Shortly after Jumper One had ditched them to check out the space station, Jumpers Two and Three had received a weak distress signal from the wreck of the Daedalus. Listening to the voice of an unknown Lieutenant describe the numbers of dead and wounded, Lorne swallowed hard, more than half the crew were going to need immediate transport home and expert medical attention. Taking a deep breath, he started mixing in a few more prayers for a functional StarGate into the ones that were already running through his head. Under all the concentration of flying a Jumper and the distraction of figuring out the puzzle of the Daedalus’s courses he had been praying non-stop since he had been called in an emergency meeting. No matter how bad it was, Evan could only hope that at least some of his friends aboard the ship had made it.
When the transmission from the newly identified Lieutenant Zimmerman started to loop again, Lorne reached out and turned the volume down on the radio. Tilting his head slightly to look at his friend, he shook his head ruefully. “We really don’t have enough people for this. And the next group of Jumpers, with more personnel and supplies are still at least four hours out. Here’s to hoping that McKay really did find a StarGate on that thing and that the Colonel can get it running.”
Looking more than a bit shocked at the Lieutenant’s report on the amount of destruction and wounded that the Daedalus had suffered, Parrish only nodded. Glancing back at the Marines behind him, Lorne saw that that his co-pilot wasn’t the only ones looking shocked. Nodding to himself, he started work on passing the weak distress signal onto Sheppard. Atlantis needed to know everything they had found so far.
Flying low over the curve of a planet would have been more fun if they hadn’t been on a rescue mission, Jon decided. It would also have been more fun if the Marines in the back had been left behind on Atlantis and he had Daniel to himself. But since neither option was open, Jon was going to take what enjoyment he could find before the hard work arrived. Or to be more accurate, when they arrived at the hard work.
Shaking his head slightly, Jon looked over at Daniel. It seemed his archeologist was lost in his translations again. Nothing new there. Glancing back at the readouts on the HUD, Jon saw that they had arrived on site, time to get his co-pilots attention. “Daniel, time to get ready.” No response, but there was nothing new in that, more like business as usual. Snorting softly he reached out and tapped Daniel on the shoulder, “Danny, look.”
More than a little wrapped up in his research, Daniel glanced up the view screen and stopped. “Oh, my god. Jon? Are we sure that there are survivors from that?”
“That’s what the message said, Danny. There has to have been someone alive to send one out.” and while Jon was sure there were survivors, he agreed with Daniel, to have made it through this wreck took a large number of miracles. Stretching for several miles, the rubble and debris seemed to be pointing the way. Enlarging the view via the HUD, Jon could see several figures around the main mass of the Daedalus laying out a landing site for the Jumpers, while others continued to climb over the wreckage, shifting through it for any hint of additional survivors. “There are survivors, Danny. There are still people alive.”
Slumping forward in relief, Daniel could only nod. Survivors.
Looking at the crash site from the air, you could tell that some sort of order was being enforced. From the layout it seemed as if portions of the tent village had been laid out like a demented boy scout camp crossed with field hospital and an open air morgue. Given what the survivors of the Daedalus had to work with, Lorne figured he wasn’t too off in his guesses. Whatever the inspiration for the layout had been, it was sure to make finding everything easier. Turning his attention to the newly delineated landing zone, he sighed in relief at the sight of an impromptu ground control officer. Because while landing the Jumpers was on many levels automatic, Lorne really felt that in this situation they needed all the help they could get. Even if the machine he was currently flying traveled through space and atmosphere with equal ease and did it all without true wings. And the drive pods didn’t really count, no matter how far they stuck out the sides. Either way, once over the landing site, it was a quick, silent hover and then float down to the designated parking space.
