Title: Just Rewards
Fandom: NCIS, JAG, SG1, SGA
Warnings: Typical for the shows
Summary: Landry gets his day in court, Cooper gets promoted and Tony moves on
“Chief Cooper, Agent DiNozzo,” Walter called over the loudspeaker. “Welcome back to Earth.”
Tony looked up at the control room and waved at the techs manning it. “Hey, Walter. We need to head too medical, right?”
“Any idea why we need to get fully checked out a second time?” Tony asked Cooper as they walked down the hallway to catch an elevator for Medical. She was the one who had more experience with the SGC than he did.
“Yes, sir, I know why,” Cooper confirmed. She hitched her backpack a bit higher on her shoulder and sighed. “This involves SG-9 and a mission that they went on that went wrong at the end. For some reason they weren’t able to return to Earth right away, so had to be staged through the Alpha Site of the time. Well, they went through all their medical checks there and were cleared. That was transmitted when they came through the gate. When they got back here, there was to be a cursory medical review before they were released.”
“What happened?” Tony asked as they waited for the elevator.
“That cursory exam found four team members starting a horrific allergic reaction,” Cooper shared. “Each of them had the start of hives. All over, full body, hives. The planet they’d been sent out to survey seemed perfectly normal. There was nothing on the first medical review that threw up any red flags.”
“This is sounding weird, Chief,” Tony warned.
“It was weird. In the twenty minutes between them leaving the Alpha Site and checking into medical here, all four developed an allergic reaction. Three out of the four were just miserable. The fourth tipped over into anaphylaxis and needed several hits from Epi pens and close monitoring and support,” Cooper explained, voice grim. She kept talking as they walked into medical. “Since we’d had people living on the Alpha Site without issue, the general sent out a team to the planet they had went to for samples. Come to find out the whole of the SGC is allergic to that planet.”
“Which planet, Chief?” one of the nurses waiting on them asked.
“Planet Hive,” Cooper answered as she hopped up on a gurney.
“Ew,” The nurse complained. She grinned at Tony and waved a hand at another bed. “Please take a seat, Agent DiNozzo.”
“So, I take it everyone knows about that planet?” Tony asked.
“Medical needs to remember that not everything is straightforward, sir,” the nurse explained. Tony eyed her nametag to get some idea of who he was talking to. Burke smiled as she pulled out a clipboard. “The various teams that come in and out of here remember it because it’s a good lesson on how weird and dangerous other planets can be. Even if there’s no obvious dangers.”
“Thankfully, no one died,” Cooper said with a sigh.
“Right?” Burke asked before she waved her clipboard again. “Let’s get this done so you two can go meet with General O’Neill. He left orders.”
It took twenty minutes to run them through everything. The longest single event was the MRI to make sure that they were officially alone in their skulls. Once they had their all clears, the two of them were released to their next appointment.
“General,” Tony said in greeting as he slid into a chair at the main conference room table.
“DiNozzo,” O’Neill said, voice dryly amused. He turned to watch as Cooper inspected the coffee service. “Cooper, it’s fine. You don’t need to grade the food services here. Sit down.”
“So, you say, sir,” Cooper replied as she poured hot water over a carefully selected teabag before doctoring her own coffee. Sliding the tea in front of Tony, she sat down beside him and stared at the general. “Okay, sir. Ready when you are.”
“Let’s get the fun stuff out of the way,” O’Neill suggested. He slid a folder in front of Cooper and Tony eyed it carefully. Whatever it was, the outside was blank. “Your orders to report for school to train for Warrant Officer. The Secretary of the Navy is deeply peeved that we’re doing this and not transferring you back into the regular navy.”
“What is with his need to get me back into the fleet?” Cooper asked as she started flipping through the packet. “So, I report after the trial is done?”
“Come hell or high water, this thing is only going to take two weeks,” O’Neill declared. “We can’t have all the relevant parties away from Atlantis for months on end. As it is, we’re going to be juggling schedules to get Sheppard back here.”
“Yes, sir,” Cooper agreed. “Do you know if Jones got Chief?”
“He did and I have orders for him,” O’Neill confirmed. “Do you know if he wants to do that whole rise to chief thing the Navy does?”
Cooper leafed through her orders as she obviously thought the question over. “I’m honestly not sure, sir,” she admitted. “We’ve got a few other USN members on Atlantis beyond my crew, and only two of them are E-7’s. With me going for Warrant, that may not be enough to raise him up right.”
“Traditions are important,” O’Neill allowed. Clearing his throat, he waved a hand at Tony. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s not a problem, sir,” Tony assured him with a smile. “I’m a Navy cop. I’ve heard of the tradition before and I get where the Chief is coming from.”
“Well, now that we’ve got that out of the way…,” O’Neill leaned back in his chair and pinned them with a dark and serious stare. “Want to tell me what went down with Thatch. I’ve read the reports, but I want to hear it from you two.”
Tony suppressed a smile as he heard Cooper huff under here breath before she spoke up. “What are you looking for, sir?”
“I’ve got the reports on why Sheppard kicked him off Atlantis, but I want to know what lead you to becoming suspicious of him,” O’Neill explained. He started at Cooper and raised an eyebrow. “You first, Chief.”
“Yes, sir,” Cooper said. She slowly tapped her fingers on the folder before her. “For me, sir, this started when Colonel Sheppard informed me that we were getting a supply officer. As you know, Atlantis is a decent sized base, but Major Lorne had been handling the load of supply officer since he’d transferred in. As far as I know, there have been no complaints and the system we had in place was running smoothly.”
“My research showed no complaints, Chief,” the general confirmed. “Lorne’s good with paperwork and so are you.”
Cooper grimaced slightly at that and Tony chuckled softly. He was well aware of exactly how much she hated all the paperwork that came with her job. Even with it being electronic. “Thanks, sir. Anyway. When Ensign Thatch got to Atlantis, he was processed through orientation, just like everyone else and issued his log in to the battalion server. He would have been informed that it was up to him to check it daily for any updates. On that server is the uniform of the day. Given that we’re in Pegasus, it’s inevitable that we’re going to be wearing some shade of BDU’s. Support has authorization to wear the one-piece coveralls that we use for epically dirty tasks. Ensign Thatch showed up for duty in summer whites. Cotton ones at that.”
O’Neill leaned forward at that. “So, you already had an impression of him and?”
“It wasn’t favorable, sir,” Cooper finished. “I’ve never had to train an officer on my very own, but while I was still in the Fleet, I certainly watched a number of them move in and out of the various departments onboard ship. Every single one of them made certain to try and get off on the right foot with their chief. Ensign Thatch didn’t bother with me. And frankly, he did himself no favors with the colonel either.”
“So, he didn’t show up in the uniform of the day to start with. Okay, then what?”
“I wasn’t there when he reported for duty, but Colonel Sheppard delivered Ensign Thatch to the supply department, still in his whites. He was very surprised to see me in one of the messiest set of coveralls I own, butchering a Great Beast for use,” Cooper reported. She tapped her fingers against the table and abruptly flattened them out. “I had to send him back to quarters so he could get into a set of coveralls.”
“Oh, please tell me you’re kidding,” O’Neill asked, a small note of pleading deep in his voice.
“No can do, sir,” Cooper said. She glanced at Tony before turning her attention back to the general. “The colonel suggested that I take the ensign along with me as I went about my day. Over the course of the next few hours, we hit the major areas of interest for supply: perishable storerooms, dry storage, material goods, discretionary goods, the main deep freeze, and the gardens to name a few. Ensign Thatch seemed to be getting more agitated as we got past the basic ingredient supplies and lost the plot when we got to the kinda-cows.”
“If I might interrupt, Chief,” Tony cut in. At her nod, he turned to look at the general. “She cut out about a third of the way through her day to report to me that Thatch had told her that he was there to cut down on any smuggling that was happening on the city. As you are aware, my mandate covers smuggling and while we have a minor level of it, there’s nothing major that comes onto the city that isn’t found in hours if not days. Atlantis has been made aware of what is and isn’t contraband and reports any violations to Colonel Sheppard and I.”
“Right. That’s very handy,” the general mused. “And the kinda-cows that he lost his mind over are the ones that you put the request in for so you could have a source of milk, cheese, butter and meat that wasn’t being shipped out by the Daedalus?”
“Yes, sir,” Cooper confirmed. She hit the highlights of the saga to get the animals onto Atlantis. Tony had only been on the city for a few weeks when they had arrived and he’d enjoyed the insanity of watching her people get them down to their barn from a distance.
“So, what was his issue with you having them? I authorized them and all the equipment needed to take care of them without hitting the budget the SGC has allocated for you,” O’Neill asked. He reached out and pulled his laptop closer and quickly logged in. “Right. From what I’m seeing, you’ve barely touched your budget from the SGC for the last three Daedalus runs.”
“Uhm, sir? I maxed out the small budget I was given for anything supply department related and have been with each run since we got back in contact,” Cooper disagreed. “Almost everything foodwise we bring in comes out of the budget allocated to me by the IOA. The rest comes from what we grow, harvest or trade for.”
“Which leads us back to the ensign losing his shit,” Tony cut in. He pulled his own laptop out and queued up the video of the rant. “Atlantis records everything that’s in a public space, and her definition of public is a little different than ours. Basically, the head and the shower are the only spaces she doesn’t record in.” Turning the screen around, he hit play and let the general see.
