Title: Ferris Wheels and Hot, Vicious Scientists
Series: Ferris Wheels & You
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Content Warning: NC-17
Warnings: Character Bashing, Explicit Sex, Hate Crimes, Homophobia, Kidnapping, Violence – Canon – Level
Genres: Alternate Universe, Science Fiction
Relationships: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay
Word Count: Goal = 40,087
Author Note: Canon jumped off the train several stops ago. The warning for Hate Crimes may be excessive but wanted to be sure I was covered if I jump off that cliff. I borrowed a line from Stephen King.
Summary: John Sheppard loves Ferris Wheels, college football, anything that goes over 200 miles per hour, and hot, vicious scientists. Rodney loves science and John. People are going to learn just how vicious a scientist can be when you mess with what he loves.
John wasn’t sure what moment the dream became reality, but he was happy to lay back and let it happen. That incredible moist heat wrapped around his hardened cock, languidly exploring him. A slight suction caused him to groan under his breath, and the movement stopped, paused. John arched upward in tiny increments, trying to encourage the motion to continue. The warmth slowly pulled back, until just the head of his cock remained in that pleasurable place, and the movement stopped just a moment before a tongue traced its way around twice.
He could feel the slightest hint of a smile on the lips before he was swallowed down in one move. Then the motion and suction began again in earnest. He was certain he was speaking, but for all his brain could register, it might have been pure gibberish. It only mattered that the talented mouth continued on its journey. It was a moment, an eternity, time was standing still when his balls tightened, and the throat swallowed around the head of his dick, and he came with a shout.
How long he lay there in a haze, nerve endings firing and his brain cells not, he didn’t know. Eventually, he opened his eyes to see the self-satisfied smirk in place. “I will pay you to wake me up like that every morning.”
“As if you can afford me,” Rodney said with that smirk still in place.
“You’re right, I can’t. In that case, I guess I’ll have to marry you.” John watched as Rodney’s eyes soften and glowed.
“Too late, I’m already taken.” Rodney crawled up to the pillows and lay down next to him, “Happy Anniversary.”
John rubbed his hand over Rodney’s chest before leaning in for a slow kiss, tasting himself. “Happy Anniversary. His hand moved down, passing over the nipples with a light touch while heading south. Rodney headed him off and wrapped their fingers together.
“Do you want…” John started, but Rodney shook his head.
“Not now, I want to wait for tonight.”
“Are you sure? The party will probably run late. That means you will have to wait all day for any relief.”
“Then, you have plenty of time to plan your response.”
“I could always give you a taste of what’s to come in the shower.” John teased at his nipple, and Rodney groaned.
“Already showered. I have an early meeting with the idiots in Acquisitions. Quality control has some issues with requisitions, and I don’t know why I have to explain to them why quality matters over price when we are talking about the amount of power that will be distributed over this network. Hey, if you want to give me a present, don’t make me speak to idiots again.”
“Sorry Rodney, I can’t remove the idiots from the world.” Rodney leaned forward and kissed John again before moving off the bed to stand. “Sure you don’t have time for another shower?”
“I wish. I need to get dressed.” Rodney walked into the closet and came back with his slacks and a button-down.
“You can yell at Acquisitions any day, why the hurry?”
“The report on the new crystals is due today. I want plenty of time to finish everything with the team before I have to give it up for the party.”
John crawled up behind where Rodney was sitting on the end of the bed to wrap his arms around him. “You’ve got all the time you need. You’ve been through plenty of crystals, and you make progress every time. You’ll get it.” John kissed him on the back of the neck.
Rodney groaned, “Two hundred and thirty-six crystals. But I just know we’re on the right track now. We’ve streamlined the crystal growth process and found ways to accelerate growth without sacrificing integrity. The world uses all the metals they can to conduct power, but the math proves that a crystalline structure is stronger and has superior stability to contain power in the quantity we’re talking about here. I’ve seen things you can’t imagine, well, maybe you can imagine…”
John cut him off, “And we both agreed to never open that door. Other than a couple names in common, we don’t know how much the other really knows. And we are both aware that no two classified ratings are the same. We don’t take the chance to let them back into our lives.”
“Yes, yes, yes. I agreed. I still agree. But I can guarantee that nothing I saw there was remotely similar to what I know is possible. Ground State Energy is mine. I’m going to make this happen, and I’m going to change the world.” Rodney turned to look at John as he spoke, and John smiled.
“I know you will. You know, it took Edison one thousand tries to make a light bulb.”
“Well, I’m fucking smarter than Edison. I’m a genius. The smartest man on Earth.”
John leaned in and kissed him hard, “You better believe you are. You’re my fucking genius, and I can’t wait to fuck you stupid when you make your first GSE Module.”
Rodney stood still a moment with his eyes closed then opened them with a grin. “I look forward to it.”
John checked his reflection and adjusted his tie before slipping on his jacket. He grabbed his satchel with laptop, keys, and wallet next to the door before heading to the garage and choosing the 1957 Thunderbird for the drive to the office. He slipped on his Bluetooth earpiece and buckled the seatbelt before pulling out of the driveway. A car would never replace the feeling of flying, but he could at least find a way to ride in style.
He made it almost halfway to the office before his phone was going off. “Sheppard.”
“John just wanted to let you know that Dad and I will be in by 4. So, we’ll probably skip the office and head to the hotel first.” David’s voice came out chipper and awake due to the time difference.
“You know you and Dad are welcome to stay at our place. Rodney won’t mind.”
“Yeah, right. It’s your first wedding anniversary, and Dad shoved the party down your throats at your own house. You think we don’t know that the moment you can kick us all out, you’re planning your own party upstairs?”
John rolled his eyes, “We’re adults. We can either keep quiet or put it off a couple days while you’re here.”
“First of all, I can’t imagine Rodney has a quiet bone in his body. Second, I value my life, and cock-blocking Rodney McKay is not a way to a long life.” Dave’s voice sing-songed at the end.
“Rodney likes you too much to hurt you, Dave.”
“Rodney’s the one that gave me that talk just before I took you out for your bachelor party. He had diagrams, John. The man threatened me with diagrams and calculations that I could read just well enough to be frightened. So, no. Dad and I have a suite at the Hilton. And you will have a free house before midnight for your own party. I promise. I even made Dad promise no meetings tomorrow before noon.”
“I’m betting that didn’t fly well.”
“Are you kidding. One mention of Rodney’s name and Dad caves. Seriously, John. If you weren’t married to him, I would worry about our place in the will.” Dave had that half-serious/half-joking sound he made when he was trying to pretend he meant something he obviously didn’t.
“Lucky for me, I’m married to him. You may still be in trouble.” John smiled at the groan. “Anything else you were needing?”
“Well, now that you mention it, I understand Dr. Kusanagi is planning to attend the party. Do you know if she has a date?”
John shook his head hard, “Oh no, nope, not happening. What are you, 12? You want me to pass her a note in homeroom asking if she likes you? Get your own date.”
“John, I’m perfectly capable of finding companionship for an evening,” John let out a single laugh. “That I don’t have to pay for, Asshole. I just wanted to know if Dr. Kusanagi might be alone at this time. She was still dating last time I was there. It’s a perfectly reasonable question.”
John smirked, “Sure it is. Tell you what, I’ll ask Rodney if he knows if Miko is going steady with anyone.”
“No, John, that’s ok. I’m sure that I can talk to her. Please don’t ask Rodney anything. …John?…John!…Don’t you dare…” the click and vibration of another call coming in distracted John.
“Hey, I’ve got another call. Maybe it’s Rodney. I’ll clear this right up for you.”
“See ya later, Dave.” He hit the button to hang up and accept the new call, “Sheppard’s Chicken Ranch. We offer Hens and Cocks for your Pecker’s needs.”
“Jonathan Patrick Sheppard!”
“Is this how you maintain a suitable business decorum on company time?”
“Well, technically it’s not company time here yet.” John’s voice raised an octave into a questioning tone while he winced and slouched down in the driver’s seat.
“I have already spoken to Rodney; who I will have you know is currently hard at work. How is it your husband has completed two video conferences with my office, and you are arguing business hours with me?”
John muttered under his breath, “How come blah blah blah?”
“John, I’m speaking to you.”
“So, Dad, how can I help make your life better today?” John redirected.
A long deep sigh followed by a pause before his father spoke again, “Aeronautics wants to place a bid on that classified project with the DOD out of Nevada. I’m uncomfortable placing blind bids as you know, and Rodney was vocal in his disagreement.”
“No, Dad, absolutely not! That’s a rabbit hole you don’t want to fall down. And while the numbers look great up front, I’m certain you will find that the DOD can swoop in and claim any patent in any part of the company that might benefit their work. I’m sure Rodney can confirm that the contract will specify that you can’t sue them for your rights. Anyone working with them better be sure to get all the money they can now because they won’t touch a dime of it in the future.” John grimaced as he took the next exit and slowed the car to make the first turn.
There was silence for a minute before his father hesitantly asked, “John, what is Nevada?”
“Nevada is classified higher than God, Dad. Nothing on earth is classified as high as Nevada. I can’t tell you, and I won’t. And please, please don’t ask Rodney about that shit again.”
“John, is Nevada why Rodney was sold to Russia?” a hint of anger was in Dad’s voice, and John would prefer none of these connections be made. Connections led to questions. Questions led to anger, John’s anger.
That anger welled up hot and bright, and his vision flashed red. John pulled over to the side of the road. “Yes, Dad. Nevada is why Rodney was sold to Russia, and they will get their hands on him again over my dead body. I mean it, Dad. You want to go after those contracts, I will take Rodney with me and walk. You’re my family, and I’m happy to have you back in my life, but Rodney is my life. He’s my heart and soul. Nothing and no one is going to hurt him that way again.”
“OK, John. It’s ok.” His voice was calming, in that tone he had used when John was six with a broken arm after falling from the horse during lessons. “Just calm down. I won’t allow them to submit a bid. I can’t work with someone who would allow something like that to happen. I would never make Rodney face that. And, John, I won’t do anything that will make you turn away from me again. You need to know and believe that John. Rodney’s your life and part of our family. But, you’re my son. I’m not losing you again.”
John was breathing hard. He lay his forehead against the steering wheel. It was several minutes before he could speak. “Yeah, Dad. I know. I don’t want to walk away from the family again. Let’s just forget those assholes exist.”
There was a smile in his father’s voice, “Agreed. So, I have a delivery of chocolate from Michel Cluizel arriving within the hour. I know it’s Rodney’s favorite. A box of assorted treats for him and a small gift box for each person at the office. Mary coordinated the details with Joe.”
“Thanks, Dad. Rodney loves that stuff.” John smiled and took a relaxing breath before putting the car into gear again.
“I wish I could let the two of you go on vacation for your anniversary, but with the Board of Directors Meeting next week. I need you in D.C.”
“It’s ok, Dad. Rodney is at a crucial point in his testing. If it wasn’t for the party tonight, I probably couldn’t drag him away.”
“Do you think he’s close?”
“He’s definitely onto something. I’ve looked over the numbers from the last ten tries, and there is something there. Shit, Dad, with just the information we’ve learned from these tests, I have a division that is working on revolutionizing solid-state data storage that will blow you away. We’re going to be able to create something the size of your wristwatch that can store a Petabyte of data. And that’s just first gen. No idea how small it can really go.”
“That’s amazing, John. I can’t wait to share that information with the Board.” Dad’s voice sounded relaxed now too.
“So, Dave said you were coming straight to the house from the hotel?” John signaled to turn into the parking lot.
“Yes. I know you didn’t ask for the party. So I don’t want to intrude more than we are.”
“Dad, you’re always welcome, you know that. Just, Rodney and I aren’t exactly the most social people.”
“The two of you eloped rather than going through the wedding I was planning.”
“We just wanted an intimate little wedding with close friends and family.”
“I know, I know. I went a little overboard, and I accepted responsibility for that. I was just glad that you had Dave bring me to the ceremony. I learned my lesson. While there will be some people there that you might not have invited normally, your anniversary is a reason to celebrate. And, whether you like it or not, sometimes you need to use these opportunities to network. I only invited a few of our closest contacts, but you have a responsibility to the company to do this, John.”
