Title: Boil Them, Mash Them, Stick Them In a Stew
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Word count: 8197
Summary: One personal item? A garden is a *one*, right?
Beta: Keira Marcos
– – – –
“Whelp, guess it’s time to get started,” Cooper announced as she took in the space McKay and his merry band of mad scientists had determined was to be the mess hall.
“Yes, ma’am,” Jones, her second, agreed before turning to the crew of people designated as city services and giving them their orders. The ten people under her would be doing the food, managing supplies, keeping the common areas clean and whatever else was needed, as needed.
Setting up a full kitchen took time, but getting it right was just as important as getting the armory ready. Well, Cooper thought that it was. If people were hungry, they did stupid shit. And there were enough scientists around that the stupid shit could be lethal.
Two weeks after setting everything up, Cooper found the time to take a deep breath. She wasn’t rushing anywhere to take care of an emergency and had the time to indulge in a few side projects. Looking around, she spotted one of the sergeants that routinely went out on a gate team and might have the information she needed. “Stackhouse? How do I get a Tau’ri garden checked for compatibility for this planet? And if I get clearance, get a ride to the mainland to dig up a shitload of soil?”
The Sergeant looked at her for several seconds before blinking once. “Do you mean checking to see if Earth organisms are compatible with the soil out here? You need to talk to one of the botanists. And just file for a flight with Chuck to get the dirt.”
Cooper nodded and made a note on her tablet. “Yeah, I need to know about soil compatibility. I’ll check with Chuck later.”
Stackhouse finished his last bite of lunch before answering her. “Botany has been working full tilt to get answers like that. Parrish, the department head would be the one who would have all the answers.”
“Excellent. Thanks, Stacks!” Cooper said with a smile before scanning the commissary for the doctor in question. No tall, nerdy guy seated among the lunch crowd and that meant she needed to corner him in his lair. Tapping out a quick message, she let Jones know she was stepping out.
Parrish was where she had expected to find him, in the first greenhouse the expedition had set up. The air was moist and soft with the scent of growing things. Cooper couldn’t identify the various smudges of baby plants, but she was sure the biologist could.
“Dr. Parrish, I’m Chief Cooper, and I was hoping for a few minutes of your time,” Cooper called out as she slipped in the door.
Parrish looked up from his plants with a smile and waved her over. “Sure, I’ve got some time. How can I help you, Chief?”
“Thank you. I have some questions about our new home, the dirt on the mainland and it’s compatibility with earth flora,” Cooper told him.
The botanist paused in his trek to his desk before dropping down into his chair and brushing his hands clean over a small crate he was using as a garbage can. “We’re in the very early stages of testing, Chief. The initial runs are looking good, but it will take long term testing and studies to confirm compatibility at 100%. If you are asking about using the native soils now to grow things? I would say you could, but I would want to test the produce before it’s eaten. Why?”
Cooper smiled in delight before making a note on her tablet. “I have some stuff I want to plant, and there was no way I could have gotten soil through the gate, so that leaves using the native stuff. And there was no way I could have gotten in a hydro setup. Anyway! What about potential crossbreeding with native flora?”
Parrish eyed her for several moments before he shrugged. “I don’t know. The Ancients engineered the planets they settled to be cross-compatible, so maybe? At any rate, we’re several hundred miles out in the ocean, and so long as the plants are inside, we should be good. At a later date, we may try some, but not now.”
The frisson of excitement the moved through her at that pulled a wide grin to her face. Things were looking up. She took a deep breath and carefully asked the next question on her list. The next hour was full of cheerful talk, and she made a lot of notes.
Finally, the last item on her list was crossed off and Cooper relaxed. “Thank you. Doctor Parrish, you’ve been immensely helpful.”
Parrish snorted softly before pointing one long finger at her. “When you get whatever you are planning up and running, I expect weekly reports with all the relevant information included. I’ll email you the form.”
Cooper could feel her jaw drop slightly before she snapped it back in place. She should have known. Sneaky botanist. “Fine. Is there anything else I can do for you in regards to my plans?”
“Share?” Parrish asked, voice slightly wry as he stared at her.
“Of course!” she told him. She was planning on feeding the expedition with her garden. Sharing was the name of the game!
As they said their good-bye’s, Cooper started making plans. Her domain got a great deal of sun, and everyone liked a bit of green to relax around. If she planned it right, the garden she had smuggled in as masses of seeds would be planted within the week. And a few months after that, they would be eating from it. After all, their survival might come down to the smallest things.
For want of a nail and all that rot, Cooper thought as she waved at the good doctor on the way out the door. Or in her case, for want of a potato. And she had a lot to plant.
– – – –
Cooper carefully layered a new batch of soil over the next to last planter of potato plants. She had more than thirty crates lining various hallways, and all of them were filled with thriving tubers of various varieties. She expected to have a bountiful harvest in the next few months.
