Crimes Against Humanity
Codes: McKay, Sheppard, Sheppard/McKay, all, Alternate Universe
Summary: The Daedalus.
Author Notes: So close to done I can almost see it. Two parts today, one, maybe two before its finished.
Tag here, webpage version here.
Warnings: Please see this entry for series warnings.
"Shifts," Rodney says briefly, looking around the newly cleared main lab at the faces of his new department. White coats and terrified faces, not so different from Cheyenne mountain, except for John's men stationed behind him, blank faced and armed to the teeth. "Check your assignments, be here on time. I don't think I need to tell you that I don’t like lateness." Glancing at Gaul's exhausted face, Rodney tries not to smile. "Third shift, report to Carson immediately. The rest of you--you have your assignments. Let's start bringing this city online."
The plan is actually fairly simple; the main database, now clear of SGC code, could be brought back up to take over automated functions, up to and including defense and Rodney's personal favorite, the control chair. Hooking in the cleaned laptops, they should be able to take control of all Atlantis' functions free and clear of the SGC's protocols. With any kind of luck, this will slow the drain on the ZPM, though even at best-case scenario, they will need another one and soon. Without access to Earth and the few ZPMs still functional there, they'll need more than just the backup naquada generators that Rodney ordered installed--they needed to find another ZPM in this galaxy.
"Rodney." The sudden buzz of the radio jerks Rodney's attention. He watches the assigned third shift tramp out on their way to the infirmary, trying not to smirk as he touches his radio.
"We have long range sensors picking up hyperdrive residue." There's some argument from the back. "Whatever. Grodin ran it through the database. It's the Daedalus."
Rodney straightens, waving vaguely at Miko as she approaches. "I'll be there in five minutes. McKay out." Turning, Rodney points at Miko. "Miko's in charge. Fuck around and orbital gate visits are in your future." Grabbing his laptop, Rodney shoves it under one arm, jogging toward the transporter while hitting his radio. "Grodin, how long?"
Grodin pauses. "Three hours, give or take."
Three hours. "Find SGC uniforms for everyone." Rodney tries to remember when the last time the Daedalus came to Atlantis--it has to be more than six months. Probably at least half a crew that's fairly new. Colonel Caldwell, still in charge? Maybe.
"What if he scans the mainland?" Grodin asks worriedly.
Jesus. "We'll worry if that happens." Programming the transporter, Rodney takes a deep breath, remembering John's dreamy smile. Well, at least one person's going to be thrilled. "Sheppard--"
"Everyone's under order to get into uniform," John drawls. "Thanks for the vote of confidence there."
Rodney snorts softly, breaking contact as the transporter comes to a stop.
In the gate room, Elizabeth's in uniform too, hovering over Grodin with an intent expression. John is standing off to the side, looking so pleased with the universe rearranging to his whim that Rodney's torn between growling and kissing him. Shaking himself, he pushes by Grodin. "There's little to no chance they'll recognize your face," Rodney says. "They focused on me during the trials. Get changed, come back." Sitting down, Rodney pulls up the coordinates. "Go by the lab, get Abrams and Simpson up here as well. Make sure Miko understands she has to stay out of sight." At Elizabeth's querying look, Rodney shrugs. "She's visible."
By visible, Rodney means Miko attempted an assassination of two of his jurors. Good scientist, lousy in perceiving the difference between a hit man and a police officer. Sighing, Rodney glances at John. "Stop that."
John grins back. "Daedalus. One of only three warship-class cruisers under Earth's control."
"Daedalus. With a lot of weapons." Rodney has only vague memories of the original specs he saw before his unfortunate incarceration. "Hmm. I wonder--"
"They are," John says, coming up behind him, leaning over his shoulder to tap in a command. The design pops up instantly, and Rodney makes a mental note to transfer it to the three-dimensional projector for closer study. "Did some reading."
"I wondered why you wanted full database access," Rodney says absently. "Onboard gate, primary, secondary, and tertiary weapons banks--huh. That's a lot of firepower."
"It's primary function is intimidation of native personnel," John says, sounding amused. "Problem is, the defense aren't nearly as advanced as a regular Asgard warship. It was developed after the Goa'uld went down, and since the galaxy is pretty much settled--"
"Yeah, there's no one strong enough to mount an effective attack." Rodney leans back, thinking of Atlantis' weapons complement, then the jumpers. "You've flown the ships--fine, jumpers," he corrects when John's teeth suddenly graze his ear. For positive reinforcement, it really works for him. "Defensive capabilities?"
"Equal to the Daedalus at least," John says, breath hot against his neck. "For an all-out attack--" John pauses, studying the screen. "Here, secondary weapons array, and maybe on the belly jointure. Defenses aside, they usually don't need anything other than the shield, and that's pretty--"
"Hard to breach," Rodney says, rotating their view. "But if we set a nuke here--"
"Lose aft shields," John breathes. "Enough for a jumper to get through before they can make repairs." John's eyes narrow thoughtfully. "Assuming we can get to it; they know their vulnerabilities as well as we do. I'll need Lorne." Sheppard straightens, turning just as Grodin comes back in, still zipping up the uniform top. Rodney shifts from his seat, opening his laptop to get the database up on his screen. "Grodin. Dial Athos."
Rodney's still studying the Daedalus' engines when his radio trills.
"What?" Rodney says impatiently. John might need engineers to shut down the engines without damaging them, though if worst comes to worst, Rodney's fairly sure there are still some engineers and techs on the mainland he can call up for exclusive repair duty.
"Carson's finished the first ten," Cadman purrs in his ear. "Next group?"
Rodney turns to John as the wormhole engages, bathing him in blue. "John, time."
"Got it. Bates," John says over his shoulder. Bates nods; Rodney wonders a little at John's people. Bates, at least, knows perfectly well what they're going to do.
