The Real McKay
McKay!" Sheppard's voice was tight with urgency. Rodney had
stopped responding after his plea for coffee. He lay limply now, his
Carson had already called for a medical team to meet him on the other end of the transporter. There was no way a gurney was going to fit in the cramped space of that particular transporter. His initial panic and anger pushed aside, the physician was now in professional mode, checking pulse and pupil dilation. "Colonel, help me move 'im to the lift. It will take too long to get a gurney all the way out here.
They sat him up and each swung one of his arms over their shoulder. Gently, they half carried half dragged their friend to the tranporter. Beckett's staff were already waiting with the gurney on the other side and swiftly loaded him onto it.
They'd made it half way to the infirmary before McKay began to struggle incoherently. John watched at Carson held Rodney down and spoke quietly to him. Whatever he'd said, it worked. Rodney was calm the rest of the way.
The pain spider-webbing through Rodney's skull faded, leaving only the dull buzzing sensation and vagueness. His mind felt spent from the effort of controlling the tiny shard of ancient crystal. These sensations were familiar, but somehow different. Where was he?
Hands gently lifted him. He was being dragged from out of the chamber. Voices. Medical orders. He felt himself being set onto a gurney. They'd take him to a hospital. There would be more needles and tests. He didn't want that. He should escape! A hand held him down gently as he struggled, "We got ye lad. Yer safe. We'll have ye feelin' better in no time."
They wanted to help. He knew he should run but the voice was familiar, calming, and Rodney lay back against the gurney. This time he'd wait and see… maybe accept. He was so tired of hiding.
Earth – Sonora Mexico
Camouflaged bodies crept low along the ground around the perimeter of a seemingly broken down compound in the middle of nowhere in the Sonoran Desert. What was left of a metal fence was half buried in sand and full of holes. The building itself was almost entirely buried in sand. The only sign that the building was in use at all was the fact that the one door to the compound wasn't buried.
O'Neill lifted his binoculars and gave the building one last thorough scan for signs of automated defences. "This doesn't seem right. It's too easy. How's that energy reading?"
"Strong and steady sir," the troop beside him replied. He was balancing a clunky scanning device while holding up a badly camouflaged radar-like dish. "You think it's our man?"
What O'Neill wouldn't give for one of those nifty little detectors he'd read about in the Atlantis reports. "There's one way to find out."
He lifted a hand and signalled for team one to follow his lead even as he crept from behind the meagre cover of a sand dune, P90 at ready.
Warning bells echoed all the more loudly in O'Neill's gut as teams silently spread to search the inner compound. It was dark, quiet, and utterly deserted, though floors and walls shined spotlessly of recent use.
Room after room was found to be deserted. When they reached a pair of sliding doors with no power, team two crow-barred them open to reveal an elevator shaft. The soldier that had been reading the energy signal held an almost as clunky device over the shaft before signalling that it went down about thirty floors. There must be an enormous underground complex. O'Neill didn't like the idea of searching for their man down there.
Fortunately, it was then that team three signalled that they'd found him and motioned to the next nearest room.
Sure enough, in the centre of a large square room was a man tied to a chair with a black bag over his head. He was of the same approximate height and build as Dr. McKay and wore a t-shirt sporting some physics diagram that apparently added up to a coffee molecule, or so O'Neill had been told.
In his lap sat a moderately sized device with blinking lights that appeared to be counting down to something. Oh Crap.
The leader of team four joined the leaders of teams one through three at the door to the room and signalled that the entire area was confirmed clear.
The soldier leading team two was the first to break the silence, "Is that what I think it is?"
"I really hope not," O'Neill whispered needlessly.
"It's a naquada bomb," the soldier with the scanning devices answered in a shaky voice.
"You see, that's what I hoped it wasn't," O'Neill quipped in annoyance before ordering into his head-piece, "All teams fall-back, except team one stay with me. And you." He motioned to scanner guy, "What's your name?"
"Sergeant Atwood, sir," the soldier supplied.
"You stick with me," the kid was no Carter but he'd have to do. But O'Neill was really beginning to wish he'd opted to bring Carter.
Team one took up guard positions at the three entrances to the room, while the soldier with the scanners hung back.
Carefully but quickly, O'Neill approached the chair and the bomb. The fake McKay's head hung forward and he slouched limply in his bonds. O'Neill felt for a pulse. It was steady and strong, and he was breathing. Cautiously, so as not to disturb the bomb, the black hood was lifted to reveal a face so uncannily like Dr. Rodney McKay's it gave O'Neill the creeps.
