Minor Characters: We Can Be Heroes
“I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day.”
David Bowie, “Heroes”
Honestly? If I don’t get anything to do in the next ten minutes, I won’t be liable for any damages caused. A couple weeks cooped at the SGC waiting for them to find a ZPM – we could have helped with that, dammit – and then four days cooped up on this bucket of bolts with jack shit to do but run, train and worry would make anyone eager for action. Any action, at this point. Lorne at least had enough flight hours on the F-302 to end up on the Daedalus’s backup pilots roster and has been in standby… “Contact, all personnel brace for impact,” someone announces over ship wide and now I’m really starting to get pissed.
Because I’ll just bet that now he does get something to do. With his luck, one of the primary pilots just happened to get food poisoning an hour ago. I know I should just leave it alone because I’ll just get crankier but yeah, did anyone expect differently of me with nothing to do and a computer terminal right in front of me. I can feel Dee’s eyes on me, probably full of that “Why can he never behave like normal people would?” but yeah, oops, already hacked into the fighter channels.
Alright… “Snakes squadron, this is Snake Leader, ready for contact in three, two…”
“Snake Leader, this is Six, contact!” Yep, there he goes. Major Evan Lorne, eternal eager beaver, snagging first contact when he isn’t even a regular part of the squadron. “Whoa, those fuckers are fast.” Yeah, serves you right.
I turn around to Dee and see that he has positioned himself so that no one can see what I’m doing at my terminal without it looking as if he’s shielding me. Well, that’s thoughtful, Sergeant. Definitely some points for forward… ah, right, here’s what he wants for that favor. He discretely stretches out his hand and I roll my eyes and hand him the second earpiece that just happened to be in my pocket.
So now we’re both listening in on the fighter crews and holy hell do they get a pounding. Whatever those space vampires are flying, it’s giving our guys a run for their money. They’re good, at least judging from what I see on my screen – yes, I couldn’t resist hacking into the tactical screens, too – but the space vampires are faster, more agile and also suicidal. Or at least they don’t seem to value their lives as much as we do because their favorite tactic is basically running full speed at anything that isn’t them.
Preferably the ship, as it seems because we’re by now constantly being rocked by impacts. The screen doesn’t say whether it’s the space vampires’ fighters or their shipboard guns and have I mentioned how much I hate having to sit around without being able to do anything?
On the radio, the chatter is getting more intense and I realize after about two minutes that tapping into the channel was a mistake. Because I now get to see an entire space battle in real time, hear one of my best and oldest friends fly his way out of one tight spot after another and often enough multiple tight spots at the same time and keep wondering why I didn’t take the chance to qualify for the F-302 when I had it. Because then at least I wouldn’t be relegated to the backseat right now and… “Hate to remind you, sir, but you can’t do everything.”
Right. One of the downsides of having worked closely with someone for over ten years: they know you inside out and aren’t afraid to tell you when they shamelessly read your mind and don’t agree with you.
“Don’t want to do everything, Sergeant.” I don’t look at him, just keep staring at the screen but I know exactly what he looks like. He has this “Uh-huh, yeah, right” look on his face he always has when he thinks I can’t see it. The one with the slightly rolled eyes and all. “Just stuff that means I won’t have to sit on my ass and watch others commit needless Big Damn Heroics.”
“Instead of committing needless Big Damn Heroics yourself?” This time, I do turn around to throw him the narrowed eyes and he almost smirks and adds a belated, “Sir.” Ever since our let’s call it altercation in that workout room at Eglin, Dee’s gotten a little… cocky. Or maybe a little more transparent about what he really thinks, I don’t know. I also don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing and quite frankly, right now, I don’t care. Because Lorne’s squadron leader just gave the order to fall back from the biggest ship and… whoa!
I blink at the screen. “The hell? Where did the big one just go?”
Dee doesn’t say anything, just frowns at the screen, and then someone on the channel says, “Kill confirmed, Daedalus Actual. Hive ship’s gone.” Okay, how the hell did they just kill one of those big ships when all the fighters were engaged and the rail guns didn’t seem to have much effect just a moment ago? What…
“All squadrons, keep your distance from those cruisers, they’re next. Nuke away in one, two…” Nuke? Nuke? And… where did the smaller ones just disappear? “Cruisers just jumped to lightspeed. Squadrons, concentrate fire on those remaining Darts.” Those cruisers jumping to lightspeed definitely is a bad thing. I’m not big on space battle tactics but even I know that enemies with suicidal tendencies who suddenly retreat usually don’t do so because they’ve become so scared of us they’d rather flee.
