ShaViva's Stargate Fan ... Stuff

Inconceivable!

Forlorn Hope: Part One

Author: ShaViva

Rating: T+

Content Warning: Adult themes, sexual situations, language, and some violence here and there.

Season: Season 7 of SG1 through to Season 3 (Progeny) of SGA

Summary: From the very beginning there was something special about Major Evan Lorne. In Pegasus there is one who sees, content to admire in silence ... but for how long and will the cost be too high? Set after Science Fact. Last in my Lorne series but can be read as a stand alone story.

Classifications: Drama, Romance

Pairings: let's not give anything away now!

Spoilers for: Very minor spoilers for SG1 Season 7 'Enemy Mine', SG1 Season 8 'Icon', SG1 Season 8 'It's Good to be King' and SG1 Season 9 'The Fourth Horseman'; spoilers for SGA episodes 'Runner', 'Duet', 'Coup D'état', 'No Man's Land', 'Misbegotten'. Minor spoilers for the rest of the SGA season 2 episodes, plus season 3 all the way up to just before Progeny.

Acknowledgements: I use Gateworld dot com transcripts to back up my own viewing of any episodes I use in the story. Anything else I reference will be acknowledged at the point it's used in the story.

Disclaimer: The Stargate characters, storylines, etc aren't mine. I am unfortunately not associated in any way with the creators, owners, or producers of Stargate or any of its media franchises – if I was then Lorne would have been in every episode and had a stack of Lorne centric story lines to boot! All publicly recognizable characters, settings, equipment, etc are the property of whoever owns them. The original characters and plot and anything else I made up are the property of me, the author. No copyright infringement is intended.

Copyright (c) 2009-2010 ShaViva


Forlorn hope:

A desperate case ...

In military affairs this refers to a detachment of men appointed to lead in an assault,

to storm a counterscarp, enter a breach, or perform other service attended with uncommon peril.

oOo

Chapter 1: Return from an Enemy Mine

July 2004

"You missed it Sir!" Major Evan Lorne turned from the open door of his locker in the SGC men's change room to look at the owner of that voice.

"Sergeant?" he queried with a raised brow.

"The Atlantis expedition, Sir," Staff Sergeant Ben Daniels continued. "Doctor Jackson found the gate address ... General O'Neill approved the use of the Antarctic ZeePM."

"They left already?" Major Lorne asked in surprise.

Evan was struck again by the number of changes he'd noticed since he'd been back - the biggest being that the newly promoted General O'Neill was in command of the SGC. He was pleased that O'Neill had been recognised in rank and position – the man had been good to Lorne, when he'd first begun at the SGC and later, when the Unas had first emerged as a potential threat on P3X-403. Aside from a 'welcome back' he hadn't caught up with the General or anyone else for that matter. As soon as his boots had hit the ramp he'd been on his way out to the surface for three weeks leave. The visits home had been emotional – his Mom had cried when she'd opened the door to see him standing there. He'd seen her reluctance to let him go when the week and a half of leave was over – and that wasn't like her, she'd prided herself on being the stoic parent largely because she'd never wanted to put extra pressure on him. He knew it, felt bad that the SGC had separated him so much from his family, and could only reassure her that he'd be around for a while now.

Elaine hadn't cried – she'd smothered him with attention though, to the point he'd had to beg Drew to get her to stop. It had done him the world of good to spend time with them ... to see his nephew in person after six months. Elaine had gotten her wish – Jon was so much like Drew it was uncanny. If he didn't love the little boy so much Evan could have spent plenty of time teasing Drew about it ... instead he'd just soaked it all up, the pleasure of seeing his sister and his friend so strong a family unit with their son, and the wonder that a child was. It was an eye opener for Evan in a way – he'd never had much to do with kids before and hadn't expected to feel such a rush of emotion and pride over every little thing Jon did. At eighteen months the boy had already moved on from walking to running everywhere. He also seemed to need to climb everything – Elaine was forever pulling him down from things, her tone halfway between frustration and reluctant amusement. Evan had exchanged meaningful glances with Drew and Elaine had quickly picked up on his meaning.

"Just because he liked climbing doesn't mean he's going to be a pilot!" she'd exclaimed impatiently.

"I don't think it's climbing he likes," Evan had pointed out, nodding towards Jon. The boy had reclaimed his spot on top of the coffee table and was rocking back and forth with delight as he surveyed the world from his high position.

"Evan," Elaine had all but stamped her foot at him, the return to something so familiar and normal warming Lorne's heart.

Jon was babbling up a storm too, most of it completely incomprehensible but Evan listened carefully just the same, nodding and commenting in all the right places. He'd gotten a garbled version of 'Uncle Evan' out of the boy a couple of days in and hadn't been able to stop grinning for the rest of the day.

The other big news had been Elaine's second pregnancy. She was due around Christmas this time as well, making the gap between children just over two years. Evan could see how grateful Drew was that this time he could be there for the whole thing, being posted back to Cold Lake and not scheduled to go anywhere for the duration.

It had been hard to leave his sister's home too but again, the reassurance of knowing that Evan was stationed at Cheyenne Mountain in actuality this time had done a lot to lower the emotion of his departure.

And now, a couple of days back from leave, Lorne was still catching up on everything. Refocussing on Daniels, he considered what he knew of Atlantis. An expedition had been on the cards for some time, long enough that Evan had heard rumours about it before he'd left to set up the mining operation. He hadn't been around the SGC for most of the intervening time – his placement overseeing the mines had kept him permanently stationed on P3X-403 for almost a year, aside from the one leave period he'd been granted during that time. That operation was now firmly bedded down, Earth based civilian and military personnel working well with the contingent of Unas actively involved in mining the naquadah, and finally Lorne had been reassigned back to the SGC.

"Yes Sir," Ben replied. "You just missed it ... they left only a couple of weeks ago. All the people on the mission planning roster ... with a couple of surprises."

"Such as?" Lorne threw the personal stuff he didn't need back into his locker and slammed the door shut.

"Ah ... a helicopter pilot from McMurdo, Major Sheppard, went along," Daniels offered. "And Doctor Jackson didn't ... although apparently he practically begged General O'Neill for a spot on the team right up until the minute they left."

"Why the helicopter pilot?" Evan was curious ... the plans for the Atlantis expedition had been in place for months so a change of personal, especially so high up the chain of command, seemed out of place.

"He has the ATA gene," Ben said it like Lorne would know what he was talking about. Then Airman Ben Daniels had been stationed on P3X-403 in the beginning, before they'd found the large naquadah deposits and had their run in with the Unas. Lucky for him once the alliance with the Unas had been forged, the young Airman had been reassigned to a different team and earned himself a promotion in the intervening time.

"The what gene?" Lorne frowned in confusion at the unfamiliar reference.

"Sorry Sir," Daniels apologised. "I forgot you weren't around when they made the discovery. They worked out there's a gene some people have that means they can operate Ancient technology – like General O'Neil in the Control Chair at the Antarctic outpost. Turns out that Major Sheppard has the gene too."

"There's an Ancient gene?" Lorne commented with a faint smile, intrigued by the idea. News of the Ancient outpost in Antarctica had made it to P3X-403 ... but the fact that not everyone could operate the technology was news to him.

"Yes Sir," Daniels replied. "At first they tried to get other people to turn on the control chair but no one could so they knew there had to be something unique about General O'Neill that he was able to do it. Then a Doctor - Carson Beckett - came along and he could operate the chair too, although from what I heard he was less than enthused with the responsibility. Genetics is his speciality and eventually he worked out why only certain people could use the Ancient technology ... he found this special gene and named it the Ancient Technology Activation gene."

"That's quite a story Sergeant," Lorne looked at the other man in bemusement.

"I know Sir - we were all tested before the mission personnel list for Atlantis was finalised," Ben revealed with a grin. He'd gotten a little polish and maturity in the year since he'd worked closely with Lorne but still had enough of that exuberant enthusiasm to raise Evan's amusement. "I guess you weren't around for that either Sir."

"No I wasn't," Lorne drawled, shrugging casually. "It's rare right – this gene?"

"Yes Sir," Daniels replied. "That's why Doctor Weir was keen to get everyone with even just a hint of the gene to commit to the expedition."

"Have we heard back from them?" Lorne asked curiously. "Do we know if they arrived safely?"

"No contact Sir," Daniels admitted sadly. "We do know they made it safely through though ... they kept the gate connection open long enough to confirm that. The General said it was probably a lack of sufficient power for making a connection from so far away that's stopping them from checking in now."

"And we can't dial them back again?" the Major asked.

"We could Sir," Ben repeated back the information he'd heard on the base grape vine. "But the IOA have indicated the Atlantis expedition is on its own. They won't authorise the use of the Antarctic ZeePM again unless there's a clear military threat that impacts directly on Earth."

"Which isn't likely to occur because they can't dial in to ask for help," Evan concluded.

"I guess not Sir," the younger man agreed.

"Well then whether I was tested or not no longer matters," Evan concluded, taking a few steps towards the doors. "No one, with or without this ATA gene, is joining that expedition ... at least not in the foreseeable future."

"No Sir," Daniels agreed again.

"Thank you for filling me in Sergeant," Lorne looked across at the other man gratefully. "I need to be somewhere right now but perhaps later you and relevant members of your team could meet with me to fill me in on any other pertinent details."

"Yes Sir," Ben smiled, both at the praise and the implied compliment because Major Lorne had sought a Sit Rep from him.

Nodding to Sergeant Daniels, Lorne walked from the change room for his meeting with General O'Neill. Time to find out what his next posting would be.

He didn't give the ATA gene or Atlantis another thought ... after all, what were the chances he had that gene too?

 

Chapter 2: Iconic Rescue

Lorne found himself assigned to SG-6, a spot he was more than happy to fill. While he'd enjoyed using all the geology stuff on P3X-403, enjoyed what had essentially been a team management position, returning to a more typical role was a welcome relief. With any luck he'd get his own team eventually but for now he was under the command of Colonel Barnes ... a laid back and casual leader who had Evan feeling at ease from his first mission. Together with Lieutenant Fisher and Airman Ryan they made a good team.

He'd surprised himself ... building on the basics to become a pretty competent soldier. It was a mixed bag for Evan ... he was beyond glad to be back on Earth but felt a twinge of regret that he wasn't getting regular air time. He missed it ... the jets, the thrill ... the sky itself – had missed it the entire time he'd been on the mining planet. Luckily the SGC was supportive of pilots keeping up their qualifications so he got regular opportunities to put in some hours at the nearest airfield but it wasn't the same. The motive was to keep current and that was a whole world away from flying by the seat of your pants because you had to. Still, it was better than nothing and Lorne knew not to comment. Going through the gate on a regular basis was still as big a rush as it had been the first time and he wouldn't give it up for anything. And if he had hopes of more – of that flight in space Jack O'Neill had mentioned way back – well, that was between he and himself.

oOo

Evan had been back at the SGC for almost four months before he caught his first mission directly linked to SG-1. His team had been engaged in regular visits with off world communities so he'd hardly spent any time on Earth since his return. Now his team, along with SGs three and nine were joining SG-1 in a coordinated attack on Tegalus.

They were going to rescue none other than Doctor Daniel Jackson himself ... of course Evan knew the archaeologist had gone missing off world two months ago. Finally Jackson had managed to make radio contact and in Goa'uld code that Teal'c had translated, he'd given them a plan for rescuing him and helping the Tegalan's of the Rand Protectorate reclaim their country from the hands of Soren - rebel leader and religious fanatic.

The mission briefing was short and precise ... everyone's roles clearly defined. Lorne held steady with the rest of his team as Colonel Carter and Teal'c stood close to the open wormhole, took the pins out of two smoke grenades and tossed the decoy weapons through the Gate.

In teams they followed SG-1 ... in the confusion of smoke it was easy for the opposing forces waiting to greet them to be quickly subdued, Lorne covering the area in front of his position with pinpoint accuracy.

Colonel Carter signalled for the teams to fall in behind her and Teal'c as they headed for the corridor that should lead them to Doctor Jackson. More smoke grenades around the corner allowed for more of Soren's men to be taken down with ease.

Once the opposition were silenced, Sam signalled for Lorne's team to push forward. Evan was about to move but instead froze, raising his P90 and aiming it at the corner they were heading for ... someone was there.

"Cease fire!" a man called out. It was the loyalists ... opposed to Soren's rule and accepting of the SGC's help.

"Daniel, you guys OK?" Colonel Carter yelled.

"Yeah, we're fine," Lorne felt relief when that familiar voice replied promptly – they'd found Jackson and if his tone was any indicator, his plan had worked and he'd made it through unscathed.

Evan walked beside his team leader, Fisher and Ryan a step behind him, as Sam and Daniel approached each other ... there was time for a very quick SG-1 reunion before Colonel Carter indicated they needed to work out what to do next.

"Sam, this is Jared Kane," Jackson introduced the leader of the loyalists. "Kane, this is Colonel Samantha Carter."

"Thank you for rendering assistance Colonel," Kane greeted the Colonel in a stern and serious tone ... Evan was convinced by the other man's demeanour alone just how difficult life had been for these people recently.

"You're welcome," Carter replied, wisely deciding not to point out they'd done it primarily to rescue their own teammate, despite what Jackson might have offered. "What now?"

"We must get to the Control Room," Kane said with urgency, turning and leading the way towards the centre of the building. Once there, Colonel Carter deployed all the teams to positions covering every aspect of the doorway and exit corridors.

"Any chance he'll just surrender?" she asked Kane hopefully.

Kane said nothing, his expression all that was needed to answer that question ... Soren wasn't the surrendering type.

The sound of a single bullet rang out from the closed room. Lorne took a half step forward ... in fact everyone from the Earth contingent did.

"Hold position," Colonel Carter ordered quickly.

Silence reigned for a few moments and then the door of the Control room opened slowly. The man ... Soren ... walked from the room with rifle in hand. His appearance wasn't what Lorne might have expected from a Rebel leader – if he'd given the matter any prior thought. Soren was short even by Lorne's standards, bald, and lean. Anything else about the man was overshadowed by his expression - confidence, scorn, condescension and religious fervour shone from his eyes in a way that made him look more than a little crazy in Evan's opinion.

Shaking himself, Lorne refocused his attention, aiming his P90 at the man's heart ... poised to take the shot if ordered.

"Drop your weapon," Colonel Carter ordered. Soren walked forward, holding his arms and the rifle out to the sides. "I said drop your weapon, now!"

Soren didn't move ... nor did he speak. He seemed to be waiting for something and when Kane moved up from behind Sam and shot him the 'what' became clear ... he'd been waiting for someone to take him down.

Kane walked to the fallen rebel leader and kicked the unused rifle away, motioning for his troops to take back the Control Room. The remaining rebels dropped their weapons with no further protest.

"It's over," Kane said simply.

"I hope so," Doctor Jackson said mildly. "You may have just made a martyr."

Evan frowned, thinking that 'may' was too soft – there was no doubt in his mind that Soren would be remembered for his sacrifice and not for the acts of human cruelty he'd inflicted on the entire planet.

"I had no choice," Kane turned to Jackson determinedly. "You can return to your world now."

"Kane," Jackson began but the other man cut him off because he could continue.

"What happened to us was not your fault," he said.

"I know," Jackson said, his tone heavy with some unnamed feeling. He might know it intellectually but Lorne was sure the emotional consequences would be slower for the archaeologist to deal with. "We made a promise and we intend to keep it. We'll be back to help you rebuild."

Kane nodded, saying nothing more. As he headed into the Control Room, Colonel Carter moved to stand next to Jackson.

"Daniel, are you ready to go home?" she asked gently.

"Yeah," Doctor Jackson returned wearily.

Evan caught the other mans eye, nodding his approval – for what it was worth – over the way the archaeologist had handled so difficult a situation. Jackson's acknowledging smile was slight, his eyes still shadowed by what he'd experienced.

Lorne fell into position behind Colonel Barnes ... the return trip to the Stargate seemed almost instantaneous. They were soon on their way back to the SGC for the standard medical checks and debriefing, the whole mission taking less than an hour in total.

oOo

"Evan Lorne," Evan answered his phone absently, his attention on the latest mission report he was just completing.

"Congratulations Uncle Evan," Drew's jubilant voice had him straightening abruptly.

"Elaine had the baby?" he frowned. "Early ... again? Is she okay?"

"She's great and yeah, two weeks early this time," Drew's voice was grinning, he was that happy over the news.

"So are you gonna tell me the details or just keep me guessing," Evan was grinning too.

"Another boy ... I could pretend I know all the stats but we both know that's not the case," Drew shared. "All I know is he's fantastic – healthy – already bonding with Elaine. She wants to come home today even though she only gave birth this morning."

"Name?" Evan asked expectantly.

"Matthew Andrew Rider," Drew said proudly.

"After your Dad and you," Evan concluded. "Nice. Congratulations Dad!"

"Thank you. So, you gonna get the chance to come up, see him for yourself?" Drew asked.

"Hell yes," Evan returned. "I'll request a couple of days ... I'll get back to you as soon as I know when. It shouldn't be a problem – this place is already starting to wind down a little even though it's still two weeks before Christmas."

"You're still coming here for that right?" Drew broke in.

"Of course," Evan confirmed. "Mom's been on my case for weeks – wants a full 'family' event this year and told me she'd disown me if I messed that up for her."

"She's already on her way here – brought her trip forward so she can stay for the duration," Drew revealed. "She'd totally the proud Grandma right now."

"I can imagine," Evan said with a chuckle. "Tell Elaine I said well done Sis and give her a hug from me, the baby too. Oh, and tell Jon to brush up on his "Uncle Evan"s because I'm taking him out when I get there."

"Will do," Drew promised.

oOo

Christmas came and went too quickly, the following months and the missions passing in a blur ... in fact it was three months before Lorne again had the chance to work on a mission outside his own team's roster, this time directly with Doctor Jackson.

Of course he'd passed Jackson in the halls from time to time and nodded a hello but more often than not SG-1 was rushing off for some mission or other, or his team was, so contact had been minimal.

Jackson had been courteous and friendly but Evan was sure the other man hadn't forgiven him for moving those artefacts on P3X-403 without telling him first. That was probably going to be hard to live down even though, like Evan had said, that stuff had been in the way ... physically as well as figuratively Edwards had been a hard task master and Lorne had done his best to manage that.

"Major Lorne," a familiar voice calling his name drew Evan's attention just as he turned the corner for the Mess Hall.

"Doctor Jackson," Evan turned to greet the archaeologist with a friendly smile. "I was just about to get coffee – you wanna join me?"