Swinging around in his chair, Lorne nodded for Sgt. Patterson to hit the release for the ramp. Deciding to stay still for the moment, he waited for the Marines to move out. Looking over at Parrish, Lorne saw that he was looking a bit green around the gills as he gazed at the sheer level of destruction that the Daedalus had sustained. The damage had been horrible to see from the air, and looked ten times as bad from the ground. Eyeing the sensor information still showing on the HUD, Lorne could tell that getting the Daedalus back into space under her own power would take things they didn’t currently have on Atlantis. Glancing at his watch, he decided to send out an additional databurst, loaded with the most recent sensor information onto Sheppard. Tapping the request into the Jumpers comm system, he waited until he got the green light of a sent message.
Taking a deep breath, he stood up and asked, “David? I need to get going. Can you break out the stretchers by yourself? Or do you want me to have someone help you?”
With a slight start, Parrish drew himself out of his thoughts, “No Evan, I have it. You need to go get a report from the Lt. who sent out the distress call.” And putting his words into action, he got up and started pulling together the supplies to turn the Jumper into a flying ambulance.
Nodding at David in understanding, Lorne made sure to rest his hand on a shoulder as he walked past. Time to get started.
Stepping out of the Jumper, Lorne was assaulted by the sheer overwhelming smell of the crash site. Threading on the breeze was a combination of the nose singeing burn of roasted electronics, the stench of blackened insulation, added to the sickly sweet scent of burnt people and the charcoal tang of the vegetation, and overall the site just reeked. And this was on the outside of the Daedalus, the interior sections of the ship had to be worse than this. Shaking his head slightly and trying to breathe through his mouth, Lorne turned around, attempting to get his bearings as he looked around for someone in charge.
Spotting O’Neill and Jackson walking towards him, he nodded absently in greeting as he continued to look for anyone who looked like they knew what they were doing. Lorne could honestly say that he found himself more and more grateful that the General had sent the two clones out to Atlantis. Having the resource of another Colonel had made things much easier already and, well… O’Neill and Jackson must have dealt with something like this before, so he knew he could count on them to let him know if he was doing anything wrong.
“Major Lorne, sir?” came a hoarse voice behind him. Turning away from O’Neill and Jackson, Lorne looked at the young man who had called his name. Saluting as crisply as possible with a bandaged right shoulder, he said, “I’m Lt. Brian Zimmerman, sir. Thank you for getting here so fast. Is there anyone else on the way? We’ve got a lot of wounded.”
Returning the salute, Lorne nodded. Glancing back at the two Jumpers, Lorne could see why the young Lt. was worried. It really didn’t look like Atlantis had sent out many people to rescue them. Reaching out to carefully grasp the young Lieutenant’s uninjured shoulder, he tried to put every ounce of reassurance in his voice that he could. “Don’t worry Lt., Atlantis sent out nine Jumpers in a staggered launch pattern. The other six are just a few hours behind us. Col. Sheppard and Dr. McKay are working on getting a nearby ‘Gate up and running so we can get your people out of here faster. And speaking of your wounded, our Jumpers have been refitted as ambulances. Who needs to go first?”
Watching Zimmerman sway as he realized that rescue was there and more ships were on the way and they could get people home, Lorne decided the kindest thing was to keep the kid as busy as possible. Mainly so he wouldn’t wonder where that mystery ‘Gate had come from. Telling him it was on the space station that had shot down his ship just seemed beyond cruel. Besides, it really wouldn’t be all that hard for them all to stay busy, given the sheer amount of work needed to get all the wounded and dead out. Turning back to where O’Neill had last been, he saw that he and Jackson had joined Parish in making sure all the stretchers on Jumper Two were secure. Well that was one way to stay nearby and hear everything.
“Yes, sir. I have the list here.” And patting his pockets, Zimmerman pulled out what had to be someone’s personal PDA and began to read off the names and injuries of most seriously wounded. Glancing at the nonstandard electronics in his hand, Lorne raised an eyebrow in question, and then decided to let it go. He hadn’t been there for the crash, so he had no cause to demand answers to questions that really didn’t need to be asked. He would have to ask later, if only to find out why for his report but it wasn’t currently relevant. Listening closely to the numbers of wounded, Lorne started hoping that McKay had gotten the ‘Gate up and running, there were just too many in need of immediate help to keep on site.
