– – – –
“You know I want to help you, Dr. McKay, but what you’re asking is dangerous.”
Rodney shrugged. “How long have I worked for this agency, Cole?”
Phillip Cole took a deep breath. “I was told you signed your first contract with our organization when you were fourteen years old through a legal representative. I didn’t believe it, to be honest, and looked it up myself. However, you’ve always done amazing work for us, Doctor, and we appreciate it a great deal. Your work has made our intelligence operations safer and more effective. I get that we owe you.”
“I want the names of the people who are in the Trust. I want their organizational hierarchy. I want to know where the money comes from. Who has political connections and what politicians are sitting in their pockets? It doesn’t matter to me who you have to go through or what you have to do to accomplish it. I’ve heard rumors but I want fact and I want it as soon as possible.”
“I know they are pulling some strings trying to take your adopted child from you, but there are legal ways to deal with this.”
“Our son cries himself to sleep every night, Cole. My General and I are no longer interested in playing this game with these men. You’ll get me the names or you won’t have a job by the end of the day.” He pulled an envelope from his suit pocket, opened it and dropped a handful of pictures across the Director of the CIA’s empty desk. “Exactly how pleased will anyone be with you when they realize you’re having an affair with an MI6 operative?”
Cole paled. “Christ, McKay, where did you get these?”
“I have a friend or two in the British Secret Service,” Rodney responded neutrally. “You’re lady friend is under investigation by her own people. I have digital copies of these pictures and I’m more than willing to make sure your wife gets a set as well.”
“It’ll take me a few days.”
“I can be a patient man. You’ve got two.” Rodney paused and inspected the man in front of him with cool blue eyes. “Also, you’re going to stop following Jack O’Neill around. I know the Secretary of Defense has you watching him. You’ll stop and you’ll destroy any information you’ve already gathered on him.”
Cole flushed. “What? You can’t interfere with an operation…”
“I can and I have. You make it disappear. It’s an illegal operation at any rate and if the president finds out about it—you’ll all be nailed to the wall.” He stood and pulled a radio out of his pocket, which he slid into one ear but didn’t activate it. “I have no interest in making your life difficult, Phillip, and you really don’t want to garner that kind of attention from me. When it comes to my family – there is very little I’m incapable of. Jack O’Neill, his wife, and their children are my family just as much as John and our son are. I was alone in this world for a very long time, isolated from my mother and my sister. You can’t imagine what I’m capable of when it comes to protecting those that I claim as family.”
“You weren’t always like this.”
“Yes, well, men like you made me so if you don’t like the results… you only have yourselves to blame.”
“What will you do with the names?”
“The men and women who run the Trust are a threat to the security of this planet. They’ve endangered off-world alliances, engaged in amoral and illegal experiments, massacred thousands of Jaffa in acts of outright genocide that nearly brought the Jaffa nation to our door in war when they’ve been our allies for years. I’m going to do what should have been done a long time ago.”
“You’re going to take them out? Do you know how big the Trust is?” Cole demanded. “All of that for kid that isn’t even really yours?”
Rodney shot him a dark look. “Two days. If you disappoint me, you will pay for it.” He clicked his radio twice and disappeared in a flash of light.
– – – –
Meals where the entire family gathered had been rare in the last few weeks so Sebastian normally enjoyed them. Today wasn’t going to be one of those days. He paused at the end of the stairs and watched as they settled in around the ever expanding table.
His Uncle Matt was helping Cameron Mitchell set the table; they were taking every opportunity to touch each other. In another time, their obvious affection and ease with one another would have made him relax, calm down. Their home was a safe harbor from things and people that could hurt their family and as a result everyone relaxed.
Jennifer noticed him first and her face brightened into a smile and then slowly drained away as she realized he was upset. He knew he hadn’t had any hope of hiding what was inside him—he would never win at poker. Sebastian’s fingers tightened around the paper he had rolled in his hand as Jennifer touched his Uncle David to get his attention. David Sheppard looked up and then stiffened. That action brought the rest of the people in the room to a halt. They all turned as if held with one string and stared at him, conversation disappeared. Soldiers, Sebastian thought, even McKay was a soldier where it really counted.
He sighed, walked to the table, took his seat, and carefully put the paper down on the table and smoothed it out as everyone else slid into place as well. “My mother always said that I was a grown up in a little kid’s body.” Sebastian rubbed one corner of the piece of paper as if his life depended on it. “She treated me that way, too. She always said she didn’t want me to grow up too fast but she really didn’t do much to hamper that development. I started school when I was six because we spent two years in the Indian ocean on a boat and she forgot I was supposed to start school at five.” He sent Rodney a pained look. “Do I have to even explain how difficult it was to start first grade and realize that none of my classmates could even read?”
Rodney shook his head. “No, you don’t.”
Sebastian nodded. “So, I really appreciate the fact that all of you try to shelter me from reality. I appreciate it even when you don’t succeed. It’s really too late for me to be a little kid. I think that part of me pretty much died in the car accident. I was in the car with them for two hours while the emergency crew worked to cut me free.” He closed his eyes briefly at the memory and then focused on his Grandfather. “Did you know that next to the Department of Defense, the hardest government system in the US to hack is the Department of Corrections?”
