A steaming hot shower, a baggy jump suit, a mug of hot cocoa, and a good book were the perfect things to help Sam wind down after a successfully completed mission at the SGC. At least, they were normally the perfect way to wind down. This time though, she just couldn't shake the feeling that the mission wasn't over. It lacked closure this time.
Sg1 had been taken off the case this morning. It had been decided that they'd uncovered enough to get the ball rolling, and that there full attention was now needed to deal with the Ori. In truth, the Ori spin had been the only reason SG1 had been put onto the case.
Now that it was apparent that developing a defence or weapon against the Ori wasn't the Trust's real motive after-all, General Landry and the President agreed that the investigation was best taken over by other departments, allowing SG1 to focus their efforts on the Ori.
All indications were that the secret installations that had cropped up five years ago had been discontinued for at least the past two years; making that trail cold. Upon deeper examination of the ashes Daniel had noted surrounded the sites, it was found chillingly that they were indeed human ashes. There was such a large quantity that forensics had been able to find some surviving genetic material. Dr. Lam was assisting in the effort to build profiles from the information. Until they could confirm exactly who the Trust had managed to abduct for this, that trail was cold too. The odds of finding a genetic match to someone that they just happened to have in their database were beyond astronomical.
Identifying possible leaks in the SGC or any upper or secret level of Government was a job for internal affairs and special officers. That was apparently a strict policy.
If the Trust hadn't been trying to create a weapon against the Ori, then what had they been trying to accomplish? Surely, considering the timing, only the Goa'uld could have been interested in the experiment. But any possibility of Goa'uld infiltration, against her own advice, was to be dealt with separately from the StarGate program. Officially, the Pentagon and the Secretary of Defence denied any possibility of Goa'uld infiltration on Earth. But in reality, there was now a separate program that was created especially to deal with that problem. The SGC might be called in to assist, but it was ultimately out of their hands.
Sam was certain that General Jack O'Neill was heading this program. It was the only thing he could possible have left the StarGate program for. It wouldn't have been the first time he'd agreed to misdirect the rest of SG1 for National Security. She couldn't fault him for it.
Realizing that she didn't know how long she'd been staring at the same page in her book, and it was upside-down, Sam huffed in frustration and tossed it to the other end of the sofa.
Too much didn't make sense. There were still too many unanswered questions. Why would the Trust purposefully alert them to what they had been doing by making it so obvious they were looking for McKay? Why now, when it seemed like they'd given up on whatever they'd been trying?
How had McKay gotten caught up in all this in the first place? Was that science project alone really enough to attract that sort of attention? Then there was MENSA. And with his flat refusal to allow any further communication between Beckett and Lam on the subject, that road was pretty much a dead end now too. She suspected that his continued lack of co-operation had a lot to do with the fact that he was safe in another Galaxy. The Trust was not an immediate concern to McKay.
Mitchell was pretty burned up about that. He'd called it selfish and irresponsible. Idealism required that McKay do everything in his power to help stop the bad-guys, whatever the personal cost. But what Mitchell didn't understand was that McKay was anything but an idealist. When Mitchell had then learned about the incident with Teal'c, smoke had almost literally rolled out of his ears. Sam didn't really think that McKay was really a bad guy. He was just… McKay.
Of course, Caldwell's heavy handed pressuring of McKay probably hadn't helped. He'd been given firm orders to apologize to McKay for 'any misunderstandings' as soon as he reached Atlantis again. The Daedalus had left four days ago.
To be honest, Sam wasn't entirely convinced that the Trust and the Goa'uld couldn't know about Atlantis. But without proof the idea wouldn't even be entertained. There was too great a risk of war if the nations that knew of the Star Gate program began suspecting each-other of being infiltrated. So far, all they had was circumstantial evidence that the Goa'uld were even involved in the resurfacing of Pheonix. It wasn't enough.
The more Sam thought about, the more she saw too many dots with too few connecting lines.
With a slight smirk and glint of mischief, Sam climbed off the sofa and went to her closet for her trainers. Sure, she was off the assignment officially. But what she did with her down time was her decision, right? After-all, General Landry had told her to relax. She'd tried. She'd learned that she couldn't relax until she had some answers. If one looked at it that way, General Landry had practically ordered her to find those answers.
Sam's grabbed her jacket and opened her door. She nearly walked right into Mitchell. His hand had been poised to ring the door bell.
"You couldn't wind down either?" Mitchell smiled and nodded towards the laptop bag and rucksack she'd slung over her shoulder.
Daniel poked his head around the door, "Hi Sam."