O’Neill said nothing as he watched the video and Tony took another moment to wonder what the fuck the kid had been thinking. He was a newly graduated ensign, fresh from the Academy, thinking he knew better than two experienced NCO’s. The mental disconnect from the kid was mind-blowing.
“I saw this when he came back,” O’Neill admitted. “It was attached to Sheppard’s report and while was funny in a train wreck sort of way, it’s not now. Especially after your investigation, DiNozzo. Now it’s just sad. Thatch is currently at our Alpha Site, learning how not to be a dumbass. He’s been schooled on his mistakes, but I don’t know what to do with him. Being a dumbass isn’t actually a crime.”
“And he didn’t actually commit any while on Atlantis,” Tony agreed. “Rubbing your new command wrong isn’t a crime, it’s just dumb.”
“Well, I won’t be sending him back to Atlantis,” O’Neill said. He swung back and forth in his chair and hummed softly.
Tony held his peace and sipped at his tea. Since he was going to be Earthside for a couple of weeks, he needed to make sure to put a massive order in with his favorite dealer so they could deliver it in time for him to bring it back with him. And coffee and…
“Coop, you mentioned that you use the full allotment that you get from the SGC to purchase supplies?” O’Neill asked softly.
The wince that Tony couldn’t hide cause the general to flick a glance at him and he raised an eyebrow in question. “Let me guess, this is one of the many things that’s actually involved in the case?”
“Yes, sir,” Tony confirmed. “Chief Cooper was informed that her budget was roughly $10K per supply run and she would need to get everything required out of that. That’s roughly a third of what the official line item is on this side of the gate. Atlantis’s battalion also were also told that their general supply budget was roughly half of what it should be.”
“Which is why you’re wearing a worn-out uniform,” the general observed.
“Supply and the Atlantis version of non-combatants can get away with slightly shoddy uniforms, sir,” Cooper said. She shrugged once before spreading her hands. “Most of us have been buying our own uniforms for years because that’s what you do, even if you’re heading for a galaxy far, far, away. Having our command supply them for us doesn’t happen most of the time.”
From the frown O’Neill was wearing he wasn’t happy with that reminder. “Yeah, we under supplied you to start and never really topped you off properly on the fabric supplies, did we?”
“Nope. We have enough bullets and enough ordnance for our version of standard operations. ALICE vests, armor, guns and the like are all covered as far as I know. I don’t have anything to do with those supplies. Little things like having enough extra BDU’s on hand that so I can set up a base store so I can ‘sell’ them to people as needed? I don’t have that option. Right now, my fabric supply is about six months,” Cooper said, voice even. “But for food, between what I got from Earth, what I grow on the city and what we’ve traded for, I have almost two years’ worth of food stored. It’s rotated regularly, but we’re not actually hurting on the food front anymore.”
“Just spices, cooking supplies, fabric supplies, personal sanitary supplies…,” the general suggested leadingly. “So at least part of this shit is money laundering. We found the discrepancies when we got your report, DiNozzo. We found even more when we started checking out what was going on over here.”
“Yes, sir,” Tony said. He really didn’t have anything to say that wasn’t in his report.
“Great. Okay, so you’re here early enough that Cooper will be able to get an updated set of uniforms and you to get some suits dry cleaned. The final review for the trail starts on Monday and the actual trial starts Wednesday,” O’Neill said after several seconds silence. “Which means you two will have to be here on Sunday afternoon for a final review.”
“Will we be doing the trial here?” Tony asked.
O’Neill shook his head. “Nope. We’re doing it in Washington.”
“Joy. Might want to make sure that my team knows not to hunt me down while I’m dealing with the trial,” Tony warned. “Since I’ll be in DC, I should check in with NCIS. Also, cell phones?”
“Walter has your kits,” O’Neill confirmed. He eyed Cooper briefly. “Chief, do you even have a credit card?”
“Well, I closed almost everything out and paid it all off before we left originally, but I got new stuff when I came out on leave,” Cooper admitted. “I’m good and my bills are paid on an auto debit that is designed to pay off my bills as quickly as possible.”
“Good. Since we’re going to be in DC, there’s going to be a lot of brass who’ve expressed an interest in some of the issues behind this. You’re going to want a full set of whatever passes for normal duty day uniforms,” the general suggested. “Because you have school after this trial is complete.”
From the grimace Cooper was wearing, she wasn’t looking forward to having to wear an actual uniform. Tony didn’t blame her at all. BDU’s and coveralls were what almost everyone in the military on Atlantis wore and they were at least comfortable. Dress uniforms and service uniforms weren’t nearly as comfortable.
“It’s a damn good thing I’ve actually lost weight since the last time I had to get uniforms fitted. It’ll be easier to get them done,” Cooper griped softly. She cleared her throat and blushed slightly. “So, I think I’m also going to need to get an actual list of my ribbons and medals, sir. I stopped paying attention to them a few years before we left for Atlantis, and if I’m going to be in front of non-SGC brass, I’ll need to have it all correct.”
“We’ll get that for you asap,” O’Neill promised. He checked his watch and nodded. “It’s about ten am out here, so that’ll mean everything is open in town. Chief, make a pitstop at our supply officer’s office so they can get your measurements for your dress uniforms.”
“Yes, sir,” Cooper said.
Since she was in the neighborhood, Beryl decided to check in on Beck. Their conversations via email had reassured her that he was recovering from what had happened to him. Well. As well as anyone could recover from having a Goa’uld infest them. He’d even thanked her for noticing that there had been something off about him when she’d visited.
From what little Beck had let slip, the damn thing had been intended for Colonel Caldwell and had ended up in her friend due to bad timing more than anything else. And when he’d managed to reject it at Thor’s Hammer, Beck had killed it before it could even try to slither away and infect a new host.
“Beck!” Beryl called as she stuck her head in the door to the main kitchen of the SGC. When there was no answer, she looked at one of her former subordinates and raised an eyebrow in question.
“He’s in your old office with the door closed. He said something about wanting privacy for whatever it was you wanted to talk about?”
“Ah, thanks Georges,” Cooper said. She waved a hand between the door and the office. “You good with me slipping through?”
Georges nodded once before turning back to the food he was cooking. “Go for it, Chief.”
Beryl slipped through the kitchen, taking care to stay out of the way of everyone. The office she had used for years was closed up and her ‘do not disturb’ sign was hung front and center. Sighing softly, she ran a hand over her face. This was going to suck.
Knocking softly, she waited for three seconds before opening the door. “Beck.”
“Beryl,” Beck answered dryly.
“You look like hell,” Beryl observed as she closed the door behind her. Her friend looked ragged, and had dropped weight and muscle mass. “Tell me you’ve been getting counseling.”
“Every damn day,” Beck confirmed. “It’s helping, but I’ve still got landmines in my memories from that thing.”
Beryl slid into the only other chair in the office. “Anything I can do?”
“No,” Beck shook his head once. “I’m getting better, but it’s going to take time. What can I do for you?”
“I need to put word out for some more people to come to Atlantis. Mostly in the services,” Beryl explained. “I’m getting ready to put together a second kitchen and dining area, which means that I need to staff it. Since it’s going to be the smaller of the two, I won’t need a ton of people, but I will need enough to staff all three shifts.”
“Full meals or are we talking the snack/fast food station you put together down here?” Beck asked as he pulled a notebook closer to him to start taking notes.
“The fast-food station,” Beryl confirmed. “Anyone who applies needs to have more than one skill to bear. We can’t have people who can only cook. We need people who can garden, who can preserve food, who can come up with new recipes, and who is willing to work with nonstandard ingredients on a daily basis. A large amount of the foods we use don’t come from Earth and need to be processed before they’re able to be used.”
“So basically, you need someone who is like you and Jones. Able to work with scratch ingredients?” Beck asked.
“Yeah,” Beryl agreed. She waved a hand at the kitchen beyond his office door. “I know that at least two of the people on shift now are perfectly adequate cooks, but both of them would prefer to use a recipe card and never, ever deviate from it. If they don’t have a required ingredient, they have meltdowns. I can’t afford to have people like that on Atlantis. We do without too much to be able to indulge in those behaviors.”
“Hey, Bob,” Tony called as he started emptying his pockets into one of the many small bowls in front of the metal detector after putting his laptop and coffee on the conveyer belt for the x-ray machine. He looked at the pile of bits and bobs he’d deposited. “How in the hell do I have so much crap in my pockets?”
“Hey, Agent DiNozzo! Been a long time since you’ve been in the office!” Bob said with a smile as he watched the screen showing the semi-transparent view of his belongings as they moved down the x-ray machine.
“Yeah, I’ve been Agent Afloating,” Tony explained. He stepped through the metal detector and sighed as it beeped. Stepping back, he started patting himself down to see what had set the damn thing off. It was only when he got to his belt buckle that he remembered he’d grabbed the one with the knife in it that morning. “Rule Nine bites me in the ass again.”
“I can use the wand on you, Agent DiNozzo?” Bob offered.
“Nope, I’m not doing the special bit,” Tony disagreed before he took the belt off and dropped it on the x-ray machine. When he stepped through the metal detector, it stayed silent and he smiled. “Is Gibbs in?”
