Summary: A new military commander, Cameron Mitchell, arrives on Atlantis.
Rating: PG-13, Gen, AU from the middle of "Inquisition" 5X13.
Spoilers: Up to 5X13
Word Count: ~21,000
Author's Note: A sequel of sorts to Marching Away and Softly Gone, but also can stand alone. Feedback is delicious.
“You sure you don’t want me to come along?” Sam Carter asked again. She was smiling, but she also looked kind of worried.
Cameron Mitchell frowned. “I don’t need a chaperone, Sam. Military officers transfer roles every day all over the world without any kind of handholding.”
They were sitting on the bed in
“This isn’t the world,” she reminded him. “This is Pegasus. And it’s not just the military.”
“I know that.”
Sam didn’t say anything, but she did make a face. A cross between a grin and a wince.
“You’re saying the civilians don’t handle change well?”
“I’m saying I don’t care how many mission reports you read, Atlantis isn’t going to be…”
“No.” She paused. “It’s not going to be anything like what you expect. I know it wasn’t for me.”
“I’m not taking over the city,” Cameron said. “Just the military.”
“They’re remarkably intertwined.” She took a deep breath. “Especially if you…get his team.”
“It’s tempting to bring you along solely to occupy McKay,”
In response, Sam just looked at him. “It’s not like SG-1,” she said. “I’m not talking about the personalities…”
“There’s only one of you, Sam. And one of
“I do have some experience with this,”
“Yeah.” The smile slowly dropped of her face. “But we also weren’t grieving.”
Cameron sighed. “Yeah,” he said. “I know.”
Sam reached out and squeezed his arm. “Just try to remember that no matter how excited you are, they’re probably going to be pissed off and resentful that you’re there. Because you being there means he’s gone.”
For a second,
Sam tilted her head. “I could call Jack on the phone.”
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s different, I know.”
“Any other advice?” He paused. “About the team in particular?”
Now, Sam shrugged. “I was a little surprised to hear it’s still intact, actually.”
“Um, Ronon Dex wasn’t particularly attached to Atlantis, I don’t think,” Sam said. “He was loyal to Sheppard, not the IOA.”
“Don’t blame him,”
“And Teyla Emmagan has a young baby,” she continued. “I don’t know how interested she’d been in…”
“Serving under me?”
“Adjusting,” Sam decided upon. “And that leaves-”
“Yeah.” She was making another face.
“He’s going to make my life a living hell?”
“Going to be a tough sell?” Sam said, optimistically. “He and Sheppard are – were – really good friends. He’s going through a tough time.”
“You talked to him at all?”
“A little.” Sam looked guilty. “He’s not the easiest person to listen to when he’s upset. We exchanged a couple of e-mails where he ranted about them stopping the search.”
Colonel Stephen Caldwell’s voice rang in Cameron’s ear. He raised his fingers to the earpiece. Sam had suggested he start wearing it already and get used to it, or he’d end up wanting to take it out. Apparently that was never a good idea.
“My ride’s here,” he said to Sam.
“Alright.” They rose together and Sam leaned in and hugged him tightly. “Goodbye,” she said, giving him a peck in his hair. “Good luck. Don’t get eaten by a Wraith.”
“Bye,” he said, starting to laugh at that last part, except she sounded awfully serious.
The Daedalus’s beam seized him the second Sam pulled away from the embrace. The room melted around him and then it was gone.
With O’Neill, that had meant certain surprises about the actual way SG-1 had resolved various crises versus the action the SGC or IOA would have authorized. He’d only met Sheppard a few times, but Cameron assumed that’d also be the case on Atlantis, perhaps more so since the light years of distance would presumably only encourage even more creative decision-making. As long as he knew that going in,
McKay and Emmagan were considerably more verbose than their team leader. But their reports weren’t military at all and McKay babbled worse than
Sheppard’s death changed things. When
McKay and Emmagan were too valuable to lose. If Cameron truly couldn’t stand McKay – and perhaps he was exaggerating how irritating the man could be, but he didn’t think so – then there were options. Civilian scientists, particularly ones largely responsible for keeping the city functioning day to day, didn’t need to be on reconnaissance teams.