The rest of her garden was producing masses of goodies. The harvest had started right before the expedition had finished the dried veggies they had packed, so she could save the remnants of those for emergencies. Jones had given her an actual pat on the back for her planning ability. Fresh fruits, veggies, and spices were all available on a daily basis and morale had gone up when they had arrived on everyone’s plate.
Cooper would never admit it, but she squeaked when the major appeared behind her. Damn the man for being a silent walker. “Sir.”
“Nice smuggling job,” Sheppard told her. She noticed his eyes were lit with amusement and something in her relaxed slightly.
“I have no idea what you are talking about, sir.” She was innocent. Really. Anyway, every sailor had a bit of smuggler in them, it was almost a bylaw.
“Sure, Chief.” Now the amusement was more overt, but she didn’t care. Sheppard wasn’t busting her, and all was well. “What’s for lunch?”
“The last of the tinned sandwich meats, two salads and some of the tuttle root stew that the Athosians taught us to make,” Cooper recited.
“Nothing with citrus?”
Cooper shook her head. “No, I made damn sure we brought a number of vitamin C sources that aren’t citrus. Dr. McKay will be able to eat everything we serve. And no one should get scurvy.”
Sheppard nodded once before he reacted out to stroke a finger down one of the leaves she had left unburied. “So, I know we didn’t bring bees. How did you get these to fruit?”
“Lots and lots of hand pollinating,” Cooper admitted. “It’s paid off with enough produce to reduce our reliance on our stores by 20%, and I expect that to climb as more things get ripe.”
“Twenty percent, huh?” Sheppard asked as he looked down the hall at the crates lining the hallway. “Are you adding the various foods being cleared by Parrish and his people?”
“Yes, sir. At the base of this tower, there was an area that seemed to be a park. We’ve managed to repurpose it so it can support the various plants and cuttings cleared for consumption. Those foods have the potential to reduce our reliance on our stores an additional 15 to 20%,” Cooper reported as she moved to the last pot and started adding soil to the plants. Sheppard moved with her and was even nice enough to carry the bag. “Thanks, sir. In addition to all the vegetables and fruits, we’ve had people drop fishing lines over the side of the city. After we replaced the line with some braided steel cable, we were much more successful. Xenobiology cleared our catch this morning, and we’re having it for dinner.”
“Fish, huh?” Sheppard contemplated that for several moments. “Any idea on an earth equivalency?”
“Halibut, sir,” Cooper said. “And we got a few different dips/sauces to go with it. I’m also checking to see how the fish works fried because fish and chips are a legit thing. I also have enough malt vinegar to cover.”
The laugh the major let out sounded rusty, but Cooper would take what she could get. “I know we have a few Brits who will be happy to see that on the menu.”
Cooper wrinkled her nose and nodded. She wasn’t a fan of fish, but many people were. It helped when the rest of her staff liked it though. “The xenobiologists have also found a shrimp-like thing that’s being tested to confirm edibility. Ms. Emmagan has introduced me to a fruit that might take the place of lemon, but it’s also in testing.”
“So in other words, you are keeping us feed, by hook and by crook?” the major asked as he upended the last of the soil onto the potato plant.
“Pretty much, sir. The Athosians have been great about teaching us what’s edible and not. Plus the techniques to make it all taste good.” Cooper shared with a grin before grabbing the watering can and soaking the new soil. “We’re doing good, sir. Five by five.”
Sheppard reached out to pat her on the shoulder. “I’m sure we are. And that you’ll let us know when things change.”
“We will,” Cooper promised.
“Excellent. Now, I want some lunch before all the turkey is officially gone,” the major told her before heading into the mess.
“Jones has some put by for you!” Cooper called out as she packed up her gardening supplies.
The major threw a wave in acknowledgment of her comment before entering the room. Humming to herself, Cooper nodded. Things were looking up.
– – – –
“Okay, we have enough food on the city to hold out for a three month siege before things get dicey. I want to see if we can extend that,” Cooper cut accuses the quiet conversations around her. “We have a dearth of freezers though. What we’ve got isn’t enough to have a good long term storage solution.”
“I can ask Dr. Z if any of his engineers have come across some in their exploration,” Bates chimed in before accessing his tablet. “Keyword searches in the report database shows nothing, FYI.”
Jones tapped his fingers on the table they had set up in the kitchen and huffed out an irritated sigh. “As nice as this space is, it wasn’t originally built to be a kitchen and a mess. You can tell from how the room’s divided. It’s great, but we need freezers.”
Cooper nodded as she stared at the lists of supplies they were expecting. Not even the hundred and fifty in the expedition plus the three hundred Athosians could eat the herd of ostrich things they had coming in the next six weeks. Grabbing her laptop, Cooper opened one of her specialty cookbooks. “Jones? How much salt do we have?”
“Tons. Literally tons. We go through a lot of water, and the desalination tanks are really good at separating it all out. So far we’re at three storerooms and working on a fourth,” Jones reported.