As Bates goes to the transporter, Rodney occupies himself with the console, speaking quietly. "If they don't arrive--if anything happens--"
"Signal you and gas the room. I know. But don't worry. They're John's team. They'd walk into fire if he told them to. And they have. Cadman out." With that extremely unnerving thought, Cadman cuts communications, leaving Rodney to stare blankly at the screen. Intellectually, he knows that John had a team before Atlantis--hell, had a life and a couple of careers, and apparently, one had even been with the SGC--but the John he knows is so far removed from that it's like a story. A story, however, that's meticulously recorded in sealed SGC files, along with Bates, Lorne, Biro, and others that only now he's connecting together into a coherent whole.
Turning to Elizabeth, Rodney dismissed the thoughts; one day he'll have time to get the rest of it out of someone. Lorne, probably: Bates is like talking to a wall. "Elizabeth."
She saunters over, glancing briefly at the screen. "Nice. New toy?"
"One way or another. You have a group--"
"They're already assembled." Her head tilts toward the door. Right. It's morning prayers. Rodney doesn't roll his eyes, but only just avoids it. "What are you--"
"Shut the gate down," John says suddenly, voice hard, and Grodin cuts the connection, the blue glow vanishing. Rodney's on his feet as John takes the steps two at a time, talking into the radio. "Stackhouse, get your ass up here and bring everyone not with Carson or on security. Suited, five minutes."
"John?" Rodney pulls up the defenses instinctively. "What--"
"No response to my call," John is saying, and Cadman had said, *They'd walk into fire if he told them to*. "Something's wrong."
"You think it was the Athosians?" Elizabeth asks sharply. "No. Teyla needs our support to subdue her people."
"But the ones she's going after might, though how the hell they got the drop on Lorne…."
"Wait." Pushing out of his chair, Rodney motions toward the sensors grid, the Daedalus plugging along toward them. "The Daedalus--"
"I know. Fuck." John pauses, then shakes his head, touching his radio again. "Cadman, send Bates to the gate room now. He'll go through later."
"Wait." But John's already going to the transporter--with a silent order at Grodin to watch Elizabeth, Rodney takes the steps two at a time, sliding in before the door closes.
They rematerialize mid-sentence, "--the Daedalus is on the way. You can't--"
"They're my people," John says shortly, jogging down the corridor. Rodney can barely keep up; he's got to work out more. "I'm not leaving them--"
"I'm not saying to leave them," though honestly, he is. "I'm saying--"
"I'm going." The door opens just before John would run smack into it, and Rodney has to stop, panting against the doorway as he watches John suit up, watching him handle the weapons with familiar ease, getting a tac vest from the closet and sliding it over his short-sleeved shirt, pulling out a case from under the bed that Rodney hadn't even known was there. When John opens it, Rodney cranes his head to look; he doesn’t know what half of the stuff is called, but all of it looks dangerous.
"Who's going to--"
"Bates will keep an eye on Elizabeth," John answers grimly, sliding various objects into the tac vest's many pockets. "After I leave, lock the gate down and get the shield ready." He pauses, frowning briefly before taking out--Jesus God. John was keeping *C-4* under their bed. They've been fucking on a bed directly over an explosive. "When the Daedalus arrives, get Grodin to handle the hail. Bates will keep the others out of sight until we know what we're dealing with. If worst comes to worst, bring up the shield; you can hold them off until doomsday. Even the Daedalus can't get through Ancient shields--"
Rodney blinks, mouth going dry. "You're--you're acting like--" he can't make himself say it. Wiping damp palms against his thighs, Rodney takes a halting step into the room. "You can't leave."
John looks up. "They're mine," he says finally. Rodney can feel the order on the tip of his tongue. He's pretty sure John will obey it; what he's not sure of is what he'll have to deal with if he gives it. He's never ordered anything that John wasn't willing to do.
He weighs the risk; losing John on Athos (granted, this is John Sheppard. Rodney doesn't exactly think he's inviolable, but he's pretty damn close), or losing John by making him go against his instincts.
John watches him calmly, like he knows exactly what's going through Rodney's mind. Hell, he probably does. "I'll be back," John says, voice low. Closing the case, John circles the foot of the bed, coming up in front of him, close enough to touch.
"We don't know what happened," Rodney says, equally low. "*I* don't know--"
John's hands close on his shoulders, and Rodney lets himself be pulled in, closing his eyes when John's arms go around him. "I've been doing this for almost half my life," John murmurs against his ear. "No one's ever caught me when I didn't want to be."
Rodney sucks in a deep breath. "The SGC did."
"Exactly." He can feel John's smile against his cheek, before one callused hand turns his head, hazel eyes looking into Rodney's. "I have my radio."
Rodney doesn't like it--hates it, hates that he still responds when John kisses him, slow and dirty, like they're about to fuck, like they're fucking now, when John's about to go try and fucking *die* on that stupid planet with those useless people. He digs his fingers into John's back, into the back of his neck, licking into that warm mouth, biting John's lip hard enough that Rodney can taste blood slick on his tongue. When John pulls away, rumpled and flushed, Rodney gets a handful of tac vest, jerking him back in. "Fine. But one thing before you go."
John raises his eyebrows. "What?"
"Infirmary," Rodney says breathlessly. "Now."
John's still frowning when they get to the gate room, rubbing restlessly at his side. "A *tracker*?"
Rodney slaps his hand down. "Stop scratching it. It's range is pretty much that entire solar system after I initiate the gate. Check in every two hours or I come myself." At John's incredulous look, Rodney rolls his eyes. "I'll lock down the city before I go and disable the shield. Miko is perfectly capable of gassing the city if need her to"
"Can you even use a gun?"
Rodney narrows his eyes. "I can shoot. And when you get back, you're going to teach me how to use every damn thing you're wearing." Rodney ruthlessly suppresses the way his mind wants to sidetrack over to John standing behind him, hands warm on his, showing him how to shoot. It's the very epitome of not the time. "I'll bring some of your men with me."