“Right. Zimmerman, let’s get of all the most seriously wounded aboard the Jumpers and on their way to the ‘Gate. Once they are on their way, I am going to need you to brief myself, Lt. O’Neill and Sgt.’s Patterson and Brandon on where you have searched for survivors.” and gesturing for the Lt. to lead the way, Lorne got to work.
Jon decided that he wasn’t going to think too long, or hard on what he was really seeing as he started loading people onto the two Jumpers. That way led to more nightmares than he needed right now, thank you very much. While sleep was not a highly overrated option, no matter how many times the scientists tried to tell him it was, the action was definitely something he wanted to do again. Although, if this whole search and rescue turned out to be as bad as his nose was telling him, sleep was going to be bumped onto the optional list for a while.
Checking off the listed wounded from those loaded onto Jumper Three, Jon noted that they had everyone. Walking down the center isle of what was now a space going ambulance; he paused at each of the six stretchers, confirming that they and their contents were secure. Nodding at the sergeant who was now the designated bus driver, Jon walked down the ramp and off the ship. It was time for the first group of wounded to start the trip home.
Moving swiftly to escape the dust cloud, he headed off the LZ and towards the med tents. Time to get organized.
Many hours later Jon walked out of the wreck of the Daedalus, Jon paused and pulled the respirator off his face. The air may have been just as fragrant outside as it was inside, but at least it was marginally cooler that the mess inside the hull. With no power to run the life support fans, there was no circulation of the air inside, so the rescue workers needed to wear masks and carry supplemental oxygen. It was hot, sweaty and tiring work. Taking a deep breath, he leaned against the hull plates and closed his eyes, trying to find the energy to continue. Tilting his face into the sun, Jon listened to the noises coming from the area behind him, and turning his head further he concentrated for a moment. The footsteps and vocal grumbles he had been hearing belonged to Daniel.
Moments after identifying Jon had identified the owner of the footsteps, Daniel stepped out of the fissure their group had used to enter the ship. Settling against a clear section of hull plates by Jon, Daniel paused to push off his respirator as well. Taking a deep breath, he let it out in a sigh and said, “I did a final walk through with Patterson, and we didn’t see any signs of anyone else. And the LSD only shows the rescue crews for this section. I think this area is clear, Jon.”
Nodding in tired agreement Jon sat back and enjoyed the feeling of sun on his face. When he felt that they had had a five minute rest, Jon stood up and began slipping his gear back on. Glancing over at Daniel, he nodded at the fissure, time to go back in. Walking back into the gloom, the two men quickly reached a section of what appeared to be darker shadows, spread out on the floor. Squatting down at either end, they grabbed the carry straps and with weary care, began moving their burden into the light.
Maneuvering carefully around the debris of the crash, Jon and Daniel slowly walked towards the tents that were now housing the sites temporary morgue. As they moved over the newly beaten paths people stood quietly at attention when they saw their burden. Though this was not the first body to be brought out, each was given what honors the rescuers could spare.
Stepping into the main morgue tent, the two men gently lowered the body bag onto a gurney. Nodding at the ME on duty, Jon paused to strip off his leather gloves and snagged the clipboard she held out, filling out all the information they had on their passenger wasn’t going to take very long. He had been found with no dog tags, no uniform and what there was of his face had been too badly damaged for anyone in their party to get a visual ID. Given that, Jon was guessing that Brio and her crew were going to have to use DNA or dental records to find out who their Doe was.
