Thank you to Emergency70 for the beta!
“Sir! Welcome back!”
Mitchell gave one of his slow, easy smiles and nodded at the saluting Major who rose from the Chair at their appearance. “Major Greene. Any 911 issues?”
“Not a one, sir. There’s a message from the SGC for you from General Landry.” Greene handed over a tablet laptop, and Mitchell accepted it.
“Okay. Thank you, Greene. I’m taking our guests to the Core. You’ve got the bridge.” Mitchell tucked the tablet under an arm and motioned for McKay and McGee to follow him. “Gentleman.”
“This is pretty amazing. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to work on a ship – in space!” McGee enthused as they weaved around crew members, corridors, and the occasional obstruction. “I mean, artificial gravity! This totally blows my mind.”
Mitchell grinned and nudged McKay, who grumbled, “Kids,” under his breath and rolled his eyes. “And he’s never been through the Gate.” The officer drawled.
“Nor will he.” McKay glowered at them both in reminder. “May I ask why we’re going to the Asgard Core, Colonel, when I could have just as easily done my scans from the bridge? Or Engineering?”
“Because the Core is empty, and there won’t be anyone to get in your way – or for you to get in the way of – trying to do your thing. Plus, if you need help with something…”
“I won’t.” McKay denied flatly with an affronted scowl.
“…then Thor can lend a hand.” Mitchell finished, as if Rodney hadn’t spoken. McKay huffed.
“Thor?” McGee repeated, blinking. “As in Norse god with the thunder and the hammer?”
“Mostly, yes.” Mitchell affirmed cheerfully, swiping his card through the security lock next to the thick doors that protected the Core. “Turns out the Norse gods were actually the Asgard.” He led them inside and they were immediately greeted by a holographic image flashing into appearance near the main control console of the big-headed, grey, skinny, huge black-eyed alien that was their old friend and ally, Thor. He looked so life-like that if the real Thor had been standing next to it, no one could have told the difference. “Hi, Thor.” Mitchell greeted him.
“Colonel Mitchell.” The hologram responded. McGee had stopped in the doorway, mouth hanging open in complete and total shock at the sight of him, while McKay breezed on by and headed for the control console. “Welcome. How may I be of assistance?”
“Not me, Thor.” Mitchell pointed at McKay, then McGee. “These two. I don’t think you ever met Dr. Rodney McKay.” The scientist glanced over, waved, then went back to figuring out the console (it had been a while since he used Asgard tech).
“I have not made his acquaintance personally, but I have knowledge of him from the SGC database.” Thor intoned, inclining his head.
“Ah, good. That will make things easier.” Mitchell shifted the tablet from under one arm to the other. “He has full clearance to use the Core, on General O’Neill’s orders, so give him whatever he might need.”
“Indeed I will, Colonel Mitchell.” Thor assented, flickering only slightly as the Core registered the access. Then he turned to look at McGee, who was slowly making his way into the room and over to McKay. “And this one?”
“He’s new. Special Agent Timothy McGee, NCIS.” Mitchell introduced him. “We’re working on a joint mission with that agency regarding the Trust, so he’s with McKay.”
“Ah. Very well.” Thor blinked those big black eyes at McGee. “Welcome aboard the Odyssey, Agent McGee.”
“Uh…uh…thanks!” the poor guy stuttered, wide-eyed himself.
Grinning, Mitchell glanced down at his witch, then made for the door. “Good luck, boys! I’ll be on the bridge, so yell when you find something.”
“Yes, yes, Colonel.” McKay waved him off, not noticing that Mitchell had already left. “Okay, so…ah ha!” He exclaimed, picking up one of the egg-shaped control stones and placing it where he wanted it on the console. On the large view screen in front of them, a graphic map of the Earth came up. “Now…”
“If you would find it easier and faster, Dr. McKay, simply give verbal commands and I shall execute them.” Thor offered. McKay looked over at him, mildly surprised, and nodded.
“Oh. Okay. Thank you.” He added, since it didn’t hurt to be polite to an AI.
“You are welcome.”
McKay blinked, shook his head, and said dryly, “If you were like this in reality, Thor, then I have to tell you that you’re much more agreeable than your friend, Hermiod, was.” His expression saddened briefly, since he kind of missed the Asgard engineer from the Daedalus even though he’d been kind of snarky and disapproving most of the time – like McKay himself, really.
“This hologram is a real-time representation of the true Thor, including his personality, as it was at the time of its creation.” Thor explained, as if Rodney had asked. “Hermiod was one of those Asgard who initially disagreed with sharing our technology with the Tau’ri of Earth, and did not believe you were ready to take your place amongst the Four Great Races as the Fifth Race.” Rodney paused and focused on Thor at info, interested despite himself.
“Oh? I didn’t know that. So why did he get assigned to the Daedalus?”
“The High Council and myself felt that serving on the Tau’ri vessel would expose him to your true natures and he would see for himself that you have come much farther than he believed. We also hoped that he would come to…like you, as many of us already did.”
Rodney tilted his head thoughtfully as he gazed at Thor’s hologram. “Really? Well, I don’t know that it worked, but I enjoyed working with him on the occasions that occurred.” Clearing his throat noisily, McKay brusquely got back to business. “Anyway, I have a couple of locations down on the planet that I need to scan. We have blueprints of the buildings, but we’re wondering if there may be rooms or structures hidden within them that would not be included in the blueprints because we believe that Baal may control the buildings.”
“The sensors can certainly determine this, unless Baal is using any of the shielding that my database informs me he does, indeed, possess, or unless he is blocking any sort of signals at the location that would indicate the presence of Goa’uld or their technology.” Thor answered. McKay frowned, but shrugged.
“Well, let’s try it and see what we get.” He began looking around for his tablet, only to realize he left it in O’Neill’s study. He was so used to carrying it around on Atlantis that he didn’t realize he hadn’t picked it up before they left the room. “Ah…crap. I left my tablet…” Yet he’d remembered his modified LSD. Idiot!