At the top of the stairs, John pauses, looking down at the floor. "Bates, pick eight, they stay with you in the gate room. McKay will brief you on the Daedalus. Elizabeth, if all fails--"
"We won't engage if they figure out who we are." Elizabeth looks tense as well; at least she has the good sense to realize there's no way in hell they can do shit about the Daedalus if they lose John. "Are you sure--"
"Yes." John's eyes flicker between the teams currently assembling on the floor, then fix on Elizabeth. "If I--"
"You'll make it back," she says, mouth curving slightly in amusement. "We don't need a knife at our throat if the Athosians are going to be a threat."
Rodney watches them exchange a smile of perfect understanding. If the Athosians are behind this, there won't be anyone left alive when John's through with them.
"All right, lets get the jumpers and get going," John says. Obediently, they file out the door. Turning to Rodney, John smirks. "Play nice."
"Get back in one piece," Rodney makes himself say, going to one of the stations so he doesn't have to watch John leave. "When they've gone through, disengage and redial the gate. I want radio communication open and I want that gate to be useless for as long as John's there."
Grodin nods and Rodney settles himself, pulling up the tracker's program and initiating it as the wormhole flares to life. Keeping his eyes on the screen, Rodney waits until they've gone through, then looks at Grodin. "Redial now."
When the wormhole flares again, Rodney watches the tracker, mouth tight. John will be back.
It's less than an hour before the radio flares. "McKay, shut down the gate. Coming back with company."
Rodney blinks, reaching for his earpiece, refusing to acknowledge the rush of relief that makes him feel drunk. "That was fast." Over his shoulder, Rodney nods at Grodin. "Shutting down. You have them?"
"Not exactly. Elizabeth, you and Rodney meet me in the jumper bay. Carson, be ready for thirty more in the next five minutes." There's an edge to John's voice that makes Rodney straighten; from the corner of his eye, Rodney sees Elizabeth coming out of her office, hand on her radio. "Sheppard out."
"When they're through, lock it down and raise the gate shield," Rodney tells Grodin. "And keep tracking the Daedalus. Tell me when we're in their sensor range."
Following Elizabeth to the jumper bay, Rodney tries not to think of what could have happened; if his teams had been killed, Rodney kind of thinks that John would have called in to report that he was exercising his idea of an appropriate proportional response and asking if Rodney could build him something very large and very explosive. Which leaves--he has no idea.
John's the first out, barely letting the jumper land; behind him, grey-clad team members haul out several Athosians looking much the worse for wear. The second jumper spills more of them, tossing into a group on the floor; Rodney counts twenty, and they all look like they got to know John Sheppard very, very well.
"What happened?" Elizabeth asks, frowning at the Athosians. "They aren't Teyla's."
"No, but they've promised to be very, very helpful." John shakes his head abruptly. "It seems the Wraith came back and picked up take-out."
Elizabeth sucks in a breath. "How many?"
"All of mine, all of Teyla's people, and thirty of them," John says, turning a look on one of the men. Rodney marks out the bruising on his face and the way he holds his side; looks like John started interrogation early. "Stackhouse, Ramirez, get them to medical and then start interrogating them. I want a play by play of every damn thing that happened." He pauses, hazel eyes very flat and very, very green. "I don't care how you get it out of them; just do it."
They nod sharply. John turns back toward Rodney, mouth a grim slash. "We need a plan."
Cadman comes from the infirmary to represent Carson, currently at work implanting the Athosians. Rodney cradles the coffee Miko brought for them with hands that shake. "So they know about us."
"If they didn't when they took the SGC group, they will soon." John's twitchy, edging on manic, though he's so still that it's all in his eyes, the way the long fingers clench around his cup. "And they'll know a hell of a lot more if we don't do something about it."
Elizabeth frowns slightly, eyes narrowing. "You want to go after them?"
Of course he does. Rodney would be surprised if he wanted anything *else*. "If we don't," John says, each word clipped short, drawl forgotten, "we're going to have a problem a hell of a lot bigger than the Daedalus or the SGC."
"That's assuming they don't know already."
"If they're coming back to Athos and not for Atlantis, they don't know yet." John pushes his cup aside, leaning both elbows on the table. "So either they know and are incredibly stupid, or they don't and now they have the opportunity to find out. I don't think they're that stupid."
"How long ago were they taken?" Elizabeth asks, glancing down at her laptop. Rodney can almost feel John fighting the urge to get up and just go. "Lorne's last check in--"
"Was four hours ago," John says shortly. "They were taken an hour before I called, so two hours tops."
"And you know where they went?"
"One of the Athosians watched the dialout."
Elizabeth's eyebrows raise in surprise. "And you believe him?"
"When I was done with him, he would have sold out his mother."
Rodney, remembering the bloody Athosians on the gate room floor, has to agree. Elizabeth leans her head on her hands, mouth pursed in thought. "I don't like the idea of the Wraith having any information on Atlantis," she says finally. "How many men do you need?"
"Twenty," John answers immediately; Rodney can almost feel him relax. "Two jumpers and--"
Both Elizabeth and John blink, turning almost in unison to look at him. Taking a deep breath, Rodney raises his chin. "Rodney?" John says, voice very soft.
"The Daedalus will be here in two hours," he says, words tumbling out before John or Elizabeth can interrupt. "One, we have to handle that or the Wraith won't be a problem since we'll be under siege from Earth. Two--" Drawing in a deep breath, Rodney forces himself to continue. "Two, I'm going with you, and don't even start; you're going after aliens that none of us have ever seen, with technology we can't even speculate about, leading to three: *we can use the Daedalus*."
John's mouth opens to object, then pauses. "That's two hours off."
