Season: just after S04E11.
Summary: Evan runs into the Wraith while flying a solo mission, ruining a thirty year unblemished record. My response to the 'Love of Flying' Challenge on the Team Flyboy Gateworld Forum.
Pairings: vague reference to Evan and Prue, if you blink you'd miss it.
Spoilers for: minor for SGA season 4 episode 'Be all my sins remember'd'.
Disclaimer: I am unfortunately not associated in any way with the creators, owners, or producers of Stargate or any of its media franchises, which is obvious because one, SGA would still be on and two, Lorne would be there ALL the time! All publicly recognizable characters, settings, equipment, etc are the property of whoever owns them. Any original characters, plot, settings, and anything else I made up are the property of me, the author. No copyright infringement is intended.
Copyright (c) 2011 ShaViva
This is my response to the Team Flyboy May Challenge over at Gateworld. The theme was 'love of flying' so of course I immediately thought of Lorne and all those stories I've already written about his background. So this is set in the same series but I have deliberately gone vague on events that might have happened between the end of Forlorn Hope (or during I Do – since that story isn't finished yet!) and when this story is set in the middle of season 4.
"Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose."
- From the television show The Wonder Years -
From inside the Puddle Jumper the sound of Wraith weapons fire skimming too close was more imagined than real. Cursing, Lorne pulled sharply on the Jumper controls, sending the small ship into a tight downward loop.
"You had to volunteer to return the Haldarans," he muttered under his breath, eyes grimly tracking three Wraith darts on the HUD.
After the replicator threat was eliminated in such spectacular fashion, the work hadn't stopped for Atlantis. All the various villages and communities they'd relocated to avoid the Replicator ships had to be returned, and every Jumper and all the teams were pulling double shifts to get it done quickly. The Haldarans were one of the last scheduled for a return and their leader hadn't been impressed when Captain Parker 's team, all grounded with a bad case of stomach flu, couldn't take them. Lorne's team were also heading out - Reed had the gene, artificially but the kid was a good Jumper pilot - and Lorne trusted him to get the team there and back safely. When he offered to take Parker's Jumper by himself, Colonel Carter just gave him a grateful nod. Lorne didn't mind the solo mission, and after all, it was all part of returning the galaxy back to its old state.
"The old state that includes the Wraith culling the locals," he reminded himself, shaking his head. It made sense - now that their common enemy was defeated of course the Wraith would return to their old ways. It was just his bad luck they'd decided Haldara would make a good beginning for business as usual. Thankfully the Haldarans had underground caves big enough to hide in - all they needed was a diversion to give them the time to get there.
"You really need to curb the whole volunteering thing," said diversion told himself, grimly swerving the Jumper hard right to avoid one of the Darts. He could already imagine what Colonel Sheppard would say when Evan finally made it back to Atlantis. The diverting part had gone off a treat - it was the avoiding and escaping part Lorne was having trouble with!
Leading the Darts miles away from the settlement, back towards the gate, Lorne continued to throw the Jumper across the sky. He was pulling every trick out of his personal play book too - since he'd studied aerobatics years ago AND flown both F16's and F18's in combat on top of the F302's, that book had quite a few pages.
"Oh, no you don't," Evan's eyes narrowed on the HUD, watching the Darts split up in an attempt to flank him. Letting the Jumper's nose drop he used gravity to increase his speed as he send the ship arrowing straight for the ground. The Darts all responded, converging on his trail. At the last possible moment Lorne pulled up, the Jumper responding flawlessly through the mental interface. He'd cut it tight though ... really tight, and only just managed to get the Jumper level, dust billowing up from the ground in the turbulence of his passage. The Dart pilots responded too, the last of the three just an instance too slow. The mistake was fatal, the Dart exploding as it impacted with the ground.
"One down, two to go," Lorne grinned, admitting to himself that a part of him was enjoying the battle. It had been a while since he'd flown in a genuine dog fight.
The Darts returned to randomly blasting his path, renewing his determination to stay unpredictable. With unlimited ammo, it the fight went on for long enough eventually one of the Dart's would get in a lucky shot. Keeping as low to the ground as possible, Lorne used the topography of the area to help him - hills, valleys, and clumps of trees all providing potential cover for him to duck and weave through.