At that news, Stackhouse stirred. He was their contact with the exploration teams, and he knew better than they what was needed for trade. “The major’s team just went somewhere where the gate is way inland. Teyla reported that they seemed to have very little salt and what they had wasn’t as good as ours. But they did have grain. From the reports, it’s a wheat-like thing.”
Cooper nodded. Grain meant bread. And maybe beer if there was a Pegasus equivalent to hops, otherwise ale. Both of which she could make because beer and ale meant yeast which in turn, led back to bread. “Can we put forth a suggestion to go there? Our flour stores are getting lower than I like.”
“I can do that. Teyla did say they were open to trade, Dr. Weir just wasn’t sure what we could offer,” Stacks explained.
“Jones?” Cooper stared at her second before he nodded. Dr. Weir would be getting a detailed list of their needs versus wants lists along with the tradable items they had on hand before the day was out.
“Why were you asking about salt? Because it wasn’t about the bread planet,” Bates asked as he poured more coffee into his cup.
“Well, if I can’t freeze stuff, I was thinking of salting a lot, making sausages and stuff. Maybe smoking some if I can find a hickory or mesquite equivalent,” Cooper told him as she poked around her cookbook.
“This would be about the ostrich things right?” Stacks asked as he held his cup out for Bates to top off.
“And the almost-bison that we are expecting when the hunting party on the mainland gets back,” Cooper acknowledged. “Chuck let me know that they killed three and that’s all that will fit in a jumper. From what they said it’s over two tons of meat coming, and we need to process it for later. Which is why I want freezers.”
“The biologists get it first though, right?” Jones asked as he started making notes on his tablet.
“The species has tested clean, but I’m good with the science corps testing every animal to make sure we don’t get sick,” Cooper admitted. “We have space in our cold room for all the meat. If we leave it in there, it’ll last about a week. Even if I use it in every meal, we can’t eat two tons of meat.”
“Well, we could, but we really shouldn’t,” Bates admitted. “Marines love a good meat dinner.”
Steel Beach BBQ, Cooper thought. “And we’ll be having some. But the kitchen is gonna be busy making sausage, too. Maybe jerky and other things to stretch the supply out. But first, a massive BBQ.”
“Steel Beach?” Jones looked over at her and sighed when she nodded. “I’ll get started on sauces and sides. We really need to talk to Dr. Weir about Planet Grain.”
“It looks like we have our chores for the day. Jones after you finish the supply list, get with the guys and slap a simple meal plan together for lunch and dinner so we can get the meat processed. Check with the hunters to see what they want to do with the hides. And if they were nice and brought the guts back, pile them in a few buckets. I need sausage casings, and we didn’t bring any synthetics. I’ll be talking to Dr. Weir about trade with Stacks.”
The meeting broke up after that. Cooper was intensely proud of her team. They were keeping everyone fed and healthy and maybe they could offer up some help to the exploration teams too.
– – – –
“Dr. Weir, thank you for seeing us,” Copper said as she and Stacks sat down across from the head of the expedition.
“I’m happy to do so, Chief Cooper, but I confess, I’m a little confused as to why you asked for a meeting,” Weir told her as she sat back in her chair.
Cooper took a deep breath and nodded once. She could do this. “As I’m sure you are aware ma’am, I’m in charge of city services along with the catering and mess hall. This means I’m also in charge of our foodstuffs and making sure that we have enough supplies on hand to feed everyone.”
Weir nodded once at that. “And your people have been doing a great job. I haven’t noticed any blips in our meals. They’ve been universally delicious, even when your people incorporate something from Pegasus. And you seem to be aware of any possible food allergies, which is a relief.”
“Thank you, ma’am, I’ll be sure to pass that news along to my people,” Cooper tried to take the compliment gracefully. At least Weir hadn’t pissed on any one’s cooking.
Two spots of color rose to Weir’s cheeks before fading as she took a deep breath. “That sounded awful, but I really did mean it. Out of all the departments on Atlantis, yours has worked like clockwork from day one. That you are reaching out to me means I need to pay attention to why.”
Cooper smiled at that explanation, much better than a left-handed compliment. “Thank you, ma’am, that’s good to hear. We try our best to make sure all our meals are tasty and safe. All that aside, we do have some things that need to be brought to your attention.”
“I hope the gardens aren’t part of the conversation?” Weir asked.
“No, ma’am, those are doing fine,” Cooper reassured her. “Those are producing food at a good rate, and we are eating everything produced. We’ve been replanting some of them as we have the room for it, but that has limits that we can’t expand beyond at the moment. However, we’re expecting to a large shipment of meat within the next few hours and another in 6-8 weeks, and we have no way to store it.”
“So what are you looking for?” Weir asked, looking confused.