Bob nodded once. “He came in at 0600,” he reported as Tony put all his belongings away. The last thing he returned to its rightful place was his ear piece.
“Thanks, Bob. Don’t let him know I’m on my way up. I want it to be a bit of a surprise,” Tony requested with a wink.
“Got it, Agent DiNozzo,” Bob said with a smile. “You have a good day now.”
Tony picked up his coffee and laptop and saluted the guard with the cup. “You too!”
The trip up in the elevator brought up all sorts of nostalgic feelings and Tony shook his head at his own sentimentality. His day was already going to be bad enough due to the interpersonal drama, adding in homesickness was just asking for more insanity on top of what was normal.
When the doors opened onto the bullpen he winced. “Of all the things that didn’t change in here, why did this have to stay the same?”
“Because when the budget comes down to bullets or interior decorating, the smart people go for the bullets, DiNozzo,” Gibbs reminded him as he looked up from his computer. “I thought you were Agent Afloat somewhere I couldn’t look for?”
“Oh, I still am,” Tony confirmed as he walked over to stand in front of Gibbs’ desk. “But I’m back for a special court case. I was able to do the rest long distance. This case, I can’t.”
“Speaking of cases… Your reports have been very spare, with some fascinating blanks. What have you gotten yourself involved in?” Gibbs asked. He stood up and pulled Tony into a rough hug. “You are looking much better than the last time I saw you. Tom didn’t railroad you into this position, did he?”
“No boss, he didn’t,” Tony returned the hug and let the older man go after a firm squeeze. “I’m just here to check everything is in place for JAG. Once the trial is over, I’ll swing back through for a longer visit. But I’m not going to fill in those blanks. One of my witnesses is up for Warrant and I wanted to make sure she gets to Rhode Island without issue.”
“Spoilsport,” Gibbs groused as he picked up his coffee and took a drink. “What service is she coming out of?”
“USN. Cooper finally gave in and took a warrant,” Tony said. He had to wonder what the Chief was thinking about being on Earth after more than two years in Pegasus. He’d managed his flight out from Denver with grim self-control. It was way too peopley out there and he wasn’t used to the population density anymore.
“MSC Cooper?” Gibbs asked. He looked at Tony sharply. “Did you get mixed into the same weirdness that sucked her in?”
“Why am I unsurprised that you know Cooper?” Tony asked the heavens. “I know her, let’s leave it at that.”
“Understood,” Gibbs said after several seconds staring at him. “What do you need from us?”
“Space to get organized, and the ability to do some research as needed. I doubt I’ll be here long since I have to meet with JAG,” Tony reminded him. “I shouldn’t need to do anything else while I’m here. I’ve done my recertifications on my base with a set of Marines standing over me and sent in the results.”
“I saw that. Your shooting’s improved,” Gibbs praised. “Take Kate’s desk. She’s out this morning with a doctor’s appointment. Yates is on vacation and will be mad she missed you. McGee is down in with IT for the morning.”
“Will do,” Tony said. It was a little odd to be in a different desk while in the office, but he was adaptable. It took only moments to get his laptop out and he signed into the building’s Wi-Fi without issue. For the next hour, he moved steadily through his work making sure to get everything updated and filed so that the last of the evidence he had was ready for JAG to go over.
Tony looked up to see Abby clumping over to him. Experience reminded him to stand up and take his hug like a man, otherwise he’d be half smothered under her enthusiasm. “Hey Abs.” The hug she gave him was firm and slightly smothering. Classic Abby hug.
“You look good, Tony-boy,” Abby whispered in his ear as she gave him a final squeeze before letting him go. “You’ve been gone so long. Are you okay?”
“I’m as recovered as I possibly can be, Abs,” Tony promised. When he’d left Gibbs’ team, he’d been recovering from the plague and the only person to see him had been Kate. No one had gotten a chance to see for their own eyes that he was healthy. “The base I’m at is taking great care of me.”
“You’re involved in the weird, aren’t you?” Abby asked accusingly. “Whatever’s sucked you in is super-secret and I can’t find anything on it.”
“And you can’t go look for it either, Abby,” Tony cautioned. “I’m not here for long. So, you’re going to have to let me go again.”
“I don’t want to,” Abby whined softly. Tony could see tears gather in her eyes. “Email just isn’t enough.”
“It’ll have to be,” Tony said softly. “I need you to stay safe here and to keep Gibbs safe too.”
Abby nodded once firmly. “I can do that.”
Tony pulled Abby in for another hug. “Thank you, Abs.”
“You’re welcome, Tony,” Abby whispered.
Abby winced and let him go. “Madame Director calls.”
“That bad, huh?” Tony asked, amused at the nickname.
“She wanted me to wear pastel business attire at work,” Abby bitched softly. “It’s enough that I’m within the rules for labs and I do go mostly undercover when I have to testify.”
Tony raised an eyebrow at the irritation in the voice above him and stepped back to pack up his gear. There was no way he was going to let it out of his sight, not even while in NCIS’s headquarters. Checking his watch, he hummed softly. “Depending how long this meeting takes, Gibbs, wanna go out for coffee before I have to head over to JAG?”
“Sure, Tony,” Gibbs agreed with a smile.
“Right, wish me luck,” Tony muttered as he swung his backpack over his shoulder and headed up the stairs to meet with the new director of NCIS. Pausing at the landing, he took a moment to observe his new director. He wasn’t impressed. “Director Shepard.”
“Agent DiNozzo,” Shepard returned. She waved a hand towards her office and Tony nodded once and followed her in. “I’m surprised to see you in here. I was told that you were doing Agent Afloat duties somewhere I’m not authorized to know about and wouldn’t be back in the US for an unspecified amount of time.”
Ah, Tony thought. Shepard’s interest in him suddenly made much more sense. She was fishing for information that she couldn’t get through the official channels. “Just like every other law enforcement officer, I occasionally have to show up to court, Director. In this instance, I built the case and I need to be there to see it through.”
“I would like to briefed on this case,” Shepard requested as she moved behind her desk to sit down. “Please sit and tell me about it.”
Settling down in the chair, Tony hid a grimace as he dropped his bag beside him. Morrow’s comfortable visitor chairs had obviously been replaced in the turnover. “Director Shepard, as I haven’t been given the authorization to share any information with you on my posting or my case, I’m going to decline to do that.”
“Agent DiNozzo, I am the director of NCIS and you work for me,” Shepard told him. She was obviously trying to intimidate him by reminding him of her position, but he’d lost that particular fear well before he’d ever started working for NCIS. “I really have to insist. You won’t like the consequences of not giving me the information that I want.”
“Be that as it may, ma’am, you don’t have the need, the clearance or the authorization to know where my duty station is or what my caseload is,” Tony informed her. He stood up and picked up his backpack. “I’ll be letting the correct parties know of your interest in my duty station and if appropriate, they’ll read you in.”
Turning on his heel, he walked out. Nodding at Cynthia, he walked down the stairs. “Gibbs, I’ll meet you at the coffee shop. I have to make a call,” he called as he walked by his old teams’ section. Pulling his cellphone out, he dialed O’Neill as he hit the elevator. “Ah, General, I have some news.”
This was not how he had expected his day to go.
“I wasn’t expecting to have DiNozzo call me about the director of NCIS, Secretary Davenport,” Jack admitted as he settled into one of the chairs in Davenport’s office.
“She’s been made aware that her curiosity is inappropriate,” Davenport explained. “I know I informed her of that when she asked where DiNozzo was not long after she took the position as Director.”
“Uh-huh. I don’t think the talk stuck,” Jack said. He smiled grimly. “On my way over here, my admin informed me that there are now orders in the system sending DiNozzo to Rota, Spain as the second in command of the team out there.”
“She did what?” Davenport asked. He held up a hand when Jack started to repeat himself. “No, please let me check this out.”
Davenport stood up and walked over to his desk to check his computer. Jack held his peace as the man moved through the systems to find the orders that had appeared for DiNozzo. “Well, shit.”
“Yup,” Jack agreed. “She’s got him reporting tomorrow, and he’s in the middle of prepping for a trial for my project. How in the hell she thought this would fly, I have no idea.”
“Pretty sure she thinks she’s got more pull than she really does,” Davenport muttered. He reached out and quickly dialed his desk phone, putting the whole thing on speaker. Jack appreciated the gesture and motioned his willingness to be silent.
“Secretary Davenport, how can I help you?” a female voice answered as the phone was picked up. Jack could tell she was trying to sound professional and unconcerned, but mostly came across as stressed.
“Jennifer, I have a question about some orders I just found in the system,” Davenport announced. He eyed the phone before turning his attention back to his computer. “I see DiNozzo has been pulled back from his Agent Afloat position. Why?”
“He’s proven to be the wrong person for the job, sir,” Shepard said. Her voice was still smooth, but Jack fancied he could hear a small amount of irritation buried in it. “I’ll be sending a better agent to take his place soon and DiNozzo will be routed to a location that better suits his skills.”
Davenport leaned back in his chair and glared at his phone. “Agent DiNozzo was seconded to Homeland on a permeant basis. He’s not under your command and has never been.”
“He’s an NCIS agent, sir,” Shepard reminded him. Her voice was trying to convey something and Jack couldn’t parse it. Whatever it was, she was missing it badly. “As such, he is my agent to move as needed.”
