Title: Saving Captain Holland, Chapters 11-15
Author: Daisy May
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate SG-1
Genre: Action Adventure, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction, Slash
Relationship(s): John/Rodney, Jack/Patrick Sheppard
Content Rating: NC17
Author Notes: My casting of Patrick Sheppard comes directly from Keira Marcos, with grateful thanks. Viggo Mortensen is Patrick Sheppard. I also borrowed the idea of an acronym from enigmaticblue’s story If All Else Fails although I did make up my own. The original idea was all hers, though. This is an AU and while I’ve used canon in some places, in others I’ve ignored or changed it entirely.
Beta: Ed Ronhia
Word Count: ~78,500
Summary: When Major Sheppard saved Lyle Holland from certain death in Afghanistan, he had no idea of the impact it would have on his life. Barely twenty-four hours after the rescue, he was promoted and on a spaceship. He was promoted again after almost losing his life in the Battle of Antarctica, but where Goa’uld are concerned, sometimes friends turn out to be enemies.
John tapped on Jack’s office door and peered around it.
‘I’m going to P2R 997 to drag McKay back by the scruff of his neck,’ he announced to his CO. ‘He’s six hours overdue. Wanna join me?’
Jack looked up and grinned. ‘Hell, yes! Anything’s got to be better than this crap.’ He waved a hand at the accounts he was trying to understand. ‘I need to get your father to talk me through these. I’m pretty sure the Appropriations Committee is trying to screw us. Is he joining us?’
‘Why? So the pair of you can hold hands?’
‘Hey! It was only the once and we didn’t know you were walking behind us. I’ve walked in on you and McKay with your tongues down each other’s throats before today.’
‘In my private office!’
‘Which leads out of mine! Anyway, I thought you were okay with me and Patrick…you know.’
‘Being okay with it is one thing; seeing it with my own eyes is quite another. Do you want to come or not?’
Jack glanced down at his accounts then back up again. ‘I’m in. Should I call Patrick?’
‘I’m already geared up.’ Patrick nudged John aside and cuffed his head as he passed.
‘Ow! What was that for?’
‘Talking about me behind my back. Don’t do it again.’
John grinned at his father, pleased to have him back in his life even though they both knew there were long conversations they needed to have together. I didn’t realise how much I missed him.
Patrick accompanied them as Jack and John went to gear up. ‘I thought Lorne was on P2R 997? How can you both go off-world?’
‘Colonel Everett is back from leave,’ John told him, shrugging into his Kevlar vest. ‘We’re leaving him in charge.’
‘Dillon Everett? Doesn’t he outrank you? Why are you 2IC and not him?’
‘Because the SGC – and Area 51 for that matter – is an Air Force Base, not Marine,’ Jack explained. ‘It’s caused some arguments in the past, I can tell you, but the Pentagon has now accepted it and John’s the second-ranking AF on Base. He gets to be my 2IC.’
‘But not if you’re both away?’
‘Not if it’s a temporary thing. If both John and I die then the Air Force would bring in someone new. They’re not going to give up the SGC, not for anyone. Well, not unless they’re forced to,’ he added. ‘Right. I’m ready.’
‘Wait, wait,’ a voice called out and Daniel Jackson burst through the door. ‘I’m coming!’
‘Danny?’ Jack demanded. ‘Why are you coming? I thought there was nothing else there to interest you?’
‘I remembered last night that we never got to investigate the wall thingy.’
‘What wall thingy?’
Daniel’s head appeared through his sweater. ‘Don’t you remember? Just before Rodney announced the ZPM thing, Dr Sheppard found a knob on the wall. We never looked at it again.’
Jack screwed up his face and shook his head. ‘Nope. Don’t remember any knobs.’
John smirked and Patrick swatted his head, again. ‘I do. A little lump in the engraving, right?’
Daniel nodded his head furiously as he struggled into his vest. ‘Yes, yes, that’s it. I want to take some more video footage of the walls and have a closer look at the lump. There might be something there.’
John checked them over and led the way to the embarkation room. ‘What sort of something, Daniel?’
‘I don’t know. Could be anything. I want to check it out, though. I heard in the mess you were going today and came straight away. Why are you going?’
‘McKay,’ John answered, succinctly. ‘He was due back at 0900 Mountain time. I’m going to drag his ass back home. Dial it up, Walter,’ he called to the control room, and watched as the gate dialled. When the final lock was in place and their passage confirmed to Jason Markham, currently in charge of gate defence on P2R 977, John waved a hand to his companions. ‘Move out.’
They emerged into the first light of dawn and to twelve weapons pointed at them from the various security emplacements and nests the detail had built around the Stargate.
‘Stand down,’ Markham called out and the troops manning the twelve positions relaxed. ‘We weren’t expecting you today, sirs.’
‘Just rounding up errant scientists,’ John told him, stepping down from the plinth. ‘Any problems?’
‘Nothing, sir. Quiet as a mouse. I’m beginning to think Dr Jackson was right and this place has been forgotten about.’
‘Stay sharp, we can’t know that,’ Jack ordered, glancing down the path they needed to take. ‘Wish we had a Jeep or something to use off-planet,’ he muttered in an undertone.
Daniel laughed. ‘You’ve been saying that since the first time we went through the gate.’
‘And still nobody’s done anything about it. We could easily get a few Jeeps down to level 28.’
‘And all the diesel we’d need to run them?’
‘It might not be straight forward, but all I’m saying is, we could manage it if we tried.’
John and Patrick looked at each other, grinned, and fell into step behind them.
‘Sounds as though this is an old argument,’ Patrick said in a low voice, making John laugh.
‘It is, although Jack’s right. It could be useful at times; if there’s an injury, for instance. Could mean the difference between life and death.’
‘I’m surprised McKay hasn’t come up with anything yet.’
‘Not for lack of being asked, that’s for sure. Jack tables it a couple of times a year, I understand.’
They walked in silence for a while then Patrick glanced at him.
‘You’re happy here, aren’t you, son?’
‘Very happy. Why?’
Patrick shrugged. ‘No real reason. I thought about it when Daniel asked me about going back to SI when we were here a couple of weeks ago.’
‘And I’m not sure if I can be bothered. Oh, don’t get me wrong,’ Patrick added at John’s look of surprise. ‘I know we need to get David freed from whatever it is controlling him, be it a Goa’uld or a threat of some sort. I’ve only waited this long because both Colonel Davis and Agent Barrett asked me to hold off until we had a clearer picture of the situation. I’m just not sure I want to go back to the life I had before all this.’ He waved his hand around. ‘I semi-retired in 2001 when I turned sixty,’ he explained. ‘I cut down my hours spent at the office and handed most of the day to day running of SI to David. Trouble is, I was bored. I’d spent so much of my life wrapped up in SI that I’d forgotten how to relax and do something else.’
John glanced at him from the corner of his eye and took note of the frown on his father’s face, mostly absent for the two months he’d spent at the SGC. ‘So what did you do?’
‘The first thing I did was to complete my PhD. I’d been ABD for several years and my dissertation was almost finished, so I took the time to finish it properly.’
‘And your dissertation?’
Patrick shot him a grin. ‘Computational Aspects of Cryptography and Cryptanalysis. ‘
John raised his eyebrows. ‘Wow. Has Rodney recruited you yet?’
Patrick nodded. ‘How do you think I’ve been earning my keep in the Mountain? He’s got me working with Alistair Fellowes to develop provable security. For the SGC initially, but with the aim of developing it to package and market. It’s something SI had been looking at, but we couldn’t find the right people to help us develop it which was frustrating. Turns out they’d all been recruited by McKay and were either at the SGC or Area 51.’
John laughed. ‘Sooner or later someone’s going to ask where all the top scientists disappear to.’
‘Oh, they’re already asking that, believe me, but so far you’ve managed to keep the SGC and its people a secret. God knows how.’ He gave John a sly smile. ‘I’ve shared mine with you, only fair that you return the favour.’
‘I’m going to kill McKay.’
Patrick gave a guffaw of laughter causing Jack and Daniel to turn around.
‘What’s happened?’ Jack demanded, looking around, his gun held at waist height ready to fire if necessary.
‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,’ Patrick told him. ‘John was just cursing out McKay for telling me about his doctoral dissertation.’
‘Which one?’ Daniel asked. ‘He’s got three PhDs.’
‘Not McKay’s, John’s dissertation.’
Jack nodded while Daniel looked at John curiously.
‘I didn’t know you were working for a PhD.’
‘No one’s supposed to know. I asked McKay to keep it quiet but he clearly can’t keep his mouth shut.’
‘That’s a bit harsh, John,’ Daniel frowned. ‘He probably didn’t understand that you wanted to keep it quiet. What’s your dissertation on?’
‘Oh, he knew alright.’
John heaved a deep sigh realising he wasn’t going to escape telling them. ‘Number theory and how it relates to cryptography and data integrity.’
Patrick raised his eyebrows. ‘So, very similar to what I’m doing?’
John nodded. ‘Probably why McKay couldn’t keep his mouth shut.’
Their discussion had so engrossed them they hadn’t noticed either the time or distance they’d covered until a Marine suddenly stepped out onto the path and saluted.
‘Lt Cadman. I didn’t realise you were out here,’ Jack commented, returning the salute.
Cadman grinned at him. ‘Colonel Sheppard thought it a good training ground to test our surveillance and defence capabilities. You’ve just stepped on a landmine, sir.’
Jack jumped back in shock while John shook his head and scowled at her. ‘Behave yourself, Cadman, or I’ll have you on KP! Don’t worry, sir. I told them they couldn’t use live ammunition in their war games.’
O’Neill nodded to Cadman. ‘Carry on, Lieutenant. Good job.’
John nodded to her as they passed and overheard her Captain, hidden in the undergrowth with the rest of her platoon, telling her off.
‘You’ve got the cheek of the devil, Cadman. If you spoke to someone in the big USMC like that they’d have you up on a charge.’
‘Big USMC?’ Patrick asked John in a low voice.
‘Outside the SGC. You’ll hear Big Air Force used as well.’
‘No Big Navy?’
‘You’re the only Naval man we’ve got.’
As the facility came into sight, John quickened his steps and went straight past Lorne and the detail on guard to find McKay. Jack, Patrick, and Daniel followed at a more leisurely pace but were in time to hear McKay’s squawk of pain as John grabbed his ear.
‘Ow, ow, ow, ow ow! What’re you doing? Let go!’
‘Forty-eight hours followed by a minimum of twenty-four back at base. I did warn you, McKay!’ John tugged him away from his computer and finally let go. He folded his arms and watched McKay rub his ear, a grim expression on his face. ‘Well? What’ve you got to say for yourself?’
‘McKay,’ John growled warningly.
‘Alright, alright. I just wanted to finish something we were doing.’ A note of glee crept into his voice. ‘We did it, John. We really did it.’
‘We recharged one of the empty ZPMs. Not fully, not yet, but it’s about sixty per cent filled.’
‘I didn’t know you were ready to begin recharging, yet. Did I miss an email?’
Rodney immediately looked a little shifty and glanced over to Zelenka who’d returned to the outpost the previous day to relieve McKay. ‘I…umm…we…’
‘Was my idea, Colonel,’ Zelenka held up a hand. ‘I brought one of the empty ZPMs from Colonel Carter’s lab for us to test recharging equipment.’
John nodded at him and sighed. ‘I’d prefer to be informed of decisions like that in future, Doc, but I’ll let it pass this time.’
Radek flushed and buried his head back in the equipment while Rodney scowled at John.
‘How come he gets away with just that? If I’d been the one at fault, you’d’ve yelled at me.’
‘I might still yell at you. You’re his boss and should know better than to keep important information from me. As it is, I’m seriously thinking of carrying out my threat and putting Bill—’
He was interrupted by a shout of glee from the other members of his party who had been busy running their fingers over the engravings on the other side of the room, taking no notice of John and Rodney.
‘What? What’s happened?’ John demanded, swinging round to look at them.
Jack turned to face him, grinning hugely. ‘We’ve only gone and found a ZPM!’
‘There’s another lump here,’ Patrick called out. ‘Jack, John, come and look.’
John stepped towards the wall and peered at his father’s fingers as Patrick pressed either side of the tiny bump. One of the swirls etched into the metal suddenly retracted leaving an open compartment where an orange and red crystal object was laying.
‘Another one?’ Jack gasped in shock.
The commotion which followed his announcement brought Lorne running and he looked around in confusion at the celebrations within the Ancient facility.
‘Is everything alright, sirs?’ he asked only to have Daniel Jackson grab his hands and waltz him around the laboratory.
Jack released Patrick from a tight hug and grinned at the confused Major. ‘We’ve just made an amazing discovery, take no notice.’
Lorne watched them for a moment then shook his head and rolled his eyes, then disappeared outside again.
‘I guess that means even more stories of how crazy I am will make their way around the base,’ Jack commented, then grinned again. ‘Two and a half ZPMS! Enough to dial Atlantis and hand one, maybe even two over to them.’
‘And send some supplies through,’ Daniel added, his eyes shining behind his glasses. ‘They’ll probably be on short rations by now unless they’ve managed to make a few trade agreements.’ He tipped his head on one side thoughtfully. ‘I could go out with the supplies.’
‘No, you couldn’t.’ Jack pointed a finger at him. ‘I told you that you couldn’t go when the Expedition left. Nothing’s changed.’
Daniel pouted. ‘But, Jack—’
Whatever he was about to say was interrupted by the appearance of one of Lorne’s security detail.
‘Sir, sir. Sergeant Markham’s just radioed. The gate’s just dialled and it’s not Earth.’
‘Then who is it?’
A second SF arrived, panting. ‘Sir, we have to evacuate. It’s Ba’al’s Jaffa!’
The laughter ceased immediately.
‘McKay, Zelenka. Get all the memory sticks and computers together; we might have to blow the outpost,’ John ordered
‘What? No! No, we can’t!’ Rodney protested, staring at John in confusion. ‘We can’t just blow this place up. It’s far too important.’
‘And it’s also important it doesn’t fall into the hands of any of the Goa’uld,’ John returned. ‘Daniel, pack the ZPMs away carefully.’
John glanced around. ‘Use the backpacks, just make sure they’re well wrapped.’
Daniel grabbed a backpack and quickly emptied it, scattering someone’s belongings across the floor in the process. Patrick and Jack looked around, searching for something to wrap them in.
‘Here,’ Jack said, suddenly, slipping out of his tac-vest and pulling his shirt over his head. ‘Use this.’
Patrick watched him for a couple of seconds then did the same thing, holding his shirt in his hand while Daniel removed his own T-shirt.
John, meanwhile, was still arguing with Rodney. ‘Get everything together. We don’t want to leave anything important behind.’
Zelenka was busy disconnecting the plethora of cables connecting their computers to the Ancient equipment.
‘Radek, stop,’ Rodney called out. ‘We can’t just abandon this place. The Marines at the gate’ll probably kill all the Jaffa and this will all have been a massive waste of time.’
‘And they might not,’ John said grimly.
‘Well, can’t we just shut the door and lie low? Chances are they’ll never find the entrance, especially as it needs the gene to open it. They might just go away again.’
‘And if they don’t? And what about all the weaponry outside and the guards on the Stargate? Will they think we did all that just for fun? No, we have to assume and prepare for the worst. Get everything together, McKay. If it’s not packed in five minutes, it gets destroyed.’ He turned his back on the two scientists and jogged back down the corridor to the main entrance.
Cadman and her platoon had fallen back to the Outpost and Lorne had some of them setting up gun emplacements while others fixed detonators into the explosives already in place around the rocky outcrop. The distant sound of weapons fire from the direction of the gate could be heard.
Captain Grayson, the leader of Cadman’s platoon and an explosives expert himself, joined John. “We laid explosives around the place when we first came out here, sir, just as you ordered. We didn’t put the detonators in place in case of an accident but it’ll only take a couple of minutes to fix them all, inside and out.’ He held out a remote detonating device to John who took it from him. ‘There’s a ten-second delay to explosion.’
John eyed the detonator warily, and Grayson gave him a brief smile.
‘You can’t set it off accidentally, sir, don’t worry. You need to remove the guard over the button first.’ He pointed to a metal cage covering the red button. ‘It’s a two-part process so it can’t get knocked and go off.’
John nodded and handed it back, hoping it wouldn’t be needed. Rodney appeared, stumbling out of the entrance as though pushed.’
‘There’s no need to get physical, O’Neill!’
‘There’s every need, McKay. We might have to blow this place up. I don’t want you to be in there if that happens. How’d I explain that to Sheppard?’
John saw Lorne touch his concealed radio and quickly tapped his own to enable him to hear Markham.
‘—got away and are heading for you. You need to bug out right now, sir.’
‘They’re coming,’ Lorne announced grimly. ‘Get back to the gate as fast as you can, sirs. We’ll stay here and try to hold them off.’
‘How can we get back if we’re likely to run into them?’ Jack asked looking around.
‘Through the trees, sir. We’ve marked a trail with notches on the trees. Just keep heading due west.’
Jack nodded and pushed Patrick and the three scientists ahead of him. ‘Come on then, move out. Patrick, take point.’
‘I’ll stay with you,’ John told Lorne.
‘No, sir.’ Lorne jutted his chin out. ‘Go with the others. This is what we’ve trained for; this is our job. Get yourself and the scientists safely back to the SGC, sir. That’s your job, sir – John.’
John gazed at him for a moment then nodded reluctantly. ‘Stay safe, Evan, all of you.’ His eyes swept around the entire group. ‘I expect you all to follow us back just as soon as you can.’ He nodded again, then jogged to catch up with the others.
Rodney was still complaining about blowing up the Ancient facility between breaths, and John gripped his arm as he caught them up.
‘Less complaining and more running, McKay.’