John parked in his reserved space and turned off the car. “Rodney and I discussed it, and we agree. Rodney calls it playing nice with the natives. We will play nice. But I will expect you to help clear the house when it’s time to go.”
“You have my word, John. You have my word.”
Joe Brewer listened to the tirade by Mr. Prima Dona and realized Mr. Sheppard was not paying her enough to take this without response. She started regretting her agreement to relocate from London. “You are a disagreeable little man.”
“Well, you’re an opinionated, pushy, little girl who wasted a wonderful brain on business instead of science.” McKay picked up one of the folders and opened it to the next item.
Oh, no, he didn’t. “Little! Well, for your information no matter my physical stature, I am still above dropping down to your level. And, as for wasted my brain—wasted? I’ll have you remember that the waste you are talking about has an eidetic memory that just so happens to know every bank account you own and is intelligent enough to extrapolate your passwords. Keep up this harassment, and I will personally see to it you will have a most disagreeable experience the next time you try to indulge in your little coffee addiction outside of Sheppard Industries.” She ripped the folder out of McKay’s hands and closed it as she began gathering up all the other folders on the table. The man entered this room determined to start a fight, and she was not going to give it to him.
“Now, I was too well raised to engage in a competition against someone who is obviously lacking in the basic skills needed to even acknowledge allowable behavior in the workplace.” She held up a hand when he opened his mouth. “No—I would prefer if we limit our interaction today to a single explosion. You have three more meetings today before the Anniversary Party hosted by Mr. Sheppard. It begins sharply at 6 pm. I have set your alarms and reminders in increasing frequency leading up to the party. Your car will be waiting to take you home by 5:30 pm. Your suit is in your office along with your overnight bag in case you would like to, and I say this with all sincerity, please do, take a shower.” Joe kept her fury contained as she stood, picked up her laptop, folders, and bag before sweeping out the door with a final, “And don’t be late!”
Rodney watched Joe Brewer leave the room with a tiny smile.
Radek leaned back in his seat. “I win. Twenty-two minutes. Is new record. Rodney, if you are not being careful that woman will make you pay.”
“It’s just a shame. You saw her IQ and scores. She could have done so much with that, and instead, she’s working as an executive assistant.” Rodney picked up the one folder she had left behind, opened it, and laughed.
“What?” Radek leaned forward. There was only one page inside the folder. On it was handwritten in small writing every one of Rodney’s personal account numbers.
John was just settling into his office chair when the slamming file cabinet in the outer office notified him that his executive assistant, Joe Brewer, had returned from her morning meeting. Hearing the mid-level cursing in French, he was confident the meeting was with Rodney. He went to the cabinet that hid his wet bar and turned on the electric kettle to heat water while pulling out her favorite tea blend.
While it heated up, he grabbed two bottles of water for himself and Lou, placing them on the little conference table in his office. He detested having meetings at his desk. He grabbed his pad and pencil, thankful that Joe understood his desire to scribble during meetings. He left the tea to steep and raided his bottom desk drawer for the little crackers she preferred to nibble on when she was frustrated.
He heard the outer door and added two teaspoons of sugar to the cup before sitting at the table. He barely made it before a firm knock preceded the entrance of Joe and Lou. Josephine Brewer was scarcely five feet tall. Her curly brown hair pulled back smoothly in a french braid with twists of curls hanging out here and there. She moved gracefully and with poise, but when upset usually made him think of a wet kitten hissing and spitting. It was probably why Rodney took such pains to irritate her, just to see her like this.
The second person was tall. Two inches taller than he was to be exact. And his 6’2” was a respectable height. Put her in heels, and she was just damn intimidating. Well let’s face it, Louise Phelps was a modern-day blond Valkyrie incarnate. She was also his chief of security.
Lou had been with Dad for a few years when John ended his Air Force service. Dad gave John a temporary job of flying him around in his private jet while he got his head on straight. The Russian leg of the trip was a life-changer. He had slipped out to ride a Ferris Wheel. One of the biggest in the world at the time, and there he had met Rodney.
Rodney was re-examining his life choices as well, while he attempted to escape from his Russian handlers. Seems the U.S. sent him over to work on a project to pay off some debt they had with Russia and then conveniently forgot about him. John had contacted his father, and that set the wheels in motion. Lou arrived with a car and security detail. It was a little bit of sleight of hand getting him onto the plane, and they were in the air before you could sneeze.
John can admit that it was a tense flight out of Russian airspace. Then the convoluted legal process of untangling Rodney’s citizenship status. There had been two kidnapping attempts on Rodney during that mess. One on the streets of Vancouver. John had barely interrupted it, and Dad had reassigned Lou to Rodney’s detail. The second attempt had severely underestimated Lou. That team had ended up in a D.C. morgue. There was no third attempt.
He motioned them in toward the table. Joe took her seat and then her cup and closed her eyes for a drink. John traded looks with Lou, who just rolled her eyes and shrugged.
“You need to stop letting him get to you.”
“He’s…he’s just…oh, he’s such a disagreeable, little, …man!”
“I don’t mean that against you, sir. I just sometimes wonder how you can be married to him. He’s—and then he just—argh.”
John pushed the crackers her way. “That just isn’t good for your blood pressure. Now drink some tea. Is there anything he was objecting to, or was he just revving you up?”
“I understand that he would rather spend time on research, but there is so much more to running an R&D department than playing in his lab. It’s like he deliberately—wait, he was deliberately railroading the discussion so he could get out of the meeting, wasn’t he?” Joe puffed up like she was about to march back out and make Rodney finish the meeting.
Lou touched her arm and shook her head. “You will never win against McKay like that. He’s an expert at using your anger to control the situation. You want to hit him hard, you hit him with hard facts, or you go at him as an emotional, weepy mess.”
“I really hate having to play the hormonal teenager to win.”
Lou took a drink of her water, “Do you care more about how you are seen or who wins the game.” She raised a single eyebrow and waited for Joe’s expression to harden decisively.
John tried not to shrink down in the chair. He was so relieved Rodney wasn’t a woman. They actually planned how to use all that emotional stuff to manipulate you? Why hadn’t anyone ever told him that? For that matter, how did he become the gay guy all the girls flocked to when discussing this shit?
“Ahem, do I need to be here for this discussion?”
The women traded looks for another full minute before turning back, “No, sir, I think we’re ready to proceed.” Joe handed out three pages. “Your itinerary for next week’s Board of Directors Meeting. As you can see, we have added three activities to your list. Before you say anything. Mr. Sheppard was adamant that you must attend the dinner with Mr. Clarkston. He is an influential investor in alternative energy and has been lobbying to meet with Dr. McKay for the last six months. We are hoping that you can distract him temporarily.”
John rolled his head, “Rodney hates the guy. He’s a moron with enough money to be dangerous and doesn’t actually understand the science he invests in. He’ll drop money on anything and somehow is lucky enough to make more than he invests.”
“I hate it when you call me that to my face like I’m unreasonable. Fine. I’ll take the meeting with Clarkston. And I understand the meeting with Houseman. I would have requested that one if I had known he’d be in town. But what is this one?” John looked at an entry that was just marked DHS.
“There have been several requests from the Department of Homeland Security in the States to meet with you. We had a request from Home Office to add it into your schedule.” Joe looked at him questioningly, and he shook his head.
“No. There is not a reason in the world for Homeland to want to speak with me in person. You can remove that meeting right now.” John marked through it on his page and ignored the look Joe and Lou exchanged.
“Well, you will have the private jet for the flight. I’ve prepped my team on what to expect. This is only the third time you’ve left Rodney in Vancouver. I understand he’s working on a project, but are you certain he doesn’t want to travel?” Lou asked John.
“I would rather he not travel. I see no reason to subject Rodney to the kind of atmosphere present in D.C. He had nightmares for a month after that fiasco the last time he was there.”
“I removed the hand that touched him, John. What else could I have done?” Lou lowered her chin and stared John down with that dark expression that indicated she had no regrets.
John closed his eyes a moment and tipped his head in concession, “You did everything I would ever ask of you. But you removed that hand from the guy’s body before you removed it from Rodney’s coat. I think the man has a good reason for the nightmares.” Lou shrugged and looked back at the handout.
Lou calmly turned to the last page. “I have assigned Bentley and Imes to your detail. I will stay here and move to the main house until you return. Things have been quiet, and I do not like it. My intel indicates there are still those who would like to have possession of Dr. McKay. This would be an opportune time with you out of the country, and he focused on his research.”
“Thank you, Lou. I appreciate that. I was going to ask Jeannie and Caleb to bring Madison to stay as well. Rodney gets a little twitchy when left to his own devices too long. I realize a week isn’t that long, but I think it would do him good to have his sister and niece along.”
Rodney dropped off his files in his office and cursed Joe’s preference of paper over electronic information relay. Actually, he cursed his husband’s preference for paper. Joe was just an enabler and liked John best. But since John liked Rodney best, logic says he should be able to win this one.
He was still grumbling about it when he reached Lab 3. He didn’t realize the volume of his complaints about the little twit until he received a sharp punch to the arm. “Ow! What the fuck, Jeannie?”
“Little woman should learn who the boss is?” Jeannie gave him death glare six. That wasn’t a good one. “What is your damage, Meredith?”
“What?” Why was it always about what’s wrong with him? “Well, I wasn’t talking about you, obviously.” He rubbed his shoulder because, ouch.
“You better not be talking about anyone. Sometimes your mouth runs off without you, but I didn’t figure you actually meant any of that sexist bullshit and there’s no way in hell I’m going to allow you near my daughter if you do.”
“First of all, Madison knows she’s going to be the boss. She’s too smart to be anything else. Second, you know I respect women and women’s rights. I put you, Kusanagi, and Burns in one room and you could take over the world single-handedly. I add Phelps to it, and you could scare the hell out of any man in the Western Hemisphere. I respect a woman who can dismember a man while in a mermaid skirt and six-inch heels.”
“Then, what the hell, Mer?”
“It was just…” He sighed. “Brewer.”
“Radek, you let him get in another fight with Joe?”
“I be washing my hands of all things Rodney and Joe. Miss Brewer is not needing my help and is not worth my life to be involved.” Radek walked away muttering in Polish about siblings and idiots. Rodney chose to ignore him.
“She wants me to play nice with a bunch of visitors we’re supposed to host after next week’s Board of Directors meeting. They are planning some lectures for a bunch of idiots with more money than brains, and they want to listen to me speak about the energy of tomorrow or some stupid shit. And then she’s waving around paper files. Am I the only one who sees that killing trees while talking about saving the planet is moronic in the extreme?”
“Oh, Mer.” There was a snort, then it spread to a laugh, “They really want YOU to play nice with investors?” She sat down in a chair and promptly slid to the floor, laughing. He refused to turn around and see similar actions behind him based on the sound.
“Why am I even in here?”
Radek coughed and took a deep breath before coming to his rescue. “You are being in here to see our new pretties.”
Rodney snapped his fingers, “Yes! Right, let’s see them.”
Radek punched in the code then followed with a fingerprint scan before opening the large black cabinet. He pulled a box from the second shelf and carefully brought it to the lab table in front of Rodney. Several people in the room moved closer to see.
“You’ve completed a complete analysis for faults?”
“Yes, yes. Crystal is perfect. Within .00001% of acceptable variance.” Radek motioned back toward the cabinet were four other boxes were stored. “All crystals from this batch are identical in testing. Dr. Burns is running three more batches but appears she has solved issue of growing crystals to exact specifications.”
It was large, bulky, and beautiful. It almost appeared to be a cluster of long quartz-like crystals melded together as one. It was amber with a bit of red rose threaded inside. It would take two hands to hold it. Though considering the amount of power it was destined to contain, it’s not really so big. “Jeannie?”
“I re-ran the numbers. Based on the variance, I believe we have more leeway in the chassis structure, but your design is still the best solution. We’re adding to the thickness to attempt to balance the energy transfer.” Jeannie pulled up the design and her calculations.