A tree exploded in front of him and he had to swerve quickly, the Jumper clipping another tree before he could straighten. More shots fired resulted in more exploding trees, the Jumper rocking from the force of each. He kept at it - didn't have much choice. Getting to the gate and dialing Atlantis for back up was the only option. The Wraith probably had a cruiser in orbit, not that it mattered with no nearby space gate he could get to.
Cresting a hill, the terrain opened up, sunlight glinting off the Stargate in the distance. The Darts doubled their efforts to stop him, hammering the sky with bolts of energy. One sliced along the right side of the Jumper, jerking the ship to the side dangerously.
"Damn it!" Evan gritted his teeth, wrestling with a ship that was suddenly sluggish and clunky. Running a status check even while he did the best he could to avoid being a stable target, Lorne cursed again when the news came back. That one shot had damaged the inertial dampeners - continuing a dogfight against two Wraith Darts was no longer an option. He didn't have a g-suit on - didn't need one flying Jumpers and 302's. At most he could pull maybe 5, 5.5 g's without assistance - not enough to shake two Wraith Darts from his tail.
Finally the systems pinged him, letting him know he was in range of the gate. Punching in the address he started talking as soon as a connection was established, turning the Jumper away from the gate.
"Atlantis, this is Major Lorne. Do not lower the shield ... I repeat, do not lower the shield. I am under attack from two Wraith Darts."
As if to make his point, the Darts fired, another shot slamming into the side of the Jumper and sending the ship sideways again.
"Lorne, give me a sit rep," Colonel Sheppard was all business as he requested Evan's assessment of the situation.
"The Wraith arrived just after I finished offloading the Haldarans Sir," Lorne replied, instinctively ducking as another bolt of energy exploded close to the ship. "They should have made it safely to the caves by now."
"And you?" John queried, understanding immediately what Lorne hadn't said.
"Taking heavy fire Sir," Lorne returned. "Inertial dampeners are sluggish, cloak is non-responsive."
"Okay, we're on our way," Sheppard said briskly. "Hang tight Lorne." Neither man stated the obvious - with the Jumper damaged, the chances that Lorne could bring it through the gate fast enough to avoid the Darts either catching him, or worse yet tailing him to Atlantis, were slim to none.
"Give me a minute to lead them away from the gate Sir," Lorne put his words into immediate action, heading back towards the hills. Flying the Jumper without dampeners reminded him of the time when he and two other F302 pilots had 'flown' an asteroid to Atlantis. The handling then had been ten times worse but the words 'a bitch to fly' certainly applied.
Deciding he'd given his back up sufficient room to arrive without being under fire, Lorne hurried to get in one final report before they shut down the gate for dialling out. "I have the Darts heading east of the gate towards the hills," he began. "You should b-,"
Two simultaneous bolts of energy slammed into his right side drive pod. The controls jerked out of his hands as the Jumper lurched abruptly downwards, slamming him into the side panel. He let out a harsh groan, his shoulder screaming agony, even as he scrambled to right himself and reclaim the controls. Another barrage of shots took out the left drive pod, the sudden loss of power throwing him forward into the view screen. This time he bounced back, hitting the floor hard enough to see stars.
"Lorne, report!" Sheppard's yelled command penetrated the haze of pain and disorientation.
Biting back a groan, Lorne dragged himself up, holding onto the control panel as he lifted himself enough to see out the front window. The Jumper was arrowing towards a forest of trees, black smoke billowing out from the pods.
"Jumper is dead in the air," Lorne ground out. "I'm going down, heading-"
Energy sparked from the control panel, cutting his connection to the gate as the remaining power shut off. It was surprisingly quiet inside the ship now - the sound of the wind grabbing at the ship more inside his head than in the enclosed cabin. When the Jumper hit the trees that changed, the shriek of branches scrapping the sides pounding in his ears. It was a rough ride on the outside which translated into a hell of a ride on the inside. He'd been thrown back to the floor and against the bulkhead while still traveling at speed. When the Jumper slammed into one of the wider tree trunks, all remaining velocity was ripped off to an abrupt zero. Evan was thrown against the pilot's chair and then to the floor, his head hitting before the rest of him ... hard enough that it was an instant lights out.