McGee, happy to at least be sort of useful, pulled out his cell phone and called up the addresses he’d saved. “Here.” He said, offering it to the scientist. McKay took it, flashed a begrudgingly grateful smile, and turned back to Thor.
“Okay, Thor. Location one…” he rattled off the addresses, “…and two.”
“Very well. Calibrating sensors.” Thor turned away toward the view screen, which began to shift and zoom in on the desired locations. Rodney had gone with the Phoenix address first.
“So that’s what the Asgard look like?” McGee asked, whispering. “They’re what everyone calls ‘little green men’?”
McKay snorted. “Except for the colour, yes. Although, we now know the whole ‘alien abduction’ thing was perpetrated by a lone, rogue Asgard scientist named Loki. See, the Asgard were able to live so long because they continuously cloned themselves and downloaded their consciousnesses into the new bodies every time the old one wore out, broke down, whatever. Unfortunately for them, you can only make so many copies of a copy before the genetics simply can’t take it any longer and break down.”
“Like with computer data!” McGee said in understanding.
“Well…close enough.” McKay didn’t feel like trying to explain it. “Anyway, Loki was looking for a way to stop the degradation. The Asgard were dying, you see, and had very little time left. He came here and was performing unsanctioned experiments on the humans he abducted until he got caught.”
“Wow.” McGee shook his head. “I feel sorry for them, but…”
“Yes, well, ultimately they were unsuccessful.” Rodney’s mouth turned downward and he glanced at the hologram sadly. “It was only a few months ago – almost a year now, I guess – that the Asgard invited SG1 and Odyssey to their new home world in our galaxy, where they proceeded to give us this,” he gestured at the room at large, “the Asgard Core, which is the sum total of all their knowledge and technology – their Legacy – and gathered together with the intention of committing mass suicide.” It still baffled Rodney’s mind how they could have even considered such a thing. “They didn’t get the chance. Some of the bad guys we were currently at war with showed up and blew up their planet – and the Asgard with it. None of them survived, and they’d only just barely finished installing and integrating everything on board Odyssey when it happened.”
McGee’s eyes were huge. “My god!” He breathed, horrified on all kinds of levels. “That’s…that’s…horrible!”
“Yeah. It was. Of all the races we’ve met and made friends with, the Asgard have been the only advanced race who didn’t treat us like we were completely stupid or unworthy of their help. They were excellent allies, even when they had so many of their own problems.” Rodney shrugged.
“Dr. McKay,” Thor interrupted, “I have attempted to scan both locations for possible hidden structures. The first location in the human settlement of Phoenix shows nothing unusual or of note for a typical human building. Here is the sensor data.” The view screen enlarged one section and Rodney glanced it over carefully, but had to agree with Thor.
“No, I don’t see anything either. What about the Las Vegas building? It was larger and more complex.”
“Indeed, however you may not have realized it was constructed quite recently – and that the sensor data indicates a significant level of naqahdah among the materials used in construction.” Thor blinked slowly once and the screen shifted again. Rodney’s eyes widened as he took in the data on display.
“Oh boy. That’s not a good sign, though we should have expected it, I suppose. He’s pulled that one before.”
“Excuse my beginner’s question, but what is naqahdah?” McGee asked tentatively.
“It’s a mineral – an element not found on our own planet naturally – and it’s what was used by the Ancients to build Stargates. The Goa’uld found it useful for all kinds of things, however, and most of their technology utilizes it in some way.” McKay answered absently, studying one area of the plan from the sensor data more closely. “We also learned from another human culture on another planet how to build generators – really powerful ones – that use the mineral as a kind of fuel. Thor, this area here looks…suspicious. Is that supposed to be another level down?” Rodney pointed at the spot, and Thor tilted his head.
“The sensors could not get accurate readings from that area, Dr. McKay. Something is interfering, though I cannot say if it is shielding or perhaps some sort of technology which disables or scrambles signals.” Thor informed him.
“So there’s no way to tell if the cause is some natural phenomenon or some kind of tech? What about really basic signals?” Rodney was already attempting to recalibrate the sensors. “Radio waves, electromagnetic fields, x-rays, ultra-sound…” he listed them off as he attempted each one – and came up frustrated every time. “Damn it!”
“If we went down there, could we use something to…boost the sensors?” McGee suggested. “Like…an antenna or something?”
Rodney snapped his fingers and exclaimed, “Wait! Maybe my LSD will have better luck.” He pulled it from the pocket he’d tucked it into inside his jacket.
“That is of Ancient design.” Thor observed, actually appearing curious – an odd thing for a hologram. “I have not seen one before. What does it do? And where did you find it?”
“Pegasus.” McKay answered, quickly downloading the data from the sensors and checking himself for his cell phone – just in case. He blinked and fumbled the device when a flash of light scanned it in his hands abruptly. Then he shrugged – couldn’t hurt to have the design and tech information for back-up. “We went with ‘Life Signs Detector’ when we named it because we don’t know what the Ancients actually called it. LSD for short. It does many things – scanning for all kinds of energy signatures is mainly what I use it for. John uses his mostly to be stealthy and sneak up on or away from bad guys.”
“Remarkable. How fascinating.”
Rodney nodded, not really paying attention, and glanced at McGee. “You up for a quick trip? I think this will get us what we need if we get closer.”
McGee nodded eagerly, then paused, hesitantly adding, “Are you sure we should? I mean if it is the place then won’t we be risking not only ourselves but Mike, too? Maybe we should ask Gibbs and Colonel Sheppard first…”
“Bah, nonsense! Even if Baal’s Trust goons are loitering about, they don’t know either of us from any other annoying human down there.” McKay scoffed dismissively. “We’ll only be a few minutes getting our scans, and then we come right back up here again. Piece of cake.”