They heard the sound of explosions through the trees and Jack glanced towards the main path to the Stargate. ‘Guess Cadman wasn’t quite telling the truth about no live ammunition. They sounded like Claymores to me.’
Patrick nodded. ‘They did to me as well. That sound hasn’t changed any over the years.’ He came to a sudden halt and looked around. ‘I’ve lost the way. Where’s the next notched tree?’
They separated and searched urgently while weapons fire could be heard back at the Outpost.
‘Here,’ Zelenka called from a short distance. ‘This way.’
They all headed towards him and hurried on until Jack stopped suddenly and looked around, Patrick almost tripping over him. ‘Where’s Daniel?’
John swung his head around so quickly he felt his neck crack. ‘What? He was here a minute ago.’
‘Stupid, fucking idiot!’ Rodney cursed. ‘Half-witted moronic—’
‘What?’ Jack demanded. ‘What, McKay?’
‘He left his video camera behind, the brainless—’
‘He’s gone back?’ Jack demanded. ‘For a fucking camera? Why didn’t you stop him?’
‘I did! I grabbed him and pulled him along and told him to leave it!’
‘Then where is he?’
‘He tripped over a root and almost pulled me down. I let go of his arm to steady myself.’ Rodney held out his soil-marked hands. ‘He was following me when we got up but must have doubled back.’
Patrick put out a hand to rest on Rodney’s shoulder. ‘It’s not Rodney’s fault. I heard him mention the camera as well and thought he was with us. This is all on Jackson himself.’
‘Jesus fucking Christ!’ Jack swore. ‘I’m going to kill him. You go on, all of you. I’ll go back for him.’
‘Not fucking likely!’ Patrick snapped. ‘I’m coming with you!’
‘For fuck’s sake!’ John pinched the bridge of his nose and looked around, his gaze falling on a group of dense bushes. ‘Rodney, Radek. Squeeze yourselves into the middle of those bushes and take the ZPMs with you. Stay there and stay quiet ’til we get back.’
Rodney eyed the bush warily. ‘Has it got thorns in it?’
‘Okay, okay. I was only asking.’
‘Hurry up!’ John cursed himself for being persuaded that the scientists didn’t need their MP7s on the planet since there were so many SFs around. ‘You’ve both got your pistols, haven’t you?’
Two voices confirmed they did, and John pushed the three backpacks through the thick foliage and into a pair of hands.
‘Stay quiet and stay hidden until we get back. Shoot anyone other than me who comes close. I’ll identify myself.’ The bush shook a little in response. ‘I’m going now. Stay safe.’
‘You too,’ the disembodied voice of McKay instructed him.
John made sure there were no footprints or broken twigs to show where the scientists were hidden, then jogged back through the trees as quietly as he could although he was sure his progress would be masked by the sounds of gunfire and staff weapon blasts now ahead of him. The firefight quickly came into view. He could see his father and Jack peering out from behind a clump of trees and undergrowth and crept towards them. Several silent hand gestures told him Jackson was inside the facility and that Jack intended to kill him when he got out, but there was no way to get in there themselves without being seen by the small group of Jaffa steadily making their way towards the gun emplacements where Lorne and his SFs, and Grayson and his platoon were trying to hold them off. Two Marines lay prone to one side of their position and from the look and placement of the staff weapon blasts, both were dead. Neither John, Jack, nor Patrick could offer any help to them given their position and the risk of blue on blue fire.
One of the eight advancing Jaffa screamed and fell to the ground when Jack suddenly gripped John’s arm and pointed to a second group of eight coming around the far side of the escarpment. As one man the three of them began firing on the two leading Jaffa, but the bullets simply bounced off them.
‘They’ve got shields,’ Jack called out. ‘Aim at the others!’
The following six Jaffa were mown down as they came into view, but the two protected by personal defence shields were able to get right to the entrance of the Outpost. John dodged as the pair of shielded Jaffa fired on their position and, from the corner of his eye saw a flash of the detonator in Grayson’s hand.
‘No!’ he yelled but wasn’t sure if Grayson could hear him over the sound of gunfire. He made a move forward but Jack caught his arm.
‘No. Let Grayson do his job,’ Jack told him and, face set, nodded to Grayson who pressed the red button.
The ten seconds to the blast were some of the longest in John’s life. There was absolutely nothing they could do to help Daniel. They had to prevent the two Jaffa from getting their hands on any of the information in the systems within the outpost as the SGC people had no idea what sort of communications the Jaffa might have on or with them. The blasts, when they finally came, were deafening. The entire rock structure collapsed slowly upon itself, burying the two Jaffa in tons of rock. Even with their personal shields there would be no escape for them, nor for anyone else inside.
As their ears were recovering from the noise of the blasts, an outburst of gunfire came from along the trail to the Stargate and Markham, along with seven of his men, came into sight. The three remaining Jaffa advancing on Grayson’s position fell like toy soldiers, and suddenly it was all over.
John watched from the control booth as three black body-bags were laid carefully and with due reverence at the foot of the ramp to the Stargate. It was incredible, given the ferocious fighting, that only three of their people died on P2R 997, then John gave himself a mental slap. One more person had died but there was no body-bag for him. His body was encased in its own tomb and would never be recovered.
Jack appeared at his side with an uncanny ability to read his mind. ‘We had no choice, John. We were never going to stop those Jaffa, not with them shielded the way they were. We couldn’t risk them getting a message off. We had no alternative but to blow it up.’
‘I know!’ John snapped, then sighed and repeated himself quietly. ‘I know. At least, intellectually. I just keep asking myself if there wasn’t any other choice to make.’
‘There wasn’t. Stop beating yourself up about it. I gave the order to Grayson, not you.’
John turned and frowned at him. ‘It doesn’t matter who gave the order; Daniel’s still dead– What? Why the look? What do you know that I don’t?’
Jack moved his head from side to side. ‘I’ve learned the hard way that with Daniel, you just can’t tell.’
‘Tell if he’s really dead or not. It wouldn’t be the first time he died and came back is all I’m saying.’
John watched him with a puzzled look on his face. ‘Are you saying…What are you saying?’
‘That I’m not having him declared dead just yet. I’ll give it a few days, maybe a couple of weeks.’
‘I…’ John closed his mouth. ‘The Stargate Programme, eh? Where the downright freaky happens every day and twice on Tuesdays.’
Jack nodded and watched the soldiers below them gathering their equipment together for a moment, then gave a deep sigh. ‘I’ve got some letters to write.’
The names of the two dead Marines and one dead Airman were duly entered into the Book of Remembrance which was kept in Jack’s office.
‘I know all their names,’ Jack admitted as he closed the book and patted the cover. ‘I remember all of them except the first name in this book; Senior Airman Carol Weterings. Apophis took her and killed her when Amaunet, his queen, refused her as host, but I remember her when I remember the others. She deserves that much.’
John nodded, finding his throat rather tight. He coughed to clear it. ‘What do you want to do about the ZPMs? Rodney and Radek were asking.’
Jack made a moue of distaste. ‘I don’t know. Where are they at the moment?’
‘Still in the backpacks. Nobody wants to touch them.’
‘I know how they feel. Still, we should at least put them somewhere secure. The safe?’
The SGC safe was hidden behind the large Stargate Command emblem behind Jack’s desk and required one of the two flags to be moved to access it. Few people knew it was there and even fewer could open it since Jack had asked Rodney to redesign it after John joined the Programme and it would now only open to someone with the ATA gene.
Jack nodded and watched as John removed the ZPMs from the backpacks. He hesitated when they were in his hands, then nodded to himself and left them wrapped in the shirts as he placed them carefully inside the safe. Two minutes later the room was back to normal with both flags – one the Stars and Stripes of the nation, the other the SGC flag – back behind the desk. John moved towards the door to his own office when Jack touched the radio in his ear and listened for a moment. He held up his hand to stop John from leaving and scowled at whatever it was he heard.
‘Fine, fine, let him in but give him a thorough search. A very thorough search, Sergeant, understood?’
John waited until Jack clicked his radio off and raised his eyebrows. ‘A very thorough search? Who on earth is it?’
‘Kinsey, the fucker. Says he needs to talk to me. Matter of national security blah, blah.’ Jack clicked his radio again. ‘Patrick? I need you in my office, now.’ He listened for a moment and grinned. ‘No, you kinky bastard. I’ve got Robert Kinsey on his way down. Thought you might want to join us, John and me.’ Another pause. ‘Okey-dokey.’
John couldn’t help the grimace on his face. ‘What?’ he demanded as Jack raised an eyebrow. ‘I did not need to hear that. As far as I’m concerned the pair of you play Scrabble at night. Maybe dominoes.’
That made Jack laugh. ‘Really? Dream on, kid. Maybe hide the—’
‘La, la, la, la, la, la, not listening,’ John sang, eyes tightly closed.
The door opened, and Patrick strode in. He stopped short at the sight of John with his fingers in his ears. ‘What the…’
‘He thinks we play Scrabble at night,’ Jack told him with a wide grin. ‘Or possibly dominoes.’
Patrick shook his head and tapped John on the shoulder. ‘Hi.’
Before John could start grumbling again, Jack got to his feet. ‘I can’t cope with Kinsey in here. It’s far too small. Let’s use your office, John.’
‘I don’t want that fuckwit in my office. Let’s use the briefing room.’
Jack and Patrick trailed after him whispering to each other and giggling like schoolgirls, or so John thought. ‘Stop it, the pair of you! Christ, it’s like working with randy teenagers.’
Walter was already setting out two coffee pots and cups as they entered the room.
‘How does he know?’ Patrick muttered.
‘Best not to ask,’ Jack advised him as he settled himself at the head of the table. Patrick slipped into the seat on his left as John took his usual chair.
‘We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in here,’ John commented absently and frowned as Walter appeared with a third carafe of coffee. ‘I don’t think we need a pot each, Walter.’
Walter simply smiled at him and disappeared down the stairs to the control room just as the door burst open and Rodney entered.
‘And then again, we might,’ John murmured. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘I needed a word with you, then heard Kinsey was on base. I guessed you’d be in here.’
‘And why do you want to see him? I thought you hated him.’
‘I do, but I’m also interested in what he wants with us. Why? Can’t I stay?’
‘If you really want to.’
The door opened again and Kinsey came in accompanied by two SFs, his face creased with anger.
‘I come here in the spirit of cooperation and this is how you treat me?’ he demanded and opened his mouth to complain further, but Jack spoke over him.
‘Quit bitchin’, Kinsey, and sit down. What do you want?’
Kinsey glanced at the two SFs. ‘Can we dispense with the guards?’
Jack watched him for a moment then nodded to the two men. ‘I’ll take it from here, thanks.’
They saluted and left the room. Kinsey settled into the chair opposite Jack.
‘That’s better, but did we really need the strip search?’
‘I don’t trust you as far as I can kick you, Kinsey. Now, I’ll ask again. What do you want?’
Kinsey eyed him for a long minute until Jack made a move to stand up. ‘The Trust.’
Jack sat back down. ‘The what, now?’
‘Don’t play games with me, O’Neill. You know who I’m talking about. As does Mr Sheppard.’ His eyes rested on Patrick and he gave him an oily smile. ‘You upset quite a few people escaping as you did, Mr Sheppard.’
All four men remained silent and watchful. Kinsey rolled his eyes.
‘Look, I’ve got information you want, and you’ve got…assets I want to use.’
‘What assets?’ Jack asked, his face expressionless.
‘I need to get away somewhere they’ll not find me. You can help me do that. In exchange, I’ll give you certain information.’
‘You want to go off-world?’
Kinsey grimaced. ‘Not likely. It’s bad enough I’m being forced to leave my own country, the country I’ve worked hard to protect.’
‘Kinsey, you jackass, the only person you’ve ever protected is yourself. Now cut the crap and tell me exactly what you want.’
‘I want Prometheus to beam me to New Zealand, and I want sufficient funds transferred to an account there to allow me to live in comfort.’
‘Flying too good for you? And don’t you have your own millions stashed away somewhere?’
‘Don’t be stupid, O’Neill. I need my…departure to be untraceable. The same goes for my finances. I need money which can’t be traced back to me. Five million dollars should be enough.’
Jack sprayed coffee across the table. ‘Five million dollars? Where am I likely to get that sort of money?’
‘You’ll manage, I’m sure. I have faith in your abilities.’
‘And what do we get in return?’
Kinsey watched him for a while. ‘I can give you the names of all the people in the Pentagon who the Trust have in their pocket.’
‘Not all of them.’
‘And what good will that do us?’
‘You’ll know who to take out.’
Jack sat back in his chair. ‘John? Your thoughts?’
‘I can’t see it’s worth the price he’s asking. As you say, what good will knowing who’s against us do, other than being able to avoid them.’
Kinsey gave a humourless laugh. ‘The problem— One of the problems with you people is you think too small.’
‘Remember the symbiote poison the Tok’ra created? Use that to get rid of the snakes.’
‘But won’t it kill the hosts as well?’
Kinsey shrugged. ‘You’ve got to break eggs if you want to make an omelette.’
‘You total bastard,’ Jack whispered distastefully, then shook his head. ‘Not enough. What else do you have?’
‘I can give you a few details about David Sheppard if you like,’ and he smiled at the reaction that drew from John and Patrick. ‘He’s not been snaked, by the way. They’ve fitted him with…an implant you might say. It forces him to do what the Trust want but through pain rather than his body being taken over by a symbiote. There just aren’t enough symbiotes to go round, you see. A Goa’uld does control him, though. Someone at Sheppard Industries. I can tell you who.’
John could tell that Patrick remained in his seat only by considerable effort since he felt the same. He clenched his fists under the table and glanced at Rodney as he rested his hand on John’s leg, squeezing gently.
‘Are there many of the implants? Many people?’ Jack asked, his voice tight with anger.
‘Enough. I can give you some of the names.’
‘How can we trust you?’
Kinsey thought for a moment. ‘How about I give you some names as a gesture of goodwill?’
‘Of the person controlling David Sheppard?’
‘Now why would I want to give up my ace?’
‘Because I might kill you if you don’t?’
Kinsey laughed and leaned back in his chair, stretching his legs out and generally making himself comfortable. ‘Then you wouldn’t get anything. It’s all in here.’ He tapped his forehead. ‘I couldn’t write it down for fear it fell into the wrong hands. I might point you in the direction of your mole, though, but the five million is non-negotiable.’
‘Mole?’ Jack repeated, startled.
‘A mole at the SGC. Wasn’t I clear enough? How else do you think Ba’al found out about the planet where Dr Jackson was killed?’
Jack watched him for a moment then tapped his radio. ‘I need a security team to the briefing room to escort Mr Kinsey to a holding cell.’ He smirked at Kinsey. ‘Just in case you wander off while we have a little chat amongst ourselves.’
They watched Kinsey be led away by the SFs while Walter appeared with a cloth to wipe down the table that Jack had sprayed with coffee. Nothing was said while Walter was there, more for the fact they were each trying to organise their thoughts than their concern of Walter hearing classified information. Little happened on or off base without Walter knowing all about it. How he found out so much was as much a mystery as his uncanny sixth sense.
When he’d gone, Jack looked around the table. ‘So. Do we believe him? Can we trust him.’
‘Yes, to the first question, and hell no, to the second.’ Rodney answered promptly.
‘I’m with Rodney on this,’ Patrick said carefully. ‘What does he have to gain by lying to us? If his intel turns out to be false, it’d be easy enough for us to let slip exactly where he is to the wrong people, to say nothing of cutting off his financial support.’
‘And the existence of a mole?’
‘That’s what I originally came to talk to John about,’ Rodney admitted. ‘I—’
‘You know who the mole is?’ John demanded, twisting himself to look at McKay. ‘Why didn’t you say anything?’
‘I’m trying to! And I don’t know who the mole is, or that we necessarily have one, but something’s come up. ‘
‘If you’ll just listen!’ Rodney glared at him until John slumped back in his chair, arms folded and a scowl etched firmly on his face. ‘I was in Sam’s lab looking to see how many empty ZPMs we have, and I noticed the power supply gadget O’Neill made is missing and—’
‘What’s that got to do with a mole?’
‘If you’ll just let me speak! I asked Miko about it, and she thought it should be in the same place as I did, so we had a look at the video feed for that corridor—’
‘Why not the feed for Carter’s lab?’
‘Because there’s no camera coverage in there any more and the cameras in the corridor aren’t on continually, they circle through a rotation of several cameras. Miko’s going through what footage we have but if someone knew the cycle of the cameras, they could easily evade them.’
‘Have they always done that?’ John asked, more than a little concerned at the holes in the security of the Mountain.
‘No, until fairly recently all the cameras recorded all the time. Carter was in charge of the placement and running of the cameras, assisted by Siler who had no idea they didn’t all record simultaneously any longer.’
This information made John sit up. ‘Siler thought they all recorded at the same time? As the Base Technician, he should have been notified of any modifications made to standard equipment.’
‘Well, he wasn’t informed about this and I’ve never even thought about the cameras. As far as I was aware Carter handed all that stuff over to Bill Lee as I didn’t want to be bothered with it.’
‘And have you spoken to Bill Lee?’
‘No, I came to talk to you first to see if you know anything about it.’
‘I know nothing about how or where the cameras work. I’ve never even thought about it,’ John admitted. ‘General?’
Jack shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. ‘It was always something someone else dealt with – General Hammond or Carter. Like you, I’ve never even thought about it. It just happened.’
Rodney sighed. ‘I never wanted anything to do with which is why I asked Sam to hand it off to someone else. I’d better go and have a chat with Bill Lee.’
‘Take Miko with you,’ John suggested. ‘She might come over as less scary to him.’
Rodney nodded and waved a hand as he left the briefing room.
John turned back to Jack. ‘What do we do about Kinsey?’
Jack pulled a face. ‘Instinct tells me to drop him in a deep hole but I guess we need to make a deal with him.’