"Sure," Daniel fell into step beside the Major, keeping silent as they both went through the ritual of preparing drinks and then sitting down. "We had a report in from P88-013 ... they think they've found something left by the Ancients. It's probably nothing of any significance but Jack thought it important enough to clear me to go have a look. You interested in tagging along for guard duty?"

"What about the rest of your team Doctor?" Evan asked with a frown. "Why aren't they going with you?"

"Sam's giving a lecture at the Air Force Academy and Teal'c is visiting his son R'yac," Daniel explained simply. "I didn't want to request specific personnel from Jack until I'd had the chance to speak with you first."

"You must know everyone here," Evan pointed out. "Why me? I didn't think you'd be trusting me on another off world situation after our little mining adventure."

"You moved the artefacts," Daniel said simply, "before they'd been catalogued."

"Yeah – won't be doing that again," Lorne quipped with an exaggerated sigh.

"Exactly," Daniel replied. "So – you up for this mission?"

"Assuming Colonel Barnes agrees to release me, sure – why not," Evan replied easily.

"Great," Daniel got up, enthusiasm shining for his eyes. "The briefing is at 2 pm this afternoon ... I'll see you there."

Evan watched with an amused chuckle as the other man hurried from the Mess Hall. This was going to be interesting.

oOo

At a mission briefing that consisted of himself, General O'Neill and Doctor Jackson, Lorne found out the specifics on P88-013 – all the information that was on a need to know basis from SG-1's first mission there a month ago. That included the fact that a former Air Force Colonel, Harry Maybourne was living there as their King. Even more surprising was the Ancient flying machine that had been found there ... another piece of Ancient tech only ATA gene holders could operate. For the first time Evan half wished he did have that gene – the chance to fly something so ... different difficult for a pilot to be denied just because of genetics.

General O'Neil had flown the ship through the Stargate - from there it had been transferred to Area 51 for research.

"Did King Arkhan give any indication on what this latest find actually is?" General O'Neill asked Doctor Jackson with a faintly sarcastic edge to his voice.

"You know Harry Jack," Jackson replied. "He won't give anything away until he's sure he'll get what he's really after."

"Yes – King Arkan, also known as King Ulterior Motive," O'Neill quipped. "Well Daniel, I trust you know the man well enough not to agree to anything, ridiculous or otherwise. And you'll have the Major here along ... just in case you need reminding."

Lorne nodded, acknowledging the unspoken order implied by the General's words and pointed look. If Doctor Jackson looked in danger of being sucked into something by Maybourne, Lorne had permission to remove him from the situation.

"We'll be fine Jack," Daniel rolled his eyes at the suggestion he couldn't look after himself. "Be back before you have a chance to miss me."

"You forget how long we've been doing this Daniel," O'Neill retorted. "In any case, you have a go ...," the General waved a hand vaguely in the air between them, "so ... go."

"Thanks Jack," Daniel jumped up excitedly, keen to get moving. "I'll meet you in the Gateroom in ten minutes," he told Lorne, rushing off before Lorne could even acknowledge him.

"Is he always like that Sir?" Lorne asked General O'Neill with an amused frown.

"You have no idea Major," O'Neill returned with emphasis. "I'm making you responsible for his safety ... don't let me down."

"No Sir," Lorne replied respectfully. Taking that as his cue to be dismissed, Evan threw in another "Sir" in lieu of goodbye. "Yep - this should definitely be interesting," he thought, turning on one heel and striding from the room.

Authors Note:

The timeline for when SG-1 and Atlantis cross over is less than clear so I've come up with my own timeline to clarify that. For this chapter I also had to make up a Gate address for Maybourne's planet because as far as I could work out it never had one ... or a name for that matter and referring to it as 'the planet where Maybourne is King' just didn't have the right ring to it *grins*. I also took some license with the SG-1 episode Icon in order to write the closing scene from Lorne's POV ... any changes were deliberate in that context.

 

Chapter 3: It's Good to be Ancient ... isn't it?

Major Lorne exited the wormhole on P88-013 a step behind Doctor Jackson. The Stargate was located in a large clearing flanked by a row of trees ... waiting for them was a contingent of locals dressed in a manner Evan thought reminiscent of every old Robin Hood movie he'd ever watched.

"Garan," Jackson greeted the dark haired woman who stepped forward. "We're here to see King Arkan."

"He already knew of your coming," she replied in an overtly respectful tone.

"Of course," Jackson agreed simply.

Without another word Garan turned, and along with her followers led them down the path through the trees.

"He knew we were coming because he asked for us," Lorne pointed out in a low tone to Jackson as the two men followed the locals.

"True," Jackson agreed with a small, indulgent smile. "There's a history there I'll fill you in on later ... suffice to say these people believe their King to be a prophet – regardless of everything we did last time to dissuade them."

"Do you think this current visit has anything to do with prophecies?" Lorne asked because Harry Maybourne had clearly 'foreseen' their visit - at least in the eyes of his people.

"In all likelihood," Jackson agreed. "Although probably not in the way you'd anticipate. Maybourne has always been very good at manipulating an array of situations and people to get what he wants."

"Yeah, I kinda got that impression from what General O'Neill said in the briefing," Lorne commented.

"Jack and Harry go way back," Jackson revealed. "Beyond just our last mission here."

Lorne nodded, content to find out the rest of what was probably a very interesting story later.

The two men continued the journey towards the village in relative silence. King Arkan's realm was a pretty place, if you were into the whole forest glen thing ... for himself, Evan had always preferred the ocean ... or the sky.

Once inside the village, the decor continuing the medieval theme Lorne had going in his head, Garan asked them to wait in the central square. The villagers cast curious glances at the visitors but otherwise went about their business as usual. A few moments later Garan returned.

"King Arkan will see you now," she announced. "He is waiting for you in his private antechamber."

"Thank you," Doctor Jackson, ever the diplomat, acknowledged the audience granted without the slightest suggestion that he thought it ridiculous given the King wasn't even a native of the planet.

"This way," Garan invited them to follow her again, this time just a short journey inside the main stone structure forming the village square.

The room she led them to was large, dominated by a chunky wooden table and matching chairs in the centre. The walls were adorned with colourful banners depicting weapons and of all things fruit. Animal fur rugs covered much of the stone floor, thankfully without the accompanying stuffed heads that could have been displayed on the walls. There was a large stone fireplace at the opposite end of the room where a healthy fire provided both heat and light to the poorly lit room.

"Doctor Jackson," Harry Maybourne strode forward to greet the other man like a long lost friend. Lorne took in the man's attire ... ornate leather vest, leggings and jewelled crown ... along with the close cropped beard the total image had Evan struggling to hold in a grin - yeah, this guy had definitely overdosed on Robin Hood as a child.

"Maybourne," Doctor Jackson replied, the expression on his face blank rather than accepting of the attention.

Maybourne cast a glance at Major Lorne, his welcoming expression turning to a scowl as he looked beyond Daniel and realised the two men were the entire team for the visit.

"Where's Jack?" Maybourne asked accusingly.

"Back at the SGC," Jackson replied casually. "He sends his regards ... said to tell you something urgent came up."

"I bet it did," Harry muttered under his breath.

"This is Major Evan Lorne," Daniel made the introduction despite the other man's disgruntled air. "Major, this is Harry Maybourne, known in these parts as King Arkan."

"No offence Major," Harry said irritably after Lorne had acknowledged him, "but I specifically asked that Jack come and visit me personally. Once you see this Doctor Jackson you'll see why."

Turning away Maybourne approached the large table, drawing their attention to the object that sat atop it. It was a miniature pyramid although the shape was where the similarity to structures on Earth stopped. It was made of a silvery grey material that glittered slightly in the flickering fire light. Around each side were a series of lines dividing each side into sections. Within each were symbols the likes of which Lorne had never seen before.

"What is it?" Doctor Jackson asked curiously.

"You tell me," Maybourne challenged with a smug grin.

Evan knew of only one race so enamoured of that particular shape. "Is this some kind of Goa'uld device?" he asked, looking at Jackson more than Maybourne as being the one most likely to have the answer.

"The material used and the style of these symbols – their arrangement on each face – is more indicative of the Ancients," Jackson replied distractedly as he took in the device. "The Goa'uld are notorious for copying and stealing technology from others. I always wondered where they got the idea to use the pyramids as landing platforms for their ships."

"Well I guess now we know," Harry said somewhat snidely. "Don't you think the bigger question here is what is it and what does it do?"

"I haven't worked that out ... yet," Doctor Jackson replied, spearing Maybourne with a suspicious glance. When he approached the table to take a closer look, Lorne followed, making himself the other man's shadow but not crowding him.

"This is interesting," Jackson muttered, leaning in close to the device. "I recognise some of these symbols as being Ancient words but their arrangement makes no sense."

"I thought that too," Maybourne agreed, taking a position directly across the table from Daniel and leaning in too. "See here," he pointed to a specific set of symbols. "This is some kind of prayer to the sun ... but the next part is something about enemies attacking."

"I'm not sure it's meant to make sense," Jackson proposed, glancing back at Evan as he continued. "It's some kind of ruse ... a decoy ... see this symbol here could mean hidden but it can also mean deception."

As the archaeologist pointed to the various symbols Evan shifted closer, leaning in to get a better look at what the other man was seeing. Putting a hand on the table directly beside the device Lorne considered the possible reasons why the Ancients would want to make something so ornate to serve as a decoy ... was it some kind of toy or worse, a trap to lure in the unsuspecting?

Without any warning the device started emitting a low level humming sound ... accompanying it was the appearance of bright blue light that started at the bottom and travelled at a snail's pace along each of the lines carved into the face of the pyramid.

"You switched it on?" Jackson straightened and glared at Evan accusingly.

"Me?" Lorne retorted. "I didn't do anything – I was just looking!"

"Well nothing happened until you got close to it," Jackson pointed out more reasonably. "You know, it would have been helpful if you'd let me know you're an ATA gene carrier before we got here."

"I'm not a gene carrier Doctor Jackson," Lorne replied, glancing up from his inspection of the device to look at the other man with a puzzled frown.

"Ah ... you are," Daniel insisted.

"No I'm not," Lorne replied just as insistently.

"Look - from our last trip we can be pretty sure Harry here doesn't have the Ancient gene," Jackson rationalised, looking closely at the Major. "And I know for a fact that I don't have it either because I was tested along with the rest of the base before the Atlantis expedition left. Which just leaves you." The archaeologist narrowed his eyes, clearly thinking back to that time. His expression took on an enlightened look as he realised something. "You weren't there, were you?"

"I was still on P3X-403 with the mining operation," Evan confirmed. "Sergeant Daniels mentioned it just after I got back."

"You were never tested?" Doctor Jackson asked.

"No point," Evan excused. "Couldn't get to Atlantis to make use of it and from what Daniels said the chances of me having the gene were beyond remote."

"Well I'd say those odds just went up to 100 percent Major - this device just tested you and came up positive," Jackson concluded. "Now we just have to work out what it's doing and how you turn it off."

"Me turn it off?" Lorne asked worriedly. "I'm still not convinced I turned it on!"

"You had your hand next to the device when it lit up," Harry pointed out. "Did you touch it?"

"I might have brushed a finger against it very slightly," Lorne replied. "Surely that wouldn't be enough."

"Depends," Doctor Jack said evasively. "What were you thinking at the time Major?"

"Ah ... I was wondering if this was some kind of trap to lure us in," Lorne admitted, casting a worried glance at the device.

The light had already travelled halfway up the pyramid, the humming sound getting higher pitched and somehow more insistent – a kind of 'You need to do something NOW' broadcast.

"Then I'm guessing you initialised it and when it detected the presence of two non Ancients it immediately activated its secondary function," Daniel proposed, spearing a glance Harry's way. "I don't know what that is but we're about to find out unless the Major here can turn it off again."

"It's a countdown," Lorne said suddenly.

"What?" Harry frowned, looking at the device with what could only be termed fascination.

"A countdown," Lorne repeated. "When that light hits the top of the pyramid the countdown hits zero and ... well I don't know for sure but it's a safe bet we won't like it."

"How could you know that?" Daniel frowned in surprise at the other mans certainty.

"I don't know," Evan returned irritably. "But it makes sense, right?"

"We should just leave then," Harry proposed, although he made no move to do so, "get out of range."

"We could do that," Jackson agreed, "but we have no way of knowing what the range is nor its destructive potential. You have a village full of people here Maybourne ... at the rate that light is moving we wouldn't have time to evacuate them all."

"Then turn it off Major Lorne," Maybourne ordered, turning a stern eye on the younger man.

"I don't think ordering me is going to work," Lorne replied. "I've been thinking 'off' at it pretty much this entire time ... had no effect."

"You need to concentrate Major," Daniel made eye contact, trying to lend Lorne the knowledge he needed to believe that he had switched the device on and therefore should be able to switch it off again.

"I am concentrating Doctor Jackson," Lorne insisted. "I'm not sure it's designed to be switched off so easily."

"The Ancients wouldn't have made this without having some kind of failsafe switch," Jackson insisted. "And under the circumstances I think you can call me Daniel ... the formality doesn't really sit well given our molecules in all likelihood are about to get scrambled together and smeared all over this room, if not the entire village."

"If we survive this General O'Neill is gonna kill me," Lorne muttered sickly, looking at the device with active hatred.

"Oh I wouldn't go that far Major," Daniel returned with an amused expression. "Maim you horribly, perhaps. Reassign you to the worst post on Earth, probably. But kill you? That's a little extreme, even for Jack ... although I am his favourite archaeologist."

"That makes me feel so much better!" Evan retorted. "You're not helping here."

"Put your hands on the device Major Lorne," Daniel's voice compelled Evan to do something he'd actively avoided so far.

With a grim sigh Lorne let his hands hover over the device for a moment before closing his eyes and gently settling them on the pyramid. At once his mind was washed with humming static and his whole body tingled in a not altogether unpleasant way. Images flashed through his brain too ... like blue prints to a design that made no sense to him.

"What now?" he said softly.

"Now ask for the failsafe," Daniel instructed simply.

Evan focussed on the humming, following that advice. The blueprints shuffled forward rapidly and then settled into a steady image. Lorne wasn't even sure what he was doing, just that one part of that blueprint seemed to call for him to touch one particular section on the pyramids surface.

Snapping his eyes open, Evan looked at the first face, scanning it quickly and then rotating the pyramid so he could look at the next side.

"I hate to rush you Major but that light's almost at the top," Daniel's urgent voice broke into Lorne's concentrated state.

"Just give me a minute," Evan said distractedly, scanning the second face and not finding what he was looking for. Turning the pyramid again he began the process on the third face.

"We may not have a minute!" Maybourne exclaimed. He could have left at any time but for some reason he'd remained to see the situation through.

"There!" Finally Evan found what he needed. Resting his index finger on the middle symbol he pressed forward while thinking "off" and was rewarded with the lights and humming sounds vanishing without a trace.

The device was dormant again.

"You did it!" Maybourne exclaimed, slapping Lorne on the shoulder exuberantly.

"That was bizarre," Lorne muttered under his breath, ignoring Harry's reaction as he took an unsteady step back from the table.

"You okay Major?" Daniel put a hand near Lorne's elbow as though expecting him to fall down. "You're looking a little pale there."

"I'm good," Evan belayed that statement by sitting down on the floor abruptly. Resting his arms on his raised knees he put his head down. "Headache ... just need to rest for a minute," his mumbling voice came back to Daniel and Harry still hovering close by.

"Jack never had this reaction when he flew the Ancient ship," Daniel frowned, concerned for his team mate. Looking at Maybourne Daniel's face again took on a look of suspicion. "Where'd you find this device Maybourne?"

"I had a little spare time here and there," Harry said evasively. "Did a bit of digging around – one day I found that buried in the dirt just below the surface."

"Where did you dig around?" Daniel persisted.

"Near the temple ruins," Maybourne admitted.

"Near or at?" Daniel asked impatiently. "It was 'at' wasn't it? Was there some kind of prophesy attached? And don't bother lying because I can go out there and read it for myself if I have to. No other reason explains why you didn't just hightail it out of here at the first sign of trouble."

"That's why I wanted Jack to come!" Maybourne didn't deny Daniel's conclusions.

"What'd it say?" Daniels tone was long suffering, but not surprised.

"On the fourth moon of the fifty-fourth cycle one from a distant world will come and with Ludo's Pyramid claim the power of the Ancestors. In so doing will the fate of galaxies be forged," Maybourne recited. "I searched the village records and discovered the pyramid was real ... took me a while to work out where to search but in the end I found it."

"You thought it was some kind of weapon you could control for yourself?" Daniel shook his head sadly. "What do you need a weapon for anyway? This planet is peaceful and the Goa'uld are unlikely to return."

"There's no guarantee some other system lord won't come thinking he can rule us," Maybourne insisted. "As King it's my responsibility to protect these people."

"And there was nothing in it for you," Daniel said cynically. "No desires to expand your 'kingdom' or cash in on a potential weapon at all."

"You wound me Doctor Jackson," Harry returned, putting his hand over his heart.

"I'm sure I didn't," Daniel returned cuttingly. "You should have studied your Ancient more Maybourne. Ludo means to banter or delude. The answer was staring you in the face."

Maybourne's expression fell ... for a moment it looked as though he'd break into a tantrum worthy of the Sherriff of Nottingham himself but then abruptly he laughed instead. "I guess the joke is on me then Doctor Jackson."

Lorne had remained sitting on the floor silently listening to the conversation going on above him ... although his brain still felt a little on the static side of normal so he'd been giving the others less than his full attention. He became more aware when the conversation stopped – raising his head he saw Daniel Jackson squatting down in front of him, concern evident.

"How are you doing there Major?" Daniel asked.

"Call me Evan," Lorne replied weakly, dropping his arms and using his hands to push himself up off the floor. After taking a moment to steady himself he turning resolutely towards the others. "Are we done here?"

"We should take this back to the SCG for analysis," Daniel suggested. "I'm sure King Arkan won't protest since it's of no use to him or his people."

"Take it," Harry said, his tone equal parts still amused but disappointed.

"I'll carry it," Daniel moved forward and hefted the pyramid into his arms with a slight grunt of exertion. "Just in case Evan has a random thought and turns it on again."

"Ha ha," Evan replied with a weak smile.

Waving a hand for both men to go first, Lorne fell into step behind them, keeping silent the whole way back to the Stargate. Harry accompanied them with the usual hangers on trailing along behind him.

"As usual it's been ... interesting," Daniel turned after dialling Earth and sending his IDC to farewell Maybourne. "I'm sure you'll understand when I say 'Don't call us ... we'll call you'."

"Give Jack my regards," Harry replied, folding his arms across his chest as Garan moved up to flank him.

