Radek watched as McKay stalked into the main science lab. The dressing down that was coming would be epic and the parts of him that had allowed him to survive his childhood in his native country were looking forward to the chaos. He had spent more than a year working with the Canadian at Area 51 as his second before they had transferred down to the Ancient Outpost. During that time, Zelenka could fondly remember the hours he had spent being viciously amused at how the other scientist treated people.
Since he had a tendency of actually being able to keep his mouth shut, Radek found himself with the reputation of ‘good guy’ to McKay’s ‘bad guy’. As soon as they had figured out the dynamics of their new status, the two of them used it to ride herd on the labs. McKay really was as smart as he claimed; he just had no tolerance for people or their feelings unless they interested him. And even then, he was likely to forget their names in a conversation, or just in general. The one thing he didn’t do was forget their qualifications.
The Czech blamed the man’s parents for that failing. He had seen it in other child geniuses who reached adulthood without snapping. Kids who had been thrust into the world of adults far too early and never allowed to be kids didn’t relate well to others when they grew up. That McKay had any manners at all was a testament to his teachers and the man himself. He was actually grateful now that his parents had worked so hard to keep him off the radar in Czechoslovakia. It hadn’t worked forever, but it had lasted long enough to give him the social skills most of his peers lacked.
At any rate, Radek was mentally aware enough to know that the feeling of enjoyment he had at another’s pain was a bit sadistic, but he really didn’t care. The person who had removed the two generators had almost fucked them over in ways that couldn’t really be counted. The whole city was lucky that nothing had taxed the system and caused the little power supplies to burn out. Because that would have been the best alternative. The worst would have been that the generators overloaded and blew them the fuck up in a quick fire of a nuclear fission explosion.
Neither were good options. He was glad that option three, nothing, had been what had happened.
Thinking about the show that was to come, Radek combed through his hair, remembering how Area 51 had only become interesting after Rodney took charge of the science division. One of the regular base personnel had been in place to start, and Radek hadn’t enjoyed his tenure in the least. Politics, backbiting, results stealing and, on one memorable occasion, attempted murder had abounded and been tolerated as the normal way to conduct research. At least it had until McKay had gotten sick of the mess and taken things in hand.
Rodney did not play politics. If he didn’t like you, you knew it and everyone dealt with it accordingly. If he thought he couldn’t work with someone, he either didn’t or he moved them somewhere others could, so he wouldn’t have to. Not the most normal or sanctioned ways of dealing with people, but it worked. And it got results.
What also worked was the man’s horrific habit of calling people out in public. Radek wasn’t sure why, but having McKay scream at some people seemed to straighten them out when everything else failed. Then again, he thought, Rodney only screamed at people when they did shit that was threatening life as they knew it. The rest of the time, he talked to them. And explained in very small words why they had fucked up and would never, ever do it again.
On the plus side, when he praised someone’s work, everyone in the lab knew that scientist had just done something good. McKay was not someone to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass and he never tried to be. Area 51 had been much better after Rodney had removed their original boss and stepped into his place.
The only one to complain about his treatment had been Kavanagh, and that had come after McKay has screamed at his sloppy work on the newest starship for over a week. That Calvin had fixed things without a qualm had been noted, but the American hadn’t liked being called a ham handed twit, which frankly was the mildest thing McKay had called him. He had complained about being called on the carpet in public. No one had any sympathy since all the minions had suffered the same fate at least once.
Months later, the whole department under the Canadian had headed down to Antarctica when the Outpost had been opened for exploration. The lead contenders for the Expedition’s CSO position had been Kavanagh and Simpson, with Rodney as the shoo-in as he had been in charge before. The politicking for the CSO position had been fierce and Radek had stepped back to watch the carnage. He had no want to try for the position and had determined that he work with any of the contenders.
Once they had gotten settled in, every single person but Kavanagh and Simpson had fallen back into the pattern of looking at McKay as the boss and Radek as his second. Smiling slightly, he remembered the arguments on that issue. Kavanagh had, mostly, settled down when he had been given his own projects, goals, and means to meet them. Simpson hadn’t. She had continued to complain and cause problems the entire time they had been down south.
When they had gotten back to the SGC, Radek had been very happy to dump her off with Carter’s people. He knew because he had seen the initial personnel list that McKay had tried to leave her behind. Weir had put her back on and assigned her as McKay’s second over a multitude of objections. The argument over that had been epic. But the Canadian had gotten his way in the end and Radek had taken his spot as 2IC as soon as they had stepped through the gate. Simpson had been aware of her demotion and had spent the weeks before their departure seething over it.
Now, thanks to what the Major had found, Radek was sure they were going to have another epic fit. Rubbing his hands together the Czech wondered where he could get some popcorn.
“So, imagine my surprise when I get called down to the power room,” McKay announced as he walked into the main lab. “I was in my private lab, working on the brand new problem of why our active gene holders were turning into creatures from the most insane of legends. I was even making something close to progress with Radek ably assisting. And then! I get a call from Sheppard that something is amiss in the power room.”
Rodney looked around at everyone and took careful note of everyone’s expressions. Most of his people had no idea what he was talking about, he could tell. The few who seemed to have a clue? He paid very close attention to them.
“So, you all know we have one ZedPM that is currently on its last ergs of energy, yes?” Rodney looked around and counted the nods. “To augment whatever we found when we crossed into Atlantis, we carried ten premade naquadah generators with us. We have the supplies to make another ten but they are buried in the back of some boxes somewhere in a supply room. I put six of the premade ones into the power room to handle everything we have been adding to the city. The other four are located in areas of heavy use. You know, medical, our new rooms, the commissary, and down here. So why then, did I get a call from Major Sheppard that there were only four generators currently installed in the power room?”
Rodney prowled around the front of the lab, carefully watching the ones he had noted earlier. “I have no idea if one of you morons knows what you did, but I want to enlighten all of you. It was determined that, yes, four naquadah generators could supply enough power to run the central tower and any low-level needs for the rest of the city. That would be things like the HVAC system, lights, basic computer use, heating water, running basic pumps. Other things like the stargate, the desalinization plant, the incinerator, buoyancy generators and ballast tanks, and the shields would need more energy than four generators and a mostly depleted ZedPM could supply. High energy uses like shields and thrusters to move the city, all would require a more energy and are out of our reach without another ZedPM to carry the load.”
McKay looked at everyone and pushed the point home. “How many of you know what happens when you overstress one of the Naquadah generators on a constant basis?”
The answer came from a source he didn’t expect and was very happy wasn’t on his list of assholes.
“They blow up,” Kavanagh informed the room, voice quiet. “A single generator has enough high-grade naquadah in it to wipe out a city the size of Colorado Springs in a massive fission-like explosion. So since there were four there and a ZPM? I can’t even figure out how big of an explosion that would be.”
“Oh, I can,” McKay informed the American scientist. “I can very well. At best, it would take out this hemisphere of the planet. At worst? There would be a new asteroid belt in this system. And we wouldn’t have known about it, because we would be dead. Now, I want to know who removed the generators, where they went to and under whose orders did it get done? You have thirty seconds to start talking.”
Rodney looked down at his watch and then up at his silent audience. “Starting now.”