"One hour forty-five minutes, give or take. They have the weapons, the hyperdrive, transporters, a gate, and the technology, which--small flying ships that transport people? Who took on the SGC's outpost and not only got through the security, but killed every one of them? *Who eat us*? We need the best technology we can get our hands on, and since Atlantis isn't up to flying around quite yet, we'll take second best and get the Daedalus."
Elizabeth leans back, looking thoughtful. "How sure are you we can take it?"
"Absolutely sure," Rodney says, believing no such thing. "I have a plan."
"You don't have a plan," John says as their door closes behind them. Rodney had been expecting this since they left the conference room and chose their ground accordingly. Grabbing a chair, Rodney drops into it, booting his laptop as John prowls the room; the manic energy is still there, making every movement too sharp and too fast. Here, in private, John can indulge himself. "Rodney--"
"Jumpers against advanced aliens with technology we haven't seen yet," Rodney says flatly. "You're good, but I'm betting that a race that can kill an entire outpost of the SGC isn't going to be like taking an Asgard cruiser."
John stops short, then finally nods jerkily. "It's a delay--"
"And it's already been a couple of hours," Rodney continues, controlling the urge to just grab John and *shake* him. "We go in now--"
"*I* go in now--"
"We," Rodney says, keeping his voice firm. "New tech, I need to see it to know what to do with it. Never mind that I'm one of maybe three people here that can actually *operate* the Daedalus."
Apparently, that hadn’t occurred to John. With another frown, he drops on the bed, elbows resting on his knees. "I don't want you in this."
"I'm the best we have, and you're not boarding a ship like the Daedalus with someone who doesn't know what they're doing."
It feels crazy; it *is* crazy, actually, and Rodney's nauseated just thinking about it. But it's true; he's needed to operate the ship. But there's also this: an order might not work to get John to give up a rescue gone bad, but Rodney's pretty sure that if given a choice, John will get Rodney, in the Daedalus, back to Atlantis, even if it means leaving his people behind.
Ninety percent sure. Maybe ninety-one. "You know I'm right."
John looks at him. "I don't like it."
Which is as good as capitulation. Rodney shrugs, ignoring the knot of fear lodged in his chest. He's never been interested in adventure. And this entire thing sounds very, very adventurous. "I'm confident that you'll keep us alive."
John sighs, then gives up, lying back on the bed with a discontented expression. "Right."
Winning isn't everything, or so Rodney's heard; he has yet to see it proven in real life. Getting up from the chair, he straddles John's thighs, looking down at him. "We make a good team," he says coaxingly. "And you need someone like me."
"I could have used you when I was still SGC," John says unexpectedly. The hazel eyes warm as John's hands settle on his thighs. "I wonder--"
Rodney waits, then gives up being patient. "What?"
"Just why I never saw your screening." John's hands slide up his thighs and hips, pulling him down; Rodney braces both elbows on the bed. "Mitchell has a lot to answer for."
One day, Rodney's going to corner someone and find out all about John and the SGC. Shifting to the bed beside John, he strokes his fingers through John's hair. "I didn't even know you worked for them."
John's eyes drift closed beneath the slow, steady touch. "Not many did. Long story."
Rodney glances at the time on his laptop. "We have an hour. Give me the short version."
"As soon as you're ready, Daedalus," Grodin says, voice carefully stripped of its accent. "The jumper room is clear."
"Acknowledged." The communications cut abruptly, but that's very Caldwell. Rodney glances over to Miko, whose been slowly but surely working her way into their computer system.
"Do we have the manifest yet?" Rodney asks as Elizabeth paces the balcony. "What's the complement?"
"One hundred sixty-five on board," Gaul answers, frowning at the screen. "Fifty in the brig. The manifest is coming, but the ship's computer is running slow."
Rodney does the math. "They're running skeleton, so it's running on automation." It backs the theory that something's gone dramatically wrong on earth; skeleton crew and the smallest transport of prisoners he's ever heard of. Turning slightly, he catches sight of John. "Fifty in the brig."
"That ship holds two hundred," John says lazily, leaning over the rail. "It's secondary purpose is hostage extraction on hostile worlds. Very useful."
"Yes, I read the design just like you did." John smirks down at him, almost bouncing in place. "When they arrive--"
"Markham knows what to do. And so does Ford."
That part, Rodney's not so sure of, but with Cadman and Ford's drug of choice inches away, there's not that much danger. But. "She knows--"
"To cut radio if he says something he shouldn't." John's smile widens. "Rodney. I was there when they *wrote* the hostage protocol. And sadly, the SGC never did get around to changing it."
It's depressingly true; Rodney wonders about the SGC sometimes. "Right. I'll just--"
"Breathe." John scratches the back of his neck, glancing at Elizabeth. "You know, you have to wonder when their idea of shore leave is sending their people to a prison planet."
"Transporting now," Caldwell says stonily, and Grodin grins, opening the channel to the jumper bay as Markham says, "Yes, sir. Welcome to Atlantis. Colonel Sumner offers his apologies and hopes that--"
Rodney closes his eyes as the radio chimes and the channel patches to Caldwell's signal. Across the room, Miko taps a short sequence, unscrambling the private line.
"Sorry, Colonel Caldwell," Ford says. He sounds more normal than Rodney would have imagined was possible. "Lieutenant Ford, second in command of Atlantis. Colonel Sumner's picked up a virus and is currently in isolation while it runs its course."
"Is it dangerous, Lieutenant?" Rodney can almost *see* him reaching for his radio.
"No, sir. Just unpleasant." Fords' voice drops conspiratorially. "Sumner gets weird about being seen when he's ill, sir."
Caldwell snorts. "Hasn't changed at all, has he?"
"No, sir. Markham will fill you in. We've set up temporary command next to the infirmary while they finish repairs in the gate room. I have to tell you, sir, we were getting worried out here when we didn't get a check-in."