‘All of it?’
‘We can manage the beam out to New Zealand; the money’s something else. Where are we likely to get our hands on five million dollars? Without robbing a bank?’
‘Robbing a bank,’ John repeated slowly. ‘Robbing a bank.’
‘John, we cannot rob a bank. Not even to get our hands on a cache of ZPMs. There will be no bank robbing by the SGC.’
‘Not even Kinsey’s own money?’
John grinned. ‘He says he can’t use his own money as it could be traced but what if Miko was able to move it around a bit to hide the trail and then deposit it in an account in New Zealand for him? It’s not stealing if he gives us permission to shift it around a bit.’
Jack stared at him for a moment. ‘I’d need to run it by someone first,’ he said finally. ‘Maybe Paul Davis.’
‘And if he’s been snaked or has one of those implants Kinsey mentioned?’ Patrick asked.
‘I know Paul Davis pretty well. I think I’ll know if there was something off about him.’
‘But you should warn him about some of the folk at the Pentagon,’ Patrick advised. ‘Maybe even offer him refuge here.’
John was twiddling a pen between his fingers while his mind was busy thinking. ‘Should we…. Are we getting closer to a bug-out?’ he asked at last. ‘To evacuating the SGC? The Trust appears to be taking over more and more people and…institutions. They’ve already got at least two of the IOA, and now Kinsey says the Pentagon is full of Trust agents. Their influence is spreading, Jack, that much is certain. Hell, they’ve even got my brother!’
‘Was David targeted because of John’s position in the SGC?’ Patrick asked suddenly.
Jack shook his head. ‘No, most definitely not. We’ve had trouble with outside organisations from almost the inception of the SGC. The NID was our main problem for a long time, but a number of people in government and the military were against us from the start and hated the power we have. Both Hammond and I have the ear of the president as well as a direct line to him and that upsets a lot of folks. So no, Patrick, the problem was here long before John even heard about the Programme. His relationship to you and David is pure coincidence.’
‘I thought you didn’t believe in coincidences?’ John asked, still fiddling with his pen.
‘Your position here was only confirmed at the end of April even though I knew I wanted you here, and even then very few people knew about it. As far as we know, Patrick was initially drugged on 12th May while visiting Blackwood. David was snaked or implanted or whatever it is either at the same time or, more likely, earlier. That’s far too short a time to set up something like that, so no, it has nothing at all to do with John.’
‘Thank God!’ Patrick sounded most relieved.
‘Why? Because I’m absolved, or because—’ John broke off as his radio activated and he tapped it to reply. ‘Sheppard.’
‘John, you need to come down to Lab Five. Bring Jack with you.’ The radio cut off abruptly.
‘Problem?’ asked Jack curiously.
‘McKay wants us both in Lab Five, asap.’
‘Lab Five? Whose—’
‘Lee’s, I think. Something’s happened! Come on!’ John left his seat and headed quickly out of the briefing room followed closely by Jack. Patrick shrugged then trailed behind them, uninvited but going anyway.
The door burst open noisily, and Rodney glared at the three men entering.
‘Quiet!’ he hissed and turned his attention back to Miko who was kneeling next to Bill Lee’s chair, her arm partially around his waist.
Lee didn’t look up and didn’t even appear to hear anything, but continued to gaze into space, his head laying slack against his shoulder and his mouth slightly open.
Miko glanced at them then turned back to Lee and tapped one of his legs to gain his attention. ‘Bill? Bill? Tell me again about Samantha Carter.’
His face appeared to come to life. ‘Colonel Carter? Oh, she’s a very good friend of mine. Do you know her?’
Jack opened his mouth to speak but Rodney poked him and shook his head.
‘I do, Bill,’ Miko was saying gently. ‘I do know her, but not as well as you do.’
‘No, I don’t suppose you do. I doubt anyone knows her as well as I do. We’re very close friends, you know.’
‘And she trusts you, doesn’t she?’
‘Oh, absolutely. We trust each other; that’s what real friendship is about – mutual trust.’ His voice trailed off and his eyes appeared vacant.
‘Sam trusted you with looking after the video feeds, didn’t she, Bill?’
Bill smiled down at her. ‘Of course, she did. Who else would she ask that she could trust? It’s a big responsibility and she knew I’d do a good job.’
John stepped forward and knelt on Lee’s other side, gently touching his leg. ‘Hello, Dr Lee. I’m John, John Sheppard and I’m pretty new to the SGC. I know nothing about the cameras and what they do. Do you have to take the film out of them every day?’
‘No, no. They don’t have actual film in them.’ Dr Lee lifted his head a little and turned it towards John although he didn’t wouldn’t look directly at him. ‘They capture images and send them to a central data bank.’
‘Oh, I see. But doesn’t that create a huge amount of film to print to check anything?’
‘It’s not that sort of equipment. It’s all digital nowadays and the images are stored in the memory of the computer which controls them.’
‘That makes sense.’ John nodded his head and noticed Lee’s head had lifted a little more and he could now see John although he wouldn’t meet his eyes. ‘But isn’t it still a lot of memory it takes up? I mean, there are a lot of cameras in the SGC, and if the footage from all of them is stored it must make a huge file. The SGC’s been open for what, three years?”
‘Seven years, just. And Colonel Carter was here almost from the start although she wasn’t a Colonel then, of course.’ He gave a little laugh. ‘You could say we’ve moved up through the ranks together.’
‘Of course, you could. I can see why you’d be such good friends. I’m just the new boy and I know nothing about the cameras. Do they take up a large amount of space on the server?’
‘They do, yes, but we only keep the footage of the last twelve months. At the start of each month I delete the relevant footage from the previous year, but not all of the cameras are recording all the time. Colonel Carter and I had a long discussion about it and she agreed with me that some of the unused labs and empty rooms could be turned off. We also altered the cameras in the lesser used areas to record in sequence rather than at all times. Of course, if we can get agreement to keep just one month of coverage, we’ll have the capacity to run all the cameras simultaneously, although I’m told that we can’t decide that at this level.’ Lee lifted his eyes further and finally met John’s for a fleeting moment.
‘So you and Dr Carter made the decisions together?’
‘She values my opinion. We spend…spent a lot of time together, really.’
‘You must miss her.’
‘I do, but I still go into her lab occasionally, and I feel closer to her then.’
‘She trusted you with her keys?’
‘Of course. As I said, we worked very closely together and she always asked about my character in Warcraft. We were both looking forward to the release of WOW in November.’
‘World of Warcraft. It’s an expansion of the universe created in Warcraft, you know. Colonel Carter and I had a lot of conversations about it and I think she was going to join me when WOW is released before she was forced to go to Atlantis.’
‘Forced?’ Jack demanded. ‘Carter wasn’t—’
Rodney punched his arm and frowned at him for disturbing the progress with Dr Lee but, fortunately, Bill was lost in a world of his own imagination. Miko got to her feet and put her arm around his shoulders.
‘Come on, Bill, let’s go back to your lab. Did you drive here this morning?’
‘Hmm? No, no, my wife dropped me off. She doesn’t like me driving myself. Says I get lost in my mind and don’t watch where I’m going. It’s ridiculous, of course. I can make my way through all Azeroth with very few problems, one reason why I’m looking forward to WOW: I’ve pretty much exhausted the options within Warcraft III…’ His voice died away as Miko led him out of the room and the remaining men exchanged looks.
‘He’s always been a bit odd,’ Jack commented, ‘but this takes it to another level. Wow! Who knew?’
John, Rodney and Patrick burst out laughing and laughed even harder when Jack glared at them.
‘What’s so funny?’
‘Wow!’ Patrick wheezed and began laughing all over again, Rodney and John both joining in.
‘Poor, Bill,’ Rodney managed to get out before John choked out ‘Wow!’ again.
It took several minutes for the group to recover themselves as each time they were almost sober someone said ‘Wow’, and it all began again. Finally, as Jack wiped his eyes, he managed to get his people to pay attention to him and when Rodney opened his mouth to speak, Jack held up a finger.
‘Ah, ah! No more. Next person who says that word is going to the brig.’
‘I was going to say that at least we know how the cameras got altered,’ Rodney complained. ‘Carter probably knew nothing about it. I suspect poor Bill had most of those conversations with himself. I do hope he’s alright.’
‘Wow, McKay. You’re becoming a real boy with—’ John began, then cringed as Jack glared at him. ‘It was an accident!’
‘Brig!’ Rodney demanded. ‘You said the next person—’
‘I didn’t realise it’d be my own XO. I can’t send Sheppard to the brig. Who’d do my paperwork?’
The door to the lab opened again and Miko entered, swept a look over them all and shook her head.
‘I do not want to know,’ she told them all and sank into a seat. ‘I took Dr Lee down to the infirmary rather than send him home, especially if he might have been implanted with something. I didn’t quite follow when Rodney explained it to me but there is obviously something wrong with him. It’s clear he’s imagined many conversations with Colonel Carter as I don’t ever recall seeing them together, let alone be together enough to have the conversations he recounted. It’s also clear that he’s paid several visits to her lab and may well have facilitated the access of other people either intentionally or not. We may never know who stole the power booster unless Mr Kinsey can tell you something about it.’
‘Maybe.’ Jack didn’t sound very confident. ‘Thank you, Dr Kusanagi, for helping with Dr Lee.’
Miko took this as a dismissal and nodded to him. ‘I need to get back to my own work.’ She threw a scowl at Rodney as she left which promised retribution for involving her in the ramblings of a crazy man.
John sighed. ‘We also need to get all the cameras working properly, for the moment, at least. Once this crisis is resolved we can look at it all again, although, given what’s happened, I suggest we have a server dedicated to base security. I don’t quite understand why it was never done before if storage capacity is a problem.’
‘We’ve never really had a problem with the security feeds before,’ Rodney pointed out. ‘Or at least, we didn’t know we had a problem. I guess that makes Bill our mole.’
‘Not necessarily,’ Patrick said thoughtfully. ‘He could just have been drugged or something to make him susceptible to instructions.’
‘Mind-altering drugs sort of change, do you mean?’ Jack asked
‘We could have Dr Fraiser do a drugs test,’ John suggested. ‘If he has been drugged recently it’ll show on a hair sample. Although it means we still haven’t found our mole.’
Rodney perched himself on one of the tall stools at one side of the lab. ‘Let’s think this through logically. There must be a way to track he or she down, for fuck’s sake. What do we actually know? Know rather than suspect?’
‘That Dr Lee altered the video feed of the SGC, and that someone removed my power source thingy,’ Jack said promptly.
‘And that someone informed Ba’al that P2R 977 had an Ancient facility,’ John added.
‘No, we only know Ba’al was informed about something on P2R 977,’ Rodney corrected.
‘But they knew which direction to go after they made it past the troops guarding the gate.’ John tipped his head on one side. ‘We need to look at Markham’s AAR.’
‘Better still, bring him, Stackhouse, and Lorne into this discussion,’ Jack said. ‘And move it to the briefing room. The chairs in here suck.’
‘I’ve been trying to get new chairs for months,’ Rodney told him crossly. ‘You’re the one who’s blocking it.’
‘No, not being able to afford them is blocking it. Stop hassling me, McKay, or I’ll cut the coffee budget and then you’ll really squawk!’
John shook his head at them and radioed for the men Jack had requested and ordered them to meet them in the briefing room then turned back to the others. ‘Coming?’
Fresh coffee and sandwiches were waiting when they got back to the briefing room, along with Lorne, Stackhouse, and Markham. They ate while they talked and had soon explained what they were trying to find out about the attack on the planet two days previously.
‘Let me get this on the board,’ Rodney said and hunted for a pen to use on the whiteboard in the briefing room. ‘Right. What time did you go through, John?’
‘1400 Earth time, around 6 am on P2R 977.’
‘And it took about half an hour to get to the outpost, right?’
‘About that. We weren’t in any hurry and we stopped to chat with Lt Cadman on the way.’
‘And what time did the Jaffa come through, Markham?’
‘They didn’t come through immediately; they sent one of those silver scanning balls through first. It sent out a beam which scanned me and the men closest to me but didn’t appear to pick up the gun emplacements further out. I think that’s why we were able to hold so many of them off.’
‘Okay, what time was that? Or how long after the General and the Colonel went through?’
‘The scanning ball came through about half an hour after the General. The Jaffa, a couple of minutes after that.’
Rodney scribbled it on the board then turned back around. ‘And no one on base knew beforehand that you were going, John?’
He thought for a moment. ‘I radioed Dad and told him to gear up if he wanted to go with me, then went in to ask General O’Neill. Dad joined us in his office and then we went to gear up.’
‘You didn’t tell anyone else?’
John shook his head. ‘No.’
‘But at least one person found out,’ Patrick said suddenly. ‘Daniel joined us in the ready room and said he’d heard someone in the mess mention that you were going to P2R 977 and he wanted to go with us, remember?’
Jack nodded slowly. ‘Was anyone around when you were in the ready room, Patrick?’
Patrick sat back and tried to think. ‘SG-8’d not long come back from their mission. They were showering while I was getting ready but by the time I was fully kitted out they were all getting dressed, at least…No. There were only three of them there.’
‘They have one female member,’ Markham pointed out. ‘She’d be in the female showers.’
‘Then they were all there.’ Patrick gave Jack a scrunched up smile. ‘They asked where I was going and I told them. I didn’t think it mattered who I told. Sorry.’
‘No need to apologise, it wasn’t a secret,’ Jack told him. We can check the video footage and see if they went straight to the mess.’
‘Did anyone speak to you on your way to the General’s office?’ John asked.
Patrick shook his head then stopped. ‘Hang on. There was someone else in the ready room. I don’t know his name, and he didn’t have a name on his shirt. He was collecting the dirty towels and didn’t look too happy about it, either.’
‘Private Williamson,’ Lorne said immediately. ‘He was on punishment duty for his second late return to duty in a week, and it’s not the first time he’s been in trouble.’
‘Check the video footage and see who he spoke to after he left the ready room,’ Jack ordered.
Lorne touched his radio but Rodney held up his hand.
‘I’ll get Miko to look. It’ll be much faster.’
‘Will she know who to look for?’
‘I’ll tell to watch for anyone leaving the ready room and see where they went.’ Rodney turned away to speak to Miko while John looked at the brief timeline they had.
‘How many Jaffa in total came through the gate?’ he asked Markham.
‘Thirty-five, sir. We managed to kill a whole bunch of them as they came through the gate as their scanner thing gave us a heads up and we were ready for them. Eighteen or twenty got passed us.’
John nodded. ‘How many are usually in a Jaffa squad? More or less than thirty-five?’
Jack raised his eyebrows and sat back in his seat. ‘I…Huh. I’ve never thought about that.’ He clicked his radio. ‘Teal’c? O’Neill. How many Jaffa in a squad?’ He listened to the answer and nodded, even though Teal’c couldn’t see him. ‘Okay, thanks, T.’ He turned back to John. ‘Anything from ten to a hundred. It depends on the circumstances. Why?’
‘I was just wondering if whoever told them we were going knew what defences we had at the gate.’
‘And, so, therefore?’
Stackhouse spoke before John had a chance to reply. ‘If they already knew what our defences were, why would they bother sending a scanner through? They must know they’d lose the advantage over us.’
‘Good point, young Marcus,’ Jack told him.
‘So whoever it was who warned them we were going hadn’t been there themselves,’ Patrick said.
‘Well, yes, except that very few people on base had been there other than the scientists who’d worked there.’
‘Which didn’t include Bill Lee,’ Rodney added. ‘He hates going off-world. He says every time he goes on a mission someone tries to kill him.’
‘Occupational hazard,’ Jack muttered then looked around. ‘So where are we?’
Rodney put one hand up to his ear and held the other up to silence them all. ‘Uhuh…Uhuh…Uhuh…Right.’ He lowered his hand.
‘SG-8 went straight to the mess and can be seen chatting to a few different people, but there was no hint of subterfuge or covert behaviour. Dr Lester sat with Jackson and spoke to him for a couple of minutes before Jackson jumped up and ran out, presumably to go to the ready room. Private Williamson, however, disappeared into a storage room on level 24. Miko’s had a look at the base sensors and someone used a radio transmitter on level 24 which she can’t find a partner link for.’
‘And that means…?’ Jack asked.
‘That whoever had the other radio it was linked to wasn’t within the SGC.’
‘Lorne, get his bunk, locker and equipment searched,’ John ordered. ‘If he’s regularly in trouble then he’s someone who might easily be recruited to work against us. Get him into a holding cell and question him yourself. If you want me to come and loom over him, I’m more than happy to. Markham, Stackhouse, go with him.’
The three men sketched hasty salutes and left the room at double quick speed.
‘Now we might be getting somewhere,’ Jack commented, rubbing his hands together. ‘Are we ready to get Kinsey back yet?’
‘What are you going to offer him?’ Patrick asked cautiously.
‘Beam out to New Zealand and Dr Kusanagi to get his own money to him.’
‘And if he refuses?’
‘We let slip to someone just where he is.’
John opened the door of his quarters to find his father and CO on his doorstep.
‘Hi. I…Was I expecting you?’
Jack laughed. ‘Nah, not visiting. Patrick and I are heading home for the evening; we wondered if you two wanted to join us for some take out? Get a break from this place.’
‘Lorne’s on duty tonight so, yeah, I guess so. I’ll check with McKay.’
A voice came from within John’s room. ‘McKay says he’ll go along with anything that gets him out of this perishing base!’
John laughed. ‘I guess we’ll see you at Jack’s house, then.’
‘Nothing with any lemon,’ McKay called out. ‘I’m—’
‘—deathly allergic to lemon, yes, we know,’ Patrick finished for him, rolling his eyes.
‘I’ll have you know—’
John closed the door and cut his father off from whatever McKay was trying to tell them.
‘Hey!’ Rodney protested. ‘I was talking!’