“We need more freezers, ma’am. The one freezer we have set up is too small. We have cold rooms where we can keep our veggies fresh long term, but they won’t keep meat for long enough. If we don’t eat it in three days, I can’t confirm its safety. Also, preservation techniques are good, but it would be better if we could flash freeze some of our vegetable crops for lean periods,” Cooper explained.
Wein hummed softly as she made notes before turning to Stackhouse. “Okay, I can start work on the freezers. Those make sense. But I don’t quite get why you are here, Sergeant?”
“Well, ma’ am, I act as a liaison between the exploration teams and Chief Cooper’s department here on base. That means I keep an eye out for any possible edibles the teams come across. The major’s team recently visited a world where they seem to have a grain-like thing,” Stackhouse explained. “From what the Chief has told me, grains mean bread, pasta, and possibly other dishes as well. I know General O’Neill said a year, but we don’t know how long it will be until the SGC gets out here, so having a source of grain would be great.”
Dr. Weir sat back and nodded. “We did visit someplace like that recently, but I have no idea what we can offer them.”
“Teyla mentioned something about their low quality salt,” Stackhouse offered.
“She did. And what does that have to do with us, Sergeant?” Dr. Weir asked.
“Well, Dr. Weir, we may have an answer to that. It seems our desalination process produces salt by the ton. We have about six tons available for trade,” Cooper offered. “And a number of other metals that the science departments could maybe use, but mostly, salt.”
Steepling her fingers together, Dr. Weir tapped them against her mouth as she swung her chair back and forth. “Chief, what would our stores be like if I ignore this option?”
Cooper hesitated before rocking her hand back and forth. “We could do it, but rations would be tight as the gardens wax and wane. I would want more hunting parties to start bringing in more meat. Parrish and I would need to have more foodstuffs growing in the outside garden, the greenhouses, and the hallways.”
The look Dr. Weir gave her seemed to invite her to expand on that. “I’ve got as much as I can growing in the city, ma ‘am, but I’ve run out of the seed I brought with me. I can and will plant using what we produce here, but that will limit what we can eat. Plus the potatoes I have growing will be a good addition, but they aren’t enough. I would need to have two or three acres of just potatoes under cultivation to supply serious nutrition for all of us. And that’s not counting what I would need to take care of the rest of the vegetables we need.”
“Can we work up to that?” Dr. Weir asked, looking interested.
“Not without help,” Cooper admitted. “I’m at best an amateur gardener, and I don’t have the time to devote to more than what I’ve got going now. If we ever get back with the SGC, I want farmers, every type of seed I can get my hands on and the tech to store our production.”
“Well, that’s a letdown,” Dr. Weir admitted. Cooper silently agreed. “What happens if we get the grain?”
Cooper sat back in her chair and breathed out. “If I can get the grain to augment our supplies, we’re much better off. Bread, in all its forms, can only be a help. It will stretch our foods to an untold degree.”
“For salt?” Weir asked, looking skeptical.
“Can’t know until we try, ma’am,” Stackhouse weighed in.
“Let’s see about getting us some grain,” Dr. Weir declared with a nod.
– – – –
The super hurricane had been just insane, Cooper decided. And the solution to the need for a shield had been even more nuts. Thankfully they had been given enough time to make arrangements.
All the plants in the garden had been moved to the mess. Dr. Z had told them the space was insulated and the potential power surge wouldn’t fry anything in the room. Cooper had had too much growing to lose it to an overgrown lightning strike.
As she walked through the hallways back to the mess, Cooper flinched as she turned a corner. Lying in the hallway were four corpses, all of them burnt to a crisp. Breathing shallowly, she turned around and triggered her comms unit.
“Major Sheppard, this is Chief Cooper. I’m down by the mess, and I’ve just found some issues from the storm that need a clean-up,” Cooper reported.
She was aware the major had killed the Genii who had been fried, but she wasn’t certain how he was dealing with that. It was better if she didn’t push any buttons.
“I’ve got Stacks and Markham headed down with body bags, Chief. How many do they need?” Sheppard asked. His voice was painfully neutral, and Cooper appreciated that.
“Four, Major. How many more issues are there around the city?” Cooper asked as she waved at Jones to peek over her shoulder. At his grimace, she gestured for him to take their crew down the alternate path to the mess.
“There’s at least twenty-five more on the city, Chief,” the major told her.
Cooper winced. Almost thirty enemy casualties? The major had been busy. She just hoped that no one else got the bright idea to invade.
There had only been a few people on the city when the Genii had invaded. Thanks to the briefing they had gotten before heading through the gate that they had lost two of the Marines, and Dr. McKay was wounded. The rest of the people who had stayed behind were at various levels of traumatized, and the major was giving everyone the stiff upper lip treatment.
“Okay sir, I’ll make sure we have the cleanup crews get things back to ship shape. Do we have any weapons to worry about?” Cooper asked as she waved at Stacks and Markham to go past her with a cart full of body bags.