Signing off on his portion of the report, Jon handed the clipboard over to Daniel for him to review, make any needed changes and then counter sign. Feeling his skin start to itch under the protective gear, Jon decided that he at least needed to strip off the surgical gloves that he had worn under the leather work gloves. Looking around for the bucket the crew in the morgue were using as a catch all, he pulled them off and lobbed them into the bin. Once those were off, the urge to just get rid of *all* his hot, sweaty gear was overwhelming. Pulling the hardhat and goggles, he paused at his respirator. Better to leave that on for the moment. Brio and her techs were conducting autopsies and reconstructing bodies in these tents, and Jon really didn’t want to smell it.
Once out of the temporary morgue, they watched Lorne and Parrish arrive, carrying their own grim burden. Jon nodded at their friends and placing a hand on Daniel’s arm, signaled for them to wait outside. While they were waiting, he and Daniel made sure to strip off any remaining safety gear and dispose of any soiled part of it in the labeled bins. When the other two came out, Jon glanced at them and asked, “Have your teams found anyone alive?”
Pausing by the bins, Lorne took the time to strip off his gear. Shaking his head in briefly, he sighed heavily and sadly said, “No. Not a one. And my guys only just found this last Doe.”
Running his fingers through his sweaty hair, Parrish looked over at the wreck of the Daedalus. Taking a deep breath, he asked the other three, “Have we found everyone? I mean, I know we,” and waving his hand between himself and Lorne continued, “have found a lot of people. Is there anyone still unaccounted for?”
Rubbing his hands against his empty stomach, Lorne started walking towards the area that had been set aside for food preparation and places to sleep. Glancing over at Jon, he asked, “Jon, do you remember how many crew were assigned to the Daedalus? I know how many people from Atlantis we had aboard her, but I don’t remember the numbers of her original crew compliment.”
Obviously digging deep into his memories, Jon replied, “Prometheus class ships have a crew compliment of around two hundred and fifty. Daedalus carries, damn it, typically carried around two hundred and with the Atlantis folks, I would say she was at a full roster. Have you checked with Zimmerman? I know he’s been keeping track of the lists.”
Speaking quietly, Lorne nodded. “I talked to him a few hours ago, before our last Doe was found. At the time, we were missing six people. I know our group found the one, your lot found two, and Lt. Rivera radioed in that they had found another in the debris trail.”
Nodding in time to the information being passed on, Daniel glanced at Jon. “So we may only be missing two people?”
“If we are lucky, it will be only two. Remember, the Daedalus was hulled in space and came down hot. We’ve been lucky to find evidence of as many as we have. As for the remaining missing, we might just find them when we start shifting stuff as we get to the salvage stage. Or never if they were lost in space.” Sighing deeply, Jon continued, “Brio and her crew get the unenviable task of putting the names and faces to all those Does we delivered to them.”
Shaking off the somber mood, the four looked up as they reached the mess tent. Checking out the area by the sinks, they saw that there was room for them to wash up. While it might not have been the tidiest idea to have a line of deep sinks outside the mess tent, all the men were glad they were there. It allowed everyone a chance to do a sketchy clean up before they ate and getting clean helped improve everyone’s mood just a bit.
Feeling cleaner than he had in days, Lorne headed into towards the food. Glancing over the buffet, he noticed that there seemed to be a large amount of fresh food versus MRE’s. It appeared that the returning Jumpers weren’t just bringing more rescue personnel; they were also bringing in fresh groceries. Not that he was going to complain at the idea of them playing delivery van. Anything was better than the Chicken Kiev MRE’s that had been the only food available the last two times he had stopped by.
Grabbing a tray and working his way down the line, Lorne loaded up on the fresh food and hoped that nothing he was eating would trigger a flashback. Heading over to a table as far from the door as possible, he dropped down into the chair and started to eat, it had been too long since his last meal. Good manners would have to wait.
Sitting down might not have been his best idea to date, Jon decided about halfway through the meal. Between the four of them, he figured they had maybe twelve hours of sleep over the last three days, so the yawns were to be expected. And watching his friends as they tried to finish the meals before them without falling face first into their plates made him revise that might too definitely.