"All in time, Lieutenant. Caldwell out." There's a pause before Caldwell's voice comes over the radio again. "You new, Sergeant?"
No, sir," Markham answers. "I've been assigned to Atlantis for two years."
"I haven't seen you around."
Markham's voice is perfectly calm. "Rotation from the mainland, sir, while the regular take R&R." There's a pause for the transporters, then they emerge on medical suite floor. "...but it's been quiet."
"Quiet?" Caldwell chuckles. "Have they started population reduction yet?" he asks after a moment. Rodney blinks, looking up in time to see Elizabeth stiffen, John going still and blank.
"I'm not privy--"
"Of course," Caldwell says smoothly. Rodney motions to Grodin to continue monitoring them while he pulls up the databurst logs, marking the ones they haven't gotten to yet.
"There's an encrypted communication being sent from the ship to Atlantis," Grodin says unexpectedly. John looks at Elizabeth, eyebrows raised. "It's not for Caldwell."
"Interesting," Elizabeth murmurs, holding John's eyes. "Who was it supposed to go to?"
"One of the guards," Grodin says, frowning as he types. "It looks as if it was intended for Ford."
"Is he receiving?"
"He doesn't have access to that channel," Grodin says slowly. "I don't think anyone else does, either. It's not one of the standard Atlantean communication channels."
"Patch it through," John says, leaning his elbows on the balcony. "I think we just found his dealer."
Grodin frowns, typing rapidly, then pauses. "I--can't." Looking up, his eyes flicker to Rodney, already pushing out of his chair. "I don't recognize this. It's not a standard SGC or Asgard algorithm."
"Let me see that." Rodney circles around, pushing Grodin's chair away from the console. The first view of the screen stops him short. For a second, he's almost sure that prison did in fact snap him; there's no way he can be seeing what he thinks he's seeing.
From somewhere distant, Rodney can hear John's voice, then Elizabeth's, but it's washed away in a red haze of rage. "It's not SGC or Asgard," he says tightly.
Rodney starts to sit, realizing at the last second that the chair's nowhere close; almost immediately, it slides under him, catching him before he hits the floor. Closing his hand over the edge of the desk, he tries to breathe through shock. Of course they did, he thinks, staring at the pattern he remembers in his fingers. Of course.
"Rodney." John's suddenly beside him, hands on his shoulders. "What?"
"It's mine." Sucking in a breath through his nose, Rodney stares over John's shoulder at the screen. "That's mine. I remember writing this. I just never--never got to test it." Staring at the screen, Rodney reads his own fingerprints in the neat patterns of encryption that no one on earth could possibly, possibly have discovered. "Though I never--you know, I never did ask why they let me have pens."
John's eyes widen, breath catching as he twists around to look at the screen. "It's yours. From here."
"From here." He remembers it in pencil and paper first, refined on his walls when the Daedalus was behind schedule and they'd run out of paper, knowing that one day during their time outside, his room would be scrubbed bare, his work washed away like it had never existed at all. It hadn't mattered; he'd carried it all in his head.
Once a day, every day, he'd get his ass kicked in the Atlantean equivalent of the yard while someone took careful pictures, recorded his groundbreaking work. And somewhere out there, someone else was--
--was *claiming this*. Hands fisted, Rodney fights the urge to pick up the laptop, break it, tell John to fuck being subtle; Rodney wants the Daedalus databanks, the tetras and tetras of information inside them, wants to know how much they've taken, what they've used, and most of all, who took it.
"Can you break it?" John murmurs. John's hand covers his knee, tightening gently in silent promise. The hazel eyes make a silent promise; this is one more thing to add to their list.
John straightens, pushing Rodney toward the laptop. Having something immediate to focus on is good; it's possibly the only thing that is keeping Rodney from something that might be very like hysterics.
"So they take away my life," Rodney says tightly. "And my degrees. My awards. But they didn't ever try to--it was never on the table." Rodney makes himself concentrate; he's never seen it live, only in his head, scrolls of numbers with a key that's almost impossible to break. "No one, not even the Nox, and those little bastards are vicious--it was never requested." Rodney's fingers falter on the keys; distantly, he realizes his hands are shaking. "They made me--made me beg for--"
"I know," John says quietly.
"They *took* it." Entering the last command, Rodney gestures sharply at Miko to try again. John pushes the laptop back and away, perching on the narrow edge of the desk as Rodney slumps in his chair, letting the memories of the last nearly four years wash over him. "They took everything."
"It's stopped," Miko says unhappily, turning from her station with an expression that seems to imply if she'd had a sword, she'd fall on it. "My apologies, Dr. McKay--"
"Do you have a trace on where it came from?" Rodney asks, keeping his voice even. It's not her fault, and he can't afford to lose her: doesn't want to, either. She's a brilliant scientist and, more importantly, she's utterly loyal. "Get me a section or a deck or--"
"Engineering," she says, fingers flying over the keys. "Shielded--possibly near the engines."
"Impressive," John murmurs, and Rodney lets himself smile. "Doesn't shielded mean--"
"I wrote the protocols for that, too." Rodney rubs his fingertips against his thigh; the scars are almost gone, replaced by smooth, featureless skin. "A year ago."
John sucks in a breath, palm smoothing slowly up Rodney's thigh as he leans closer. "I'll make sure they aren't injured when we take them," John breathes, voice thick. "Not even a scratch."
Rodney licks his lips, unable to stop the tiny shiver. "You give good gifts."
"I learned that from you." Straightening, John nods at Miko. "Stackhouse?"
"They're in Medical Suite A," Miko reports. "Ford has explained to Caldwell that he has to endure decontamination and that the radio will be unavailable until it is complete."
John glances at Elizabeth sharply. "Why isn't he more suspicious?"