“Thanks, Chief. I think there are some, but they should be like most other firearms,” the major told her with a sigh. He sounded incredibly tired and stressed. “The guys taking care of the bodies know what to do with them. We’ll do our best to keep everyone away from the trouble spots.”
“Thank you, sir. Can you tell me if anyone who stayed has eaten?” Cooper asked as she ignored the sounds of bodies being moved.
As disgusting as body disposal was, their people were old hands at the process. The SGC was just as dangerous as Atlantis in that respect. She made a mental note to find out what was being done with the bodies. Cold storage with a return to the Genii would be more work than just incinerating them.
“No one has eaten for about twelve hours,” the major admitted. “Rodney could use something soon, I’m sure.”
Cooper nodded before voicing her agreement so the major could hear her. She signed off shortly after. Her people could handle the clean-up.
“Stacks? Markham? You guys okay?” Cooper asked.
“Yeah,” Markham muttered. He sounded a bit ill, and she sneaked a peek over her shoulder. He was indeed a bit green. “The major was actually quite neat on the kills, but the electrical surges didn’t help.”
“If they’d been alive when he was done with them, they weren’t after the lightening,” Stacks confirmed.
“Right. Well, that means we should do some adjusting…” Cooper thought out loud. “Okay, no dishes with red sauces, light on the meats, if any and the meals themselves should be light?” It was the same menu she had used at the SGC, so she knew it worked.
“Yeah, that’d be great,” Stacks told her after a long sigh. “We have more bodies to take care of.”
“Let us know where they were. We’ll have crews out to take care of the effluvium.”
“Right. We’ll get this batch stored and then deal with the rest,” Markham said as the two men maneuvered the cart loaded with bodies past her.
Jones turned the corner behind them pushing a mop bucket a mop and what she was sure was a brush. “I’ll get this, Chief. I’ve already detailed Anderson and Evers to assist in the cleanup. They’re both experienced with doing this at the SGC.”
“Good. Tell them to raid the commercial clean-up agents. We’re good using the homemade stuff in the mess,” Cooper directed. “Send Sutton and Appleton to cleanup duty also. Both of them have strong stomachs.”
“Right. I’ll get them going once I’m done here. But we need you in the kitchen releasing all the locks. Atlantis wasn’t happy with my attempts to get in,” Jones told her. He was busy dropping the mop water onto the dried blood to soak before grabbing the scrub brush to break it up.
“Okay. I’m heading back. Thanks for dealing with this,” Cooper called over her shoulder.
The rest of the journey to the mess was uneventful, and Cooper inspected each meter of the hallway for damage. Nothing seemed to be out of place, and that was encouraging. There also didn’t seem to be any water damage.
The mess itself looked just like they had left it. With every flat surface covered in plants and equipment. It was second nature to check on each item as she passed them since she hadn’t been able to stay to keep an eye on the whole situation. Using her nifty gene, Cooper reached ahead and tried to get a read on the status of her kitchen.
“We’re all locked up, Chief,” came the voice of Sgt. Julian Brooks. “I can see the locks flickering before reengaging as I try to get them to let me in.”
“I can tell,” Cooper called back. Atlantis was pushing back on her request to unlock everything. That meant someone with a stronger gene expression than her had reinforced her lock down. “Major Sheppard, this is Chief Cooper. The city still has the mess locked down. Can you please unlock things so we can get dinner started?”
“Sure, Chief,” the major’s voice came through loud and clear. The feeling of blockage disappeared. The line closed a moment later, and Cooper sighed in relief.
“Check the locks, we should be good,” she called.
“Yes!” crowed Brooks. She was the daytime team lead and needed to start cooking if they wanted to have dinner at a decent time. There were several beats of silence before there was the sound of a freezer being opened. “Chief, the quarters are still on top of the ice, no melting!”
“Good.” Cooper exhaled in relief. That had been her biggest fear, losing power would mean losing all the food they had stored. “After foothold menu, people!”
“So, salads, roasted veggies and antipasti plates?” Brooks asked as she leaned out of the kitchen.
“Sounds good and easy. No red sauces though and avoid the tomatoes,” Cooper warned. “Spenser, let’s get some of your crew cleaning out the dining area so we can seat everyone. The pallet jack should be stored under the last pallet in.”
“Right. We can get this done in about two hours, I think,” Spenser, her nighttime head, told her. “Brooks, make enough to last through to mid-rats?”
“Easy to do, and we have enough of the various preserves and pickles to feed everyone,” Brooks called.
Cooper sighed in relief and started pitching in to move her garden back to its proper spaces. Clean up was going to suck, but her department would do everything they could to bring back a bit of normal. It was one of the things they were best at after all.
– – – –
One Month Later
Her potato plants were fully mature and had started to die at the top. As soon as she saw that, Cooper grabbed her people and started one bucket brigade for the tubers and a second to handle all the dirt. Pulling the side off the first crate, she sighed with pleasure. The whole box was full up with her harvest. At the bottom were some big bakers, graduating all the way up to tiny creamers.