Kavanagh held up his hands and stepped back. “It wasn’t me. I’ve spent the last twenty-eight hours getting the Crays in place and then getting the network up since Kusanagi wasn’t available.”
McKay didn’t even bother to glance at his protesting minion. “I know that, Calvin. You weren’t on the suspect list.”
The look Kavanagh flashed him was complicated and full of confusion. Rodney wasn’t interested in what was going on in the little shit’s head, so he ignored the whole thing. He didn’t have time to hold the other man’s hand through his personal mini crisis of the hour.
Looking around, the Canadian stared at each member of his team. He knew their weaknesses, their strengths, goals and dreams and the thought of one of them going along with what he had found was unforgivable. Rodney took a deep breath and glanced at his watch. The thirty seconds were officially up.
Taking a deep breath, McKay held it for a moment and then let it out in a controlled stream. This was going to suck, he thought bitterly. “Time’s up, boys and girls,” he announced. Rodney kept an eye on his problem children and pointed with his thumb at the door over his shoulder. “Since no one stepped forward, I’ll be dealing with this right now. Everyone but Kusanagi, Simpson, Miller, and Zelenka out of the room. Go do whatever it was you were doing before. If you were working in here, go either eat or clean up something.”
The rush of people towards the doors was gratifying. He knew he was an asshole, but there was a fair amount of respect in the looks flashed his way to go with the fear. The satisfaction he felt at the respect was there but pushed to the side. He had something else grabbing his attention.
“Kusanagi? When did you get your thumbs back?” Rodney asked. The term from Sheppard seemed very apt. She had had her mind, she had found her voice, and with the ATA responding, she could work on things that were related to them since she could use the equipment. But for the cables to have been removed, she would have needed her hands. There had been no teeth marks on the cables.
“Fifteen minutes before you called the meeting, Dr. McKay. I took the time to shower and brush my teeth before I came down here,” she said as she waved a visibly wet braid of hair at him.
“Right.” He could check the records, but he was 95% certain that Miko had had nothing to do with the fiasco before them. She was one of the people he couldn’t put to work with his other two suspects. If he did, there would be bloodshed and none of it would be hers.
Jerking his head towards the door, Rodney dismissed her. Miko didn’t look back, just slid out the door, leaving the CSO with his second and suspects. “I find it absolutely amazing that one of you thought that it would be a good idea to implicate that woman.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Simpson announced. She was doing her best to keep her face smooth and without expression, but Rodney had been doing this for long enough to know her tells. He kept an eye on her as he moved over to the bank of computers that Kavanagh had been working on. It took only moments to find one that was hooked into the network and he slipped a jump drive into the correct slot with ease.
“I really think you do,” Rodney fired back as he pulled up the computer logs from the scene of the crime. The file that showed whose log in had been used was easily highlighted. As were the lines showing who had entered the room and accessed the system. “Dr. Kusanagi had no thumbs at the time listed. It would be a bit hard for her to have typed anything into a key pad at that point.”
Simpson looked frustrated and Miller was starting to sweat. Neither were in the right mental spot though so he pushed again. “To make matters even more fun, in case you want to say Miko gave you the code, she didn’t get her voice until an hour after the cables were unlocked. Got anything to counter that?”
Rodney clicked on another file and he heard Radek sigh as a video came up. They had watched the whole thing on fast forward in the ZedPM room, but they hadn’t bothered to listen to the soundtrack. It was a bit sloppy, but they needed the generators back in place before anything untoward happened.
The video was completely damning and Rodney could feel his temper truly igniting as he watched two of his people put everyone on the city, almost 350 people in danger on the word of a moron. “What in the ever living hell gave you the idea that doing that was a good idea?” he asked as he pointed to the two of them disconnecting the second generator.
“Dr. Weir gave us an order. She is the leader of the Expedition and she is the one running this place!” Simpson blustered. Her face was ugly as she tried to explain herself, desperation leaking through.
“Dr. Weir is a fucking social scientist with delusions of competency! She isn’t a hard scientist, she isn’t a part of this department, and she in no way, shape or form knows what is going on with our power flows! Why did you listen to her?” Rodney moved over to lean into Simpson’s personal space, voice starting to rise. “You fucking well know better, since you’re at least familiar with how the damn things work!”
“Hey! Back off, McKay. The power is fine. There’ve been no problems since we removed the two generators,” Miller said as he tried to get in the way.
“Radek?” Rodney didn’t take his eyes off the two people in front of him.
The Czech put the current monitors of the power flows on the screen, blocking out the damning film. He watched as both of them saw the power projections. He knew, because he had pulled them up, that they had gotten very lucky. If anything unexpected had happened while the two generators that provided a cushioning effect had been missing, he wasn’t certain they would survive it.
“Still think that everything is peachy? You just put everyone on this city in danger. The explosion that could happen could take out the planet. And it would be fully on your shoulders. But hey! It won’t happen, right? And you won’t be at fault. Because you were told to do it.”
“She’s our boss,” Simpson told him softly, her eyes on the power flows behind him. From the way her eyes were moving, he was certain that she was tracking the line of red that was flowing over the graphs.
“Bull-fucking-shit. I’m your boss. Zelenka is your boss. Kusanagi is your boss. Weir is the figurehead sitting in an office somewhere that I report to when I have no other choice. Not you, not any of the other people you work with. No one else but me gets to do that. Because I. AM. YOUR. BOSS!” Rodney told her. He looked over at Miller and saw that the man was green around the gills. He had no sympathy. “Now. Where are the generators?”
“They’re in the storage room right outside the gate room,” Miller told him, almost whispering. “What is gonna happen?”
“Well, it has been fully proven that you two can’t be trusted to not try to kill everyone. So, you are both confined to quarters. If you don’t have a room, get one and stay there,” Rodney told them. “If we survive the next few hours, you will be tried in a quorum of your peers and we will determine your punishment as a department. But I can guarantee you; no one is going to want to work with you. And if I had my way, I would space your dumb asses before you contaminate anyone else with your rampant stupidity.”
Both scientists looked at him and then back at the screen before nodding and heading out the door. Neither of them was happy, but he didn’t care about their feelings. Rodney leaned against the nearest table and gripped the edge, trying to control his temper. Jesus fuck, they weren’t out of danger yet, but all of this was because Weir wanted to do what?
“Have no idea, but she must be stopped,” Radek told him.
“Shit, I was talking out loud?” Rodney asked as he moved over to the toolboxes lining the walls. Thankfully, most of the work had already been done to get everything into place, but there were some things he needed to get everything in place. His tools were right where he had left them and he quickly grabbed the ones he would need. “Right now, she’s not the important thing. The generators are our first priority.”
“Yes, I agree,” said Radek as he did the same.
Rodney tapped his radio and ordered Kusanagi to the ZedPM room to wait on them. Since Sheppard had locked it, he was fairly certain that she would be able to unlock it. “Cart?”
“Yes, I think so. Otherwise, generators are too heavy to carry and deal with easily,” Radek agreed as he started pushing the one parked by the door.
“We can work with that.”