"Will do," Daniel smiled, lifted a hand to wave at the assembled locals, and then stepped through the wormhole back to the SGC with Lorne a step behind.

"How'd it go?" General O'Neill's voice rang out from the Control room intercom system. "I see you brought take-away."

"It was ... interesting," Daniel shot a glance to Evan and then grinned up at the base CO. "And you're no longer the only resident ATA gene holder."

"I'm not?" O'Neill's tone was surprised sarcastic.

"Major Lorne has hidden talents even he didn't know about," Daniel revealed.

"Interesting. Debrief in an hour," General O'Neill ordered. "Infirmary first."

Major Lorne trailed Daniel to the infirmary, not looking forward to his next few hours.

oOo

"How strong is he?" General O'Neill asked once the particulars of the mission had been summarised by Daniel. That included the part where Lorne had inadvertently turned on an Ancient device ... General O'Neill had glared at him accusingly but remained silent until Daniel finished his recital.

"You know we can't tell with just a blood test," Daniel replied. "It's a straight you have it or you don't result. So without any Ancient tech to play with we won't know – and I think we can all agree that letting Major Lorne play with that pyramid wouldn't be the best idea. We still don't know exactly what it would have done if it had reached the end of the countdown."

"Which reminds me," Jack turned to Lorne with a reproachful look. "You didn't do the job I gave you," he told Evan blandly.

"I know Sir," Lorne replied, meeting the General's eyes with an apologetic look as he took full responsibility for what had happened. "I'm sorry Sir ... believe me - finding out I have this gene is an even bigger surprise to me than it is to everyone else. I know that put Doctor Jackson in jeopardy."

"Oh please," Daniel scoffed at General O'Neill. "You didn't give him the protect Doctor Jackson speech did you Jack? From memory you didn't exactly excel at that yourself when you were leading SG-1."

"You're still here Danny boy," Jack pointed out smugly.

"I think that was due to a combination of Oma Desala and sheer dumb luck than to anything you did Jack," Daniel teased back.

"You help a man return from the dead ... what ... three times now?" Jack shot a questioning look at Daniel, getting a shrug in reply, before continuing. "And this is what you get. Gratitude isn't what it used to be ... let this be a lesson to you Major," the General finished with a faint smirk.

"Stop teasing the man Jack," Daniel reproached.

Evan was amused by the interplay between Daniel and the General ... and reassured by the obviously deep friendship that existed as well. From experience he knew O'Neill was a reasonable man and Evan didn't really expect to cop major fallout from what had happened on P88-013. Minor fallout? Well, that might be a different story.

"How will this affect my assignment Sir?" Lorne asked, bracing himself for an unfavourable response.

"For the time being it won't," General O'Neill replied simply. "I expect you to volunteer to assist if any more Ancient gizmos turn up out of the blue ... other than that it's business as usual."

"Thank you Sir," Evan felt relieved at the most basic level. He'd continue with SG-6 as normal and push all thoughts of his genetic connection to the Ancients from his mind. Ancient gizmos didn't exactly grow on trees so with any luck he wouldn't be called on for anything remotely connected to them in the foreseeable future. Of course, if they needed someone to help them test that ancient flying ship then he'd be more than happy to assist.

 

Chapter 4: Besieged by the unknown.

"Pick up the pace!" Colonel Barnes yelled, glancing again at the man he was almost carrying down the path. "We'll have you back at the SGC in no time Major."

"I'm good Sir," Evan Lorne ground out, the groan he couldn't hold in every time he was forced to put weight on his right leg belaying that self diagnosis.

It was supposed to have been a simple meet and greet mission for SG-6 ... Colonel Barnes had even been building a nice rapport with the leader of the village they'd spent an hour walking to. Until they'd admitted to having had an alliance with the Tok'ra. Then it was a guns pointed, shots fired, run for your life kind of mission.

Unluckily for Lorne, they hadn't run quite fast enough and he'd managed to catch a bullet in the back of his upper right thigh. The amount of blood he could feel soaking his trouser leg as he did a combination of sprint left leg, limp with support from Barnes right leg was more than a little concerning ... as was the fact that he was starting to feel a little grey around the edges. If the bullet had hit something crucial he'd be on his way to the gate over someone's shoulder ... but there was still a lot of ground between 'gushing your life's blood from a major artery' and 'it barely left a mark' and Lorne sincerely hoped he was more on the latter end of the scale.

Behind them they could hear the sounds of the villagers continuing their pursuit ... their weapons not as sophisticated as the Earth versions but still gun related just the same. Apparently they weren't put off by the prospect of P90 automatic weapons fire either ... the warning rounds Fisher had carefully placed at their feet hardly causing them to pause.

"Nearly there Major," Barnes said reassuringly, hauling Evan along at his side while glancing now and then behind him.

"Yes Sir," Lorne replied in a low tone, clamping down on the desire to groan or better yet yell ... just because he knew it would feel good.

And then they were at the gate, hopefully with enough of a gap on their pursuers to make escape without further incident possible.

"Dial it up!" Barnes ordered Ryan, moving to stand at the very limit of closeness to the gate without risking being touched by the expanding kawhoosh.

Ryan followed the order, rapidly dialling Earth and sending through his IDC.

"Let's go," Barnes pushed forward as soon as the stable wormhole was established, dragging Lorne with him.

And then finally they were safely back at the SGC, Barnes carefully lowering Lorne to sit on the ramp while calling for medical attention.

"What did you do to yourself Major?" O'Neill's voice rang into the Gateroom from the Control room.

Glancing up Lorne saw the General standing at the control room window looking down at him.

"This Sir?" Lorne replied with a cross between grin and grimace. "Just a scratch General."

"We'll see Major," O'Neill replied just as the medics arrived along with Doctor Lam. "Your timing couldn't be worse ... something we'll talk about after they patch you up."

"Sorry Sir," Lorne said even though it wasn't his fault his leg had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Let's get you to the infirmary Major," Doctor Lam said after doing a quick examination, motioning for the stretcher medics to assist him.

"I can walk Ma'am," Lorne insisted.

"I'm sure you can Major but I'd prefer it if we gave you a lift," Doctor Lam insisted.

Lorne reluctantly let himself be stretchered out of the Control Room, his mind mostly occupied with wondering how serious his injury was and therefore how long he'd be out of action. But a small part of him had registered General O'Neill's words – clearly there was some kind of mission he'd been slotted for and Lorne could only hope he wouldn't miss out, that there'd be time for him to recover.

oOo

A few hours later Lorne was installed in the infirmary, awake and already annoyed with the inactivity. His wound hadn't been as serious as he'd feared but the bullet had still lodged deep in the muscle. He'd had surgery to remove it and repair the damage and apart from feeling weak from the amount of blood he'd lost felt ready to get moving. It would still be a couple of weeks before Lorne could return to full duty and he'd have to get around on crutches for some of that but it could have been much worse.

It brought back a few memories from Afghanistan – his familiarity with gunshot wounds earned there. Lucky for him this time the injury wasn't anywhere near as bad – Evan knew his own weaknesses – he didn't do well with forced downtime.

"Major Lorne," General O'Neill strode into the infirmary and across to his bed.

"Sir," Lorne replied, looking at the other man curiously. There was no way he was important enough to warrant a personal visit from the base commander and Lorne couldn't help but wonder what he'd done now.

"I hear you'll be back on duty in a week or so," O'Neill commented casually.

"So they tell me Sir," Lorne agreed.

"Good – because you're up for reassignment," O'Neill announced abruptly.

"Reassignment Sir?" Lorne queried with a puzzled frown – that wasn't what he'd been expecting.

"We heard from Atlantis," O'Neill replied. "They sent a short data burst while you were off getting yourself injured ... the news isn't good. You'll be briefed fully on their situation before you ship out but I can tell you right now that Pegasus has scary aliens to rival the Goa'uld. They can use as many people as possible with the ATA gene to fly the Puddle Jumpers."

"That sounds –," Lorne broke off, realising he had no idea what to say.

"Exciting?" O'Neill suggested. "Ordinary? Repulsive?"

"Exciting Sir," Lorne returned with a grin. "It sounds very exciting."

"Well that's a relief," Jack quipped. "I'm not ordering anyone on the mission because contact with Earth is still going to be restricted. Thank God you didn't make me pull out the subtle pressure technique ... I think we all know that subtle isn't exactly my forte."

"I wouldn't have said that Sir," Lorne replied without any hint of flattery. Surely a guy who'd allegedly been black ops successfully for so many years knew how to be subtle and manipulative, despite his claims to the contrary.

"You can decline Major," O'Neill said seriously. 'I sincerely hope you won't but ..."

"A new place with new ships to fly Sir?" Lorne queried. "It's a no brainer. I'm sure my family will understand." He wasn't actually, but O'Neill didn't need to know that. Once he knew the details he'd have to deal with the fall out – trespass again on his family's good graces. Hopefully he'd have the time to do that properly.

"I'll give you the full details in the briefing," General O'Neill promised.

"Thank you Sir," Lorne replied, getting a nod from the General before he turned and strode from the room.

oOo

Lorne was released from the infirmary for the briefing early the next morning ... the conference room was packed with faces mostly unfamiliar, including two Colonels introduced as Dylan Everett and Stephen Caldwell.

It only took a few minutes of hearing General O'Neill speaking for Lorne to see why the General had been so disappointed he'd been injured. The General gave the highlights from the Atlantis data stream, describing the current threat to the city and as much as they knew of the Wraith enemy.

"Atlantis needs help," General O'Neill summarised. "They have three Wraith Hive ships on the way and no ZPM to power the city's shields. Atlantis is unaware of the ZPM found in Egypt ... their message was clearly more for information than a genuine call for help. Lucky for them there is something we can do. With the new ZPM powering the Daedalus, Colonel Caldwell should be able get to Atlantis within the week. He'll transfer the ZPM to the city so that they can power their shield and hold off the Wraith. Major Lorne, you'll join a small crew for reassignment to Atlantis base once the threat has been eliminated." Lorne nodded once, looking only at the General. It wasn't common knowledge that he had the ATA gene and with his current status as injured Evan could only imagine what Colonel Caldwell thought about his inclusion.

"My crew will be ready to proceed as soon as we've loaded supplies and our passengers are available for transport," Caldwell reported purposefully.

"As soon as Major Lorne gains final clearance from Doctor Lam he'll be ready to go," General O'Neill spoke for the other man. "Isn't that right Major?"

"Yes Sir," Lorne replied confidently although inside he was dismayed to realise he wouldn't get to say goodbye to his sister and nephews or his Mom personally. A phone call would have to do ... it wasn't the first time he'd been reassigned without warning and Evan knew they would forgive him ... eventually.

"While the Daedalus is en route, Colonel Everett will prepare and lead a small strike force through the gate," O'Neill continued. "Their job will be to hold the city until the Daedalus arrives and they'll have whatever firepower they need to do so."

"My team is compilin' strategic plans with weapons requirements as we speak," Everett reported with a distinctive Texas twang. "We will be ready to proceed on schedule."

"Very good," General O'Neill returned. "That's the plan people ... questions?"

Lorne listened distractedly as questions were asked and answered by the mission leaders, his thoughts centred on his own upcoming involvement. It was going to bite that he'd still be on the injured list while the fighting was going on ... in fact Lorne was pretty sure he would have been on Everett's team but for his injury. He could only hope the Daedalus would get there with time to spare. When the meeting was dismissed Evan grabbed his crutches and moved to quickly exit the room.

"Lorne, a minute," O'Neill's voice stopped him dead.

Waiting until everyone had left, Jack put his hands in his pockets and looked at Evan closely. "You okay with this?" he asked.

"Yes Sir," Evan returned promptly, standing as at attention as a man on crutches could get.

"Okay, first would you take that stick out your ass?" Jack retorted.

"Sorry Sir," Evan slouched over his crutches a little.

"If you're not okay for this you'd better tell me now," O'Neill insisted.

"I'm okay with it Sir," Evan repeated in a more relaxed tone.

"And your family ... what was it, your Mom and a sister?"

"That's right Sir," Lorne was impressed that he'd remembered after so long. "I won't pretend they'll be happy with this ..."

"What did Doctor Lam say about your leg?" Jack waved a hand in that general direction.

"To keep off it as much as possible," Evan shrugged. "It'll heal."

"You remember how we first met Major?" Jack asked casually.

"Of course Sir," Lorne returned. Hard to forget being beamed half way across the world like an episode of Star Trek.

"Turns out we have that capability ... via the Daedalus."

"Sir?" Lorne looked at the other man, trying not to be too hopefully.

"Since you spent a year digging naquadah out of the ground it's only fair you get to reap the benefits," Jack smirked when Evan continued to look at him uncertainly. "What are you standing there for Major? Go pack a bag and then tell Harriman where you want to go. We'll grab you from the same spot when the Daedalus is ready to leave."

"Thank you Sir," Evan said gratefully before leaving as fast as his crutches could carry him.

oOo

Lorne stood propped on one crutch in front of his open locker contemplating its contents ... discovering that he had no idea what he wanted to take with him.

"I hear they're sending you to a galaxy far, far away," the voice of Colonel Barnes issued from the other side of Evan's locker door.

Spearing a glance at his now ex team leader Evan shrugged. "I guess so Sir," he replied noncommittally.

"Because of this gene you have?" Barnes persisted, slouching onto the nearest bench and stretching his legs out comfortably.

"No other reason to include me, Sir," Lorne pointed out.

"Oh I don't know Major," the colonel quipped. "I hear you're a passable pilot when you're not laid up on crutches."

"Passable ... Sir?" Evan suppressed a grin as he raised an eyebrow at the other man. "You must have been talking to the wrong people ... I don't think that's quite the right word to describe my skills."

"Maybe not," Barnes laughed – flyboys were always so easy to tease. "It sounds like you'll get the chance to show off once you're there."

"A pilot never 'shows off' Sir," Lorne said piously before spoiling it by laughing too. "Sorry to leave the team a member down," Evan turned abruptly serious again.

"Goes with the territory," Barnes replied with a casual shrug. "I've got a couple of candidates for your replacement to consider already."

Both men fell silent as Lorne went back to considering the contents of his locker.

"Take something fun," Barnes suggested in all seriousness.

"Sir?" Evan looked at his ex CO with a puzzled frown.

"You only get a limited number of personal items, right?" Barnes confirmed. When Lorne nodded, Barnes reiterated. "You're gonna be a long way from the nearest Seers ... take something fun."

"Something fun," Evan returned thoughtfully.

"It shouldn't be that hard Major," Barnes pointed out somewhat sarcastically.

Lorne shrugged ... maybe he was over thinking this but moving to a whole other galaxy wasn't something he did every other week. Other planets, sure.

"Take a little time to enjoy the ride Evan," Barnes stood and held out a hand to Major Lorne. "It was a pleasure serving with you."

"Thank you Sir," Lorne shook his CO's hand firmly. "Likewise."

"Good luck Major," Barnes said before heading for the locker-room door. "Try not to break their Ancient city."

"I'll try Sir," Lorne chuckled at the idea ... it was a 10,000 year old city – how breakable was it likely to be? Shaking his head ruefully, Evan turned back to his locker.

oOo

He was grateful to be getting the chance for a personal visit home, more than grateful, but it created a quandary for him. San Francisco or Cold Lake? His Mom or Elaine and Drew? The temptation to go see his sister and his nephews was almost too strong to ignore but ... the boys were young enough that they wouldn't remember his visit. Besides, Elaine had Drew and the children.

It had to be his Mom.

"Where to Sir?" Walter Harriman asked when Evan walked into the control room, his bag over his shoulder, crutches under his arms.

"You're just gonna ... beam me in?" he asked uncertainly.

"Not exactly Sir," Walter said earnestly. "We'll pick an out of the way spot – you'll have to get transport from there. Take this," he handed over a small device. "It's a transponder, so we can find you when you're done. They'll give you a permanent one on the way to Atlantis."

"Right, sure," Lorne shrugged, pocketing what looked like a remote car door opener. "Okay, ah ... San Francisco Bay," he went on to give the address.

Harriman turned away, tapping rapidly on his computer and then nodded. "Okay Sir, I have it," he said. "If you'll just stand where you are, I'll alert the Daedalus."

Lorne nodded, feeling a little ridiculous standing in the middle of the room while around him everyone went about their work.

"Daedalus, this is Stargate Command," Harriman spoke formally.

"Go ahead," a vaguely familiar voice replied.

"We have Major Lorne ready for transport Sir," Harriman reported. "I'm sending you the coordinates now."

"Very well. Major, this is Colonel Caldwell. We'll pick you up at the same spot in four hours."

"Thank you Sir," Lorne replied.

Immediately there was that same bright, engulfing light surrounding him. When it faded he found himself standing in a deserted alley just off Bay Road. Now all he had to do was walk home - it was only a couple of blocks and early enough that it hadn't gotten busy yet. The crutches had him moving slowly but he preferred that over calling a taxi to come get him. In fact, he kind of enjoyed it, strange though it was to have gotten most of the way home without any effort whatsoever. Knocking on his Mom's door, Evan stood back, looking at the houses on either side. The neighbourhood hadn't changed much ... looked like Mr Connor had finally added that second storey he'd always talked about.

"Evan?"

Turning back, Evan smiled. "Hi Mom."

"Oh, look at you!" opening the door quickly she hugged him carefully, and then stepped back, eyes on his crutches. "What happened?"

"Can I come in and tell you?" Evan's brow rose expectantly.

"Of course dear," Grace had been so surprised by his appearance and then worried by the crutches that she'd forgotten they were standing on the front step. "I was just about to have coffee," she explained, leading him past the living room on the way to the kitchen.

"I'll take some of that thanks," Evan sat at the table, propping his crutches up beside him as he watched her go about the familiar routine.

"What have you done to yourself this time?" Grace asked quietly, handing him a mug and then sitting down next to him with her own coffee, steam rising lazily.

"Why do you always assume when I'm injured that somehow it's my fault?" he asked irritably.

"Am I wrong?"

"As a matter of fact you are," Evan retorted. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time is all. Should heal within a couple of weeks." He deliberately went vague on the nature of the injury – how would he explain a gunshot wound given he was stationed inside a mountain? He couldn't, not without lying.

"It's amazing how often you end up in that wrong place," Grace quipped, noticing that he'd clammed up on the details and not pressing him. There was no point in forcing him to admit he couldn't tell her more. "So, if it's not because you're injured, why the sudden visit? Not that I'm not happy to see you dear – this is a lovely surprise."

"I got the chance to come at the last minute," Evan explained. "I'm ah ... I'm being reassigned again," he almost winced as he said it, dreading her reaction.