"What's Dr. McKay doing here!" Atwood piped up in shock, "I thought he was in another Gal…"
"Location classified!" A female soldier elbowed the hapless man.
O'Neill shot an incredulous look at one of America's finest, "Did we not all read our pre-mission briefings?"
"There wasn't much time sir," the female soldier supplied apologetically.
"I, uh, skimmed it sir," Atwood winced.
Fair enough. The mission had been thrown together in a rush. Most of the troops were hastily pulled from nearby duty on short notice, "Long story short, that's not McKay."
The fresh air seemed to rejuvenate the McKay decoy because he began to stir. O'Neill placed a steadying hand on the man's soldier, mostly out of self preservation. "Easy there soldier. No sudden movements."
"Whu?" Bleary blue eyes gazed around at the other soldiers in the darkened room, then widened alertly as they fell on the bomb in his lap.
"How much time is left on this thing?" O'Neill asked the McKay without thinking.
"You're asking me!" came the snarkilly incredulous reply. "I just woke up! I probably have a concussion here!"
"I'd say about six minutes sir," Sergeant Atwood replied."Is it safe to move it?" O'Neill asked.
"Relatively…," Atwood shrugged.
"Relatively?" O'Neill queried.
"Well, compared to leaving it there, sir…" Atwood shrugged.
At this the Fake McKay launched into a rant almost worthy of the real McKay. "You call this a rescue? You do realize that if you let me die you'll be responsible for significantly reducing the cumulative IQ of the entire human race? And is it safe to at least untie me?"
"You know what?" O'Neill quipped back as he sliced the robes binding decoy McKay's hands, "That is really creepy. Plus, you don't have to do that anymore. The jig is up!"
"Sorry sir," a shockingly un-McKay voice replied. The decoy rubbed his wrists briefly before reaching behind his neck and peeling off his face to reveal a very black, smooth-faced man. With the blue contact lenses still intact the effect was weird.
O'Neill grimaced sarcastically, "That's better." He turned pointedly back to Atwood, "Can you disarm it?"
Atwood leaned close to the device and carefully pried at a few components, "No sir. Not completely." He pulled a couple of small tools from a pocket and squinted, "I think I can reduce the blast significantly though…"
A couple of minutes passed and O'Neill motioned for the soldiers guarding the entrances to back off and move away. A quick order into his headset sent the troops outside farther away as well. "Running out of time here Atwood…"
"Got it sir!" Atwood breathed out in relief and held up a small metal container.
"You disarmed it?" the McKay decoy asked hopefully.
"No. I managed to isolate and remove most of the naquada from the device sir. But there will still be trace amounts and will still make one hell of a blast. We won't be able to get clear but the others will be safe…" Atwood gave an apologetic look the remaining three assembled. "Sorry I couldn't do more."
"It's enough. How much time?" O'Neill patted his shoulder encouragingly.
"Three minutes." Atwood answered dejectedly.
"I have an idea. Hand it over and get out of here!" O'Neill practically barked the order. Atwood swiftly and cautiously lifted the explosive part of the device and handed it over to O'Neill.
They ran towards the entrance with O'Neill close behind. Once out of the room O'Neill turned towards the elevator shaft and tossed the bomb in, pausing long enough to look down and be sure it was falling straight down before turning and pegging towards the door.
The halls of the facility were long, and the light of the entrance shone brightly. It looked absurdly like one of those dreams where the dreamer was running ineffectually down a hall that would never end. A deafening blast sounded behind O'Neill just as he barrelled through the exit. The ground shook and precious seconds were lost to catching his balance. He looked over his shoulder long enough to see a column of fire shooting out of the building where the shaft must be.
The next few moments were a blur as he ran full pelt towards where the troops had gathered, motioning for them to back up farther, all the while with a surreal sense of the earth dropping just behind him.
He reached them in time for a massive cloud of dust and sand to engulf them.
When it settled. All that left was of the compound was a massive crater filling with sand.
"Are you ok, Sir? ... General?" One of the soldiers from team three looked concerned.
"Oh ya. This is kids stuff." If O'Neill noticed the other soldiers looking at him with awe or incredulity he didn't show it. And his phone rang just then anyway.
"Jack, hi… where are you? This is a terrible connection." Daniel's tone was speculative. He'd had his suspicions about General Jack O'Neill's new desk job for some time now. The truth was, Jack had felt more than a little personal responsibility towards isolating and neutralizing the Goa'uld threat on earth. And so a good portion of his new job involved heading up that operation. The catch was that it had to be done without any other country knowing it. Daniel had this thing about seeing the Earth as one big happy family. But if Russia or any other major world power had reason to believe that the United States, or any other major country, had been significantly infiltrated by the Goa'uld it could lead to a very messy war.