"Good evening," Teal'c greeted from behind Mitchell.
"You have a plan?" Mitchell asked as he stepped aside to let Sam out.
She smiled brightly, the mischief back in her eyes, "Ya. I think I do."
The door to Sam's home closed behind the team. They were focussed on the mission they'd set for themselves. They were going to find some answers.
A few moments later the door to Sam's apartment opened again and Sam walked inside looking a bit embarrassed, followed by her team. "Just give me minute guys."
As she spoke she grabbed a pair of genes out of the clean laundry basket and un-wrapped the towel from her hair.
Mitchell had been driving for hours, and was starting to get a little bored. He was all out for team field trips. But it was around two thirty in the morning and they were in the middle of no-where. This wasn't exactly Mitchell's idea of a fun night out.
The road was deserted. They'd stopped passing other cars some time ago.
"So, how's it going?" Mitchell glanced sideways at his hair-towel free team-mate before turning his eyes back to the road.
"Fine. I sort of need to focus on this though." Sam answered without looking up from her lap top. Her fingers moved swiftly over the keyboard, and her eyes moved intently over the screen. At one point she had rolled down her window and stuck an aerial of some sort on the roof of the car.
Mitchell kept taking his eyes from the road to sneak peeks at Sam's Laptop.
"Perhaps," Teal'c's calm voice came from the back seat, "You should watch the road."
"Yes," Daniel piped up, "Let's not have a flaming car accident in the middle of nowhere tonight?"
"Hey, I was watching the road." Mitchell defended, "Mostly. So out of curiosity, what will happen if we get caught?"
Mitchell could hear Daniel shrug in the back seat, "Slap on the wrist maybe?"
"A slap on the wrist? You really think so?" Mitchell asked disbelievingly while he looked at Daniel in the rear-view mirror.
Daniel was gazing distractedly out the side window, "Yes well, saving the world a few times has its benefits. But if you just keep us moving, we won't get caught."
"I got that," Mitchell assured as he glanced at his GPS and turned down another side-road. "But what exactly are we looking for?"
Sam barely glanced up from her lap top as she answered, "Everything seems to go back to the CIA. McKay joined MENSA the same year he became involved in the CIA."
"And," Daniel added with a trademark push of his glasses, "he disappeared within a year of helping the CIA."
"Exactly," Sam affirmed that the two of them were on the same wave length again, leaving Teal'c and Mitchell to play catch up.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow at Daniel, "Do you both believe the CIA was involved in Dr. McKay's abduction?"
"Not quite," Daniel winced apologetically, "But close."
"Aha!" Mitchell practically hollered as the car swerved slightly. "Don't tell me! I think I've got it!"
He twisted to see Daniel better as he spoke, "Someone in the CIA was working with the Trust. A double agent!"
"Yes yes!" Daniel yelped, "Now watch the road!"
"Sorry," Mitchell turned back around quickly and evened out the car, "But I'm right, right?"
Sam checked the aerial she'd placed on the roof to make certain it was still steady, and the black box that it was attached to. "We're just opening up the line of communication to encourage a little more information sharing between departments."
Her fingers played across the keyboard and in moments a login screen brandishing the CIA logo appeared.
"Nice!" Mitchell grinned at the screen. He'd been a little surprised when the team had first suggested Sam hack into the CIA. She gave the impression of being so 'by the book'.
"Road please." Daniel reminded. He was a little tired of dieing.
Mitchell turned back to the road as he continued, "But how are you going to get passed the login?"
Sam turned her head and looked at him almost derisively. She really did have a dark side! "Please. That's the easy part."
"You've done this before, haven't you?" Mitchell looked away from the road and to Sam again and saw a mischievous glint in her blue eyes. The 'by the book good girl' had been replaced by Sam the Hacker.
"Yes! We've done it before." Daniel yelled, "And I've never felt we were risking our lives to do it until now. Please watch the road."
"Actually," Teal'c interjected, "I believe he this is the first time we have broken into secret CIA files. And perhaps I should drive."
"I think he meant more in general, Teal'c," Daniel corrected a tad grumpily.
"Guys!" Sam piped in without looking away from the screen, "Could you take it down a notch? I'm trying to keep us from getting caught here."
"Hm," Mitchell grinned lopsidedly, his eyes on the road.
Daniel folded his arms and looked out the window. He was not going to risk Mitchell taking his eyes off the road again. He'd been dead enough times already.
The light from Sam's laptop spread a bluish hue throughout the car, causing the passing scenery to be partially obscured by their reflections. Daniel could see Mitchell's smug smile reflected off the side window. What was he smug about? "Hm what?"