One long, hard day later, they had masses of multiple types of potatoes. She had replanted all the boxes with some of the new seed potatoes, and this time, she planted more plants per box. The extra soil got moved to a storeroom to get some of the mulch they had produced added in.
Kicking back at the kitchen table later that night, Cooper sighed in relief. They were managing. And with the grain Dr. Weir had bargained for, they were supplied enough that the panic in her gut was calm.
Sipping the coffee she was indulging in, Cooper ignored the sounds around her until several people sat down with her. Opening her eyes, she nodded at the three other senior non-coms. Bates, Jones, and Stackhouse all had their own cups and Jones had the kitchens special stack of cards.
“Do you really think it’s wise to introduce them to my family’s idea of a good time?” Cooper asked, amusement starting to stir in her gut.
“Hell, Chief, we’ve got enough food, no one’s shooting at us and everyone’s on the city. Seems like a perfect time to play a few rounds of cards,” Jones told her, face straight, but eyes full of humor.
“Did you at least warn them?” she asked with a sigh.
”I did,” Jones confirmed.
Bates took a deep sip fronts cup before speaking up. “He warned us that you are a total shark at this game and trash talk is almost required.”
“Yeah, it’s totally required,” Jones confirmed. “I went home on leave and taught this to the whole family. My mother trashed talked, my sister trashed talked. Even my eighty-five year old grandmother trash talked during this game.”
“Well then, if that’s the case, deal me in,” Stackhouse demanded with a wave of his hands.
Cooper snickered softly as she grabbed half the massive deck and started shuffling them. “Okay, the rules are fairly simple, you get dealt eleven cards, all jokers are wild, and there are a progressive number of cards needed to complete each hand. You can buy the top discard along with the top draw card twice each hand until the last hand when you can buy three times. Last hand, you have to lay everything down, no discards.”
Bates stared at her as he poured himself some coffee from the carafe on the table. Taking a deep pull from the cup, he set it down before accepting the cards he was dealt. “This is a version of rummy, right?”
“Yeah, it is,” Jones agreed. “Cooper’s been playing this since she was about ten and taught me when we first served together. I’ve cussed her out more times because of this hellish game than I can even tell.”
“And you keep coming back to play with her? Are you mad?” Stackhouse asked.
“He’s a glutton for punishment,” Copper agreed. “Bates, you’re up.”
The play moved relatively briskly, and Cooper and Jones were able to quickly teach the other two the rules. The trash talk started immediately, and so did the laughter. The talk wasn’t limited to the four of them but also reached out to include the men and women working in the kitchen. Every single member of her team had played her family’s version of rummy at one point or another, so they were enjoying the trial by fire the two new people were getting.
“So, Chief, is there anything else I can call you other than Chief or Cooper?” Bates asked as he moved his cards around.
Cooper kept a casual eye on what the man was doing as she situated her own hand. The object of the game was to have as few points as possible at the end of each hand. So far, she was under a hundred. Bates and Stackhouse were looking likely to skim just under a thousand. Each. The poor gullible bastards. And she hadn’t even introduced them to her family’s version of UNO.
“Well, I guess I can let you know,” Cooper admitted. Jones started laughing, and she threw a mock glare at her second. “No commentary from you, you ass.”
Jones just grinned at her as he snagged his required card before laying down his cards and catching the other three with their hands full. “Why not, Beryl? Also, it’s always great to catch you out. I still can’t believe you got named that.”
“You rat fucking bastard,” Cooper muttered as she started adding her cards up. There went her low score. “And you are less funny than you think, Alfred. Put me down for ninety-five.”
“You both are wretched examples of human beings for introducing me to this game,” Stackhouse informed them. “I’m Marcus, by the way. I have one hundred and forty-five points for this hand. How much does this earn me?”
Snickering softly Jones added the column up. “You’re at seven hundred and sixty, Stacks. Bates, what’s your total?”
“Two hundred and five,” Bates reported. “I had two jokers and a shit-ton of face cards, Alfred. And Beryl’s right. You are a bastard.”
“Don’t even, Eugene,” Stackhouse shot back as he gathered up the cards to start shuffling. “Last hand, yes?”
“Last hand,” Cooper agreed.
“Your family is totally insane for playing this game,” Bates muttered as he gathered up his portion up. “I’m not sure if I want to play this again or not, but it’s a hell of a distraction.”
“So, I shouldn’t tell you that we play this every Saturday night? And we play multiple hands? With alcohol added?” Cooper asked as she got her hand sorted. “And have been for the better part of twenty years?”
The looks the two newbies gave her were faintly betrayed. “You add booze to this?”
Snorting softly she nodded. “Hell yes. Playing drunk is fun.”