“Well, okay, if you’re sure.” McGee agreed, though still appearing sceptical.
“I’ll transmit the results of my scans if I find anything, Thor. Save all this other data, too, in case we need it again later.” McKay moved to another console, consulted the view screen, and entered a set of coordinates for transport. “I’ll beam us to this parking lot area next to the building on the far back west side. It looks to be mostly empty – probably where they park the station’s news vehicles.”
“Good luck, Dr. McKay.” The hologram said as they were enveloped in the light of the Asgard beam.
McGee blinked away the sense of disorientation and looked around where they’d reappeared. McKay had been right, after all; there were only two SUVs and a news van in the small lot. The other spaces were empty. The scientist had also looked around curiously, but it was more to orient himself rather than to threat-assess. McGee shook his head and hurried to catch up to McKay when – from several feet away because he’d already started walking – he called impatiently, “Well come on, then! We don’t have all day, McGee!”
“Sorry! Sorry! It’s taking a little bit of getting used to the whole transporter beam thing.” The agent apologized, slowing to keep pace with the scientist.
Rodney grunted, keeping focused on the readings he was already picking up with his LSD. He wasn’t going to bite the kid’s head off (well, maybe a bit of a nibble, really) when he still remembered the first few times he himself had used the beams. He hadn’t been a-okay with it so much, either. “The shine will wear off eventually.” Was all he said.
“So…getting anything, yet?” McGee inquired, trying to look at the small screen in Rodney’s hand even as they walked. They were walking along a narrow side-street between buildings now, and heading toward the busier public street at the front of the building.
“Huh.” Rodney stopped abruptly and turned slowly around in a circle. “Odd. It looks like a natural sort of…underground cave or something, but…” he frowned deeply, “These readings are not what I would expect to see.” Looking up from the device he studied the façade of the that side of the building.
“There’s a side entrance over there.” McGee pointed. “Next to those bushes and rock bed.”
“Let’s take a look.” McKay strode in that direction, occasionally glancing at the readings. “And surprise, surprise! Thor’s sensors weren’t entirely accurate. There is part of the building that’s been constructed with naqahdah – laced materials, but not the whole building.”
“Really? Wow, that little scanner is sure handy.”
“It is, isn’t it? The Ancients did occasionally create some things that weren’t total disasters, I suppose.” McKay smirked, thinking of other Ancient devices and technologies that hadn’t been so useful or benign. “Mostly, though, they’re just a bunch of irresponsible idiots who left all their dangerous toys lying around.” The LSD beeped at him and he looked down at it, frowning. When he saw why, he gulped and said, “Uh oh.”
“Uh oh?” McGee echoed, not liking that phrase from the other man. “What ‘uh oh’?”
“John’s gonna kill me, that’s what.” McKay replied, scowling even as he quickly entered some commands into his LSD…and promptly tossed it into the bushes even as the side door opened and several rather large, armed men exited the building and surrounded them. “Uh…hi, guys. We weren’t doing anything…just passing by…”
“Silence! You will come with us now.” One of them, the one who Rodney took to be in charge, ordered them without preamble. Several Zats were very suddenly primed and pointed at them ominously. McGee went rather pasty (remembering Daniel’s demonstration of them to Teyla and Ronon yesterday evening) and McKay swallowed back the snarky retort that he might have said once upon a time and just raised his hands in submission instead.
“Hey, hey! No need for all this!” He exclaimed, not fighting it when two of the gorillas flanked him and McGee and prodded them toward the door with their Zats. “We’re cooperating!”
“Where are we going?” McGee bravely managed to ask, his voice almost steady. The leader glared at him, but answered.
“My master wishes to speak with you. You were trespassing on his property and alerted our security.”
Two more guards – Jaffa, Rodney absently guessed – held open the door as they were marched in, then forced down a set of stairs to another door. At the leader’s words, Rodney stumbled a little as a surge of fear washed through him. His guard none-too-gently grabbed him and pushed him forward roughly. There were only three Jaffa now, having left the others behind, but three were enough.
“Ow, ow, ow! Watch it, you over-muscled gorilla! I bruise easily!” He complained as they were shoved through the next door.
Unfortunately, McGee picked the wrong moment to try something heroic, going for his gun. His guard swatted him like a fly and knocked him unconscious. Rodney tried to go to him to see if he was okay, but didn’t quite make it before his guard zatted him at the command from their leader of, “Jaffa! Kree!”
The last thing Rodney saw as he went down before darkness claimed him was the damp, dank, dirty cement floor of a basement.
Relieved that Teal’c and Vala were back on good ‘ole terra firma (the message from Landry had informed him of this and requested a chat to brief Mitchell on the mission’s results), Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell finally managed to get away again and go back to the Asgard core to check on McKay and McGee’s progress.
To his surprise and mild consternation, he found the room empty.
“What the…?” he took a deep breath and let it out slowly, reaching for his ear. “Mitchell to Dr. McKay, please identify your location.” No answer was forthcoming, until Dr. Caruthers in Engineering spoke up.
“Colonel, sir, Dr. McKay beamed himself and Agent McGee back to the surface twenty minutes ago.”
“What?! Did he tell anyone why or where?” Mitchell demanded. At that moment, Thor’s hologram popped up, and informed him that he was receiving a signal from the surface – a highly encrypted one.
“N-no, sir. I don’t believe so. We didn’t think anything of it since we’re supposed to be assisting SGA-1 and the NCIS agents, and we expected Dr. McKay to come and go frequently…” Caruthers stuttered anxiously, obviously realizing that there was trouble. “Shall we scan for their sub-cues?”
“Yes.” Mitchell stared at the main view screen as Thor, ever helpful even as a computer AI hologram, displayed the sensor scan results without being asked. “Focus on Las Vegas, Caruthers. Looks like they might have gone there.”
“Vegas?” Caruthers repeated, startled, then said, “Yes, sir. I’ll notify you as soon as we have something.”
