKay's whereabouts.


Next: Penguins & Sparrows & Stars

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