Fandom: SGA, NCIS
Relationships: Cooper/Bates, Stackhouse/Markham, background Sheppard/McKay
Summary: Someone is very interested in the supplies coming to Atlantis
Beryl looked up from the Great Beast that she was helping break down. “Sir?”
“What are you doing?” Colonel Sheppard asked. He was standing outside of the working area of her workshop.
“Breaking down dinner?” Beryl offered as she finished her cut and pulled the loin free and placed it on the steel work table. With that removed, she started pulling other cuts off the carcass and piling them on another part of the table. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“We got news about our new staff and Landry has sent us a supply officer to oversee your department and all our supply needs,” Sheppard explained.
“Uh-huh,” Beryl raised an eyebrow at the Colonel. “Did we ask for a supply officer?”
“Nope,” Sheppard said. He was rocking back and forth on his feet and Beryl tried not to sigh. He was too antsy for the new officer to be the only issue.
“What else, sir?” she asked.
“He’s right out of Annapolis,” Sheppard told her.
“Please tell me he’s a Mustang,” Beryl almost begged. She didn’t want to deal with a brand new officer. Ensigns were a pain in the ass to train.
“No can do, Chief. He’s brand new,” Sheppard told her with a shrug. “But at least he’s in the Navy?”
“That doesn’t help, sir,” Beryl sighed and put her knife down on the table. “Am I going to have to train this person?”
Sheppard blinked and came to lean against the wall nearest her. “You mean make sure he knows how to be an officer and give him a realistic view of what it takes to command troops?”
“Among other things, sir,” Beryl confirmed. “Having an actual supply officer will make things more interesting in the acquisitions front.”
“Point. But you knew it was going to happen sometime,” Sheppard reminded her.
“Right,” Beryl walked over to the sink in the workroom and mentally nudged it to let some water out. Washing up, she tried to organize her thoughts. “When is he getting here?”
“Next week,” Sheppard said.
“Seriously, is Landry trying to keep us from protesting?” Beryl muttered as she grabbed a cleaver and started breaking down the bones of the Great Beast for roasting. She thrust her chin out and pointed at the pile of roasting pans she had stacked against the wall. “Can you place one of those on the bench sir? I need to get these roasted so we have stock.”
“Seriously, Cooper, you can totally teach this new kid how to be useful,” Sheppard told her. He sounded like he was trying to convince himself as much as he was trying to convince her.
“Sir, you need to learn how to sell the whole idea of the new officer,” Beryl snapped. “I just hope this Ensign isn’t so in love with the rules they teach at the Academy that he doesn’t have the ability to bend.” Beryl started piling the bones in the pans. She took a deep breath as she dropped the last bone in the pan. “Okay, so new officer, new situations and I need to make sure that I don’t get myself in trouble while I’m teaching him.”
“Pretty much,” Sheppard agreed as he moved the last filled pan into place on the back workbench.
“Thank you, sir,” Beryl sighed. “Okay, dinner tonight is surf and turf and we got a shipment of bituu to take the place of lemons, so Dr. McKay will be able to have some on his surf.”
“Sounds great,” Sheppard looked at the meat she had piled up. “I take it this isn’t all that’s going to be served?”
“It’s half a Great Beast, sir, I really hope it will be enough,” Beryl admitted. There were a lot of people on Atlantis and making sure everyone ate well was a struggle at times. Any scraps would be ground into hamburger for other meals.
“Steaks?” Sheppard asked as he walked over to the long line of loin that was taking up the length of her work surface. At six feet in length, the loin was massive and very popular. Thankfully there were two of them on the animals and she had both for the meal.
“Yes, sir, and we have the equivalent to shrimp, lobster, and crab as well,” Beryl confirmed. “I expect a good turnout from everyone.”
“Do you know if the seafood here has triggered any allergies?” Sheppard asked as he looked over the T-bone steaks she had carved. “Which is better, Chief? T-bone or loin?”
“Both are awesome, sir, but it depends on how you want it. I can give you a hunk of loin and a steak to play with, you can tell me what you think,” Beryl offered. “But for tonight, it’s all getting barbequed.”
“I’ll take that and I look forward to tonight,” Sheppard said. He dusted off his hands and nodded once at her. “Don’t freak out too hard, Chief. We’ll both try to keep an open mind while getting to know the new kid.”
Beryl nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Beryl shifted slightly on her feet trying to get comfortable. It wasn’t really possible but she was giving it her best shot. Daedalus was maneuvering for landing and it was all hands on deck to get supplies off of her and the holds cleaned out and ready for any return cargo. She had a good bucket-line set up to get the supplies to the cargo transporters.
To make sure that things smoothly on the personnel front the Colonel had set up a series of queues and labeled them for civilians and military. New arrivals were funneled away from the cargo hatches and placed in front of a yeoman who would check them in confirm assignments, notify the supervisors and then assign the new arrivals their quarters
Once the new people had their quarters assigned, they were ushered to medical for complete physicals including a set of vaccinations for some of the more common Pegasus diseases. Once that was finished and the new people had a chance to find their new quarters they were given maps and told to show up for dinner.
That was a full day for the new kids. While all that was happening cargo was being unloaded and delivered to storerooms and labs using the biggest transporters Atlantis had. Beryl wasn’t expecting to see her new officer before morning at the earliest. Plenty of time to get things shipshape and in some cases hidden.
“Jones do we have a list of our goods?” she asked her second as he stepped up next to her.
“Novak sent it on a soon as Daedalus got in system,” Jones reported. “Everything we asked for and more was added to the list.”
Beryl tried not to rub her hands together like a cartoon villain. “We get to make cheese.”
“Chief you really need to get out more. Making cheese isn’t that much fun,” Jones bitched.
“We’re in Pegasus. How much more out can I get?” Beryl asked as she started forward. The cargo hatches were cracked and it was time to unload.
“Well if you and Eugene ever go public that might count,” Jones suggested sotto voce.
Beryl ignored him grandly. Her private life was just that, private and she was determined to keep it that way. Her boyfriend was much the same since he was the senior non-com on Atlantis and needed to keep up a certain image.
“Chief!” Colonel Caldwell called as he picked his way through the mass of humanity making its way off his ship.
Beryl saluted the Colonel and suppressed a smile at his sigh. “Sir, what can we do for you today?”
“I have your official list,” Caldwell said after he returned the salute. “Novak has the unofficial official list.”