“Do that.” Mitchell looked from the screen to Thor. “Why did they go down there, Thor?” he asked as patiently and calmly as possible.
“Dr. McKay believed he could attain better results if he scanned the building from the planet’s surface using a device he had with himself – an Ancient device.” Thor informed him. “He and Agent McGee were simply planning to walk around the perimeter of the building to take the necessary scans, then transmit the data back here if they found anything before returning themselves.” He paused. “The encrypted signal is being transmitted from the location of the building in Las Vegas. It is very succinct and simple in content, though I do not understand it’s meaning, and it is repeating itself: SOS, SOS, SOS…”
Cameron paled, cursed under his breath then more loudly as the possibilities ran through his mind. “It’s a distress signal, Thor. This is so not good. Crap! How am I gonna tell Sheppard and Gibbs?” He prodded Engineering for more information. “Caruthers! Any luck?”
“No, sir. We’ve widened our search to the entire country, but…” the engineer reported unhappily. “We’ll keep searching, though.”
“Won’t hurt to be thorough, I suppose, even if their sub-cue transmissions are very likely being blocked somehow.” There were some days Mitchell wondered why he bothered to get up in the morning – ones he wished he hadn’t. He sighed. “Keep searching. I’m going down to break the news to their teams and General O’Neill.”
“Yes, sir. Good luck.”
After making one last command over the ship-wide PA for two security teams to gear up for a tactical Search and Rescue, ASAP, Mitchell had himself beamed down to O’Neill’s study.
“That was Lou.” Daniel announced, hanging up and setting Jack’s phone back down in the cradle. “He says they made it home safe and sound, and Anne is thrilled to have the company. They’re getting Leyla and Amira settled, Agent Gibbs.”
Gibbs nodded, smiling faintly in relief and gratitude. “Good. Thank you.”
“Not a problem. I’ll go put on more coffee.” Daniel excused himself to the kitchen.
“I will assist you.” Ziva hurried after him. She was getting a little stir crazy sitting around waiting and doing nothing.
“Do you suppose McKay found anything?” Tony asked Sheppard, who was standing at the big picture window staring out at the neighbourhood. Ronon was leaning on the wall nearby, trying to look like he wasn’t hovering.
“If anyone can, Rodney will.” Sheppard answered, completely confidently in his friend-maybe-more’s genius abilities. He didn’t turn away from the view, however.
O’Neill strolled back into the room, having taken a break to use the little General’s room. “So, kids! Did I miss any-” he began, but was cut off by the sudden bright flash of Asgard beams and the arrival of Mitchell.
A pale, grim Mitchell who looked like he wanted to seek cover in the worst way.
“Colonel, you look unwell.” Teyla rose from her seat, where she’d been sitting closest of them all to him, and laid a hand on his forearm. “Are you alright?”
“Not even a little bit, Teyla.” Mitchell swallowed hard, came to rigid attention, and faced Gibbs and Sheppard as his fellow officer and Ronon came to join the group. “Colonel Sheppard, Agent Gibbs…”
Sheppard seemed to read his mind – or he just knew Rodney that well and guessed the problem. SGA-1’s leader was paling, too, but his hazel eyes were turning dark green with fury. “What did that idiot go and do now?”
“Ah…I left them in the core to do their scans and went to respond to a message from General Landry. When I returned, approximately half an hour later, they were not there, they did not respond to radio hails, and we cannot locate their sub-cue transmissions.” It came out of Mitchell in a rush. He winced as fury and intense concern flood Sheppard’s face with colour – Gibbs’ too. Mitchell hurriedly explained the rest, everything Thor’s hologram told him, and finished by turning to O’Neill and saying, “Security teams are geared up and standing by, General, for a tactical Search and Rescue.”
O’Neill rubbed a hand over his face, turned toward the study doors and bellowed, “Daniel! Get in here!” before taking in everyone’s reactions to the news. Gibbs looked absolutely furious and – no matter how well he was trying to hide it – fearful for his junior agent. Sheppard, Ronon, and Teyla all looked ready to storm the Vegas building whether anyone liked it or not. DiNozzo, less able to hide his emotions than his stoic superior, looked equal parts worried, afraid, and pissed off.
Daniel and Ziva ran into the room, and Daniel took in the whole scene at a glance.
“Oh shit.” He said softly, his eyes meeting Jack’s. “What?”
“Gibbs?” Ziva moved to his side immediately.
“That bastard son of a rattlesnake has McKay and McGee.” Jack stated as calmly as he could. “Get Davis on the phone and tell him to go over to the NID’s HQ and start shooting anyone who doesn’t cough up every computer file, paper file, fucking post-it note on the Trust and the Baal clones as of yesterday. I want everything.”
His linguist’s eyes went very wide, then very hard and his lips pressed together in a thin, angry line as he nodded once sharply and going to Jack’s desk and the phone.
“How?! How could this happen?” Ziva demanded, not bothering to hide her anger and fear at all. Tony pulled her aside and relayed the events in a low voice.
Gibbs slowly stood up, and stared hard first at Mitchell, then at O’Neill. “With or without your assistance, I’m going to go retrieve my agent, General.”
Jack scowled at him and barked, “Oh, stop that and sit the fuck down, Gibbs. You’ll get your agent back, and we’ll get our scientist back, so you and everyone else can just take a chill pill and…chill.”
“As soon as I get my scientist back I’m gonna kill him, sir.” Sheppard declared tightly, hands forming fists at his side. At O’Neill’s raised eyebrow he bared his teeth in an unfriendly smile and jerked a shoulder in a shrug. “Just so you know.”
Jack rolled his eyes, but didn’t say anything since, hey! He could commiserate, totally. He shot Daniel a fond scowl, thinking of all the times his lover did stupid, crazy things without thinking it through all the way. He turned to Mitchell – still at attention – and took pity on the kid.