Evan looked up at Jonathon Lorne, his eyes full of hero worship. His Dad was a pilot - and not just any kind of pilot either. His Dad was a fighter pilot - people said that almost reverently, and always in a voice full of admiration. Seven year old Evan wasn't sure what his Dad's kind of flying was exactly, only that it made him just about the coolest Dad around.
"Like when I dream about the cupboard Monster?" Evan asked, a frown marring his young brow as he tried to understand what his Dad wanted him to learn.
Jonathon laughed. "No. This kind of dreaming is like the secret wishes you keep in your heart."
"Like space?" Evan said the word as reverently as others said 'fighter pilot'.
"Exactly like that," Jon agreed. His son was so young and yet Jonathon was convinced one day Evan would be an astronaut as he dreamed. The boy had been fascinated by the night sky since he'd been old enough to ask what all the twinkling lights were. Jonathon wasn't sure whether Evan's fascination was with space itself or with imagining what might be on all those stars, if he could only get to them.
"Then I want to fly," Evan declared enthusiastically.
"And you will ... when you're older," Jonathan said sensibly.
Evan pinned him with those impossibly big and startlingly blue eyes and he could feel himself wavering, even though the idea of a seven year old learning to fly was ridiculous. "Please," his boy pleaded hopefully.
"I'll take you up with me," Jonathan compromised.
"And teach me to fly?" Evan added, somehow managing to make his words both a request and a statement he fully expected to become fact.
"We'll see," Jon said evasively. Evan beamed as though he'd said yes, and the older Lorne held in a groan - 'we'll see' was as good as a done deal in Evan's books.
"When can we go?"
"You sure don't believe in putting off something you can do today, do you Son?" Jonathon commented with a chuckle - a proud one at that. Evan was a delight, everything he'd hoped for in a son - full of curiosity about everything, strong willed but with a deep core of caring and respect for others, and smarter than a seven year old had a right to be. He also evoked so much emotion in his old man that Jonathon wondered sometimes how he could contain it - he loved Evan beyond anything and that wasn't what he'd expected. Of course he'd expected to love his own flesh and blood, but not for it to be so much an active part of every minute of his life. His memories were divided into 'before Evan' and 'after Evan', the later brighter and fuller in his mind. When Elaine came along three years later Jonathon's world had become about as perfect as it could get.
"No Sir!" Evan shot back, his dimples flashing as he gave a cheeky grin.
"Okay then, go and get your jacket," Jonathan glanced towards the house. "I'll talk to your Mom."
Evan nodded wordlessly, taking off at a run to do as ordered.
Jonathon walked slower, going through in his head how to approach Grace. "Mmm, whatever that is, it smells wonderful," he sniffed the air appreciatively as he made his way across the kitchen, wrapping his arms around his wife's waist as she stood at the stove.
"It's soup stock," Grace returned dryly even as she leaned back into her husband's strong chest. "Now ... what do you want?"
"Why do you -," he broke off. There was no point in pretending with Grace - she knew him too well. "I'm taking Evan to the airport."
"And?" Grace turned, narrowing her eyes as her husband dropped his arms away and took a step back. Jonathon often took Evan to see the planes taking off - that he wanted to do the same today wasn't worthy of the concerned look in his eyes.
"And ... up with me in the Cherokee," Jonathon admitted. "He wants to see it for himself," he added quickly before Grace could protest. "Better to answer his curiosity than discourage him, right?"
Grace smiled. "And of course there's nothing in it for you?"
"Right ... just like all those early development art classes have nothing in it for you," Jonathon teased, smiling too.
"Poor boy will grow up being confused about who he should be," Grace said, shaking her head. Looking up into her husband's blue eyes she couldn't help the way she softened inside. Evan looked so much like his father - who could blame him for wanting to be like him too. Jonathon was the best man she'd even known, or was ever likely to know. If her son turned out to be even half the man Jonathon Lorne was, she'd be content. "Go, take him," she urged. "Just bring him back in one piece."
"Hey, I'm the master of the air, remember?" Jonathon pretended offence at her suggestion he couldn't handle a little 'Sunday' flight with his son. Since he'd been a member of the elite navy demonstration squad, the Blue Angels, for two years, he had plenty of reality to back up his claims.