“I know you prefer this to look almost like a stained glass effect surrounding the crystal, but there’s not an alloy available at this time that could handle the relays. This will be a bit clunkier, but should be stable and not burn out like the last two tries.”
“This is good. Really good. Who’s machining the parts?”
“Viktor Michalovich. He’s our best machinist. He was hoping to have them finished tomorrow.” Radek reported.
Rodney smiled at everyone in the room. Tomorrow. “Party tonight and a little fun tomorrow.” He rubbed his hands together and then looked around at the smiling faces and frowned. “Back to work, not paying you to gawk.”
“Way to kill the mood, Mer.”
“They can have a mood when we have our first GSE. Until then, work.” He turned around to leave the office and ignored the looks Radek and his sister were trading.
It was 4:30pm, and Rodney was debating between one more schematic review and leaving early for the party. Well, not early. John went at four to meet his brother. The two of them were up to something, but Jeannie gave him the talk about accepting gifts gracefully or some shit.
He opened the latest schematic from the aeronautics division and immediately closed it before sending back a scathing email on the need to hire a grade-schooler to check their math before subjecting him to that horror.
He finished by attaching basic multiplication tables and a standard-metric conversion chart. Maybe they will get a clue before his brain cells start to melt. He hit send just as Radek stuck his head in the door.
“Are you busy?”
“Just sending back drivel that is so completely wrong that I shudder to think they may have designed even a coffee service cart on a Sheppard Aeronautics plane. It’s a wonder they aren’t all falling from the sky now. Remind me to pull the schematics on all the planes in the air and see if any are actually in service. I can’t let John get on one of these disasters waiting to happen.”
“Oh, good. Not busy then. Viktor has finished the chassis, and we are assembling now. Want to see?” Radek grinned.
Rodney practically ran out of the room. “Of course I want to see, are you certain you double-checked his measurements?”
“Yes, all checked.”
They were both vibrating in place as they observed Viktor and Jeannie assemble the chassis around the crystal. They double-checked contact points and then stepped back so that Rodney and Radek could double-check the fit.
“Yes, is perfect. Maybe tomorrow we can be looking at schedule to decide when to test.” Radek was staring at the crystal with his brow furrowed.
“Why not now?” Rodney looked around at his minions.
“Dr. McKay, remember the last test. All equipment must be shut down to protect them from any EM radiation in the event the test fails.” Miko reminded them all from behind her computer, where it looked to Rodney’s eyes she was already completing setup protocols for a test.
Rodney’s eyes narrowed as he looked at hopeful faces, “Everyone has left early to attend the party or to go home today. Ok, hit the building. Start at the top, work your way down. Lab four can be left alone, nothing there will be harmed. All other equipment off. Meet up in Lab 12.”
Miko and Radek were the only to remain. They carefully loaded the crystal in a case and with Miko’s equipment in tow moved to the only fully shielded lab on the premises. John was still griping about having to justify the replacement of over one hundred computers at one time after the last test.
It was thirty minutes later that nine people were crowded behind the bunker in the lab. Safety glasses and radiation suits on, though none of the tests or calculations hinted at dangerous radiation levels.
Viktor was making himself useful, handling the video camera. He had videotaped all present, walked around the setup, and Jeannie had given all the standard date, time, et cetera things that made reliable documentation of a trial.
“Ok, people here we go. Trial number two hundred and thirty-seven. We will begin power conversion on my mark. Close primary shield. Ten…Nine…Eight…Seven…Six…Five, Primary shield closed…Four…Three…Two…One…Mark.”
Miko’s voice took over, “Relay one engaged. Bringing two through five online. Building. Power has reached stage two. No variations. Activating stage three. Relays five through ten are online and working at 99%. Ready to engage stage four at your command, Dr. McKay.”
Rodney exchanged a big smile with Radek. “Miko, engage stage four. Full conversion.”
Miko reached forward and pressed the enter key firmly and the power built up in the first three stages released. Light flared, and alarms blared as the crystal began to vibrate. Radek stood firm with his hand hovering over the kill switch.
“Vibration is building.”
“Mer, maybe we should..”
“Miko, is it within acceptable parameters?” Rodney yelled the question as a light overhead exploded.
Radek bent over the board and shouted, “Rodney!”
“Miko! Is it in parameters?!”
John mingled among his guests, exhibiting a great deal of control. Even if his father didn’t always believe he had it. Speaking of, John glanced across the room and his father’s eyes connected with his own. He stared deliberately at his watch, looked back to John, and raised that one damn eyebrow that the Sheppard men inherited. John shrugged and then turned to respond to the woman on his left.
No, he doesn’t know where Rodney is, and no one on his little thick-as-thieves team was answering their phones. A slight tap on his arm had him turning to face his brother-in-law.
“So, no sightings of the wife either?”
Caleb Miller sighed and checked the time before grabbing a drink off a passing tray. “She was supposed to meet me at home and drive over together. I was hoping she just forgot and came with Rodney.”
“Nope. Pretty sure they’re together though. Any chance they’re picking up some gift for me? Rodney doesn’t really care about the whole thing, but I know Jeannie’s been working on his social skills.” John looked at Caleb, hopefully.
Caleb grinned lightly, “Anything’s possible. But if they are planning something, they didn’t share with me.”
“So, you two comparing alibis?” Dave slipped his arms around John and Caleb.
“Alibis?” Caleb questioned, his eyes widening.
Dave smirked, “Well, I figure Dad is going to need someone to blame for one of the guests of honor being late to his own party. If they’re much later, he will be searching for bodies to bury.”
John elbowed Dave in the side, “If I need a body buried, I think I would just need to call Phelps. She’s competent enough to see to my body burying and alibi needs.”
“That’s the truth,” Caleb said with a shudder. John held back a smile. The first meeting between the two had not gone well. Caleb had stepped into the room with Rodney unexpectedly, and Lou put him down hard. She takes her job seriously.
“Dad incoming,” Dave stated while grabbing an hors d’oeuvre from a passing server. He took a step back as if to leave, and John hooked an arm around him. He wasn’t facing this alone.
“Dad, the party is great. Thank you so much for throwing it.” John stated while his eyes hunted for a way out.
“Your welcome, John. Do we have any information on when Rodney will be joining us?” Damn, even in a party he can give that ‘dad voice’ without raising his voice high enough for guests to hear.
“John, let me stop you there. I know that look, and I am about to be led down a happy little trail to a place we will both regret.”
Caleb choked back a laugh, and Dave’s eyes were practically dancing out of his head.
“Happy little trail, Dad? Really?” John stared his father down before glancing toward Lou Phelps, who was in a form-fitting black evening gown with six-inch heels. She was touching her ever-present earbud before heading in their direction. “Maybe your answer is coming now.”
She slid up next to the men like she was merely socializing. She wrapped an arm around Dad’s back and leaned in suggestively. “Dr. McKay and his guests are pulling into the drive now. According to his driver, he insisted on accompanying them all to pick up their clothes so that they could arrive in style today.”
John headed toward the front door with the group following him. It took a few minutes to ease his way there without drawing attention. He could hear Jeannie Miller yelling “take it off” while music was blaring from the limo out front. John watched the door open, and Rodney’s premier research team came pouring in. Their eyes were bright and cheeks rosy in a way that spoke to having already indulged on the ride here. Rodney and Radek were the last up from the car, Radek straightening Rodney’s tie.
As he crossed the threshold, John pulled him in for a quick kiss that deepened immediately into something more passionate than Rodney had ever performed in public. John was breathing a little heavy when they broke apart, and he looked at Rodney, surprised. There was alcohol on his breath, but not strong enough to say he was drunk.
“Glad you could make it,” John said while directing them in.
Rodney grinned, “Of course we made it. It’s a celebration, and we decided we needed to celebrate!”
The team cheered and was that sweet, little Miko performing a loud wolf whistle? John glanced at his Dad, who had a strange half-perturbed, half-fond look on his face.
“Rodney, I’m pleased you joined us. Anything important holding you up?” Patrick asked.
“Well, now that you ask, there might be something. Did you know you are looking at the smartest man on this earth?” Rodney looked around, daring anyone to disagree.
“Is true, sad that his head be so overinflated, but must agree. Rodney McKay is smartest man on Earth.” Radek stated, and the team applauded.
“And, as the smartest man on the whole planet, I would only work with the greatest team in the world.” Cheering and whistles abounded.
“Now if you put together the smartest man with the greatest team, amazing things will happen.”
Rodney smiled broadly and then leaned forward into John and whispered in his ear, “Our first GSE Module.” He leaned back grinning madly as John stared dumbfounded.
“You did it? You did it! They did it!” John started jumping up and down with Rodney, and the team gathered around jumping with them.
“Dad, did you hear? I have the smartest husband on the entire Earth. And today is a new day for power everywhere. Ground State Energy has been harnessed!”
John watched Dave and Miko leave in the cab. He grinned when he saw meek little Miko grab hold of Dave’s lapels and drag him in for a kiss. She was drunk, and Dave was seriously regretting his situation right now. Dad would kill them if they took advantage of a partner that wasn’t able to give consent.
He locked the door and turned back to the room. Dad’s elegant little anniversary party had turned into a mini-rave. Music blaring, furniture moved back for a dance floor, food and alcohol flowing freely. It was a celebration.
John turned off the living room lights and moved into the kitchen to find his husband. Rodney was looking for space in the refrigerator to move some of the leftovers. “Leave it.”
“There’s a lot of leftovers.”
John shrugged, “Cleaners will be here in the morning to take care of it. Leave it.”
John pulled him away from the fridge and shut the door. “Let’s leave all of this down here and go find our bedroom.”
Rodney’s eyes popped open, “Oh, that—right there is a good idea.”
“I thought so. How much did you drink?”
“Not half as much as they think I did.”
“Good, because I have plans for tonight.” John leaned in to lick Rodney’s neck.
“Really?” Rodney’s breath hitched.
“Yes, plans.” He added sucking into that spot that he knew made Rodney squirm.
“I could get on board with plans. I made history today, you know.”
“I know, but that’s not what I’m celebrating.” He continued alternating sucking and licking Rodney’s neck.
“Really? What else is there?”
“Something more important than the discovery of GSE.”
“You think something’s more important than the discovery of the ultimate clean energy source?”
John pulled back a moment to look him in the eye. “As a matter of fact, I do. Do you realize I’ve been married to the smartest man on the whole planet for a year as of today?”
“Well, I guess that could be worth celebrating.”
John grinned slow and leaned back in that sexy way that always made Rodney’s eyes dilate, “It is. I have all kinds of plans for our personal celebration. But you did make history today. And I recall promising to fuck you stupid the day you created your first GSE Module.”
“I could lose a few brain cells tonight.” John took Rodney’s hand and pulled him up the stairs toward their room.
“Explain to me again why I can’t just fly in tomorrow morning, go to the meeting, and then leave, Joe?” John didn’t whine. Nope, didn’t happen.
“Because you are an executive of one of the largest corporations in the world. You know and accept that there are times you must act in the best interest of the company and the employees that the company supports. Our workers are important to us. At Sheppard Industries our workers are the heartbeat of the company.” Not once did Joe look at John as she checked three more things off the list of items she was packing into the rolling briefcase she was bringing.
“You were quoting the Foreword on the Employee Handbook, weren’t you?”
“Awww, and your father was concerned about you actually reading the literature,” Joe smirked but kept packing.
“Hey, I’m the nice one, remember? I’m the one that made sure you had first-class seats to fly to your grandmother’s birthday party.” John pointed out.
“You did, and I was thankful for them. And Mr. Sheppard was just lovely to send one of the corporate jets so that I could take her shopping in Paris before flying home.” She had a little half-smile, not quite a smirk.
“Does my father pay you to report on me?”
“Your father pays me to ensure your reports are completed on time and with a passing degree of accuracy.” She stood up and looked at him seriously, “He does not pay me to spy on you if that is what you are asking. He does on occasion request that I verify that you seem happy with your position. And when he asks, I remind him that he needs to speak to you.”