“Ease up, Mitchell. It’s not your fault. You ought to have learned by now that geeks need to be kept on a short leash, but you can’t be blamed when one of them chews through it and gets away from you.”
“Sir…” Mitchell slouched unhappily, but nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“I heard that, O’Neill!” Daniel glowered at him. “No, sorry, Paul. Jack’s being an ass again.”
“Hey! Quit bad-mouthing me to my XO!”
Daniel just stuck out his tongue.
Jack crossed his arms, the picture of indignation, and pointedly ignored him at that. “Mitchell, take this lot and get them geared up. Sheppard has command, Gibbs is second.” His expression brooked no argument from anyone, especially Gibbs. “You’ll monitor from Odyssey. I’ll call Landry and the President, let them know what’s going down.”
“Sir.” Mitchell saluted. “Teal’c and Vala are back, if we need them.”
“We can handle it.” Sheppard snapped, stiffly. “But thanks, anyway.” Ronon grunted in agreement and approval, looking very eager for the action. Mitchell waved this hands defensively, but didn’t take the rejection personally. He understood.
“Hey, we’re just back-up on this one, Shep. So let’s go get ya’ll geared up so you can go and get our boys back?” He reached for his ear. “Odyssey, beam away.”
When the darkness of unconsciousness faded away and he became aware of himself again, Rodney opened his eyes slowly, wincing at the sharp, needle-like pain that seemed to encompass his entire body. He also tingled in that numb sort of way a person has when they regain feeling in their limbs and extremities. For a moment he was confused because this didn’t feel like the hangover after-effects of a Wraith stunner blast. Then he remembered – Zat.
He wasn’t sure which he disliked more.
“Ow, ow, goddamnit!” He cursed, sitting up slowly and cautiously. He realized he’d been on the ground, but since he wasn’t sure if something else on him was injured (even if he didn’t feel any broken body parts), he figured he’d better take it easy. “Ugh. How did SG1 do this for a decade?” Rodney muttered to himself, flexing his fingers gratefully as they began to feel almost normal again. Nope. He definitely preferred the paralysis of a stunner blast. Looking around, he frowned when he realized how dark it was in the…room he was in. He could barely see a few inches in front of his face.
“Great. Just great. Way to go, Meredith Rodney McKay. John’s gonna take me home, and space me, and report my unfortunate and untimely demise as the most un-heroic death that tiny little military brain can think of for this.”
He might have continued to berate himself if a shuffling sound hadn’t grabbed his attention. It was coming from somewhere off to his right, and he froze, going silent for a moment to listen. The shuffling came again, and to Rodney it sounded like someone trying to crawl across a dirty floor, so he called tentatively, “Hello? Is someone there?” Then winced at this own stupidity as suddenly having a wall pressed to his back didn’t seem like such a good thing.
“Depends on who’s askin’.” A rough, raspy male voice returned, full of suspicion – and a vague hint of hope. “If you’re another of Skye’s goons, I ain’t got anything else to say I haven’t already said.”
Rodney blinked and squinted into the darkness futilely. “I am most certainly not a goon – nor do I have any connection to that reptilian bastard.” Rodney replied. “I assume I’m a captive like yourself, since I got myself and my friend captured.“ He made a sound of self-disgust and guilt. “Just a few minutes, I said. They won’t know who we are, I said. It’s official! I’ve lost my goddamn mind!”
“You know the kid? How come I haven’t seen you before?” the voice asked, still suspicious but much less so now. Rodney’s self-inflicted reaming seemed to be winning him over.
“Uh, I don’t even know who you are, so how should I know?” Rodney snarked. At least his headache was loosening up. “Besides, I don’t know McGee all that well. We’re just working together temporarily.” Rodney slouched against his wall. “But I take it you do know him, so…let me guess: Mike Franks?”
Silence met him, but he just shrugged and started patting at the walls and floor in an attempt to learn the layout of the room. “Whatever. I’m glad to find out you’re still alive – and that NCIS crew will be thrilled, too. Not to mention your daughter-in-law and granddaughter, who’re both well and safe, by the way so you don’t have to worry about them. I don’t suppose McGee is in here somewhere, too?”
“He’s over here, layin’ next to me. I didn’t want to move him because I don’t know what they did to the two of ya.”
“Ah. Well, at least we’re all together. Makes rescuing us easier. He’ll be fine when he wakes up, I’m sure.” Rodney moved along the wall, feeling his way as he went. “I guess you wouldn’t be willing to tell me anything useful? Like where we might be, any possible exits, how many of those ‘goons’ you mentioned…”
Before an answer could be given (if he was going to answer at all) a low groan alerted them to a rousing McGee. Rodney hesitated, then left off patting down walls to feel his way across the floor to the young man.
“Oh god…my head…” McGee moaned. “What the hell…?”
“Don’t move, McGee, just yet. You’ve probably got a bit of a concussion from where they whacked you on the head.“ Rodney found an arm on the ground ahead of him and patted it awkwardly. “Of course the headache’s horrible.”
“McKay?” He asked, disoriented but lying still as ordered. “What happened?”
“You did something stupid – brave, but stupid – and they knocked you out. Me, too. Woke up here, wherever it is.” Rodney summarized. He sighed. “Can’t fault you for trying, though. We wouldn’t be in this situation if not for me.”
McGee’s arm moved under Rodney’s hand, and a hand suddenly brushed clumsily against his knee. “’S okay, Rodney. No fault. There were…probably security measures…we didn’t know about.”
“Yeah, well, I’m smarter than that. You were right. We should have waited and told the others first. We could have come down with a team of heavily armed Marines, instead.”
“So ya do know each other, then.” Their fellow captive observed, relief evident this time. “Sorry.”
“Forget it. I’d be wary, too.” Rodney dismissed the apology.
“Who…Mike? That you?” McGee tried sitting up, his voice so hopeful and relieved that Rodney didn’t have the heart to bitch at him for moving.