“He’s not anymore,” Davenport snapped. “I’m going to be removing those orders and frankly, you need to forget DiNozzo entirely.”
“I can’t do that, sir,” Shepard snapped back. “He’s being paid out of my budget and we get reports from him on a regular basis.”
“Well, that will be fixed,” Davenport decided. He hit mute and turned to look at Jack. “Do you think Morrow will take DiNozzo on?”
“General Hammond has organized Homeworld Security,” Jack reminded him. “DiNozzo would be an excellent start to the investigative arm of the department.”
“Sound good to me,” Davenport agreed. He hit the button on the phone and smiled. “I’ve found a solution to your problem! You’ll be getting his transfer package tomorrow morning. Do us all a favor and don’t contest it.”
“Sir!” Shepard protested. Davenport didn’t let her get another word out before he hung the phone up.
Jack smirked as he watched Davenport started typing quickly. “That went smoother than I expected.”
“She’s going to try to make him pay for this,” Davenport warned as his typing slowed. “I’ve got him moved over to Hammond, with the orders locked and classified. He’s going to be disappearing into the mass of the alphabets, it’s the only way to hide him.”
Jack stood up and carefully buttoned his jacket. “I know. But Shepard’s been agitating for months on where DiNozzo’s been stationed. Her hunt was even less subtle than what Gibbs pulled and he stopped when he was warned. She didn’t. We don’t need such a loose cannon getting into classified materials that are above her paygrade.”
“True,” Davenport said. He tapped a finger against his desk and then nodded. “I think I need to take a good hard look at what she’s been up to.”
“Might be wise. I know Gibbs mentioned how unhappy he was with some of her decisions,” Jack reminded him.
Davenport snorted once. “Gibbs hates change. But he’s aware that changes in command happen and doesn’t tend to rock boats without a damn good reason.”
“Then it sounds like you need to find out what that reason is,” Jack suggested.
“So, it seems.”
“You’ve been checking your phone a lot,” Gibbs observed.
“Director Shepard’s been poking at me for the last few months,” Tony explained. “Trying to make things more difficult for me when I file my reports.”
“She’s been doing what?” Gibbs asked. He leaned forward and paced his hand over Tony’s phone. “Tony?”
“So, over the last few months, I’ve been getting notices back on my reports, demanding information that she’s not allowed due to her clearance. My reports have been declined, ignored or ‘corrected’ several times, causing issues with the cases and with JAG,” Tony explained. His trip to headquarters had been as much nostalgia as confirming that Shepard had it in for him. Pulling his phone out from under the other man’s hand, he read the last message from O’Neill. “I’m in the process of being transferred out of NCIS and into one of the quiet agencies,”
“You get tell Kate, Abby and McGee that, not me,” Gibbs ordered. He grimaced suddenly.
“What?” Tony asked, slightly alarmed. As much as he wasn’t looking forward to signing sixty billion new forms for his changing job, he wasn’t upset at the move.
“You’re telling them that you’re moving departments,” Gibbs ordered. “And then you get to help me pick out a laptop. There’s no way I want you emailing me at my work address.”
Tony started laughing at the disgusted look the other man had on his face. “Getting a laptop and the internet connected to your house isn’t going to kill you.”
“I’m going to have to lock up the house,” Gibbs bitched.
The laughter that he’d barely suppressed hit again. “Sucks to be you.”
When Gibbs threw his napkin at him, Tony laughed even harder.
“Chief, I have a question,” Captain Rabb asked as they were wrapping up the pretrial meeting JAG had arranged so everyone was on the same gameplan. They had managed to score the Judge Advocate General for the Air Force; a Lt. General Maverick and Harm had been building their strategy in light of his record.
“Yes, sir? What’s the question?” Cooper asked. She had a notebook out and was quickly jotting down the last suggestions Rabb had given her for the trial the next day.
“Why did you bring a garden to Atlantis anyway?”
Cooper stopped writing and then set her pen down to cross her hands over the paper. “Permission to speak freely?”
Rabb looked over at DiNozzo and raised an eyebrow when the agent shrugged. “You asked. She’s going to answer, but the answer isn’t kind to anyone.”
The captain sat back in his chair and swiveled it from side to side. “I take it you asked this too?”
“Yup,” DiNozzo confirmed. “And then I researched it and then went to a pier to scream at the water for an hour or so.”
“And got the Colonel wondering what had set you off,” Cooper reminded him dryly. “He was not amused when you told him why.”
“I wasn’t amused, Cooper,” DiNozzo snapped. He held up a hand and took a deep breath. “You need to hear it, Harm. It’s pertinent.”
“Well, okay then,” Rabb turned back to her and nodded. “Permission to speak freely granted.”
“Thank you, sir,” Cooper said with a smile that she could feel sliding into a grimace. “The first thing you have to understand is that my team was brought onto the Expedition six weeks before the date we were to ship out. While then Major Sheppard was the last officer addition, my crew and I were the last enlisted members of the Expedition to sign on. And the reason we signed on is that General O’Neill stuck his foot in it and insisted that Colonel Sumner bring a Services and Housekeeping Department. The Colonel was unhappy with the order.”
“I didn’t know that part,” DiNozzo murmured.
“It’s not recorded anywhere in the documents that I reviewed,” Rabb admitted. “How did you know the Colonel was unhappy with O’Neill’s orders?”
“Sir, we were an Expedition of 150 people. Divided roughly in half; half civilian, half military. Everyone knew everyone and we all gossiped. I found, upon review of our supplies, that Colonel Sumner had requisitioned enough MRE’s for thirteen months, with everyone eating two to three per day,” Cooper informed him. “There were no provisions for fresh food, no way to heat the MRE’s up, no water. Just cases and cases of MRE’s and nothing else.”
“I can’t see the scientists eating those day in and day out,” Tony said, shaking his head. “The military would, but they would be deeply unhappy in a very short amount of time.”
“There are twenty-four different meals in a case of MRE’s. And only twenty-four. There would have been a mutiny within weeks,” Cooper snapped. “He also left off vitamins, entertainment, cleaning supplies, uniforms, cutlery…The list of actually needed supplies was endless. He didn’t even order toilet paper. I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but Colonel Sumner wasn’t interested in the provisioning side of the Expedition and Dr. Weir didn’t know anything about it. We had enough bullets, guns and BDU’s, but anything else was an afterthought.”
“Wow,” Robb ran a hand over his face and then nodded at the mention of her original garden on their timeline. “So that’s why you brought the garden.”
“One reason, yes,” Cooper admitted. “General O’Neill and I were able to add enough supplies to the manifest that I didn’t have to feed people MRE’s for every meal. People got actual food and not salt flavored nutrition. If I hadn’t had the produce it produced, the meals would have been bland, but serviceable until I managed to get used to the spices in Pegasus.
“The other reason I brought the garden was strictly pragmatic. While the general had promised to find us after a year, there really were no guarantees. The seeds I brought with me were all heritage plants that could be allowed to go back to seed and produce a viable next generation to keep us fed long term. I’ve been adding to my seed bank with every trip Daedalus makes because we don’t know if there will come a day when we’re cut off. Being self-supporting has been the goal from day one.”
“And if you are cut off, you know you have food that humans could eat,” Rabb said, nodding wisely. “Which is why you keep it up.”
“Yes.” Cooper rubbed her temples as she thought of the first six months of their time on the city. She’d been so stressed she’d come close to giving herself an ulcer and had only occasionally gotten a full night’s sleep. “Sourcing native food sources was a massive need, especially after we added the Athosians to our numbers. I managed to get an in with the Teams and most of them were on the lookout for food stuffs that could be either bargained for or brought back to be grown on the city in bulk. We have a garden at the base of the main tower that looks pretty, but it’s all food. The Athosians are growing a few staple crops on the mainland and we trade back and forth with them for meat. We fish off the piers and that’s used at for almost half our protein needs. I’ve pushed Dr. Weir into trading the salt we produce due to the desalination process for grain and meat from several planets. I’m working on getting permission to bring bees to Atlantis so we can expand our greenhouses because it’s great that we have nanites that can do the job, but they give everyone the heebee’s and honey would be nice to have too.”
“Have you talked to anyone about your obsessive need to make sure everyone’s fed?” DiNozzo asked, voice serious.
“Talked to the Colonel, Dr. Weir, Major Lorne and Dr. Heightmeyer. I’ve also talked to Ms. Emmagan about what I can do for the Athosians,” Cooper admitted. “The General knows my worries as well and he’s all for me being this paranoid. We’re on the ass end of the supply line and the only connection we have inbound, is one ship that has a finite limit to its cargo space and a budget that’s outside of my control on any given day. And it serves the Expedition better if the Daedalus brings munitions, non-edible supplies, personal gear and the like. Atlantis can make or grow food with the right provisions and assistance. My people can process the raw product into something we can cook with. I just need to be left alone to do it.”
“Which is why you agreed to go for Warrant,” Rabb exclaimed. He smiled when they both looked at him. “Sorry, I’d wondered. By your record, you’d been offered the opportunity before, Chief, and had refused it. There had to be a reason for taking it now.”