‘Babe, we all know about your allergies and no-one’s going to get anything that’ll hurt you.’
‘Babe? You’re calling me babe now?’
Rodney gave John a soft smile and held his arms out. ‘I can suffer being ‘babe’ for you. But only for you, mind.’
‘It’ll be our secret,’ John promised, pulling him close. ‘Now, come on, let’s get out of here.’
By the time John and Rodney arrived half an hour later, Chinese food was set out in the sitting room ready to be eaten.
‘Just what I’m in the mood for,’ John commented, opening the various boxes and peering inside them. ‘Did you remember to pick up the fortune cookies, Dad?’
Patrick grinned at him, the question taking him back a couple of decades to Chinese takeout eaten in a white painted house in Virginia. ‘Yes, John. I did remember.’
Only the sound of men eating and the occasional request for something to be passed was heard for the next forty minutes. Eventually, Jack sat back and rested his hands on his belly.
‘That was good.’
‘Even better being eaten without concrete walls all around us,’ Patrick commented. ‘Although I’ve got used to it a bit more now.’
‘I still miss the sky,’ John said, picking up his beer bottle.
‘Miss flying, or the sky in general?’
John thought for a moment. ‘Both, I guess. Until the last few weeks, I managed to get a few hours flying each week but it’s got so hectic at the SGC recently I haven’t had a chance to do any more.’
‘You can always take a few hours out, you know,’ Jack told him with a frown. ‘You should have just asked. I can always arrange something for you, or, hell! I’ll even go with you.’
‘I know, and I do appreciate it, ‘John replied, smiling at his CO. ‘To be honest I’ve felt uncomfortable going off-base for too long myself since we asked all the off-base personnel to come and stay at the Mountain. Double standards, you know.’
Jack nodded and Patrick squeezed Jack’s leg gently. ‘He’s a big boy now, Jack. He knows to ask if there’s anything he wants or needs.’
Rodney stretched out on one of the long couches in Jack’s sitting room with his legs in John’s lap and wriggled to make himself comfortable. ‘What happened with Kinsey in the end? I never did find out.’
‘Bit of an anti-climax really,’ Jack told him, settling back on his couch next to Patrick. ‘We agreed to the transport to New Zealand but not the cash. We don’t have access to that sort of money. I did offer him Miko’s help in moving his own funds, though, and he eventually agreed to that.’
‘So where is he now?’
‘In one of the isolation quarters on Level 22 where we can keep an eye on him. He thinks it’s about us protecting him which, I suppose, in a way it is. I wanted to keep him in the stockade but John persuaded me to treat him as a guest rather than a prisoner, although we’ve put four SFs on duty guarding him at any one time and constant video surveillance.’
‘Is he likely to cause any more problems?’
‘Undoubtedly, but that’s something for the future. We can’t worry about every little thing that’s likely to happen. As soon as Dr Kusanagi’s moved his money around a bit, we’ll beam him to New Zealand. He’s agreed to having a subcutaneous transmitter fitted, for his sake as much as ours.’
‘What about Williamson?’
Jack pulled a face. ‘That’s not such a good situation. He’s on his way to the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. He’ll be in isolation for the rest of his life.’
‘So he was the mole Kinsey was talking about?’ Rodney asked.
‘Yes, and boy, was Kinsey surprised when we told him we’d already found our mole. Williamson was…turned, I guess you could say, about a month ago. I’m not quite sure how he ever came to be at the SGC in the first place, to be honest. He certainly wasn’t a fit for us. He’s xenophobic and homophobic and hates the whole ethos of the SGC. For Christ’s sake, DADT was repealed before he was even born!’
‘Not quite,’ Patrick murmured. ‘Over twenty years ago, certainly. Williamson’s 22.’
‘He sure wasn’t the sort to send off-world. He spent most of his time with us on one report or another. Lorne had him on a list to be rotated out at the next intake. He’ll spend his life behind bars instead.’
‘Wasn’t he one of the Marines Weir accepted when she was here?’ Rodney asked thoughtfully. ‘She certainly brought in a few useless scientists. She might have done the same with the military.’
Jack groaned in resignation and scowled at McKay. ‘Ah, fuck! I never thought to check any intake from when she was here. John? We’re going to have to look at anyone brought in between January and April and make sure they’re suitable for the Programme.’
‘Wouldn’t anyone who wasn’t a fit have shown up by now?’ Patrick asked. ‘Williamson did.’
‘We can’t rely on it. Some of them might be biding their time before creating a ruckus.’
There was a short silence. John eventually broke it. ‘Did you ever find out who Williamson’s contact on the outside was, Jack?’
‘Nah. I’ve left it with Malcolm Barrett. He’s best placed to look into it, although, that reminds me. What do you think about us getting our own NCIS or AFOSI agent?’
John didn’t reply immediately. ‘NCIS would probably be better,’ he said at length. ‘We’ve far more Marines than Airmen, and we’ve not exactly had a good experience with AFOSI.’
‘Were you thinking of asking the person from the office in LA you mentioned the other week?’ Patrick inquired of Jack.
‘Hetty Lang? No, she’s far too senior to be an Agent Afloat. Someone from her office would be a good idea, though, and she’s already read into the Programme and will know the type of person we need.’
‘If we’d had a professional on base we might not have had the problems we’ve had with Private Williamson,’ John pointed out. ‘An Agent might have spotted a potential trouble maker before he became a problem.’
‘Really?’ Rodney twisted round to see John’s face. ‘I didn’t know they were trained in psychology.’
‘Most of them have some training in it,’ Jack told him. ‘I think it’s a part of the course at FLETC.’
John looked over at Jack. ‘How come you know so much about it?’
Jack blushed, actually blushed. ‘I…I may have…dated an NCIS Agent at one time?’
‘You dog, you!’ John laughed, and laughed even harder at the scowl his father gave him.
‘Let’s make a new rule,’ Patrick suggested, eyes narrowed. ‘No talk about former wives or lovers.’
‘Just you two or all four of us?’ John asked. ‘I can live without finding out about any of your former lovers, Dad.’
Patrick picked up an empty food carton and threw it at him.
‘Hey! That hit me!’ Rodney scolded.
Patrick grinned at him and sat back on the couch, Jack leaning comfortably against him, and looked across at John and Rodney. Three months ago he wasn’t sure if he’d ever have another conversation with his younger son, and now they were here, laughing and joking as though they’d never been apart. Better than that. We’re becoming friends now, real friends with each other.
John and Rodney spent the night at Jack’s house and two cars left for the Mountain the following morning, one after the other. All four men went their separate ways after they signed themselves in; Rodney to his lab, Patrick to continue his work with Dr Fellowes on level 18, Jack to his office, and John to train in the gym for an hour with Teal’c, who was back on base after a couple of weeks off-world with the growing number of Free Jaffa.
‘How’s it all going, Teal’c?’ John asked as he wiped his face and recovered his breath from a particularly ferocious bout of staff fighting, Teal’c barely breaking a sweat.
‘It is going as well as can be expected, thank you, Colonel Sheppard.’
‘Have many more Jaffa joined you?’
‘Few will risk leaving their masters until they know they and their families will be safe from retribution.’
‘You need a safe-house, don’t you? Or rather a safe planet.’
‘Somewhere off the grid but with an address that can easily be passed around.’
‘I fear we need more than that. We need a means of uniting the Jaffa against their false Gods and perpetrators of enslavement.’
‘Like the Prussian war against the French in 1870? That war united the German-speaking peoples as a country for the first time.’
‘I have not heard of this.’
‘The Prussian Chancellor, the Prime Minister, if you like, as they still had a king, wanted to unify the different German states into one large country dominated by his own state, Prussia, to give them more power collectively. Bismarck used the Franco-Prussian war to unite all the German-speaking peoples against a common enemy, France.’
‘The Jaffa have already a common enemy. We need seek no other foe.’
‘Then maybe you need a common purpose to unite you. Is there anything else which is particularly symbolic to the Jaffa?’
‘There is one place,’ Teal’c said slowly. ‘To speak even the name is anathema to the Jaffa.’
John waited for a moment but Teal’c didn’t expound on this.
‘Where or what is it, Teal’c?’
‘It is the temple in which the first Prim’ta ritual was performed, the placing of the larval Goa’uld within a young Jaffa. This act made the Jaffa reliant upon the Goa’uld and into their slaves. The planet is named Dakara and is a holy place for the Goa’uld.’
‘And could you use Dakara as a rallying point? If it’s so abhorrent to the Jaffa?’
Teal’c was silent for a while. ‘I think this might be possible. To capture and hold Dakara in the name of the Free Jaffa would be both a demonstration of our strength and a symbol that the tyranny of the Goa’uld is at an end.’ He tossed his wooden staff aside. ‘Our training is over for today, Colonel Sheppard. I must seek the council of Master Bra’tac.’
John waved him away. ‘Go. Do what you need to do. It’s important to get this right so don’t worry about me or the SGC. We’ll still be here when you’re ready to come back.’
Teal’c gave him a full bow and left the gym. John twirled his staff for a moment then set both of them back in the stand used to store them.
I hope this works out for him. For all the Jaffa.
John showered and headed back to his office. It was barely 0930 and he had the whole day ahead of him. He called in Rodney’s lab but he and Radek were busy with the information they had managed to rescue from P2R 977 and had no time to spare him. His father was also busy with Alistair Fellowes, and while their work interested John he didn’t feel inclined to work on it right then. Feeling a little depressed, he made his way to Jack’s office to tell him about Teal’c. Fortunately, Jack was alone and quite happy to spend a few minutes chewing the fat with his XO.
‘Dakara, eh? I think I remember Danny mentioning that place. If it is such a symbolic place for the Jaffa and the Goa’uld it’ll make a great rallying point. Beat the demons back and all that.’
John nodded and part of his mood must have made itself known to Jack as he sat back in his chair and smiled at him. ‘Bored or just restless?’
John thought for a moment. ‘A bit of both, I guess. I’d been looking forward to a good training session with Teal’c but he’s gone off to discuss matters of state with Master Bra’tac. I just feel out of sorts somehow.’
‘Do you need some sky time?’
‘Sky time? You mean…’
‘Flying. I remember what you said last night. Why don’t we play hooky for a while and go find a plane? It’s a while since you were up in an F-302, isn’t it? You probably need to get some flying hours in. Let me call Pendergast and get him to beam us both up for a few hours. There’s nothing urgent happening down here, and Lorne can cope. If anything serious happens and we’re needed, he can radio up to Kirkland and get us back.’
John grinned, a sense of anticipation rushing through him at the thought of flying again. ‘Fantastic idea. Give me five minutes to let Dad and Rodney know where we’re going.’
Jack nodded and John left the office with a bounce in his step.
This ought to shake off both my boredom and restlessness.
Four hours later Prometheus beamed two happy and tired Air Force Officers back into the embarkation room.
‘Hi, honey, we’re home,’ Jack called out to Walter who sketched a salute in greeting. ‘Did you miss us? I see the place is still standing. No wild parties while we were away?’
Walter’s voice echoed around the vast space as he bent to speak through the microphone. ‘General Holland is waiting in your office, sir.’
‘Holland? Was I expecting him?’
‘No, sir. He came unannounced and wouldn’t let me recall either you or Colonel Sheppard.’
‘Thanks, Walter,’ Jack called out, then lowered his voice to a reasonable volume. ‘It can’t be anything vital or Walter’d’ve called us back. Come on; recess is over. We need to get back to work.’
Jack led the way through the control room and up to his office feeling much lighter in spirit and sure John felt the same way. The hours spent in flight had done them both the world of good and he felt ready to face whatever problems Richard Holland might throw at them.
Holland was busy with a thick file of papers, many of them spread across Jack’s desk, and he looked up when they entered the office and gave a faint smile.
‘Great, thanks, but what’s happened? Why are you here?’ Jack asked. ‘Not that we’re not pleased to see you at any time, of course,’ he added quickly, slipping into his seat.
Richard sat back in the one guest chair while John leaned against the wall. ‘There’ve been…developments, shall we say.’
‘I had MI6 on the telephone late last night. Russell Chapman suggested they call me, not knowing who else they could speak to.’
‘The Pentagon? The White House? Homeworld Security? General Hammond?’ Jack suggested.
‘I understand it was a toss up between myself and George Hammond, and I’m not quite sure if I won or lost.’ Richard paused for a moment as though choosing his words carefully. ‘Mr Smith, and I’m pretty sure that’s not his real name, said he believes the Prime Minister, in fact most of the British cabinet, are, and I quote, ‘not quite themselves’.’
‘Snaked,’ Jack said flatly.
‘Smith wouldn’t say on an open telephone line, but that was the inference, yes.’
‘Christ!’ Jack rubbed his face with his hands.
‘That’s not all,’ Holland added, regret both in his tone of voice and on his face. ‘Mr Smith suspects several other European leaders have suffered a similar fate.’
Jack closed his eyes and sank back against his chair, his face drained of colour.
John cleared his throat. ‘Shall I get the usual team together, sir?’
‘Usual team?’ Richard enquired.
John gave a hesitant smile. ‘It’s…a sort of unofficial command team, sir. A group to bounce around ideas with? Mostly regarding fighting the Trust.’
‘Then, absolutely, you need to get them together. The more minds we have on this the better, I say.’
Jack gave him a tired nod, leagues away from the happy, energised person who’d returned only a few minutes earlier from flying a spaceship. ‘Get them together in the briefing room, John. And get Walter to sort out some sandwiches and drinks. I think we might need them.’
John nodded and left the office, and Jack turned back to Holland. ‘How bad is it, Richard?’
‘Bad enough that I’ve brought my wife with me. Your Walter had a room prepared for us when we got here. She’s in VIP quarters as we speak. I had her sign a non-disclosure pack, but I doubt it’ll be necessary in the long run. Disclosure is going to happen one way or another even if we’re not ready for it.’
‘We’ve survived with much worse odds before today.’
‘This is a different enemy. No, wait, hear me out. The Goa’uld you fought before lived elsewhere in the galaxy. They’re mixing in with Earth society now. Short of an actual examination or having Teal’c permanently on hand, we have no way of identifying them.’
‘Until their eyes flash and turn gold.’
‘And how is that going to help the few of us who know about that if the host is in Europe, or even in New York? And what about the implants Kinsey mentioned? As far as we know, there are no signs to those, and there are too few of us who can identify and know the real purpose of the Goa’uld anyway. We can’t possibly fight six billion people, any number of whom might be our enemy, and if the enemy has infiltrated the government or, in this case, actually taken over the government, who becomes the aggressor and who the defender?’
Jack lost what colour remained in his face. ‘I…I…’. He sighed and rubbed his face again. ‘C’mon, let’s go to the briefing room. The others should be there by now.’
Jack knew Patrick would sense something was wrong the minute they walked through the door. He was right. Patrick took one look at his white face and rushed over.
‘Are you alright? What’s happened?’ He turned his glare on Richard Holland. ‘What’ve you said to him?’
Richard reached out and patted his shoulder. ‘Sit down, Patrick. I’ll tell you all together.’
Jack leaned against Patrick, appreciating his strength and compassion, and added his own plea. ‘Come and sit down, Patrick. We’re going to need everyone’s input on this.’
Jack took his usual seat and Patrick placed a couple of small sandwiches on a plate and passed it to him. ‘You need to eat something, Jack. You’re as white as a sheet.’
Jack gave a laugh devoid of any humour. ‘Wait until you hear what Richard has to tell us.’
Patrick eyed Richard momentarily then gave a small nod. ‘Okay. Get something to eat and drink. I get the feeling we’re going to need it.’
Richard repeated the details he’d given Jack and John, then sat back in his seat. Jack saw the colour leave the faces of those around the table.
‘What…’ Patrick coughed to clear his throat of a sudden lump. ‘How bad is it?’
‘Jack just asked me the same question. I’ll tell you what I told him. Bad enough that I’ve brought Amelia to stay here when I go back to New York.’
‘Is it safe for you to go back, sir?’ John asked. ‘The last thing we want or need is for you to be snaked or implanted as well.’
‘I’m not particularly keen on it either so for the moment I’d like to leave Amelia in your care while I sort out a few things in New York. With your permission, Jack, I’d like to transfer my office to the Mountain as soon as I can.’ He paused for a moment and glanced around, then continued. ‘I’ve also been in contact with Francis Haigh; he’s been keeping a weather eye on developments in DC.’
‘And?’ Jack pressed.
‘He has several acquaintances in both the House and Senate and believes more than a few are acting…slightly out of character. Not enough to raise suspicions in anyone not looking out for such things but enough to concern him, especially after Kinsey’s revelations about the Pentagon. Whoever is in the driving seat of the Trust is gaining more allies almost by the day.’
‘What does that mean for us?’ Lorne asked, frowning.
‘It means that we’re getting close to the point when the SGC will be targetted directly,’ Jack said quietly. ‘To be honest, I’m surprised we’ve not been ordered to hand over control before now.’
‘I think we came close to it when Kovach came sniffing round,’ Richard admitted. ‘I think the only thing preventing a wholesale takeover is President Hayes still supporting us.’
‘And if they get to him?’ John asked.
‘Then the whole country, maybe even the whole planet is lost.’
Jack glanced at John and read the question in his eyes.
‘Yes, John. I think it’s time to discuss Operation Dynamo and the Listed with Richard.’
‘Listed?’ Holland asked.
‘A list we began a few months ago of people we want to take with us if we need to evacuate the SGC.’
Richard raised his eyebrows. ‘Evacuate to where? And under what circumstances?’
Jack took a deep breath. ‘The original plan was, if possible, to evacuate all SGC personnel and the Listed to our Alpha or Beta sites. The circumstances vary from an attack similar to that of Anubis to…’ He swallowed. ‘To an attack on the whole planet. If that happens, the President and his Listed will be evacuated to our Iota site—’
‘Iota site? What’s that?’