The trip to the storage room was not fun. Way too many stairs. Why hadn’t the Ancients gone in for elevators? Had they all been fitness nuts? At any rate, there were several ways to get up there, and Rodney wasn’t certain that the cart was worth it. “Sheppard? I need four of your men to meet Zelenka and myself by the storeroom outside the gate room,” he demanded of the Major. “Leave the cart, this is taking too much time.”
Radek didn’t argue, just started moving up the stairs as fast as he could.
“You found them then?” the Major asked before the line went silent. “Stollins hasn’t gotten back to me.”
“Yeah, we found them,” Rodney agreed as he kept up. He was starting to pant and he checked one of the pockets in his cargo pants. He had a few Power Bars in case his sugars reacted to the exercise. “They are too bulky for us to handle without danger and we need to get them in quickly.”
“Bates and three others will be at the room and I just unlocked it. I’ll let Stollins know to call off the search,” Sheppard reported. Rodney blessed the ATA gene for all the good things that it was giving him right then because he had no idea how much time they had. Rounding the corner, he saw the four Marines waiting outside the door.
Stumbling to a stop, the scientist took a deep breath before waving at the door. “Inside the room, there should be two naquadah generators. I need you four to carry them down to the ZedPM room, two for each one, and do it as fast and as safely as you can.”
As soon as he got in the door, Rodney saw the two items in question and sighed in relief. They looked okay. Radek took one and he took the other and they did a very fast check to make sure nothing was amiss with the little power sources.
“All clear, take them down,” Rodney told the other four men before he turned around and started for the door. They still needed to get to the ZedPM room and make sure it was ready for them. It should be okay, but…they were so close to the edge right there.
Rodney started running down the hallway, the sound of slightly lighter ones keeping pace with him and heavier ones following behind. Crossing his fingers in a superstition that he really didn’t believe, McKay moved down the first set of stairs. Time was ticking.
John looked around the room and sighed. He had most of his new command gathered together for the meeting that he had called. The only exceptions were Bates, the three men he had assisting him with McKay’s project and the ones guarding the Gateroom. Well. And Lt. Ford.
“Ford.” Sheppard tapped his radio and tried to get his second in command on the line.
There was silence for a long count and then he tried again. When that still came up with nothing, John rubbed one finger at the spot right above his nose that ached and looked at one of the soldiers waiting on the meeting. “Smith, go check to see if the LT’s asleep. If he is, wake him up, please. If he asks, don’t debrief him as to what has been happening.”
“Yes, sir!” the Corporal acknowledged the order and then headed out at a trot.
Sheppard turned to look at the rest of the men and women under his command. “I need a report of everything that has been happening since I went to sleep after the party.”
The silence lasted for several seconds before Markham pushed forward with the large form of what had to be Stackhouse beside him. “Sir, we can get you up to speed.”
“I just bet you can, Sergeant. Stackhouse, good to see you,” Sheppard agreed with a nod towards the other wolf.
The wolf gave him a chuff and John grunted in agreement. He had a good idea of just how thrilled the other man was at being on four feet and without his voice. He made a mental note to talk to the two of them about what he had done to allow him to tie into the Ancient systems to allow him to talk. But first, he needed to make sure that the Sergeant knew that he wasn’t going to stay a wolf forever. “Next time you fall asleep and slip into REM, Sarge, you should slip back into your skin.”
The smile Markham flashed him was full of gratitude, and John watched as he ran a hand over the wolf’s head. From the way that Stackhouse tilted his head, the gesture felt good. Something to think about then. John sat down and waved a hand at the other two and they settled down to tell him everything that had been going on.
The feel of someone looking over his shoulder made him look up roughly thirty minutes later. Smith was back and standing behind him, waiting on a chance to interrupt the debriefing. “Sarge, what do you have for me?”
“Lt. Ford is on his way up, sir. His radio had slipped off and he was sleeping,” Smith reported.
“Right, I think I will be getting with someone in the science group to come up with some type of an alarm we can set if we have our radios off and someone needs our attention,” John mused. “Okay, I have a fair idea of what happened while I was indisposed. Who had the duty in the gate room?”
There was a shuffling sound as the men and women around him moved. He wasn’t going to compromise on what he was doing next because the lack of guards had left the city vulnerable to invasion. The stargate had a shield, but they couldn’t run it full time. Blinking, Sheppard filed that thought away. Might that be one reason why Weir had stolen at least one of the generators?
“I told the men on the lower gate room doors to head back, Major. And the ones inside too. The ones on the upper doors were told to stay,” Ford reported as he walked up to stand before Sheppard.
John held onto his temper and tried not to grind his teeth. “Who told you to do this?” Because it sure as hell hadn’t been him and he was very sure that Bates hadn’t. The Gunny had a lot more time in the Marines than Ford had in the Air Force and there was no way the man would have allowed that. “And why wasn’t it included in the report you gave me?”
“Dr. Weir mentioned that we had the shield around the Stargate and we needed the manpower to patrol the city. I left the two at the upper doors, just in case, sir. She stated that she would be updating you on the changes when she went to talk to you,” Ford said. He didn’t seem to notice that the rest of the military in the room moved out of the way.
“Lieutenant, when did she tell you this?” Sheppard asked carefully.
“About two hours after you turned in, sir,” Ford reported. He was starting to look a bit wide-eyed.
John hummed and stared at the younger man. “Two hours after I turned in? That means that I was available to be called to see if I agreed with those orders since I am the one in charge of the military on this Expedition, not Weir. Correct?”
Ford swallowed and nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“When I decided to put the guards up in the gate room, did I not say that they were there to protect the techs in the command center and also Weir in her office? Since we didn’t have ready access to the shield over the stargate?” John asked as he rocked back and forth on his heels.
The normal rule that he had learned in the Academy was that you corrected in private and praised in public. Something that he had been doing for his entire career, without fail. But this screw-up was too big, had too much potential to have killed them all for him to allow it to get swept under a rug. Ford was just going to have to take his humiliation with a straight spine.
“You did, sir.”
“Then why in the hell did you obey the word of a civilian? She has no say in how I assign the men and women of this company. Yes, if we have gate teams that go out to explore, there will be some overlap between the civilians and military, but she isn’t your commanding officer. I am. Why?” John demanded. He walked over to his second to look him in the eye as he tried to come up with an answer.
Ford was starting to sweat, John saw from his new vantage point. Excellent. “I did protest, sir. And I upped the patrols around the gate room.”
“Didn’t make a whit of difference, Lieutenant, since I saw no one when I was walking around on four legs instead of two. And no one noticed me and I was making a large amount of noise as well. Want to try that again?” Sheppard asked.
“No, sir.” Ford’s voice was very quiet and John nodded.
“I’ll be dealing with you later, Lieutenant. As for the four people who got dismissed and every one of you that didn’t show up later? Well, I know we are on the ass end of space, but I will be dealing with you. I can promise you that,” John announced to the room at large.
He quickly moved over to one of the crates that was still packed. Hopping up on it, he looked over the crowd. He had too few people for what they were going to try to do, but he was going to work with what they had. And John really, really hoped that they didn’t get it into their heads to snipe him when they were in the field. Having to do aerobics until you puked, while not fully what he wanted to do with his misbehaving people, would have to do. He couldn’t afford anything else.
“Gather ‘round, kids. Time to explain what has been happening for the last day or so. And how that is gonna impact things in the future.”