– – – –
Six Months Later
The arrival of the reinforcements came just in time. Cooper was just as thrilled as any other member of the expedition at the start. As events began to heat up between the newcomers and the expedition’s leaders, she made a note of it and tried to keep her people busy. People still needed to eat, and her department didn’t have time to get caught up in the drama. Even if most of the drama seemed to be coming from their rescuers as they learned what they were facing.
“Keen, go check on the status of the food and coffee in McKay’s lab along with medical. If they are low on anything, replace it,” Cooper directed “Brooks, make sure we keep sandwiches, cut fruit, and veggies on the line. Break out the last cases of water we kept back and put out the glass water bottles we traded for so everyone can have some portable hydration.”
“Aye boss,” Brooks called as she headed to the kitchen to start prepping everything.
“Sutton, Stoddard, and Anderson, start moving the planters into place as blockades in front of our safe rooms,” Cooper waved at the three junior NCO’s to grab the pallet jack and start the fortifications. “Make sure it’s possible to get in and out, but hard for someone to get a straight shot at the doors. Once you have that done, make sure the rooms are stocked for a stay lasting a few days. Include a camping privy.”
As her workforce scattered to their jobs, one of the new Marines walked in. He was looking at everything like every other hungry Marine who had ever entered her domain, so Cooper ignored him. There were plenty of signs to direct him to the various stations.
“Is there a Mess Specialist Cooper in here?” the Marine asked the room at large.
“That would be me, Staff Sergeant,” Cooper called. She was working with Jones to balance out the supplies needed for the expanded meals. They had the expedition, the reinforcements and the Athosians to feed and it all needed to be tasty. Plus they needed to get some things that could be made in advance done. If they survived this, cooking a full meal might be problematic.
“Colonel Everett wants the support staff to man a rail gun. He’s directed me to get that set up,” the Sergeant informed her with a faint sneer as he took a closer look at the plants scattered around.
“You can tell the Colonel we will not be able to do that,” Cooper said with an internal wince. She hated disobeying orders, even illegal ones. “We’ve already got our battle stations assigned, and we’ve drilled with them. We don’t have anyone who’s trained to man a railgun.”
She knew it was going to get her in trouble, but she didn’t care. Her people had drilled for the positions they had and were good at them. Handling a rail gun, when none of them were trained to do so, was at best folly, at worse something much more sinister. She had no problems telling Everett that either even if it bit her.
“You have your orders MS Cooper,” the new Marine told her, eyes hard. “I don’t think you should expect Major Sheppard to stand up for you. He’s already in trouble with the Colonel.”
The internal snap of Cooper’s patience breaking was loud in her head. She had had enough of the disrespect the expedition had been dealing with from Everett’s Marines. Walking forward she looked the interloper over. “Staff Sergeant Cotton is it?”
Her question brought a questioning look to the Marines face. “Yes?”
“Were you taught to be an asshole to those who outrank you, Staff Sergeant? Or is it your position with the Colonel that gives you the balls to push your luck this way?” Cooper ground out.
“You’re a Mess specialist.”
“And you’re a moron,” Cooper shifted slightly to move her left sleeve into view. The chevrons and rockers of her rank show gleamed dully against the fabric of her uniform. “Last I knew, a Chief outranked a Staff Sergeant.”
Cotton’s face got ruddy with temper before he drew in a deep breath. Cooper threw up one hand to stop him before he could open his mouth. “I am not going to let my people get killed because your CO has a hate-on against mine. We have a plan. The Colonel is well aware of it. That he overrode the established and practiced plan to put untrained soldiers and sailors on a critical piece of equipment is not sensible. It’s murder. Go away.”
“You are not an officer, Chief,” Cotton stressed her rank. “And you don’t outrank the Colonel.”
“And yet, I’m not going to put my people in a position to die within minutes and leave the civilians who are in our charge vulnerable,” Cooper declared. “I know you have enough people to man the damn gun, so do that. Don’t try to co-opt my people because someone wants to make a point.”
“What do civilians have to do with this?” Cotton asked nonplussed.
“Just where do you think the various scientists and Athosians are going to be? In the halls, dying while the Wraith attack? No, they’re going to be in safe rooms, with guards. And we’re the guards. Now, go away. Park your gun somewhere it’ll be useful. We’ll be protecting the civilians,” Cooper told him, voice even and implacable. “Get out.”
Colton stared at her for several moments before turning on his heel and marched out. Cooper stared at his back until he was out of the commissary. The thunk of the locks engaging was loud in the silence.
“The civilians will be able to get in. You will be able to move in and out due to your job, but unless those twits are being pursued by a wraith, they aren’t getting in here to give us any more bullshit orders,” Cooper spoke loud enough that all her people could hear.
“I’m pretty sure the General did not mean for Everett to do this shit,” Jones told her quietly.
“Oh, I’m sure he didn’t. Because he’s not the type to piss all over his men, the chain of command and the civilians they protect,” Cooper agreed. Taking a deep breath, she forced her temper back. There was no time for it. Survival first.