“I know. Dad tells me every time that you make him call me. It’s ok. But thank you.” And John was thankful. He hadn’t planned it, but he was happy in a way he had never been on the ground in the Air Force. Part of that was Rodney. Hell, most of that was Rodney. The rest was a combination of family, learning to be himself, and letting go of the past.
She bent back over to put a portable hard drive into the bag before closing and locking it. “If that will be all, I will be at my desk until it is time for us to leave for the airport.”
John got back to work; he had about fourteen more reports to sign off on before he left for the airport. He planned on running through his presentation at least once on the plane before catching a nap.
The Board of Directors Meeting wasn’t until Wednesday, but there would be several individual meetings ramping up to it. It was all about politics. Drumming up support and funding for your pet projects. This would be the first year John would sit on the Board. Funny, considering he fought so hard against it as a teen.
He had been at it for about twenty minutes when his phone rang. He picked it up without thinking, “Sheppard.”
“Major Sheppard, my name is Ben Kane with the Department of Homeland Security, Special Operations. We’ve been informed you declined our invitation to meet tomorrow.”
John scowled and looked down at the phone. The display didn’t show the transfer code from Joe’s phone. “How did you bypass my assistant?”
“Major, it’s imperative that you keep that appointment.”
“Listen, Mr. Kane. It’s Mister Sheppard. I walked away from my rank when it was made clear that I no longer had a place in the service. If you are Special Operations, then you are well aware of why that title no longer applies. I walked away from my rank and my career to take my life back.” John fisted the phone and had to stop himself from trying to crush it.
“And you know Mister Sheppard that there are some things you can’t just walk away from. So you will find that meeting is back on your schedule, and you will keep it. You have more to lose than you think.”
“I don’t react well to threats. I don’t play in your playground, and I don’t let my company associate with the kids that do. Leave me alone, or you will be the one regretting it.” John slammed down the phone and stared at it a moment. When the line light began flashing again, he stood up and walked out.
“No, you see here and here. That power modulation during conversion just before it reaches peak.” Rodney pointed at the screen while Radek and Jeannie looked over his shoulder. Miko was scrolling the data, line by line along with him.
“OK, so we think that’s the moment that the subspace microburst is able to occur?” Jeannie squinted at the screen a moment. “So the power drain…”
Rodney nodded. “Is resulting from the…”
“Is obvious. Is easy fix but is compensating,” Radek pointed at the leading edge of the reading preceding the spike.
Michalovich sat down in the chair next to Miko, “Do you have any idea what they are talking about?”
“Yes. We have been wasting power on the build-up. The actual conversion point of energy to open the bridge and create the charge is the only point in the process that is using power. If we can pinpoint the power needed, we can reduce waste and create a safe, reproducible process for creating the GSEM.”
“I think we should call it a GEM.” John’s voice came from the doorway.
“What?” Rodney turned to look at him. “It’s a Ground State Energy Module. G.S.E.M. Why would we want to call it a gem?”
“Because it’s a better name, Rodney. I mean, look at it. It looks like a giant gemstone. Gem, I like it.”
“You can’t just go changing names of things.”
Jeannie smiled, “Gem could work.”
“Don’t enable him.”
John leaned against the door and grinned, “Can I borrow you?”
Rodney rolled back in his chair and stood up to walk out, “Radek, start the calculations on energy used vs. excess during…”
“Yes, I start, you go make out with husband. Come back in good mood.”
John reached out and hooked his hand around Rodney’s arms to pull him out of the room. They walked together in silence until they reached Rodney’s private office. “What’s wrong?”
“Don’t bullshit me, John.” Rodney sat down on the couch and pulled John down with him. It was a comfortable couch, and Rodney had slept on it more than once as they got the division up and running.
“The Department of Homeland Security, Special Operations is trying to get a meeting with me in D.C.” John bit his lip before he said too much.
Rodney’s eyes narrowed, and he stared at John, “Is Special Operations code for deep-space radar telemetry?”
“Yeah, I think it is.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I canceled the meeting. But someone by the name of Ben Kane just called and made some vague threats about taking the meeting.”
Rodney took a deep breath, and then another, “I don’t like it. Maybe you should cancel.”
“It’s the Board of Directors Meeting, Rodney. I can’t cancel. Don’t worry about it. They just pissed me off a little by playing their games. I’m not going to dive back in that hole.”
“Maybe you should take Lou with you. Just to be safe.” Rodney twisted his lips in thought.
John reached out and took Rodney’s hands, “No. I’ll be fine. I have a security detail. And I’m staying at the estate so there will be plenty of security. Lou stays here on your detail. That’s non-negotiable. I will only stay long enough for the meetings on my schedule then I’m back home. Three days tops and we will take the weekend off for just us.”
“Yes. I promise. My last meeting is at 3 pm on Thursday. I’m wheels up by 5. So clear your schedule for Friday because the only people we will speak to for three days will be each other.” He leaned in and kissed Rodney slow and deep, making it a promise of more to come.
Rodney slipped his arms around him and held on, feeling like if he let go, he might never see John again.
“I can’t believe he actually said that.” Dave was holding back the giggles as they walked toward the restaurant. It was only a mile away, and frankly, John had been sitting way too much.
“There’s a reason we don’t let Rodney meet with him. Could you imagine what kind of response Rodney would have had to Clarkston?” John shook his head as Dave lost the battle and started laughing uncontrollably. It was contagious, and John joined in. He noticed his security detail had finally broken down and smiled. Lou would be proud.
Dave took a breath, “Luck. It’s pure luck that the man isn’t broke by now.”
John had to agree with Dave. There is no other explanation. “I wish Joe had decided to come along. I don’t want her staying in there doing paperwork all night.”
Dave shook his head with a half-grin. “She’s not. I heard her and Mary mentioning something about shoe shopping tonight.”
Mary had been Dad’s executive assistant for twenty-three years. She had served as a pseudo-aunt to John and Dave. And, there was no one in the company that knew more than Mary when it came to investments or operations. She had an uncanny knack for knowing everyone and picking talent. She had four assistants of her own. Joe had served for almost a year in that position before she was transferred to R&D.
To anyone else, it might have been seen as a demotion. But to those who knew, Joe had been entrusted with one of Mary’s boys, and that was the highest praise she would give.
“I’m going to need a bigger plane to get back to Vancouver,” John groaned.
They were about two-thirds of the way to the restaurant when the doors to a black SUV opened, and three men got out. “Major Sheppard.”
John stepped back defensively and pulled Dave with him. Their security quickly took position between them. He knew that voice.
“Mr. Kane. I thought I made myself clear when I said that I declined to meet with your department.”
“And, I thought I made myself clear when I said it wasn’t exactly a request.”
Dave tried to step forward, but security pushed him back, “Are you threatening my brother?”
“Look, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. If you would just come with me now, we can clear up any problems quickly.” Kane motioned toward the car.
“My brother isn’t going anywhere with you.”
“Dave, enough. Mr. Kane, we have nothing to discuss.” John stood firm and stared him down.
“We have a lot to discuss, but not in front of civilians. We take our confidentiality agreements seriously. You should think about that, Major Sheppard. You swore oaths that you seem happy to ignore. You need to come with us, and I would rather you come with us willingly.”
Imes stepped up and pushed back the men who had been slowly progressing. “Sir, Mr. Sheppard has made it clear that he won’t be going anywhere with you. I don’t want trouble, but if you start it my team and I will end it. It’s in all our best interests for you and your associates to get back in the car and try to arrange a meeting through official channels.” He motioned, and one of the men slipped around to open the car door. John noticed two others had pulled firearms.
“Ok, fine. We’re going now. But we will have that meeting Sheppard. Let’s see how you like it when I go through official channels.” They turned, entered the car, and the team watched them pull away. John glanced down the sidewalk toward the restaurant and saw two men from Dad’s detail headed their way.
“What the fuck, John?”
“Don’t worry about it. Let’s get through the Board of Director’s Meeting tomorrow, and I’ll see what I can do to call them off.” John scratched the back of his head. “I suppose this means Dad’s going to find out?”
“Well, yeah, John. Secret government agency tries to take you off the street. I think Dad will find out.”
“Rodney, I’m not accusing. I’m just asking. We’ve never talked about this.” John sat back and rubbed his face before looking back at Rodney on Skype.
“We had an agreement!”
“Yes. That was my idea. I know. But, well. Without actually breaking the agreement, is there a chance. Even the slightest chance that you maybe skirted the edge of your NDA?”
“No, John. There’s not a chance I broke my NDA. There’s not a chance in hell that I even touched the edge.”
“No GSE related…”
“It was—it—hell, John. It was generators. They were playing with generators. Better than we have now, but that’s all they were. You must have seen them. They used them everywhere. But they didn’t have anything close to the power of GSE. It’s mine, John. One hundred percent my baby. They can’t have my work. But trying to claim it this way is just the kind of thing they’re capable of doing.”
“Is there any other project we’re on that could have generated their interest?” John asked though he knew he was clutching at straws.
“No. We’ve had a lot of off-shoot projects derived from our work to get here, but it’s suspect that when we finally make progress, they suddenly want to meet.”
“Yeah, I agree. Look, don’t worry about it. I’m fine here. After tomorrow’s meeting, I will try to figure out what’s going on and sic the lawyers on them if they won’t go away. You know you have to feed the sharks now and then to keep them happy.” John smiled at Rodney, who still looked upset.
“You’ll be careful? I can’t go breaking in a new husband, you know.” Rodney tried to grin, but it came out more a worried grimace.
“No new husbands for you. You made a promise that I own that ass until death do we part. I plan to take my last breath riding that ass.”
“Don’t be creepy. You know Lou would be the one to find us like that.”
John finished his presentation with the hint of an exciting announcement from R&D on the horizon. He wouldn’t steal Rodney’s thunder. The man had earned all the acclaim that would be headed his way. And it would be another three to six months before the data was ready for release in an announcement.
The information on the data crystals had been enough to win them all the support and funding needed for the next fiscal year, and that is all that mattered. Especially since John had some considerable repairs to the row of industrial generators Rodney’s team was using for their experiment. He could practically run a town off the power they generated. But according to the numbers he had briefly seen, the Gem—he was going to win that one, could power a small city.
Dad wanted to run numbers because this kind of power was a game-changer. Introduced incorrectly it would topple world markets. Rodney had caught onto that faster than John had. He had been in complete agreement to locking that down hard before anything slipped.
He had also been adamant about not letting any military get their hands on it. John, unfortunately, agreed with that as well. But he was in a unique position of knowing more about the greater world than the average person. Rodney did as well.
There were those programs that might need the power, but he firmly believed the checks and balances over those programs were corrupt as hell. Rodney still experienced anxiety when he thought about it. And, frankly, they had earned John’s anger long before he met Rodney.
It was another thirty minutes before he could leave. Luckily Joe helped run interference, and they had an appointment to get to.
John’s mother had a decent baby grand in the family home that she had loved dearly in life. She had tried to engender that love in her boys, but John had always preferred the guitar, and David was a nightmare when it came to music.
Once when he was stressed, Rodney had played it, and the music had taken John’s breath away. Jeannie confided that Rodney stopped playing the piano when their father, in a fit of jealousy, had sold their grandfather’s custom Blüthner concert grand piano because Rodney at the tender age of twelve had received his first patent.
Meredith Maddox McKay had been a world-renowned pianist who tragically developed crippling arthritis in his prime years. While surgery had restored daily function, nothing could save his career. The piano had been left to the only family he felt had a gift for music, Rodney. Their father never forgave Meredith for the slight, or his own son for being born with the brilliance that had skipped his generation.
John had vowed to leave that whole family mess behind. Rodney would clam up for weeks when it came up, and Jeannie just ended in tears. That was not something John willingly pursued.
But when he discovered that the collector that currently owned that piano was willing to discuss a sale, John had jumped at the chance to meet him. The idea of Maddie learning to play piano on the same one on which her great grandfather performed was too good to pass up. And it was a chance to restore something positive from his childhood to Rodney.