“Excellent, sir. It is always a pleasure working with you and your crew,” Beryl said.
“I’m looking forward to dinner. I know my comms officer said something about roast Great Beast?” Caldwell hinted.
“I have one slow roasting, yes,” Beryl confirmed. “And the mushroom crop has done well this week. We’ve got a mess of those semi-potatoes you liked last time too. Plus the ones we’ve grown on the city.”
Caldwell rubbed his hands together in pleasure. “I am looking forward to dinner then. Because my mess specialist isn’t nearly as good as you and I’ve got one of the best.”
“I think I can send a couple of roasts home with you and your people when you pull out, sir,” Beryl promised. She was amused as fuck that the Colonel was doing some off the books begging for food. “I think I can even authorize some of the native shrimp and crab.”
“You are lovely, Chief,” Caldwell said with a smile. “Okay, the first mass of humanity has queued up. Do you think I can get a meeting with Dr. Weir?”
Beryl thought of what she knew of the administrator’s schedule. “I’m certain that she’s free. If you check with Chuck, he should be able to tell you.”
“Right,” Caldwell said before he wandered off.
Jones leaned over. “Should we get a book open on him asking her out?”
“What? Do you think that Dr. Z doesn’t have one?” Beryl asked. She was sure the man had one for just about everything. “That’s something for later,” she said, waving off the subject. “Let’s get the unloading going. The ice cream isn’t going to stay frozen forever.”
Beryl suppressed the urge to scream and start. She turned around to stare at her CO. “Colonel Sheppard, how lovely of you to scare me while I’ve got a knife in my hand!”
Sheppard looked a bit chastised and shrugged. Beryl suppressed a sigh. She wasn’t going to be able to change his habit of sneaking up on her, so she had no idea why she even tried. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“I have your new Supply officer, Ensign Richard Thatch, here. He’s going to be shadowing you for the day so he can get familiar with the running of this level of the city,” Sheppard directed.
“Yes, sir,” Beryl agreed. She looked over at her new officer and suppressed a sigh. The man was turned out in Whites that looked like they had been pressed within an inch of their cotton lives. He also looked like he was about fourteen. “Welcome to Atlantis, sir,” she said. She didn’t bother to salute or shake hands with the man. She was butchering another Great Beast and she was filthy.
“Thank you, Chief,” Thatch responded. He looked like he was smelling something vaguely foul. “I’m certain that I will learn a great deal from you.”
“I’ll do my best to be a good teacher, sir. But if you are to join me today, you might want to go and change into a set of coveralls or BDU’s. White will only get dirty with the day I have planned,” Beryl warned.
Thatch looked down at his uniform and nodded. He glanced over at Sheppard and headed out as soon as the Colonel gave him the nod. Beryl held her peace until the man was out of the room and then she nudged the city to close and lock the door. “Seriously, sir, what was that?”
“I got nothing, Chief,” Sheppard admitted. “I know that Bates puts out a uniform of the day, but I was reasonably certain that Whites weren’t on it.”
“They weren’t sir,” Beryl confirmed as she turned back to her butchery job. “We need someone who worked as a butcher sir because I can’t keep doing this.”
“Well, it is a good place to find you on a reliable basis,” Sheppard admitted. “How often are you doing the job?”
“MS1 Jones and I trade off,” Beryl said as she started breaking down the leg she had on the table. She tried to remember what they had planned for dinner in the next two days and couldn’t. “Sir, can you check what I have planned for dinner tomorrow?”
“Are you getting forgetful Chief?” Sheppard asked as he pulled one of the LSD’s out of a thigh pocket and used it to get into the database for her. “You have poutine listed.”
“Excellent,” Beryl breathed before she started piling the scraps of meat into a five-gallon bucket. Any bone got thrown into a second one. Both were filled quickly and she moved on to the next. She needed to check how much hamburger they had. If there was enough, that meant sloppy joes. “Easy food and tasty. You’ll like it, sir.”
“I’ve rarely had a bad meal here, Chief,” Sheppard reminded her. “Should I leave?”
“Eh. He’ll find his way back here,” Beryl said and then shrugged. “I should be fine sir. Most of the rest of the day is just the normal stuff.”
“Sounds good, Chief. Don’t do anything that will require our NCIS agent to fix,” Sheppard reminded her. He headed off and Beryl tried not to growl.
“What in the hell was that?” Jones asked as he slipped into the butchery.
“That was our new Ensign,” Beryl explained. She nudged the city to lower the temp in the room as she started cleaning her knives and assorted implements. “We’re doing poutine tomorrow, so I left the legs mostly whole so they can be browned and then simmered all day. And I have no idea why the man thought that Whites were a good idea for his first day as the head of the Services department.”
“This is going to be so much fun, not,” Jones bitched as he started wrapping the various leg bits in waxed cloth. “Do we have enough cheese curds for the traditional version or should we offer a variety?”
“Let’s do a variety and have a chicken and a mushroom version of the gravy for those who don’t want Great Beast,” Beryl directed. “And yeah, this is going to be interesting. Did we get anything from Walter or Siler?”
“Not that I recall,” Jones admitted. “But I wasn’t looking for a message from them. Do you want this set up like a normal dinner?”
“Pretty much,” Beryl confirmed. “Have the choices be traditional French fries, mashed potatoes and maybe tater tots? And then people can build their bowls from there?”
“Sounds good,” Jones said. “Maybe some of those semi-potatoes that we get? Roast them and have them also?”
“They’re a bit sweeter than the normal stuff, but I think they go well with everything, so sure,” Beryl agreed. “So after this, I have what? The inspections of the storerooms and inventory?”
“Yeah, you do,” Jones said. “And I think we need to look into a second area to grow mushrooms. We’re going through a larger amount of them than we had thought we would.”
“Why?” Beryl asked with a grunt as she moved the buckets of meat over to the clean side of the room. Once those were out of range, she started cleaning the workbench. Cutting boards went into the sink along with all the various tools and she and Jones started sterilizing the work surface.
“We have a large number of vegetarians and people who just like mushrooms on the city, Chief. And you know they are a good way to stretch out the meat supplies.”
“Right,” Beryl fell silent for several minutes as she worked and then nodded. “I think we have enough on hand to expand our growing set up, but see about putting in for more seed and then I think we need to talk to Teyla and Ronon about some native versions too. No reason not to and it will allow us to expand our sources.”