John was sitting in McKay’s private lab when he and Radek stumbled back in. He saluted both men with his coffee cup before taking a deep breath and chugging the liquid in it, shuddering at the taste.
“We haven’t even been here a week, Major. The stills can’t have gone up already,” Rodney said as he looked at the cup in curiosity.
“No booze, mores the pity, just stone cold coffee with no sugar or cream,” John told him.
“Yuck,” Radek offered as he went to test the carafe for warmth.
“That one’s cold too, Doc,” John informed him.
“Is fabulous, and we have no microwave to fix,” Radek huffed.
“Nope, they are still packed and with power the way it is now, I’m not certain if we should unpack them,” McKay informed him as he poured himself a cup of cold coffee.
John kept an eye on him as he drank it down and could only stare as he did it without a shudder before refilling the cup with more.
“Freak,” Sheppard mumbled into his cup.
McKay shrugged and pulled one of the lab stools out to sit on. “So, the two morons in my department pulled the Zed PM’s because Weir told them to.”
”Ford let the guards on the gate room go because Weir told him too as well,” John shared, voice grim.
“Medical keeps ATA carriers awake on her orders. She also bullied Carson into signing off on stims for Chuck,” Radek said as he paged through his email. “He is reporting to you about it, Rodney, and CC’d myself and the Major.”
“Jesus, what in the hell is she playing at?” John wondered.
“Her actions don’t make sense. Unhooking the generators and storing them in a closet by the gate room makes even less sense. They weren’t hidden, locked up or out of reach,” McKay told Sheppard. “All she did was come close to making all of us blow up. They weren’t even being used for anything.”
“She really had the generators moved by the gate room?” John asked carefully.
“Yes, she did. Why?”
“Because she told Ford that the reason he could remove the guards from inside the gate room was because we had the shield around the gate,” Sheppard told the two scientists.
“But we don’t! I told her very plainly that we didn’t have enough power to run the shield 24/7 and wouldn’t until I could get a handle on the power situation,” Rodney protested
“Was in meeting with you. She seemed to understand that shield was not readily available,” Radek confirmed.
“Maybe she didn’t,” John speculated. “It wouldn’t be the first time a traumatic event snapped people’s underlying control. Fear is a powerful motivator and can turn smart people dumb.”
“But she was told we didn’t have the power to change things and wouldn’t have it for about a week,” McKay argued, staring at his second. “And I know you and I told her we would be able to get at least one spare generator together by then, if not more, with one being patched into the gate shield if we could confirm the generator could handle the load.”
Radek sighed and John looked at the engineer sharply. That hadn’t been a good sigh. “But that was time she apparently didn’t want to wait, Rodney.”
“Why? The Major had men with very large guns standing by, ready to protect the gate room by shooting any intruders,” McKay informed the room.
“Very large guns, McKay. The biggest I could find that were easy to carry,” John agreed.
He had managed to get a good batch of .45 cal carbines added to their TOE and the Major had a feeling he was going to want more. The heavier the caliber the better, right up to and including a gross of .50 cal Desert Eagle handguns. If they ever got back in touch with Earth, they were going on his wish list…
“But guns are not Ancient shield that had just kept two spaceships from coming into city. Filled with beings that wanted to eat her,” the Czech argued.
“Can this really boil down to something like fear?” McKay asked as he ran a hand over his face.
“Well, I would hope there would be more, but at the base, it seems likely,” John allowed. “That and a fair amount of stupid thinking on some people’s parts.”
“Oh, a great deal of stupid thinking,” Radek muttered. “We’re having to figure out what to do to punish those who nearly killed us.”
John winced. Yeah, that was going to suck. “I don’t think it would be wise for me to be a part of that.”
“We know, Dr. Sheppard,” McKay said with a cheeky grin. “Seriously, we are going to have to put a quorum in together to deal with this and it is gonna suck so badly.”
“I’m gonna need to get with Beckett when he gets human again. There are some things I am going to do that will cause some ripples his way,” John informed the scientists. “I’m also going to need to talk to whoever is in charge of the IT department on the city.”
“Privilege restrictions?” Rodney asked with a raised eyebrow.
“About all I can do to them without unduly impacting readiness,” John admitted. “Well, that and run them through a series of exercise routines until they puke.”
“Good idea to warn Carson, then. His nurses will appreciate it,” Rodney confirmed. “Should we do the same?”
Radek shook his head. “No, puking would happen far sooner than Major would want.”
“Yup,” John confirmed. “If it takes tag teaming them, they are all going to puke. And then they are going to lose any rights to the entertainment servers. I want the only reading material those men have access to for the next six weeks to be the various Operations Manuals from every military represented in the Expedition.”
“Sounds riveting,” McKay muttered.
“Well, it really isn’t supposed to be fun.” John was also thinking about having the eight members who hadn’t bothered to show up for their watches do some other stuff around the tower. Scut work for punishment it might be, but the danger the Expedition had been in was very real and they needed to know their actions had consequences. “What are you going to do with yours?”
“No idea. Well, nothing definite,” Rodney admitted.
“Me either,” Radek agreed. “But this is why we have quorum to help decide.”
“But first we need to deal with Weir,” John cautioned.
Elizabeth turned around from her contemplation of the stargate from the walkway to her office and looked at one of the banes of her existence. Dr. M Rodney McKay, Ph.D., Ph.D. and all around smartass. He was too smart, too sure, and he had lied to her.
“Dr. McKay? How can I help you?” she asked carefully as she settled behind her desk. She was in control. She had the power. And she was smarter than everyone in the city. Hadn’t she proven that by getting them to the City of the Ancients?
“I have some questions for you about what we are doing with the city,” he said.
She cocked her head to the side and watched him. The Canadian’s eyes were calm and he was looking straight at her. Elizabeth had seen McKay trying to lie and the man was awful at it. He stuttered, sweated and his eyes went everywhere. There was none of that.
“The SGC wants us to find and deliver to them Ancient technology so they can use it to fight the Goa’uld,” she explained. “I think that since we are here and living in the City of the Ancients, we need to see what they left for us regarding their culture. And perhaps something about their search for Ascension. The process seems to have given Daniel Jackson some advantages.”
The look on McKay’s face was complicated. She didn’t hold it against him. Not fully. He was a man who believed in what he could see and touch and she was telling him that he needed to trust more in something outside his normal environment. “This is what we will be doing. And we will be safe.”
“Safe?” he asked.
“No one knows where we are and we can look at and study the city without a problem,” Elizabeth informed him. Somewhere in her memory, she heard the sound of two deep thuds hitting a huge drum and reverberating through her bones. Shoving the thought aside, she concentrated on what would happen when she Ascended. She would be safe.
“Okay,” McKay agreed with a nod. “I think I will be getting back to work making sure we can start exploring the city.”
Smiling, she nodded. He understood! “Please make sure that the cats and dogs that have appeared are under control.”
“We can do that, Dr. Weir. You stay here and rest. I’ll send Miko up with some tea. I think she brought a set,” he offered.
Smiling she nodded before turning to look at the stargate again. “Thank you. That would be lovely.”