“Daedalus Actual, Darts are regrouping. Looks like…”
“Snake Leader, they’re heading for Atlantis.” What?
I blink again and look at the screen and… there are hundreds of those fuckers. Of those fast fuckers. Shit. Shit, shit, shit. “They’re making a suicide run for Atlantis. Shit, Dee, those motherfuckers are making a suicide run for Atlantis.”
I look at Dee and either I got finally better at reading him or he really got worse at hiding it but I could have sworn that I just saw a sliver of actual fear cross his face. Then he says, almost sounding like his usual unflappable self, “They should have the ZPM by now, sir. Shield should be up and running just fine.”
“Yes, but what if…”
“Daedalus Actual, we can’t get a read on the Atlantis shield. Do you copy, Daedalus Actual? No read on the shield.” Oh, great. Awesome. They can’t get a read on this shield. Which likely means that there isn’t… “Correction, Daedalus Actual. Shield is online, repeat, shield is online, Dart suicide run is not successful.”
Oh. Oh, good. I didn’t even need that heart, anyway. Just keep giving me heart attacks, it’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine. Just… “Attention, all ground combat personnel slated for Atlantis. Report to Bay 15-F immediately for embarkation to Atlantis. Repeat, all ground combat personnel slated for Atlantis, report to Bay-15 immediately.”
Yes. Oh God, yes. Can’t wait to finally get off this damn bucket to kick some space vampire ass. I grin at Dee. “That’s us, Sergeant. Let’s go kick some alien ass.”
And this time, Dee does give me a grin. Full-on, by his standards. “Let’s go do that, sir.”
Yeah. Kick some alien ass. And reunite with that little lieutenant I let go about a year ago. If she’s still alive. Which, of course, she is. She has to. Yeah. Let’s go do that.
Oh hell, next time I go and join an expedition into some unknown region of space, I’ll make absolutely sure that I’m on the list of “non-essential personnel”. After four days – or at last I’m pretty it was four days because to be honest, I have kind of lost track of time by now – or hunting Wraith in the city and one bad surprise after the next, I’m really read to call it a day and be done with it.
I mean, yes, ever since Sheppard’s let’s say unconventional approach to solving the authority problems we had with Everett’s people, it’s gotten a little easier but there still enough idiots among them that they manage to screw up things, and there’s the issue of Wraith still wreaking havoc in the city and Major Sheppard apparently having flown off on a suicide mission – although, wait, Daedalus arrived and he was on it? God, it’s gotten a little hard keeping everything straight – and uh have I mentioned the fact that Operations just advised everyone to find shelter because apparently, we have an entire wave of Darts inbound on a ballistic course? Yeah, it’s that kind of day.
So right now, I’m leading my strike team – Strickland and two male Atlantis Marines going by Tweety and Sylvester, no, not their real names – in a frantic chase for some shelter closer to the core of the tower we’re currently in while hunting for a band of Wraith that have been playing hide and suck the life out of the last two teams coming through here. It’s not gonna help much when the projected number of Darts hit us but as team leader, it’s not my job to just sit down and watch everyone and everything getting torn apart. It’s my job to keep my team…
“Shit. Goddammit, can’t believe this just… oh, hell.” What? What? Oh no. That’s not good. That just can’t be good.
“Strickland. The fuck just happened?” Stupid question, because by the scene in front of me – Strickland sitting on a step in the stairwell we were racing down, Tweety trying to help her up and Sylvester immediately having moved to provide cover from anything coming from above.
For a moment, it looks like Strickland is going to snap back something in the line of “The fuck does it look like, Cap?” but she seems to be able to catch herself in the last moment and instead goes with, “Was being a dumb Marine, took a step too fast, pretty sure I broke my goddamn ankle.”
Yeah, that’s not good.
In fact, that’s really, really bad. We’re pretty far from the infirmary and the last thing I want to do is leave behind an injured team member. I’d consider it in more secure quarters of the city but this one is still listed in the top category of Wraith infestation so no way I’m going to leave anyone behind here. Okay, fine, first things first.
