Written for gameofcards.
John had only been back on Atlantis a couple of days when he was called in and told that he was being given another liaison assignment.
"It's not punishment, Sheppard," Ragan said, waving off John's protests. "I read the reports. I know what you did with the Satedans. Everyone knows what you did. You're as close to naqahdah around here as you're ever going to get. This assignment's different. You'll be going back to your own people for this one."
"My people are here," John said stubbornly, nodding toward the graceful spirals and stained glass of Atlantis. Ragan blinked, but otherwise didn't respond. John had known he wouldn't. It was futile to insist that he too was Lantean, to point out that he'd been born in the city to an immigrant father and an Atlantis-born mother, that he was not one of the many refugees from Wraith-destroyed worlds, struggling to hold onto the remnants of a culture with too few adherents left. Lantean-born humans might hold themselves above the refugees--and many of them did--but as far as the Lanteans were concerned, everyone else was pretty much indistinguishable. All part of the same mass of humanity that helped keep the Wraith alive.
"You leave for Ustatia tomorrow," Ragan said. "If the Wraith continue with their current course, they'll arrive at Ustatia's primary colony world in a month. Your job is to make sure that the Ustatia military is ready to coordinate with our forces by the time the Wraith get there."
"Yes, sir," John sighed, and wondered if he'd get any chance to fly while he was there, or if it was all going to be paperwork and shaking hands. None of the Ustatian ships could compare to Lantean vessels of course--nothing compared to a ship that responded to every thought, but he liked seeing what other planets had come up with, and the specs on some of the Ustatian ships had looked promising.
John's father had taken him back to Ustatia exactly once, a short vacation when John was fifteen and his brother was thirteen, a few months after their mother died. It had been John's first trip off Atlantis. Most of what he remembered was how strange, how foreign it was. He spoke the language, of course, and his mother had sometimes made them some of the food, which had led to some unexpected flashes of grief when he encountered the dishes she'd made, but otherwise there was nothing there that spoke to him of home.
Stepping through the gate onto Ustatian soil, looking up at the deepening purple-blue of the evening sky and the unfamiliar stars starting to peek out beyond, John felt much the same as he had on that first trip over twenty years ago. This was not his home.
He shifted his pack onto his shoulder and stepped away from the gate, looking around for his ride. He found it quickly enough, in the form of a fair-haired man striding toward him with a welcoming smile.
"Major Sheppard, I assume," he said. John took the offered hand, and found himself smiling in return. This man clearly wasn't the low-ranked functionary John had been expecting when he'd realized the hour he'd be arriving at.
"Major Cameron Mitchell," the other man continued, dropping John's hand. "I'm your counterpart for the Ustatian side. Figured we could get to know each other a bit tonight before we start things up tomorrow."
"Sure," John said easily. It was definitely more friendly than the reception he'd received on Sateda.
"It's still mid-afternoon for you, right?" Mitchell said.
John nodded. It was one of the problems with gate travel--you were constantly out of step with wherever you went.
"How about I show you to your room, and then we go grab a drink and you tell me about the Satedan battle until you're hungry enough to eat?" Mitchell said.
John's eyes widened in surprise. "How'd you hear about Sateda?"
Mitchell's face lit up in a grin. "We have our sources, Sheppard. Everyone's going to want the story tomorrow, so you might as well practice telling me tonight." The grin faded as fast as it had come. "With the Wraith heading straight toward us, we need every bit of intel we can get. Capabilities. How they fight. What they've tried in other places. I'm hoping you can help us with that."
"I'll do what I can," John promised. He followed Mitchell to the truck, looking around at the still-unfamiliar buildings, and thought that maybe a month on Ustatia wouldn't be so bad after all.
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