Patrick took a deep breath. “I didn’t know.”
“Sebastian.” John cleared his throat. “We haven’t touched him.”
“No, but you influenced the decision to take him out of solitary confinement and put him in a prison system with people far worse than he is. That’s okay, really, because the only reason I hacked the system was because I was going to do it myself. A few mouse clicks and Corey would have been in general population. I thought it would make me feel better about what he did to me and to the others but when I realized it already had been done… I checked his medical records.”
“And?” Jennifer asked softly as she reached out and put her hand on his shaking one.
“The other prisoners will probably kill him inside a year.” He sat back in his chair and looked finally at John. “It would have been more humane if you’d just killed him outright.”
“What do you want me to do, Sebastian?” John asked.
“Nothing. I just wanted you to know that I knew. No secrets, remember?”
“You’re very upset,” Carrie murmured.
“I have every right to be upset,” Sebastian returned evenly. “I think it’s pretty normal to be upset when you read about someone being castrated with a sharpened spoon.” He tapped the piece of paper still resting beside his empty plate. “Worse? They made sure he got help so he didn’t bleed to death.”
John reached out and took the paper off the table. Carefully, he folded it and put in his pocket. “I’d like you to promise me something, Sebastian.”
Sebastian looked over his father’s face, not surprised by the thin press of his lips, the hardness in the green eyes they shared. “If I can.”
“Don’t look him up again.”
“I should know…”
“No,” John disagreed. “Let me know for you. Whatever happens to him… that’s my burden, not yours. There isn’t much I can protect you from when it comes to him… all of that is already there. I know that. But I can take this and you don’t ever have to look at it or know about any of it.”
“And you’ll delete all the stuff you downloaded off your computer?” Rodney asked dryly.
“Yeah.” Sebastian nodded. “Yeah, I can do that.”
– – – – –
“And this is better?” John demanded.
Patrick Sheppard ran one shaking hand over his face. “Fuck no, it’s not better. Goddamn it, John! Either way this was going to be a fucking nightmare but you can’t tell me you thought he would fucking break into the Department of Corrections and look at confidential medical records.”
Rodney snorted as he slid into his desk chair and flipped open his laptop. “I would have. I should have suspected he would.”
“McKay, what are you doing?” John asked with a frown.
“Making sure our kid wore a white hat while he was fucking around in the Department of Corrections and if he didn’t—making sure they can’t trace it back to him.”
“White hat?” Patrick asked wearily. “Rodney?”
Rodney looked up briefly. “There are two kinds of hackers, Admiral, those who break into look because they are curious and those who break into fuck things up, steal information, alter information, etc. White hats and black hats. Before you even think to ask—yes I’ve done both. At times it was sanctioned by various government agencies and sometimes it wasn’t. Often, I’ll admit, it wasn’t. I’d rate myself among the top twenty hacker threats on the planet. Until two hours ago I wouldn’t have put Sebastian in the top five hundred. I’m going to have to reorganize my thinking on that issue.”
John sighed. “Who is number one?”
Rodney frowned at him. “Miko Kusanagi. I told you she hacked the planet once, John. I wasn’t kidding. She literally hacked the entire planet. In six hours, she touched every active Internet server on the planet, staved the flow of information, altered satellite data, held hostage governments who weren’t keen on cooperating with our cover story about the Anubis attack. She ground the entire communications network on the planet to a halt and no one even knew it. The stock market didn’t even stumble the next day. That’s the kind of asset/threat she is.”
John frowned. “She invented the Matrix didn’t she?”
McKay looked up and offered a little grin. “Yes, she did.”
“We keep her in very good coffee, right?” Patrick asked with a frown of his own. “I mean, she’s got everything she needs?”
Rodney laughed. “Yeah, except for perhaps a sex slave.”
“We can get her one,” Patrick grinned and relaxed. “I’ll give her some Marines—she can have a whole platoon if it suits her.”
John laughed, but it faded away quickly. “You were right, he would have known if I’d done him. He would have figured that out.”
“Why castrate him?” Rodney asked. “Why would they do that?”
“Eventually he won’t even be able to get an erection without chemicals, Mer.” John rubbed his face. “They turned him into a hole. Something they can fuck that won’t even have the aggression he needs to ever think about fighting back. Some docile pet.”
Rodney paused in his typing and then resumed after a few seconds of deep breathing. It was always hard to listen to John when he was too angry. Too angry to be touched by anything else but anger in return. There was certainly enough in the house to match the oldest Sheppard son blow for blow. David Sheppard and Cameron Mitchell had been down in the gym for close to two hours sparring under the watchful eye of Matthew.
John had declined to join them and Rodney wondered if he was the only one who understood that John was afraid of himself when he was angry. Afraid of how his body would react to situations, even in training situations. They rarely discussed the Iratus DNA that John carried. Iratus, Rodney thought. A vicious, life sucking bug on the evolutionary path to the Wraith. John Sheppard had been laid back and smooth before Atlantis. All smirks, slim hips, and easy smiles that had gone all the way to his eyes nearly every time.