Rodney held his peace as he walked out the door of Weir’s office. Once he got to the main console, he pushed Stollins’ chair out of the way so he could get at the computer tied into it. The tech just raised her hands and pushed her chair back further. Accessing the internal scanners, he replayed the results from the last 28 hours. Nothing. Nothing that could explain the batty woman who was sitting in the place of the hardnosed bitch Sheppard had encountered. Tapping his ear piece, he opened a channel.
“Kusanagi, I need you to get some tea together for Dr. Weir. Please be as nice and as sweet as you can be without getting artificial. I’ll pay you back later this afternoon.” Rodney pinched the bridge of his nose, then tapped his earpiece again and opened a new channel. “Heightmeyer, this is McKay. I need you on the command deck. Now.”
“Sir? Is something wrong?” Stollins asked as she scooted the length of the console.
“Do you have any idea why Dr. Weir is acting like a hippy on weed?” He demanded.
“No, sir. But she’s been flipping back and forth between being really militant and being really flighty all night long. So, I’ve basically been writing down all of her requests and orders and I was planning on stopping by your lab after my shift so you could go over it,” she explained.
“Oh, very good, Dr. Stollins! I think you just won the award for most intelligent minion for the month,” McKay crowed.
“It’s under ‘grocery list’ in Word, sir,” she directed.
“Found it,” he muttered as he started to read.
Weir had been swinging back and forth between functionality and fluffy for most of Stollins’ shift. From the time stamps of the earliest entries, some of them might even be from Chuck. Jesus, the leader of the Expedition had cracked. Opening a blank email, he started typing in his own observations and attached the tech’s list before sending the whole mess to Heightmeyer and Carson. The sound of the door to the command deck pulled his attention away from the computer and he looked up to see the shrink walking in.
“You called, Dr. McKay?”
“Yeah, I did,” McKay agreed. “Take a look at that.” He waved a hand towards the computer files.
The door on the level they were on opened and he held his breath as Kusanagi walked in with a tray laden with a steaming teapot surrounded by nibbles. He crossed the room over to her to give her a brief description of what she was walking into. “You so, so owe me, McKay. Just because I’m female and Japanese, doesn’t mean that I will do the tea thing every time you need me to charm someone.”
Rodney nodded. He knew exactly how hard the woman before him had worked to be more than her looks and ethnicity. “I chose you because you are about as innocuous as they come in the sciences, you can hold a straight face no matter what is happening around you and you are more than smart enough to keep up with any changes she might throw at you.”
“Flattery will keep me from denuding your chocolate stash,” she told him with a sigh. “But I want a set of shortbread cookies before the flour is all gone.”
“Is Heightmeyer here to back me up?”
“I think so,” he allowed. He was keeping a careful eye on Weir as they talked. The glass office being clear from this side was a blessing at this point. From what Sheppard had told them, the chances of Weir being able to see out in their direction were rather slim since she hadn’t moved a muscle.
“You don’t find the easy ones for me, do you, Dr. McKay?” Heightmeyer asked as she walked up beside Kusanagi.
“Doesn’t look like it, no. Miko, Kate, I will leave this in your capable hands. I need to start putting together the quorum to deal with Simpson and Miller,” Rodney told them.
“Already done and scheduled for twelve hours from now, Dr. McKay. We’ve got this. Now go get some sleep so you make sense at the meeting,” Miko informed him. She was gesturing with her filled tray towards the door.
Rodney knew when he was done. “Going. Stollins, Grodin is your relief. He should be up in an hour.”
“Yes, sir! Good night!”
Stepping through the door into the main part of the city was one of the hardest things he had ever done. He had no idea what had caused Weir to go off the rails, but she had. Rubbing his forehead he went in search of Carson, Radek, Sheppard, and hot coffee. He needed to let them know the latest clusterfuck before he could sleep.
What a day.
“Weir is totally batshit insane,” McKay told the conference room as he came in to the space the senior staff had confiscated to allow everyone to talk.
“You look like shite, lad,” Dr. Beckett observed from his spot on the couch they had dragged in. “When did you last get some sleep?”
John looked more closely at the scientist and winced. The man looked horrible. He had huge bags under his eyes, his complexion was starting to grey, and his hands were shaking.
“You and Kusanagi have got to stop trying to get me to sleep,” McKay bitched. John watched and the shaking didn’t slow down at all.
That right there was cause to worry, given the man’s fully admitted hypoglycemia. John sat up and tried to remember if there had been any food when he had left the scientist’s lab to go deal with things. “McKay. Rodney, when did you last eat?”
“Uhm?” McKay looked at his watch and frowned.
“Whenever it was, it was too long ago if you can’t tell time,” Carson declared. “I’ll be back in ten minutes. You sit down and eat one of those nasty Power Bars you like so much.”
When McKay didn’t argue or protest the high handedness of his friend, John twitched. If the irascible scientist was quiet and accepting, his blood sugar obviously wasn’t good. He kept a close eye on the other man as he slowly consumed one of the many Power Bars he carried in his pockets.
“Do you think anyone told Carson we are looking at a 28 hour day? And that was why I was checking my watch?” the scientist asked as he neatly folded up his trash.
“I know I haven’t.” John shrugged before sitting forward “What did you mean ‘she’s batshit insane’?”
McKay ran his hands over his face after he dropped the wrapper and sighed. John noticed that the shaking in them had gone down a lot thanks to the food. “Let’s wait for a few. I need to eat a real meal, we need Carson in on this, and it would be wise to add Heightmeyer as well.”
Jesus, that sounded bad. The Expedition shrink was needed? “What’s Kusanagi doing?”
“Later Sheppard, I promise,” McKay muttered into his hands.
“Okay. “ John pushed his curiosity aside and tried to think of something, anything else. Not that he liked to talk, because he really didn’t, but staring at the scientist like he was a specimen was unkind. “So, Stackhouse has gone back to human again. He took a nap and just transformed right in the middle of it and kept on sleeping. Everyone who was in the room with him said the process sounded gross, but he didn’t seem to be in any pain. Chuck, when I made it to the conference room he was stashed in, had finally gotten to sleep and on his first pass through REM turned into a cat.”
The scientist chuckled softly at the last bit of news. “I would have expected him to be a wolf as well.”
“He was thinking that he would be one as well, but he missed that. Now, thanks to one of the social scientists squealing over his new form, he’s also a very awake cat. Who seems a lot more grumpy than normal,” John recalled.
“All that caffeine they gave him had to have some effect. But since he is a cat, someone might want to check how he’s doing with it in his system. It isn’t good for them,” Rodney commented.
“Point, but it is going to be a while before he can sleep, I bet,” John said.
“Cats can sleep up to twenty or more hours out of any given day on Earth, Sheppard. And they aren’t known for the long distance, run you into the ground hunting style that canines are known for. Have him chase one or two of your men up and down the corridors until he falls out and takes a nap. Should work,” McKay offered with a slightly smug smile.
“How in the hell do you know that?” John asked. He had been planning on asking one of the biologists what the pros and cons of his new form was. Well, he still was. After he went to see Beckett and his merry band of bloodletters to see if turning into a giant wolf had any unusual aftereffects beyond the improvement to his senses.
