"And is it your opinion, Sergeant, that Lieutenant Brittner was aware of the specific bonding traits of these animals?"
Colbert schooled his face into impassiveness, because he had wondered that. It had never been mentioned though, and she had seemed genuinely surprised.
"No sir. She was merely answering the request from the locals to tend to a sick animal. She was not aware of the ramifications until we were all told about it."
"At which points she and Captain Avery tried to reverse this course of events."
Well, mostly it had been the Captain. The LT had been surprised, that was no lie. He just wasn't about to claim she'd been dismayed.
He was still amused at her expression when the shaman had brought the screaming cub out of the hut and put it in Lee's arms, and it had quietened instantly. She'd subconsciously shifted its weight to support it better in her arms, and there'd been something soft in her eyes, something warm and rarely seen.
"What happened then?"
"Itiu, the Shaman, said that once a cub had given you its trust, shirking the responsibility of its care would be inhuman. Would make us worse than Wraith. And that he was certain that the children of the Ancients would never contemplate such dishonour. Sir."
"Well..." Colonel Sheppard stopped writing and sighed. "Hard to argue with that."
"Sir." Colbert said neutrally.
"How do you see this impact your team, Colbert?"
"Well sir, we are all due some vacation time," he said, considering. "By the time we'd be back, the cub is probably old enough to be left for short missions."
"You don't see a problem with your teammate taking on this kind of responsibility?"
"Not really, sir. It will change some things, but it wouldn't any different if she'd twisted her ankle or something."
Sheppard frowned, and Colbert didn't want him to concentrate on the negative, so he followed with "And Itiu did say that if the LT proved her worth by bonding with the cub, she would get to share in their knowledge of the Ancients."
"Hmm. Yes. And that planet does have some interesting entries in the Ancient database..." Sheppard mused. "Thank you, sergeant. Dismissed."
Colbert swung by the mess hall before taking a long route to the zoology labs. He didn't want to be too obvious, just in case somebody was reporting this back to the Colonel.
As expected both the LT and Michèl were in the hastily set up quarantine suite with the cub. Judging by the cot in the corner, the LT had been here since they'd gotten back from their mission at 2700 hours.
"Can I go in?" he asked the lab assistant.
"You've already touched her, right?"
"Yeah, we all did." The Shaman had insisted that the whole team had to touch the cub. It would bond primarily with the LT, but it would know the others as family.
"Just put on a coverall then, or you'll have to change clothes when you come out."
"Hey Brad, talked to Sheppard?" Michèl greeted him. The team's social scientist was also in coverall. Lee Brittner was in a t-shirt and the BDU trousers she'd worn on the mission. She'd taken the cub straight to this room and hadn't left yet.
He showed the thermos of coffee and the box of pastries he'd gotten in the mess.
"Oh Gods, thank you," she sighed as he put it within easy reach. She had her feet up on a footstool and the cub, which was less than a day old and the size of a small housecat, nestled in the crook of her arm. "She's finally sleeping."
"They manage to make the right kind of milk?" They'd had to take some milk samples from the mother animal that had so unfortunately died while giving birth. Then a team of scientists had set to work to synthesise enough of it to feed the cub. The process had apparently taken most of the night.
"Yeah, she drank some at last."
Brad pulled up a chair and resisted the urge to reach out and scratch behind the small rounded ears. He'd grown up with cats. This wasn't exactly a cat, but...
"Does she have a name yet?"
"I don't even know what's going to happen to her yet," Lee said on a sigh. "What did the Colonel say?"
"He mostly wanted to know if you'd known that this would happen if you helped."
Michèl chuckled wryly.
"All the ones we had met had been bred in families just like we keep dogs. They were bonded with humans, but raised by their own mothers. Itiu said this sort of bonding is very rare, and only happens when a cub is orphaned. No way Lee could have known."
"Yeah, but I know how this looks," she said wearily. "It's no secret I've been offered a cub before and was sad to refuse. And that half the city is saying I've finally managed to acquire a pet."
"Darren will come around, I am sure," Michèl said soothingly.