The ride to the meeting was short, but the discussion was not. It took a lot of negotiating to complete a purchase of the piano. John was feeling pretty pleased with himself.
That feeling was short-lived. On the way to the car, Ben Kane was waiting. This time with a Marine Colonel and four SPs. It was a Colonel with whom he was unfortunately acquainted.
Before he could speak, Colonel Marshall Sumner stepped forward, stopping just before John’s security escort moved to block his path. “Major John Patrick Sheppard. You are hereby notified that by Presidential order you are recalled to active duty. Such recall to be effective immediately.”
He held out the written orders, and John stepped forward to take them, a sour taste in his mouth as he swallowed back the bile. There it was in writing, the bastards sucker-punched him. He was regretting his decision to blow them off.
“We are here to escort you to your briefing, or if you prefer to resist, we can take you into custody for dereliction of duty. Your choice.” Sumner’s face was stony, and a glance at Kane showed him smirking, the bastard.
“Mr. Sheppard?” Joe sounded small and scared, and he hated that someone had caused that. She was reading the orders at his side.
Years of military conditioning snapped back, and John’s demeanor changed in an instant. “Imes, Bentley, I want you to escort Miss Brewer to my father. Give him a full report.” He turned to look at her, “Joe, you are to speak to my father and then I want you on the first plane back home. Take the jet. Colonel Marshall Sumner, here is an old acquaintance. Let Rodney know I will contact him as soon as I’m able, but I have a mountain of BS to wade through first.”
“They can’t just take you off the street like this. There has to be something we can do. This…it’s kidnapping.” Joe insisted.
“Yes, but legal kidnapping miss. It’s time to go, Major, we’re on a schedule here.” Sumner turned and entered the first vehicle with Kane. John was led to the second with his escort. He had one last glimpse of Joe with his security standing on the sidewalk, Imes with his phone in hand.
“Rodney, the lawyers are looking over the papers now, but they are requesting full access to your research. They are implying that you and John broke your non-disclosure agreements with the United States.” Patrick threw down the paper in disgust.
“No. Patrick, this is my research. I never worked on anything remotely similar. They have nothing close to the GSE, but I can see why they would want it. I assure you, we broke no laws, Patrick.” Rodney was pacing with his phone.
“I believe you.” There was a long sigh. “The legal team is all over this. John and Joe are due back from their last meeting soon so I will review it with him when he gets here. I know that you’re much too smart to take that kind of risk. And, I assure you I won’t let a single one of them get their hands on you. Stay close to Lou, and don’t talk to anyone without our legal team present.”
“Yes, fine. I should have known they would try to find another way to screw me over. I don’t trust them, Patrick. Watch yourself. They are going to try to claim all of it, and when you push them to prove it, they will claim national security and clam up.”
“This isn’t the first legal battle for intellectual property rights. I have the best team in the world, and you better believe I don’t back down. When Legal calls, take the call.”
“Ok, tell John I love him when you see him,” Rodney said wistfully.
“I will. You take care of yourself, Rodney. I’ll go ahead and send John home. I’ll feel better if he’s back in Canada with you.”
“Me too. Bye, Patrick.” Rodney hung up the phone before he sat down and rubbed his face with his hands. He just felt sick and tired. He wanted John.
Joe allowed security to handler her all the way to the Sheppard Industries executive level. Mary was hanging up the phone as they entered the offices and rose to give her a brief hug before walking her into Patrick Sheppard’s office.
Patrick led her over to the couch while Mary sat down beside her. Imes followed.
Joe took a bit more of Mary’s comfort before speaking. “Mr. Sheppard, they just took him. There was nothing we could do.”
“I understand. Just tell me what happened.”
“Yes, sir. We were leaving a meeting. John was procuring a gift for Doctor McKay. There were several men. One was in a suit. He looked smug, but he never spoke. The others were military. The one who handed John his papers was a Col. Marshall Sumner. They were disagreeable and smug. The Colonel stated that John’s military service was reactivated and demanded he accompany them to report immediately.”
Joe took a breath to calm herself, “He didn’t even argue with them. He ordered security to bring me here then he got in the car.”
“He couldn’t argue.” Joe looked over to where Imes was standing. “Once those orders were signed by the President, he didn’t have a choice. The President can legally call the military back to service. He’s been reactivating them this last month. No one will question that Mr. Sheppard’s orders were legal.”
Joe was appalled. She watched as Patrick Sheppard was nodding slowly, his eyes clouded in thought.
“They said it was a presidential order?”
“Yes, sir.” Imes acknowledged. “That’s why the colonel was there. And Mr. Sheppard seemed to recognize him. But the suit? The guy’s name is Ben Kane. He’s the one that attempted to take Mr. Sheppard yesterday when we were walking to the restaurant.”
Joe perked up, “Ben Kane was the one from the Department of Homeland Security who kept insisting that he needed a meeting with Mr. Sheppard. He didn’t want to take no for an answer.”
“Mr. Sheppard told him to come at him through official channels. Kane told him he’d be sorry.”
Patrick took a deep breath and let it out. “OK, we need to focus on how to help John.”
“Mr. Sheppard ordered us to see Ms. Brewer back to Canada.” Imes looked at Joe apologetically as he said that.
Joe shook her head, “No. I should stay here. You might need me, and I don’t want to leave Mr. Sheppard.”
Mary spoke over the men. “No, John’s right. You should go back there. Rodney’s going to be a mess without John’s moderation. I want you and the team to head back and support him in whatever he needs.”
Patrick nodded. “First, we need to speak to Rodney to see if he knows anything. Then we can make some decisions.”
Rodney had reviewed information with Lou before heading to his meeting in lab 4. It was one of his special side projects. He needed to review all the data to be sure that this didn’t skate the edge of his NDA.
Radek was nominally running this one. But as far as he and the team knew, shielding technology was purely science fiction until their research had yielded results. Once he had figured out the science behind it, Radek had run full tilt with only the occasional delay to work on Rodney’s GSE.
Which only made sense. It would take an enormous power source to fuel a functioning shield that could cover an entire structure. Or, if Rodney had his way, an entire campus.
Rodney just needed to check the notes to verify that at no time did he shared classified knowledge with Radek or his team. Even one note on a schematic could doom them. Frankly, he had stepped away as soon as he realized what they had.
He was halfway across campus, deep in thought when a man in a suit approached him with two others that screamed military. “Dr. McKay, if I can have a moment of your time.”
“Who are you? You know what? It doesn’t matter who you are. You’re trespassing on Sheppard Industries property. Leave now. If you want a meeting, schedule one.” Rodney kept moving but didn’t turn his back on the men. He had worked with military long enough to know that you never turn your back on them.
“I think you’ll find it’s in your best interest to cooperate with us, Dr. McKay. Right now, we are asking nicely. But we don’t have to.” Suit guy stated menacingly. The two no-necks just stared but stood loose, prepared to move.
“I think it’s in my best interest to stay as far away from you as possible. Now leave.” Rodney was trying to stoke up anger to quell the fear that arm men caused.
He saw the two military men stiffen, “Dr. McKay has requested you leave the premises. I suggest you comply immediately, or we will consider your continued presence an imminent threat to Dr. McKay’s life and take appropriate action. Seeing how at least two of you are armed, I feel that choice is justified. And before you make your decision, please note that my security is trained to shoot to kill, and to continue to shoot until dead.” Rodney felt a hand from behind him gently, yet firmly, pull him out of the line of fire.
One of the guys twitched. “If you make another move, I will order them to fire.” Rodney could now see Lou out to the side, even with him. She was firm and forceful in her stance, and her expression was bored anticipation. Around her, a six-man team had assembled and were slowly moving into position around the interlopers. Two ready to restrain, the rest with weapons at the ready.
“Ok, fine, we’ll go. But you should think about this McKay. I would think all things considered you would want to cooperate with us. Think about the repercussions to those you pretend to care about.” The unidentified team moved their hands away from their bodies and turned to allow themselves to be escorted off the grounds.
“Dr. McKay, are you unharmed?” Lou was standing in front of him now, and he broke his gaze to look at her.
“What? Yes, I’m fine. What did he mean by that…that threat?”
Lou glanced toward the retreating group. “I’m not certain, but I think we should check in with the Sheppards.” She directed him back to his office.
“What? They just took him?” Rodney started to shake, and Lou quickly pushed him down onto the couch and pushed his head down between his knees.
She hooked an arm around a trash can just in case. “Take it easy, McKay. Just calm down and breath.”
“What’s going on? Rodney?” Patrick’s voice came from the speakerphone.
“He’s fine, Patrick. Just a little shocky. I’m handling it.” Lou rubbed his back while keeping a calm voice. Rodney thought of it as her placate-the-crazy-person voice. She had been forced to use it the last time she stopped a kidnapping attempt.
“I’m ok. Well, not ok, of course, but I will be. What do we know about the people who recalled him?”
“There was a Ben Kane and Colonel Marshall Sumner and their goons. The letter was official and recalled him to active duty, effective immediately. John said he would contact you as soon as he could, but he had a mountain of bullshit to wade through first.”
Rodney jerked up and stared at the phone, “Is that what he said? Exactly those words? A Mountain of BS?”
“Yes, those words exactly. Does it mean something, Rodney?” Joe sounded worried.
“Yes, it means something. They want the GSE program, Patrick. It’s the only thing we have they could want enough to pull something like this when it’s a company of your reputation.”
“I don’t like caving to this kind of manipulative pressure, but if it’s the only way to get John back, Rodney. He’s my son.”
Rodney’s face broke momentarily as he thought of John being used as a pawn like this. It wasn’t supposed to be John they went after. “No. We can’t afford to give in on this Patrick. If we give in, they win more than one module. They can take anything they want from you and they will. They’re not just going to say, ‘Oops, we made a mistake. He’s free to go.’ They will keep the threat of recall hanging over his head forever.”
“You’re right. We can’t let them win. Not like this. Lou?” Patrick called out.
“Dr. McKay is your primary concern. No one touches him. I don’t care if they come down with an order from God, no one takes him anywhere.”
“Take the Millers in with him. I don’t want to give them another target. For that matter, I want his entire team secured until further notice. Joe, I’m sending you back home like John requested. Coordinate with Rodney on research there. We need to know who we’re after and why.” There were sounds on the other end of the line and then a click, “I’m sending Joe with her detail to pack now. Rodney take me off the speaker, I want to speak to you.”
Rodney reached out to pick up the phone, and Lou motioned and then left the room. “I’m alone now, Patrick.”
“Rodney, we are going to get John back. I’ve got a lot of political capital in this town, and I know how to use it. Now, I know you and John were in something that you’ve never discussed with me.”
“No, you don’t have to explain. I understand classified, and I accepted that. But that message John sent you, this has something to do with that classified work we don’t talk about, doesn’t it?”
“Without breaking your agreements, I want names, Rodney. Get names of everyone you know is involved in that mess. I need to find leverage, and somewhere in those names is our target.”
John sat at the table in the room he had been escorted to after changing into the BDUs that had been provided. He had been left here a couple hours ago with three bottles of water and nothing else to occupy him. His phone had been confiscated in the SUV on the way to the base.
After checking the seals on the water, he had taken one bottle and placed it in front of him. The guard at the door had made it clear he would not be allowed to leave, and he wasn’t stupid enough to figure out that someone was setting him up for a full bladder and a bit of urgency. To combat boredom, he put his feet up on the table, tipped the chair back, and closed his eyes.
He figured it wouldn’t take too long for them to figure out he wasn’t going to break during stress. He made it through SERE training, he could handle this. He just needed to figure out their endgame and give his father time to call in some favors.
Honestly, they pulled the one tactic he didn’t expect. After all, they are the ones who showed him the door when he wouldn’t play their games the first time. And here he sits almost two full years later, dual citizenship with Canada and married to a man. This is seriously stupid. He’s been running through every project they have, and the only one that he can think they might want is Rodney’s.