"Don't let him touch anything," Grace insisted. "He's just a little boy Jon - don't make him responsible for too much too soon."
Jonathon nodded, thinking it was already too late for that. Evan was the kind of boy who naturally took responsibility - if something was going down in the playground, he'd be the one to step up and sort it out before anyone got hurt. Evan had a presence of mind beyond his years - people listened to him, even at seven. Holding out his hands Jonathon gave Grace an enticing smile. "Come here," he urged.
Grace blushed - even after eight years she never failed to react to his raw appeal. Taking his hands she let him reel her in until he'd gathered her so close she was up on tip toes. "Weren't you going somewhere?" she teased.
"There's always time for kissing," Jonathon returned, leaning down to prove his point.
Evan skidded to a stop at the doorway, stifling a groan. He had nothing but respect for his father but seriously, kissing? His parents were always kissing and Evan was getting to the age where that was just embarrassing. One thing he knew for sure though ... he'd NEVER have time for kissing. There were much more important things to be doing ... like reading and painting and dreaming about the stars ... and now, flying.
"Not the time to be thinking about that," Evan told himself, pushing aside the memories.
Lifting his head off the floor – the urge to curl up against the pain and the violent need to puke his guts out was intense enough he had to stop, take a few deep breaths and then try again. Glancing around he grimaced – the Jumper was in a bad way, the front view screen smashed, the control panel blackened from circuits that had fried even before he'd hit the ground. The Jumper was bent somewhat around the massive tree trunk that had halted his path, low branches poking into the cabin through the broken window.
Slumping back down, on his back with his eyes directed at the ceiling, Evan took stock. His right shoulder was the worst of it, followed closely by his pounding head. Raising a hand, he gingerly touched his scalp, flinching almost before he made contact. He didn't need to glance at his hand to know it would be red with blood. Still, it could have been worse than a dislocated shoulder, sore head, concussion, and a multitude of bumps and bruises.
And then he heard it – an all too familiar sound approaching fast.
"Great," Lorne groaned, rolling up onto his knees, and then resolutely dragging himself to his feet. He'd hoped to wait with the Jumper until rescue arrived but now he'd have to head out on foot and find a place to hide.
The Wraith dart screamed closer as Evan scrambled through the broken front view screen, stumbling quickly towards the cover of the surrounding forest. The broken trees and rising smoke would be an open invitation for his location – but instead of trying to pick him up as he'd expected, the Dart sent down a barrage of weapons fire instead.
Lorne threw himself forwards, the backwash from bolts of energy hitting his ruined Jumper lifting him up off his feet, fast. He'd backed out before he hit the ground, before the Dart screamed back up into the sky.
The way his heart raced, his blood pumping forcefully, as the plane took off. The adrenalin and the feeling of being alive in a way he'd never been before. The sensation of his stomach dropping, trying to cling to Earth while the rest of him soared free.
"All right?" Jonathan asked, glancing across at his young son.
"This is ...," Evan turned to his Dad, his eyes shining, words failing him.
"I know" Jonathon agreed simply. "Shall we have some fun?" he asked, something inside him relaxing. There'd been a small chance the boy wouldn't take to being in the air – the vibrations and noise of the plane, the shift and play as they rose higher into the air could be disconcerting, scary even. Now he felt relief at the obvious wonder and excitement on his son's face. It was going to be all right.
"Yes!" Evan urged, grinning. "Can we do some stuff like the Angel's do?"
"Well ... it's just us up here, but ...," Jonathon pulled the stick up sharply, taking them into a long loop through the sky. When they were fully upside down Evan yelled with glee, his laughter setting his Dad off as well.
That was all the encouragement the elder Lorne needed. Over the next few minutes he gave Evan the thrill of his young life – barrel rolls, Cuban eights, reverse inside spins, finishing up with a screaming dive towards Earth that ended with a strong g-force change in direction and a climb back up into the big blue. The sun shone down on them, the atmosphere calm, not a thing to detract from the day.
Returning them to a sedate flying path, Jonathon looked at his son. "So?" he queried.
"I want to do this," Evan murmured intently.