Mitchell kept his eyes dutifully on the road while he answered, "Oh I was just thinking how far we've come. You guys are out breaking the law, hacking top secret government files, and you brought me with you. Yup. We're a team."
Sam unplugged her lap top triumphantly. "All done. Take us home team leader."
Mitchell dutifully turned the car around, "You got the files you wanted?"
"I got it all." Sam grinned over at Mitchell.
It was mid-morning and the team was spread out around Sam's living room, though it was difficult to tell with the curtains drawn. Daniel, Teal'c, and Mitchell were pouring over printed out files that were scattered seemingly half-hazzardly. Sam was intently scrolling through some code on her lap top. In a place of honour, and within reach of every member of the team, was a large coffee urn.
All four looked up in surprise when the door-bell rang.
"Are you expecting someone?" Daniel asked from his place on the sofa, his finger poised in mid-turn over a pile of notes.
"No," Sam replied with a look of curiosity as she set her lap top aside and rose from her plush easy chair.
She squinted her eyes as she opened the front door to the bright morning light. Standing before her, in all the splendour of full military dress, was Colonel Jack O'Neill. "Jack!"
"Tsst!" Jack held up a hand and made a noise to silencer her, "I have been up since three am, speaking with the head of the CIA, the Secretary of Defence, and the President, about a mysteriously untraceable hack into the CIA's systems. You'll never guess what the hacker was interested in! It was McKay! They were worried that the Trust had actually cracked the whole security system. I had to tell them that I was behind it!" Jack rubbed his head tiredly, "And when I say I, I of course meant that I ordered it. Then I had to argue that there were some very good reasons for it. So Sam, tell me there were goods reasons for it."
Sam cringed guiltily and opened her mouth to apologize but Jack cut her off, "I don't want to hear it. All I want to hear right now is that you found something great. And I mean brilliant."
"We did indeed," a deep voice answered from somewhere behind Sam.
"Teal'c," Jack acknowledged. "You didn't even try to stop her. Did you?"
"Hey Jack," Daniel's voice called from somewhere near Teal'c's.
"And Daniel," Jack called back then muttered to Sam, "Why am I not surprised? You know, I remember when you were just this innocent little geek. Now look at him."
"We couldn't sleep," Daniel explained, from where he was suddenly standing just behind Sam, as though that said it all.
Teal'c solemnly nodded once in agreement, "The mission was not complete."
"Get hobbies!" Jack snapped as Sam led him into the living room. Jack surveyed the room, his eyes resting on a large white-board at the back of the room with what he could only think was a connect the dots puzzle carefully drawn over it. "I see you've been busy."
"It's a chart," Daniel explained as he settled back onto the sofa. "We're mapping out the connections we've drawn so far."
Jack titled his head at the board, "I thought it was duck."
"See! That's what I said!" Mitchell piped in from the other end of the sofa.
"And these?" Jack motioned to the top secret files spread out over the coffee table.
"These are the files which we have stolen," Teal'c confessed as though they were an everyday matter. Teal'c took his seat between Daniel and Mitchell and returned to the file he'd been looking at.
"Then what are you doing?" Jack walked over to where Sam had already reopened her lap top. Gibberish scrolled down the screen. Sam was reading through it as though it made sense.
"This is computer code. Specifically it's the code for the entire network system, including security." Sam explained excitedly, "While I was searching the CIA system and downloading the files I noticed an unusually large spike in the CIA system processor, more than it should even with a files being searched and security systems running."
"Right," Jack looked at her blankly, "Which means what?"
"I don't know." Sam shrugged as she turned back to the monitor, "That's what I'm trying to find out."
"And this is connected to all that… how?" Jack motioned to the coffee table coated in top secret files.
Sam looked back up at Jack and smiled politely but a little guiltily. Jack knew she was probably kicking herself for assuming the rest would be obvious. "The spikes occurred only when I searched certain key words. Namely, everything to do with McKay's case."
A considering expression crossed Jack's face at that, "Now that's interesting."
"I thought so too," Sam agreed with a smile.
Jack watched in silence for a moment before grabbing a cushion and settling down with a file by the coffee table.
"You know what I don't get?" Mitchell asked just as Jack was about to open his file.
All eyes turned to Mitchell in rapt attention. It hadn't been lost on the rest of the team that Mitchell seemed to be on role lately. He tilting his head quizzically as he spoke, "If McKay is really the paranoid, self-centred, over-cautious bastard that he is…."
Sam cringed at the frank description but Mitchell continued, "…then why would he ever agree to work with the CIA or any branch of American Government again? Ever? I mean, why risk it?"