– – – –
“Chief Cooper,” Everett called as he entered the conference room.
Cooper paused in her report detailing the readiness levels of her department. “Colonel,” she said, staring back at him, eyes level.
“Why are your people not manning the rail gun as they were directed to?” Everett demanded.
“Because none of my people are trained gunners, Colonel. We’ve been trained to guard a set of safe rooms with P-90’s and handguns,” Cooper explained. She was keeping her voice level and her words as non-confrontational as she could. “Asking my people to do a job they are utterly untrained for is a quick way to kill them all. Since I don’t want the ten people under me to die, I’m refusing to follow an order I find illegal.”
“I’m your commanding officer; you are required to obey me!” Everett blustered.
“You are not. Major John Sheppard is my commanding officer. You are here to act as the commander for the reinforcements to back us up,” Copper snapped back. “My people will be protecting the scientists and the non-combatants. I checked, there’s no one else assigned and at least we know what we are doing there!”
“Fine! See if we give you any backup,” Everett growled at her before walking out of the conference room.
Cooper blew out a quiet breath of air. “Jesus.”
“Bucking the chain awful hard there, Chief,” Sheppard said, voice quiet.
Cooper took a deep breath and tried not to shake at the risk she was taking. But she just could not do it. “Yes, sir, I know I am. We’re not trained, I’m sure the Colonel is well aware that a rail gun is not something you master in an afternoon with dry firing and instruction,” Cooper explained. “And we weren’t expecting backup anyway. The safe rooms are stocked, and we’ve gone over and over how to get to them with everyone. Current time is forty-five seconds from the time the alarm sounds. We’ll get through.”
The sigh the major released was long, and Cooper sympathized. Sheppard had to be wedged in a massively uncomfortable position between Everett and the expedition.
“Keep everyone you can safe, Chief.” Sheppard nodded once in understanding before pulling the meeting back on track.
– – – –
28 hours later
Cooper pushed the cart into Medical. “Biro? I’ve got food, coffee, and juice,” she called.
Carson was sleeping in a bed, and Ford was strapped in right beside him. Markham was bitching softly in a third as a nurse poked at one of his dressings. Everett had his own semi-private corner of medical and was quietly ripping Sheppard apart. Cooper stomped on the urge to go defend her CO. The major was a grown adult and sadly, he could deal with the asshole while she took care of a few things.
“Thanks, Chief Cooper,” Biro told her. The doctor looked exhausted, and Cooper hoped that she got a chance to rest soon. There were several new doctors walking around, and she had to assume they were from the Daedalus.
“You are welcome. Is there anything we can do for you?” Cooper asked as she peered around. It looked as if Medical hadn’t been under attack and that was good.
Biro shook her head. “Nope, we’re good, and we have enough supplies at the moment.”
“Chief Cooper, the colonel wants to talk to you,” the major told her as he walked by. “Good job with your people, by the way.”
“Thank you, sir,” Cooper murmured. As she made her way over to the Colonel, she tried to take in his condition. He had been fed on by a Wraith and looked like shit. Old shit at that. She winced internally at her observation. That had been viciously unkind and far worse that she normally ever was. Standing at the foot of his bed, she stood at attention. “Sir, Major Sheppard stated that you wanted to see me?”
Everett looked back at her, and she kept her eyes level on his. She could do the whole ‘look over his shoulder’ routine, but she wanted him to see that she was paying attention to him. “I did,” he said, and his voice even sounded old. God damned Wraith. “I wanted to say that you made the right decision. I know that several Wraith tried to get into your safe rooms and your people managed to keep the civilians and noncombatants in them safe. I’m going to be noting that in my after action report.”
“Thank you, sir!” Cooper said, surprised.
“Dismissed,” Everett snapped before laying back in his bed, exhausted.
Cooper nodded once before executing a perfect about face and heading out. Who would have thought that? Everett had said that she had been right for standing up to him?
Shaking off the surprise, she pulled her mind back to her list of chores. She had a few more meals to deliver and then she needed to get the mess back on track. It would be breakfast soon. And with that meal, they needed to be on schedule.
The game Copper and friends play:
You get dealt 11 cards with each hand
A set is three of the same card, the suite doesn’t matter
A run is 4 or more cards in a series, all of the same suite
1st Hand: 2 sets of 3 each
2nd Hand: 1 set of 3, 1 run of 4
3rd Hand: 2 runs of 4 each
4th Hand: 3 sets of 3 each
5th Hand: 2 sets of 3, 1 run of 4
6th Hand: 2 runs of 4 each, one set of 3
7th Hand: 3 runs of 4 each
With every hand but the 7th, you can buy the top face card twice.
With the 7th hand, you can buy the top face card 3 times, but when you lay your cards down, you should not have any to discard. In other words, all the cards in your hand have to be folded into the 3 runs you have going.
**And yes, my parents, my husband and I play this every Saturday night & have for years, but only my mother and I drink.