O'Neill suspected that Carters original suspicions about how deep the Goa'uld infiltration into the Trust really was had been pretty close to the mark. But until he had definite proof and an action plan, few others could be allowed to know that.
"Oh, you know… around…" O'Neill replied casually.
"Right… Well, Your Generalship, if you're feeling awake enough to come into work yet, Sam's found something I think you'd like to see… Do I hear a helicopter?" Daniel replied suspiciously. Damn, he was too smart for his own good.
Jack looked over his shoulder to see several helicopters landing nearby, "No…" Well. It wasn't 'a' helicopter. "I'm watching television." Ok, so O'Neill wasn't above flat out lying. "Look, gimme a couple of hours to… freshen up and I'll be right in."
"A couple of hours?" O'Neill could hear Daniel cluck his tongue in that way he did when he didn't want to roll his eyes.
"Extra fresh," he excused lamely. "Besides…"
"Generals prerogative. I know." Daniel sighed.
"You're learning." O'Neill admonished before ending the call. The sound of Atwood's enthusiastic voice caught O'Neill's attention. He'd have to make sure that kid got a commendation. He did good.
O'Neill turned and spotted the technologically trained soldier talking to the Sergeant that had been impersonating McKay. "That impersonation you did was incredible!"
"Nah, I've done better." Now that he was fully out of character the man had a thickening Louisiana accent, "Dr. McKay is the easiest I've had"
"Really?" Atwood answered somewhat disbelievingly, "I would have thought he'd be the hardest."
"Nah," The other man half laughed and insisted assuredly, "Most people take a lot more effort. You have to get every mannerism right down to how they squint their eyes or someone will call you on it. But McKay is full of stuff that distracts from that. People don't hear anything but the stabbing sarcasm. The arrogance makes them too busy trying not to see all the stuff he's gloating about to actually see him."
O'Neill considered that insight for a moment before summoning the troops, "Ok, guys. Good work. Let's go home."
Earth – StarGate Command
No amount of technology could completely erase the chill in the air that came from being so deep beneath the earth. It was almost certainly a leading cause of caffeine addiction among the staff of Cheyenne Mountain. It was rare for anyone to be found sitting still for long without a hot mug of coffee in their hands to force back the creeping cool. That was the only time when it was ever really noticeable, when they were sitting still for paper-work or projects.
One thing there was never a shortage of was paper-work. And particularly for Sam or Daniel there was never a shortage of research projects demanding their attention. Sam really should have been using some of this unwanted spare time to work on one of those, like Daniel was. But she couldn't concentrate. She just couldn't stop thinking about Rodney McKay.
Since all this had begun she'd managed to keep a professional distance. Col. Carter approached it as just another military assignment. She'd kept herself focussed on the specific tasks assigned to SG-1. Gather the cold facts. But now that she wasn't moving anymore, the cold was creeping in. And this wasn't the sort of cold a coffee could hold at bay.
Sam wanted to be moving. She needed another goal to focus on. But she was stuck with nothing relevant to the mission to do but sit and wait for Jack to come and hear what she had found or for General Landry to finish arranging the co-operation of international intelligence.
The first time she had met Rodney, Carter had been ready to like him. With his floppy Scooby-doo-esque hair and baggy college boy clothes he was classic retro-Geek. It was kind of cute. Then he spoke, and that pretty much killed the cute.
It hadn't helped that Hammond and Maybourne had started a 'who's scientist is better than who's' contest. After hearing Maybourne brag about McKay's support in the Pentagon she'd even stooped to accusing McKay of having a fan club. Which hadn't been fair really – wasn't everyone at SGC equally confident in her own abilities? But his fans were Pentagon. Worse! They were NID.
He was arrogant. He was beyond arrogant! What's worse, he was trying to get a rise from her from word one and succeeding EVERY time! She didn't know what was more aggravating about him, the fact that he could bait a reaction out of her so easilly or his arrogance. No, it was definitely his arrogance, coupled with the fact that he was right too damned often. It made her clench her teeth just thinking about it.
He'd been wrong about the crystals being incapable of retaining any information. But he had had 'quantitative evidence' to back up his theory. While all she had had was an educated hunch.
He had been right about the limitations of the Stargate dialling interface that served as Earth's substitute for a DHD. He'd been right about the lack of DHD being the reason Teal'c had been trapped.
He'd been right about her solution causing a power surge. It blew up earths only DHD. It was luck that it hadn't done more.