“Well, I sure as hell wasn’t going to be a Mustang,” Cooper bitched. “That’d take more time than I would feel comfortable with. As it is, it’s going to be almost four months before I get back to Atlantis and due to the restrictions on what we can say, I’m not sure if I’ll be told what’s happening to my people.”
“Jones has them all well in hand, Chief,” DiNozzo soothed. “I got an email from General O’Neill this morning. The weekly data burst has a note for you from Jones. He wanted to let you know that the biologists are sad to report that Pegasus doesn’t have a pig equivalent.”
“Damn, no homemade bacon,” Cooper sighed. She made a note in her book to investigate getting whole pigs shipped out to Pegasus. “There has to be something. I’ll ask the Teams to be on the lookout.”
Rabb waved a hand at her and gestured at the paperwork in front of them. “Back to business. When Thatch showed up?”
“I was hoping that I would get a supply officer that I could work with to help me manage the pile of work I’m piling up,” Cooper admitted. “Instead, I got the kid who wanted to get rid of everything alien and have the Expedition eating only what the Daedalus could haul between galaxies. And get rid of the fresh foods that we were growing. Basically, MRE’s again. There was no way I was going to deal with that. I managed to get him to go talk to the Colonel and the Colonel made his decision based on Thatch’s behavior.”
“And here we are,” Rabb finished.
“And here we are,” Cooper agreed.
“Please state your name for the record,” Commander Rabb directed Cooper after she’d been sworn in. Tony kept a careful eye on her and relaxed as she gave Harm exactly what he had requested.
That had been the hardest thing for her to get used to when Harm and the rest of the JAG members had walked her through what to expect with her part in the trial. Cooper was used to supplying all the information needed when asked a question. Teaching her to give just the information requested had been rough.
Harm checked his papers before he looked up at Cooper. “What was your position on Atlantis at the time Ensign Thatch was assigned to the city?”
“At the time Ensign Thatch had been assigned to Atlantis, I was the senior most Mess Specialist assigned to the Expedition and in charge of the Services and Housekeeping Department,” Cooper informed him evenly.
“And that meant what in terms of the chain of command on the city?” Harm asked.
“It meant that I was in effect my own department head,” Cooper explained. “I reported directly to Major Lorne on a day-to-day basis.”
“This means that all your supply needs would be filtered through him for approval before it was sent on?” Harm asked.
Tony figured Harm was laying out to everyone that the Services department wasn’t some minor department that could be ignored like it often was on Earth. On Atlantis, Cooper’s department was vital to the continued existence of the expedition. And that meant that anyone who was going to be taking charge of it needed to be competent.
“Yes, sir,” Cooper said.
“Any goods that you get in come in via the Daedalus, correct?” Harm asked.
“When goods are ordered, what is the distribution?”
“All edible goods are purchased with the funds supplied from the IOA. Physical supplies such as the hardware needed to actually cook our meals, comes from the funds supplied by the SGC,” Cooper explained.
“By edible goods, you mean what?” Harm pressed.
Cooper started ticking points off on her fingers. “At this point, we’re importing cooking oils, spices, limited meats and fruits, sugar in all its permutations, chocolate and coffee for the most part.”
“And the physical supplies?”
“Flatware, cloth, soap, cleaning supplies, paper goods…,” Cooper trailed off for a second and then nodded. “The list is basically endless. Also, we initially purchased metal goods but I found a source in Pegasus that I could use, so I increased our purchases of other goods with those monies.”
“Why was there such a difference in items purchased?” Harm asked.
“Mostly what was purchased using the funds supplied by the SGC were items that we could work around if we needed to,” Cooper informed him, voice even.
“Why would that be, chief?”
“When General Landry took over as the head of the SGC Major Lorne, as the stand in supply officer, was informed that since Atlantis was at the end of the supply line, we needed to be aware that we were not going to have a solid supply line,” Cooper explained. “Given that, and given that the IOA had supplied a larger budget for food, the decision was made that every penny that could be spent on long term supplies would be. As the months went on and we were able to confirm what parts of our orders placed through the SGC would be filled, and we tailored our ordering to reflect that.”
“So, you’re saying that your supply orders differed depending on who was paying for it?” Harm asked.
“Yes, sir,” Cooper confirmed.
Tony watched as Harm walked Cooper through several more points, each getting into finer detail on how supplies were ordered, authorized and finally shipped. “There was mentioning of smuggling being a problem on Atlantis, Chief. And that you have been called the biggest smuggler of them all.”
“Technically, the only thing I smuggled, which is to ‘import or export secretly, contrary to the law’, would be the garden I originally brought with me to Atlantis,” Cooper explained carefully. “I got retroactive authorization for that, but the first time the Atlantis Expedition walked through the gate to the city, I was indeed smuggling seeds with me in every spare bit of space I could use.”
“And now, there are reports that you use the term for yourself a lot,” Harm pressed.
“I do,” Cooper agreed. “However, everything I ‘smuggle’ onto Atlantis has to be beamed up by the Daedalus, and pass inspections as it’s loaded in the cargo bays. Everything has a manifest and we open all our crates in our largest warehouse where it’s about as public as it gets. Have we found actual smuggled goods? Yes. And they’ve been turned over to Agent DiNozzo for him to process and catch the person using my crates.”
“Still haven’t explained why you use the term, Chief,” Harm warned.
“I use the term ‘smuggle’ for any of the non-standard items that we would get from the IOA,” Cooper admitted. “It’s been the running joke of the expedition that anything I get for my department that isn’t ‘normal’ falls under the title of smuggling since I came back from my first leave with a tractor.”
“Thank you, Chief. I have no further questions at this time, but reserve the right to call you back up as needed,” Harm announced. Tony watched as he sat down and then turned his attention to the attorney Landry had retained.
“Chief Cooper, why did you bring the garden you smuggled onto Atlantis?” Commander Camden Diaz, Landry’s attorney asked.
Tony watched as Cooper pressed her lips together as she drew in a deep breath and then let it out slowly. After a quick glance at Judge Maverick, Cooper slowly, carefully laid out the reasons why she had brought the seeds she had turned into a garden.
Diaz nodded once and then checked some of the papers in front of him. “Chief, I have in front of me the supply lists that show Colonel Sumner ordered enough MRE’s to supply the expedition with three meals a day for thirteen months. Why, given that, did you bring seeds?”
“There are twelve MRE’s to a box. And only twenty-four separate meals,” Cooper started. “We had 150 people on the expedition. So. That’s 150 people per meal times three meals a day, equals 450 MRE’s eaten per day. If I figure thirteen months to equal 396 days, that’s a total of 178,200 MRE’s that needed to brought with us, for a total of 14,850 boxes. We had 38 minutes to get ourselves and enough supplies through the gate. After doing the math and trying to see if we could order that many MRE’s in the time we had, it was decided that we would supplement them with actual food.”
From the slightly flabbergasted look on Diaz’s face, he hadn’t expected Cooper to come up with numbers. Tony could say the same since he was shocked that she had that information off the top of her head. The totals were shocking.
“Who made that decision?” Diaz asked.
“General O’Neill did,” Cooper said.
“And what did you do when that decision was made?”
Cooper folded her hands in her lap and stared at Diaz. “Instead of ordering almost fifteen thousand boxes of MRE’s, I only ordered five thousand. I used the rest of the monies I was allotted to purchase the supplies needed to feed the expedition. Among the items I ordered were barrels of fresh water for drinking, since we had none.”
Diaz blinked once and Tony suppressed a smile. Cooper wasn’t pulling any punches. “Did you use those monies to purchase the garden you had brought?”
“If I might interrupt,” Harm cut in. He had a pile of papers in his hands and handed them over to the bailiff. “I have the receipts from Chief Cooper’s seed purchases.”
The bailiff handed Diaz the documents, and the commander took the papers with a frown. “Chief, would you like to explain these documents?”
“I purchased every single seed from my own monies,” Cooper informed the court with a shrug. “I hadn’t been spending a great deal of money for a number of years and I knew that the seeds I would need would be expensive. I spent the money without much of a care since I was leaving Earth and I wanted to make sure that I lived to see the SGC again.”
“And yet, you also brought other items with you,” Diaz said. “Cook books, how too books, knitting needles, gardening books, and number of kitchen utensils. Are you saying that those aren’t your ‘one personal item’?”
Cooper tapped one finger against her lip as she stared at Diaz. “The only thing in that list that might be considered a ‘personal item’ are the knitting needles. However, every single one of my people brought them as well. We considered them standard parts of our kits. As for the rest, they were materials that I deemed needed and necessary parts for the running my department. I’m good, but even I use recipes when it comes to making dishes that I’m not used to.”
From the frustrated look on his face, Diaz wasn’t expecting Cooper to be as calm as she was. Tony leaned back in his chair and settled in to watch Cooper show exactly why she was the MVP for the Atlantis Expedition.
“We’ll get back to that as needed,” Diaz said after several second’s silence. “I do want to touch on your habit of disobeying superior officers.”
Tony frowned slightly at that. The only note Cooper had in her record was when she’d refused an order from Everett. Cooper had an eyebrow raised as she stared at the officer and she was holding her peace. Harm was also quiet. None of them had thought that anyone would have an issue with that given that it had been before Landry had taken over.
Diaz stared at her for a moment and Cooper stared back. “Well?”