The door opened, and he lazily righted the chair before standing. He expected Col. Sumner to come back and start pushing him. The man had made it clear the day they met that he didn’t like him and wouldn’t have him in his chain of command. Frankly, considering he planned to take a green as grass Lieutenant as his XO, John didn’t see how anyone would be able to ignore the Major standing next to him.
Instead of a colonel, in walked a doctor. Dr. Elizabeth Weir to be exact. He should have guessed she would be one of the instigators here.
“Major Sheppard, it’s nice to see you again. I’m glad you decided to join us. Though, I am disappointed in how you chose to get our attention.”
“Dr. Weir. I wasn’t aware until recently that I had acquired your attention. Might I inquire the reason why I have suddenly gained so much interest?” John leaned back, relaxing his posture as if this was just a friendly chat. He remembered from her bio that she was an expert at negotiation, and from experience that she was missing a few screws. So it was in his best interest to keep this friendly.
She smiled at him, and the disconnect between expression and her eyes made him hold back a shiver. “Don’t be coy, Major. Or can I call you John?” She patted him on the hand, and he slowly withdrew it from the tabletop.
“I know you had so many concerns about the Expedition when it was first proposed. I can see now that you have been actively seeking resolutions. And now that you have found one solution, it’s obvious that you and Dr. McKay are trying to win your way back into the program. There’s no reason to play hard to get now. You’ve earned our attention, and we’re willing to let bygones be bygones and welcome you both back. Your little indiscretions can be swept away.”
John leaned back imperceptibly and looked at her hard. “Indiscretions?”
“Well, having read Dr. McKay’s record, it’s clear he’s difficult to work with. The marriage was a genius stroke. It’s obvious you went above and beyond the call of duty and sacrificed yourself to focus him on the task at hand. It was brilliant. Now that you’ve accomplished what you set out to do, we can work to get that unfortunate blemish off your records.”
“Sacrificed? Wait, unfortunate blemish? Dr. Weir, if I didn’t know better, I believe I would have to conclude that you were calling me a whore.” John tried hard not to reach across the table and slam her face down. He had a few moments of imagining the outcome before containing himself.
“There’s no need to pretend now. All of us here, understand how desperate you were to save your career after you had time to reconsider. However, you should have approached the SGC before you took action. We could have helped you. Guided you to a better outcome.” She smiled at him again, and this time, her eyes were harder.
“Now, we are faced with damage control. Some people will need to sign NDAs, and we need to obtain all the records of your ZPM program.”
John’s brow furrowed. “What’s a ZPM?”
She frowned and stared at him. “Don’t play games now, Major. You know perfectly well what a ZPM is. Trying to pass off classified knowledge as your own, or as Dr. McKay’s is a breach of your NDA and you are well aware the penalties are harsh.”
“I honestly have no idea what you are talking about.” John leaned back, confused.
“Major, you were in Antarctica. You were in the mountain. You were read into the program and specifically into the Atlantis Expedition. You can’t sit here and pretend not to know what a ZPM is when you’ve coordinated an entire program to build one.”
She sighed and then stood up and tapped on the door. As it opened, she stated, “I think you need some time to think about your options, Major. We are offering you a chance at redemption. Perhaps you will be more inclined to take it tomorrow.” She left, and Sumner entered the room with two marines at his side holding restraints. He thought he vaguely recognized them from the Atlantis mission.
John worked hard at controlling his breathing and not showing signs of stress. He refused to give them the satisfaction. He was being checked into holding, and they were planning to lead him back to a solitary cell. This area was short-term holding only. He hoped Dad was able to make some waves before they got the bright idea to move him to something a little more long-term.
“You need to lose the ring.” Sumner pointed, and the guard wrote down a description of his ring.
John fisted his hand. “That happens to be my wedding ring. As I recall in the UCMJ, prisoners are allowed to wear a wedding band.”
“United States doesn’t recognize your little marriage. You’re a disgrace to the uniform.” Sumner said with a sneer.
“I’m a dual citizen and married in Canada. My marriage is legal there, and since it was your service who recalled me after my legal marriage, I can’t be prosecuted.”
“No, but breaking your NDA makes you a traitor. You and McKay. Wonder how your little boyfriend will react?”
“Why are you even here? I would have figured you, and your goons would be out exploring another galaxy.” John kept his breath and didn’t relax the fist until the guard noted that the prisoner was retaining the ring.
Sumner’s eyes narrowed, and his face turned stony. “After you started questioning everything, the expedition was placed on indefinite hold until a more cohesive plan is in place and science has prepared backups.” He stepped in close to stare down John, “Because of you I’ve been cooling my ass on a mud-ball of a planet guarding high-risk prisoners and hoping for fresh fruit more than twice a month. We were supposed to be exploring a new galaxy and bringing back weapons to protect the Earth, and you were too chick-shit to shut up and do your damn job.”
Sumner motioned, and his guards pushed John toward the cell-lined corridor. “You’re lucky they’re watching us here. If you had waited until we were in Pegasus to show your true colors, I would have found something to feed you to.”
“I didn’t ask you to release state secrets, I just asked you to use what minuscule brain activity you were born with and find out where my husband is stationed.” A click gave Rodney his answer, “Fils de Pute!” Rodney threw his phone against the wall.
“Meredith!” Jeannie’s voice rang out in rebuke.
Rodney spun to the door and saw Jeannie standing there angrily with her hands firmly clamped over Madison’s ears. He winced in apology before she let go.
Madison ran to him, and he picked her up. “Did you say a bad word?”
“Yes, I did, and you should never repeat it.”
She nodded at him gravely. “When I do something bad, Mommy puts me in time out.”
“I think I’m too old to go to time out.” Rodney leaned in and kissed her cheek.
“Nuh, Mommy says I will never be too old for time out.”
Jeannie had moved to pick up the broken phone, “That’s right. I think Uncle Mer needs a time out.” Then she looked at him, “Serious Mer, have you slept at all?’’
“I don’t have time to sleep. I’ve been working on names for Patrick and reviewing files to see if any of our projects might give them leverage, and then I’ve been trying to find someone I didn’t burn bridges with back when we were trying to fix my citizenship crap, and…” He was moving around the desk and starting to wave his free hand around.
“Ok, stop. Mer, just stop.” She took Madison out of his arms and then led him over to the couch. She pushed him down and then sat Maddie on his lap so he couldn’t just stand up. “You haven’t eaten, either. Miko, can you make him one of those smoothies we keep in the freezer.”
Rodney looked over to see Miko nod before leaving the doorway. Radek and Caleb were left standing there, and he hadn’t noticed them before now. “I really don’t have time.”
“You’re going to drink that, then you will get at least four hours sleep. You don’t have to do all this on your own, Mer. It’s our work they’re trying to steal. And John’s just as much our family.”
“Did bad mans take Uncle John?” Maddie asked.
Rodney’s face crumpled, and he felt tears start to fall. Caleb rushed in to lift Maddie away as Jeannie wrapped her arms around him.
Caleb’s soft voice answered her question, “The people at Uncle John’s last job want him to go back to work for them. He doesn’t want to, but he made some promises, so he has to keep them. We’re trying to find someone that will tell Uncle John that he doesn’t have to stay with them without him breaking his promise. But it’s hard because they really want him.”
“But I don’t want Uncle John to go away.” Caleb just walked around with her, rocking to calm her as Rodney realized his exhaustion.
Miko returned in minutes with a shake for him and a small one for Maddie. Some coffee for everyone else was included. While he and Maddie were relocated to drink, Jeannie took charge and pulled out the bed in his sofa-sleeper. Throwing on bedding and grabbing pillows from his cabinet.
She went back for a t-shirt and sweats before pushing him toward his bathroom to change. Completely ignoring every objection he had. He looked in the mirror and had to admit he looked horrible. He changed clothes and rechecked himself, noting the little rip in the collar of the shirt.
His hand reached up to finger it. John had done that one day when he grabbed him by the collar to drag him in for a make-out session in a supply closet. He said it was something on his bucket list. Rodney’s face started to crumble again, but he fought it back. He wasn’t going to mourn John as if he was gone. He was going to work to get him back.
The door opened, and Caleb was standing there, “The bed’s ready and Maddie wants to take a nap with her Uncle Mer.”
“Ok, I should really…” Everyone was waiting for him. Miko and Radek were reviewing his lists on his desk.
“You are going to lay down with your niece and take a nap. It’s only six in the morning, and we had to pull her out of bed at four to start packing. Lou didn’t take no for an answer.” Caleb stated.
Caleb’s hand squeezed his arm, “You have nothing to apologize for.”
“He’s right. After what they did to you the first time, they have some gall trying to take our work. That’s what this is about, isn’t it?” Jeannie raised that eyebrow in question and had that stubborn McKay look on her face.
“Yeah, it’s about stealing our work.”
“Rodney, you be getting sleep. We take your list and get everything we can on idiots.” Radek picked up the papers. Miko gave him a single nod in agreement before following Radek out of the room.
Jeannie turned down the covers and shoved him into the bed while Caleb lay a sleepy Madison on the other side. “I’ll go ride herd on them. Keep it to just gathering information right now and not petty retribution.”
With a peck on Caleb’s cheek, she left. Rodney watched his brother-in-law turn off the lights while keeping a single desk light on dim and pulling files from the backpack Rodney hadn’t noticed before.
“You don’t have to stay.”
“Nothing to do but grade papers might as well do it here. Get some sleep, Rodney. I’ll keep watch.”
John woke to a hard bunk, a thin blanket, and the sounds and smells of confinement. He rolled onto his back and rubbed his face before stopping to look at the slight glint of light through the door on his wedding ring. Last night was the first night since they were married that he didn’t speak to Rodney before bed.
He was wondering what Rodney was doing now. If he knew him, he was probably freaking out and pissing off everyone around him. Hopefully, Dad was keeping him from burning any bridges, John was going to need every single one they had to get out of this.
The first problem was that while they didn’t have a legal leg to stand on, John was going to have trouble proving it. He would be restricted on legal representation to someone that could be read into the program, and frankly, they didn’t have to read anyone in. It was one of the things he detested about this type of classified bullshit.
His only leverage was they wanted something and thought he was their ticket to getting it. He just hoped Rodney could navigate the pitfalls to keep Dad, David, and Sheppard Industries out of this nightmare. The last thing John wanted was for his father to lose everything in a futile attempt to save him.
The second problem is no matter his complaints, they had the legal right to recall him to service. And, since there had been an announcement that military recalls would start, he can’t even prove he was singled out. They obviously just slipped his in with the ones headed overseas. It was devious.
Luckily, Rodney was well versed in their methods. Occasionally he had dropped names in passing that John was aware were high up in the program. He wasn’t on speaking terms with them, but he was undoubtedly aware.
John took a deep breath and tried to stop thinking about it. He had no control over what was happening out there. He needed to keep his head in the game. In a very real way, he was a prisoner of war. The first rule of being a prisoner, survive.
An alarm rang, and his door slid open. Before he could sit up, a bundle of cloth was thrown at him. “Get up, Sheppard. Time to shower, no reason Dr. Weir should have to smell your stink.”
John sat up and found his shoes. He grabbed the bundle and followed his escorts to the showers. He was slightly relieved it was empty. Obviously, they were keeping him away from the regular prisoners, for now. There was a bar of soap that looked like it would have to double as shampoo. Great, as if his hair isn’t uncontrollable as is.
He grabbed the toothbrush and toothpaste and the soap to shower as quickly as possible. He didn’t like how vulnerable he was in here. A quick brushing and scrub down before rinsing in the, of course, ice-cold shower. He was shivering slightly as he grabbed his towel to dry off. He wrapped it briefly around his waist as he sorted out his clothing.
The door opened, and three marines entered. The first had a name tag that read Sgt. Bates. The face was vaguely familiar. They all had a look in their eyes that promised trouble, so John dropped the clothes for now in favor of free hands.
“Look at this, men. Knew the Air Force was full of a bunch of pansies, but they are so desperate they will call fags back into service.” Bates moved over in front of John. “Have anything to say about that, fag?”