But she had learned from experience that sometimes, often, luck was all you had and it was enough. McKay had been a desk-bound scientist that had only ever worked with models, equations, ideas and he was arrogant enough to see that as an advantage.
It had been a pleasant surprise when McKay had been reassigned to Russia. The look on his face had been priceless. More surprising, though, had been the base-wide gossip that had followed his departure.
Rumour had it that the Pentagon had just one man that they went to with all the most advanced foreign technologies and scientific advances. He could reverse engineer anything, and he was supposedly the reason that new technologies had been applied in the upper echelons of the government and the military as quickly as it had over the last couple of decades. Rumour had it that that one man had been with them since before he was old enough to drive. Rumour had it that he had single-handedly written and rewritten the Network Security programs for the Whitehouse, the Pentagon, and the entire Intelligence Service as technology progressed. The reclusive genius, according to the gossip, did all this in his head and with one lap-top and rarely left his home or office. When called on site, he'd give the subject of the project a bored glance then go to his office and tell the staff to just bring him the data. Rumour also had it that he had a tongue like acid and never listened to anyone because he always knew more than they did anyway. Having met him she had been inclined to believe the rumours had at least some basis in fact, even if they were clearly far fetched. Though now Carter wasn't so sure that they had been at all far-fetched.
The second time the Pentagon had sent her their Golden Boy to help solve a problem with the StarGate Carter had not been pleased, to say the least.
He was just as infuriating as before, and arrogant, and consistently right. He'd been right about the X-302 not working. He'd been right about her science teams theories being 'wrong and wrong'. She'd never admit it to him but she was actually grateful when McKay dismissively pointed it out to them. It had saved her the trouble of finding a tactful way to do it. She was the only one he didn't completely dismiss.
He'd been right about the EM Pulse being worth a try and about nobody having any better ideas at the time. If she'd thought for a moment it would have caused the feedback power surge that it did she never would have let it go ahead. But she hadn't predicted it. Nobody could have.
The damage the failure had caused had shaken him. And the glimpse she'd gotten of the real McKay was so different from the one who had been playing at pushing her buttons was stunning. The stark contrast freaked her out a bit. But when he'd called her an artist it was at once the most genuine and the most flattering compliment she had ever had.
He had immediately tried to cover with a claim of self-preservation, followed with a come-on designed to anger her. But that only served to reinforce the now obvious fact that he'd been playing her against himself.
After use of Russia's StarGate had been negotiated for StarGate Command Carter had started corresponding with McKay. She took his suggestion and worked with him to rewrite the dialling program. Holding her ineffectual lukewarm coffee as she read through that correspondence it was easy now to see where he had placed careful insults. Just enough to make her want to keep her distance but not so much to engender hatred again. And once again she was annoyed at how easily her buttons were pushed without her realizing it at the time.
After everything she had now learned about McKay's past, and maybe his present, Carter didn't know what to think of him. Genius? Ya... Obviously. Manipulative bastard? Check. Arrogant? Triple check! Sarcastic. Rude. Petty. Often mean-spirited. Bad with people. But who was he when he wasn't pushing people away and hiding like a cornered animal? Sam hoped she'd get a chance to find out.
"Hey." The sudden sound of Col. O'Neill's voice and casual stroll into her office made Sam jump in her seat.
"Welcome back sir," Sam greeted meaningfully once she'd gathered herself.
"Back?" O'Neill lifted his eye-brows in feigned innocence, then changed the subject. "So, how are you dealing with all this?"
"All what sir?" Sam furrowed her own brows in confusion.
"You know," Jack pressed. "All this with McKay. You two are… well I guess 'friends' is a strong word. But I've noticed there aren't many who can keep up with you up here," he tapped his head, "and you two…" He trailed off awkwardly and grimaced, "You know what? Never mind…"
Realizing that she'd been staring blankly, Sam quickly shook her head. It still surprised her how insightful Jack could be at times, "No, actually, I think friend fits. I mean, he's annoying as hell, arrogant, petty, bad with people but…"
"But scientist types have this annoying way of getting under your skin even if you don't want them to and especially if they're not even trying?" O'Neill finished her sentence then belatedly recalled that Sam is a scientist, "I meant Daniel… and I'd appreciate it if you never repeat that to him."
"Of course sir," Sam was used to the fact that Jack always struggled between seeing her as a soldier and seeing her as a scientist. Most at the SGC seemed to see her as Col. Carter before Dr. Carter. Even her fellow scientists. "I guess I'm finding it all a little strange."
"A little?" O'Neill quipped. "Daniel mentioned you found something.