“Yeah, kid. You doin’ alright?”
“I’ll be fine. What about you? You’ve been here so long…”
“I’m alive, so…can’t complain too much.” Franks huffed, his tone turning gruff. “What the hell are you doing here, McGee? Did Gibbs lose his goddamn mind, sending you after me?”
“He didn’t.” Rodney said before McGee answered. “We were just taking a quick look around, on my stupid bad idea. McGee was helping me to check out a lead we found.”
“Uh huh. And who the hell are you?”
“Oh! Sorry. Dr. Rodney McKay. I’m a civilian consultant with the USAF. Uh…it’s a really long story, but the gist is that my people have been tracking down this…what’s his name?”
“Maxime Skye.” Franks provided.
“Whatever he’s calling himself…we’ve been after him for a long time. He’s after some highly classified data from the programme I’m a part of, and it seems he believes you know where it is – or what it is. Or both, maybe.”
“Jenny Sheppard had a cousin, Mike.” McGee went on when Rodney paused to breathe. “Lt. Col. John Sheppard, Air Force. He’s part of McKay’s programme, too, and they were pretty close. When he was informed of her death, he came for the funeral and to find out what happened to her – which is how their path crossed ours. Then you called Gibbs, and were missing – presumed kidnapped – so we all agreed to work together on this one.”
Some shuffling sounds came close to them and finally Rodney could make out Franks’ silhouette in the low light.
“He said my girls were safe. That true?”
“Yes.” McGee reassured him. “We found your wallet with the business card you left for Gibbs.”
“Good. Good…” Franks slumped in relief. His head came up and turned in McGee’s direction, and Tim was certain he was getting the same vibe (and look) he got from Gibbs when he’d done something Gibbs didn’t like. “You do realize, Probie, that you and your overly talkative friend, here, just told a whole bunch of things to our captor that you probably didn’t want him to know.”
McGee flinched, then groaned at the movement because it made his head hurt. More.
“His brain was probably scrambled by the concussion, Franks, so give the kid a break. As for me, I don’t care what he heard because he won’t be alive long enough to make use of anything we said – not that we actually have said anything useful because we don’t know anything useful!” Rodney stated loudly for the benefit of whoever had the duty of listening in on them. “And for your information, I’ve been in this kind of scenario – and many variations of it – far too many times to not know they’re listening. I’m a genius, you know.”
Franks was looking at him now, and if his version of intimidation was trained on McKay, it was not working. “No, actually. I don’t.”
Rodney huffed indignantly. “Ha! I just haven’t had a chance to be brilliant in front of you, yet.” Maybe he was desperate, and maybe he’d been hit with stunners and now a zat one too many times, but he had a hopeful thought. “Hmm…maybe if I get us out of here before we’re rescued, John – or O’Neill – won’t kill me…” he gave McGee an absent arm pat and moved away, going back to the inspection of their cell he’d postponed earlier.
“Do you think you can?” McGee asked softly.
“Maybe. I’m pretty good at saving the day after all these years.” McKay frowned as he touched the walls. He’d thought they felt strange before, but couldn’t place why. It didn’t feel like concrete, dirt, or wood… “What the heck are these walls made of? They feel weird.”
“Whenever the goons come in, and there’s enough light to see, the place is pretty colourful, actually. For stone grey walls.” Franks said. “I don’t know where we are, so I can’t offer any suggestions.”
“Stone grey but colourful. How do you get that?” Rodney paused and looked in his direction.
“Like if you look at it straight on, it’s just a regular grey rock wall, but from different angles and amounts of light there’s actually all kinds of colours. I don’t know…like a prism. Sorta.”
Rodney sat with his back to the wall, thinking. Then a light bulb went off. “Oh! Ah ha! I got it, now!” Then he sighed. “Well, that explains the reason we couldn’t get very good scans from…uh, from elsewhere.” He caught himself just before the said, “from space.”
“It does?” McGee asked, interested despite the concussion.
“Yeah, see, the uh…material was specially designed to hide the existence of caves and tunnels from, uh, an ally’s enemies. They lived and operated from these caves and tunnels, and it looks like Skye got his hands on the technology.” He was carefully skirting the Tok’ra and their crystals.
“So…if we couldn’t find the place with our scans, then…our people can’t scan for us, either.” McGee reasoned, sadly.
Rodney shook his head, realized they couldn’t see it and replied aloud, “No. You catch on quickly, McGee.”
“In this case I wouldn’t mind being wrong.”
“…Scans?” Franks inquired mildly. Both younger men looked in his direction, then at each other (relatively).
“Um, new technology developed out of that programme I told you I work for.” McKay responded. “I can’t tell you anything more, Mr. Franks, I’m sorry.”
“Why not? You people obviously told the Probie, here, and it’s me that got kidnapped and tortured for information I don’t have – not to mention a good woman and agent died for whatever it is this scum-sucker wants!” The vehement protest from Franks wasn’t unexpected, but it still made Rodney’s guilt metre rise.
“I know that!” He snapped back. “But it’s out of my control, and you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that you’re better off ignorant! McGee, Gibbs and the rest would have been, too, but they had to know so as not to get in the way and be helpful, instead. There wasn’t a lot of choice!” Rodney scoffed. “Besides, they don’t know very much anyway. A full debrief would take months. We only gave the bare bones so they wouldn’t think we were completely insane and so they’d understand the full seriousness of what you’ve all gotten unwillingly involved in.”
“That true, McGee?” Franks demanded after a moment of silence while he considered that.
“Yeah, pretty much. You know Gibbs, Mike, better than anyone. He thought something was hinky about Jenny’s death, and when he found out he was right, do you honestly think he’d just let it go when he’s told to back off due to national security?” McGee pointed out to the former agent. “And do you believe we would let him go it alone?”