‘A site we’ve created as a refuge for the President and politicians.’
A hint of a smile was emerging on Holland’s face. ‘I think ‘Iota’ has some significance here?’
‘Idiot Site,’ Rodney announced. ‘My idea. I claim all the credit for it. Saves us getting confused as to where everyone is. The Pi site didn’t quite work as O’Neill kept glazing over with thoughts of apples and peaches, so, Iota. Idiot Site.’
Holland grinned. ‘An inspired choice, Dr McKay, if I may say so.’
Rodney preened a little in the admiration until Jack saw him wince and glare at John, who, if he had to guess, had just kicked him or pinched his leg.
McKay’s revelation about the ‘Idiot Site’ had relieved the room of some of its oppressive atmosphere and when Holland gestured for Jack to continue he did so with a much lighter mien.
‘We put the plan together after the Expedition left for Atlantis and I noticed how light they were on certain items. They only took enough food for three months, for example, despite knowing the new X-304 wouldn’t be finished for up to a year. There’s a whole host of things we came up with. It’s all being stored in crystals designed by Rodney and his staff, and we have regular drills to keep everyone cognisant with our evacuation protocols.’
Richard nodded as he thought this through. ‘Are Amelia and I on your list?’
‘Yes, sir,’ John nodded. ‘We don’t refer to it in email and I think we just forgot to ask or tell you when we’ve seen you. With the SGC there’s almost always a storm of some sort either brewing or actually happening. Lyle’s on the list as well, if he’s back in the US. If he’s not…’ John pressed his lips together tightly. ‘We can’t guarantee he’ll be picked up but I promise you we’ll do our best.’ He gave a humourless smile. ‘I didn’t save his ass to let him become a slave to a snake.’
‘I appreciate it. What about the other Listed?’
Jack frowned. ‘We had hoped to have enough time to get the Daedalus completed and launched and so be able to use her transportation beam to bring everyone to the Mountain, but if world governments are falling to the Trust as fast as they appear to be doing, we may have to start bringing what Listed we can to the Mountain, for their own safety as much as anything else. I—’ He broke off as Walter appeared. ‘Problem?’ he asked, one eyebrow raised.
‘I…I think you need to go to your office, sir.’ Walter was frowning and had his head tilted to one side as though listening to something. ‘Now, sir!’
Jack left his chair at speed, followed closely by Patrick and John, the latter pulling his M14 from his thigh holster as they went.
Whatever Jack had been expecting, it wasn’t to find Daniel Jackson laying bare-ass on the floor behind the desk.
‘Umm. Hi?’ Jackson gave a little wave which meant moving one of his hands which had been…sheltering him. Jack gave a squawk Rodney would have been proud of and covered his face.
‘Gah! My eyes! My eyes! Jesus Christ, Danny! Get…put something around you, for fuck sake!’
A grin almost splitting his face, John went to pull down the flag nearest to him and stopped at the sound of outrage from O’Neill.
‘Not the Stars and Stripes, you doofus!’
John pulled the SGC flag from its pole and handed it to Jackson with a smirk and a raised eyebrow.
‘Don’t think I won’t tell Rodney about this,’ O’Neill continued to bitch.
‘Tell Rodney what?’ McKay demanded, appearing in the doorway.
‘Sheppard. Eyeing up Danny’s…attributes!’
‘I appreciate beauty in all its forms,’ John defended himself.
‘Yeah, tell that to the Marines,’ Jack snarked while Rodney pushed past Patrick to slap the back of John’s head.
‘Just a warning shot!’ McKay told him.
Jack shook his head and turned his attention to a now covered Daniel. ‘Just what is wrong with those ascended twats they always drop you buck-ass naked, anyway?’
Daniel struggled to his feet, one hand holding the flag around his waist. ‘I’m not sure, but I do have some information you need to hear.’
‘Good or bad information?’ Jack narrowed his eyes in suspicion. ‘I think I’ve had all the bad information I can take for the day.’
‘Why? What’s happened?’
‘Today in particular? Or since you got yourself blown up? And don’t think we won’t be having words about that.’ Jack pointed a finger at him. ‘I’m not above tanning your ass if it’ll make you listen to what I tell you to do.’
‘Jack! You can’t say things like that,’ Daniel huffed.
‘I just did.’
‘So, what have I missed?’ Daniel tried changing the subject.
‘Come back to the briefing room and we’ll fill you in.’
‘I think I need to get some clothes on first.’
‘I’ll get someone to bring some here for you,’ John offered, grinning. ‘You won’t want to walk through the base dressed in nothing but a flag and a smile!’
Jack rolled his eyes and strolled back to the briefing room, the others trotting along behind him. He settled himself back into his seat and looked around. ‘Now. Where were we?’
‘You were talking about bringing the Listed to the Mountain,’ John offered, slipping into his chair. ‘Where are we going to put them all?’
‘Is it worth beginning to send people through to the Alpha site?’ Holland suggested. ‘If that’s where they’re going to go.’
The expression on his face implied his suspicions of the Alpha site not being the final destination, but Jack wouldn’t be drawn. ‘Where else would they go?’
Richard sat back in his chair and sighed. ‘Jack, if you’re not going to be upfront with me, I might as well leave now. I’ve been totally honest with you and have even put my wife in your care, for fuck’s sake.’
‘Atlantis will be our final destination,’ Patrick said quietly.
‘I suspected it might be. Have you got the power to get us there?’
Jack inclined his head but didn’t elaborate any further.
‘Then what are you waiting for?’
He was saved from answering by the entrance of Daniel, now, thankfully, dressed in his usual BDUs and T-shirt.
‘So, what’s happened? Why is General Holland here? Not that I’m not pleased to see you, sir, but—’
‘Danny, take a breath, sit down, and tell us what’s so important,’ Jack instructed, sighing when his friend reached for the coffee first.
A rather undignified struggle commenced between McKay and Jackson for control of the coffee pot, saved only by Walter’s reappearance with a second full one.
Jack gave an exasperated sigh. ‘Danny! Focus! What’s so important? What happened to you? Did you ascend again?
Daniel held up his hand as though to ward him off. ‘Whoa! So many questions!’
‘If you actually started talking instead of fighting with McKay…’
‘Right. Sorry. Where shall I begin?’
‘How about when you died and ascended?’
‘I didn’t ascend. I…sort of…half ascended.’ He paused as though waiting for someone to say something.
‘Daniel!’ Jack growled warningly.
‘Okay, okay. After the explosion, I found myself in some sort of diner. The waitress was Ganos Lal—’
‘Stop! Wait! Who, now?’ Jack demanded.
‘Ganos Lal. You probably know her better as Morgan Le Fay. Yeah, apparently the legends of King Arthur are based on Ancients who ascended. Anyway, she explained I hadn’t ascended but was in a sort of halfway house where I could decide to ascend or not.’
‘Why Morgan Le Fay and not Oma Desala?’ Jack asked, frowning at him.
‘That’s my news, or part of it, at least. Oma has engaged Anubis in a perpetual battle.’ He paused again and grinned at them.
Jack sighed again. ‘Daniel, can you, please, be a little clearer?’
‘What’s unclear? Oma Desala was the one who originally helped Anubis to ascend. Once the Others found out his true nature, though, they de-ascended him, but only halfway to punish Oma. She got to witness what he did to the galaxy, you see. It didn’t matter to them that he killed thousands of innocents, or that he enslaved thousands more. When you ‘killed’ him, Jack, he tried to re-ascend again, but Oma was able to fight him and keep him fighting, and so prevent him from doing anything else. If he stops fighting, she’ll be able to obliterate him.’
‘Oookay,’ Jack said slowly. ‘So Anubis is now taken care of, right? What about the other Goa’uld? What about Ba’al?’
Daniel looked blank. ‘What about Ba’al? What’s he got to do with Anubis?’
‘You said you had important news. What is it?’
‘That’s it. Anubis being in perpetual battle with Oma Desala is my important news.’
Jack sat back in his seat. ‘Oh. Okay, then. Thank you. At least we don’t have to worry about Anubis again, I suppose.’
‘You don’t sound particularly grateful.’
‘I’m grateful for the news but it doesn’t help with our current problem.’
‘What current problem?’
‘Several heads of government in Europe have been snaked,’ John informed him, helpfully. ‘And so have some of ours.’
‘Crap, indeed,’ Jack agreed. ‘Now d’you understand why we’re all so concerned?’
‘Is it Ba’al? Is that why you asked about him?’
‘We can’t be certain. Probably, since his Jaffa were the ones who attacked P2R 977, and he had a mole inside the SGC.’
‘You’ve missed quite a bit.’ John smiled at him. ‘Bill Lee has been under the influence of some drug and is now being dried out by Dr Fraiser; we had a mole who gave the location of P2R 977 to Ba’al, and Kinsey’s locked up on level 22.’
‘Kinsey? Why is he locked up?’
‘He wants to be beamed to start a new life in New Zealand,’ Jack told him. ‘We can fill you in later. We were discussing the prospect of starting to bring the Listed to the SGC and maybe send them to the Alpha site.’
‘Why not send them straight through to Atlantis?’
Jack hesitated for a moment. ‘I…I don’t want to send them in dribs and drabs. Aside from the massive amount of power it’ll take I…I think we need to go through together. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know. I just…It’s all of us or none of us.’
‘What about Prometheus?’ Richard asked. ‘Are you intending to take her as well?’
‘I’d like to, Daedalus too, if she’s finished in time. For a start it protects the crew but more importantly, unless the Expedition has discovered a hanger full of spaceships, we’ll need her if we want to come back and make a serious attempt to clear Earth from its snake infestation.’
‘That is going to be our plan, then?’ John asked. ‘I know you and I talked about it but it was a while ago now, and…’ He shrugged his shoulders.
‘It will be our absolute priority,’ Jack told him. ‘I asked McKay to look at a way of weaponising the symbiote poison the Tok’ra gave us as that will most likely be our best chance of getting rid of the Goa’uld here on Earth. Where are you on that, Rodney?’
McKay pulled a face. ‘We’re having problems with a dispersal method, at least one which will reach the whole of Earth. If even a part of it is missed, it’ll make eradicating them all the more difficult.’
‘Take your time. It’s not vital at present so I’d rather you did it right than do it quickly and get it wrong. Maybe Carter can come up with something?’
Rodney scowled at this suggestion and opened his mouth to complain but Jack held up his hand. ‘Ah, ah. I know you think she cuts corners and tries some crazy ideas, but she’s managed to come up with more than a few things that’ve pulled us out of a hole a number of times. Just ask her, it’s all I’m suggesting.’
Very grudgingly, Rodney nodded.
‘So that’s where we are.’ Jack nodded to Daniel. ‘Thoughts?’
‘I agree with all or none regarding Atlantis. Something Ganos Lal said to me made me wonder if things weren’t quite…right on Atlantis.’
‘What did she say?’ Patrick asked, tilting his head slightly.
‘I can’t remember! I do remember Atlantis being mentioned,’ Daniel said, frustration coming off him in waves. ‘I just can’t quite remember.’
‘It might come back later,’ Jack said comfortingly. ‘For the moment, we’ll start to bring people in and push them through to the Alpha site.’
‘We need to station someone with them who has the address for Atlantis,’ Daniel added. ‘Just in case something happens.’
Jack watched him for a few seconds, thinking things through. ‘How about you?’
‘Me? Why me?’
‘Because everyone thinks you’re dead. Plus you already know the address so we won’t have to give it to anyone else.’
‘One or two people here have seen me today.’
‘Doesn’t matter. We can trust them.’ Daniel still didn’t look convinced so Jack tried a different tack. ‘Look, Danny, outside of this room only Walter knows the address to the city. I want to keep it that way if at all possible.’
‘I don’t know it,’ Patrick pointed out. ‘And nor does Richard.’
‘And that’s the way I prefer it stays,’ Jack returned. ‘If you don’t know it, you can’t let it slip or be forced to give it out. And that’s my last word on it.’
The high pitched note of the klaxon for an unscheduled off-world activation sounded around the SGC. John glanced at his watch, then remembered only Teal’c was off-world, so he jumped to his feet and hurried down to the control room to see Jack had beaten him there.
‘What’ve we got, Walter?’ Jack demanded.
‘IDC coming through from the…Tok’ra, sir. It’s the Tok’ra.’
Jack and John exchanged glances of surprise. John knew there had been no contact with the Tok’ra after Jacob Carter died the previous year and precious little contact in the preceding eighteen months before Carter and Sel’mak’s death. That they were now making contact after so long was…disturbing.
‘Lower the shield,’ Jack said at length. ‘Let’s see what they want this time. Likely nothing good – for us, at least.’
A man of average height with average brown hair emerged from the wormhole and strolled down the ramp, glancing at the SFs on either side with a supercilious air. Jack and John watched him for a moment then jogged down from the control room to meet him.
‘Colonel O’Neill.’ The stranger greeted Jack in the deep, slightly echoey voice of a symbiote.
‘Delek,’ Jack replied, neutrally. ‘It’s General O’Neill, now. I’ve been promoted. This is my executive officer, Colonel John Sheppard. John, Delek of the Tok’ra High Council.’
John nodded to him and, in return, was subjected to a thorough visual examination. At length, Delek returned his nod and looked back at O’Neill.
‘I have several questions to ask. May we remove to somewhere…less public?’
Jack regarded him for a moment then turned on his heel. ‘Follow me.’
As they left the embarkation room and headed up through the control room to the briefing room, two SFs fell into step behind John and followed them up the steps while two extra SFs arrived in the gate room, alerted by the troop leader. John realised this must be standard procedure when the Tok’ra came to the SGC and was a perceptible demonstration of the distrust between the Tok’ra and the Tau’ri.
Once in the briefing room, one SF remained by the staircase and the other took up position by the door to the corridor while the other three men seated themselves with Jack in his usual seat at the head of the table in another demonstration, this time of authority.
‘How can the Tau’ri aid the Tok’ra today?’ Jack asked, a decidedly insincere smile upon his face.
‘We demand the return of the subspace receiver Sel’mak gave to you.’
John managed not to let his surprise show on his face, while Jack’s facial muscles never even twitched.
‘You are aware that Jacob Carter and Sel’mak are…deceased?’ Jack asked, irony evident in his tone.
Delek – or his host, John reminded himself – flushed. ‘We know he gave it to you before his passing. We demand it is returned to us.’
‘Oh, you demand, do you? Well, that makes all the difference. He demands, John.’
‘I heard him, General. And I’m wondering how he thinks he’ll get what he wants by making demands of an ally.’
‘An alleged ally, John.’
Delek rose to his feet. ‘I can see that it was a mistake to believe the Tau’ri would aid us. I told the rest of the High Council this would be your response but one or two of them said I was wrong and wanted me to try.’
‘And how has that worked out for you?’ Jack asked in an interested voice which held a hint of steel. ‘Sit down, Delek, and explain what you want nicely since Jacob didn’t give us any receiver.’
Delek studied him for a moment. ‘If he didn’t give it to you, it must still be amongst his belongings. I de— would request to see them.’
‘There, that’s better, isn’t it?’ Jack nodded to Delek and got to his feet. ‘Jacob’s belongings are still in his daughter’s lab. I’ll take you there myself and you can search for whatever it is you want.’ He moved towards the door and looked back at Delek. ‘Well? Are you coming or not?’
Delek stood up and followed Jack without a word, John trailing along behind them with the SFs following him.
It took a couple of minutes to get to Sam Carter’s lab on level 19 and Jack went directly to a locker in the corner, pulled a set of keys from his pocket and selected one. The lock opened immediately and a bundle of assorted items fell onto the floor. John helped his friend to collect them up, making sure Delek could see they weren’t trying to hide anything and laid them out on a bench.
‘Come and look for yourself. There’s no transmitter or receiver here.’
Jack and John both stood aside and allowed Delek to search through the stuff on the bench. It took only a couple of minutes for him to look up at them.
‘It’s not here.’
‘That’s what I was trying to tell you. Jacob didn’t give anything to us.’
‘And his daughter? Where is she? He might have passed it on to her.’
‘She’s been working off base for a few months, and no, you can’t speak to her.’
Delek shuffled his feet, unsure of what to do next. John decided to help him out.
‘Shall we go back and sit in comfort? Have a drink, perhaps?’
‘Good idea, John,’ Jack agreed. ‘Pie always helps me think. Let’s go to the mess before the lunch rush starts.’
The strange procession made its way to the mess where one of the staff helpfully brought over coffee and pie for Jack.
‘Tell us more about this receiver thingy, Delek. What is it and why did you think Jacob had given it to us?’
Delek eyed him suspiciously for a moment then relaxed his shoulders a little. ‘The Tok’ra have spent the last few years fixing beacons to as many Goa’uld ships as they can to track their movements via subspace. We can thus plot their positions and see them on a map of the galaxy.’
Jack stilled, a spoon halfway to his mouth. He placed it carefully back on his plate and took a breath. ‘That would have been extremely useful to us on many, many occasions. Why didn’t the Tok’ra share it with us? With their allies?’
Delek shrugged. ‘The High Council felt the Tau’ri couldn’t be trusted, especially after the events on the planet you called P3X-984, your Alpha site. After the passing of Sel’mak, we had little reason to contact you again.’
‘You mean there was nothing we had that you wanted.’ It wasn’t a question.
Delek’s eyes wouldn’t meet Jack’s. ‘Perhaps. You have very different goals to us.’
‘We have the same goal,’ Jack ground out. ‘The eradication of the System Lords.’
Delek flushed again. ‘Than shall we agree that our methods are very different?’
‘Oh, we can agree on that alright,’ Jack retorted. ‘How many Systems Lords have you done away within the last six hundred years? None? And how many have we got rid of in six years? Directly? Eight. Indirectly? Nine or ten. Yes, we have very different methods.’