"Because the Ancients never built a prison that could be breached," she answers as she comes down the stairs, one hand resting on the back of Rodney's chair. "If they were thinking of pulling out, then Caldwell *expects* it to be--disorganized. Especially if Atlantis had unofficial orders to--."
"Reduce the population," John drawls. Rodney sees his free hand clench on the butt of his gun. "Some accidents. An escape attempt. Regeneration error."
Elizabeth nods, mouth tight. "Starvation. Due to the sudden lack of sufficient supplies."
Rodney abruptly remembers the cut rations, the use of Pegasus staples, and wonders suddenly if it wasn't just economy; it's fairly possible that they also lacked the nutrients and supplements that earth-born humans required.
"But the Asgard," Rodney starts, then stops at Elizabeth's raised eyebrow, John's cynical smile. "Son of a bitch."
Elizabeth shrugs. "If they knew about the Wraith, I think they could unofficially ignore what happened here. After all, Pegasus is a long way from the Milky Way. SGC could blame the guards, rush them through a trial in space, and execute them before anyone thinks to start wondering what actually happened."
Rodney thinks of all the times that John was regenerated, the logs that he'd grudgingly given to Lorne and Bates, hating to share John's vulnerability and knowing that they needed to know.
Regeneration error: they'd gotten lucky that Sumner had been so obsessed with John, or John would have been one of the first casualties, with Rodney right behind him. Rodney, who'd been the one that made sure John Sheppard came out of post-regeneration psychosis somewhat sane, so Sumner could do it all over again.
Sumner had been obsessed and sadistic, but never stupid. He'd known exactly what he was doing. And by then, he'd known that the medical logs could build forever and no one would give a shit.
"We have a hail from the Daedalus," Grodin says abruptly. Rodney blinks, looking down at his station; he hadn't been paying attention. "The second group is ready for transport."
Weir smiles. "Welcome them to Atlantis."
The Daedalus had been built after the Goa'uld threat had come to an end; it was and had always been a symbol of power, the proof that Earth was accepted as equal to the Asgard and Nox, accepted natural successors of the Ancients. It was fast and flashy, with the most advanced hyperdrive in current production, but, as John put it, "Built by the lowest bidder. Lowest Asgard bidder, but still lowest bidder."
Elizabeth taps her fingers against the communication console thoughtfully. "Caldwell and his guard, three of the five senior staff and their guards--do we have names yet of who is still onboard, McKay?"
Rodney glances at Miko, who shakes her head. "The manifest is under several layers of security," she says apologetically. "So far, I have been unable to access the files."
"Because this isn't an official visit," John murmurs in Rodney's ear. "They're here to confirm that Sumner's reducing the population--"
"Or help him along," Rodney answers. "Just in case he's squeamish, which our charming former commander never was." Leaning around Miko, Rodney types in a quick sequence, then turns to the video surveillance. The three latest officers follow one of theirs with a flat, unhappy expression, looking at the wide, bright corridors like they're slumming in the Red Light district of the galaxy. "John, Weir--you recognize them?"
When he turns around, John's head is tilted slightly, hazel eyes distant. "The lieutenant colonel and the major are both SGC," John answers finally. "One of Cam's pets before he was demoted to cannon fodder a couple of years ago; the other's SG-10's leader." Rodney frowns at the nickname, but John's still studying. "The third one I don't recognize."
"Peacekeeper," Weir says, coming up beside John. Rodney watches with narrowed eyes as one slender hand brushes against his hip, almost as if by accident. "I negotiated with her on Chulak a few years ago. She was part of the Asgard diplomatic corps." That being a euphemism for genteel terrorism; if she'd been chosen to negotiate with Elizabeth Weir, she was both extremely competent and very disposable. "She wasn't SGC or military."
"Huh." John glances across the room at Bates and another man that Rodney vaguely recognizes as one of the ones assigned to Rodney to watch over the labs. "Grodin, can they track our sensors?"
Grodin blinks, then pulls himself back into his chair, sliding along the console until he gets to another laptop. "I--yes."
"Are they tracking?"
Grodin makes a few adjustments. "No, they seem to have a few systems off-line. A lot of power being re-routed around though--"
"Through weapons," John says grimly. Rodney blinks, then pushes Miko out of the way, pulling up Grodin's screen.
"Bingo. Naquada torpedoes, drone weapons--when the hell did they get drone weapons?" Rodney demands, feeling sweat break out on the palms of his hands. "Forward shields are being powered slowly, aft still at regular. Communications--"
"We are ready to send our fourth group, Atlantis," a voice chimes through the radio.
John's gaze darts to Elizabeth, who nods, touching her radio to contact Cadman in the infirmary.
"Bates," John says quietly. "Jumper bay. I want answers before we find out if Asgard-built drones trump Ancient shields."
"Got it." Motioning behind him, Bates leads two of the men to the door, drawing their weapons before the door even closes behind them.
"How much longer can we hold Caldwell?" John asks, voice low.
"Not that long." Elizabeth hesitates briefly, eyes sliding to the laptop screen. "Can you trust Ford?"
Rodney's on his feet. "You have got to be kidding me." Glancing at John, Rodney doesn't see denial, however. "No. He's--John. He was Sumner's *second in command*. Using him to get them down here with Cadman on his ass is one thing--"
"She can keep doing it," John answers, touching his radio. "Cadman. Get you and Ford into surgical scrubs. If Caldwell asks, you were assigned to Sumner's room."
Cadman, Rodney has to admit, isn't stupid at all. "You want a meeting."
"Got it. Think he'll remember you?"
Cadman hesitates briefly. "No. I never served under him and during the trial, they kept the SGC connection as minimized as possible after what happened with McKay and with you. I'm not sure they ever even ran my picture."
"We need fifteen minutes."
Rodney can almost hear Cadman thinking. "If he slips?"
John smiles, looking fond. "Kill everyone but Ford. Take him by Carson's lab before you see Caldwell. I think he'll get the message."