"Somewhere remote, like before?" Grace deduced, her face going blank. "Another 'secret' location?"

"Ah ... pretty much, yeah," he replied. "I'll get regular leave and we can still send emails and letters, just -,"

"No phone calls," she concluded, "no easy visits."

Nodding, he watched her silently, waiting for something.

"And this is important to you?" Grace queried.

"It's important ... and not just to me, to everyone," Evan offered. "And there are opportunities to do some of the things I've always wanted to do ... things I wouldn't get to do anywhere else ... I can't pass that up Mom."

"I know you can't," Grace sighed, reaching over and putting her hand over his. "But someday you're going to have to ask yourself when it's going to be enough. You're giving up so much Evan – the chance to have a stable life, a relationship ... a family. For what?"

"It's hard to explain but ... it's worth it," Evan replied. "I know – I can't possibly know that because I've never had those things, but ... I do know it. The trade-off is worth it. It's not like I've ruled out any of that other stuff, I've just ... postponed it."

"Yes, well, be sure you don't leave it too late," Grace said pointedly. "You're not getting any younger dear."

"Ouch," Evan slumped back, putting a hand over his chest and getting a reluctant smile from his Mom. "Way to bruise a guy's ego Mom."

"You know what I mean," Grace chuckled. "You're still a good looking boy."

"Okay, ouch again," Evan groused, "on the 'boy' and the suggestion I'll need my looks to hook someone!"

Grace laughed outright – she never could resist when faced with her son's teasing sense of humour, always accompanied by a twinkle in the blue eyes that so reminded her of her Jonathon.

"So, we're okay?" Evan asked carefully once the laughter had died down.

"We could never be anything but," Grace replied. "It pains me Evan – having you so far away that you can't even call but ... well, I do understand you ... I know you never do anything lightly."

"Thanks Mom," Evan said feelingly, leaning over to kiss her cheek.

"What did Elaine say when you told her?" Grace was well aware that her daughter hated having her brother out of contact.

"I ah – I haven't told them yet," Evan admitted. "They only gave me time for one personal visit before I head out."

"And you came here?" Grace felt the swell of emotion rising along with the tears in her eyes. "That's ...," she broke off, sniffing quietly.

"Mom, please don't cry," Evan said, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Of course I came here – you are my Mom after all."

"See, now you've done it," Grace half laughed, half cried, a few tears escaping to run down her cheeks. Standing, she reached her arms around him where he sat and hugged him close. "You make it hard sometimes Evan Lorne but I do love you dearly."

"Good to know," Evan shot back, submitting to the not all that common display of motherly love. "Just, you know, let go – you're choking me."

"Right," Grace stepped back with a laugh. "How long can you stay?"

"Only for a few hours," Evan revealed reluctantly.

"That soon?" Grace was concerned now. "But ... you're injured! Shouldn't you be resting?"

"It's fine Mom," Evan dismissed. "I'll get to rest a little on the way – and they won't put me to work until I'm fit."

"I see." Grace looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding. "Well, you'll want to contact Elaine and Drew ... and your friends while you're here then," she concluded. "Use my computer now. I'll call and get a substitute to fill in for me at work – then maybe we can go out for a bit."

"That sounds great," Evan got up, holding his weight on his good leg as he pulled his Mom in for another hug. "I love you Mom," he muttered, resting his head against her shoulder and squeezing her tightly.

Grace put a hand on his hair and sighed. "It'll be fine Evan," she said simply. "We'll always be here for you."

Nodding, Evan just soaked it all up ... the familiar feel of his Mom's arms, being surrounded by her love ... and the memories of those same feelings throughout the years, his constant companion. He had to stock up on that because he knew it would be too long before he'd get to renew them.

oOo

From: Grace Lorne (Grace_Lorne@aol.com)

Sent: Friday, 17th July 2004 09:24 AM

To: Elaine and Drew Rider (derider@ eastlink.ca)

Subject: From Evan - New Assignment

Elaine, Drew

It's Evan - I'm at Mom's using her account. Listen, I don't have a lot of time. I tried to call you but no one picked up so it was either this email or have Mom call you for me.

Yeah, as the subject line suggests, I'm getting reassigned. It's another one of those 'no contact' posts which means regular forwarding of all emails and letters but no phone or video call capability. I'm really sorry I didn't give you prior warning this was happening – I only found out myself this morning and they've literally given me a few hours to take care of the personal stuff before they ship me out.

I had to go see Mom and there just wasn't time to go anywhere else ... I'm sorry. I can't really say anything more about where I'm going or what I'm doing. You know I hate that but it's the way it has to be.

So, please, please send me lots of photos of Jon and Matt – videos too if you can. And letters – I want to hear all about what they're doing! You guys too – keep me updated on what's going on with you both, okay?

I'll be fine so don't worry (I know Lainee, easier said than done). I promise just as soon as I get leave to come back to the States I'll come see all of you.

Give the boys a hug from their Uncle. You know I love all of you (yeah, Drew, okay – even you. You've got it in writing now.)

Look after each other.

Evan.

oOo

Evan sat back and reread the message before clicking the send button. He regretted that he couldn't speak to Elaine personally – somehow that made him leaving so suddenly feel like some kind of cloak and dagger operation. It would have been nice to leave for Atlantis knowing that everything was squared away back home – now he'd be looking at every mail run once he was there, looking for the one from Elaine that said she was still talking to him.

Family mail taken care of, Evan quickly fired off emails to a number of friends around the country, in Canada and Australia. His Cougar team mates, especially Marcus and Cade got completely personalised missives, as did Dom and Riley. Training had forged strong bonds of friendship for Lorne – his Hornet training and the time he'd spent during Red Flag. They were all used to moving around, used to maintaining a friendship when face to face contact was a rare occurrence, so Evan wasn't really concerned about losing touch.

Once done with those there was one remaining contact he needed to make. Drew would always be his best friend but through circumstance and an unlikely connection, Piper O'Hara had snuck up on Evan and become his closest friend outside of family. He spoke to her when he could and they usually each stopped in on the other when they were in the general vicinity.

She was on leave from the marines at the moment, on maternity leave of all things. One day she'd just decided the time was right – as she'd described it she'd gone home that night and told her husband he had to knock her up, right there and then. Not surprisingly she'd gotten her wish and had given birth to a baby girl – Shannon Eleanor - a couple of months ago.

Evan had been staggered when she'd asked him to be Shannon's godfather, had gone as far as asking her if she was insane. His reasoning being that he was seldom around, had hardly any free time, and couldn't exactly be considered a reliable, constant, presence.

Piper had replied by saying that when he was around there was no one as dependable as Evan Lorne. And then calmly announced that if anything were to happen to both her and Rob she wanted Evan to raise Shannon, even over her brothers and sisters. He'd made her promise that that would never happen and then agreed to take on the job. Shannon was a little princess, cute beyond words. That was another thing for him to regret, that he'd even less be able to have any kind of influence over her young life. Piper had known the possibility was there and he could only hope she didn't regret choosing him to be Shannon's godfather.

Time to try another phone call.

"Hello," Piper herself answered the phone and suddenly Evan felt a little nervous. She had a way of seeing through him which made prevaricating on any story really difficult.

"Hey, Piper, it's Evan," he began.

"Wow, two calls in one week," Piper smiled. "That must be a record."

"Probably," Evan agreed. "I'm ringing because –"

"Wait, don't tell me," she broke in. "You're being reassigned, to another one of those top secret bases, and you won't be able to call for months."

"Man, you're good," Evan drawled.

"What?" Piper said in dismay. "That's really what's happening? I was just joking!"

"I'm being reassigned," Evan confirmed. "Just got the news this morning but I'm leaving late today. I wish I could have come down to see you guys."

"So do I!" Piper sighed. "They had to pick you huh? Not someone else who doesn't have friends in Nebraska who were going to invite them to stay for a couple of weeks next month."

"Damn, that bites," Evan shook his head. "I've been wanting to come back since that last time. Did Rob get those new horses?"

"They're beauties," Piper shared, her voice awed. "You know I thought he was insane to sell his law firm and buy a horse farm but he's just a natural. We've already had a lot of success with the breeding program to the point that stud services are booked out months in advance."

"Yeah, well it's a great environment for bringing up a kid," Evan offered.

"Huh, listen to the expert!" Piper laughed.

"Hey, Uncle of two, Godfather of one," Evan reminded her, "I've got skills."

"You do okay," Piper allowed.

"That's generous of you," Evan shot back. Sighing, he got serious again. "I wish I could have the best of both worlds," he said simply.

"See your friends when you want but still get to kick ass in your job," Piper suggested.

"Exactly."

"Well, since you can't we'll just have to bombard you with lots of mail," Piper retorted. "Enough that they're going to wonder why it is Evan Lorne is so damn popular."

"I'm sure I'm going to regret this, but that sounds great right now," Evan admitted.

"You'll be fine. The time will go fast and you'll be back here on leave before you know it," Piper fell into the familiar pattern of grounding him in reality. "We won't let you get lonely."

"Thanks Piper," Evan smiled fondly. "Give Shannon a big hug from me okay. Tell her not to grow up too fast."

"Huh, she's changing every day," Piper laughed. "We can't keep up ourselves!"

Evan heard footsteps behind him ... turning he saw his Mom, ready to go out. She raised an eyebrow and he nodded.

"I have to go Piper," he said. "I'd say I'm taking my Mom out but I probably won't get a say in the where so it's more likely she's taking me out."

Grace laughed. She'd met Evan's friend when he'd come back from Afghanistan the first time. It had been a couple of months later, when the young marine had returned from her own tour. Grace had seen immediately that Piper and her son shared a strong bond ... and been quietly disappointed when Evan had disappeared for a couple of days straight after to attend Piper's wedding. He'd laughed when she'd asked in a roundabout way if he was disappointed and told her Piper and he knew far too much about each other's weaknesses to ever be anything but friends. Besides, her new husband was six foot three and would kick Evan's ass all the way to Sunday and back if he so much as thought about the possibility. She'd muttered something about never finding his own 'something' if he insisted on being everybody's best friend.

"You guys take care," Evan continued. "Just as soon as I get leave I'll make some time to come out – see my goddaughter. If you happen to be around too that'll be fine."

"You're still an ass, Evan, you know that right," Piper shot back.

"But you love me anyway," Evan laughed.

"I do – so you make sure you bring yourself back here in one piece or I'm going to be severely annoyed."

"Back atcha," Evan returned. "I'll miss you – especially the 'return to reality' pegging down you're so good at."

"You'll have to find someone else for that," Piper said sadly. "I'm really gonna miss you too – Rob will be jealous."

"Ha," Evan laughed again. Seeing his Mom still waiting, he shrugged. "Okay, gotta go. Be good."

"You too," Piper returned. "Stay safe."

Evan hung up the phone, turning to his Mom. "Okay, I'm done. I had to send an email to Elaine – no one answered – so you might cop a little fallout when she gets it."

"I'll manage," Grace said dryly.

"So, where are you taking me?" he smiled, charmingly holding out his elbow to her, a move made a little awkward by the crutches he was juggling into place.

"You'll see," Grace smiled.

"Right – surprises," Evan muttered. "I like those."

oOo

It was a brief respite from reality but over too quickly. He'd wordlessly hugged his Mom, told her he'd write, and then walked out the door. Returning to that alley, feeling just as ridiculous as he'd waited the few minutes needed, he'd been beamed to the Daedalus and a rapid journey to the Pegasus galaxy. There wasn't much to be said about it – other than it had been long and he'd quickly run out of things to do. It had been PT once his leg was up to it and reading every skerrick of information he could lay his hands on about Atlantis ... that and spending time with the new friends he'd made along the way.

Things in the Pegasus galaxy didn't go quite as General O'Neill had planned ... but at the end of the day the city of Atlantis was given a reprieve from destruction by the Wraith. Lives had been lost or altered beyond recovery and it would take time to sort out the longer term consequences. And through it all Major Lorne had been forced to watch from the sidelines ... a situation that was beyond frustrating. Sure, he'd been on the Daedalus as it went into battle but that was as far as his involvement went and he was more than ready to correct that situation at the earliest opportunity.

Lorne stood with a small group of replacement personnel waiting to be beamed into the city for the first time. He'd traded his crutches in for a slight limp and carried his duffle over one shoulder. Colonel Caldwell had informed him that on a temporary basis he would be in command of the military on Atlantis which was a little more daunting that he'd like to admit.

"Don't make any changes," Colonel Caldwell had ordered. "Just keep things ticking over until we return."

Major Sheppard, Doctor Weir and all the department heads had already gated back to Earth for discussions on ongoing needs for the city. Once the new military leader was appointed Major Sheppard would probably return as the base 2IC and Lorne would hopefully be assigned a team of his own. Colonel Caldwell seemed particularly interested in matters pertaining to the military command position and had left his ships return to Earth in the capable hands of his 2IC so that he could gate back to the SGC to be a part of those discussions.

And so it was that Major Evan Lorne's first minutes in the city of the Ancients occurred with so little fanfare or audience. He felt the transport like a warm beam sweeping over his entire body. When the bright light cleared from his eyes, Lorne found himself standing in the Gateroom on Atlantis.

Immediately his senses were assaulted with cries for his attention, like every part of the city was shouting out 'over here!' and 'look at me!'. For the first few seconds, inside his head it was just static ... melodious, mysterious, compelling, it swelled in volume until he felt like his head might actually explode. Putting a hand to his forehead Lorne glanced at the other members of his group, noting that none of them seemed similarly affected. How the hell was he going to be able to function with background noise like this?

"Enough!" he finally yelled out the order inside his head.

Silence.

Suddenly his mind was blessedly his again.

"Thank you," Lorne thought, more than a little disturbed at the turn of events. Had that somehow been the city greeting him?

Had he really just told a 10,000 year old supposedly inanimate object to be quiet? Evan could already see that having the ATA gene and living in the city was going to be a little more than he'd bargained for.

"Welcome to Atlantis," the tall gangly man introduced as Chuck the control room technician spoke for the civilian contingent of the city, Lieutenant Smith seconding that as the ranking officer for the military.

"Thank you," Lorne replied, going for confident but friendly in his expression and approach. "Let's get these people settled into quarters and then you two can brief me on the current situation."

As everyone moved to comply Evan relaxed just a little. The silence in his head was immediately replaced by a gentle stream of that same strangely compelling static. After the initial rush he realised it was familiar in a way that wasn't unexpected – the Ancients had build the Stargates and the city after all. Lorne frowned for a moment before deciding it was something he'd learn to ignore.

Authors Note:

For anyone curious about why I had Evan arrive when he did and put him in charge it was because nothing else made sense to me. All the leaders gate back to Earth at the end of the Siege Pt 3 and from flashbacks in Intruder we know Caldwell was also on Earth. The Daedalus took everyone back to Atlantis so it had to return to Earth at some point too. And someone of high enough rank had to be left to keep things running on Atlantis. So I decided since we don't really know when exactly Lorne arrived on Atlantis he might as well arrive while all that was going on.

 

Chapter 5: Welcome Intruder

An hour into his new life on Atlantis Lorne had already been given the rundown on the events that had led to Major Sheppard and Doctor McKay tricking the Wraith into thinking the city had been destroyed. As he watched Chuck and Smith exit the conference room Evan shook his head in amazement ... what the hell had he gotten himself into this time?

Deciding to take a walk around his new home before doing anything else, Lorne left the conference room and let his instincts guide his feet. As he approached each closed door it opened almost before he thought of the need, the same for the lights that came on to greet him. It was disturbing, but at the same time very cool ... and kind of flattering if you really thought about it. And all the while, in the background was that mental static hum he'd already begun to get used to, to the point he wasn't consciously noticing it anymore.

When he arrived at a medium sized circular room with nothing in it but a standing height simple control console something made Evan pause. Walking inside he thought nothing of it when the lights came on, the door closing silently behind him.

Something about that console called to him ... Lorne briefly wondered what the room was for but quickly decided the best way to find out was to ask ... in a manner of speaking. Putting his hands on the console he was rewarded with an immediate reaction.

"Hello," a woman of indeterminate age appeared in the centre of the room and greeted him in an even, businesslike tone. She had long dark hair and eyes appearing almost black and was wearing a long white dress in a style Lorne hadn't seen before - not that he'd necessarily notice details like that - he was a guy after all.

"Ah ... hello," Lorne replied uncertainly.

"You may enter your query verbally or by entering it manually on the console before you," the woman continued as though he'd never spoken.

"Who are you?" Evan began, not sure what he should be asking.

"I am an interactive learning hologram," the woman replied. "My primary purpose is the instruction of young children on the use of Lantian systems."

"Do you have a name?" Lorne persisted.

"A name has never been required for my efficient operation," the hologram replied expressionlessly.

"O-kay," Evan acknowledged, somehow not surprised the Ancients hadn't seen fit to name their interactive system in some way. "Did the children who made use of you have some kind of nickname or ah ... shorthand way of referring to you?"

"No," the hologram said bluntly.

"Well then - is your appearance based on anyone in particular?" Lorne tried a different tact.

"My outward appearance was modelled on the one called Ganos Lal," the hologram revealed. "She was instrumental in my design ... in your history she is referred to as Morgan Le Fay."

"Okay," Lorne grinned at his success. "My name is Major Evan Lorne and if it's all the same to you I'll just call you Morgan."

The hologram hovered for a moment, flickering and then rippling slightly before regaining stability ... Lorne couldn't help but think he'd confused the program enough that it didn't know how to respond.

"As you wish ...," Morgan finally replied with an expression Lorne would have described as puzzled. Obviously he was the first person who'd ever asked to call the hologram anything ... he wasn't sure what that said about him and decided not to think about it too hard.

"So you can teach me about the Atlantis systems?" Lorne queried.

"Yes," Morgan replied. "That as well as anything you wish to know of Lantian history up until the city was abandoned. Records beyond that point have been supplemented with input from your Earth based systems but much is unverified."

"That's a lot of information," Evan acknowledged, not sure where he should begin.

"I have an introductory presentation summarising the key historical points," Morgan offered helpfully, like she'd picked up on his thoughts ... which, given his mental affinity for all the systems, she probably had. "Would you prefer to view this first before addressing your specific queries?"

"Yes please," Lorne agreed.

A map of the solar system appeared above him as the room darkened ... in silent awe Evan watched as Pegasus evolved and then was taken over by the Wraith until the Ancients were forced to abandon their city. When it was finished and the lights came back up to full strength Lorne found himself feeling ... flat, a state exacerbated by mental static that had strengthened again and shifted from happy and excited to mournful.

"Is there anything else you wish to know?" Morgan asked gently.