“Good call,” Jones agreed. “Okay, so, do you want me to monitor you while you are giving him a tour?”
Beryl glanced up at that. “Do we have anything doubtful out?”
“No,” Jones drew the word out and shook his head. “The only thing that was ever doubtful was the original garden and we got retroactive permission for that from General O’Neill.”
“Right,” Beryl said as she drew in a deep breath. She kept her next comment behind her teeth as Thatch walked into the butchery in a set of painfully new coveralls. It took effort not to glance down at her stained uniform. She had picked the set she was wearing because she was going to be getting dirty, but still. “Welcome back, sir. This is MS1 Jones, my second.”
Jones carefully set the knives he was drying down and then stood at attention as he faced their new officer. “Sir, welcome to Atlantis.”
“Thank you, MS1,” Thatch said as he looked around. “What will you be doing with all of this? And how often are you required to butcher your own meat?”
“We don’t get much in the way of pre-butchered meat from our supply run, sir,” Beryl started as she grabbed two of the meat buckets and started out the door. “Most of our protein needs are met by hunting and fishing parties. So we’re in here roughly four times a week doing the prep work needed to supply the city with meat. About twice a month we have a two day period where we do the major work of sausage making, smoking and the like to allow us to have a greater variety of foodstuffs. This also allows us to put some of the foods to the side for long term storage in the deep freeze.”
“Deep freeze? What is that, Chief?” Thatch asked as he followed behind her.
Beryl reached out to the city and asked her to open the door to the refrigerator nearest the main kitchen. It opened easily and she set her bucket down in the space designated for that day’s meals. “Place those here, sir,” she directed. She glanced around the room as he did so and nodded. Everything looked to be in good order and there was no mess. “Let me show you,” she said as they walked out. The door behind them closed and she could hear the hiss as the seals engaged.
All of the small cooling units the engineers had set up for them were on the same level, she as she walked Thatcher down the row of them, she started naming off what was in them. “Each of these are daily and weekly use rooms, sir. We go through a great deal of food and we’ve found this is the best method to allow us to keep track of our food usage. I’ve been working with Dr. Weir on a way to allow the people on the city to withdraw foodstuffs as they want so those who can cook, can do so from their own homes. We don’t quite have everything ironed out, but that’s on the horizon.”
“Why? Why not have everyone eat in the mess?” Thatch asked as he peered into the freezer filled with Great Beast carcasses.
Beryl looked over his shoulder and smiled at the sight of all of the meat. It gave her a warm feeling to see how much she had stored. “Because not everyone wants to eat there, sir. And we have a large number of civilians on this city. Being able to make their own food would be a morale booster. I know that a number of our troops have said the same thing. While I do my best to offer food that is interesting and multicultural, I don’t always get a dish right.”
“Can we afford to have people potentially wasting food like that?” Thatch asked as he stepped back from the door and let it close.
“There’s very little food waste here, sir,” Beryl said after she took a moment to process that statement. “What isn’t eaten by humans is either composted, fed to the livestock we have on the city or used to bait our fishing gear.”
“We have animals on here? Why? This is a military installation!” Thatch asked. He sounded appalled and Beryl couldn’t let that pass.
“Sir, this is a mixed-use city. We are outnumbered by the civilians and we are on the absolute far end of any type of a supply chain. It’s been explained to me several times that if there is a need, food will be the lowest thing on the supply lists and the first thing to get cut to allow more room for high priority goods. Right now, I can keep everyone on the city fed and healthy without runs from Earth. We might be low on a lot of things quickly, but everyone would still be able to eat.”
“While that’s all well and good, Chief, we’re still not equipped to take care of animals,” Thatch said. He still sounded put out and Beryl shrugged. “I’ll be taking this to the Colonel then.”
“You go right ahead, sir,” Beryl said. “He’s the one that authorized it in the first place.”
Thatch huffed at that and she kept her face straight with an effort. Baby officers were all so easily discomforted and it was absurdly easy to push them out of their comfort zones. But it was the sworn duty of every Navy Chief entrusted with a new officer that they would make sure the new kid learned the reality of the Navy, not just the dream of it. No matter how difficult the teaching was.
“So what is this deep freeze?” Thatch asked again as she moved to the transporter at the end of the hall and ushered him in.
“Like I said, as things are at currently, I am able to feed the city’s population without resorting to foodstuffs from Earth. Part of that is because we’ve been diligently putting food to the side every time we get a harvest or a delivery from a hunt. Most of the foods that can be stored as pickles, or dried are and we have a number of storerooms with low oxygen environments that handle those supplies,” Beryl explained as she hit the location of the main deep freeze. She had three around the city and she was going to show her new boss only one. He could find out about the other two later. “For foods that can be frozen, we have a large storeroom set up that is kept at -80F to allow for long term storage.”
“Isn’t that an excessive use of power, Chief?” Thatch asked.
“No sir, it isn’t,” Beryl infirmed him after she took a deep breath. “This way, sir,” she directed him as she started down the hallway. “As we are considered necessary city services, the mess, and all our storage facilities are on dedicated naquadah generators. Dr. McKay states that we will be able to run off those for at least twenty years.”
“That’s a good return on the investment,” Thatch allowed. “So we aren’t running off of the city’s power supply?”
“No, we can’t afford to,” Beryl said, shaking her head. “If the ZPM is ever taken out of the city, we would lose all the foods we have stored. That would be catastrophic.”
“Both in terms of time to produce the food and the food itself?” Thatch asked.
“Yes, sir,” Beryl confirmed. She turned the corner and waved at the double doors in front of them. Hanging on the walls were a number of jackets. “You’re going to need a jacket, sir. And there should be gloves in the pockets as well.”
“Right,” Thatch said as he pulled one on.
Beryl slid into her own and made sure everything was sealed up before she pulled on her gloves and nudging the door to open. The wave of arctic cold that came out made her shiver. “Come on, sir. We don’t want to waste the cold.”
“Right, lead the way, Chief,” Thatch said with a wave of his hand.
“Yes, sir,” she murmured before walking into the freezer. The cold took her breath away for a moment and she carefully let it out before drawing in a new one.
“Jesus, it’s cold in here,” Thatch muttered as he walked in behind her. “And that’s a lot of food.”
