John’s tired. He’s tired, and sometimes he just wants to quit, but he loves flying, even if it is in Antarctica, what his occasional passengers like to call the Ass-End of Nowhere. John doesn’t see it that way, though. To him, it’s pure here, like there’s nothing above him but air and space, and the whole world is oriented upside-down just so he can stand upright. The snow doesn’t care any more than the sand did that John’s determined to live life on his own terms, and hell—it’s not like you can wear a path in the sky by flying through it over and over again. He never did like to leave traces of himself behind anyway, and there’s not much chance of that at McMurdo.
He supposes he’s meant to see this posting as a punishment, or the end of the line, stalled out remnants of what had been a promising career—but he scoffs at that. John knows himself better than any of his superiors did, and if they’d made the decision (conscious or otherwise) to ignore the unruly side of his nature, that wasn’t John’s call, was it? He just flew what they told him to fly, followed what orders he could, and spent the rest of his energy taking care of his men. He’d called his behavior ‘prioritizing’ and they had called it ‘insubordination,’ but at the end of the day, the terminology hadn’t mattered.
Either way, Holland is still dead. John doesn’t often let himself acknowledge the idea that the man had died knowing someone gave a shit, and that maybe, just maybe, this was worth losing two helicopters and the promise of a promotion for Major John Sheppard, USAF. Two for the price of one.
It’s easy to get lost in the monotony here, and John doesn’t realize just how easy until he starts receiving new orders to ferry men and equipment farther into the white wilderness of the continent. He signs something that binds him to the promise to keep his eyes and ears focused on flying, and that’s easy too, at first. He’s fairly certain that the stony-faced marines and other personnel he’s flying to the place he’s not supposed to even dream about have signed longer and more stringent forms than he has, if their stoic silence and lack of eye contact are any indication.
It’s when he is given orders to transport civilians that the rides become more interesting. John can tell the difference immediately—these people are wholly unused to silence, and seem to see him as an extension of his helicopter, with about the same ability to retain information. They certainly appear to be used to working with the military (though, given the different accents and mannerisms of his latest passengers, which military undoubtedly varies), and John supposes that he shouldn’t judge them by their vague references to equations that most pilots would find uninteresting and unintelligible. He’s made the same promises of non-disclosure, after all, and murmurs of conversation after months of complete silence aren’t exactly the same as holding a full-blown discussion about whatever it is they’re doing at their secret (and apparently international) underground base.
John reminds himself that he once felt the same way about water in the desert. At least, he tries to, until the day a grumpy man in an improbably orange fleece climbs into his chopper and reminds John of the difference between a gust of wind and a sandstorm, between a mirage and an oasis.