Delek replaced his coffee cup carefully on the table and got to his feet. ‘Then I think our conversation is over, General O’Neill. Please take me back to the Chappa’ai. I wish to return to my base.’
Not a word was spoken as they made their way back to the embarkation room, although the undercurrent spoke volumes. Jack and John watched Delek step through the event horizon.
‘Bastard!’ Jack muttered as the gate closed down and the iris swept into place. ‘C’mon.’
‘Where?’ John demanded, following him regardless.
‘Williamson’s gear. If Jacob did have it, Williamson’d’ve undoubtedly taken it, and he might still have it.’
‘But even we didn’t know what it was for.’
‘Wouldn’t matter. The kid took anything his paymasters might have found useful.’
Jack led them directly to Lorne’s small office a couple of levels above their own and opened the door even as he knocked. ‘Have you got the gear from Williamson’s bunk, Lorne?’
Lorne looked up in surprise from his paperwork – my paperwork John corrected himself. ‘Sir? What—? Yessir. Over in the corner, sir.’
Jack tipped out a small cardboard box directly onto Lorne’s desk. Amongst the lurid, tatty paperbacks and miscellany of detritus was a small lever type device. Jack picked it up and turned it over.
‘I didn’t know what that was, sir,’ Lorne told him. ‘It didn’t appear to do anything so I left it with the rest of his stuff.’
‘It just might be the answer to some of our prayers,’ Jack murmured, half to himself. ‘John? Get McKay down here.’
John touched his radio. ‘Rodney? Can you come down to Lorne’s office, please?’
‘We’ve found something we need you to see.’
‘Where is Lorne’s office?’
Rodney appeared a couple of minutes later. Jack held out the small device and explained what he thought it should do.
‘Bastards!’ Rodney muttered, turning it over in his hands. ‘I need to show this to Radek. He might have some ideas of how to activate it.’ He trotted out of Lorne’s office and turned his head. ‘Well? Are you lot coming or not?’
Lorne joined John and Jack as they followed McKay.
‘What about your paperwork?’ John murmured to him.
‘Your paperwork, sir,’ Lorne murmured back. ‘It’ll wait.’
John grinned at him and slapped his shoulder. ‘You’re learning, Evan.’
Radek was as interested in the device as Rodney had been and pretty soon the pair were chattering away to each other half in English and half in Czech.
‘I didn’t think you spoke Czech, McKay,’ John told him.
‘What made you think that?’ Rodney spared him a glance while fiddling with cables and connections.
‘Because you told me you couldn’t?’
‘When did I do that?’
John watched him for a moment and shook his head. ‘Never mind. What are you doing?’
‘Trying to connect it to a monitor and a power source.’
‘Will it work?’ Jack demanded. ‘Can you get it to work?’
‘Yes, if you stop bothering me with inane questions.’
It only took a few more minutes before the monitor flickered, then came to life. A number of red dots appeared, followed by several more, and still more.
‘Jesus Christ!’ Jack muttered. ‘Is that what I think it is?’
‘If you mean is that a map displaying Goa’uld ships in the Milky Way, then, yes, it is.’
‘Why are they all clustered around that larger red dot?’ John pointed at a mass of red in one corner of the screen.
Radek fiddled with the device for a moment, and the screen zoomed in closer to that one point.
‘What is it?’ Jack asked. ‘Red surrounded by red. What is it?’
‘I don’t…’ Rodney began then paused and looked at Radek. ‘Do you think—’
‘I think it’s the space station Jackson went to once,’ Rodney told them. ‘Hasara, remember? When he tried to poison the System Lords.’
‘He didn’t actually get around to trying,’ Jack answered absently. ‘Christ! There must be forty ships there.’
‘A meeting of some sort?’ John suggested.
‘Mmm. Maybe. Why though? Why would they all meet up now?’
‘I don’t— Wait!’ John pointed to the screen where red dots were disappearing. ‘What’s happening?’
‘It…it looks as though ships are being destroyed,’ Radek said in an uncertain voice.
‘More than that,’ Rodney added. ‘The whole station’s been destroyed.’
The five men watched as, one by one, the red dots blinked out.
‘What just happened?’ John asked in a hushed voice.
‘I’m not sure, but I think someone’s just wiped out most of the System Lords,’ Jack said quietly. ‘The question is, who did it?’
The sound of the base klaxon activating brought all five men out of their reverie and, as one, they turned and raced to the control room.
‘It’s the Tok’ra again, sir,’ Walter announced as the group entered the control room.
‘Let them through,’ Jack ordered. ‘Let’s see what they want this time.’
‘Is it a coincidence that forty ships and Hasara have just been destroyed?’ John murmured as they watched the iris spin open, revealing the blue of an event horizon.
‘Not in the slightest,’ Jack returned.
The group remained in the control room and watched as a stranger made his way down the ramp.
‘D’you know him?’ Lorne asked.
Jack shook his head. ‘Not him, no.’
The stranger halted at the foot of the ramp and gazed up at the control room. ‘General O’Neill?’ he asked in deep tones.
Jack leaned forward and spoke into the microphone. ‘That’s me.’ He gave a little wave.
The stranger’s expression didn’t change. ‘I am Per’sus, Supreme High Councillor of the Tok’ra.’
‘Hey, Per’sus. What do you want?’
Per’sus bowed his head to hide the flash of the eyes common between the Tok’ra and the Goa’uld and looked up again. ‘I wish to discuss a situation with you, General O’Neill,’ he said in a normally pitched voice.
‘And who am I talking to now?’
‘I am Kilik, host of Per’sus.’
Kilik met O’Neill’s gaze and after a moment or two, O’Neill nodded. ‘Two of the security forces will bring you to our briefing room.’
Kilik inclined his head and glanced around for the SFs. Two men moved from their positions to flank him, one of them pointing towards the opening door through which two more SFs entered. It all happened smoothly and Jack felt a stab of pride at the efficiency with which the embarkation room guards did their jobs. He gave Kilik a second nod, turned around and ushered John and Lorne up the staircase from the confines of the control room to the spacious briefing room while Rodney and Radek returned to their lab.
The SFs brought Kilik the long way round, entering the room from the corridor, giving Walter enough time to provide more carafes of coffee, removing the cold ones left from the meeting with Delek.
‘What situation do you wish to discuss?’ Jack asked Kilik once they were all settled around the table. He made no effort to introduce the other men.
‘Delek reported that you do not have the receiver Jacob Carter stole from us.’
Jack made no reply and Kilik sighed then bowed his head again. When he spoke again, it was in the echoed voice of a Tok’ra.
‘The receiver allows us to use a subspace network to observe the Goa’uld ships we have marked with a beacon as well as to receive reports from Tok’ra agents in the field.’
Jack managed to keep his face immobile at this piece of information.
‘Intelligence has reached us suggesting Ba’al is extremely interested in the Tau’ri and their homeworld and has spent much effort in recruiting supporters here.’
‘I guess that’s one way of putting it,’ John muttered.
A hint of a smile appeared on Kilik’s face and he nodded to John. ‘As you say.’
There was another long pause. Finally, Jack cleared his throat. ‘What is it you want, Kilik? Or Per’sus? Whichever of you I’m talking to.’
Kilik bowed his head once more. ‘I am Kilik, and you speak to both of us at all times. As to what I want…I respect the alliance between our two peoples although many on the High Council disagree with me. We have received essential information from our operatives which directly affects the Tau’ri and must, I believe, be shared with you. I desire nothing from you, O’Neill, but instead, I wish to pass this information to you. Ba’al called a meeting of the High Council of the System Lords on the Hasara Space Station, of which I believe you are aware.’
Jack nodded while still keeping his face from betraying him.
‘The meeting was to take place today,’ Kilik continued. ‘We had several Tok’ra on the Station serving several different System Lords.’
‘The Space Station was destroyed a short while ago along with everyone on it. The only System Lord who was not present was Ba’al.’ Kilik gave a tight smile. ‘You understand now why Ba’al’s interest in the Tau’ri and their homeworld is so significant to all of us.’
‘He’s the last remaining System Lord,’ Jack murmured.
‘He is the last significant remaining System Lord,’ Kilik corrected. ‘Bar Anubis.’ He met O’Neill’s eyes. ‘We have no information on his fate.’
‘There, I can help you,’ Jack replied flippantly. ‘He tried to ascend and was trapped in a fight with one of the Ascended Ancients we know.’
‘Perpetual battle, eternal fight.’ Jack waved his hand airily. ‘Something like that.’
‘And how did this information come to you?’
‘That would be me,’ Daniel said from the doorway. ‘Hi.’
Kilik raised an eyebrow in a manner eerily similar to Teal’c.
‘Dr Daniel Jackson meet Kilik, or Per’sus when he’s…you know.’ Jack waved his hand again.
Daniel nodded to him and slid into a seat next to Lorne. ‘I ascended again after I was killed on…off-world.’ He gave Kilik a tight smile. ‘Half-ascended, at least. Long story short, I met an Ancient, one of the Gatebuilders, who filled me in with what happened to Anubis. He’s out of our hair now, for good.’
‘You are certain of this?’
‘Did you want something in particular, Dr Jackson?’ Jack inquired politely.
‘No. I just…I heard the Tok’ra were here and thought I’d come introduce myself before I go to the Alpha site. Be polite.’
‘Apparently, Ba’al has destroyed the Hasara Station and all the other significant System Lords with it.’
‘Along with several Tok’ra spies,’ John added.
‘Oh. Wow. Umm. How do you know this?’
‘The Tok’ra have a special receiver thingy which allows them to see where all the Goa’uld ships are. Or, in this case, where they’re not.’
‘That would have been a handy device to have had.’
Jack nodded in agreement, pleased Daniel had arrived when he did to help convince Kilik they didn’t have the receiver. He thought that through again and frowned inwardly. It was a little too convenient in retrospect, and he narrowed his eyes as he watched Daniel.
‘Is there any other information you can give us?’ John was asking when Jack tuned back into the main conversation.
Kilik tilted his head to one side. ‘Such as?’
‘Knowing where Ba’al’s ships are would certainly be of interest to us,’ John told him. ‘Having a receiver of our own would also be helpful. Since we’ve not got one,’ he added.
‘I doubt the High Council will authorise me to give one to you.’
‘But you’ve already shown you don’t care what the rest of the High Council think, haven’t you?’ Jack said quietly.
Kilik stared at him for a moment then reached into his pocket and pulled out a familiar device. ‘I believe your scientists will understand how to use it.’ He glanced down at it then passed it over to Jack. ‘Our methods may be very different but our goals remain the same, and I intend to honour our agreement with the Tau’ri. This device will also allow you to contact me through the subspace network should you require my help again.’ He smiled at them, and Jack noticed it now reached his eyes. ‘And now I must leave.’
Jack and John watched from the control room as Kilik stepped into the open wormhole.
‘That was…unexpected,’ Jack commented at length.
‘He knew we’d found the other receiver.’
‘Undoubtedly. I wonder if this one is the same or if it has a few other extras.’ Jack held up the receiver and turned it over.
‘Only one way to find out.’
Almost as one, the two officers turned to leave the control room when the gate began to dial and the klaxon began to sound.
‘Isn’t there some way to turn that damn thing off?’ Jack asked, shaking his head as though to get rid of the ringing.
Walter hit a button and the Klaxon stopped. ‘Unsched—’
‘Yeah, yeah, we got it,’ Jack muttered. ‘Who is it now?’
Walter waited until the gate finished dialling and the familiar sound of the kawoosh was heard. ‘I’m getting an IDC from the Alpha site, sir.’
‘The Alpha site? Are we expecting them?’
‘Lower the iris and let them through.’
The iris spun outwards and several figures staggered through the event horizon, some holding the others upright.
‘Medical Emergency in the embarkation room,’ Walter barked into his radio as Jack and John hurried for the stairs.
‘What the hell’s happened?’ Jack demanded as he helped an injured Marine down the ramp and out of the way as more and more troops filed through the wormhole, the injuries getting progressively worse until the casualties began to emerge on stretchers.
Jack glanced up as the wormhole closed and saw a Marine Colonel fighting his way through the crowd to get to him, blood streaming down his face and a rough dressing around his arm.
‘The Alpha site’s been attacked, sir,’ he informed him. ‘We had no warning at all before energy weapons fired upon us from several Al’kesh. Some of our people were killed or trapped when the main building collapsed. I’d like permission to return with a couple of teams and try to rescue them, sir.’
‘You don’t look to be in any state to return, Colonel Norris.’
‘I’m fine, sir, I just…I need to rescue my men. You know how it is, General.’
Jack nodded. ‘How many of your people are missing?’
‘Fifteen are missing, sir. Eight men were killed in the initial bombardment as they were in the training yard. Almost all the rest were able to get to the lower levels and evacuate, but six men were outside the perimeter of the compound as we’d noticed some irregular surges in parts of the fencing.’
‘Do you think the two are connected?’
Norris shook his head. ‘I don’t know, sir, but I do want to go back and try and locate the missing as well as…’ He paused a moment and swallowed. ‘I want to bring the dead back home, sir.’
‘Understood. Go let Medical check you over and clean you up a little, then come back and we’ll make some plans.’
Norris offered him a salute and limped away.
‘Do you think it was Ba’al?’ John asked quietly.
‘I’m not sure who else it could have been given he’s killed off most of the other System Lords. ‘I’m more concerned he knew where—’ He broke off as the Stargate began to dial and the klaxon sounded again. ‘Jesus fucking Christ! Now what?!’
‘It’s the Beta site, sir,’ Walter called down. ‘I’ll notify Medical.’
Once again injured Marines and Airmen poured through the wormhole though not as many as before since the Beta, Gamma, and Delta sites had fewer personnel stationed there. John stepped away from the influx of injured men and medical people to make an all-base announcement asking for all medically trained personnel and blood donors to present themselves at the infirmary while Jack looked amongst the injured for the Beta site commander.
‘Sir?’ A young captain Jack hadn’t noticed stood to attention while cradling a clearly broken arm.
‘Captain Collins, sir. I’m—’ The young man gulped. ‘I’m the most senior person left, sir. Major Swift and Captain Booth were killed when the roof collapsed.’
Jack nodded and closed his eyes. After the Kull Warriors invaded the first Alpha site and killed so many Free Jaffa and Tok’ra, subsequent secondary sites were constructed underground as much as was possible. It meant, however, that if the sites were attacked from the air, they were likely to collapse in on themselves, as had apparently happened to both the Alpha and Beta sites.
‘Go and get treated, son,’ Jack told him gently, feeling each of his fifty-one years. Christ! He’s barely twenty-seven.
Rodney muttered under his breath as he cleared space in his wardrobe for John’s Dress Blues and a couple of formal shirts.
‘That’s all I can manage,’ he told John, indicating the six inches of space available.
‘I’ll survive,’ John returned as he tried to squeeze his three hangers onto the packed rail. ‘Did you clear any drawer space for me?’
‘One,’ Rodney said grudgingly. ‘But it’s a large one. And you can have the top drawer of the bedside table on your side of the bed.’
‘Just the top drawer? What’s in the other ones?’
Rodney sighed. ‘The bits and pieces of life one collects over time. I’ve lived here for over three years and I’ve got drawers of crap to prove it. If we’d had more time I’d’ve cleared more space for you, but we didn’t so…just deal with it, can’t you?’
John moved into his personal space and pulled him into a hug. ‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered into Rodney’s hair. ‘We need the space, though, and it was easier for me to move in with you than the other way round. Just be grateful we don’t have to sleep four to a room as Lorne has to.’
‘Four to a room?’
‘Mmm. His bed’s been swapped for a single one, and three camp beds have been brought in. I think Siler’s bought up every camp bed and mattress in Colorado today. You and I, and Jack and Dad are the only people who don’t have to share with as many people as can be squashed into a room. Some of the junior enlisted are sleeping on mattresses in the gym and sports hall. The Mountain’s almost as full as it can be and we still need to find space for all the Listed.’
‘Can’t we take over a hotel somewhere? Or a warehouse?’
John pulled away from Rodney to look at him. ‘A warehouse is a good idea. I’ll suggest it to Jack tomorrow morning.’
Rodney nestled up against him again. ‘How many people did we lose today?’
John pressed a kiss to the top of his head. ‘Over sixty between the five sites.’
‘I can’t believe all our off-world bases were attacked. Even the Idiot site.’
‘It certainly makes our planning much easier.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘There’s nowhere left in the Milky Way we can be sure is secure. If the Delta and Idiot sites were attacked, nowhere is safe.’
John pulled him down onto the bed and wrapped his arms around him. ‘Only Atlantis.’
Breakfast the following morning was a sombre affair with the catering staff working full out to get the extra two hundred people, on top of the usual four hundred personnel, fed and watered – or caffeine’d in the case of McKay and Jackson. And all without a mistake in the labelling of the nut, gluten, and citrus products on offer. No one was encouraged to hang around drinking coffee after they’d eaten, in fact it was quite the reverse as the tables were needed for other diners, and by 0830 the Master Sergeant in charge of the kitchens was able to report to O’Neill that everyone was squared away.
‘We’ll need to bring in a few extra supplies, though,’ MSgt Grimes advised O’Neill. ‘If you don’t want us to have to break into the storage crystals.’
‘No, no, don’t do that,’ Jack told him. ‘Take an SUV into Colorado Springs and get as much as you need. Get as much as you can, in fact. We still have people we need to bring in.’
‘More people, sir? With all due respect, where the hell will we fit them?’
‘Dr McKay had a brainwave last night,’ Sheppard announced, joining them in O’Neill’s office. ‘Morning, Sergeant Grimes.’
‘Morning, sir. What brainwave?’
‘We need to hire a warehouse. Preferably one not too far from here as all their food will need to be taken to them.’
Jack nodded slowly. ‘It’s a good idea. We’ll need more mattresses or camp beds.’