“Alright already. I get the damn point.” Franks growled, but it was said gruffly.
“You said ‘information you don’t have.’” Rodney reiterated, crawling closer again. “What did he want to know?”
“Either the location of where I hid the file Decker had hidden in the NCIS archives, or the contents of the file. He’s convinced I have to know either one. He seems to think there’s no possibility I’m not curious enough to have not looked at the file.”
“And you don’t know?” McGee wanted to confirm. “Anything? Not the contents or where it is?”
“I never looked at the file. I’ve been playing that game long enough to know when it’s better not to have a goddamn clue. As for where…” Mike sighed heavily, sounding absolutely bone-weary. “I also thought it was a good idea to just end it all completely. Whatever was in those documents was killing people. Good people. So when Gibbs and I burned down Jenny Sheppard’s house to hide the body of that Russian spook bitch and cover up Jenny’s death…”
Rodney’s mouth dropped open as he put it together and guessed, “You let the file burn with the house.”
“Yep. Only the guy who’s got us locked up in here refuses to believe it.”
“That’s because he’s a megalomaniac who craves power and those files are power to him. As such he can’t believe anyone would just burn something so…useful.” Rodney tapped fingers on his knee rapidly as his thoughts processed the info. “Well, this totally sucks.”
“Tell us something we don’t know.” Franks drawled sarcastically.
“No, see, now…now he’ll likely just torture us for shits and giggles because we have nothing he wants. Well…” Rodney winced and drew his legs up to his chest to hug them, the cold room, fear, and resignation beginning to get to him. “You two, anyway. Me? I think he’ll find me useful somehow.”
“I thought you said he wouldn’t know who you are!” McGee exclaimed.
“He wouldn’t have. Not immediately. I fully intended to be gone by the time he figured it out.” Rodney snapped back. Then in a more subdued tone, said, “By now he knows exactly who I am. He’s had his own spies in our facilities before, McGee, so I’m not unknown – as a name and by deed. But we’ve never met before. And now that he knows who I am and what I’m capable of…”
“Quite right, Dr. McKay.” A smooth, cultured, only slightly accented voice agreed, preceding the opening of a door that allowed light to flood the room. Temporarily blinded, all three men lifted a hand to shield their eyes against it. The voice came again, a strong baritone that was amused, but underneath was a definite hint of anger. “I believe you will serve me greatly. However, you were incorrect about one thing.”
Rodney frowned and glared at Baal himself as the Goa’uld strolled into the room with a mere two guards. Of course they were armed with zats, but there were only two of them – the same two as before.
“Feel free to enlighten me.” He said snidely, slowly rising to his feet when the guards made threatening gestures to do so. McGee and Franks followed his lead.
Baal’s expression was so smug and contemptuous – and evilly sly – it made Rodney went to grind his teeth. “It is simple; you see, whether or not these other two pathetic humans can provide me the information I desire, they can be useful in providing you the motivation necessary to cooperate with my wishes.”
Rodney rolled his eyes and snorted. “Oh, tell me you’re not going to try that over-used technique on me! Seriously!”
“You doubt the sincerity of my threat?” Baal inquired, mildly ominous and seemingly amused by Rodney’s attitude. McGee shot McKay a few anxious glances, while Franks…actually had to admit the geek had moxy. He was stupid, but brave.
The guards raised their weapons and pointed them at McKay’s companions, and the sound of zats priming for firing was bone-chilling – just as Rodney knew it was supposed to be.
“Oh please.” He crossed his arms over his chest and looked as disdainful as he ever was whenever someone insulted his intelligence. “Of course I believe you’ll do whatever you threaten! I’m a genius, not naive! You know where I’ve been and what I’ve had to deal with the last four years. Compared to that? You’re not the big scary snake-in-the-grass you think you are.”
Baal’s expression went from smug and amused to unimpressed and furious. “Do your employers purposefully hire the most insolent and annoying of you wretched humans, or do they just teach you all these same skills at birth?”
“Nope. I’m naturally infuriating. You can ask my team when they get here.” Rodney replied, cheerfully. He paused. “You do know they’ll come looking for us, right? Your big evil scheme is essentially over.”
“We shall see.” Baal retorted through a clenched jaw. Evidently Rodney had the same effect of teeth-grinding on him. He turned on his heel and stalked out, ordering, “Bring them!” as he did.
The guards were menacing and insistent, so they allowed themselves to be herded out of the cell. As they were marched along, Rodney took in everything he could in case they got free somehow.
He was pleased to note he’d been right about the Tok’ra tunnel crystals. He briefly wondered if they knew they either had another traitor amongst them or how many had died for Baal to get his hands on the crystals, but the interest disappeared almost as fast as it came. Unfortunately, he hadn’t spotted any obvious exits or escape routes.
“Did you have to make him mad, McKay?” McGee asked, voice pained.
“Yes, actually.” Rodney replied absently. “He needs to be reminded that he’s not dealing with people who are ignorant or stupid, and that we’re not like the simpering idiots he’s used to ordering around who tend to jump and don’t even think to ask ‘how high?’ when he demands something.”
“And here I thought it was never a good idea to piss off the bad guys.” McGee muttered.
“Silence! You will pay for your disrespect at our Lord’s pleasure, human!” One guard snarled. Rodney shot him a disdainful glare, but kept his mouth shut, wanting to avoid getting zatted again so soon. He needed all his faculties, and wanted to know what Baal was up to.
They exited the Tok’ra tunnels suddenly and kept moving, only now they were back in what was obviously a building of human construction. They passed through a broiler room and stopped when they approached a set of metal double doors that had no windows but did have warning signs posted on them for hazardous materials and authorized personnel only. Baal was waiting.
It wasn’t an encouraging sight.