Cooper glanced at the judge before she looked at Harm. She crossed her hands in her lap and pressed her lips together firmly. Tony had a feeling she was holding back something deeply sarcastic by sheer force of will.
Harm stepped forward and cleared his throat. “Sir, I’m not certain what this topic has to do with this case. Also, Chief Cooper isn’t on trial.”
From the frustrated look on Diaz’s face, he wasn’t happy that Harm had pointed out the issues with the man’s question. “Fine, I withdraw the question.”
Harm settled back in his chair and Diaz turned back to Cooper. The commander started asking actual questions again, but he kept them confined to the financials of the Services department. Cooper answered all his questions in detail, without looking at her notes. From the way Diaz’s voice was getting sharper and sharper, he wasn’t happy with her answers.
“Chief Cooper, Ensign Thatch stated that Colonel Sheppard informed him that the expedition had faced starvation. Given that you’ve stated that you managed to bring enough food with you to feed everyone when you reached Atlantis, how could there be starvation?” Diaz asked.
“So, we had bread due to a trade deal for wheat, we had meat, we had fish, and we had some vegetables,” Cooper reported. “This is roughly twelve months after we arrived on Atlantis and three months before we made contact with Earth again. We’d had two harvests from my garden and I had replanted everything I could in the containers we had. I also had a garden growing at the base of the main tower that was months away from producing anything edible. We had small amounts of dried vegetables left over from our original supplies, but most of our caloric intake was bread and meat.”
She turned a hard look at Diaz before her expression smoothed out. “Most of our food was going to the science department members since they were keeping us alive, the exploration teams since they were our eyes and ears in the galaxy at large and the rest of the military were eating slightly smaller rations than them. The rest of the expedition were down to an estimated 800 calories per day because we didn’t have enough food.”
“Why?” Diaz pressed. “You’ve boasted that you have enough food to feed Atlantis for over 2 years. How could you have been starving?”
“I have that now. Then, we were slowly starving because it wasn’t just the expedition we were feeding,” Cooper said. “We were also feeding the Athosians since their harvest had been destroyed in the superstorm.”
“You could have declined to feed them,” Diaz suggested. “They’re aliens and not your problem.”
“They are our allies and without them, we would have starved to death six months into our first year, or died when we stumbled over the Wraith with no knowledge of what we’d discovered,” Cooper snapped. “Since they are our allies, we fed them our first year and now, we are able to share any production we have.”
“The food you’re sharing is alien to us. How can you be certain that humans from Earth can eat the food and not ill? Wouldn’t it be better to strictly eat food from Earth?” Diaz pressed.
“Every bit of food that is produced on the city or brought onto it is tested to confirm that earthborn humans can eat it,” Cooper explained, voice even. “It doesn’t matter if we’ve gotten the food item before, it’s all tested. And no, it would not be better to eat food strictly from Earth. We can’t import enough to keep our population fed.”
Diaz raised an eyebrow at that. “If you can’t import enough to keep your population fed, stop feeding the aliens, then.”
“We’re not feeding them at this time,” Cooper said. She leaned back in her chair and frowned at the commander. “However, the population I’m talking about are the member of the expedition from Earth. With the new growing season, the Athosians have enough food under cultivation that they are eating from their own sources and my stores aren’t feeding them. We still share the produce from any hunts and I routinely purchase worked leather from them for our stores.”
“Why don’t you buy that from Earth?”
“Sir,” Cooper said before she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Tony frowned as he watched her slowly get a hold of her temper. Diaz was pushing a button that everyone on Atlantis avoided pressing and he wasn’t certain if it was wise of Harm to let the questioning ride. When Cooper turned to look at Harm, Tony wondered what she was thinking. “Captain Rabb, do you have the email I gave you regarding the steadiness of our supplies?”
“I do, Chief,” Harm confirmed. He handed the bailiff a sheaf of paper. When the paper was passed to Judge Maverick, he cleared his throat. “Sir, the paper is an email exchange from Chief Cooper and Major Lorne to General Landry. The meat of the discussion is the status of the supply line between the SGC and Atlantis.”
“Chief Cooper has already stated that Atlantis doesn’t rely on the SGC for food,” Diaz said. He nodded as he was handed the documents.
“And we don’t,” Cooper agreed. “What that batch of emails is discussing is the willingness of the SGC to authorize our only supply ship, Daedalus to carry any food-based supplies that originated from the mountain. We were informed our place in the supply line was limited and that we should expect the Daedalus to prioritize the supplies needed for the battalion over food. Supplies needed for my department were far down on General Landry’s priority list.”
Diaz didn’t say anything as he read through the email chain. Tony could see from where he was sitting, that the emails had the full headers on them, showing every single bit of information, confirming that the emails were legitimate. From the way the man stiffened and then tried to relax, he wasn’t happy to be reading them.
“Thank you, Chief,” Diaz finally said. He turned to look at his client and then at the judge. “I have no more questions at this time.”
“Colonel Sheppard, you were the last officer who signed onto the Atlantis Expedition, correct?” Harm asked as Sheppard settled back into the witness chair.
“Yes, I was,” Sheppard agreed. He was watching Harm like a hawk and Tony wondered if any of the people in the courtroom knew what they were getting into. He was looking forward to the show.
“Did you have a chance to review the supply manifests before you signed onto the expedition?” Harm asked.
The smile Sheppard had on his face was amused and Tony wondered what John was thinking. “No.”
“So, you were unaware of the supply situation until when?” Harm asked.
“The first meeting that we had on Atlantis, going over all the supplies we had at hand and working out when we needed to start rationing food,” John stated. “This would be after I took command with the death of Colonel Sumner.”
“That seems unusual,” Harm observed. He tapped the papers on the table before him once before he picked up a page to hand it to Sheppard. “Can you confirm the information on this please?”
Sheppard carefully took the page and read it over. He nodded once. “This would be a printout of the email exchange between Colonel Sumner and General Landry detailing our supply situation and the changes General O’Neill was making to the manifests. It also details their upset that so much money has been spent on unneeded items.”
“And when did you discover this exchange?” Harm asked.
“After Colonel Sumner had died,” Sheppard answered. He handed the paper back to Harm and let his hand rest on the wood of the witness box. “I was given his laptop and had one of the IT department members crack the password to get me in so I could access all the information I would need as the new commanding officer for the expedition. I spent the first week of my new command going over everything, including all the communications between Colonel Sumner and General’s O’Neill and Landry.”
“Thank you,” Harm said. He handed page to the bailiff. “Please enter this into evidence.”
Tony watched as John kept his eyes on Rabb and held his peace, not giving out any more information than the question required. It was a skill that not everyone mastered and he had to wonder if he’d learned it when dealing with superior officers or somewhere else. Either way, it was driving Diaz batty that Harm’s witnesses were adding nails to Landry’s coffin.
“Colonel, I would like to go over what the official reaction of the expedition was to Chief Cooper’s garden, please,” Rabb said after several second’s silence.
“As soon as Dr. Weir and I figured out what she was doing with all the excess packing crates, we were deeply grateful that she’d had the foresight to bring the seeds, the books on various gardening methods and the knowledge on how to turn the produce she got into food we could eat. She also used that same knowledge to take the foodstuffs we ran into in Pegasus and make it work for us,” Sheppard stated. His voice was clam and even as he discussed what had to have been a very tenuous situation. “Without her efforts, we would have starved.”
“Since you’re the commanding officer of the Atlantis military, you’ve been the one signing off on any purchases. Do you know if there’s been any actual smuggling coming out of the Supply and Housekeeping departments?” Harm asked bluntly.
“I know that Cooper calls the tools that she uses to produce foodstuffs ‘smuggling’,” John said, voice even and his words picked out carefully. “The last thing she got in that vein were the supplies needed to make cheese using the milk from the kinda-cows we have on the city. We’ve been drinking their milk for about six months, but with the cheesemaking tools, we’ll be able to make a number of different products on Atlantis that we won’t need to have shipped out. That will free up more space other essential items.”
“Thank you, colonel, for that information, but it still doesn’t answer the question,” Rabb pressed. “Do you know of any actual smuggling happening in her department?”
“No,” John said bluntly. “There isn’t any. The last actual smuggling was a Marine Corporal assigned to internal security who tried to bring meth onto the city along with black tar heroin. He got caught as soon as he unpacked his ‘stock’.”
“So, food stuffs aren’t considered illegal?” Rabb pressed.
“No, they are not,” Sheppard confirmed.
“And there’s been no indication that Chief Cooper or any of her people have been smuggling illegal items onto the city?”
John snorted once and shook his head. “No, there hasn’t been.”
“Thank you, Colonel,” Rabb finished and then sat down.
When Diaz stood up, Tony sat forward slightly. He had no idea why the commander was still trying to insinuate that Cooper was doing something weird. All the evidence they had showed that Landry had been skimming from the very beginning and had tried to get Sumner to go along with it. The Marine had come close, but in the end, O’Neill and Cooper had kept him from actually going through with the fraud. It didn’t look good on Sumner since he’d basically looked the other way, but he hadn’t committed any crimes.
“You state the expedition would have starved without Cooper bringing that garden,” Diaz stated. “But even she states that she brought enough food for the expedition for thirteen months. What happened?”