“Yes, sir, it sure is. On both counts,” Beryl confirmed. The room was huge. They had set it up so it had a number of levels with automated lifts that could take a person up to any area needed. Those tracks had been what had tipped the decision over on rehabbing the room into a freezer. There had been some evidence the Ancients had once used it for a similar scenario, but no one had any idea what they had used for coolant.
But the walls had been layered with insulation and there had been plenty of wiring and tubing that was easily repurposed and all of it had been sealed. The room hadn’t missed being doused in seawater, but the Ancients had made sure everything was easily cleaned. The field-day that her team had conducted to sanitize the space had been epic. The stink from all the cleaning supplies had overwhelmed the scrubbers for the room and the place had stunk for three days. Only when medical had declared it safe had they started cooling it off.
Now the room was her biggest fallback in case of catastrophe. If things ever went to shit, what was in the freezer would allow them to eat for six months without rationing and more than a year with it. It soothed the paranoid part of her and let her sleep at night. Eugene was happy with it too. It let him sleep the night through when he was with her.
“Does the General know about this?” Thatch asked as he wandered down the main row, looking at the stored items.
“General O’Neill is aware of everything that we have out here and has approved all of it,” she confirmed.
“I didn’t mean him, I meant the General in charge of the Stargate Program, General Landry,” Thatch said sharply.
Beryl cocked her head to the side as she considered that. “Given that there was a turnover in command from General O’Neill to General Landry, I can only presume that the current head of the SGC is aware of our supply situation. But sir, supplies for Atlantis don’t go through the SGC, they go through Homeworld and the IOC. So, the general in charge of us is O’Neill.”
“General Landry sent me out here to deal with the rampant smuggling that’s been happening,” Thatch told her as he stared up at the pallets of sugar she had stored at the far end of the freezer. “And the overstating of supplies that’s leading to waste and mismanagement. I’ll be ordering what we need from now on Chief. You’ll be clearing all supply orders with me and there will be no smuggling on my watch. If there is, I’ll have that person arrested and before JAG.”
There was nothing Beryl could say to that. It was a legit beef, but stupid as any greenie could be. There were ways to limit smuggling, but the Ensign and the General were going about it all wrong. Not that she was going to care. Her General was going to get an earful though. And so was DiNozzo. For fucks sake.
“Chief? Did you hear me?” Thatch asked as he turned around to look at her. “There will be no smuggling while I’m here.”
“Yes, sir, I did. No smuggling,” Beryl repeated. Maybe she should tell the Colonel too.
And he had thought the kid was going to be okay.
“And he seems to think that there is smuggling in my department!” Beryl concluded as she paced around DiNozzo’s office. She had dumped Thatch on Jones for a tour of the gardens. He was going to make her pay for that and she knew it.
“Chief, you know there’s smuggling out here. We find unsanctioned goods just a bit too frequently for there not to be. But I’ve got no idea why Landry hasn’t directed the kid to come talk to me about it,” DiNozzo said. “Besides, aren’t you the one who calls your goods from O’Neill ‘smuggling’?”
“Seriously? Sir, everything we bring out here is signed off on by General O’Neill, the IOA and Colonels Sheppard and Caldwell. There is no way on God’s green earth that I can get away with actually smuggling anything. And don’t even bring up my original garden,” Beryl snapped. “I got told I could bring ‘one personal item’. I asked Dr. Weir if I could bring a garden as my one item. She shrugged at me and I did.”
“I don’t know if that really counts as permission,” DiNozzo said slowly. He sounded amused, but Beryl shrugged.
“General O’Neill was fine with it when we explained the whole thing,” she said. She waved one hand to push the topic away. “Look, I don’t care about that right now. I know we have some actual smuggling going on and I’m sure the city is letting you know what’s going on. Is it any of my people?”
DiNozzo sat back in his chair and let it swing as he stared at her. “Why?”
“Because if it is, I want them off this city,” Beryl admitted. “I laugh and joke about the ‘smuggling’ I do. No doubt. But nothing that enters this city in my supplies is illegal or contraband. Even the still and the brewery were cleared and approved before I started them. I can’t stand someone who would break the rules like that to the detriment of our people.”
“It isn’t any of your people, Chief,” DiNozzo said with a smile. “And really, the worst thing that I’ve seen come over was a bit of weed.”
“MJ?” Beryl shook her head. “Seriously, I don’t know why anyone would bother. Parrish has some growing in the locked greenhouse for Medical. Along with the poppies, belladonna and other assorted medicinal herbs. The only way to get in is to be on the access list and I believe Dr. McKay reviews the entry and exit logs.”
“So do I. How do you know about it Chief?” DiNozzo asked. He sounded concerned and suspicious.
“I’ve been helping Parrish with hydroponics since First Year, sir,” Beryl reminded him. “I helped him plant that garden.”
“Figures,” DiNozzo said on a sigh. “You lot did a great deal of cross-training that year, didn’t you?”
“Well, yes, sir. We sure did. If we hadn’t, and someone with needed skills died, we were sunk,” Beryl reminded him.
“Okay, I can see that,” DiNozzo agreed after a moment. “Look, Chief, I know you and your people are clean, but if Ensign Thatch comes to me, I’m going to investigate because that’s my mandate. Just make sure that anything you have in supply is covered and under orders, understood?”
“Yes, sir,” Beryl confirmed. “This is gonna suck.”
“It sure is,” DiNozzo agreed. “I don’t envy you at all.”
Beryl ran a hand through her hair. “Right. I’d better go find him before Jones loses him somewhere.”
When she caught up with Jones and the Ensign, they were in the barns, looking at the herd of kinda-cows they had traded for from P24-336, or Planet Cowboy as the Marines called it. They had twenty-five of the beasts and every single one was pregnant. She was looking forward to getting the milk from them to start making butter, cheese and any other milk-based goody she could think of. The weekly trading runs were getting old.
“Sir, Jones,” Beryl said as she walked in. She took the time to salute Thatch and tried not to sigh as he returned it.
“Chief,” Jones returned, voice slightly dry. She raised one eyebrow at him and he turned slightly so he could roll his eyes at her. “Ensign Thatch as a number of questions for you about the gardens and our cows.”
“I’m sure,” Beryl agreed before turning to look at Thatch. “Sir? You have some questions for me?”
“I do, Chief,” Thatch agreed. He turned away from the cows and looked back at her. “Why do we have so many cows?”