"Too kind. If Caldwell figures it out?"
"Gas the room, get out." John pauses. "Caldwell has an imbedded SGC tracker that's set to his lifesigns. So if it comes to that--"
"Follow emergency procedure, got it. Anything else, sir?"
"Give Ford my best. Sheppard out." Closing the channel, John sighs. Rodney thinks most of it is annoyance that everyone but him is out playing bad cop, worse cop. "All right, set the clock. How long will our shields last under direct fire?"
Rodney pulls the screen. "Full strength, a few hours, but that will burn out the ZPM." Rodney hesitates, trying to remember the SGC's senior chain of command. "I wonder what Caldwell did to piss off Landry."
"If Landry wasn't dead before the Daedalus left the Milky way, he is now," John answers flatly. "I think Mitchell's run out of patience."
Rodney's never been good at waiting; he's never had to be. He sets Miko to watch the Daedalus while Grodin monitors communications, though the conversation between Ford, sounding almost creepily normal, and Caldwell is both mind-numbingly boring and three quarters code. Gaul's currently running diagnostics on their weapons while a couple of John's people accompany Simpson to the jumper bay to prep the jumpers
Whoever tried to contact Ford on Atlantis hasn't tried again, which irritates Rodney even more. Almost so much that he ignore Miko's startled squeak, because he just isn't in the mood.
But. "What?" he asks irritably, spinning his seat around sharply.
"Unauthorized transport," she says, squinting at the screen. Rodney thinks he can feel John's sudden, sharp attention. "One lifesign, directly into--into the lab district, sir." Her eyes widen. At least four fairly recognizable scientists are currently debugging the database and decrypting databursts.
John turns away, already on the radio. "Ramirez, someone just transported into the labs," he says sharply. "I'll meet you there. Bates, kill whoever you're working on now and give the others five seconds to tell me something I want to hear. We're out of time."
"Yes, sir." Bates sounds pleased. Rodney supposes any day is a good day when you're allowed to exercise your best skills.
"John," Rodney says. John's already shaking his head even as he touches the transporter. "John. It's the *labs*. I highly doubt that's an SGC goon poking around down there. If they're really here to destroy the base, then the science staff is probably under orders to retrieve what they can if they can."
"Or it's someone gunning to get rid of Caldwell before the fighting starts." But John sighs. "You, give him your gun."
Someone Rodney doesn't recognize slips a nine millimeter into his hand, hilt still warm. Blinking, Rodney wonders where he's supposed to holster it, then shakes himself. "Right." Tightening his fingers around the butt, he follows John into the transporter, tapping in the floor before turning to John. "So the plan is--"
"You stay behind me and when I say get down, get down." John smiles pleasantly. "Or I shoot you in the knee and apologize with a regenerator."
Rodney stares at him. "You wouldn't." But he kind of thinks John would. "Fine."
Ramirez is already waiting for them; against the wall are four startled looking scientists that Rodney really thinks he should at least try to remember. After all, they were at his trial. "Where is he?"
Ramirez grins slightly, shaking his head. "Doesn't even know we're here. Went straight to the database and started working, hasn't looked up once." Motioning toward the half-open door, Ramirez shrugs. "No weapons. Not Daedalus crew either; he's wearing the one of the SGC civilian uniforms. One of the scientists."
"Then subtlety is wasted." John releases the safety, motioning for Ramirez to follow him. Rodney glances at his scientist and sighs. Names. "Go back to the lab and stay there," he says with a wave of his hand.
From inside the room comes a started yell with a flood of unrecognizable words, garbled by the sounds of feet and something very large being broken. "Go on. I'll call for clean-up." Going to the door, Rodney peers around the edge. Ramirez is straddling a barely moving figure, gun resting neatly between the guys eyes. Rodney can see the SGC jacket--science division, and more importantly, astrophysics, the SGC's most elite department. He wonders if his aim's good enough to hit him from here; maybe just fatally injure. "John?"
"Rodney." John's voice is surprisingly light. "Come in; I need you to tell me if this is what I think it is."
Rodney pushes the door open the rest of the way as Ramirez gets off his prisoner, rolling the limp body onto its belly before securing his hands. John's leaning over one of the database interfaces, typing something intently before he shakes his head, eyes catching Rodney's. "Two guesses what Ford's been trading for his habit."
"Dr. McKay?" Grodin's voice sounds urgent. "Someone just made a direct connection between the Daedalus and Atlantis' database. Miko's blocking transmission. Should we--"
"Tell Miko to make it look like a glitch." Curious, Rodney comes up beside John, looking at the files. "Someone's trying to send something to the Daedalus. What are these?"
"Ford's private files," John answers blandly. "Copies of some pictures, some scanned documents, some reports. Nearly four years worth of files, actually."
Pictures.... "Why would anyone want--" Rodney pulls up the complete directory and stops short. "Son. Of. A. Bitch. Ford was selling my work."
"For drugs, even. Ramirez," John says, holding Rodney's eyes, "show Rodney his surprise."
Blinking, Rodney tears his eyes from John, turning slowly to see Ramirez prop up the semi-conscious man, taking a handful of hair to pull his head up. Glazed brown eyes stare blankly into Rodney's before they slowly clear, widening in shock.
The last time Rodney saw him, he'd been standing on the steps of the White House, surrounded by reporters and gawkers while a president congratulated him on helping to convict the greatest mass murderer in history. He'd smiled at the crowd, bowing modestly as he accepted their thanks, saying that the SGC was changing and he'd be happy to help lead the science department into a new era of innovation and discovery.
John's head rests lightly on his shoulder. "Hey, Zelenka," he says, breath warm on Rodney's neck. "I've heard so much about you."
Elizabeth's waiting impatiently near the transporter, but the frown vanishes as she takes in the limping figure Ramirez is dragging behind him. "SGC's chief scientist."