“We got allies, and needed to feed them. We got invaded and had a number of our Tau’ri based foodstuffs that were used by the exploration teams stolen. Some of the items that were on the manifests, when opened, proved to be light on the number of individual units. And finally, Commander Diaz, while Chief Cooper had projected and planned for thirteen months before we reconnected with the SGC, it was closer to fifteen months before we got back in contact and the Daedalus wasn’t carrying much in the way of actual food for us. She had more ordnance than anything else on board. Bullets are great, but you can’t eat them,” Sheppard snapped. “I directed every single exploration team to eat as many meals off the city as they could. If that meant they caught an animal and roasted it? They did so. If they were offered food by any of the peoples they met with? As long as the food was clean, they ate it. Every bite my people ate that didn’t come from Atlantis’s stores meant that there was more food for everyone else.”
Tony could tell that Diaz hadn’t expected that and from the way he was leaning back slightly, he wasn’t sure how to deal with Sheppard. “So, you feel comfortable eating food that’s alien?”
“I’ve served all over this planet, Commander, and eaten foods that I couldn’t have imagined eating as a child. Balut comes to mind,” John said voice even. “So, no. I don’t care that the foods I’m eating come from another planet. All I care about is that it’s edible, it’s tasty, that there’s enough that all my people are getting enough food and no one is starving themselves to a slow death so someone else can go out and try to keep everyone alive.”
“Is that why you declined to keep Ensign Thatch on the city?” Diaz asked.
“I hadn’t asked for a supply officer,” John eventually said after several seconds staring at Diaz. “He was sent out by General Landry without my knowledge or request. He hadn’t gone through any of the screening processes we mandate for anyone coming out to Atlantis. Given all of that, he already had several strikes against him in my book. Despite that, I was trying not to take out my irritation on my brand-new officer. However, when that same officer, on his first day on duty, comes into my office and tries to tell me that all of the hard-won food independence we had, needed to be scraped by the order of someone who had never been out to Atlantis, and had in fact, been one of the factors that had led to us starving? No. He wasn’t going to stay because if he had, what’s to say that he wouldn’t have sabotaged all our food supplies that were ‘alien’ under the orders of General Landry? I wasn’t going to chance it and so he can stay on Earth.”
Tony sat with Cooper and Sheppard in Harm’s office and watched as the other man paced around his desk. The testimony that they had provided had been brutal and the trial wasn’t finished. Harm still needed to get Landry on the stand.
“What’s got you all twitchy?” Tony asked.
“How close is it out there?” Harm asked. He looked at Sheppard and waved his hands at the ceiling.
“What do you mean ‘close’?” John asked as he leaned forward to pour himself a cup of coffee.
“I get that the Wraith are a real and present danger that isn’t going to go away, but how close is the expedition to failing?” Harm asked.
“On a daily basis?” John mused before taking a sip of his coffee. “If we get hit with a couple of hives, we’re fucked.”
From the grimace Harm gave him, he wasn’t pleased with that news. “And the food issue?”
“It’s not just food Landry skimped on, that was just the most overt item,” John reminded him. “It was also the bullets, the bombs, the rockets and a thousand other things that are needed to wage war. I do my best to make war as far away from Atlantis as possible, but I’ve been limited by the arms I’ve been able to utilize. Hell, we’ve been so damn low on C4 at times that my munitions officer has had to cook up a homemade version.”
“Jesus,” Harm said. He stopped and turned to stare at Sheppard. “Landry knows that, right?”
“He would have gotten all the reports, yes,” John confirmed. “Including the ones where we mentioned we were low on some form of ordnance. We don’t hide this stuff, Rabb.”
Harm rubbed his temples and sighed. “Tony, are you able to explain how Landry worked to change reports around so things didn’t sound so dire?”
Tony nodded once. “You’ve got a list of information as a cheat sheet. I made sure of that.”
“Right, you told me that,” Harm said. “I’m not normally this…”
“Distracted?” John asked. He accepted the plate filled with food from Cooper and sighed. “Cooper.”
“Deal with it, sir,” Cooper snapped. She handed out plates to Harm and Tony before taking her own up. “Were you briefed on how information is received by the SGC?”
“Yeah,” Harm confirmed. He waved a hand at Tony. “He went over everything and we found the electronic fingerprints that showed the changes that were made.”
“Keep with the plan you came up with, Captain,” John suggested. He started eating the food Cooper had given him. “You know you’ve got this in the bag, you just need to tie the damn thing shut.”
“Right,” Harm said. He looked down at the plate in his hand and blinked. “Why do I have food?”
Tony could restrain himself and started laughing. Now Harm knew how they all felt when they were around Cooper for more than five minutes.
From the way Harm was staring at Landry as he waited for Diaz to regain his seat after questioning him, Tony could tell he was thinking something over. The man held his peace while Tony sat back down and kept staring as Landry took his seat in the witness chair. When a sharp nudge hit his ribs, he looked over at John and then down at the clipboard he was holding out.
What do you think he’s up to?
Tony shrugged once. Hell, if he knew. Harm was a damn good lawyer and prosecutor, who won more cases than he lost and that was the thing they were all counting on in this case. If he thought it would be best to play things close to his chest, he would.
“General Landry, we’ve all heard the information on how you changed the allotments to Atlantis. How the monies designated for the military, for the supply departments, even for the sciences went elsewhere. All of this has left the expedition short of critical supplies at times where the safety of Earth hung in the balance.”
Tony watched as Landry flushed as he sat staring at Harm. Since no questions had been asked of him, he was holding his peace and Tony had to wonder how long he’d be able to do that. Harm had made a hobby of pissing off superior officers for years. He didn’t think Landry was going to be any different.
“I had originally planned to come out here and cross examine you. To see if I could suss out what led you to the choices you made,” Harm continued after several seconds silence. “I find that nothing I can say, no questions I can ask can come up against this simple truth: Your actions in depriving the Atlantis expedition of the supplies they need to do their job imperiled the lives of every single person on this planet and this galaxy. There are over 6 billion people on this planet and likely a trillion or more sentients out in the galaxy at large.
“While it’s true that the Atlantis expedition did wake the Wraith, they’ve taken on the task of dealing with them. And in this case, dealing with them means confining them to Pegasus so they can be killed, one hive at a time.
“It’s due to the efforts of a few hundred people that the Wraith haven’t made it here to try to eat us,” Harm concluded. “We have the reports that say that the Wraith know we exist and they are actively working on finding the Milky Way. I can only hope that your actions don’t doom us all.”
As he sat down, Tony turned his attention to Landry. The general was no longer flushed with temper, instead his complexion was washed out as if he’d paled. His expression was still neutral, but his control didn’t extend to his skin and Tony found that telling.
Judge Maverick cleared his throat and tapped his fingers against the pile of paper in front of him. “I’ve heard all the evidence provided by the prosecution. I’ve heard the evidence provided by the defense and of course, the testimony of all the witnesses. I’ve been empowered by the President to make my decision regarding this case. Given that it has significant implications for our global security, I will be reviewing all the information provided and will deliver my decision at this time tomorrow. Bailiff, please return the defendant to his cell and everyone else? Get out.”
“How’s the trial going?” Gibbs asked as he turned the steaks cooking in front of the fire.
“Well, it’s been totally non-standard, but then again, it’s for a program that so secret I shouldn’t think about it outside of its bases for fear that telepaths are real,” Tony said after several seconds thought. He passed Gibbs a beer and sat down to watch the meat cook. “We’re waiting for the judge to reach his decision. Twice baked potatoes are in the oven along with a roasted vegetable medley by the way.”
“When did you start eating your vegetables?” Gibbs asked, amused.
“Ugh,” Tony said with a put-upon grimace. “Ian got on me about my diet and well… Done right, most veggies aren’t that bad. Plus, we’re having steak and potatoes. I can deal with some roasted veg.”
The laugh that Gibbs let out seemed spontaneous and Tony grinned. He hadn’t often been able to amuse his boss, but it always made him feel satisfied when he had. Still did.
“Alright, I’ll leave your new habit alone,” Gibbs promised. He poked at the steaks for several seconds and then pulled them off the fire and onto a plate. “Okay, these need to rest for a few minutes.”
“So, scuttlebutt is that you’ve been moved to a new agency?” Gibbs asked as he stood up with the steaks and headed for the kitchen.
Tony shrugged once. “Yeah, I’m officially out of NCIS and into a small department in Homeland that’s super-secret and about as Blackbox as it gets, boss.”
“Good, that should protect you at least.” Gibbs grunted. “I’ll remind the team that they have no reasons to go looking for you and plenty of reasons to let you be.”
“Thanks,” Tony said. He checked his watch and nodded. “Five minutes on the potatoes and the veggies. Let everyone know I’ll be back to email contact in a week or so?”
“I can do that,” Gibbs promised. He waved a hand at the meal they were having. “So are you having anything close to this?”
“Yeah, the mess is making sure we’re eating a varied diet,” Tony confirmed. “And we get a steel beech thing about every six weeks. Red meat, seafood, chicken and tons of sides. We totally stuff ourselves and mids are normally shit out of luck on leftovers.”
“Those are the best kinds of BBQ’s,” Gibbs agreed. He pulled down a cutting board and started slicing one of the steaks. “I got you that A1 sauce you like so much.”