“Because we have a large number of milk drinkers, sir,” Beryl reported promptly. “Also, I am planning on making butter and cheese with the milk we get from these cows. Their milk responds well to the commercial rennet I was able to order in bulk and the cheese is very edible.”
“But why? Why not import the milk? Why have our people drink milk from an alien cow?” Thatch asked as he waved a hand at the barn.
“Sir, the Daedalus can’t haul enough food to support our population. And they certainly can’t haul fresh milk. We made do with powdered milk while we had to in Year One, but I am not going to force that on people if I have an alternative. The Athosians are willing to do the milking for a percentage of the results. We have a mutually beneficial agreement and it works,” Beryl explained.
“And the gardens?” Thatch asked.
“Again, sir, the Daedalus can’t haul enough food out here to support us and relying on trade for the majority of our food is shortsighted. What happens if we lose an ally to the Wraith or we no longer are trading with them due to a failure in our relationship? If we only get our food that way, we will starve. As it is, we currently get roughly 20% of our food from trade, about the same from Earth and the rest is being supplied by the gardens here and on the mainland, plus our hunting and fishing. Our level of independence regarding our food supplies has been a long term goal of the city,” Beryl said.
“The Colonel has agreed to this?” Thatch asked with a curled lip.
“He has,” Beryl confirmed.
“Thank you, Chief,” Thatch said before he turned around and walked out of the barn. “Carry on with your day. I need to talk to the Colonel.”
Both of them waited until the Ensign had left the barn before doing anything else. “Call the Colonel and let him know what’s headed his way?” Jones suggested.
“Oh, hell yes,” Beryl agreed. She reached up and tapped her comms unit, toggling through all the channels until she got to the command level one. There was no way to make sure that Ensign Thatch wasn’t online himself, but she wasn’t going to let him surprise the Colonel. “Colonel Sheppard, this is Chief Cooper.”
There was a brief pause and then her comms unit beeped as it was forced over to a new line. “What’s up, Chief?” the Colonel asked.
“You have an Ensign, incoming,” Beryl reported.
“Really? He lasted less than a day?” Sheppard asked. “I wonder who won that bet? Any idea why?”
“I think it was the cows, sir. But he seemed really perturbed over the gardens, the storerooms, and the deep freeze,” Beryl explained. “Further, he seems to have orders from General Landry to stamp out any smuggling. Also, he stated that he will be taking over ordering all supplies, also per General Landry.”
“The budget for your department doesn’t come out of the SGC, why is Landry putting his nose in?” Sheppard asked after a moment of silence.
Beryl shook her head even though the Colonel couldn’t see it. “No idea, sir. I already went to Agent DiNozzo to mention that the Ensign was looking at my department regarding smuggling, sir.”
“He’s been here less than twenty-eight hours and already this kid is giving me a headache,” Sheppard said with a sigh. “Well, I’ll hear him out and then we shall see what we can do.”
“Yes, sir,” Beryl said with a nod.
Sheppard sighed once and then cleared his throat. “Get back to your day, Chief. Let me and Lorne handle the kid for the next few hours. Catch up on your work.”
The line went dead and Beryl looked over at Jones. “The Colonel is going to handle Thatch for the next while. We’re to get back to work.”
“Right,” Jones said. “Paperwork?”
“Menus,” Beryl said with a shake of her head. “I’ll be in with Dr. Weir and Teyla to see if there is anything they want to change.”
“Let Teyla know we have enough tuttleroot to make a large batch of stew if she wants some this week,” Jones reminded her. “And change clothes. You look like you were getting rolling in something foul today.”
Beryl looked down at her uniform and nodded. “Right. Thanks for the reminder. On both bits.”
John shook his head as he signed off the line with Cooper. Thatch hadn’t been on the city a full day and he was already making waves. Leaning back in his chair he tried to figure out what his new officer’s issue might be. “Hey, Lorne!”
“Sir?” his second called from his office across the waiting room. Their admin ignored their antics with the ease of long practice. John made a mental note to get the man a packet of the tea he favored for his ability to roll with the insanity.
“Thatch is causing issues already,” he called. “Cooper called to report him incoming in a snit.”
“Damn it!” Lorne cursed.
“Problems?” John asked, amused. He had a clue as to why the man was cursing, but he wanted confirmation first.
“Less than a day and he’s already an issue? Why do I bother to bet with Zelenka?” Lorne bitched as he walked into John’s office. He had a tablet in hand and was updating something. John was sure it was Zelenka with the news.
“Because hope springs eternal?” John asked as he waved a hand at the chair beside his desk. “And none of us expected this guy to be pissy this quickly.”
“I had it at a week,” Lorne admitted. “I thought he might wait until the Daedalus had at least left.”
“That makes sense, but no,” John allowed. He looked out at their admin. “Butterworth, when Ensign Thatch gets here, he’s to wait until I give you the sign to let him in.”
“Yes, sir!” Butterworth said and went to move one of the chairs he kept for ‘guests’ out of the closet. It was uncomfortable, hard, and just a bit too small for the normal adult male. A second was moved into place in front of his desk. John didn’t have the heart to stop him.
Lorne watched as the chair was placed in the middle of the room and then shook his head as John closed the door. “We’re surrounded by assholes, sir.”
John laughed. “This is not news, Major. I want to talk to Caldwell. See if he has any information on how Thatch acted on his way out.”
“Because his behavior with the Chief can’t be a one-off?” Lorne asked as he settled into his chair.
John relayed what Cooper had given him and then turned his laptop around so Lorne could read Tony’s email. “I really don’t think it’s a one-off. But I want his side of this mess before I stick my foot in it.”
“Fair enough,” Lorne agreed. “Well, this should be interesting.”
“Asshole,” John muttered as he used the comms device tied to his desk to call the Daedalus. It took only moments to get Caldwell patched through and he sighed. ”Caldwell, this is Sheppard, do you have a few moments to chat?”
“I’ve got plenty of time, Sheppard. What can I do for you?” Caldwell asked.
“I’ve got you on speaker with Lorne and we have some questions about one of our new officers,” John started as he leaned back in his chair and let it swing from side to side as he stared at the large fractal Atlantis had put on his inner office wall.
“Lemme guess, Thatch,” Caldwell asked with a sigh of his own.
“Yeah, he’s already raising a few eyebrows down here,” Lorne chimed in. “What was he like on the trip out?”