“Tweety, cover down here, Strickland, let me look at that ankle.” Tweety moves into position and I move up a couple steps, to crouch down, always the ticking clock about those darts in my head, and hoping against hope we’ll somehow be spared the devastation that’s going to follow their impact.
Mindful of what Mats taught me, I don’t move to take Strickland’s boot off. Instead, I do a quick probing and yeah, it’s definitely already started to swell up so there’s no way she’s going to be able to walk unassisted. Shit. Splint. I need a splint. Just a goddamn… “Think this is gonna work, Cap?” Right, yes, standard issue K-BAR knife. That might just do it.
“Yeah, good thinking, Amy,” I tell her while working to tie the knife to her ankle with the rest of the bandages we’re supposed to carry around with us.
Any minute now, any fucking… “Shit, LT I mean Captain, ma’am, look at this!”
What the… holy crap.
We’ve been running down the stairs so fast I hadn’t even noticed the balcony that was leading away from it at first. Tweety apparently did and… good God, we’re a couple lucky bastards down here. They must have gotten up the shield the last minute because instead of having been vaporized in one messy blaze of glory, we’re standing here, watching the fireworks of Darts slamming into the invisible wall of the Atlantis shield, and those four days must have really fucked me up because all I can think is the thing Strickland actually mutters out loud, “Damn, that’s almost beautiful.”
I smirk. “Yeah, almost being the operative word. Okay, Lance Corporal, see if you can get up.”
In the flickering, glowing light of Darts slamming into the shield, Strickland grimaces and then tries to get back on her feet with the help of the stairs’ railing. She manages but it looks like it’s a whole lotta more painful than she’d like to admit. Damn. “You need painkillers, Lance Corporal. And a cast.”
“No, I’m fine, ma’am.” Uh-huh, yeah, no.
I shake my head. “The hell you are, Amy.” Quick, Reece, think. You can’t stay here, you’re sitting ducks, and you’re endangering your entire team with every minute you don’t make a decision. Oh God, oh shit, oh… okay. Okay. “Tweety, Sylvester, you take Strickland to the infirmary. I trust you to take the quickest…”
“All due respect but fuck no, ma’am.” Strickland, no. Not right now. “You said it yourself, walking around alone here will get you killed. I can still shoot, I just need to be careful with my ankle. We just have to clean up…”
“Request denied, Lance Corporal. Guys, get Strickland here to the infirmary. There’s an Everett team two levels down from here who lost their Atlantis guide.” Strickland moves to protest again but this really isn’t the time for a lengthy discussion on strategy. “I know, I know, company grades, Wraith fodder, etc., blahblahblah. Trust me, even I am gonna make it two levels down without getting killed.”
Now all three look at me like that’s doubtful at best and seriously? I made it for an entire year here. As a lieutenant. “Lieutenant” basically meant having “death sentence” written all over your forehead here, as we had to learn fast. “Get the fuck going.”
They hesitate another moment, probably all feeling that same inability to leave someone behind but I at least still have two full mags, no broken bones and another bottle of stims. I’ll be fine. Finally, they seem to have come to the same conclusion, just nod at me and while Sylvester hauls Strickland up into a firemen’s carry, Tweety takes up his cover again and they make their way back up the stairs, presumably to find the next elevator taking them to an intersection closer to the infirmary.
I, for my part, finally continue my decent to join that Everett team two levels down to… or… not.
On my lifesigns detector all three lifesigns just were joined by three Wraith lifesigns and then almost immediately went out. Goddammit, that’s what happens when you let people without any local knowledge lose in the city and oh good, the Wraith lifesigns are moving into my direction. Now I’m fucked, too. This is turning into an ever worse day by the minute.
Readying myself for some really dumb heroics a la last stand, I make one last kind of desperate attempt and tap my radio. “Control Room, this is Reece, requesting immediate reinforcements. I’m in the North Tower, had to send the rest of my team to the infirmary, there are three Wraiths two levels…”
“This is Control Room, stand-by for reinforcements, Captain.” What, fuck, no. I can’t “stand-by” because “standing-by” means staying put and staying put will get me fucking killed.
“Negative, Control Room. I need to find cover and…”
What the fuck just happened? Did someone really just beam down…
Oh. Oh no. Oh yes? Oh, fuck. It’s him.
“Uh. Hi, Kid. Long time, no see, huh?”