"Yes. We took Dr. McKay's advise and did a search on the list of drugs he provided to Woolsey. We've also been scanning the internet for signs of anyone looking specifically for people of higher than average intelligence."
"It's probable that the Trust has been much further along in the new Phoenix Experiment than we thought. And it turns out that they probably didn't decide to wait until they could get McKay to start."
"What makes you say that?" Jack responded in a tone that said this was not good news.
"Well, as I said, we've had intelligence doing a global search on the list of drugs Dr. McKay provided. We've found signs that an abnormal amount of these drugs have been funnelled into certain parts of the world for the past five years."
"Which parts?" The sinking feeling that Jack had since the mission in Sonora was growing.
"China, Japan, Africa, North Korea… We have people in those regions working on narrowing it down further." Daniel answered for Sam as he walked into the small office to stand beside Jack. Teal'c followed close behind and stood close to the door.
"Daniel! Teal'c!" Jack greeted.
"Jack. Welcome back." Daniel returned the greeting meaningfully.
"Narrowing is good. So, you found all that on the internet?" O'Neill deftly ignored the hinting welcome.
"No, we learned all that from the drug search intelligence has been doing. Sam found something else through the internet." Daniel corrected.
"We believe that many children of the Tau'ri have already been taken." Teal'c added gravely.
Sam pressed her lips thinly before explaining further. This was the part that had left a particularly sick feeling in her gut since she'd found it. "The increased drug production and smuggling activity coincides with an increased activity in the recruitment campaign of a High IQ Society."
O'Neill's eyes widened and he immediately questioned the most frightening part of that revelation. "What? You're organized? You have societies now? Like Geniuses of the World Unite, societies?"
Sam and Daniel locked eyes. It was like having an older, higher-ranked Mitchell. "One in particular is called MENSA," Daniel nudged the discussion back into focus."
"And kids join these things? Like it's fun?" O'Neill continued.
"Sir," Sam interjected, a little impatiently, "These societies are loose social groups with no hierarchy and little to no monitoring. It would be easy for certain individuals to use the testing processes to identify intelligent individuals for their own purposes. In fact, it's practically set up for that with Universities and research organizations often recruiting straight out of them."
O'Neill seemed satisfied with that explanation. "So, you're saying the Trust is using these societies, like MENSA to locate intelligent people."
"All over the world. Particularly in places where it would be easy to take people without anyone missing them. Such as countries with severe over-population or Third-World conditions," their anthropologist supplied further.
"The timing seems to coincide pretty closely to when we suspected the Goa'uld might have infiltrated the Trust to its deepest levels. I know that intelligence supposedly confirmed that that wasn't the case, but this seems pretty suspicious sir."
"And was also five years ago." O'Neill observed.
"Indeed." Teal'c confirmed.
"It does fit the Goa'uld M.O." Daniel added, "They're obsessed with creating more powerful hosts for themselves. The possibility of creating hosts with telekinetic and extra sensory abilities would be pretty tempting. Also, there was no Ori threat at the time when the Trust started all this…"
"Which means that the intelligence we've had so far has been fed to us." Mitchell filled in the final gap remaining in Sam's doorway, scowling and sweating with a towel around his neck. It was obvious he'd been working out his frustrations in the gym, "Their supposed reasons for pursuing the Phoenix project were bogus. We're being played. They wanted us to know about McKay."
O'Neill mentally added his own botched mission to the list of growing evidence. His decoy McKay had been transferred down to the Sonoran base too quickly for the Trust to have spent any time identifying him. He'd been transferred down to a seemingly abandoned facility, emptied of anything valuable, but clean and prepared. The Trust had to have known that their McKay was a decoy before they ever took him. Which meant that their intel was good. They had to be getting inside information. It was clear the Trust had been working several steps ahead of them. It was also pretty obvious that the Goa'uld were heavily involved, but was still just circumstance and conjecture. More evidence would be needed to convince the Security Council and the Cabinet.
Security clearance or no, O'Neill needed SG-1 to be working with all the information here. Sam and Daniel had already reached the conclusion that the Goa'uld were still deeply involved with the Trust anyway. "This may come as a surprise, but I wasn't just sleeping in this morning."
"No!" Daniel placed a hand to his chest in mock shock.
"Really?" Sam tilted her head in exaggerated consideration.
"You don't say." Teal'c pulled out one of the earth phrases he'd picked up in his years with SG-C.
"AHEM!" Beyond the now entirely obscured doorway someone loudly cleared their throat.
Mitchell and Teal'c turned sideways to make room for General Landry to address the gathering, "You know we do have a few nice big rooms with enough chairs for everyone especially for this purpose."