"Not right now," Lorne replied distractedly, taking a deep breath and trying to shake off a sadness that belonged to the city itself. "I'm sorry," he thought, trying to project his regret outwards in all directions. The response felt like a gentle mental caress ... there were no words but if he'd been forced to describe what it meant Evan would have said the city had acknowledged that it wasn't his fault. It was happy to have people living there again, people it could communicate with. God, listen to him! If anyone back home could hear his thoughts they'd be checking him into the nearest mental facility.

Focussing back on the hologram that stood waiting for instruction, Evan smiled slightly. "Thank you Morgan."

"No thanks are required," Morgan replied, causing Lorne to chuckle in amusement.

"Of course not," he acknowledged, "but thank you just the same. I'll be back another day for that systems instruction."

He didn't actively think 'off' but the holographic Morgan Le Fay disappeared immediately and the doors reopened.

"That was ... interesting," Lorne muttered under his breath as he walked from the room.

oOo

"Major Lorne!" an urgent voice calling out from behind him drew Evan's attention away from the outer corridor he'd been jogging down. Stopping he turned to see Doctor Radek Zelenka hurrying towards him.

"Doctor?" Lorne queried when the other man drew to a halt in front of him, puffing slightly at the exertion. Evan himself had hardly broken a sweat even though he'd been jogging for fifteen minutes already - grinning just a little at the other man he made a mental note to talk to Radek about some kind of fitness training.

Lorne had met Zelenka and all the other senior staff his second day in the city, along with Teyla Emmagen who was acting to fill Elizabeth Weir's shoes in her absence. Two weeks into his stint as acting military leader Evan finally felt he had a handle on who did what and where everyone fit in. That had been helped by the fact that everything had been running very smoothly, a situation more than one person had pointed out wasn't usual.

"Teyla is requesting assistance on the mainland," Zelenka replied, his accent more pronounced with his urgency to deliver the message. "We could not reach you on the radio so ...," the other man trailed off with an apologetic look.

"Not a problem Doc," Lorne replied easily. Even though he routinely left his radio earpiece behind when jogging he appreciated that his current job wasn't one you could sign out from. "What kind of assistance?" Evan queries as he changed directions and led the way back to the control room.

"A hunting party has not returned as scheduled," Zelenka explained, hurrying to keep up with Evan's longer strides. "Teyla's young friend Jinto was included and Teyla is most concerned that something may have happened to them."

Nodding an acknowledgement Lorne saved his remaining questions until they reached the Control Room where Teyla waited, her demeanour calm but her expression somewhat anxious. Standing beside her was Sergeant Stackhouse, the Puddle Jumper pilot who'd taken her over to the mainland earlier that morning.

"Teyla," Lorne greeted the Athosian woman briskly.

"Major Lorne," Teyla stepped forward to greet him. "Halling approached me immediately on my arrival to the settlement ... the hunting party his son Jinto accompanied is now more than a day overdue in returning. I requested the Sergeant return me here immediately to request assistance in searching for them."

"How many?" Evan asked.

"Including Jinto the party numbered five," Teyla revealed. "It is not like their leader Toran to be late and I fear some misfortune has befallen them."

"I can take a team back over there Sir," Stackhouse offered, "fly a standard search pattern over the area."

"Do we know roughly where they were heading?" Lorne asked Teyla.

"I will be able to guide you, yes," Teyla replied. "Halling would also be able to point out the relevant land marks."

Lorne thought for a moment and then gave a decisive nod. "Two teams," he announced. "Stackhouse, you'll take your team and pick up Halling. Begin the search from the Athosian settlement heading out. I'll take Teyla directly to where the hunting party was going and search backwards from there. Hopefully we'll find them before we meet in the middle."

"Thank you Major," Teyla said gratefully.

"We'll find them," Evan reiterated confidently. Turning to Chuck he gave the orders necessary to get the rescue mission on the road. "Have Sergeant Coughlin and Airman Reed meet me at Jumper Two along with Doctor Cole and whatever medical equipment she deems necessary." Looking back to Stackhouse he continued. "Assemble your team at Jumper Three and proceed directly to the Athosian settlement as soon as you're ready. We'll be right behind you."

"Yes Sir," Stackhouse acknowledged, turning and hurrying out the door towards the steps leading to the Jumper Bay.

Assuming the rest of his orders were already being followed Evan turned back to Teyla. "Give me five minutes to get changed and grab some gear," he told her, reminding everyone that he was still dressed for jogging.

"Of course Major," Teyla agreed with a small smile.

Lorne nodded reassuringly before turning and heading for his quarters.

oOo

"These are experienced hunters?" he queried Teyla as the two settled into the front section of Puddle Jumper Two. Coughlin and Reed were already there assisting Doctor Cole store her medical equipment for travel.

"They are," Teyla confirmed. "My people have spent many hours exploring the mainland and are very familiar with the hunting trails currently in use."

"Ready Doctor?" Lorne glanced back to check on the rest of his passengers.

"Yes Major," Cole confirmed, moving to sit in the chair behind Teyla.

"Okay then, let's get moving," Lorne announced, calling up the Jumpers pre-flight systems and running through them expertly. He'd wasted no time his first week in the city getting familiar with the flying ships and had quickly acquired sufficient expertise to make the current mission a breeze from a pilot perspective.

"Control this is Jumper Two requesting clearance for takeoff," he announced.

"Jumper Two, the roof is open and you are clear to proceed," Chuck's voice replied.

Major Lorne took the Puddle Jumper up and out of the city, flying high above the tower before taking a lower altitude over the ocean towards the Athosian settlement. The purpose was serious but still Evan felt a rush inside ... it was the same rush he'd felt the first time he'd flown an aircraft, a rush he'd never gotten over no matter how far he'd advanced in flying skills during his career in the air force. Now that rush had taken on an extra edge ... it was flying something fast and responsive and just all out impressive but it was also the mental connection with ancient systems, the way the craft responded to his thoughts almost as he was having them. He felt like the Jumper was an extension of him and the thrill of that was something he didn't think he'd get over any time soon. It balanced somewhat the cost of leaving his friends and family so far away.

oOo

Twenty five minutes later they were on approach to the settlement.

"Where to?" Lorne asked Teyla expectantly.

"That ridge," Teyla pointed out the prominent landmark in the distance. "The hunting party was intending to camp in caves located a few hours walk from the top."

Nodding, Lorne guided the Jumper towards the mountains, taking further direction from Teyla as they got closer. Evan couldn't land directly on top of the party's intended destination but found a clearing about an hour's walk away sufficient for landing. Setting the ship down gently he turned to his team.

"Help Doctor Cole with her gear," he ordered his men. "Teyla will lead the way to the caves. Keep your eyes open for any signs of recent activity."

Teyla strode forward, the rest of the team following and Lorne bringing up the rear. As they set out Evan suddenly realised he still had the city's mental static humming away in his head. That fact surprised him ... he'd just assumed that once he got far enough away he'd leave that behind. His other trips practicing in the Puddle Jumpers hadn't taken him very far away - he'd thought nothing of still maintaining that background noise. Clearly the mainland was not quite far enough away either.

Frowning, Evan wondered for the first time if he should have mentioned his mental affinity for Atlantis to someone. Putting it out of his head to focus on the mission at hand, Lorne decided there'd be time enough to talk about it once Doctor Weir and the others had returned to the city.

The walk to the caves wasn't difficult and they arrived just over an hour later to find no signs of Teyla's people. Conducting a thorough search of the caves didn't turn up anything useful and the team met back outside the cave entrance to regroup and decide what to do next.

"They were here?" Lorne moved to the front of the group to ask.

"I believe so," Teyla replied. "There are signs the fire was lit no more than two days ago."

"So they headed back towards the settlement then," Lorne suggested.

"Perhaps," Teyla agreed with a frown. "But why would they not have arrived on time if that were the case?"

"Good question," Lorne agreed, stepping to the edge of the path and looking up the slope as he thought possible explanations.

A glint of something higher up caught his attention and he shot a glance at Teyla. "Any chance they decided to continue up the mountain?" he asked.

"These caves are as far as we have explored," Teyla replied with a frown of consideration. "Perhaps something drew their interest but ... usually hunting parties stick only to known trails."

"Let's check it out anyway," Lorne decided, motioning for everyone to fall in behind him.

Following the trail ... more the path of least resistance through the thick foliage than an actual established route ... Lorne moved carefully up the slope. As they progressed the slope got steeper and the way more difficult.

Glancing back often to make sure everyone was coping Evan pushed forward. The surface began shifting from dirt to gravel and then to more treacherous rocks as the foliage thinned. Lorne's men were doing well, as was Teyla, but when Doctor Cole began showing signs the effort was becoming too dangerous for her level of hiking experience Lorne called a halt.

"Coughlin, Reed ... take Doctor Cole back to the caves," he ordered. "Teyla and I will continue to the top just to be sure no one's up here."

"Yes Sir," his men agreed, guiding a relieved Doctor Cole back down the path.

"You saw something?" Teyla queried why Lorne was so insistent on continuing.

"Maybe," he agreed, taking the lead again. "I don't know ... we're so close now we might as well see what's there."

Climbing from rock to rock as they headed towards the highest point Lorne almost missed it. Catching the faint echo of something he stopped, holding up a clenched fist and motioning for Teyla to be quiet.

"Help!" the faint cry echoed from below him.

"Toran!" Teyla yelled out in relief, moving to track where the sound was coming from until she was standing on the edge of a sheer drop down the opposite face of the mountain.

Lorne followed, grabbing Teyla's arm to pull her back. "Careful!" he cautioned, shifting to look downwards.

"Teyla - down here!" Toran called again.

"Are you all well?" Teyla yelled again. "Is Jinto with you?"

"Teyla!" Jinto's more childlike voice echoed back somewhat tearfully.

"Jinto!" Teyla smiled with relief. "I am here with Major Lorne from Atlantis."

"Be careful," Toran cautioned. "A crevasse opened at the top and carried us all down here."

"Where exactly is here?" Lorne asked, moving cautiously back towards the origin of their voices until he could see the crevasse Toran had spoken of. It was narrow and steep, the edges unstable enough that Evan couldn't get close enough to see anything useful without hearing stones dislodge and fall noisily down to Teyla's people.

"Some caves Major," Toran replied. "We were unable to climb back up the crevasse and the cave leads to an opening too high and steep to climb down from.

"Is anyone injured?" Lorne asked.

"Jinto has sprained an ankle and Maris has a broken arm but otherwise we are well," Toran revealed.

"All right," Lorne called down. "Sit tight ... we'll work out how to get you out of there."

"Major," Teyla moved to stand beside Evan, watching his expression hopefully.

"The edges of that opening are too unstable for us to get to them from there," Lorne explained, motioning for Teyla to walk with him back the way they'd come. "I'm going to take the Jumper and try to get to them from the other side."

"Won't that be just as dangerous Major?" Teyla asked worriedly.

"There's probably an updraft so keeping the Jumper level might be a challenge," Lorne admitted lightly. "I won't know unless I try though, so ...," trailing off he gave a shrug. "Listen, stay here and keep talking to Toran. I'll radio you when I'm in position."

"Very well," Teyla agreed reluctantly. "Please be careful Major Lorne."

"Of course," Lorne agreed as though he were surprised she'd suggest he'd be otherwise.

 

Chapter 6: Rescue Run

Back at the Puddle Jumper after getting down the mountain as fast as he could, Lorne threw himself into the pilot seat and brought all the systems on line. He'd caught up with Coughlin, Reed and Doctor Cole on the way down and informed them of his intentions. They'd all proceeded to where the Jumper was parked, Lorne aware of how long he'd been gone but needing to set up for when he returned with the Athosians.

At the Jumper Evan ordered the other three to wait it out ... telling them he'd bring everyone back to their position as soon as possible. He didn't really think what he was going to attempt would be dangerous but there was no point in risking anyone unnecessarily.

"O-kay," Evan muttered under his breath, taking the Jumper up and heading for the top of the mountain again.

Flying over he spotted Teyla, standing as near to the crevasse as she could get. She waved as he passed overheard, turning back and presumably letting her friends know he was on his way.

Lorne approached the edge, the mountain dropping away in a sharp decline to the valley below, too far down and shrouded in trees such that he couldn't estimate the depth.

As soon as the Jumper cleared the edge Evan knew it wasn't going to be as easy as he'd thought.

The light breeze he'd barely noticed while standing on the trail was much stronger on this side, gusting sharply enough to jostle the Jumper dangerously towards the mountain face. Pulling firmly on the controls Lorne managed to steady the little ship, exerting more mental effort over the systems than he'd ever had to during his admittedly limited experience with Puddle Jumpers in general.

Once he was confident he had things under control, Lorne began the process of lowering the ship down towards the opening where the Athosians waited. It was slow going, the problem with the wind being that it wasn't constant in its efforts to shift him. One minute it was barely noticeable but then the next it seemed to rush up from the valley below, pushing sharply at the bottom of the Jumper.

One particularly strong gust caught him by surprise when he still had a few metres to go ... wincing, Evan heard the sound of the exterior scrapping against the mountainside even as he moved to correct his positioning. "Damn," he grumbled, wondering how much it cost to fix something that had been built at least 10,000 years ago and hoping they didn't take it out of his pay.

Finally he had the Puddle Jumper exactly where he needed it. Swinging the ship around so the rear was closest to the mountain, Lorne lowered the rear hatch. With a thump he heard it connect with the ledge, creating a nice ramp between himself and the Athosians.

"Toran," he yelled, swivelling in his chair to look for his rescue-ees.

"Major Lorne," Toran approached the edge, four other figures crowding closely behind him.

"We need to do this quickly," Lorne instructed, motioning for them to step forward into the ship. "I'm holding the Jumper stable for now but there's quite a breeze blowing up from the valley."

"Of course," Toran replied, turning and urging the two other uninjured members of his party forward first. "Take Maris," he told them.

The two men moved towards the woman, one urging her to put her good arm around his shoulders. Then as one they rushed across the rear hatch and into the Jumper.

"Sit down and secure yourselves," Lorne told them before looking back to the two still needing to be rescued.

"Jinto ... I will carry you," Toran called the young boy forward next. Limping, Jinto moved to Toran's side, letting the taller man lift him up and into a fireman's hold.

Toran walked forward at a slower pace than the others had, hampered by the weight he carried. Just as he was about to step onto the hatch a gust of wind rose sharply, lifting the Jumper slightly despite Lorne's attempts to keep it steady.

"Hang on!" Evan yelled to his passengers, relieved to see Toran jump back as soon as the hatch had begun moving.

Heart pounding with the adrenalin suddenly rushing through his system, Lorne felt the force trying to pull the Jumper into the void.

Struggling not to lose his position, Lorne almost growled at the effort, muscling the controls as though mere physical effort could keep the Jumper where he needed it. With the rear hatch lowered, if he allowed the wind to push him too far away from the mountain face it would end up gusting inside the Jumper, making it impossible for him to control. The rear hatch could end up jammed into the rocks, or worse yet he could slam the entire ship into the mountain. None of them were secure enough inside the little ship for that to have a good outcome.

Drowning out the frightened murmuring and sounds of jostling to remain seated coming from the rear, Evan focused everything he had on his mental connection to the Puddle Jumper.

"Come on," he urged softly, willing the Jumper to respond as he rapidly drew a mental picture of the ship stabilising and settling back into position. He wasn't sure how he did it but suddenly everything got easier. The ship righted itself and the rear hatch scraped against the rocks as it nestled back into the opening.

"Now!" Lorne turned and urged Toran to carry Jinto aboard.

This time the journey passed without incident, the two joining the rest of their party in the back of the jumper.

"Teyla, I have your friends on board," Evan reported via radio.

"Thank the Ancestors," Teyla replied, her tone grateful and relieved.

"Won't take us long to get Jinto and Maris some medical attention," Lorne offered. "Doctor Cole is waiting where we parked the Jumper before. I'll just stop and pick you up first."

"That will not be necessary Major," Teyla tried to sway him. "I am fully capable of returning to the Puddle Jumper on foot."

"I'm sure Jinto and the others would prefer a familiar face," Lorne countered. "Stand ready for my signal."

"Very well," Teyla gave in reluctantly.

"Everybody hold on," Lorne instructed as he closed the rear hatch and moved the ship away from the mountain.

Wind gusted once more but this time Evan used it to assist the Jumper up to where Teyla waited. One quick stop for her to hurry on board and they were away again.

oOo

Hours later, back on Atlantis with the Athosian's attended to and safely back at their settlement, Lorne walked wearily towards his quarters. It had been quite a day ... that point at which he'd been sure the Jumper was about to get blown into the valley still vivid in his mind.

Had it just been his mental picture of everything returning to normal that had saved the day? Could it really be as simple as that?

Not sure what bothered him more ... that he'd almost lost the Jumper along with the people he'd been trying to save or that he'd apparently fixed everything by imagining it ... Evan resolved to put it out of his mind for the time being.

oOo

At last the day came when the leadership of Atlantis returned from Earth on the Daedalus ... carrying new personnel as well as a couple of surprises. The most notable was that Major Sheppard was now Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard and officially in charge of the military.

"That makes you second in command," the newly promoted Colonel told Lorne when they met in his office to debrief on the prior three weeks.

"Yes Sir," Lorne agreed casually, more than happy with what amounted to a promotion for him as well.

"Choose a team for off world missions," Sheppard ordered. "You'll be specialising in following up negotiations Teyla and my team make as well as providing guard services for the scientists so leave a spot free to accommodate them.

"Sergeant Coughlin and Airman Reed worked well together on our Athosian rescue mission Sir," Lorne offered. "I'd like to make that a permanent arrangement."

"Good choice," Sheppard complimented. "Let them know they've been reassigned to report directly to you. Apart from off world missions you'll act as my executive officer ... we can work out the specifics as we go."

"Thank you Sir," Lorne grinned, looking forward to working with and getting to know his less than orthodox commanding officer.

"Did anything interesting happen while we were away?" Sheppard asked casually, getting up and motioning for Evan to walk with him. "Anything that won't be in the mission reports?"

That was the moment when Evan could have spoken up ... mentioned his curious mental reaction to the city, the way he was aware of a connection even far away on the mainland.

But he didn't. Something made him hesitate ... something warned him to keep silent. Nothing good would come of discussing things he couldn't even prove ... that half the time he thought he was imagining.

Lorne liked the role he'd be filling on Atlantis and instinctively he knew that would change if he brought up the whole gene thing. He'd end up being tested and retested to see how much control he had ... or worse he'd be roped in as Ancient device activator for every scientist in the city. Better to keep that under his hat. They had Colonel Sheppard who was by all accounts the strongest gene carrier anyone had ever tested - chances were Evan could only aspire to a similar level, if that.