“That’s Major, Sergeant,” John said quietly.
“Right, he’s a major fag. He even married one of them. Should have realized what you were when they wanted you on the expedition. You weren’t man enough for it. But getting yourself kicked from the service wasn’t good enough for you. You had to ruin everyone else’s careers along with yours.”
John took a step back as the other two circled around him. This was going to be bad. Very bad.
“Because of you, 90% of us have been stuck on guard duty. Guarding crates in the middle of nowhere. Guarding little pussies like you who can’t be trusted to keep their mouths shut. Nothing but whining and boredom with no promotion and no chance to get out there and kick ass. They have their gate teams here already, and we aren’t invited.”
“I don’t know why you would blame me for not wanting to go on a suicide mission. It was volunteer only, and I just decided not to volunteer. All they had to do was let me walk away. The mission leaders were the ones who wouldn’t let it go and insisted on pushing it.” John turned slightly to try to keep all three of them in his peripheral vision.
“Bullshit. If it weren’t for you, we would have been there and back by now. Probably with all kinds of toys and weapons that would make us heroes here. Instead, we’re treated like their trained mutts while they let freakin’ civilians go through the gate and carry guns on their teams.”
John saw the movement coming and moved to give himself room to fight. He was in trouble, no matter what. But he was going to give as good as he got. He blocked the first punch and avoided the second before a third clipped him on the hip. Satisfied that he could claim self-defense, even if it wouldn’t stick, he anticipated the next punch and stepped back, so the man over-extended.
John grabbed the wrist and whipped the arm down and around to pull it up behind his attacker, forcing him down and forward. He used that leverage to spin and kick Bates in the face. The spray of blood and teeth were satisfying though he didn’t have time to stop and enjoy it. Number three got in a good punch to the eye that John just knew was going to swell shut.
He returned the favor with a brutal sidekick to the marine’s knee. Let’s see how you like rehab after surgery, asshole. He still hadn’t released number one when four more came piling in. Bates must have called in backup. Who’s the pansy now.
As the punches and kicks rained down, John’s last thought was of the happy feel of jerk number one’s shoulder dislocating and the sounds of his screams.
Rodney woke up to murmuring. Caleb and Maddie were gone. Damn, how long did he sleep? As he sat up, Lou and Joe approached the bed. Lou was out of her standard business dress and dressed for combat. He counted at least three weapons on her.
“McKay, how are you feeling?” Lou looked him over like she was judging his combat worthiness.
“I’m fine. How long was I out?” Rodney stood up and went to the restroom. “It doesn’t matter, you let me sleep too long. I need an update.”
“No, what you needed was sleep,” Joe interjected pointedly. “Now you need food and coffee, in that order. Let’s go down to the cafeteria and get something fresh.”
“I don’t have time to deal with all of the idiots around here. John’s expecting…”
Joe cut him off with a hand up and then stood tapping her foot with crossed arms and stared at his shoes with one eyebrow raised. Rodney looked down and then grumbled as he bent down to tie his shoelaces. She turned around and started walking as soon as he finished, and Lou followed her with a smirk. Rodney ran to catch up. How does a short little thing move so fast?
“Mr. Sheppard is expecting you to take care of yourself while we all work together to help him. You do him no favor working yourself sick when he’s counting on us.” They reached the cafeteria and sound stopped a moment as everyone watched him enter. “The entire building knows something is going on with Mr. Sheppard,” Joe whispered.
He hesitated just a moment before squaring his shoulders and following Joe and Lou to a table. Joe pointed at the chair before she turned with Lou to the counter to order simple scrambled eggs and toast for him. She grabbed a melon and one of the Rodney-special sized coffee thermos mugs from the counter. Someone had ordered a huge shipment of them for the office that had I’m with Genius printed on the front.
There was silence in the cafeteria until he started eating. Lou and Joe carried on a muted conversation regarding shoes of all things. He realized they were trying to put on a show for the staff, but he just didn’t feel like playing games right now. As soon as Rodney finished, he topped off his coffee and headed toward the door. He almost made his escape before someone from one of the administration offices that he could care less to remember a name for spoke up. “Dr. McKay?”
He stopped and turned around, frustrated to be delayed again. “What?! Don’t you people have work to do around here. Some of us are busy. Maybe you could focus on ways to finish your reports without needing a seven-year-old to proof your work, that would be great. Oh, wait. I have an English Professor here today. If you need help spelling, I bet he might be able to help you with hard words like unemployed.”
Faces around the room were suddenly smiling, and the man started laughing. “Go get-em Doc.” Rodney stared a moment, confused. People were just weird.
Joe watched the release of tension in the room with a satisfied smile. She exchanged glances with Lou and was happy to see a nod of acknowledgment. When she arrived back a couple of hours ago, she had taken some time to gauge the atmosphere. Now word would spread that McKay was still in fine form and that would help defuse some of the fear.
She hurried to follow McKay as he headed back toward the office that Radek, Miko, and Jeannie shared. They were working hard when her group entered, barely sparing McKay a glance.
“OK, so what have we got?” Rodney asked.
Jeannie looked first toward her brother and then hesitated on Joe before answering. “So far we’ve kept this legal, but we’ve gathered a lot of information. Full backgrounds for everyone on your list. We’ve been adding to the list with a network of who knows who. Some of these people need to learn that social media isn’t private. Miko has a whole drive full of sex videos from idiots that don’t seem to understand that people can track their IP addresses no matter what name they use.” Jeannie shook her head, and Miko raised an eyebrow at Joe’s blush.
“Several US Senators should check for hidden cameras before they indulge in their little fantasies.” Miko turned back to her work, unrepentant.
Joe had read the file on Miko when she was recruited. McKay had talked Patrick into hiring her in Japan right after the Sheppards rescued him from Russia. Her habit of gathering blackmail material for her own enjoyment was initially off-putting, but Joe was suddenly learning to appreciate it. The second rule of engagement in R&D was don’t piss off Miko Kusanagi, you will regret it for years.
McKay motioned with one hand. “Keep digging. Pass on everything that won’t incriminate anyone to Patrick. His team will see what they can use legally. But, don’t be above checking out the illegal crap. We are looking for leverage.”
McKay then turned and looked at Lou and her. Joe turned to face Lou as well.
She watched as Lou scrutinized them all over, analyzing in that way she seemed to continually do. “I’ve arranged for a shipment of supplies to arrive today. My tentative plans are for us to remain on campus for two weeks.”
Jeannie looked up, “You really think we’re going to be here that long?”
“I am preparing for much longer, but I prefer to make plans in controllable time-frames.” Lou turned back to McKay, “I sent a team to clear your house and bring you a bag. Patrick has authorized Friday off for all employees. So everyone is being encouraged to leave early today and take a long weekend. As you saw, they are aware something is happening with John. I don’t know where that rumor started, but we are trying to track it down. As soon as the employees leave, security is going to lock this place down for your protection. Please don’t leave the buildings without a security escort.” She met the eyes of each of them and then turned and left.
Joe was contemplating her words as she watched Lou leave. She spun around when McKay murmured, “Joe.”
“You aren’t sending me away.” She was nipping this in the bud.
“I don’t want to put you in a position where you will have to report what you’re seeing. We may be sending Patrick only the legal stuff, but we won’t let that stop us from finding whatever we need to get John back.” McKay tried to explain.
Joe straightened her posture to stand at her full height. “I realize that physically I resemble a twelve-year-old, but I am not a naive child. I have advanced degrees from the London School of Economics. They don’t hand those out to children.”
Joe could see from their expressions that she wasn’t making headway, so she changed tactics. “I am also not a neophyte in the realm of corporate politics and corruption. What you have to remember is people want power. But, the true power is not with the people, themselves. It’s the money, and I know how to follow the money. Fuck legal, McKay. We need to hack their finances and find out who is controlling this.” McKay’s eyes widened, and he drew in a quick breath. Joe wasn’t being sent away. She promised the Sheppards she would help. Joe had a job to do, and these wide-eyed academics won’t stand in her way. “They practically kidnapped him off the street in front of me. I refuse to let them keep him.”
McKay just stared at her a moment before snapping his fingers. “Right. Miko, Joe wants to play. Help her out.”
John woke up back in his cell. He winced when he moved and stopped to take stock. Damn, they did a number on him. At least one cracked rib on the right. A whole lot of bruising. His arms were bruised, probably when they were forcing him to let go of jerk number one.
He reached up and felt his eye. Yeah, swollen shut, but he didn’t feel anything scabbing over so no cuts. He touched his nose gently and took a long breath. Good, bruised but not broken, that was a relief. Carefully he stood up, the room spinning slightly, and moved to the toilet to take a piss. Well, no blood. So painful but not severely damaged.
John washed up and tried to decide what was next. He was probably going to regret the fight, but not at the moment. The memory of Bates shouting orders missing five front teeth was never going to get old. He smiled and grimaced when it stretched the skin around his face.
The sound of multiple feet approaching caught his attention, and he turned to face the door. It opened, and Sumner stood there staring at him. “Time for your next meeting, Sheppard.”
John tensed for a moment then just relaxed and allowed the men to enter and restrain him. It was going to happen no matter what, and he needed to control as much of it as he could.
He was moved to a meeting room and then handcuffed to the table before being left on his own. John closed his eyes and started going down his list. His first duet with Mom, horseback riding with Dave, the look of pride in his father’s eyes when he finally admitted to his father he was gay, riding Ferris Wheels at night, flying, Rodney’s eyes when he had a brilliant idea. He focused on each one individually, everything he loved about his life.
He kept his eyes closed as the door opened. The cloying scent of heavy musk overpowering. Weir needs to learn to put down the perfume bottle. John continued to keep his eyes closed as she took her seat. The little sound she made when he knew she got the first good look at his face sounded, pleased?
“I understand that you’ve been uncooperative this morning, John.” He opened his good eye to see the sick little grin on Elizabeth Weir’s face.
“They worded the invitation poorly,” John replied flippantly.
Elizabeth leaned back in her chair. “You know, I had high hopes for you at one time. I read your file. Your flight record was impressive. You were a superstar in the air. But you had a little trouble with authority on the ground. McMurdo was supposed to be a punishment, but you took to it like it was a vacation. I guess it was in a way, wasn’t it. You were given a hard ride out of Afghanistan. Most pilots don’t recover from the kind of black mark you were given. Deserved or not. But you didn’t let them stop you. I should have seen your obstinacy then.” She stood up and walked to the corner to get a bottle of water.
“Would you like one? Oh, sorry, your hands are otherwise occupied.” She smirked. Sitting down and taking a long drink, she put the open bottle in the middle of the table, out of his reach. She leaned back and crossed her legs. “You were offered amnesty. You should have been happy that I pushed General O’Neill to take you into the Program. But you just had to make waves. You had to go over my head and start asking questions you had no right to ask. Because of you, they’ve put all long-term off-world projects on indefinite hold until we have obtained reliable travel outside the gate system.”
“Hey, I just wanted to know how we were getting home if we got there and there was no power to dial back. I don’t think it was an unreasonable question.” John shrugged slightly, just enough that it was visible, not enough to pull at his cuffs and remind her he was chained.
“We don’t need a ship to come after us. We’re going to find the Ancient city of Atlantis. Just imagine what will be there waiting for us. What was left behind for us to discover.” Her voice held a bit of reverence that was frankly unnerving.
“So, how much have they left laying around here for us to find? I mean, if I read the briefing right, they seeded Earth, left here for Pegasus and, then eventually came back. What if they brought all their toys home? What if we get there and there’s nothing left to find?” John shook his head. “All I did was ask some questions because I was uncomfortable with the mission. I was brought in at the last minute and didn’t have time to assimilate much. So I asked questions and then when I couldn’t get answers, I walked away.”
“Yes, you walked away.” She leaned forward, staring him down. “You were the strongest gene carrier we ever measured, and you just walked away like it wouldn’t matter. Your DNA is so close to an Ancient that as far as the technology is concerned, you are one, and you really thought I could afford to let you walk away? We needed you on that mission. Once Doctor Kavanagh presented his findings of your interaction with the Ancient Outpost it was made clear to us that without a gene carrier at or near your level we would never be able to reliably operate the tech we’re going to find. You walked away, and you didn’t have the right.”