Rodney couldn’t quite see, but Baal pressed something on the wall next to the doors and after a brief moment they swung open to admit them all. The guards herded their prisoners forward, and once inside proceeded to separate McGee and Franks from McKay. Rodney was forced to stand in the middle of a fairly large room and watch as the two NCIS men were manacled to the wall at the wrists and ankles. Once they were secured, Baal ordered the guards to leave – apparently unafraid of being overpowered by Rodney or of the others somehow escaping. Although, McKay had to admit, the likelihood of either scenario was nil.
“Now! Where was I? Oh yes. Dr. McKay, I have a task for you.” Baal walked past Rodney and grabbed hold of a sheet that had been thrown over something large near the glass-panelled wall in the room. He pulled the sheet away dramatically, revealing what appeared to be some kind of console that was very obviously not of Earth-construction. Or at least, not of modern human construction, since it had more than a passing resemblance to a lot of the Ancient tech Rodney had seen before. Baal motioned invitingly to him, indicating he should come over and look at the device more closely, and before Rodney realized what he was doing, he had walked over and was staring down at the interface curiously.
“I’ll bite.” Rodney glanced up at the smug snake. “What is it?”
Rather than answering the question, Baal started to speak, giving out all kinds of useless information. It really only reinforced the impression that the loved to hear himself talk.
“It does not work, Dr. McKay, and this is the task I set before you. I require that it does operate properly, and as you are quite proficient with technology of this…origin, shall we say, imagine my delight when the opportunity arose for me to bring you here and solve this little problem. I am much too busy to devote the time and effort to fixing it myself, so you shall do it for me.”
Rodney rolled his eyes, scowled, and crossed his arms over his chest. “First, no. I will not. Second, I can’t fix anything without the proper equipment and I doubt you’ll ask the SGC to send me what I would need if I was willing to fix this thing. And third, all three of us would rather be dead than do anything which would help you in anyway.”
“Now, I’m afraid I don’t believe you.” Baal simply smiled at him, but there was a malicious, hard gleam in his eyes when he did it. “You see, Dr. McKay, I know quite well how far you’re willing to go to save others. My sources have told me of many instances where you assisted your enemy willingly in a vain attempt to protect someone on your team, or some others of your allies when threatened. Then, too, I do not believe that you speak for them.” Baal waved a hand in Franks’ and McGee’s direction. The Goa’uld affected a thoughtful expression, strolling over to the two restrained men and studying them like specimens in a jar. “This one, I think, would agree with you, McKay.” He said, staring down at Franks – who glared back up at him in total defiance. “He has already provided me with much entertainment and proven his willingness to die.” Baal dismissed Franks with a disdainful sniff and moved in front of McGee, who looked uneasily back and forth between Mike, Baal, and Rodney. “This one, however…I doubt he is so willing to die.”
McGee resisted cringing away fearfully like a mouse in front of a cat, but he couldn’t hide the shivers that trembled through him at the sight of Baal’s eyes staring down at him with a cruelty he’d never before encountered in his entire life. To his relief, the alien walked away from him, and he slumped a little in gratefulness.
It didn’t last long, however, as Baal went over to a big monstrosity of a chair that looked like a throne and pressed something on the flat surface of the arm. Seconds later, a Jaffa entered the room and bowed low to his master. Baal gave out a sharply delivered command in Goa’uld – none of which Rodney understood – and the Jaffa hurried out. Baal sat down on his throne and turned a disapproving gaze on Rodney.
“It’s a shame you are so willing to put your friends’ lives at such risk, McKay. You don’t seem to get my point, here, in that you have no choice but to cooperate. I’ve tried being nice about it, but now my patience is at an end.”
Rodney frowned as the Jaffa returned with two more goons who were carrying in a large machine that looked like something out of a medieval torture chamber. They set it up near the throne, off to the side, then left the room. The head Jaffa then went to McGee and took him from his chains at the wall, bodily dragging the young agent to the device. Rodney could only watch, in growing horror and panic, as McGee (valiantly struggling to free himself) was overpowered by the Jaffa’s superior strength and as strapped into the device by one arm. He then gave his master another quick, short bow and left when Baal nodded once in dismissal.
“What is that? What are you going to do?” Rodney demanded anxiously, eyes darting between McGee and the Goa’uld. Baal rose from his throne silently and pressed another button on the other arm of the chair which caused a panel on the tall back of the throne to open. He removed a ribbon device and Rodney swallowed hard, sucking in a sharp breath at the sight of it. “Now hold on! That’s not necessary, is it? I mean, really?”
Baal ignored him and walked back to McGee after putting on the hand device, its gold glinting in a surprisingly menacing way. McGee was focused entirely on him, now, wide-eyed and pale, but bravely trying not to show his fear. He was on his knees with his arm in the device’s clutches, and there was no escaping.
“I won’t tell you anything.” Tim announced, despite the cracking of his voice and the sweat he could feel already beginning to trickle down his spine from the fear. Baal laughed and patted him on the head like a dog.
“You can say or not say whatever you like, human. It doesn’t matter to me. What does matter is what Dr. McKay says.” Baal went to the other side of the machine and pointed out a lever to Rodney. “This is your final opportunity to save your friend a great deal of pain and suffering, McKay; all I have to do is pull on this lever.”
Rodney looked away, his hands balling into fists at his sides. He took a deep breath and when he looked back he stared right at McGee. The younger man managed a nod, swallowing visibly, and Rodney nodded back, his expression full of apology and respect. The scientist never took this gaze from McGee’s.
“It doesn’t matter what I say. You aren’t even taking me seriously with what I’ve already told you.” Rodney wished he could hit something, angry with the entire situation but most of all with himself. To McGee, he could only offer a sincere and abject apology. “I’m sorry, Tim.”
“Not…your fault, Mc-“ Tim’s voice was cut off as Baal pulled the lever and the agent’s arm was squeezed so tightly he nearly instantly could feel the blood stop circulating, and then the machine twisted his arm. It was extremely painful, and McGee sucked in a sharp breath that came back out on a shocked cry.