At the same time, Cameron was painfully conscious of how little space he had to go wrong. Making mistakes in Pegasus tended to be deadly.
Sheppard’s death, perhaps, proved that. But that hadn’t been a mistake so much as a sacrifice.
It was supposed to have worked, except that Sheppard’s team came back to Atlantis without its leader.
Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard’s final days were still a mystery. He’d been sent through the ‘Gate to an uninhabited planet without a DHD, or so his captors claimed.
It seemed to him like a weak excuse, a way of protecting themselves from military reprisal from Atlantis. Like all would be forgiven just because they hadn’t killed the man directly.
And it probably seemed to have worked out for them. There would be no military reprisal, not because the city of
The natives got away with it. Woolsey claimed to have enacted harsh diplomatic measures, all of which read as hollow and empty because they followed the declaration of John Sheppard as missing in action and presumed dead.
Lorne had remained interim commander of Atlantis for nearly nine months. They’d searched for Sheppard during that time, until the IOA had interceded and declared those search and rescue (if he was alive) or recovery (if he was dead) missions were a waste of time and money. Cameron was really, really glad he hadn’t been the one to deliver that message. He understood it, agreed with it, even, but was still glad he was arriving months later.
The IOA had replaced Lorne, then. Maybe sensing an unwillingness to obey that particular order. Or, equally likely, using the opportunity to install a friendlier and more obedient face as the head of the Atlantis military rather than promote from within the existing ranks.
He’d heard other rumors about the guy. That’d he been incompetent and totally out of his element in the job. That no one had liked him. That it was entirely possible that he’d been fragged.
No proof, nothing but whispers mostly from the Daedalus crew, who enjoyed gossiping like they were teenage girls trapped in space. People who hadn’t been there, just delivered the guy to the city about three months ago. They were picking up his body, now, after depositing Cameron on Atlantis.
The reports from the past three months weren’t all that different from the earlier ones. Except that the city was no longer searching for John Sheppard. The mission reports were just a little more chaotic. It was hidden in military jargon, but perceptible if you knew what to look for. There were loads of requests to resume the search for Sheppard, mostly from Rodney McKay and all refused by the IOA. There were dozens more that hadn’t even made to the IOA. Whatever his other failings, the late military commander had known to filter out the rudest ones. Most of which were also from McKay.
The troops on Atlantis needed some stability and leadership, that much was evident. The fact that
Cameron’s self-confidence took a blow about that fact, just a few days before the Daedalus reached Atlantis. He was having coffee in the Mess with the commander of the Daedalus, Colonel Stephen Caldwell.
“They offered me Atlantis,”
“They offered me your new position,”
“I turned it down,”
“What?” Cameron could only stare at him. “Why?”
“I like my ship,”
For a second,
“I know it’s Atlantis,”
“It’s a great ship,” Cameron said, striving to sound respectful and not totally pissed off.
“I don’t want Atlantis to lose its third military commander in barely over a year,”
The stinging turned into a flash of anger. “So if I die – ”
Cameron took an irritated sip of his coffee. “Well, that’s not the plan,” he muttered.
“Nor is it mine,”
“That doesn’t sound like a compliment,”
“I have to stay alive.”
Cameron’s arrival on Atlantis was actually pretty anti-climactic. He put on his dress blues and reported to the Bridge. And then he was beamed down off the Daedalus with little more than a pointed look from
His welcome to the city below was a bit more ceremonial. Major Evan Lorne had assembled the troops for his review, every squad in uniform and lined up in some massive, empty room where they all fit. It was perfectly orchestrated, every soldier’s shoes shined and every step in synch.
But that was all it took for him remember that one reason the parade before him was so perfectly choreographed was the men had had to do it before, not so long ago, for a different commander.
That thought sobered him.
When the last pair of boots had marched into position, Cameron took his place at the front of the room. Lorne stood stiffly at his side.
It was a hard balance to hit and
It would have been really easy to stay entranced by the glittering city, to be completely distracted from the mundane realities of dealing with the people who actually lived there.