"With all the current codes," John confirms as he goes down the stairs, Rodney following numbly behind. "Ramirez, get our guest a seat."
Zelenka's shoved into a chair just a little too close to Miko. Shaking the shock off, Rodney gets across the room, grabbing the hand that's already creeping toward her thigh, where he's fairly sure she's hiding a knife. "Not yet. I need his codes."
Miko blinks wide, unhappy eyes on him, but nods, turning back to her laptop, typing busily as Ramirez efficiently ties Zelenka to the chair, flattening one of his hands on the console.
"Been a while," Rodney says as he leans back in the space between Miko and Zelenka, arms crossed. John, one eyebrow raised in amused query, leans one hand on the back of Zelenka's chair. "I need the primary access codes for the Daedalus databanks."
"I will not tell you anything."
Rodney meets John's eyes. "Cut off his finger." John smoothly covers Zelenka's mouth as Ramirez's knife flashes down. Reaching over Zelenka, Rodney takes a breath, making himself pick up the severed finger and dropping it in Zelenka's lap. "Scream again and you lose another one."
Zelenka quiets slowly, chest heaving, face wet with tears. When he's reduced himself to hitching breaths, John removes his hand, placing it lightly on the back of Zelenka's neck. "I need the primary access codes for the Daedalus databanks."
For a second, Rodney almost thinks he'll refuse, and really, Rodney has to wonder if he really dislikes his hand that much. Then Zelenka nods hesitantly. "Encryption."
"Type it in. If you fuck us over, your hand is next."
Zelenka's eyes flicker to Ramirez, who rests the sharp edge neatly over his wrist, and swallows hard. Blinking tears away, he places one hand on the keyboard, carefully averting his eyes from his right hand, awkwardly pecking as Rodney watches. Grodin gives Rodney a quick nod as he watches the Daedalus; so far, so good.
Zelenka chokes and pushes the laptop away when the screen clears, the interface materializing on the screen. "You are in."
Database access, function arrays--f302 bay. "We can shut down weapons and shields," Rodney says slowly. "Actually, I can shut down environmentals, but that could end up crashing the ship if we delay."
"Or when they figure out they can't self-destruct, blowing up some of their ships in the hangar," John answers. "No. I'll take a detachment and two jumpers. If you can get everything offline, we shouldn't have a problem. Radek. Why does Mitchell want Caldwell dead?"
Zelenka swipes roughly at his eyes with his free hand, stiffening as Ramirez's knife rests lightly on his third finger. "Getting rid of competition," he says, voice thick. "SGC is in upheaval."
John jerks his head at Ramirez, who steps away. Circling the chair, John leans back into the console, hooded eyes trained on Zelenka's face. "Landry?"
"Presumed dead," Zelenka whispers. "They would not accept General Mitchell as the head of the SGC after he called for the elimination of the Ori. The Jaffa backed Mitchell's demand. Landry vanished"
Elizabeth materializes beside John. "Are the Ori rising?
Zelenka hesitates. John reaches over, a knife materializing in his hand, pushing the tip a quarter inch into Zelenka's forearm. "Faster answers. The lady asked a question."
"They have begun demonstrations on allied planets," Zelenka chokes out, eyes darting between the knife and John. "There is word that they have sent back to their homeworld when Mitchell ordered their demonstrations be answered with force."
"Trust Mitchell to make the pacifists feral," John says, glancing at Elizabeth. "Nox?"
"They do not care, so long as their tribute continues."
Elizabeth nods sharply. Rodney can almost see her scrolling through her memories of her negotiations with the Ori, who might be pacifist, but after five thousand years of living under the heel of the Asgard and Nox--and now persecuted by upstart humans….
"They have a militant order," Elizabeth says, tapping a finger idly against the back of Zelenka's chair. She'd know; she was probably their favorite human. "They were called dissenters from the Way, but if their sect gains power in their home galaxy…."
"Less Salvation Army, more jihad." John nods. "So Mitchell sent his undesirables to Atlantis so the Asgard don't have a choice on who controls the Earth and those that they have under them. I assume the ones sent down here are supposed to die when you use the Daedalus to blow up Atlantis."
Zelenka nods quickly, eyes fixed on the blood slowly pooling on his forearm. "Mitchell's order was to make certain no one survived," he says. "He sent--he ordered the destruction of this planet."
John's eyes widen. "How much naquada?"
"All the brig. The prisoners are political dissidents."
Miko makes a soft sound, catching Rodney's attention. "I have the manifest of both crew and prisoners," she says. Rodney leans over her shoulder, skimming quickly through the list.
"The entire Trust leadership," Rodney says, licking his lips. No great loss. "The IOA board. Two cabinet members. Some military--I'm betting SGC teams."
"I would too." John touches his radio. "Bates, time's up. What have we got?"
"Access codes to the brig and location and access to the armories."
"Good enough. Dispose of them and take two teams to retrieve Caldwell and his men from the infirmary. We may need Caldwell later. Report to the gate room when you're done."
John grins at Rodney as he changes channels. "Cadman? Time's up."
Even Rodney can hear Cadman's glee. "Yes, sir."
"Markham, get to the jumper bay with two teams. Five minutes. Sheppard out." Turning off his radio, John stops behind Miko's chair, but his eyes are on Rodney. "Can you shut them down?"
Miko deferentially moves aside and Rodney takes her place, pulling up the interface. "Weapons and shields. Internal defensive measures, no, not without being on the ship." Rodney tilts his head back, looking into John's face. "Where's my gear?"
John grins back. Rodney doesn't think he's ever seen John so happy. "Ramirez, get McKay suited up and issue him a weapon. Get whatever else he needs for the Daedalus." Leaning down, John drops a friendly kiss on his forehead. "Jumper bay, ten minutes. Don't be late. I really want a warship."