“It’s like that, huh?” Caldwell muttered before he cleared his throat. “He was into everything. Wanted to know what was in each and every hold and why certain items were ordered. He kept trying to get into the hold that General O’Neill had requisitioned and had packed full of the stuff he had approved for Cooper. From what my XO has gleaned, he seemed intent on insinuating that we were smuggling for her.”
“Really?” Lorne asked as he shot John a sharp look.
“Yeah. From what the Airmen in charge of escorting him around said, he was very interested in anything that wasn’t on the official lists from the SGC. He kept trying to find out if something was being illegally shipped. But I don’t let anything on here unless it’s under orders, so he was shit out of luck there,” Caldwell shared. He sounded very annoyed to John’s ear and he couldn’t say as he blamed him.
“He’s got a lot of moxie if he’s willing to keep pushing that line in the face of your crew and the manifests,” John commented.
“Moxie, stupidity, I don’t know. But he seemed to think that Landry was going to be backing anything he did, so watch out for that,” Caldwell cautioned. “O’Neill has been shipping a lot of interesting things out here, so I’m not actually surprised that the manifests have caught the man’s eye.”
“Wouldn’t it have been smarter to ask General O’Neill what he was up to? Instead of this?” Lorne asked as he looked back and forth between the speaker and John.
“You would think,” John confirmed. “Did he say anything else?”
“Yeah,” Caldwell sounded grim now. “He was asking a lot of questions on what the senior staff has been ordering as well. Since he couldn’t get into the personal effects hold either.”
“Fantastic,” John hissed and then drew in a deep breath. “Thank you, Stephen. Will you be down for dinner tonight?”
“You bet. You think my crew is gonna miss a meal that Cooper and her crew have put together?” Caldwell asked.
“No, I didn’t. She’s got poutine on the menu for tomorrow too,” John remembered. He poked through the day’s announcements and grinned. “Tonight’s Mongolian BBQ.”
“I adore that woman and her people,” Caldwell announced. “Do you think I can put her up for some type of an award?”
“I don’t know, but it sure couldn’t hurt to check,” John said after a shared grin with Lorne. “She breaks out all the really good meals for the days when Daedalus is docked.”
“Really, she’s great,” Caldwell sounded distracted. “Okay, I just sent an email to my crew detailing dinner on Atlantis and my mess specialist has sent me a reply.”
Lorne looked intrigued. “Dare we ask?”
“Thank god, I don’t have to cook. See you at dinner,” Caldwell shared.
John laughed at that. Cooper and her people were an excellent investment and never more than when they were making people interested in actually eating. “Good to know. I’ll let you go so you can get your work done. Wouldn’t want you to be late for dinner.”
“Don’t space the little twit. And if needs be, I can stay long enough to ship him back,” Caldwell offered.
“Let’s get through this meeting first and then we’ll see,” John decided. “But thanks.”
“Caldwell out,” Caldwell said and the line went dead.
“Well, that wasn’t what I was expecting when we found out we were getting a supply officer. I thought they would be useful,” Lorne muttered. He wiped a hand over his face and shook his head. “Seriously, sir. What in the hell?”
“No idea,” John admitted. “I know Cooper calls her supplies from the IOA ‘smuggling’ but everything is on the official manifests and tracked from one end to the other. Most, if not all of her budget comes from the IOA since we are an international expedition and the PTB were determined that we weren’t going to get shorted on food. Even with Landry telling us that the food supplies could be stopped to make room for munitions.”
“That’s seriously bullshit, John,” Lorne growled before he took a deep breath at John’s nod. “Do we know how much she has squirreled away?”
“She rarely talks about it, but at the last contingency meeting, she said she’s currently got about eighteen months of food stored? That’s standard meals, no rationing,” John tried to remember what Cooper had said. “That’s not counting the MRE’s we have stored or the gardens.”
“The smartest thing you lot did was let her keep those,” Lorne said. “And since we’re on the ocean, we have access to fish, shellfish, and seaweed. Plus the herds on the mainland.”
“Which look like something out of a picture of the Old West. Seriously, there are millions of Great Beasts out there and we’ve barely harvested any,” John confirmed. “She’s also putting the leather by after having it tanned. So far the colors have been natural and black, but I’m sure she’s got ideas for more.”
“Isn’t one of the people who just arrived a cobbler in her spare time?” Lorne asked as he pulled his tablet close and checked. “Yeah, the new MS2 starting the swing shift is a certified cobbler.”
“She’s sneaky,” John said with a small chuckle. “A cobbler with good quality leather and the right tools can make shoes.”
“Or repair boots,” Lorne reminded him.
“We don’t pay her enough,” John said. “I wonder if we can put her in for an award.”
“I don’t think the Navy has an MVP award, but the SGC does,” Lorne reminded him. “We can put her in for that.”
“Sounds good,” John allowed. “Okay, so do you think he’s waited long enough?”
“Eh,” Lorne rocked a hand back and forth as he set his tablet down. “Not really, but I want dinner too, and keeping him here for hours will cut into that.”
“Fair point,” John said. He reached out mentally and opened the door to his office. “Ensign Thatch, you wanted to see me?”
The younger man looked uncomfortable and slightly off center as he stood at attention in front of his desk. “Ensign Thatch, reporting sirs!”
“At ease, Ensign,” John said. He stared at him for several moments before he waved him to the chair that Butterworth had brought into his office. “What can I do for you? I was expecting you to be getting an in-depth tour of our Services department with Chief Cooper and her people.”
“That’s part of what I wanted to talk to you about, sir,” Thatch admitted as he gingerly sat down.
John tried not to be pleased with
how uncomfortable the kid was, but it was beyond him. His first full day on the job and he was in front of his CO? Something was fishy as the underside of Atlantis and it wasn’t Cooper. When Thatch just sat there, John raised an eyebrow at him and waved a hand. “And?”
“General Landry is concerned with the amount of smuggling that’s been happening on the city. Along with the unauthorized food sources being employed to feed our troops. He’s sent me out here to get to the bottom of both issues and if needed, make sure that both things are stopped,” Thatch burst out after Lorne added his own glare at the kid.
“Say what?” John asked. When Thatch started to repeat himself, John waved at him to stop. “Let me get this straight… General Landry, the head of the SGC and an Air Force General, asked you, a brand new Navy Ensign to investigate possible smuggling happening here on Atlantis?”