Richard Woolsey immediately yanked Cameron back down from orbit, though. For the better, probably, but it didn’t change the fact that it hadn’t even been a month since he’d gotten this assignment and whenever he started reveling in it, someone forcibly reminded Cam just how complicated and hard it was supposed to be. It sucked, just a little.
He went with Woolsey to the man’s office, which had an amazing view out on to the ocean and some of the city.
“Welcome,” Woolsey said, pouring Cameron a drink without asking.
“Your office will be ready shortly,” Woolsey said. He coughed pointedly, and
“No hurry,” Cameron said, cheerfully. “I don’t intend to spend much time there, anyways.”
Woolsey gave a faint smile. “I didn’t expect so.” He paused, looked uncertain if he should continue, then did. “I spoke with Colonel Carter,” he confessed. “She said not to plan on you having any more interest in paperwork than…your predecessors.” And that was a very deliberate choice not to name either of them.
Woolsey nodded, drummed his fingers on the desktop. “I’m glad you realize that,” he said, slowly. He heaved a deep breath. “The anniversary of Colonel Sheppard’s disappearance was only two months ago. And we lost the last military commander a few weeks later.”
“And now here I come,”
“I’m excited,” Woolsey said, dryly, “that I’m assured you’re –”
“Not another incompetent IOA lapdog?”
Woolsey looked annoyed. “I did not say that,” he replied. “But Colonel Carter had high praise for you.”
Cameron grinned. “Good to hear.” He paused. “Surprised she talked to you, though.”
“I replaced her, Colonel Mitchell,” Woolsey said. “I did not make the decision to remove her. She knows that. We’ve actually talked quite frequently over my tenure here. It’s been very helpful.”
“Good to have background,” Cameron agreed, and then immediately snapped his teeth shut because he’d just reminded them both that he, in fact, couldn’t talk to his predecessors.
Woolsey grimaced. “She has the best interests of Atlantis at heart,” he went on, “I know she wouldn’t want someone in your role she didn’t trust.”
“I’ve done a lot of reading up on it,”
“Yes,” Woolsey said, nodding. “She did mention you enjoyed reading, er, memorizing, mission reports.”
“She also said that it wouldn’t really prepare me for actually being here,” Cameron offered. “So, I got that going for me.”
“It helps more than not,” Woolsey assured him.
“I’ve scheduled a departmental head meeting for tomorrow,” Woolsey interrupted. “To get you up to speed. I assume you’ll eventually want a tour of all the departments and that can be arranged, as well.”
“I’ve asked the civilians to –“ he paused and scowled –“I’ve requested that they act with consideration and optimism during this very challenging time –”
“And not take bets on how long I’m going to last?” Cameron suggested.
“I didn’t say that in particular.” Woolsey’s frown deepened. “Perhaps I should have.”
“I get the drift,”
“I did ask them to behave,” Woolsey continued. “But there’s no guarantee.”
Woolsey nodded. “Good.”
“I didn’t see our Pegasus allies this afternoon, either,” Cameron said, moving on to his second question. Woolsey looked at him blankly. “Teyla Emmagan and Ronon Dex,” he clarified.
“Ah.” Woolsey’s brow creased. “I don’t think they knew you expected their presence. Teyla was probably with her family.”
Woolsey shrugged. “I don’t know.” It sounded genuine, but at the same time a very odd expression had taken over the man’s face.
“It was my impression that Dex has taken on a de facto military role,”
“That’s correct,” Woolsey said, quickly. “But-”
“Not the parade type?” Cameron guessed.
Woolsey nodded, but his eyes were scanning the room and refusing to meet
“I think we can be friends,”
Woolsey didn’t say anything, just nodded with that odd, uncertain expression on his face.
“I’ll track him down,” Cameron continued.
“After the staff meeting,” Woolsey suggested.
“You’ll want to get settled,” Woolsey said, standing. “And unpack.”
Cameron rose as well. “Alright. But I don’t know where my quarters are.”
“I’ll show you,” he said. “Don’t worry, it can take some time to orient yourself to the city and figure out how simple things like the doors work.”
“I don’t think Sam conveyed just how much I like to read,”
“Yes, well,” Woolsey replied. “It’s different being here. Follow me to the transporter?”