"And you will, when you're older," Jonathon promised, not surprised Evan would sum up the experience that way.
"But -," Evan began, his face dropping.
"One step at a time Evan," Jonathon coached. "Give your Mom's heart a chance to get used to the idea. There'll be plenty of time for you to take the stick, when you're a little older."
"Okay," Evan agreed reluctantly. He looked at his Dad hopefully. "Can we ...?"
Rather than answer the elder Lorne threw his son a mischievous grin before throwing them back into a roll, sending his son into a fit of giggles.
Sadly his Dad hadn't lived to see Evan's first solo flight. Lorne had been a few flight hours away from earning that honour, young as he'd been, when his Dad was killed in an accident during an air show. Evan knew his Dad had been a hero that day, keeping control of the plane for long enough to clear the crowds, but in the process not giving himself time to eject safely. For a long while Evan couldn't bear to look at a plane, let alone go to lessons with an instructor who wasn't his Dad. In the end he'd delayed that solo flight for years in deference to his Mom and the grief they were all feeling. But the lure of the sky never let go, fueled by the memories of how much joy Jonathon Lorne had taken in sharing his love of the sky with his son.
Shaking off the memories, Lorne sat up slowly until he could prop himself up against a tree. Turning his attention outward he listened to the sounds around him – the breeze ruffling the leaves, birds singing overhead, and the rustle of living things in the underbrush all good signs the Wraith were long gone. Shifting to peer around the tree, wincing as the movement pulled at his injured shoulder, Evan got his first sight of the Jumper.
"Damn," he muttered with a grimace. The Wraith had destroyed the Ancient ship – Radek wasn't going to be happy with him, and that was assuming there was something there to salvage.
Patting the various pockets on his vest Lorne let out a sigh of relief when he felt the unmistakable outline of his radio. Ripping it out he switched to the standard communications channel. Now, hopefully it was still working after the way he'd thrown it and himself around.
"This is Major Evan Lorne, is anyone reading me, over?"
"Lorne," Colonel Sheppard's relieved voice came back immediately. "Where the hell are you?"
"No idea Sir," Evan admitted. "It got a little rough at the end there and ah ... the Wraith came back for another pass and totalled the Jumper."
"Are you in need of medical assistance Major," Teyla's measured voice had its usual calming effect.
"Not urgently," Lorne replied evasively.
"So he's injured and putting on the military game face," Rodney piped up, his tone a combination of sarcasm and teasing Evan decided to interpret as relief.
"Game face?" he shot back, amused in spite of his situation.
"The manly attempt to gloss over things like gunshot wounds and broken limbs and ...," Rodney's tone went distracted and the channel was silent for a few moments before he spoke again. "Okay, got him."
"Right, sit tight Major," Sheppard returned. "Rodney's located you with some enhancements to the sensors – we've got you on the HUD. Should be there in a couple of minutes."
"Thank you Sir."
Lorne settled back, leaning his head against the tree, his right arm resting carefully across his chest. He was sure he looked a sight, with blood and dirt in his hair and on his face. Prue was going to have a fit when she saw him - given he'd put through a distress call and subsequently gone off radio for who knew how long, it was unlikely she wouldn't be waiting at the Gate for his return. He'd also have to put up with the jokes over his flying skills and take some heat over Sheppard having to rescue him for a change. On top of that he was sore all over, his head throbbed and his shoulder ached, and he was more than a little woozy and just plain tired.
And yet he was content. The Wraith were gone and help was on its way.
Closing his eyes he let his thoughts return to the past, to that first perfect flight with his Dad. It was a long time ago but the feelings were right there at his fingertips, ready to be taken out and examined like it had happened yesterday. His love of flying was born that day, and had survived loss and doubt and his relocation to another galaxy and to the kind of aricraft his young self couldn't have dreamt up.
The air shifted and Evan opened his eyes, watching as Colonel Sheppard lowered Jumper One down in the clearing Lorne's crash had created. Every pilot preferred to be at the stick, but right then Evan was just damn glad to see his CO's profile through the front window. Raising a hand in acknowledgement, Lorne decided it was okay to stay where he was, let the team come to him ... there'd be plenty of time to get up and back in the air, when he was feeling better.