‘We’ll need more than that, sir,’ Grimes argued. ‘We’ll need latrines and washing facilities as well. And there’s no way I can provide any extra meals. We’re at full output as it is. What about a hotel?’
‘Security,’ John replied pulling a face.
Jack sighed and rubbed his face. ‘It’s not even 0900 and I’ve already got a headache. Leave it with us, Sergeant. We’ll get back to you.’
‘And the supplies, sir?’
‘Get as much as you can. Take several folks with you and clear the shelves if necessary. You’ve got access to an SGC credit card, haven’t you? We’ll work on the rest.’
Grimes saluted and hurried out while Jack sat back in his chair and closed his eyes. ‘Why the hell did I let them pin stars on my uniform?’
‘If it were General Hammond in that chair the same problems would still be here,’ John told him, throwing himself into the single visitor chair. ‘Prometheus?’
‘Already full to bursting. Pendergast can’t get anyone else on board, especially as they might need to fight. Speaking of which, did you get a chance to look at the Tok’ra device thingy this morning?’
‘Not yet. Should I ask Rodney to check?’
‘Let’s go and see him ourselves.’
‘You just want to hide in case anything else happens.’
‘And your problem with that is…?’
‘I’m right behind you, sir.’
They discovered McKay in his office about to tear his hair out. ‘I don’t know, Folger. We’ve got an extra forty scientists in the Mountain and we have to put them somewhere! Suck it up and share nicely or I’ll, I’ll…Just do it, okay?’ He threw the telephone receiver against the wall whereupon it smashed into several bits. ‘Fucking idiot!’
‘Have we come at a bad moment?’ John asked, leaning against the doorframe. ‘You never use your office.’
‘It’s about the only place I can get some peace and quiet and even then the phone still rings.’
‘I don’t think this phone’s going to be doing any more ringing,’ Jack told him, poking the pieces of plastic on the floor with a foot.
‘What do you want?’ Rodney asked in a tired voice.
‘Have you checked the Tok’ra receiver this morning?’ John asked.
McKay glared at him. ‘Forty extra people are demanding lab space. None of the monkeys already here are willing to share. They all keep phoning me to tell me this. I’ve hidden my radio but they still find me. Do I look as though I’ve got time to spare to keep an eye on something anyone can monitor? Get Zelenka to move it to your office if you’re so interested in it. It’ll free up an extra desk for me if you do.’
John held his hands up. ‘Wow! Sorry! Don’t take it out on us. We just want to see what Ba’al’s up to, nothing important or, you know, serious. I’ll get Radek to move it out of your way.’
Jack gave Rodney a little wave as they left him alone to his woes, and he and John went to find Zelenka and the monitor. Zelenka’s mood was little better than McKay’s but he agreed to move the device and monitor to John’s office after they’d taken a look to see what was happening in the galaxy.
It wasn’t good news.
‘How many ships d’you think are in that group?’ John asked in an awed tone as they watched a red mass inch their way across the Milky Way.
Radek twiddled with the monitor for a moment and the image zoomed in closer. ‘Twenty, perhaps thirty,’ he told them quietly. ‘They are on path to Sol system, to Earth.’
‘That’s what I thought,’ John said in a sombre tone and looked across at Jack who looked equally forbidding. ‘Can you get this moved to my office, please, Radek? I want to keep an eye on it.’
‘Ano, ano. I do it immediately.’
Jack pulled John to one side while Radek organised the removal of the monitor and the device. ‘We need to start bringing in the Listed now. We might not have time to organise anywhere for them to stay. We’ll have to manage the best we can.’
‘Agreed. I’ll get right on it.’
‘I want to have a word with Dr Kusanagi, and maybe Kinsey,’ Jack added. ‘I think it’s likely we have a second mole. How else would Ba’al be able to go directly to the off-world bases? Only a very few people knew about the Idiot site and I’d’ve said each one of them was to be trusted.’
‘I agree. Miko might have a couple of ideas of where to start. I’ll go and get Daniel and Jonas started on the Listed. Meet in my office in an hour?’
John found Jonas and Daniel together in Daniel’s main lab packing up the books and artefacts Daniel had collected over the years.
‘I guessed we might be leaving sooner rather than later,’ Daniel explained in answer to John’s raised eyebrow. ‘I’ve already emptied and stored the contents of my apartment and I’ve sent a few Marines out to pack up Jack’s house.’
‘Good thought. I’ve come to ask you both to begin the process to gather the Listed together,’ John told him.
Jackson gave him a shrewd look. ‘Already?’
John nodded, his face set.
‘Where to? At breakfast Rodney mentioned something about hiring a warehouse.’
‘We don’t think we have time for that. What looks like Ba’al’s entire fleet is heading for Sol.’
‘How long do we have before we have to leave?’
John hesitated for a moment. Once the decision was made to bug out, all the military personnel would become traitors to their country; a fact he knew hung heavy on Jack and Richard’s shoulders as well as on his own. They were being pushed closer and closer to choosing between living under the rule of the Trust and Ba’al or leaving the planet to prepare to take it back. ‘The fleet will take a few days to get here,’ was the best he could offer at that precise moment.
The nod and look Daniel gave him in reply told him the older man was fully aware of John’s concerns, and John had to remind himself that Daniel had been fighting aliens who wished to subjugate Earth for over seven years.
‘It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve faced such a prospect,’ Daniel said quietly, almost reading his mind. ‘At the end of the very first year, SG-1 disobeyed a direct order so we could save the planet.’
‘Yeah, save the planet, not abandon it,’ John muttered.
‘Leave in order to regroup and return,’ Jonas clarified, meeting John’s eyes as he spoke. ‘Earth has been subjugated by an enemy and will need to be liberated. In contrast, my own homeworld was subjugated by one of her own with the support of the ruling elite. There is an inherent difference.’
John nodded and left them to begin the operation to bring dozens of extra people to the Mountain feeling happier and more positive than he had earlier that morning.
Maybe this will work out after all.
It wasn’t quite an hour before Jack radioed John and asked him to join him in his office.
‘What’s happened?’ John demanded as he jogged to the elevator.
‘We overlooked something.’
‘Tell you when you get here.’
Jack and Rodney were waiting for him in his office where Rodney was staring at the monitor showing Ba’al’s inexorable progress towards Earth.
‘What’s happened?’ John asked again as he leaned on his desk. ‘What did we overlook?’
‘Oh, for fuck’s sake!’ Rodney snapped. ‘We forgot that Elizabeth Weir had full access to everything while she tried to run this place at the start of the year. I had Miko check which confidential files had been accessed, the only ones with the information about the Idiot site. They’re password locked at multiple levels as well as being triple encrypted but she had access to everything thanks to that smarmy used car salesman you people elected to the White House.’
‘Hey!’ John protested, more for form than anything else since he privately agreed with McKay.
‘He’s not wrong,’ Jack commented tiredly. ‘We had forgotten it. I know you and I recently looked at the military she brought in while she was here, and McKay looked into the scientists, but we neglected to look at the information she had access to. My bad; I should have thought of it.’
‘It shouldn’t have been necessary,’ John told him. ‘She was a trusted member of the government and was meant to be on our side. What else did she access?’
‘She printed out reams of classified scientific research, but I doubt any of it would be of use to anyone as she had no idea what she was looking at or for,’ Rodney answered. ‘She missed out entire sections of some research and printed out what amounts to lists of chemical formulae in others. It certainly explains why the Trust asked Jackson about the drone information though not where they got that information from. My guess would be from the Outpost via Weir, but without looking for it myself, I can’t be sure.’
‘And who did she pass the stuff on to?’
‘That we don’t know,’ Rodney admitted. ‘It certainly wasn’t via email, although we knew that from the fact she printed out so much information.’
‘Likely a contact from outside the Mountain,’ Jack added. ‘We may never find out and, quite honestly, it isn’t important now. What information she did have obviously made its way to the Trust, and to Ba’al. Why he waited this long to attack the off-world sites, I don’t know, but there are other, more important consequences.’
John nodded having already reached that conclusion. ‘Atlantis.’
‘Atlantis,’ Jack agreed. ‘We may be walking from the frying pan directly into the fire.’
It was a conundrum, that much was certain. The Mountain would shortly begin filling with people in preparation to leave Earth while their destination might well be compromised.
‘All I’m saying is Marshall Sumner isn’t the sort of man to be easily swayed,’ Jack reiterated for what felt like the hundredth time.
‘But Marshall Sumner might not still be in charge of the military,’ Holland argued.
‘People, people, we’re going round in circles,’ Patrick said tiredly. ‘Jack, Richard, you’ve both made those points before. Surely we have to plan for every eventuality: Sumner still being in charge and Sumner having been brainwashed or even locked up.’
‘They left with limited supplies,’ Daniel pointed out. ‘It’s unlikely they have the resources to keep someone locked up as it would take people away from off-world missions and exploration. Besides, the Ancients might not have had prisons. We didn’t find anything like that at the Outpost.’
‘But we only managed to explore about twenty-five per cent of the Outpost,’ Rodney argued. ‘For all we know there might be hundreds of tiny prison cells waiting to be found.’
‘Unlikely.’ Daniel reiterated, glaring at him while Rodney jutted his chin out and narrowed his eyes.
John recognised the precursor to a violent shouting match – if they were lucky. If not, physical violence might be attempted; anything was possible with tempers so frayed. He tapped the table to gain everyone’s attention. ‘I suggest we take a brief time-out before someone gets hurt.’ He glared at both Daniel and Rodney as he spoke. ‘Possibly by me.’
Jack pushed his chair back and got to his feet. ‘I agree. Back in ten minutes, people.’
Patrick moved to John’s side and lightly touched his arm. ‘John? A word.’
John led his father into his office and closed the door between his and Jack’s rooms.
‘I…We…Look, I…’ Patrick began then sighed in frustration.
‘You want to rescue David,’ John translated in a quiet voice.
‘I…How did you know?’
John shrugged. ‘Because I think I feel the same?’ He leaned against a corner of his desk, hands resting on either side. ‘I…I know things haven’t always been good between us, between you and I, but I…I think we’ve managed to come to an understanding over the last couple of months.’
Patrick nodded, a warm smile coming to his lips, and he seated himself in one of the chairs in front of the desk. ‘I agree. We’re becoming friends which is something I never anticipated when you rescued me and brought me back from the drugged haze I was in.’
‘Plus, you’re dating my CO so…you know.’ John smiled at his father. ‘I talked it over with Rodney and he helped me understand a few things and, well…I think we need to bring David in and see if we can’t remove this implant thing Kinsey says he’s been fitted with.’
‘I agree. It’s what I was going to suggest. I don’t feel as though I can leave Earth without making at least some attempt at getting Davy freed from the Trust and the people who’re controlling him.’
‘You do realise it might not be as easy as that, don’t you?’ John asked. ‘Our best hope is beaming him out of his office, but someone will need to physically go there to make sure it’s only him we get. Plus, Kinsey might be wrong, and he might have been snaked, not implanted, or even snaked as well as the implant; we have no idea how they work. And one reason we were so reluctant to go for him is we have no idea what safeguards the Trust may have made. They know we’ve got beaming technology and must be aware we’ll at least try to get David. And…’ John paused and pressed his lips together. ‘Jack collected a bundle of papers and diaries from David’s room when we rescued you. Both he and I have been through them and…I’m not entirely certain he was innocent in allowing you to be drugged and married to Cindy, or whatever her name was. He wanted control of SI, that much was clear. He kept you alive so he could maintain a controlling interest, we know that for a fact.’
John paused again and surveyed his father. ‘I guess– What I’m trying to say is that if we do bring him to the SGC, he’ll need to be treated as a hostile until we can be certain just where his loyalties lie, and I’m not certain we can take him through the gate in chains, especially as we don’t know exactly what’s on the other side.’
Patrick was silent for a long moment, but as he opened his mouth to speak, John’s radio buzzed in his ear.
‘What?’ he asked in irritation.
‘Hey, don’t snap at me!’ Rodney’s voice told him. ‘The ten minutes are up and you’re needed back here.’
The radio cut off abruptly and John sighed. ‘We need to go back, but, Dad. We’ll discuss this later, and get Jack and Rodney in on it.’ He leaned forward and rested his hand on his father’s shoulder. ‘We’ll do our best to take Davy with us, I promise.’
When John and Patrick returned to the briefing room, they saw Jack had moved to sit in the chair to the right of his usual seat, everyone moving down one seat, leaving the head of the table free.
‘We thought it best if you chair the meeting from now,’ he told Patrick, indicating Richard Holland across the table from himself. ‘A neutral party, so to speak.’
Patrick nodded and took his new seat. ‘In which case, I’d like to go around the table and ask everyone’s opinion on how we arrange the evacuation. Colonel Sheppard, will you begin?’
Jack frowned at the realisation he’d be the last to give his view and opened his mouth to object. He closed it after Patrick raised an eyebrow at him and sat back with a huff.
John nodded to his father and smirked at his CO. ‘I suggest General O’Neill is the first person through the gate to Atlantis, with an armed guard prepared to defend him. His very entry into the Atlantis gate room should bring all military assets to attention and he’ll outrank everyone on the city.’
Jack opened his mouth to object but was stopped by a glare from Patrick.
‘Major Lorne?’ Patrick invited.
The opinion-taking went around the table in turn and was mainly a variation of John’s suggestion. Daniel put forward General Hammond as the first through the gate as a compromise, and Richard Holland suggested himself as the highest ranking officer at the table.
‘Few, if any, of the Atlantis Company know you,’ Patrick told Richard, ‘and, with all due respect to him, General Hammond is 65 and has been desk bound for the last few years.’
‘It didn’t stop him commanding Prometheus nine months ago,’ John returned. ‘And he’s only three years older than you, Dad.’
The glare he received from his father should have withered him but instead prompted a smirk.
‘You got a death wish?’ Jack muttered to him.
‘I’m just sayin’,’ John said, trying for an innocent expression and failing miserably.
It did have the effect of lightening the tension in the room, John’s intended purpose, and Patrick’s glare transformed into a smile.
‘I obviously didn’t spank you enough as a child.’
‘It’s never too late,’ Jack suggested, receiving a poke in the arm from John. ‘I’m just sayin’,’ he added with a smirk.
‘Gentlemen.’ Patrick tapped the table and brought them all to order. ‘I agree with the consensus. General O’Neill should be first through the gate, along with an appropriate escort. It’s going to take multiple dial-ins to get everyone and all the equipment through but I’d like to see the majority of the military personnel through in the first wave. Dr McKay, you should also be in the first wave, along with the ZPM.’
‘Just one ZPM?’ John asked.
‘You have more than one?’ Holland demanded. ‘You kept that quiet.’
‘It was need to know information,’ Jack told him. ‘You won’t be leaving the Mountain again, so I’m not worried about you knowing now. There was always a possibility you could be captured before and we didn’t want that particular information made known to anyone outside of this room.’
‘We have three ZPMs, although one is only sixty per cent filled,’ Rodney explained. ‘However, I’ve consulted Drs Zelenka and Kusanagi, and we think we can use six or eight mini-ZPMs in series to generate enough power to open the gate and keep it open for the full thirty-eight minutes, for several dial-ins.’
‘I didn’t know you’d managed to build the mini ZPM,’ Patrick said in surprise. ‘I knew you’d finished the math but…’
‘Information from P2R 977 proved invaluable,’ Zelenka told him, pushing his glasses up his nose. ‘As did recharging ZPM.’
‘Are you certain about it?’ Jack asked.
McKay nodded. ‘As certain as we can be. We’ll do a couple more tests but we obviously can’t test it on dialling another galaxy. It means we have two and a half ZPMs to take to Atlantis which will undoubtedly help us in the city. We’ll also take the empty ones with us. We might find equipment in Pegasus similar to that on P2R 977. I’m not sure I want to be the one to take them through the gate to Atlantis, though.’
‘Why not?’ Patrick asked. ‘I thought you’d want to be the one to connect them up.’
‘John’s going to be the last one to leave the Mountain and will travel to Pegasus on Prometheus. I want to go with him.’
‘Wait. Why is John going to be the last one to leave?’ Holland asked. ‘When was that decided?’
‘It’s not been decided per se,’ Patrick told him. ‘It’s something we have discussed though. The last one to leave the SGC will disable the Stargate so it can’t be used to follow us.’
‘Disable? Wouldn’t it be better to blow it up?’
‘Yes, if we want to destroy most of Colorado and maybe North America,’ Rodney commented caustically. ‘Seriously, do you know anything about the Stargate? Its main material is Naquadah. The stuff we use to make big bombs?’
‘Rodney,’ John cautioned. ‘Play nicely.’
‘No, Dr McKay, I didn’t know,’ Richard replied in a cold voice. ‘No one briefed me on the material from which Stargates are constructed.’
‘Then maybe you—’ McKay began before John clapped a hand over his mouth.
‘Seriously, McKay. Do you need another time-out?’ John demanded.
Rodney, still with John’s hand covering his mouth, shook his head and tried to show him puppy eyes.
‘You’ll behave if I move my hand?’
‘Okay, then. You need to apologise to General Holland.’
John removed his hand and wiped it on his BDUs.
‘I apologise, General Holland. That was rude of me.’ Rodney turned his head and raised his hand so only John could see him stick his tongue out at him.
Holland nodded and directed his attention to Patrick. ‘I’m not happy with simply disabling the Stargate. If the Goa’uld are as smart as I’m told they are, we can’t be certain they won’t be able to find out where we’ve gone. Is there another option?’ He turned back to Rodney. ‘Dr McKay?’
‘I…The only other option is to remove the gate from the Mountain.’
‘Well? Can we do that? I know Prometheus brought a spare Stargate back to Earth a few weeks ago along with a DHD. Can’t the same be done with this one?’ He motioned to the gate which could be seen through the window of the briefing room.