He wasn’t going to touch the unauthorized food sources yet. Fuck if he was going to tell Cooper that she couldn’t have her ‘food sources’. He liked eating, thanks.
“Yes, sir,” Thatch looked absurdly pleased with how John had summarized the whole mess.
“Did he forget to mention that we have an actual NCIS agent on the City? And that he’s well aware of any ‘smuggling’ that happens. As a matter of fact, he busted the last ring trying to set up here and they all went to Leavenworth,” John shared. He was watching the ensign carefully and it looked like the penny hadn’t dropped.
“I didn’t know that, sir. Maybe he’d like to help me search for all the contraband the General has confirmed has been shipped out here,” Thatch offered eagerly.
“Uh-huh. And what is this contraband?” Lorne asked as John pressed his lips together.
John didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the list of ‘smuggled goods’ that Landry wanted to be seized and destroyed. The tractor that had been the first thing O’Neill had signed off on all the way down to the cheese making supplies from this last supply run, everything extra that Cooper had arranged to have sent out was on the block. The whole list was absurd. And authorized.
“You do realize that we aren’t going to turn any of that over, right?” Lorne asked.
Thatch shook his head. “Sir, it’s all illegal. General Landry didn’t approve of any of it being shipped out and it needs to be either destroyed or returned to Earth to determine if it is a necessary item.”
“All of those ‘smuggled’ items, Ensign, were approved by the IOA and by General O’Neill. Last I knew, he was the director of Homeworld Security and Landry’s boss. If he doesn’t have a problem with us being able to make cheese here on Atlantis, why does General Landry?” Lorne pressed. That had been the last thing the kid mentioned and he seemed very put out at the thought of it.
“I don’t know, sir,” Thatch admitted. He was starting to look uncomfortable around the edges. “But speaking of the cheese making things. Is it wise to have alien cows on the city? What if they spread disease?”
“You were vaccinated against the Pegasus version of smallpox yesterday, Ensign,” John reminded him, voice dry. “And the cows stay. We like the milk.”
“It’s a waste of resources, sir. We can order milk from Earth and not have to deal with the alien version,” Thatch said. He looked unhappy with the idea of alien milk.
“That would be a giant ‘no’ ensign,” John snapped. “The kinda-cows are here to stay and will be because I’ll be damned if I face starvation again because you’re upset at the idea of non-earth milk.”
“Sir,” the look Thatch was giving him was pitying. “No one is going to starve. The SGC can easily send enough food to support everyone without having to rely on doubtful food sources that haven’t been approved.”
“Ensign, I don’t know where you got the idea that what we’ve done is unapproved, but I think you can explain that to General O’Neill. I’m sure he’ll love to hear how every single bit of food independence we’ve managed with his help has been deemed doubtful by General Landry,” John ground out between clenched teeth. “And yes, we did face starvation our first year out here. Chief Cooper and her team are what kept us eating. Without her and them, we would have starved before our sixth month on the city.”
“I’m sure she’s told you that, but I reviewed the manifest the SGC had for your food and there was more than enough to feed everyone,” Thatch argued.
“Ensign, are you arguing with the Colonel about the amount of food the Expedition had the first year? Because last I knew, he a) outranks you, b) was here on Atlantis during that time, and c) was the one who signed off on all the resupply lists that were put in for the City. They were extensive,” Lorne snapped.
“General Landry…,” Thatch pushed stubbornly.
“General Landry isn’t in charge of our food supplies, Ensign. He won’t be either. And you can either learn to deal with that fact or you can go back on the Daedalus because I won’t have someone on my city who will attempt to sabotage our ability to feed ourselves. Earth doesn’t know everything and in this instance, they certainly can’t call the shots,” John slashed one hand through the air as Thatch opened his mouth again. “No. Pack your fucking bags and get off Atlantis. You are no longer welcome.”
John could see that his words had finally penetrated the ensign’s self-delusion and he blanched. “Sir?”
“Don’t even, Ensign. You can explain to General O’Neill why I sent you home. If you are lucky, Colonel Caldwell will just keep you confined to quarters,” John snapped. “You made no friends on that ship with your behavior on the way out either.”
“In case you missed it,” Lorne said after Thatch had sat still for several moments. “That was your hint to get your ass up and start packing. I would suggest that you report back to the Daedalus once that’s done.”
“Yes, sir,” Thatch whispered. He stood up from the chair he had been sitting in and saluted John with a hand that was shaking.
John didn’t say anything as he returned it. He kept his irritation behind his teeth until Thatch had exited his office and then he lost his cool as soon as the door closed. “What in the fuck was that?”
“No idea, John,” Lorne admitted with a frown. He leaned over and opened the comms channel to Caldwell again. “Colonel Caldwell, this is Major Lorne.”
“I take it the interview didn’t go well?” Caldwell asked. He sounded bemused.
“Oh, it went swimmingly,” Lorne admitted. “It seems that General Landry isn’t thrilled with our food independence and willingness to eat alien things.”
The comms line sat open and silent for several seconds as the Colonel thought that one over. “I got nothing.”
“Neither do we, sir,” Lorne admitted. “But Thatch can’t stay on the city with his attitude and we’re not willing to chance anything. He’s been directed to report to the Daedalus as soon as his bags are packed.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Caldwell muttered. “Okay, I’ll have one of the SFA’s keep an eye out for him and the duty officer will know to check on him regularly. Should I put MRE’s in his room?”
“I can’t tell you how to handle him on the way home, Colonel, but that might be wise. Also, he’s to be delivered to General O’Neill to explain this clusterfuck,” John bit out. “I’ll be sending the General a full report, along with video. He should find the whole thing interesting.”
“I bet he will,” Caldwell agreed. “Okay. Anything else?”
“That’s it,” John said.
“What a mess. I’ll see you at dinner,” Caldwell reminded them before signing off.
“Okay, so we write our reports and then call it a day?” Lorne suggested.
“Yeah,” John ran a hand over his face. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
Lorne shook his head. “I wasn’t either, and I had to deal with Landry last. I’m just as stumped as Caldwell.”
“Reports, dinner and then a beer,” John muttered as he pulled his laptop to him.
“Right.” Lorne agreed. He stood up and headed out. “I’ll let Butterworth know to start processing the paperwork to move Thatch back to Earth.”