John leaned back away from her. “Last I checked it was a voluntary mission. I volunteered, I got a clue, I declined. That should have been the end of the story. The only reason they started an inquiry was because you tried to change the rules and force me to go. If you hadn’t pushed, they would have let you all go on schedule.”
“No,” Weir pointed at John as she spoke, “it was your fault. You wouldn’t do your duty as ordered and brought attention to a matter that should never have been their focus. You are the one to blame for the mission’s hold. Just you, John. When you gave yourself to the Air Force, you gave up the right to say no. When you joined the program, you gave up the right to say no to me.”
John shook his head in disbelief. “Lady, you’re crazy. It was a one-way mission, and no one was coming back. It was a suicide mission. I couldn’t legally be ordered on it. When you had that general issue the illegal orders, you bet your ass I fought it. Your damn scientists don’t even understand how the tech you love so much works. They may play around with their little theories, but I bet not a single one of them is smart enough to assemble one of those things from scratch. What are you going to do if you do find some ten-thousand-year-old tech in need of maintenance? So, yes, I raised a fuss and then walked away from my career to save my life. Why couldn’t you leave me to live it in peace?”
“You took away my dream!” Weir became agitated. “Did you know that they’re rethinking their decision to appoint a civilian to lead the mission? You damaged my political capital. People in power, people who matter, know I wasn’t able to close the deal with you. But, you couldn’t leave it at that, could you? You made them doubt me and, then you had to play hero and rescue Rodney McKay from Russia. How did you even learn about him? We had to pay them serious reparations when you aided Dr. McKay in evading his handlers. We’re still paying them.”
“You knew about Rodney?” John worked hard to contain his shock.
“Of course. I had plenty of scientists that didn’t have a habit of irritating everyone. It was easy to placate Russia with McKay when I took over the SGC. But you interfered. That seems to be a habit of yours.” She sat back again. “You’re always saving the wrong people, John.”
John slowly sat back, just staring. She was one manipulative, crazy, bitch. They didn’t forget about Rodney in Russia. They sent him to Siberia and never planned on bringing him back. “Rodney McKay is probably the smartest person on this entire planet. Hell, as far as I know, he’s the smartest person in this whole damn galaxy. Why would you give that kind of resource to someone who wouldn’t share his work?”
She scoffed dismissively. “He’s always been difficult to work with. Before McKay was snapped up by the SGC, I had the doubtful pleasure of working with him when one of his designs was needed to complete a trade agreement. Trust me when I say that he is difficult to work with, and frankly, people were relieved to be rid of him. No matter how smart he is, he’s disposable. No one missed him, John.”
“That isn’t the case now, though. Is it?”
“No, you’re right. People are going to stand up and pay attention to him now. But we really can’t allow him to share his knowledge with the world.” She picked up the bottle of water and took a small drink before using the bottle to gesture. “The world isn’t ready to know what’s out there. We need to protect all of them from themselves. The world isn’t ready for the kind of power a ZPM represents. We won’t allow Sheppard Industries to release his discovery.”
“You know we didn’t break our NDAs. I’ve never seen a ZPM.”
“But you know what one is—don’t you, John?” Her stare had that glint of something creeping back in.
“Yeah, the only thing we have you could want is our Ground State Energy Module. That’s what this ZPM thing is, isn’t it?”
She grinned, her lips turning up on the side, “Yes. I went back through the records, you know. McKay was sent to Siberia before we discovered the outpost. And you, you may have sat in the chair for an hour, but the video shows no one told you what powered it. And all of those reports you were given on the Program, none of them included the science. The one time you asked Doctor Kavanagh, he told you he was too busy to explain. It’s amazing, really. McKay truly is the smartest person around. He solved a problem no one has since the time of the Ancients without ever knowing it was possible.”
John cocked his head to the side, “How do you know we’ve solved it? You tried to contact me before we had a working model. So, how—you have someone on the inside.” It was a statement, and it pissed John off that he didn’t see it earlier. “Who? Who gave you that information?”
“The Russians were very upset with you and your father, John,” Weir answered in a sing-song voice.
“Michalovich, damn it.”
She leaned forward. “You still have a chance to cooperate. We can arrange for you to contact McKay and have him bring in all of the data and the prototype. When I’m able to provide the power to get us to Atlantis, they will fall over themselves to send the team. McKay can come with us. You can be together in Pegasus, John.”
“No way in hell, lady.”
Elizabeth leaned back. “You’re either together there, or you will never be together again.”
“You leave Rodney out of this.” John pulled on the handcuffs.
“I don’t think so, John. In fact, I think Rodney will be much more pliable than you’ve been.” Elizabeth stood and walked toward the door. “It’s been nice speaking to you, John. But I think I will let Rodney be the one to talk sense into you next time.” She stepped out, and the door closed behind her.
“Elizabeth! You leave him alone!”
Joe sat back and rubbed her eyes as her algorithm continued to run. She was tired, and her mother would be appalled that she had resorted to drinking the coffee, but she was too busy to go looking for her tea. Joe could hear her now, Josephine Leigh Brewer, a well-bred young lady drinks tea, not some sludge that has been popularized into a replacement for a proper restorative.
She shook her head and reached for the mug. Empty? How many has she had? She looked at the system clock and sighed. They had been at this for hours. Jeannie was having dinner with Madison and Caleb. She wanted to make this an adventure for her daughter because she was too young to understand anything except Uncle John was gone and Uncle Mer was sad and scared. They had all forced her to take Rodney with her. He just needed time to step away. And he did well connecting with Madison, it calmed him.
Miko was still typing away. Joe didn’t know how the woman did it. At the rate code flew past it was a wonder Miko even caught a tenth of what she read. But she was getting everything Joe asked for and then some. Joe got up and raised her cup when Radek looked. He glanced in his own but shook his head and stretched. Miko twitched, and Radek waved Joe off with a second no. Joe shrugged, she still didn’t understand how Rodney’s team communicated. Half of the time they didn’t finish a single sentence in a conversation.
Joe walked down the hall to the drink station. There was one in the main office, but they needed to have someone restock the coffee. Lou was sitting at the single table in the room with a diet soda, flipping through video on her tablet. She looked up as Joe entered.
Joe smiled, “Hello, sorry. We’re out of coffee in the room.”
“That’s quite alright. I will have one of my men restock that for you. I’m releasing maintenance for security purposes.”
“That makes sense. I was thinking of forcing Miko and Radek to get up and get food. Want to help?” Joe gave her best please face.
Lou grinned a real grin. “Let’s work together to make it happen.” She got up, and they headed back, “Are you making any headway?”
Joe groaned out loud. “There are a lot of corrupt people involved in this, not all are in the U.S. A lot of money changes hands, and it’s hard to track correlating actions. It’s all useful in the end. Mr. Sheppard is trying to identify who he will be able to pressure.”
“Well, if anyone understands manipulation and pressure, it would be Patrick,” Lou replied deadpan, and Joe giggled.
They re-entered the room. “Lou and I have decided we all need food to operate efficiently. Let’s go see if Maxwell is still serving the stir-fry.”
Miko didn’t even look up, she shook her head and never paused her typing. Lou passed by Radek, who was slowly finding his feet. Lou stooped down and lightly touched Miko’s arm. “You need a break. I know you’re capable of going non-stop, but we need to think marathon here. Take a break, recharge, come back with a new perspective, and look at the situation with clear eyes.” Miko hesitated in consideration, nodded, and finished the line of code she was working on.
Joe turned to place her cup on the desk and saw that her last run was complete. She pulled up the results to filter and save them for review after eating. As she waited for the save she glanced at the data and saw a number she recognized.
Joe dropped into the chair and started typing frantically. It caught the others’ attention, and they moved up behind her to watch.
Lou leaned over her shoulder, “Those are our personnel records.”
Joe entered her search and repeatedly banged on the enter key waiting impatiently for the results to show. When it did, she pulled up the original financial records to compare.
Lou started cursing. “Where is he?”
“Victor went to eat just after Rodney.” Miko murmured, staring in shock at the screen.
Lou took off running in the direction of the cafeteria, pulling her phone and her primary weapon as she ran.
“Higher, Uncle Mer! Higher!” Maddie yelled as Rodney pushed the swing again. He glanced to the side and saw Bentley standing at the end of the swing set, eyes faced outward.
Rodney turned his attention back to his niece. “Why don’t we try the teeter-totter next?”
“Yeah!” Rodney slowed the swing before she could try to extract herself from the seat. She ran to the equipment, and Rodney sat down on the opposite side, pushing up and down carefully to give her a ride while she laughed.
Victor Michalovich came walking from the opposite end of the campus. He raised a hand in greeting as he approached. Rodney saw him stop next to Bentley and turned his attention back to Madison.
Less than a minute later, Victor moved next to Rodney, “Dr. McKay, I think it’s time for us to go now.”
“No, I told Maddie she could have thirty minutes to play. Wait, did they find something?” Rodney looked up at Victor.
“You might say that.” Victor went around the other end and lifted Maddie off the teeter-totter. “It’s time to go now.”
Rodney turned to motion toward Bentley and saw him slumped on the ground. “What?” The feeling of a hard, cylindrical object poked into his side.
“Dr. McKay, you need to come with us now.” SUVs drove up to the other side of the fence, and two men got out and started cutting quickly through the chain link. “You need to think of Maddie now. The dose in this injection will render a grown man unconscious in seconds. Just think what it could do to a little girl.”
“Don’t hurt her.” Rodney moved slowly, dragging his feet.
They were almost through the fence when Rodney saw Lou and about twelve of her security running full tilt across the walk toward them. Victor saw them too and turned with his back to the fence, Rodney and Madison pulled close in front of him.
“Why are you doing this, Victor? You’ve been with us since the beginning.” Rodney asked breathlessly, he needed to keep it together. Maddie started crying but hadn’t made it to the hysterical phase yet.
“Since the beginning, that’s right. I have been here since the beginning. I was on target to go on the Expedition when John pulled the rug out from under us. Half the science team was let go until they decide to reform the mission. So, when this chance came up, Doctor Weir gave me a chance. We’re going to another galaxy, and I’m going to be the first one on the roster.”
“Another galaxy? Is that what John…” Victor jerked him back to stop the words.
“Don’t move, Ms. Phelps. Dr. McKay is coming with us.” Two of the men had made it through the fence.
“You should be aware there will be no warnings. I will not tolerate anyone touching my protectees.”
One of the men took Rodney’s arm and pulled him toward the gap in the fence. Rodney glanced toward Imes, who had positioned himself closest to the action. Their eyes locked. Rodney saw him flick his eyes to the side. Rodney took a breath and then let himself go lax.
Before he hit the ground, Imes tackled him and began to roll him toward the climbing rock for cover. A second man took the shot at his captor, hitting him in the chest. Rodney listened to the action from where Imes and now a second man covered most of his body with their vests.
“I’ll kill her. Let me out of here, or the kid dies.” Viktor sounded terrified, and Rodney felt the same. All he could think was, please save Maddie.
Lou’s voice came out soft and kind, “Maddie baby, look at me. Madison! There, that’s a good girl, look at me.”
“Stop talking to her!”
“Maddie, I want you to close your eyes, sweetheart. That’s it, close them tight and don’t open them until I tell you.”
Rodney struggled against his security, trying to drag himself forward. No. Don’t. A gunshot rang out, and the sound of a body hitting the ground. Rodney fought tooth and nail and couldn’t understand the words being said to him.
Finally, weight pulled off him, and he looked up to see Maddie in Lou’s arms, her eyes still closed. Rodney climbed to his knees, he reached for her, and Lou passed her over quickly. “Maddie.”
She opened her eyes and saw him, rumpled with a bruise blooming across his jaw, “Uncle Mer!” and the hysterical crying began but Rodney wasn’t sure if it was Maddie’s or his.