“I’ve been owned by cats before. Admittedly, not one as big as Chuck is or even one the size of Miko, but my favorite breed can get up to twenty plus pounds.” The scientist chuckled and shook his head. “Magus still liked to leap down onto his prey to stun it and then kill it.”
“What cat gets to be over twenty pounds? Bobcat?” John asked. He liked dogs, had always had dogs as a kid and frankly, dogs could run with him. Which reminded him of another thing he needed to know. The next time he transformed, he wanted to go for a long run around the city. It would test his nose and also let him explore some of the areas. Especially the lower levels of the tower they were in.
McKay laughed. “Nope. Maine Coon. They are sweet cats, all fluff, purr, and pushiness. Plus they are highly trainable and can learn commands like a dog can.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“They are and I miss my cat. Anyway. I think I am going to take the chance and have Carson administer the gene treatment. All it has to do is switch on the part of the ATA sequence that I don’t have active at this time and then we shall see what happens,” McKay told him with a sideways look. “I figure if I go barmy or furry due to it, you can keep me in place.”
John nodded. “Yeah, I can do that. Shouldn’t be a problem.”
The door opened and Beckett, Zelenka, and Biro stepped in, all of them carrying trays piled high with food. “The mess is running, Major. Your men are currently cooking up a good bit of food and making sure that everyone has a hot meal.”
“Did you check?” McKay asked carefully.
Beckett nodded. “No lemon anywhere, lad. And if there is, the cooks promise to label the food with it in it. They are already labeling for wheat, soy, and peanuts.”
“Food allergies are no joke, Doc. The guys running the mess are Navy Mess Specialists and they are well aware of how careful they have to be. They are basically running a kosher kitchen depending on the dish,” John told the Expedition’s CMO.
“Good,” Beckett informed him with a careful sigh. “I saw too many people in the SGC coming in with allergic reactions due to the food the natives had eaten without a qualm. Radek? Do you think there is any way that we can adapt the little Ancient handheld scanners to look for allergens and display a readily agreed upon signal?”
“Better to ask Major if can be done,” the Czech told the doctor.
Carson turned to look at John. “Can you?”
“I really don’t know,” John confessed. He was watching as the people who had gotten the food laid everything on the table and passed around plates and cutlery. “I don’t see why not.”
“Excellent. Please work on that. Now, can you come here and eat? You are too skinny.” The doctor waved at the food before looking at McKay. “The same goes for you, Rodney. Eat something.”
Laughing softly at how pushy the good doctor was, John complied. He would be finding out what in the hell was going on from McKay, but he was certain it wouldn’t be right then. Now, he was hungry, there was food and he could enjoy it quite a lot.
They had just finished dinner and were sitting around the table when John brought the subject up again. “McKay, why did you say that Weir was ‘batshit insane’?”
“Because she is. Totally and completely cracked and off her rocker,” Rodney told him. The memory of the whole conversation he had had with the leader of the Expedition flashed through his head and he had to suppress his twitch. “When she came down to see us in my lab, she was pretty much the Weir we had all met in the lead up to coming out here. She was in control, no nonsense, and on top of her game and as sharp as always. She was following all the threads of events and managing the response, even if it was in ways that we weren’t happy with it.”
”I can agree with that assessment,” Carson muttered into his coffee cup. “She was incredibly involved in every part of getting ready for this Expedition. Down to helping me pick the blankets for the beds in medical. She was doing the same thing while we were trying to figure out what had changed the three of us over.”
“So what? She’s obsessive and controlling?” John asked.
Before Rodney could answer, the door to the conference room opened and Miko and Kate Heightmeyer walked in. Miko still had her tea set in hand, but the tray of nibbles was empty and the pot was turned upside down. Both women wore looks that Rodney could only label as being deeply creeped out.
“Didn’t I tell you to go to get some sleep?” Kusanagi demanded as she slid her tray onto the table and then settled her hands on her hips. She was glaring at her boss and Rodney could almost see the tapping foot.
McKay winced. It was a smart man who refrained from pissing off the women in their lives. Even if they were just friends. This one most of all. Given that most of his life revolved around computers, having his log in do weird shit would be bad. Not having one at all until he did what she wanted was worse.
“He will, lass. But first, he needed to eat an actual meal and let us know what we are up against,” Carson soothed.
Miko snorted softly and moved around the table to drop into a seat by the doctor. “I can accept that. But he still needs to get some sleep before we deal with Simpson and Miller in just over eleven hours. Otherwise, he’ll be unbearable.”
Radek growled lightly and pushed his glasses up before pinching the bridge of his nose. “Might not be a bad thing then. Others would learn to use brains before doing stupid shit.”
McKay looked at Heightmeyer and relaxed slightly at the smile she was wearing. “So I was starting to explain why Weir is batshit insane.”
Heightmeyer looked at him for the term and then shrugged. “Not the technical term I would use, but basically true.”
Rodney sat back and watched as everyone reacted to her announcement. Shock, disbelief, and anger were all there to see. He wasn’t too calm either. “She seemed to think we all came out here to Atlantis to try to Ascend, not get the tech and weapons like the SGC wants. She seems to think it is the only way to be safe.”
“While Miko and I were having tea with her, she moved back and forth between the two states. The ‘original’ Elizabeth, the one we all met on Earth, and ‘altered’ Elizabeth, who seems to have developed here on Atlantis,” Kate told them as she reached for a coffee carafe. “There seems to be no real overlap, but she tracks through both of them. Everything that she seems to be dealing with appears to go through the ‘altered’ state with the ‘original’ state being the part of her that is starting to plan on how to make her delusions a reality.”
Rodney pushed the spare cup over to her and then the cream and sugar. The room was silent as she doctored her cup and took a sip. “At any rate, Dr. Weir is as of right now, not qualified to lead the tea party we just had with her, much less the Expedition. Carson, I am formally recommending that she be stepped down as leader until she comes back to herself or she gets shipped back to Earth.”
“Fuck. Are you certain lass?” Carson asked urgently. “You didn’t spend a lot of time with her after all.”
Kate sighed and exchanged a glance with Miko. “Yeah, I’m sure Carson. What is going be hard is deciding what we are going to do with her. We don’t have the drugs her care requires and confining her somewhere safe could be bad for her. Let alone how we are going to manage to care for her.”
“God, it’s like a mess of bad choices,” Rodney muttered. “What if we found a good suite of rooms with a balcony and some room for her to roam? I can hook a generator into the rooms so she will always have power and make sure the balcony has a shield so she can get sun and air, but can’t do anything drastic.”
“My nurses can do a lot of the daily care around their shifts,” Carson volunteered. “And I have the chemical formulas for most of the standard pharmacopeia; you can come and see if anything I have might help.”
“We can work with both of those suggestions,” Kate told them. ”I would also suggest that her command codes be stripped out of the system before she does anything. Her ‘original’ state is cognizant enough to do a lot of damage if she isn’t confined.”
”I already have that prepped, Kate,” Miko announced from behind one of the many laptops in the room that she had commandeered. “I just need two other command level people to sign off on the restrictions.”
“For obvious reasons, I can’t be one of those people,” Sheppard said and held up his hands when he was glared at. “Guys, I’m the current head of the military here on Atlantis. We want to minimize any thoughts of this being a coup d’état and stuff.”