Catching Lorne’s eye, Jon nodded at Parrish and Daniel. Deciding to let his inner Colonel out, he *suggested*, “Evan, I think we need to get some sleep. Right now we are a danger to ourselves and everyone around us, given how tired we are.”
Watching the tired Major try to snap to attention really shouldn’t have been as amusing as it was. Technically Lorne outranked Jon, but Lorne had also served under Col. O’Neill for a number of years and the habits of obedience were deeply ingrained. And watching Lorne *catch* himself at the behavior was even funnier, in a weary sort of way.
When Lorne agreed to standing the four of them down for some much needed sleep, Jon nodded and tucked the Colonel away. That aspect of himself had proven to be a useful tool, but he really didn’t need the fuss right now. Now it was time to grab his geek, and find a place to sleep.
Elizabeth had long ago decided that she hated the Gate and the call of an unauthorized wormhole. After the last three days, she had decided that she didn’t just hate it, she loathed it. Atlantis had been getting Jumper loads of wounded from the Da Vinci (and who had named the station that? It just didn’t have the flavor of a John Sheppard type of name.) almost every hour and the clinics and infirmary were running out of room.
Deciding that she wasn’t going to obsess over the situation on the other side of the Gate, Elizabeth brought up the list of the reports that were waiting for her review and signature. Once she was finished with those, she had supply lists to approve, personnel reviews to sign off on, and the housing situation needed to be going over. When she was done with that, the commissary had sent up the menu for the next two weeks, housekeeping had memos in about the Ancient equivalent of laundry machines, and their dentist was looking for office space outside of the infirmary.
Burying herself in the job of running what was for all intents and purposes, a small colony and trading post, Elizabeth began to relax. Three hours later, she looked up when she heard the sound of the chimes placed outside her office door. Standing on the causeway was Carson and he was holding a covered tray from the commissary. Smiling through the glass, Elizabeth hit the manual override to open the door and then started clearing off her desk to make room for the tray.
Grinning slightly, Carson walked over to the desk, “Hello Elizabeth, I tho’ght ye might be ready for a good meal by now.”
“Thank you Carson. I hadn’t realized how late it had gotten. How are things going in the infirmary?” she asked. And taking the tray from Carson, Elizabeth started transferring their meal from the tray to her desk.
Settling into one of the chairs in front of her desk, Carson sighed. “It has been very bad, Elizabeth. Luckily we haven’t lost anyone on this side of the Gate, but I can’t say the same is true over there. And most of the people we have in our wards are badly wounded with weeks and months of recovery and rehabilitation ahead of them. I would feel better if we could get them back to Earth as soon as possible.”
Hesitating slightly as she sat back in her chair, Elizabeth looked over at her friend. He seemed so tired. “Carson, I really have no idea when we’ll be able to dial Earth again. The last conversation we had with the SGC was less than encouraging.”
Leaning forward slightly, Carson took a deep breath, “Elizabeth, I am going to be very blunt, so forgive me if I offend you. We cannot afford to house almost one hundred and fifty seriously wounded people. We don’t have the supplies, the manpower or the space to make sure they all heal as they should. The only place that has the needed resources is Earth. We need to get these people back through the Gate and on to better care than my people can provide. And we need to do that as soon as possible”
Staring blindly at the food on her plate, she nodded. “I know. But we need to do what we can, with what we have, while we can. If nothing else, we can strip the Daedalus of all her usable medical supplies first. Most of those should be okay, if they are in sealed containers, right?”
“I have no idea, Elizabeth. You’ll need to talk to the people on site, they would know. And while it is good to know that we potentially have replacements for some of our supplies, the salvage will not cover them all.” And taking a deep breath, Carson visibly shook off his mood. “Let’s not talk about that right now. Eat your dinner before it gets cold.” And taking his own advice to heart, he picked up his fork and started on his meal.
Nodding her head in agreement, Elizabeth allowed the conversation to drop. Picking up her fork as well, she started to eat. And found that at least one thing about her day had turned out well. Even if it was only the food.