And besides ... Lorne would speak up about his talents ... if ever there was a need.

"At this point it's all interesting Sir," the Major said simply. "How do you get used to living in a place like this?"

"When I get there I'll let you know," Sheppard quipped, stopping when they got to the stairs leading up to the Control Room.

"That's what I thought," Lorne replied, mock glumly.

"Buck up Major," Sheppard said, slapping his shoulder bracingly. "This place will make you!" Chuckling, the Colonel bounded up the steps, leaving Lorne looking after him.

"Yeah ... if it doesn't break me first," Evan muttered under his breath, unconsciously echoing General O'Neill, before he too went back to his duties.

oOo

"You know, when they told me I'd be travelling to another galaxy, visiting strange new worlds, defending humanity against unimaginable alien threats, this just is not what I pictured!" Lorne told Doctor Parrish as he followed the other man through the night darkened forest on P3M-736.

It had only been a week since Atlantis had returned to normal, but in that time Lorne had set up team rosters, duty rosters, and training rosters for both old and new personnel. Now he'd managed to score his first off world mission ... in the Pegasus Galaxy anyway.

After many trips through the gate back on Earth, Evan hadn't been expecting this one to be different ... and it wasn't, apart from one small thing.

He'd realised it as soon as he'd cleared the wormhole and it had shut down behind him. No mental static, no feeling of connection. Atlantis wasn't there for him and the absence hit him immediately.

Had he gotten so used to who he was on Atlantis that it would affect him when he wasn't there?

A few minutes on the planet had Lorne realising how stupid that was ... he had plenty of experience off world and fell back on that familiar role, quickly forgetting his concerns as he assigned positions and got things moving.

The rest of his team, Coughlin and Reed, stayed back at the gate while Evan himself guided Doctor Parrish through the trees.

Parrish, excited about his studies, was oblivious to Lorne's teasing sarcasm. Evan had already discovered in the past that scientists in general were exceedingly enthusiastic about everything. In Pegasus made them difficult to watch, like children forever lured by the next bright and shiny toy.

"We could be saving Earth - right here, right now, Major," Parrish fervently pointed out.

"Oh yeah? How's that?" Lorne glanced around, wondering how a bunch of trees alone could do that.

"Through a greater understanding of the long-term effects of severe ozone depletion on plant life," Parrish lectured. "You may not want to admit it, but it's a real danger."

"Oh yeah! Sure!" Lorne couldn't help being just a little sarcastic as he replied. "Global warming - Wraith attack. I see the similarity now, you're right! Yeah, it's great!"

Parrish didn't take offence though, his attention already captured by something else.

"Hey, not too far, Doc, OK?" Evan called out, quickening his pace to catch up to the other man.

"Ah, not to worry, Major," Parrish dismissed. "I don't think there's much chance any animal could survive the long-term effects of exposure to the sunlight on this planet."

"So, not a place to build a summer home?" Evan joked, his humour wasted on an audience that wasn't paying any attention to him.

"Ah! It's the fact this vegetation is thriving!" Parrish pointed out a fungus like growth on one of the trees. "Somehow it's managed to persist despite what should be extremely destructive ionising radiation." The botanist stared delightedly at the plant for a few moments before looking to his left. "Oh, would you look at that?" he exclaimed.

Not sure whether to be worried or resigned, Evan quickly raised his P90, shining the light in the direction Parrish was looking.

Parrish laughed delightedly. "Now what is a Williamsonia sewardiana doing here?"

Relaxing his guard, Lorne sighed as he lowered his weapon ... appreciating for the first time that working out what was dangerous and what was scientific discovery was going to be more than a little difficult.

Eyes on the ground, Evan tensed when he realised what he was potentially looking at. A boot print? Here? Lorne bent down to get a closer look.

"Major!" Parrish called out in alarm from a short distance away.

Jumping up Lorne ran to his position, until he could see what had caught the Doctor's attention this time.

A dead body. Wraith. The first he'd seen up close and in person.

Squatting down, Evan looked for something to explain the unexpectedness of that. What he saw only added to the mystery. Bullet holes, multiple hits. Lorne knew there were other races in the Pegasus Galaxy who used projectile weapons but why would any of them shoot a Wraith on this particular planet?

"Doesn't look like the sun killed him," Evan told Parrish.

"What do we do?" For the first time the botanist seemed to realise that visiting an alien planet carried more than just the thrill of finding the next plant sample.

"Coughlin, this is Lorne," Evan called over the radio. "Any activity?

"No, sir," Coughlin replied.

"We got a dead sucker here - looks K.I.A., no more than a day old," Lorne told his second. "We're on our way." Closing the channel, Evan pulled out a few light sticks, shaking them so their yellow light glowed sickly in the darkness, and dropped them around the body to mark the spot.

"C'mon, Doc, let's get you back to the Gate," he urged his companion.

"I-I don't understand," Parrish stuttered, still weakly mesmerised by the body.

"Well, neither do I," Evan pointed out. "All I know is he didn't do that to himself. C'mon. Let's go."

Urging Parrish to get moving, Lorne led the way back to the Stargate.

"Reed, dial Atlantis," he ordered as they walked across to join the rest of their team. Motioning Coughlin to come forward and look after the still troubled and distracted botanist, the Major stood back, waiting for the Gate to do its thing.

"Doctor Weir, this is Major Lorne," he began speaking as soon as the connection was established. "We have a dead Wraith in the woods a few minutes from the Gate, sporting multiple gunshot wounds. I don't know if that's what killed him because he's been worked over pretty good. Recommend you send a team to come check it out."

"Acknowledged Major," Weir replied briskly. There was a brief pause before she spoke again. "Any signs of activity in the area?"

"No Ma'am," Lorne reported. "Did find a boot print near the body though - could be our dead guy or maybe the one who got him that way. I'd guess whatever happened took place a day ago, two tops."

"Very well," Weir acknowledged. "The retrieval team will be ready to proceed in a few minutes. Head back to Atlantis once they're done. Colonel Sheppard will need a full report."

"Yes Ma'am," Lorne acknowledged. The gate shut down abruptly, returning the small clearing to darkness.

"So," the Major turned to Doctor Parrish. "How bad is that radiation going to get after daybreak?"

That was enough to distract Parrish from his obvious worrying. Lorne exchanged an amused glance with Coughlin as the botanist launched into a lecture on ionizing radiation and escalating exposure.

oOo

An hour later, retrieval team done with its work and stretchering the dead Wraith enclosed in a body bag between them, the gate was active again. Getting the go ahead from Atlantis Major Lorne motioned them to go first.

"Coughlin, you and Reed hold position here until we return," Lorne ordered, falling into step behind the stretcher, Parrish hovering uncertainly at his elbow.

The city greeted him as soon as he was through the wormhole and he smiled at himself for thinking it was happy to see him back. Watching the medical team hurry the body away for study, Lorne shot a glance at Parrish.

"Not what you were expecting huh Doc?" he commented lightly.

"No Major," Parrish agreed, his tone subdued.

"Well don't worry," Lorne told him. "We'll have you back there looking for prehistoric plants before you know it."

Slapping a hand reassuringly on the other man's shoulder, Evan smiled at his incredulous expression before heading up the steps to Doctor Weir's office where she and Colonel Sheppard already waited.

"Major," Sheppard greeted him. "Your first mission and already you're finding trouble?"

"Looks like it Sir," Lorne agreed. Taking that as his cue to continue, Evan gave them a run down on what he'd seen and perceived on P3M-736.

"Is the Gate covered?" Sheppard asked when he was done.

"Coughlin and Reed, yeah," Lorne replied, turning and acknowledging Teyla's arrival.

"We found a dead Wraith. Shot several times," Sheppard told her.

"Looked like bullets, but it's hard to say," Lorne offered helpfully. "The guy was a mess."

"The Genii use such weapons," Teyla pointed out.

"Doctor Beckett is performing an autopsy," Elizabeth told her, looking up and smiling when she spotted Carson on his way towards her door. "Oh! Here he is now."

"I'm not done - not nearly, but I thought you might like to know this," Carson reported grimly. "The enzyme sac on the right arm has been removed."

"Ford!" Sheppard straightened abruptly, his relaxed pose gone.

Lorne knew the story of Lieutenant Aidan Ford and understood immediately the direction of Colonel Sheppard's thoughts. Ford was listed as Missing in Action - the chance to retrieve him, to help him return to Atlantis and himself, couldn't be overlooked.

"What's going on?" Rodney strolled in, his casual manner clashing harshly with the charged tone of the room.

"Thanks for coming, Rodney," Sheppard said sarcastically.

"What?" Rodney demanded. "I was right in the middle of a ..."

"P3M-736," Doctor Weir interrupted. "We found a dead Wraith, maybe killed by Ford."

"He could still be there," John pointed out, the decision to follow it up already made without anyone saying a word.

"Whoa, wait a second. 736?" Rodney protested. "The U.V. index there during the day is something like a thousand."

"Bring your sunscreen," Sheppard advised. "Be ready in ten minutes." Not waiting for a response, the Colonel turned and hurried from the room.

Lorne looked at Rodney ... wondering why he wasn't already moving. Ford had been his team mate for a year ... surely he'd be as impatient as Colonel Sheppard to go find him. Evan hadn't spent much time with Rodney to date but had already noticed the guy ... complained ... and not just a little.

"What?" Rodney demanded, realising that everyone was waiting for him to act. "I wanna get Ford back just as much as everyone else, but do you see my complexion?"

"Yes," Teyla raised an eyebrow as if to say 'so what?'.

"Yes, it's very fair!" Rodney exclaimed. That must have been enough for Teyla, who shot him a look before leaving to follow John.

"Extremely fair," Rodney continued, addressing his comments to Lorne and Elizabeth.

Colonel Sheppard hadn't explicitly ordered him to attend but half of Lorne's team was still on that planet and the Colonel's team would need help in the search. Giving Doctor Weir a nod, the Major left Rodney to his complaints, sure the guy wouldn't be that far behind.

Authors Note:

Lorne mentions Parrish looking for prehistoric plants because the williamsonia stewardinia is a plant that became extinct during the Cretatious period (sourced from Wikipedia of course).

 

Chapter 7: A Run of bad luck

He should have watched his thoughts!

Lorne considered that as he walked through the woods of P3M-736 again, this time accompanied by Rodney McKay who appeared incapable of walking without talking. And not just talking ... nervous worrying couched in terms of complaints about everything. Evan had been thinking he didn't know McKay that well and then sure enough, Colonel Sheppard had paired the two of them for the search. "Next time think about how you never get time with hot alien chicks," Lorne thought to himself, glancing again over his shoulder to make sure his charge was keeping up.

"So exactly what kind of, uh, special training do you guys have to go through to get this sort of mission?" Rodney asked him.

"'You guys'?" Lorne raised an eyebrow, silently pointing out the label wasn't exactly flattering.

"Yeah, you know - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines - it's a great place to start!" Rodney returned impatiently, oblivious.

"And by 'this mission' you mean hunting down a skilled weapons expert hopped up on Wraith drugs in the pitch black of an alien planet?" Evan said, just to be difficult.

"Yes!" Rodney confirmed.

"Actually, I skipped that course in major school," Lorne held his amusement in check with some difficulty ... the guy was just too easy to rile up.

"Yeah, I was afraid of that," Rodney muttered weakly, glancing around nervously.

"I was hoping Lieutenant Ford might recognise a friendly face and just turn himself in," Lorne explained, relenting and answering the question Rodney had really been asking.

"What, you mean me?" Rodney asked incredulously.

"Well, you were friends, weren't you?" Lorne turned to glance at him. "The guy couldn't have spent a year on the same team with Ford and not formed some kind of attachment, could he?" Lorne thought in disbelief.

"Oh, yeah! When we weren't out on harrowing missions, we used to hang out together," Rodney said, sarcasm richly apparent. "I'd share my dreams of a self-sustaining fusion and he - he would talk of how you can sever a man's torso with a P90!"

"Apparently he could," Evan answered his own internal question, suddenly less than confident they'd be able to talk Lieutenant Ford to come with them peacefully with only McKay as the draw card.

A flash of something up ahead grabbed Lorne's attention abruptly. Holding up a clenched fist he stopped, narrowing his focus on the path ahead.

"What - that means quiet, right?" Rodney asked too loudly.

"Get down, get down, get down!" Lorne whispered harshly, pulling Rodney to the ground and extinguishing the light on his P90.

Unbelievably, rather than taking the hint, Rodney shone his torch down the path, directly where Lorne had been looking. "What? What?" he asked worriedly, still too loud.

"I thought I saw something move," Lorne told him, not adding "something that now knows we're here because of you". Had the guy learned nothing from Colonel Sheppard in a year of off world missions? Still it could be Ford ... and he knew McKay. Raising an eyebrow at the scientist encouragingly, Evan waited for him to act.

"What?" Rodney demanded in a low tone.

"Say something!" Evan ordered.

"Well, what?" Rodney asked lamely, looking down the path uncertainly.

"Talk to him!" Lorne insisted.

"What if it's not him?" Rodney asked worriedly.

Losing patience, Evan stood and grabbed Rodney's arm, hauling him to his feet and urging him to just do it.

"Ford? You there?" Rodney stepped forward, his voice shaky with nervousness and uncertainty. "It's your ... best friend Rodney, Rodney McKay. Everyone misses you back in Atlantis, and Doctor Beckett's figured out a way to help you, so you've just gotta trust me and ... "

Lorne had been watching the trees carefully while Rodney spoke. His rather lame attempts to connect with his former team mate had an effect, just not the one the Major had been hoping for. Rather than encouraging Ford to join them, instead someone ... or something ... broke cover and ran off, moving rapidly away from them.

Evan reacted instantly, giving chase. "Colonel Sheppard, it's Major Lorne," he reported over the radio as he ran. "In pursuit of suspect."

"What? So are we," Colonel Sheppard replied. "Where are you?"

"We're two klicks south of the Stargate," the Major frowned as he kept running, wondering how they could both be chasing the same man. Unless they weren't which meant ... "Where are you Sir?" Evan asked worriedly.

There was no answer from the Colonel and Lorne was realising that he'd also lost their own target. Scanning the trees ahead as he slowed his pace the truth of that became apparent. As far as he could tell whatever it was had disappeared.

He stopped running ... hearing McKay's noisy approach from the path behind him, Lorne turned and watched Rodney puffing to a stop in front of him.

"What is it?" Rodney asked breathlessly.

"Lost him," Lorne said simply. Activating his radio again, Evan checked to see whether Teyla and John had had better luck. "Colonel Sheppard."

"Stand by," the Colonel's voice was low and purposeful. "Teyla's been hit."

"Colonel Sheppard, say again," Lorne replied, needing more than that if he was going to be of any assistance. "What's your position?"

He and Rodney stood for a moment waiting for ... nothing.

"Colonel Sheppard," Lorne tried again. "Please respond."

Still nothing ... this was not good. "Colonel Sheppard, come in please. Colonel Sheppard." Lorne shook his head at McKay at the continued silence.

"What does that mean?" Rodney asked worriedly.

"It means we need more help," Lorne replied grimly, turning and heading back the way they'd come. "Move it McKay," he ordered impatiently when Rodney appeared frozen. "The quicker we get back to the Jumper the quicker we find the Colonel and Teyla."

"Right ... right," Rodney shook himself, hurrying to catch up again.

"Great," Lorne thought as they double timed it down the path. "Your first Pegasus off world mission is going just great. Wraith body ... putting up with McKay and now you've lost your commanding officer. Nice work Evan!"Sighing, Lorne turned to head back to the Puddle Jumper, not looking forward to reporting in.

oOo

With the sounds of Rodney stumbling into of all things a radiation suit behind him, Lorne addressed the marines there to assist in the search ... it had taken about an hour to return to the gate, report to Atlantis for backup, and see those men arrive kitted out to find Colonel Sheppard and Teyla.

"Okay, listen up. I want regular radio contact," he ordered. "Report anything unusual - and I'm talking anything unusual at all. Alright, move out."

The men headed out as ordered, leaving Lorne to once again team with McKay. He could have assigned someone else to accompany Rodney but Colonel Sheppard had given him the responsibility and Evan knew he would have expected Lorne to carry that through to the conclusion.

"Hey, wait, aren't any of them gonna, uh ... " Rodney protested, gesturing to his radiation suit. The marines ignored him, earning themselves an incredulous look. "OK, that's just reckless! There are four suits."

"Not exactly designed for moving through dense brush and rough terrain, not to mention possible combat, huh?" Lorne pointed out, humouring the man but having no intention of following suit.

"No, but by my calculations we've been exposed to 327 millisieverts since the sun came up," Rodney lectured. "It may not sound like much to you but, uh, I've been keeping a running tally of my lifetime exposure to radiation: X-rays, cellphones, plane rides, that whole unfortunate Genii nuclear reactor thing. My God - last week we flew dangerously close to the corona of a sun! As it is, I may have to forego reproducing."

During the whole spiel Evan had kept a lid on his amusement but McKay admitting to keeping a radiation exposure count was too much.

"Yeah, that's funny," he quipped. "I was just thinking that might be wise."

Holding back a grin as Rodney worked out the insult, Lorne moved off down the path, trusting the other man would follow him.

oOo

Ten minutes later Lorne was once again walking through the woods of P3M-736, this time illuminated in the harsh daylight sun. The place was hot, walking only slightly easier now he could see where he was going. That would have been fine but for his companion's constant chatter. The suit was hindering their progress and Lorne was getting impatient. He'd called via radio for Teyla or Sheppard to acknowledge them but so far had nothing.

"Step it up, McKay, wouldya?" Evan urged when McKay stumbled to lean against a fallen log. At this rate they wouldn't cover anywhere near enough ground before having to return to the Jumper for check in.

"I am moving as fast as I can," Rodney said defensively. "I'm very hot. Aren't you hot?"

"Actually, I'm quite comfortable," Lorne replied. "But I'm not wearing a fifty pound rubber suit, am I?"

"I can't breathe! I gotta stop!," Rodney stood and took his helmet off. "Sweet relief!" he said happily, staggering to catch up again. "I think the, uh, the fumes from the sunblock are making me dizzy. I gotta ... I gotta ... just, uh, rest here," he pleaded, stopping again and breathing heavily.

"Unbelievable!" Evan muttered, turning away. "I'll just scout ahead," he told Rodney. "Use the radio if you spot anything."

Not waiting for a reply Lorne moved forward again, looking for signs of a trail, anything to help them target their search in some way. He gave McKay five minutes, returning to find the other man still sitting on the ground.