“Right. So that leaves Carson and me with Kate putting her recommendation in to make it official.” Rodney huffed and waved at Kusanagi to pass him the laptop.
“That works for me,” Kate agreed with a controlled exhale. Rodney flashed her a concerned look and then another at Carson as he took the computer to complete his part. As soon as the CMO entered his codes and hit enter, Weir was firmly locked out of everything.
“God, that felt horrible,” Carson muttered, rubbing one hand against his breastbone. Biro patted him on the shoulder and something in Rodney relaxed at the obvious care his friend’s 2IC had for him.
“We’ll make it work, Carson,” she murmured.
“We’ve got to,” the Scotsman agreed. Taking a deep breath, he looked at the rest of the room. “Should we send anyone up to sedate and move her?”
“We don’t need to,” Miko said softly. “When I set up everything to lock her out of the system, I put her on a fake drive. She can enter her command codes all day long and the system will say that things are going just as she directs. In reality, she isn’t getting beyond one of the gaming areas on Cray number four.”
“That is a relief. We need to set up her new rooms before we confine her,” Biro announced. Looking around the room, she frowned. “Do we have any idea how long it will be before the ships under construction are ready?”
Everyone turned to look at him and Rodney sighed. “Six months for the Prometheus and a full year for the Daedalus.”
Sheppard sat up abruptly at the news and made grabby hands at a laptop. Radek silently shoved one down towards the Air Force officer and everyone waited. Whatever it was that had caused that reaction had to be interesting at least.
“We have food for four months, maybe six if we start to ration at breakfast,” he told them after several minutes accessing something.
“Maybe she started cracking before we left Earth?” Radek asked the quiet room. “The production and completion dates on the ships had been open news for anyone at Weir’s level at the SGC.”
“Okay, everyone, time to get everything we have on the table. Full and total disclosure of what was brought, no matter how minor. Down to the equipment for the stills,” Rodney announced. Nodding at Radek, he directed his second to pull up their real inventory list. Not the one he had shown Weir, O’Neill and the IOC.
“You take all the joy out of my life,” Radek bitched as he pulled the document up. “See if I give you any of my production.”
”The only reason you are going to have the possibility of a production, you crazy Czech, is because I signed off on bringing in the damned things,” McKay muttered.
Sheppard started laughing at the two of them and they both turned to frown at him. He just laughed harder. “Jesus, I thought you we kidding about the stills. What kind?”
”I brought basic vodka still and one for white lightening. The results of that one can be aged to make whiskey or bourbon if find the right ingredients,” the Czech said smugly.
“Well, if we can afford it, put me down for a bottle of each,” Sheppard told him. “McKay, I need to get Bates up here if we are going to talk about supplies. And MS1 Cooper. She’s in charge of all the food we have.”
“Should we get the Athosians up here too?” Kate asked.
Sheppard shook his head. “No. Not right now. Once we have figured out our supply situation, I might feel more comfortable sharing that with them.”
“What about heading back to Athos to see if we can clean out anything salvageable?” Biro asked. “The people I’ve been talking to as we’ve treated them think there should be a lot left to rot if they don’t go back.”
”The Wraith were firing against the village, I don’t know how much might be left,” Sheppard offered.
“They know, Major. But unless the Wraith are hanging around in orbit, the surviving Athosians would like to go back and see if there is anything left,” Kate said quietly. “If nothing else, it would allow them some closure. They lost a lot of their population only a few days ago and this would allow them to close that chapter of their lives. Plus it would let us check to see if anyone else survived.”
“We can go in puddle jumpers so we have a quick way to get everyone under cover if needed. And someplace to store what they recover,” Sheppard said. ”That means that Stackhouse, myself, Kusanagi, Carson and Chuck as ATA carriers will be on for pilot duty.”
“You can’t all be off the city at the same time,” Rodney told the Major firmly. Having every ATA carrier gone at the same time would be deeply bad if there were any emergencies.
“Not all at once, okay,” Sheppard agreed. “I also want everyone who shows the recessive genome to get offered the gene therapy.”
“Almost ready for that,” Carson confirmed.
“Me first!” Rodney cut in.
“Me second.” Biro raised her band.
The door opened and Bates and another woman came walking in, both carrying laptops, a tablet and, in the case of the Gunnery Sergeant, a paper notebook. Rodney raised an eyebrow at that. He wasn’t aware that Bates was that much of a Luddite.
“If it’s on paper, it’s easier to slip it under the radar, Doc,” Bates explained to him.
“Okay, let’s get this started. We need to know exactly what we actually have to work with.” Rodney called the expanded meeting to order. Checking his watch, he saw he had about nine and a half hours before the quorum. He just hoped he could get a nap in somewhere.
“Okay, folks. As you know, the scientists are holding a quorum to deal with the people who disconnected and moved the generators. We should hear the results of that sometime soon.” John took a deep breath. He looked up and down the table they had taken over in the senior staff room. “But we have our own mess to clean up, too.”
“Yes, sir, we sure do,” Bates agreed. His voice was tight with irritation, and John couldn’t blame him for it. It had been his men who had screwed up and concealed their crime. And were now on the block with the ax was coming to chop them to bits.
“Are we going to be using the UCMJ to try them?” Stackhouse asked from his spot down the table.
John made a note on his tablet to talk to the man about the lingering effects of the transformation. “Yes, but not the section that will let me shoot them for dereliction of duty. And no, I am not angling for that. No matter how dire things may look.”
MS1 Cooper snorted softly. “We’re on a floating city. I vote that we keelhaul them.”
“The city is the size of Manhattan, Coop. Exactly where did you want to tie a rope off of to drag them against the bottom of the city?” Markham asked, curious.
“The width of one of the piers might be good,” Bates mused.
John chuckled and waved a hand at the group in front of him. “You lot are awful bloodthirsty.”
“Yes, sir. But I’m not fond of the feeling of having my ass in a sling,” Cooper told him, eyes serious. John liked the woman who managed the mess. She was frank, knowledgeable and took no shit from anyone. As it was, she was one of the most pleasant US Navy sailors he had ever encountered. On the other hand, the lady played with knives all day long. He wasn’t planning on underestimating her for any reason.
“And they left us in one,” John agreed. “I fully and totally agree that they need to get punished for it, but I am not willing to unduly impact the levels of readiness that we need to maintain. We haven’t even been on the city for a week and we aren’t running missions. The eight men and Ford have all screwed up. But now I need to know the pros and cons of what to do.”
His senior enlisted members all looked at each other and sighed. “This isn’t normally how we do this, sir,” Cooper observed.
John looked at her and then around the room at the other three men. “Coop, I have me and Ford as my whole officer corps. There is no one else to talk to about what in the hell I’m supposed to do about the people who screwed up. I’m not willing to talk to the civilians in the Expedition about what’s happening with my command either.”
“Damn it, sir. He’s right guys. Suck it up and let’s get this taken care of. I am still tired and I would like a chance at sleeping. Fur or not,” Stackhouse informed them.
“You aren’t the only one, Sergeant,” John agreed. Tapping his stylus against his tablet he brought up the first man’s file. “Okay, we have Lance Corporal Anders.”