McKay debated with himself often, wondered if the Iratus bug DNA, the retrovirus, or just the pure tenacity it had taken to survive on Atlantis had changed the man that John was on such a fundamental level. He loved the man John was but sometimes, privately, he wished he could have really known the man he used to be. The man that didn’t sleep with a gun within reach at all times. The man who smiled and had apparently wanted to shove him in a supply closet and fuck his brains out within minutes of their introduction.
John laughed suddenly. “McKay, what are you doing? Because you’ve got this look on your face like you’re up to something.”
“Nothing.” Rodney shrugged and closed his laptop. “He left more than a few breadcrumbs to follow. Pretty sloppy but I don’t think he cared if he got caught.”
“Should we ground him for hacking the Department of Corrections?”
“Nope.” Rodney sat back. “But we should definitely ground his ass for hacking the Department of Defense. It’s my own fault, the computer equipment he has access to in this house isn’t even available on the open market. It made what he did child’s play, no pun intended. It’s like giving a brand new, fully loaded P-90 to a giddy, trigger happy Marine.”
John sighed. “You think he did that?”
“I know he did that.” Rodney tapped his laptop. “I can tell on our end where he went in but he left nothing behind on their end. Whatever he looked at – he felt it was important not to get caught.”
“My service record?” John questioned.
“No, your service record is so classified that it’s currently only on a server at the SGC and he’s never gone near any of that equipment. One, because we would know immediately. Miko runs a tight ship. And two, because he doesn’t need to hack the SGC. He goes there every day.”
“Do you think he’s checked out my service record?” John asked, softly.
“I doubt it.” Rodney cleared his throat. “And even if he did, he wouldn’t see anything you’d rather he didn’t see. O’Neill sanitized your service record shortly before the SGC went public. Yours and about ninety percent of the officers at the SGC. You’ve got a black mark for failing to follow stupid orders, very brief performance evaluations, and then a list of medals that would make someone’s eyes cross. A few complaints from brass at the Pentagon who didn’t want you on the Atlantis mission because you were quote ‘uncontrollable’ and a few jerks who didn’t want you at the SGC after Atlantis.”
“Sanitized,” John murmured. “All the black ops stuff?”
“Gone.” Rodney tilted his head as he looked John over. “On paper you’re a heroic, idealistic officer who never put career advancement or even the thought of punishment before the men and women who served under you. You flew helicopters in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Antarctica before joining the Atlantis mission. No wet work. No bug thing on Atlantis.”
“Very. Your file went from roughly two hundred pages to about fifty in a matter of hours,” Patrick murmured. “O’Neill used the words “Mission Classified” so many times that he just started coping and pasting it over large sections.”
Rodney snorted. “He had a very good time.”
– – – –
“Mr. Richards.” Patrick lit his cigar and sat back. “Forgive the smoking, no one in my family will let me do it in front of them anymore and my lady is a doctor. You can’t imagine the grief I get for smoking around her.”
Kyle Richards managed a shaky nod. “Not a problem, sir. I sent the report as requested. Is something wrong?”
“No, not exactly. I’ve reviewed the report and it was satisfactory. It went a long way towards settling up a few details and information we’d already gathered. Did you pass along the data I gave you on my former daughter-in-law?”
“Yes, they seemed very interested in getting it and I heard through another operative that they thinking about striking the house you told me she was in.” Richards cleared his throat. “She really isn’t there, right? Because if she was—they’ll kill her.”
“I always liked Nancy. Did you know that?” Patrick flicked ashes on dingy linoleum and sighed. “She was a good girl and my wife found her to be a joy – well right up until the divorce. She may not be a part of my family any more but she’s kept the name my son gave her. That means something to me. She’s safe as long as she doesn’t do anything stupid.”
“Tell me about Mark Williams.”
“Don’t know anything about him—they’re pretty pissed about him surfacing actually. That’s all Dr. Manning’s deal. She plucked him out of a bar and cleaned him up—said he was her ace in the hole. I think she might actually believe he’s the kid’s biological father.”
“What does your boss think?”
“He believes that the kid is John Sheppard’s. If he isn’t the General’s then he’s worthless to the organization as far as they are concerned. Things have gotten a little rougher since they loss their contacts in the NID. Maybourne runs a tight organization and he’s vicious. Rumor has it that he’s killed four of his own operatives for treason.”
Patrick didn’t doubt it for a minute. Harry Maybourne had always been a black and white sort of guy—oddly enough even when he’d been infested with a Goa’uld. He put out his cigar against the kitchen table and stood. “Very well, Kyle, I think we’re done for now. If you find anything else be sure to send it through the usual matter. When things get hot; do your best to disappear and we won’t look for you unless you fuck us over.”
“Hot? How will I know?”
“It’ll be obvious but don’t blow town too soon—your boss might get wind of it and kill you himself.”
– – – –