"Okay, you've had your fresh air," he announced. "C'mon, let's go."

"Well, shouldn't we be headed back?" Rodney asked hopefully. "I mean, it must have been half an hour."

"It's been fifteen minutes," Lorne replied, "fifteen annoying minutes," he thought to himself.

"Oh, really? I thought ... ," Rodney trailed off, looking at his watch. "It feels longer."

"Wow - you must really be some kind of genius!" Lorne couldn't resist the comment. He was a patient guy ... very patient usually ... but McKay had a way of making him forget that and Evan wondered how the Colonel had put up with him for so long.

"Well, as a matter of fact, I, um ... wait a minute," Rodney went from flattered to suspicious in one breath. "See, why would you say that now?"

"Something has to have kept Colonel Sheppard from shooting you all this time!" Evan shot back.

"Yeah, yeah, like I didn't see that one coming, huh?" Rodney complained, insult flashing across his face.

"I'll probably have to apologise for that," Lorne thought, "although -"

The Wraith stunner blast hit him with no warning ... Lorne registered the pain in the second it took for him to lose consciousness.

oOo

Lorne woke up some time later, stretched out awkwardly on the ground where he must have fallen. He dragged himself upright, wincing at the pounding headache assaulting his skull.

That had hurt a lot more than anyone had admitted to in their reports!

Rolling to his hands and knees, Evan waited until his stomach settled before slowly pushing himself to his feet. Swaying unsteadily, he put a hand to the nearest tree, again waiting until the world righted itself as much as it was going to.

Oh God ... he was going to hurl ... the breakfast he'd hurriedly consumed on the brief trip back to Atlantis making its presence unpleasantly felt. Not sure if it was the lingering effects of being stunned or the fact that he'd been lying exposed to the heat of the planet for too long, Lorne struggled to keep everything where he'd really prefer it to stay.

"Keep it together Evan," he muttered to himself, leaning his forehead against the tree.

He hadn't noticed it before, too caught up in the search for Lieutenant Ford and then their missing people. In fact Evan probably wouldn't have noticed the stillness of the air at all, but for the faint breeze now wafting over his face.

Breathing in deeply, holding, and then exhaling slowly, Lorne finally began to feel better. Pushing away from the trees, he turned and looked around. There was no sign of their quarry ... and no sign of McKay either. "This just keeps getting better and better," he thought grimly.

"Coughlin, this is Lorne," Evan radioed as he turned and made his way slowly back to the Puddle Jumper. "Any word on Colonel Sheppard?"

"Sir!" Coughlin's voice echoed with relief. "You had us worried!"

"Wraith stunner," Lorne explained briefly. "How long was I out?"

"Two hours Sir," Coughlin replied. "Colonel Sheppard hasn't made contact and none of our teams have located them."

"Okay," Lorne was disappointed. "Tell the men to keep an eye out for Doctor McKay too. I'm on my way."

oOo

Sitting in the back of the Puddle Jumper, Evan let one of the marines with medic training check him out, the penlight stabbing into his eyes. Airman Reed stood guard at the rear entrance while the rest of the teams continued to search.

"You were out for longer than usual Sir," the marine told him. "Usual time for recovery from a Wraith stun is an hour, give or take a few minutes."

"Yeah, well I'll try and do better next time," Lorne returned with a frown.

"Might be the radiation," the medic offered that explanation. "You've been exposed the longest ... that might have hindered your ability to recover."

"Not to mention reproduce," Evan muttered under his breath. Looking up he saw the medic looking at him strangely. "Something Doctor McKay said," he excused lightly.

"Yes Sir," the medic nodded. "Looks like you were lucky this time Sir ... it'll probably be a few more hours before you feel fully yourself again but you're good to go."

"Wish I felt that way," Lorne frowned, still feeling groggy and unsettled. The headache hadn't abated much either ... the pounding just what he deserved for letting McKay distract him from paying full attention.

"Major," Reed's voice drew Lorne's attention. Glancing his way, Evan watched him disappearing out the back of the Jumper. Expecting him to return, Evan was pleasantly surprised to see Colonel Sheppard running into the Jumper instead.

"What happened to you?" his CO demanded.

"I got hit by a Wraith blaster looking for you Sir," Lorne admitted, on his feet but still feeling unsteady. "Now McKay's missing."

"Great!" Sheppard looked less than happy at the news.

"What about Teyla?" Lorne asked, not having missed that she wasn't with her team mate.

"Long story," Sheppard dismissed, moving to dial the Gate. "You can listen to it when I tell Doctor Weir."

"Yes Sir," Lorne replied.

oOo

The story, when revealed, wasn't what Evan had been expecting. Rather than finding Ford, Teyla and John had stumbled across a man ... Teyla had called him a runner ... and apparently the reason the Wraith had been on the planet. Sheppard had come to an agreement ... Doctor Beckett would remove the device that allowed the Wraith to track the man, and in return he would let Teyla go free.

Lorne appreciated the time it took for things to move forward ... by the time Carson arrived he was able to appear recovered, although the headache was still a constant reminder of his day's misfortunes.

Colonel Sheppard accompanied the Doctor, ordering Lorne and a team of marines to guard the Jumper and Stargate. Another team was still out searching for Doctor McKay, so far without success.

Taking up position beside the rear of the Jumper, Lorne stood guard, time dragging slowly as they all wondered how the others were doing.

"Sir! We got Gate activity over here!" Coughlin's report came in abruptly.

"I'm cloaking the Jumper, now!" Lorne announced, aiming the remote at the ship and pressing the button that saw it shimmer and then disappear from sight. Joining Coughlin at a nearby bush, the two took cover just as the Gate kawhooshed.

Lorne activated his radio to warn their people. "Colonel Sheppard, we've got Gate activity. Three Wraith Darts just came through," Evan reported grimly, watching them shoot through the event horizon and then scream away before the Gate shut down again.

"Great!" Colonel Sheppard replied. "Hold position at the Gate Major," he ordered. "I'm on my way."

"Yes Sir," Lorne replied. Breaking cover, he motioned for Coughlin to return to his previous guard position before doing the same.

Only a few minutes later, Evan heard that strange whining sound, the same one he'd heard when the Darts had arrived.

"Sir, Darts on approach to the Gate," he reported, taking cover again.

"Stop them Major!" Sheppard ordered urgently. "But carefully! Ford was just culled."

"Yes Sir," Lorne acknowledged. Taking aim, he waited to get a clear shot. The Darts came in fast, the wormhole kawhoosing when they were only a few metres away. Lorne fired rapidly at the cockpit of the leading ship, his men doing the same for the other two. If they could disable the pilots, it would bring down the Darts, hopefully without damaging them. Getting Ford out of storage would be another matter but at least he'd have a chance.

Bullets ricocheted off the Darts but they were moving too quickly ... no one could get a clean shot and firing a spread of bullets once the Dart had passed over them wasn't an option. Breaking off the attack Evan and his men witnessed the three Darts disappear through the Stargate, taking any hope of rescuing Lieutenant Ford with them.

oOo

Colonel Sheppard returned to the Jumper first, followed closely by Teyla, Doctor Beckett and a team of marines escorting a large man with matted dreadlocks and a fierce expression. When Doctor McKay stumbled down the path at the rear Lorne felt himself relax in relief. He'd failed to stop the Darts from taking Ford but at least he hadn't been responsible for Sheppard losing another team member that day.

"What's the radiation count McKay?" he called out blandly.

"A lot more than it was," Rodney shot back. "No thanks to you!"

"I'll consider it my service to humanity," Lorne quipped, reminding them both of Rodney's comments about reproduction.

"Har har," Rodney looked at Evan, eyes checking out his condition even as he complained. "It looks like you can keep little Lorne's on your to do list," he quipped.

Lorne smirked, suddenly beginning to get it. McKay was outwardly brash and complained like no one he'd ever met before but ... he'd actually been worried about Evan. The Major knew Rodney had been forced to leave him in the forest, exposed to the dangers of UV radiation and whatever else was lurking there. Where before he would have assumed the scientist had only been consumed with fear on his own behalf, now he saw there was more to him than the surface suggested.

"No damage done McKay," he confirmed lightly, giving the man a faint nod of approval.

"Ah ... good," Rodney said, awkwardly. "Can we go now?" Rodney turned back to Colonel Sheppard impatiently. "Because seriously, the U.V's are only getting stronger and my sun block wore off an hour ago."

Not waiting for an acknowledgement, Rodney pushed passed the others and rushed into the Jumper. Exchanging glances with Colonel Sheppard, Lorne grinned.

"Is he always like that Sir?" Evan asked, amused.

"You have no idea Major," Sheppard returned, rolling his eyes as he glanced into the Jumper. "Still, he's right. This is Specialist Ronon Dex," John introduced the large man casually. "Secure him in the back. Time to go home."

"Yes Sir," Lorne nodded, motioning for the marines guarding the man to move forward. As first missions went, this one had certainly been one for the books.

oOo

The trip back to Atlantis was short ... Ronon said nothing ... his expression grim. Lorne wasn't sure if the man had helped or hindered the Colonel back on that planet ... this was going to be some mission debriefing.

As soon as the Jumper passed through the Gate to Atlantis, Evan felt his awareness of the city resurging in his head. For a moment he felt sick again, the static noise he'd gotten used to clashing harshly with his Wraith Stunner induced headache. He'd hardly had a chance to plead for quiet before the city silenced itself, leaving him alone again but not like it had been on P3M-736. There it had been a complete absence of anything ... now he knew the systems were there, like a shadow that shifted whenever you tried to look at it directly.

Doctor Beckett conducted his post mission check-up himself and worked out pretty quickly that Lorne was not feeling his best.

"Headache lad?" he asked kindly.

"Just a little Doc," Lorne conceded.

"Right," Carson smiled in amusement. "Well, we'll just give you some Tramadol anyway. No point in suffering now is there?"

"I guess not," Lorne agreed.

"You're lucky not to be suffering heat stroke Major," Carson told him, going to the medicine cabinet and bringing back a small blister pack. "If you start to feel dizzy or nauseous, or that headache doesn't improve, you come back and see me."

"Sure thing Doc," Evan replied, taking the tablets and putting them in his pocket. At Carson's questioning look he shrugged. "Never could take these on an empty stomach," he admitted ruefully.

"Of course," Carson nodded. "Well, off to the Mess for you then. A meal, those tablets and then a good night's sleep should have you fit as a fiddle by morning."

"Thanks Doc," Lorne grinned, jumping off the bed and hurrying away before Carson could change his mind. Lucky for Evan, Doctor Weir had scheduled the mission debriefing for the following day to give them time to talk to and then settle their guest. He wondered about Ronon Dex ... what his story was ... but knew Colonel Sheppard would fill him in as soon as he had a chance.

oOo

Sitting at a table in the Mess Hall by himself, Evan stretched out his legs and people watched as he slowly ate a light meal. As he relaxed, his mental connection to the city pushed forward again, gentle this time as though fearful of hurting him. Lorne smirked, amused at himself for assigning a level of emotion to this awareness well beyond what could be reality.

Letting his thoughts drift along with the rippling of static humming its companionship, it took a while for Evan to realise that he was actually feeling better.

A lot better in fact.

Sitting forward again, Lorne grinned ... while he didn't believe being ATA gene connected to the city gave him that much of an edge, if tuning in with Atlantis cured a head ache he'd count it as a plus.

oOo

Lorne was awake early the next morning. Carson had been right ... after a good night sleep the Major was feeling himself again. Following his usual morning routine, Evan dressed for a workout in the gym and headed for the door.

He might not have noticed it ... his eyes drawn to a lace he hadn't tied tightly enough. Bending down just outside his door to retie it Evan saw them.

A bunch of flowers - five of them, purple, and kind of star shaped - of a variety he didn't recognise. They were tied together with a ribbon of the same colour. Picking them up as he straightened, Evan glanced down the corridor in both directions.

No one was about.

Looking down at the flowers, Lorne frowned in confusion. There was nothing to indicate who'd left them ... nothing to say they were even for him apart from the fact that they'd been outside his door.

Who'd leave him flowers? And why not identify themselves?

Looking around again, Evan shrugged and then went back into his room, taking the flowers with him.

He wasn't sure why, but something made him grab a glass and some water from the bathroom. Throwing the flowers haphazardly into his makeshift vase and setting them on the table by the window, Evan stood back and looked at them for a moment.

They were actually kind of nice ... not that he'd admit it to anyone. In fact Lorne had already resolved to keep this little incident to himself. He was still pretty new to the city ... maybe someone just wanted to make him feel welcome.

Walking to his door, Evan glanced back at the flowers once before heading for the gym.

 

Chapter 8: And never the duet shall meet?

"Major Lorne!" Evan turned to see a young, red haired marine hurrying towards him.

"Lieutenant," he replied, slowing so that she could catch up and fall into step beside him. Laura Cadman, energetic materials expert and assigned to the Daedalus had become a friend during the two weeks Evan had spent on the ship to get to Atlantis. On the surface they didn't have much in common but they'd hit it off ... Lorne seeing her immediately as a little sister stand in and falling into classic big brother behaviour with ease. Laura had reciprocated in kind, the end result being a teasing relationship still in the early stages of development.

He'd been glad when the Daedalus had returned with Doctor Weir and the others to see Cadman again. Laura's enthusiasm, not to mention her staunch loyalty and support had helped Evan settle into the role of military second in command, not the post he'd been expecting to fill when he's agreed to come to Atlantis.

The Daedalus remained in the Pegasus galaxy and would for a few weeks more ... assisting the city in settling in the increased personnel, equipment and supplies. Lorne was happy for it, both for the help in reworking duty rosters and because it gave him the chance to build on his friendship with Laura.

"What can I do for you Lieutenant?" Lorne asked when Laura remained silent.

"Okay, this might sound out of the blue but it's not like I'm not fully qualified in all the requirements," Cadman rushed into speech.

"Qualified for what?" Evan asked, cutting into the beginnings of what he knew would be a long winded explanation.

"An off world mission, Sir," Cadman said, looking up at him with a hopeful smile.

"You wanna join an off world team?" Lorne asked, surprised.

"Yes please," Cadman returned. "It's not that I don't enjoy my position on the Daedalus – I do – but three weeks stuck on the ship and then another three so far equally stuck in this city is about to drive me crazy ... Sir. I could really do with some grass under my feet ... some trees ... maybe even a little wild life – before I have to spend another three weeks couped up in what's nothing more than a glorified tin can."

"I see," Lorne struggled to hold in his grin, amused at her explanation. "Well ... I can't see why not. Next mission requiring additional security or back up personnel – assuming you're still here – you'll get a spot."

"Thank you Sir," Cadman grinned, looking like she was barely restraining herself from hugging him.

"Just make sure I don't regret this Cadman and we'll call it even," Lorne replied.

"Yes Sir ... you won't Sir," Cadman replied. Snapping to attention for a moment, she grinned again and then dashed down the corridor, presumably to tell one of her other friends about her good fortune.

"If only everyone was as easy to please," Lorne thought, smiling as he watched her go.

oOo

Luck was on Cadman's side ... only three days later they got word of a large scale Wraith culling, and quickly moved to send teams to render assistance.

"Cadman, you're up," Lorne contacted her on his way down to the armoury, having already tagged enough personnel for two teams additional to Colonel Sheppard's and his own. "Gateroom, five minutes ... full kit."

"Yes Sir," Laura replied, the excited smile he knew was on her face evident in her voice.

It was a large exodus through the Stargate ... marines, teams Sheppard and Lorne, along with Doctor Beckett all stepping through in quick succession.

"Teams of three," Colonel Sheppard ordered once everyone was on the other side, choosing to split his still three man team amongst the others.

Lorne and Coughlin went with Teyla in one direction, the rest of Evan's team staying with Sheppard while Cadman went with Rodney and Doctor Beckett.

Smoke trailed from a number of locations in the distance and each team headed towards one of them, hoping to find survivors. It didn't look good ... Lorne got the sense that the place was deserted ... either all culled by the Wraith or fled the planet fearful that the Wraith would return.

They'd searched their sector extensively and were walking through the woods back towards the Stargate when Colonel Sheppard made contact.

"Sheppard to Lorne."

"Yes Sir," Lorne replied. "Anything?"

"Nothing," Sheppard replied grimly. "You?"

"No Sir," Evan replied sadly. "Found a couple of bodies fed on by the Wraith but otherwise not a trace of anyone."

"Alright, I'm about ready to call this one," the Colonel announced. "Doesn't look like there're any survivors."

"The cullings are getting more and more intense," Teyla replied, her face grim.

"Well, you said it yourself," Sheppard pointed out. "Too many Wraith woke up at the same time. Too many mouths - or ... hands - to feed."

"Well, we're heading back to the Gate," Lorne reported. "Meet you there?"

"Sounds like a plan," Sheppard agreed. Keeping the channel open he moved to find out how the other team was doing. "McKay, Beckett. You havin' any luck?"

"Negative, Colonel, we haven't found anyone," Doctor Beckett replied.

"Make your way back to the Gate," Sheppard ordered.

"Will do. Beckett out."

"So this isn't the usual Wraith approach?" Lorne asked Teyla as they continued walking.

"No Major," Teyla agreed. "They are careful with what numbers they cull ... much as you would be for a herd of livestock. This ... taking whole populations ... is not their way."

"Our arrival here is changing everybody's lives," Evan realised, frowning at the broader implications. What else would they affect simply by being there?

"We have a Dart incoming!" Cadman's urgent voice over the open channel broke the conversation.

"If it's seen us, it will blow Atlantis' cover," Sheppard replied. "Anyone get a clear shot, you take it, understand?"

Lorne and his team broke into a run, heading for the Stargate. The sound of the Dart whining through the air reached them before they caught sight of the ship.

Motioning for Coughlin to give him the anti-tank missile launcher he'd been carrying, Lorne hoisted the weapon to his shoulder, tracking the Dart through the air as Teyla and Coughlin fired P-90 rounds at it. The Dart passed overhead, Lorne got a lock and fired a missile.

"Damn it!" he ground out, watching as the missile tracked the Dart until a stand of trees got between it and the Wraith ship. The missile hit the trees instead, Lorne's only consolation being that the shock wave from the explosion did throw the Dart off course.

"It is heading towards the Gate," Teyla reported over the radio. "We damaged it but it is still on its way."

"Wait," Doctor Beckett's urgent voice shook as though the other man were running ... which Lorne supposed he probably was. "McKay and Cadman have been beamed aboard that Dart!"

"We can't risk the Dart making it back to the hive ship," Colonel Sheppard returned just as urgently.