The discussion took more than two hours before they had hashed out a plan to punish the eight members without completely destroying unit cohesiveness. Even taking into consideration Sheppard’s desire to have them do PT until they puked and then repeating it all until they puked again. For that, the five of them worked out a schedule of when they would tag out and what they would be doing. It wasn’t going to be fun for anyone, but it would get the point across.
The eight men who had left their duty stations without reporting it were also sentenced to completely field day the cleared floors of the tower they were living in. Since the place was over 250 stories tall, they had decided to call the thing a starscraper instead of a skyscraper. At over a mile and a half high, it was huge. And they had only the vaguest ideas of what was outside the dozen floors they had explored.
Since the Ancients had been nice enough to use ‘dust cloths’ to protect their electronics, it was certain that they were in decent shape. What wasn’t certain was the rest of the stuff in the rooms. The plants the Ancients had scattered through the whole place were most sincerely dead and needed to be disposed of. And then there was the furniture and stuff that was left. The in depth cleaning had to be done, and it would be nasty, dirty work that the guys could do and not have it affect their overall readiness.
“Okay, I can live with this as their punishment,” John said as he jotted down the final decisions on each man’s record. “Depending on how they act over the next months while we wait for a ship from Earth or the discovery of a ZPM, we might not have to send them back. Because right now, if I had the ability, I would be shoving them back through the gate for being stupid dumbasses.”
Cooper started snickering and everyone else at the table joined in. The day had been too damn long and they were all punch drunk. But they still needed to figure out what to do with Ford. “So, Ford.” John laid the elephant in the room out on the table.
“Sir, you have to know that none of us will be able to work with him easily,” Bates informed him, voice apologetic.
“Yeah. I know,” John agreed and ran a hand through his hair. “This is gonna go over so badly with the SGC.”
“Not it,” Cooper announced unexpectedly. John snorted and shook his head. The other three men were looking at the only woman among them in curiosity. “Guys, he needs an officer corps. If Ford is out of the running for it, he’s the only one we have, and that isn’t gonna fly. So sir, respectfully, not it.”
“Sorry, Cooper. It isn’t gonna work like that,” Sheppard told her. “I can keep it within your branch of the service, but at least while we are by ourselves, you are going to be an officer. Lieutenant JG as a matter of fact. I can’t go any lower since you made it to E6 in the Navy.”
“You know that I got offered this ten years ago and I said no? Sir, why in the hell do I want to be an officer?” Cooper stared at him in horror.
“We aren’t all that bad,” Sheppard protested, feeling his honor as an Air Force Major be twisted.
“You are mostly decent. I think, given time, that you will be a damn good officer to serve under. But fuck,” she trailed off and then sat back in her chair, arms crossed over her chest and sulked. “Officers suck. I am not a happy sailor.”
“Sir? Are you sure about this?” Bates asked carefully.
“Yes I am, Captain,” Sheppard assured him. Turning to the last two, now former enlisted members, he let them in on their fate. “Both of you are Second Lieutenants. Sorry boys. I need an officer cadre and you are what I have. Deal with it.”
“Christ, this isn’t what I sighed up for,” Stackhouse muttered. “So this means that I need to get some new insignia made up. Joy.”
“I really, really hope O’Neill doesn’t kill you, sir,” Markham told the Major very seriously.
“Oh, me, too, really.” John nodded carefully. The General was insane in all the ways that meant he had survived shit no one wanted to think of, and had gotten promoted for his pains. That he was also a damn good man and had the devotion of everyone at the SGC spoke incredibly well of how he acted outside of a crisis and how he treated his subordinates. “So, I’ve decided what I am going to do with Ford, and I am going to need you all to support it.”
“We can do that, sir. Not a problem,” Bates told him.
Sheppard sat back and ran a hand over his face. The worst of the meeting was over and now they just needed to hand out the punishments. “Stackhouse, get everyone together in the largest room you have found. I want everyone to be able to see what is going to happen. You have thirty minutes.”
“Yes, sir,” Stackhouse agreed softly and got up, starting towards the door.
“I’ll see the rest of you there.”
The room rapidly emptied and John sat in his chair and tried not to over think his decisions. Battlefield promotions were rare to the point of nonexistence in the modern military as far as he knew. He was sure that he would be told that he had no real leg to stand on as far as IOA was concerned, but he was backed into a corner. There was no other way out that he could see that wouldn’t mean massive future problems.
The sentencing phase of the meeting had gone about as well as he had expected. That was to say; badly and full of hard feelings, at least from those who were being sentenced. Everyone else was a lot happier to see the people who had fucked up dealt with. The general feel of the room after the last sentence was read out radiated satisfaction.
That all changed as soon as Ford was walked in.
“Lt. Aiden Ford, you are here to take responsibility for your actions over the last two days. You were originally ordered by Colonel Sumner to direct and staff the security for the city of Atlantis. When I took command, I confirmed those orders,” John started things off. He really, really wasn’t looking forward to this at all.
“When the rescue mission returned from the Wraith, you were ordered to beef up the security in the gate room because a bottleneck in our power supply was keeping the Ancient shield around the gate from being used. This task was impressed upon you as being of vital importance to both the safety of the physical city itself and also the safety of the people of the Expedition. Do you disagree with these facts?”
The look Ford had on his face was resigned as he shook his head. “No, sir. Those are the facts.”
“Those are the facts, yes,” John agreed. “What happens next is where we get to the problems. You got an order from Dr. Weir after I retired to quarters. Without checking in with me, you followed it. The order from her was that the men who were stationed within the gate room were to be removed. Without attempting to contact me or even go to the senior enlisted members of the military here on Atlantis, you complied with the order and pulled the four men off their stations. Further, you ordered the four men who would be taking their places to stand down. They followed those orders without protest and have been dealt with.”
Sheppard took a deep breath and pushed on. “At that point, I wasn’t cut off from any form of communication, however, several hours later, I transformed into a very large predator in my sleep. Given that I wasn’t able to communicate with anyone, I did not check in at my allotted time. You didn’t send anyone to look for me to see if there was a problem. This is unacceptable. Are these the events as you remember them?”
Ford swallowed hard and nodded. “Yes, sir. That would be how the events went, sir.”
“So you understand what was wrong with what you did, Lt. Ford?” John pressed. He needed to make damn sure the younger man knew what he had done wrong. That his actions could have cost everyone in the city their lives.
“Yes, sir. I have been made aware,” Ford said.
“You have been made aware?” John repeated. God, he hoped this lesson was hammered home. “Well, the lesson you have been made aware of is going to be reinforced. You are hereby reduced in rate to E1 and will be at that rate for the next six local months. You will be joining the group running the field day after every day’s official work is done, if you are not there, you will be confined to quarters. Once we have contact with Earth, you will be rotated back and surrendered to General O’Neill for any further consequences he deems fit. You will also be getting a formal reprimand in your permanent record.”
Standing up, the Major walked forward to stand in front of the now former Lieutenant and held out his hand. “Please remove your rank insignia. You won’t be needing it for quite a while.”
The newly designated E1 reached up and unclasped the silver bits of medal on his collar. Ford’s hand was steady as he capped the sharp ends of the insignia and placed it carefully in the Major’s hand.
The room was deathly quiet as it emptied and John curled his fingers over the symbol of Ford’s former rank.