“I’m not in Colonel Sheppard’s old quarters, am I?” he asked, once they were inside the transporter.
“No,” Woolsey said, shaking his head. “That wouldn’t be for the best.”
“Good,” Cameron said. “Fresh start. I like it.”
It didn’t take
Woolsey hadn’t been entirely wrong when he’d said the city took some figuring out.
It was a bit awkward getting breakfast. This was why he’d wanted to meet the civilians as soon as possible. Half the people in the mess were scientists who hadn’t seen him yet. They probably had to figure out who he was just based on having never seen him before. The population of Atlantis was limited enough that he guessed one new face would definitely stand out.
Their reactions, oddly enough, were mostly limited to blinking at him in confusion and then completely ignoring him. Some of the soldiers who had met him yesterday nodded or jerked to attention, but he waved them down.
Cameron sighed, again reminding himself that due to no fault of his own, it was going to take some work to win these people over. He had to prove that he wasn’t an incompetent IOA stooge and that he wasn’t going to up and die on them. Both of which, hopefully, wouldn’t be that hard.
The departmental head meeting came next. It was, well, frankly the exact opposite of the military presentation. Cameron knew the scientists weren’t going to march around in perfect timing and salute him, but still. The meeting was in the debriefing room, a dozen or scientists seated around the table.
It was really boring.
It was still really boring.
Cameron may have tuned out at some point, around the same time he realized that Rodney McKay wasn’t in the room. He scanned the scientists’ faces around the table, was puzzled when he couldn’t find the man.
McKay’s official title was Chief Scientific Advisor or something; he should have been there.
A scruffy foreign-accented little man calling himself Dr. Radek Zelenka said he was representing the Science head, which sounded a lot like McKay’s job.
“Where’s Rodney McKay?” he asked Woolsey.
“Dr. Zelenka reported for that department,” Woolsey replied, which really wasn’t much of an answer.
Cameron looked to Zelenka. “Where’s your boss?”
“My boss?” Zelenka scowled, clearly not pleased with that description.
“He is doing project,” Zelenka said, shifting in his seat.
“Couldn’t be bothered to show up?”
“No,” Zelenka said, quickly. “He is busy. You came before project finished.” And that was also not really an answer.
“The Daedalus arrived a few days earlier than expected,” Woolsey spoke up. “I’m sure Dr. McKay intended to be available.”
“Uh-huh,” Cameron muttered, doubtfully. He glanced at Zelenka, found the other man unwilling to return his gaze. The little guy was looking at the table top like it was fascinating. “I’ll just have to go introduce myself personally,” he said.
“You cannot,” Zelenka replied, hands fidgeting. “He is in, erm, time-controlled experiment in secure laboratory.”
Zelenka stared back at him, looking somewhere past Cameron’s head. “Assessing alien substance for energy properties,” he said, which sounded like the same kind of babble he’d already presented.
Zelenka nodded. “Of course.” He scratched at his head.
“McKay must be super excited about me,” he muttered to Woolsey.
Woolsey shrugged. “More likely he doesn’t actually care,” he offered, like that was better.
“Next on the agenda is a tour of the city,” Woolsey said. “Ready?”
Emmagan was polite and friendly, pretty much the warmest person he’d met so far. That didn’t take much, but
Woolsey left them alone, heading back to his office.
“What would you like to see first, Colonel Mitchell?” Emmagan asked him, smiling.
“Cameron,” he corrected. “Call me
Emmagan inclined her head, but he noticed she didn’t offer him the same familiarity. Maybe she wasn’t that friendly. “Very well,” she said. “What would you like to see first, Cameron?”
He shrugged. “Everything?”
She started to walk and he moved to match her stride. “That will take some time,” Emmagan said.
“I got time,” he answered. “Why don’t you show me what you think I should see?”
Emmagan was a pretty good tour guide. She knew a lot about the city, having been here since nearly day one. He was a little surprised by how much she seemed to know about the Ancient technology, especially since a lot of what he’d read had suggested that most Pegasus natives had been kept in Stone Age living conditions thanks to the Wraith.