They all knew the stakes ... if the Wraith became aware that Atlantis hadn't been destroyed then they'd return ... nothing on Atlantis or back at Earth had been enough to hold them off last time and things hadn't changed since then.

Evan traded worried looks with Teyla as they picked up their speed, bursting out into the clearing around the Stargate just in time to see the Dart, smoke billowing from the back of it where Colonel Sheppard's bullets had presumable struck, disappearing over the rise a short distance away. Moments later came the sounds of impact followed by another plume of smoke rising up into the sky.

Laura!

Lorne sprinted across the clearing, through another stand of trees, following Colonel Sheppard towards the crash site.

The sight that greeted them when they caught up didn't inspire Lorne with confidence that McKay or Lieutenant Cadman were okay. The nose of the Dart was buried in the dirt, dead Wraith pilot slumped in the cockpit. Doctor Beckett and Colonel Sheppard stood beside it, each frozen as they contemplated the implications.

"Is everyone alright?" Teyla asked when they approached.

"We're fine," Sheppard replied, eyes resting on the crashed Dart. "Coughlin, radio Atlantis. We need Zelenka here asap. We've got a problem."

"Looks like more than just a problem to me Sir," Lorne pointed out as Coughlin headed back to the Gate to dial out.

"Big problem," Sheppard emphasised. "One we need McKay to solve ... only he's not here, he's in there," the Colonel pointed grimly at the Dart.

"With Cadman," Lorne added, turning worried eyes on the Dart himself.

"Exactly," Sheppard replied. "The only plus side is they're here rather than on their way into storage on a Hive ship."

"Grim day when being stuck in a Wraith materialiser is a positive Sir," Lorne pointed out.

"Yeah," Sheppard agreed simply. "Run two teams in the surrounding area," he ordered. "No sense in letting the Wraith sneak up on us again ... and at this point I don't think we can just assume they're gone."

"No Sir," Lorne agreed, motioning for three marines to accompany him. He'd have preferred to stay with the Dart but it wasn't like he personally could do anything to get Cadman or McKay out of there. Nor was it his fault that Laura had only been on the planet in the first place because he'd granted her request to go off world ... well, at least that's what he was telling himself.

oOo

Lorne was still on patrol duty when Doctor Zelenka arrived but got the call to return to the crash site as soon as possible.

Walking quickly Evan arrived in time to hear the tail end of Radek's explanation to Colonel Sheppard.

"Power to the rematerialiser has been completely severed and emergency back-up power is completely run down," Radek said, his expression concerned.

"Okay," Colonel Sheppard nodded an acknowledgement as Lorne moved to stand beside him.

"You have to decide which one we're going to beam out," Zelenka said, pushing his laptop towards the Colonel.

"That's a terrible choice to have to make," Beckett exclaimed in dismay.

Lorne frowned silently ... that didn't sound good. "What's gonna happen to the other life sign?" he asked Radek worriedly.

"With any luck they remain inside the system," Radek replied. "With sufficient power we can rematerialise them later ... the problem will be in interfacing our power sources with Wraith technology."

"And if we're not lucky?" Lorne continued, ignoring the curious look Colonel Sheppard was throwing him.

"Then ...," Radek trailed off uncomfortably, unwilling to completely write off one of their own people.

"Great!" Lorne turned away, annoyed, sure he knew what choice Colonel Sheppard was going to make and unable to think up an argument for why that should be different. "It's not your fault she's in there," Evan reminded himself ... knowing that feeling responsible for something wasn't a good basis for making an informed decision.

"Colonel," Radek refocussed on Sheppard. "Which one do we beam out?"

"It's easy," Colonel Sheppard said. "Beam out McKay - he'll figure out how to get Cadman free."

"No, no, no, sorry - I was unclear," Radek shook his head insistently.

"There's no way of telling which is which," Doctor Beckett explained.

"Yes," Radek agreed. "They just read as life signs."

"Perfect!" Sheppard retorted irritably. Looking at Radek's laptop screen he gestured quickly to one signal. "Alright - that one. Go." The Colonel motioned for Radek to proceed. "Stand aside," he ordered everyone else.

Radek selected the signal Sheppard had chosen and pressed enter. Lorne watched as a beam shot out of the back of the dart, moving from head height down to the ground. When it dissipated it revealed one Doctor Rodney McKay standing there, looking around in confusion.

"Rodney, you okay?" Colonel Sheppard stepped forward quickly.

"Mmm," Rodney agreed absently before keeling over and falling to the ground, obviously unconscious. Doctor Beckett rushed forward immediately, checking for a pulse.

"His pulse is stable but I need to get him back to Atlantis," Carson announced.

"Teyla, Lorne, help the Doc head back to the city with McKay," Colonel Sheppard ordered. "We're gonna stay here with Zelenka - try to bring as much of the Dart back as possible."

Major Lorne wanted to stay with the crashed Dart but knew the Colonel needed him to get McKay back to Atlantis safely. Hopefully when Rodney was awake he'd be able to help Radek rescue Lieutenant Cadman as well.

"Yes Sir," Lorne motioned for Reed to bring over a stretcher. Together they manoeuvred Rodney into position and picked him up carefully ... with Teyla taking point and Coughlin their six, Lorne and Reed hoisted the unconscious man up and began their trek towards the Stargate, Beckett hovering beside his friend the whole way.

oOo

Hours later, Doctor McKay was safely ensconced in the infirmary and Zelenka and his team were busily trying to interface power for the rematerialiser. Major Lorne felt at a loose end, no longer on duty but not really having a reason to hang around Radek's lab.

The hum of the city in his mind had shifted moments after his return ... again Evan was amused at himself for thinking that the city had sensed his disquiet and was trying to reassure him. "I'm good," he thought. "I just ... geez Evan, you need to find something to do if talking to the city is sounding like a good idea!" Shaking his head, Lorne thought for a moment and then decided on a whim to revisit the hologram room. He hadn't been there since the first time ... the load of being in charge for three weeks followed by his efforts to meld four people into a cohesive off world team while learning his new role as Sheppard's 2IC leaving him little free time.

Swiping the doors open, Evan walked inside and stepped up to the dais. Putting his hand on the console he waited for Morgan to appear.

"Welcome Major Evan Lorne," the hologram greeted him regally.

"Ah ... hello," Lorne was momentarily taken aback. "You ... remember me?" he asked uncertainly.

"User recognition is a part of my programming," Morgan replied complacently. "The subroutine was activated at the completion of our last exchange as a result of your insistence on the use of names."

"Oh ... of course," Lorne smiled. "That makes sense."

"And what do you wish to know this day, Major Evan Lorne?" Morgan asked.

"Just Evan," Lorne said. When the hologram looked puzzled ... if such a thing was possible ... he laughed. "My name ... you don't have to use first and last names or rank. Just call me Evan."

"As you wish ... Evan," Morgan replied, her expression going blank for a moment. Was she writing that into her programming? "What do you wish to know Evan?"

"I didn't have a specific question," Lorne admitted. "To be honest I just needed to kill some time ... one of the teams I assigned to go off world ran into a little trouble." Evan frowned, continuing under his breath "and there is no good reason for me to be telling you that."

"My program can access all available systems," Morgan supplied helpfully. "This includes reasoning and debating programs designed to assist the user to resolve problems and form decisions."

"The Ancients had a computer ... psychologist?" Lorne asked, raising an eyebrow in surprise.

"In a manner of speaking," Morgan replied. "The Ancients had psychologists as you call them ... but also took advantage of systems designed to be impartial and completely confidential. Do you wish to make use of these systems at this time?"

"No," Lorne chuckled. "Nothing I can do to fix this ... one of our people is trapped in a Wraith materialiser. Our scientists are working now to power it up so they can get her out."

"You show concern for the trapped individual," Morgan noted, her expression puzzled.

"Well sure," Lorne replied. "But I would for anyone ... it's part of my job and ... well, I just would!"

"But this one is ... special?" the hologram persisted.

"We're friends," Evan tried to explain. "And uh ... she was only on the mission because I caved when she asked to go off world."

"You feel responsible," Morgan concluded, her expression comprehending.

"Everyone in a position of command has to send people into danger," Lorne explained. "Send them out knowing they could get injured or worse. I wouldn't be much of a commanding officer if I didn't feel responsible for everyone I command. Doesn't mean I'm beating myself up about it," Evan shrugged, not willing to admit that he did take on board every injury, every loss. But he handled it and hopefully didn't let it affect his judgement the next time a similar situation came around.

"The Ancients researched Wraith technology extensively looking for weaknesses," Morgan supplied. "I have flagged the files pertaining to power supplies. Tell your scientists to look there."

"You have?" Lorne blinked in surprise that he'd gotten something he hadn't even asked for. "That's great ... thank you Morgan."

"You are most welcome Evan," Morgan replied serenely. "Do you require anything else this afternoon?"

"I should get this information to Doctor Zelenka," Lorne replied. "Next time."

"Next time," Morgan repeated. She stood for a moment as he looked at her and then with a blink was gone.

"This place just keeps on getting freakier," Evan muttered as he hurried from the room.

oOo

Back at Doctor Zelenka's lab, Evan hesitated for a moment, wondering how best to deliver the information he'd gotten from Morgan. Telling Radek he'd been chatting with the hologram didn't seem like a sensible idea ... but with nothing else coming to mind he'd just have to go with it.

"Doc," he called as he walked into the large room. The place was a mess ... controlled no doubt but appearing chaotic to someone without the background to understand what they were trying to do.

"Major," Zelenka looked out at Evan from around his laptop.

"Any progress on Lieutenant Cadman Doc?" Evan asked hopefully.

"You have not heard?" Radek frowned.

"Heard what?" Evan wondered if he was about to get bad news. "Is it Cadman?"

"In a manner of speaking," Radek replied. "Rodney awoke ... we are still trying to determine how but it appears that the Lieutenant is somehow trapped inside Rodney's body."

"What?" Evan wondered for a moment if he'd heard right. "Cadman is in Rodney's body? And we know this how?"

"She spoke with him Major ... inside his head," Radek revealed. "It was most disturbing ... hearing one side of a conversation. It makes no sense."

"And this?" Lorne motioned to the flurry of activity still going on around them.

"The Lieutenant's life sign still registers strongly in the materialiser," Radek replied. "If we can work a stable method for supplying sufficient power without overloading it ... we can hopefully restore Lieutenant Cadman to her own body."

Evan didn't know whether to be relieved Laura still had a chance or freaked out at the fact that she was sharing head space with Rodney McKay. "Right," he nodded, looking at the Wraith machinery for a moment before meeting Radek's eyes again. "Where's McKay now?"

"Doctor Beckett released him from the infirmary," Zelenka said, his expression taking on a hint of amusement despite the situation. "He attempted to assist our efforts but I believe the Lieutenant was most vocal in her demands for information. He could not concentrate and retired to his quarters."

"Okay, well I guess I'll just go and ... see how they're both doing," Evan decided. "Thanks for the update Doc." Turning to leave he suddenly remembered what he'd gone there for in the first place. "Look in the database Doc ... some files on the Ancient's research with Wraith power sources have been flagged. You never know - they might help."

Not waiting for a response, the Major turned and left the lab.

Radek tapped commands into his laptop and then narrowed his eyes in surprised interest. Glancing quickly back at the doorway, he watched Evan disappear from sight with a considering expression.

oOo

Lorne went straight on to McKay's quarters but didn't get an answer ... assuming the other man was exhausted from his ordeal, Evan decided to retire for the evening himself and catch up with him ... the two of them the following day.

oOo

Later that evening, Evan was lying on his bed reading when his door chime sounded. Getting up he walked on bare feet to open it.

"McKay!" he said, surprised to see the other man standing there.

"Major," Rodney replied, peering over Evan's shoulder curiously. "Ah ... you got a minute?"

"Sure," Evan replied, thinking now was as good a time as any to check on him and Laura.

Not waiting for an invitation Rodney pushed past him and walked into the room, very obviously looking around curiously.

"I heard what happened," Lorne revealed. "How's Lieutenant Cadman? Is she ... you know, here?"

"You did?" Rodney seemed almost dismayed by that, before he regrouped with an awkward smile. "This is all new to me but as far as I can tell it's just me awake right now."

"So ... what did you want McKay?" Evan prompted when Rodney fell silent, back to scoping out Lorne's quarters.

"Huh?" Rodney frowned in confusion as he refocussed on Lorne.

"Why did you come knocking at my door at this time of night?" Evan spelled it out impatiently.

"Oh!" Rodney did a classic double take. "Right ... right. It's about women ... see I've got this date with Katie Brown tomorrow night and I ...,"

"You want me to give you dating advice?" Evan asked incredulously.

"Not advice as such," Rodney replied. "Just what you'd do ... you know, for a first date. I'd ask Sheppard but he'd laugh and then never let me live it down."

"The first thing I'd do is make sure I was only taking myself!" Evan returned. "Reschedule it McKay ... Doctor Brown will understand."

"That'd be fine except I've already put it off a few times," Rodney admitted with a pained expression. "If I postpone it again she's gonna think I'm not interested."

"I can't believe I'm having this conversation at ...," Lorne muttered under his breath as he glanced at the clock, "almost midnight." Sighing, he relented ... the look on Rodney's face a plea for ... something. "Fine ... ask someone you like to go with you ... stop you from putting Cadman's foot in your mouth."

"Good idea," Rodney nodded happily. "Any other advice?"

"Tell Doctor Brown the truth?" Evan suggested pointedly. "She lives here ... it's not like she doesn't know weird shit happens."

"That's it?" Rodney seemed disappointed. "That's what you'd do?"

"If I were in the entirely unique position of walking around with someone else's consciousness along for the ride then yes, that's what I'd do," Evan returned with exaggerated patience.

"Oh," Rodney nodded, frowned, glanced at Lorne and then looked away.

When he repeated the performance Evan couldn't take it. "What?" he demanded.

"You seeing anyone?" Rodney asked out of the blue.

Purple flowers, shaped like stars and tied with a matching ribbon. The image flashed in Evan's head but he pushed it aside.

"No," he said simply. "Not my policy."

"You have a no seeing anyone policy?" Rodney asked in surprise.

"Yeah," Lorne drawled. "Goes with my 'no talking about it' policy ... oh, and my 'no handing out dating advice' policy."

"Oh," Rodney's disappointment was palatable. The suspicion in Evan's mind solidified as he played the conversation back in his head ... the very un-Rodney-like conversation.

"Cadman?" Lorne shot Rodney an intent look, narrowing his eyes.

"Would you look at the time?" Rodney stepped back hurriedly, his voice artificially bright. "I should ... ah ..."

Following Rodney, Evan watched with amusement as the other man bustled to the door and hurriedly swiped it open.

"Thanks for the advice Major," Rodney called out before practically running down the corridor.

"You're welcome ... Laura!" Evan called out before the door swished closed again. "What the hell was that all about?" he muttered, shaking his head before returning to his bed and his book.

One thing was for sure ... life was certainly never dull on Atlantis.

oOo

It seemed that life was never slow on Atlantis either ... Lorne's team had a mission the next day to follow up on a trading agreement with one of Teyla's contacts. The agreement itself had been made by Sheppard's team while Evan had still been back on Earth ... now it was time to execute the terms, deliver medical supplies in exchange for the wheat like crop the locals had grown for them.

The mission kept Lorne away from Atlantis overnight and into the next day. By the time he returned the situation with Cadman and Rodney had already progressed into the serious and luckily from there, with usual McKay brilliance, straight to the solution.

The Lieutenant had been returned to her own body and she and McKay were recovering in the infirmary, none the worse for wear.

"Hey," Evan strolled into the infirmary in the early evening hours, greeting Cadman with a faint smile. Glancing at the bed next to hers he wasn't surprised to see Rodney asleep and drooling on his pillow. "Not tired?" he asked Laura curiously.

"No Sir," Cadman replied, tensing just a little. "I should apologise Sir," her face took on a determined expression.

"You should," Evan agreed simply, folding his arms across his chest and waiting for her to continue.

"I ah ... I should have told you it was me the other night," Cadman rushed out. "Rodney was being stubborn and I just ...," she trailed off with a quick look his way before directing her gaze at the sheets she was twisting.

"You thought you'd take the opportunity to what – create a little mischief?" Evan asked, genuinely confused.

"No!" Laura retorted. "Permission to speak freely Sir?"

"Go ahead," Evan invited.

"You never share anything about yourself," Laura said simply. "I tell you things ... everyday stuff, gossip ... you know personal stuff about me like that I kind of like Carson ... but you're so ... mysterious sometimes. We're friends right?" she didn't wait for him to agreed before continuing. "Since we've been here in the city you get this look on your face sometimes, like you're off somewhere else. I asked you about it once but you dismissed it as nothing. So when I had the chance I just ... I assumed you were thinking about someone back home or here, but you're not are you?"

Lorne didn't know what to say at first. He wasn't one to offer up personal information ... and it wasn't because Laura was a subordinate officer. He genuinely thought of her as a friend. It just wasn't him to be that open. He considered telling her about his connection to Atlantis but the same reluctance he'd felt when contemplating telling Colonel Sheppard returned.

It wasn't time.

Focussing back on Cadman, Evan shrugged.

"No-one here, or back home," he replied. "It really is nothing Laura ... I'm still adjusting to living here and sometimes I get a little distracted."

"Okay," Laura smiled, taking him at his word. He felt guilty for a moment even though technically what he'd told her was the truth ... he'd just left out the bit about what was distracting him. "So ... do you really have a no dating policy?"

"Permission to speak freely revoked Lieutenant," Evan returned, grinning when she looked visibly disappointed. Relenting, he shrugged. The background to that simple question was complex – the things that had happened years ago to dissuade him from ever wanting to give too much of himself to someone else stacked against what he'd learned since – from his Mom, Elaine, Piper ... even from the events surrounding Jason Ritter's death. Deep down it wasn't as clear cut as he'd made it sound to Cadman – but it was easier for him to make it that way – to avoid awkward situations and the possibility of having to talk about himself beyond what he was comfortable with. "Yeah I do ... this is a dangerous place and the last thing I want is someone mourning me if the worst happens."

"That's just stupid ... Sir," Cadman scoffed. "One, the worst isn't going to happen, and two it isn't only romantic partners who mourn. You've lost a friend ... a member of your team ... you of all people know that." Jason Ritter's demise on P3X-403 was common knowledge to anyone who'd worked at the SGC.

"All the more reason to avoid the ones you've got some control over," Lorne insisted. Before she could protest again he continued. "Get some sleep Lieutenant. I'll see you back on duty as soon as Doctor Beckett clears you."

"Yes Sir," Cadman settled back in her bed, leaving Evan to walk away, lost in his thoughts.