John waved his agreement and pulled up his email program. He had a lovely one to write for the General. Both of them as a matter of fact. Reaching up, John tapped his earpiece until he got the private channel McKay had set up for them. “Rodney?”
“Hey, John,” McKay sounded distracted. “What can I do for you?”
“I need to make sure that an email I’m going to be sending out gets to the intended recipient and no one else,” John told him.
“Who do you want it to go to?” Rodney asked. He sounded concerned and John quickly explained why he needed the help. “Yeah, we can do that easily.”
“Good. I’ll see you in an hour? Dinner?” John asked.
“Sounds good. Ping me when your emails are ready to go,” Rodney confirmed.
John hummed once and let the line close. He had a lot to do in an hour.
“So he’s gone?” Bates asked as he sat down at the kitchen table.
“If by ‘he’ you mean the new supply officer, then yes, ‘he’ is gone,” Beryl confirmed. She had a glass of wine in her hand and was slowly sipping from it.
“I think this is the quietest the kitchen has ever been while we’ve been having these meetings,” Stackhouse observed as he reached for the cards stacked in the center of the table. “Who’s got the scorebook?”
“I do,” Jones called as he made his way in from Beryl’s office.
“Good,” Beryl said as she set her glass aside and grabbed half the deck to shuffle. “We’re closed down for the evening and our new MS2 isn’t going to be in for a while to start mid-rats, so we should have a few hours of peace and quiet.”
“Sounds like a good time, Beryl,” Stacks said as he quickly shuffled his half of the deck before handing her some to trade. “Gimme.”
“And you thought you wouldn’t play this again after the first game,” Jones teased.
“It’s cheaper than poker,” Stacks admitted. “And it lets us stay on top of the gossip mills.”
“Fair point,” Beryl agreed. She pushed her cards over to Stacks so he could merge both groups of cards. “So, General Landry is under the impression that we’re smuggling masses of shit out here. Everything from a tractor to the cheese making supplies we just got. He’s also not happy that we’re eating alien things. He seems to have set Ensign Thatch on us to stop both.”
“What does he think we’re going to eat out here? Air?” Jones asked, disgusted. “Not that the Colonel is going to stop trading for food anyway.”
“The Colonel’s got the kid returning to Earth with his ears pinned back, per the officer of the deck on Daedalus,” Bates reported. “And Colonel Caldwell has apparently confined him to quarters, which should be hell on earth in about a day. Those rooms are damn small onboard ship.”
“True that. And I don’t know how they missed the fact that the Colonel is really fond of eating. He was very unhappy with how the lack of food was impacting our readiness levels when things got bad first year and made no bones about that in his reports,” Beryl reminded him.
“Oh, I know,” Bates sounded peeved. “He wasn’t the only one unhappy with how that turned out.”
“Let’s not rehash that unhappy time,” Jones advised. He placed the bottle of wine beside Beryl’s elbow and looked at the other two men. “Since Beryl’s being all blah and shit and drinking wine, what do you two want to drink?”
“Beer?” Stacks asked as he looked at Bates. At the other man’s nod, he turned back to Jones. “Beer if you have any.”
“You two are our testers in this,” Jones warned as he handed them the bottles they had traded for and used to bottle their production.
“Any idea what it will be like?” Stacks asked as he used the church-key Jones passed him to open his bottle.
“We were aiming for a good middle ground ale. Not too dark, not to light and since this batch had no hops, it should be slightly sweet too,” Jones told him as he handed over glasses.
“The Colonel wants to break it out next month to celebrate the year after the Siege,” Beryl explained.
“This is from the wheat we traded for in year one, isn’t it?” Stacks asked as he poured his drink.
“Yup,” Beryl confirmed. She picked up her glass and took a sip as all three men studied the beer. She wasn’t a brewer, that was Jones, but she liked beer just fine. She thought the batch was excellent, but Jones wanted an outside opinion. “Hey, Stacks? You ever going to get your better half in on these nights?”
Stacks swallowed his mouthful of beer carefully. Turning to Jones, he ignored her for a moment. “The beer is excellent. Smooth, a bit nutty and you are right, there’s a hint of sweetness, but very refreshing,” he said before looking at her. “This started because of our jobs. Are you sure you want him here?”
“Yes,” Beryl admitted. She waved her glass at Bates. “I started dating this one because of these meetings, might as well invite your significant other along.”
“And Jones? Is he dating?” Bates asked. He shifted his chair around before getting up and grabbing another to place at the table by Stacks.
“Nope, still footloose and fancy-free,” Jones called as he went to get another glass and beer for Markham.
“You’ve been making blushy faces at the new corpsman in medical,” Beryl reminded him. “And she blushes back every time she sees you.”
“Which new corpsman is this?” Stacks asked after he signed off with Markham. “Jason will be here in about five minutes.”
“Sounds good,” Bates said. He looked over at Jones as he slid into his seat. “What corpsman?”
“Martinez,” Jones said as he cleared his throat. “I hate you so much right now, Beryl.”
“Give me shit about my relationship, I give you some about yours,” she told him sweetly.
“Duly noted,” Stacks said as he pushed the cards at her. When she tapped them to ‘cut’ them, he took them back and started dealing out the first hand. “Are you planning another movie night?”
“Dr. Weir authorized another Sunday, so yeah. I was thinking that since I got the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings movies in my last Daedalus package, I could show that. Get all the nerds together for a day of fun,” Beryl admitted. “I figure that’s a good date kinda thing. Food will be all the cold stuff we save for those events.”
“I saw those in the theater, they were good,” Bates admitted.
“Hey, guys,” Markham called as he entered the kitchen. “So this is what this place looks like. Cool.”
“Pretty much,” Beryl said with a smile. “Sorry we haven’t invited you before.”
“Eh,” Markham waved the problem away. “Not that big of a deal. So this is the card game that has Marc in stitches?”
“Yup,” Jones pointed at the chair. “Your spot, your beer, and your cards. Has he explained the rules?”
“Yes to all of it, and I understand what I’m getting into,” Jason admitted.
“So you say now,” Bates said a bit grimly. He took another sip of his beer before picking up his cards to start getting them in order. “Alright, two sets of three each. Remember, lowest score at the end wins.”
Beryl snickered softly as she waited her turn. She had gotten lucky with the deal and already had her sets. It seemed that things were looking up.