‘Not with Prometheus full of refugees and equipment,’ Radek told him. ‘When they return with Stargate before, they have no F-302s or passengers on board.’
‘What about the Asgard?’ Daniel suggested suddenly. ‘If we ask them – if you asked them, Jack, they might help us out.’
‘And do what with it?’
‘I don’t know. Hide it somewhere maybe?’ Daniel turned to Rodney and Radek. ‘Can a Stargate be cloaked?’
‘We certainly don’t have the technology for it,’ Rodney countered. ‘But if we involve the Asgard, there’s no reason why they won’t cloak it. They certainly have the technology for it. They even offered it to us for Prometheus but since they wouldn’t allow us to have a power source to run it we had to refuse it.’
‘Couldn’t we have had it and then installed a power source once we found one?’ Jack asked. ‘Seems silly to have refused it. I didn’t know you’d done that.’
‘Actually, General,’ Rodney told him in his most glacial tone, ‘I wasn’t the one who refused it. That was your golden girl, Colonel Carter, Major Carter as she was then. It would have made a complete redesign necessary as it made Prometheus far too large and heavy, especially as we had no idea when we might find a source to power it.’
Jack held his hands up in a classic surrender pose. ‘Sorry, sorry, I didn’t know.’
Rodney harrumphed under his breath and John poked him.
‘So, back to the Asgard,’ Patrick sighed. ‘Can you contact them, Jack? I think I heard mention of a beacon of some sort.’
‘I’ll need to use Prometheus to get to it. Thor didn’t want to make it too easy to contact him in case we overused it.’
‘How long would it take them to get here?’ Richard asked. ‘Have we got time for it?’
‘That’s not a problem. Their ships can cross a galaxy in hours if necessary. I don’t want them to get mixed up in a fight with Ba’al, though.’
‘And what’s the timeline on him?’
‘A week, ten days tops for the entire fleet,’ John replied. ‘If a couple of Al’kesh come on ahead? Three, four days. We’re fast running out of time.’
‘Then I suggest Jack takes Prometheus and leaves right away to contact Thor while we gather everyone and everything here in the Mountain.’
‘And MSgt Grimes’ concerns about the kitchens?’ John asked.
‘MREs,’ Jack told him. ‘We put the Company on MREs and have nothing but basic meals made in the kitchens. And people are going to have to sleep where they can. Hopefully, it’ll only be for a couple of nights at most.’ He stood up, quickly followed by John and Lorne who he waved to reseat themselves, and nodded at John. ‘I’m off. Try to keep this place in one piece, won’t you?’
‘I’ll do my best, sir,’ John promised and watched as his father and CO left the room.
The base personnel were kept busy driving to and from the airport and train station, ferrying people who arrived at the Mountain. The original plan had been to have Prometheus beam as many people as possible to the SGC, but since she was on the mission with O’Neill, public transport had to be used wherever possible. The SGC Gulfstream V was kept busy collecting people from the more inaccessible places, along with those who weren’t able to find flights or trains, and was in constant use pausing only to be refuelled and for fresh crew whenever necessary.
Patrick, using the money David had been unable to touch, chartered as many planes as he could manage while Kinsey also donated to the cause, albeit unwillingly. He was now pressing to be included in the exodus but none of the SGC people were keen to take him since no other politicians had been allowed on the Lists and, quite frankly, everyone hated him. Kinsey himself viewed his donation of a million dollars as payment for his passage which John was happy to accept while refusing to confirm Kinsey’s inclusion, telling him only Jack could make such a decision. Privately, John hoped Jack would refuse and simply order him to be beamed to the house in New Zealand which had been purchased by Miko through a tangle of shell companies and which no one – hopefully – was likely to be able to straighten out.
Tiny Hetty Lange had arrived at the Mountain the day following Jack’s departure on Prometheus, having driven herself, three of her people and a dog called Monty in a Winnebago across the country from Los Angeles. Nell Jones, one of the two analysts and another miniature whirlwind, took one look at the briefing room – into which all five were shown – and immediately took charge of the entire operation of bringing people into the Mountain and organising their stay which was fast turning John and Lorne’s hair grey. By the end of the day, there were sixty-five various sized motorhomes in the parking lot and Nell had a team of Airmen connecting them all up to electric points.
‘There,’ she told him. ‘That’s an extra three hundred bunks, minimum, plus another sixty-five bathrooms as well as kitchen facilities.’
John was speechless and was tempted to kiss her if it weren’t for what Rodney might do to him. Lorne had no such reservations, and since it had been his job to try and find beds for everyone coming into the Mountain, he grabbed her and landed a smacking kiss on her lips.
‘I love you. Will you marry me?’ he demanded.
Eric Beale and Marty Deeks – to whom Monty belonged – laughed as John stuttered his thanks and slapped Lorne about the head.
While Nell took over the arrangements of the Listed, Hetty took John out of the Mountain and to the Winnebago, followed closely by Marty Deeks.
‘Come and see what else I brought,’ she told him, her eyes sparkling with mischief, and led him to a large, unopened trunk taking up a considerable amount of space in the motorhome.
Inside was the most comprehensive weapons arsenal John had ever seen. ‘Is that a Fabbri 12 Bore with the titanium action?’ he asked in awe, pointing towards a walnut handled gun with superbly fine scroll-engraving on the action. ‘Can…Can I touch it?’
Hetty smiled at him, laughter dancing in her eyes. ‘You may.’
‘Hey, you wouldn’t let me touch that one,’ Deeks grumbled, looking over John’s shoulder having only caught the end of John’s comment.
‘That’s because you wouldn’t recognise a Fabbri from a Ferrari, Mr Deeks.’
‘I would so. A Ferrari’s an Italian sports car, and a Fabbri’s a little Russian one.’
John grinned at him while Hetty squeezed her eyes together and shook her head.
‘I thought you were bringing six agents with you,’ John asked, stroking his fingers along the butt of the Fabbri.
Hetty frowned. ‘I hoped to, but Mr Hanna didn’t want to take his wife and children away from home and Mr Callen wouldn’t leave Mr Hanna behind.’
‘And the other one? Another girl I think General O’Neill said.’
‘Ah. Miss Blye. She…didn’t want to leave Mr Callen and Mr Hanna.’
There was apparently more to it than this as he noticed Deeks press his lips together and lower his head, but he made no comment.
‘Three agents from the NCIS office in DC will be joining us instead,’ Hetty continued. ‘Mr Gibbs, Mr DiNozzo and Mr McGee. General O’Neill mentioned he wanted me to bring four agents, or more if possible, to help on…in the place to which we’re evacuating.’
John didn’t miss her slip and filed it away for future reference.
‘Dr Mallard will also be joining us, now his mother has passed away, and while Mr Beale and Miss Jones are analysts, they will no doubt find something with which to occupy themselves when we get to our final destination.’
‘Where are we going, Colonel Sheppard?’ Deeks asked. ‘Hetty wouldn’t tell us, just that it was somewhere we could be of use to the population although we’ve gathered it’s outside the mainland US. An island somewhere, Hawaii, maybe?’ he asked hopefully. ‘There’s great surfing there.’
John grinned at him. ‘Isn’t there just. You’ll all be briefed before we depart. Meanwhile, make yourselves comfortable – or as comfortable as you can in the circumstances.’ He turned to look at Hetty. ‘Shall I get someone to carry your trunk down to my office, Miss Lang?’
‘Thank you, Colonel Sheppard. I’m eager to reacquaint myself with your father. I understand he’s here as well?’
‘Dad? I didn’t know you knew my father.’
Hetty gave him an enigmatic smile. ‘There’s much you don’t know about me, Colonel.’
Jack returned to the SGC three days later and Prometheus began beaming the few remaining Listed into the Mountain where the Sports Hall became the landing zone, as Jack liked to call it. Several people arrived with pets and the Officer’s mess was being used as a pet holding area. All dog and cat owners were instructed to keep their animals under control and to clear up after them on pain of being left behind – the owners, not the pets – and so far, there had been no problems. John was delighted that dogs were being evacuated with them while Rodney was more enamoured with the cats. They argued over whether or not to pay a visit to the local pet rescue centre and choose a dog and a cat for themselves but finally decided it wouldn’t be fair on the animals given their positions in the SGC and, hopefully, on Atlantis. John, however, still held out hope there might be puppies one day.
All the newcomers were tested for the ATA gene as well as being scanned for any extra passengers, as Jack described it, and the SFs kept a close eye on everyone to make sure no one with an implant would be going through the gate.
‘Although how we can be certain, I have no idea,’ Jack grumbled to John as they went over the lists of people evacuating with them.
‘Constant vigilance,’ John suggested with a grin and ducked as Jack threw a paper clip at him.
There was a knock at the door, and a white-faced Paul Davis entered, a dressing around his upper left arm, accompanied by George Hammond and Francis Haigh.
‘Paul? What’s happened?’ Jack demanded while John left his chair and shook hands with General Hammond and Francis, and showed them to a seat.
‘When did you get here? We expected you yesterday,’ John told them, leaning against the edge of his desk while the other men gathered on the sofa and armchairs.
‘Prometheus just beamed us in,’ Hammond explained. ‘Fortunately, Francis was with me in the Pentagon, and Pendergast had Paul picked up from the Rose Garden just before us.’
‘The Rose Garden? At the White House, you mean?’ Jack demanded. ‘What’s happened? Has—’ He broke off as Davis nodded.
‘I was lucky to escape from there. The President and all his senior staff have either been taken as hosts or implanted, I believe you call it. Either way, they’re no longer in their right minds although President Hayes was able to break the hold of the Goa’uld for a brief moment.’ He passed a handwritten note to Jack. On it was scrawled a barely legible note in the writing of the President with just eight words: Permission to leave planet. Not your fault. Go.
‘As far as I’m concerned, that constitutes a written order from the Commander in Chief,’ Hammond said quietly. ‘I know that fact’s been bugging you, Jack. Hell, it’s been bugging all of us. We need to go, and we need to go now.’
‘President Hayes’ Chief of Staff, Sean Malone, tried to have me arrested,’ Paul explained. ‘I’m glad I took your advice and allowed myself to be injected with one of the new subqu’s. Prometheus wouldn’t have had a hope in hell of picking me up otherwise, at least not safely. The Secret Service have all been implanted, I think. They’re certainly under the control of the Goa’uld in President Hayes’ body. Had they been caught in the beam they’d have shot everyone they came across. As it was, Prometheus was able to pick me up when we stepped outside since the White House is now shielded by something, Colonel Pendergast said.
‘Is that what your injury is? A gunshot?’ John asked. ‘Has it been looked at?’
‘It only nicked my arm as I was beamed out. Dr Lam took care of it for me. Don’t worry, John. I’m fine.’
John nodded and turned away as his radio buzzed.
‘It’s Nell Jones here, Colonel. I’ve just received a call from a Colonel Kirkland on Prometheus informing me that the contents of Colonel Davis, General Hammond, and Captain Haigh’s homes have all been beamed onboard. He said to tell you it’ll all be kept in one of the storage crystals.’
‘Thanks, Nell. I’ll let them know. Sheppard out.’ I want to keep her as my aide. I wonder if Hetty would allow it?
He quickly relayed the message to the men in his office and smiled at the looks of relief it garnered.
‘Thank Christ for that,’ Francis said feelingly. ‘I thought I’d have to make do with what I’m wearing now.’
‘Why didn’t any of you come in yesterday?’ Jack asked, looking around at them. ‘Your daughter, son-in-law and the girls came yesterday, General Hammond.’
‘We were waiting for final intel from Paul,’ Hammond explained. ‘And I had some final bits and pieces to collect from my office, which is why I was there today when I got the call from Paul on Prometheus.’
‘We were trying to discover just who amongst the upper echelons of the DOD had been taken as a host or implanted,’ Haigh added. ‘I’ve been working with General Hammond, gathering what intelligence I could as few people know of my connection with you and the SGC. They’re more inclined to talk to me than anyone from here.’
‘And?’ Jack asked.
Haigh gave him a grim look. ‘It’s not good at all. I’m pretty sure all the higher ranking officers, of all five branches, have been turned. There’s little chance of getting help from any of them when it comes to regaining control of Earth. We’re going to be on our own.’
John squeezed his eyes closed but opened them at the sound of another knock on his door. ‘Enter,’ he called out, and was surprised to see Teal’c and Master Bra’tac step into the room, both dressed in flowing robes.
Introductions were quickly made and John smiled at the look of pleasure on Bra’tac’s face as he gripped the forearm of General Hammond.
‘It is indeed a joy to meet with you again, Hammond of Texas,’ he declared. ‘However, I wish it were under other circumstances.’
‘As do I, old friend,’ Hammond told him. ‘You’re aware of our plans?’
‘Teal’c has disclosed them to me. We have come to give you our news and wish you well on your journey.’
‘News? What news?’ Jack demanded.
Teal’c gave him a slow smile. ‘We took the advice of Colonel Sheppard and used Dakara as a rallying point for the Free Jaffa. It was poorly garrisoned and we won a famous victory.’
‘You won? Fantastic! That’s the best news I’ve had in a long time,’ Jack declared, beaming at the two Jaffa.
‘I give you thanks, O’Neill.’ Teal’c bowed to him. ‘We have left the planet in the hands of our people who are preparing to elect a High Council for the first time. We have also come to ask for your aid. Ancient legends tell of a weapon on Dakara made by the Gatebuilders. We hoped you could help us find the weapon given you have the blood of the Ancient ones in your veins, O’Neill.’
Jack’s face fell. ‘I wish I could help you, my friend, but we’re about to leave Earth for Atlantis. I need to be the first one through the gate so we can take control of the city which we fear might already be under the control of one or more Goa’uld.’
Teal’c inclined his head. ‘I understand. The fate of the Tau’ri rests with you. You must go and when you return and retake Earth, perhaps then you will come to our aid.’
‘Just a minute.’ John held up his hand. ‘I’m not going through the Stargate. I’ll be travelling on Prometheus. Maybe we could stop by Dakara on our way to Atlantis. I have the ATA gene as well, and Doc Fraiser thinks it’s even stronger than General O’Neill’s.’
‘You would do this for us?’ Bra’tac demanded in surprise.
‘Of course, I would. As long as it wouldn’t endanger Prometheus and the folk on board.’
‘We have a fleet of Ha’tak and Al’kesh,’ Teal’c told him. ‘Many of the Jaffa who joined us were formerly in servitude to the System Lords who were recently killed when their space station exploded.’
‘Yeah, we watched it happen,’ John grinned happily.
‘By what means did you do this?’ Bra’tac asked curiosity etched on his face.
‘By means of a little gift from the Tok’ra,’ John returned and pointed towards the monitor on a small desk in the corner of the room. ‘Look.’
The small group of men crowded around it while Jack pointed out the red dots making their way inexorably towards Earth.
‘How long will it take these ships of Ba’al to arrive?’ Teal’c asked.
‘Two to three days. We plan to begin moving everyone through the gate tonight. Thor’s on his way to help remove the Stargate from here.’
‘And where will he then place it?’
Jack and John exchanged identical grins. ‘Somewhere Ba’al will never find it as Thor intends to cloak it for us,’ Jack explained.
‘Most of the SGC Company will go through the gate with General O’Neill and the majority of our people, but Rodney and I will be going together on Prometheus with a couple of platoons,’ John explained. ‘Rodney’s managed to fit a couple of his mini-ZPMs into her systems to give her extra power. If you know the general area for me to look for the weapon on Dakara, I’ll be happy to try and find it for you, but we can’t stay too long. Ba’al’s going to be looking for us.’
‘And when will you return?’ Bra’tac asked quietly.
‘As soon as we’re in a position to retake Earth,’ Jack said, equally quietly.
‘Then the Free Jaffa will fight at your side,’ Bra’tac declared. ‘Without the Tau’ri, the Jaffa would never have found their freedom. We have liberated ourselves from the yoke of the Goa’uld; it will be our honour to fight them at the side of our brothers to free Earth.’
John looked at the blue, blue planet filling the window of the command deck of Prometheus. A part of him would always love the place of his birth but he had no way of knowing how long it would be until he saw it again.
‘As soon as we can,’ he whispered.
‘As soon as we can what?’ a voice asked, and Rodney was at his side, slipping his hand into John’s, his brilliant blue eyes almost matching the colour of the planet below.
‘I love you; you know that, don’t you?’ John asked, gentle fingers stroking the soft cheek of the man by his side.
‘I do know that,’ Rodney returned. ‘I also know that Thor has left the Stargate cloaked on Mars. Whose idea was that?’
‘Mine and Jack’s,’ John admitted. ‘We thought it was amusing. Plus, it means we can use it to bring our people back to the Milky Way when it’s time for us to retake Earth. Thor said the shield extends for about two hundred yards around the gate.’
‘And how are we going to get them off Mars and back to Earth to fight?’
‘You’ll build me a spaceship. Maybe several.’
‘I…’ Rodney paused. ‘You know what? It’s not even worth explaining; I’d only waste my breath.’
‘Atlantis might have a whole fleet of spaceships.’
‘Then why wouldn’t the Expedition have used them to return to Earth?’
‘They might need a stronger gene than the ones they have there.’
‘That…That actually makes sense.’
‘See?’ John grinned at him. ‘I knew I’d be right at some point.’
‘Don’t push it, wise guy. We’ve a long way to go before we can even think about liberating Earth.’
John quickly sobered. ‘I know that. There’s a lot of hard work ahead of us, but at least we’re together.’
Rodney squeezed his hand. ‘At least we’re together.’
‘All systems prepare for hyperdrive,’ they heard Colonel Pendergast announce, and listened to the replies from each of his sub-commanders.
Barely two minutes later the hyperdrive engines engaged and Earth was left behind, but only for the moment.
They would return, and they would retake Earth from the Goa’uld, from the Trust. Of that John was certain.