Cameron tried to pay attention to her monologue as they walked, but he was also contemplating how he should introduce the fact that he wanted her on his reconnaissance team. It seemed rude, somehow, to flat out state he wanted to take over Sheppard’s team. But he didn’t want to pretend it’d never existed.
Emmagan noticed the expression on his face.
“Do you have a question?” she asked.
“Huh? No.” He paused, then went on, sort of blindly. “I appreciate the tour. I’m glad you were willing to meet with me.”
“Of course. Why would I not be?” She looked genuinely confused.
“I know it’s been a…transitional time,” Cameron offered, but that made her frown. “Rough,” he amended. “No one seems too thrilled to have a new military commander in town.”
“Yes,” Emmagan agreed, so quickly he almost wished for platitudes instead. “But it is not personal.”
Emmagan looked at him like she hadn’t quite understood the question. “You intend to form a team?” she asked, which was kind of strange. Of course he did.
“Yeah,” Cameron said. “I’m not a desk kind of guy.”
“Oh,” she said, the curious expression still on her face. She was fiddling with her hair, tucked around the earpiece worn on there.
He didn’t understand her confusion, but went on anyway. “Would you be willing to serve on my team?”
Emmagan continued to look at him oddly, still fidgeting with her earpiece. “I would,” she said, after a small hesitation. “That would be acceptable.”
At this point, he’d expected her to say no. He was surprised she’d agreed. “Okay,” he said. “Great.”
Emmagan smiled at him, but she still seemed distracted.
“Someone on your earpiece?” Cameron guessed.
She shook her head, immediately dropped her hand from the side of her face. “No,” Emmagan said, clearly lying. She saw him tilt his head and amended, “My teammates were talking to each other on our channel. It was distracting.”
“McKay is hiding from me,” he told her.
“He is working,” she shot back, quickly.
If Emmagan noticed he neatly avoiding tacking on ‘since Sheppard died’ to his question, she didn’t show it. “I have been spending time with my family,” she said. “I have a child.”
Cameron nodded. “I know.”
“Rodney has been working in his lab,” she continued. “And Ronon has been going on pilgrimages.”
He blinked at her. “Pilgrimages?”
Emmagan looked at him and nodded. “He has taken this time to undertake many rituals of his people,” she said.
“He didn’t strike me as the religious type,”
Her eyes forward, Emmagan shrugged. “He is quite spiritual,” she said, but
“No,” he said. “But I read a lot about him.”
Now, she glanced at him. “Did you also read about me?”
“What did you think?” she asked, curious.
“That you were a valuable team member and I wanted you on mine,” Cameron said, honestly.
Emmagan dipped her head, smiled.
“Speaking of which,” Cameron said, abruptly remembering. “I’m supposed to hit up the infirmary.”
“Are you ill, Colonel Mitchell?” Emmagan asked.
“Nope.” He slapped his arm. “I need one of those tracker things so I can leave the city. And we’re gonna try and see if the ATA-gene therapy will work on me.”
“You do not have the gene?” she asked.
“Not yet,” he said, hopefully. “Let’s find the nearest transporter?” He stopped, expecting to backtrack. They’d passed one only a few minutes ago.
Instead, Emmagan pointed ahead. “This way,” she said.
It seemed to Cameron that they had to walk a lot farther to get to the transporter she had in mind, instead of reversing to the one they’d just passed. And then, once in the transporter, she hit keys that would bring the lift the wrong direction.
“Hey,” he said, stopping her hand. “Up, right?”
“Ah, yes,” Emmagan said. “I am mistaken.”
He blinked at her, a little confused.
“It is a large city,” she said, correcting the key strokes.
And it was, but Woolsey had elected her to show him around and she clearly knew it well. For no reason at all, Cameron was abruptly suspicious. He looked at her, but she only smiled.
“You are learning your way around very quickly,” Emmagan said. “I am impressed.
Cameron didn’t think she was impressed. The compliment felt fake and forced. Like something had just happened to throw off the nice, friendly vibe they’d had going all of half an hour ago. He wondered what her teammates had said into her ear, exactly.
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