“I noticed. And the horseradish sauce for you. How you can eat that, I have no idea!” Tony complained as he cleared the oven timer and grabbed an oven mitt. “One of my new coworkers likes spicy food. Like, his whole culture does it. He thinks wasabi is mild. I don’t want to know what his version of spicy is.”
“We have pepper-heads here in the US too, Tony,” Gibbs said around his laughter. “Are you going to get him some hot sauces to try out?”
“I should!” Tony said. He made a mental note to head to the spice store he liked to see if they had some things he could bring back for Ronon. If nothing else, it would be good to bring the guy something that might remind him of home. And maybe they could send an expedition or two through to Sateda to see if they could check out the fields for any newly wild foodstuffs. Cooper would likely sign off on that.
“You know they’ve come up with some super-hot peppers too,” Gibbs offered casually. “We had a case recently where our victim had a heart attack and died due to everything locking up after he tried this horrific dish made up of mostly peppers and more peppers with a little beef to bind it all together. Abby was very excited to test it.”
“Dear god,” Tony muttered as he dished up the potatoes and roasted vegetables. “I bet that was weird.”
“We needed gas masks to deal with the amount of capsaicin in the air,” Gibbs bitched. “I’m barely to the point where I’m willing to eat horseradish. Fuck hot sauce.”
“Oh, damn, Gibbs. I’ve missed you,” Tony said fondly as he handed over the plates. He watched as his portion of steak was deposited on his plate and sighed in satisfaction. “And this.”
“So come over when you’re in town. Make sure you bring Ian so I can get to know him and we can tell lies to each other about shots we’ve made,” Gibbs offered. He headed back out to the living room with his dinner and a serving of the horseradish sauce. “It’s no harder to make three steaks than it is to make two. I’ll even let you make more roasted vegetables.”
“You’ve got a deal,” Tony promised as he picked up his own meal and followed.
Tony watched as Judge Maverick settled into his seat. The man had taken every single bit of time he’d allotted himself to go over his decision. And his face was so painfully neutral that Tony had no idea which way he would swing.
From the mild twitching Landry and Diaz were exhibiting, they didn’t know either.
“When I was informed of the reason for this trial, I was horrified that the US and the rest of the world had sent people out to another galaxy so lightly provisioned,” Maverick stated. “As I read over the evidence provided in this case on how that expedition has been mishandled, my horror turned to anger. I had to place that aside to be able to do my job and evaluate the evidence before me in an impartial manner.”
Maverick turned to look at Landry and frowned. “It was a stroke of luck that you and I have never served together and frankly, don’t know each other. Our careers have never intersected and these items were a consideration when the President needed to find an actual judge to listen to this case and make a decision on what was going to be done.”
“Sir!” Diaz called, standing up. “What?”
“Please tell me you didn’t actually think you were going to get him off on the crimes he’s been charged with?” Maverick asked. He waved Diaz to sit back down when the attorney just stared at him with his mouth open. “Seriously, you were brought in to help us get to the bottom of the bullshit. Sit down, Commander.”
Tony watched as Diaz sat down in a daze and shook his head. The President had been beyond livid when Tony’s investigation had brought back charges of money laundering, racketeering, theft and of course, treason. Landry was actually lucky he’d lived as long as he had. SecDef had wanted to shoot him in front of a firing squad.
“So, I’ve read everything over. And my decision is this: Henry Landry, you are hereby stripped of your commission, and busted down to Airman Basic. You will be remanded to a black site prison of the President’s choosing. There you will spend the rest of your life, however long that shall be, in isolation. You will have no visitor, no contact, no mail, no nothing. If you are religious, you will be allowed a copy of your holy book and that will be it. Your retirement accounts through the Air Force will be stripped from you and any monies you will earn over the rest of your life as an E1 will go to your victims.”
“And if I protest this?” Landry asked after he cleared his throat.
Tony was impressed. The man was keeping his voice even, even in the face of a pretty horrific sentence.
“Well, SecDef wanted to shoot you when he found out and that hasn’t changed. I wanted to shoot you. The President rolled a set of dice for his answer and you got it,” Maverick snapped. “But if you want to protest, sure, we can take the life in prison option off the table and have someone shoot you for your crimes.”
From the way Landry slumped at that, he hadn’t expected that answer. “I’ll take the prison sentence.”
“Good call,” Maverick said. He looked over at Sheppard. “Colonel?”
“Yes, sir,” Sheppard said. He pulled his ear piece out of his pocket and tapped it. “Colonel Caldwell, you have a package. Please beam Landry into the brig.”
The room was silent for several seconds before the light burst of the Asgard transporter lit the room and Landry disappeared.
“Court is adjourned,” Maverick announced and used his gavel for the first time to close the case officially.
Tony walked over to Harm and shook his hand. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Harm said. He looked over at Diaz and held his hand out to him. “You did a good job, Diaz.”
Diaz looked up from the papers he was going over. “The one time I didn’t read the cover letter… But then again, maybe it’s better this way. I did try to stand as his defense attorney.”
Harm waggled his hand slightly and smiled as Diaz took it. “I know. And that’s what he needed, no matter what other considerations were at play.”
“Right,” Diaz said. He let Rabb’s hand go and turned back to Cooper. “Thank you, Chief, for not losing your cool when I questioned you.”
From the way Cooper’s eyebrow went up, she hadn’t been expecting the commander to say anything to her. “You’re welcome, sir.”
“Colonel,” Diaz said as he twisted slightly to face Sheppard. “I wish you all the best and I hope that you succeed in your mission. The Wraith are a horror I never want to see.”
“If I have my way, you won’t,” Sheppard promised.
Tony clapped his hands together as Diaz walked away. “So, since we’re in my old stomping ground, do you three want to go out and get a drink?”
Sheppard gave Cooper a side eyed look as she rocked back and forth on her heels. “You’re going to be a warrant officer in three months, Cooper. And it’s not like you haven’t had a beer or two with me before.”
“Not here I haven’t,” Cooper said before she held up a hand. “I’d be honored sir. But can we please get into civvies? A night out on the town in uniform is just asking for some bullshit to happen.”
“Sounds like a plan, Chief!”
“Chief Warrant Officer Cooper, reporting for duty, sir!”
Jack looked up Cooper and smiled. “Rank looks good on you Cooper. At ease.” He watched as Cooper relaxed and waved her towards one of the chairs in front of his desk. “Sit down.”
“Seriously, Cooper, you’ve never been hesitant around me, don’t start now,” Jack said. He leaned back in his chair and stared at her. “Honestly. The rank looks good on you.”
“Thank you, sir,” Cooper said. She sat down and shifted slightly as her uniform settled around her.
The smirk that Jack could feel stretching his lips was a bit mean, but he decided to own it. He’d been trying to get her to take the bump in rank for years and she’d ignored him because she was comfortable. As much as he hated the shit that Hank and Thatch had stirred up, he was honestly grateful that they had pushed her into this action.
“Sir,” Cooper sighed. She raised an eyebrow at him and frowned. “Gloating is unkind.”
“But very satisfying,” Jack admitted. “Also, lucrative. SecNav had to pay me $20 when you graduated with honors.”
“I bet he loved that,” Cooper said amused.
Jack waved a hand towards the ceiling. “Did you get the email on your expanded budget?”
“Yes, sir,” Cooper said. She sounded satisfied and Jack couldn’t blame her at all. “And I spent it all. Every single penny.”
“What did you do with it?” Jack asked. She’d gotten a lot of money for her department and while he’d seen some of the order manifests, he had no idea how what he’d seen would work. It was just too much random stuff.
“I bought enough stuff to outfit a mini-NEX,” Cooper said with a smile. “Full of all the things that Atlantis needs on a daily basis.”
“A Naval Exchange? On Atlantis?” Jack asked. He held up a hand when she started to explain, and thought about it. “Okay, that makes a lot of sense. How are you going to have everyone pay for it?”
“I bought a lot of gift cards and the machines to load them,” Cooper said. She smiled grimly. “I already pay the Athosians who we buy stuff from in goods and the like, and I’ll order stuff for them without issue, but this will allow them to purchase stuff on their own. They know what money is, and did before we got to Pegasus, but they lived mostly on a barter economy. This will help them get what they need from us.”
“And I’m guessing you’re paying a living wage?” Jack asked. Not that he expected Cooper to be trying to cheat anyone. It was against her nature and she was more likely to overpay than under.
“Hell, yes,” Cooper confirmed with a nod. “Teyla and Ronon are getting paid as contractors and I had a list from them of things they wanted me to buy, so my personal allotment is stuffed to the gills. Every single bit of space allotted to my department is packed so tightly I have no idea if we’re going to be able to get it unpacked when we get to Atlantis. But I got everything on all my lists.”
“And several of my Housekeeping and Services members are heading out with you,” Jack observed. Beck was a bit salty, but then, she had warned him she was recruiting.
Cooper grinned. “Yup. And I managed to source some new coffee, so that’s also onboard.”
“Good to know,” Jack said with a smile. “So, ready to head back out there?”
“Yes, sir,” Cooper said. She sat up straight in her chair and gave him a firm nod. “I am. Earth is nice to visit now, but…”
“But Atlantis is where you belong?” Jack asked softly.
Jack nodded. He hadn’t expected anything different. “Then good luck, Chief Warrant Officer Cooper. And I’ll see you in a year.”
“Aye, aye, sir!”