Daniel glanced back down at the file he'd just been reading, "Maybe because if he didn't he'd have gone to prison for stealing a fortune from the Stock Market?"
"What?!" Sam's leaned forward to see, her lap top left to balance on the arm of the chair.
"No way! Really?!" Mitchell snatched the file from Daniel and began reading it, ignoring the perturbed glare it elicited from Daniel.
"Yes," Daniel continued, "apparently going back to work for the CIA was sort of a chance at rehabilitation."
"Let me see that," Jack snatched the file away from Mitchell.
"But what after that, with the Pentagon and Area 51. Do you mean to tell me that he just stuck around out of the goodness of his heart?" Mitchell now seemed determined that McKay had no redeeming qualities.
"Perhaps," Teal'c offered with a nod to his own small stack of papers, "It is because he has been compensated quite handsomely?"
Daniel glanced over at the paper at the top of Teal'c's stack and did a double take, "Could be."
"No," Sam voiced in the tone she used when she was onto something, "Mitchell is right. McKay must have had another reason for staying close. I don't think he's the type to care about money."
O'Neill stood and hovered over Sam's shoulder, "Have you found something?"
Sam barely glanced up from the screen as she answered, "McKay designed this entire system, he wrote the program, he did it all."
Mitchell looked up from where he'd been gawking at McKay's financial files, "You mean that rumour's true?"
"Ya," Daniel answered for her and tossed the file with that information to Mitchell, "It's true."
"Anyway," Sam picked up, "When you get down to the programming, it's a unique language. And it looks sloppy. There superfluous scraps of code that the program skips and ignores. They look like mistakes or alterations that weren't fully removed. I thought it was just because he was inexperienced at the time."
"But?" O'Neill prodded her onward.
"I'm double checking. But I think it might be a program hidden within the program." Several keystrokes later, Sam had highlighted everything that wasn't part of the functional program and brought it together in a separate text file. Her brow furrowed.
O'Neill looked between Sam and the screen, "Well?"
"It's gibberish," She confessed with a disappointed sigh.
"What am I looking at?" Daniel asked in a soft, thoughtful voice.
Sam looked up at him in surprise. She hadn't even noticed him come over. "This is the original text of the program. The highlighted fragments are the parts that don't appear to have a function."
"And that's where you've brought them together." Daniel pointed over at smaller window of the word processor."
"Yes. But like I said, it makes no sense." Sam huffed with frustration.
"Maybe," Daniel tilted his head thoughtfully at the monitor. "But what if it's not? You said it was a new language. What if this part is using a syntax you don't recognize? The bits are broken up throughout the rest of the program, right? Who's to say it has to be read in the order it appears."
Sam looked at the monitor more closely, then suddenly began typing furiously.
Jack made an annoyed sound. He'd been up too late and it was too early for this. "Translation if you please?!"
"McKay really did it!" Sam exclaimed in amazement as she read the re-ordered code.
"Did what?" Jack demanded, "And, please, use small words."
Sam turned fully to the rest of the team, "It's a spy program. It essential waits lays dormant, waiting for certain key-words to activate it. If those key words are used in anything from a report, to an e-mail, or in my case a system search, the program switches on, stores the data in a secure back-door network file, and sends a warning to a specified in-box. This is the system used by the White House, the Pentagon, Area 51, the FBI, the SGC…"
"Son of a bitch," Mitchell exclaimed, shaking his head.
"Indeed," Teal'c concurred, "Does not Earth have a common saying? Keep your friends close…"
"And your enemies closer", Daniel finished for him. "He's been working for the government all this time so that he'd know if they were ever going to go looking for him, or turn against him."
Sam shook her head, "That's probably how it started, but he has no way of accessing this information or receiving the warning e-mail from Atlantis."
It was Jack's turn to lean over and look thoughtfully at the monitor. McKay might have just given him exactly what he needed to track the movements of the Trust, and the Goa'uld. "Now that you know that's there… can you set it to look for whatever we tell it to?"
"Sure," Sam looked up at him in surprise, "But shouldn't we report this?"
Mitchell looked scandalized, "We're not going to let him get away with spying on this government, and likely accessing classified information. Are we?"
"Um," Daniel's eyes wandered over the coffee table still coated in top secret FBI files.
Sam glanced away guiltily. Apparently her alter-ego, Hacker Sam, was gone for now.
"Is that not what we have done, Colonel Mitchell?" Teal'c asked bluntly.
"No!" Mitchell looked scandalized as he declared it, then looked back at the table…" Maybe. But that's different! We're doing it for the greater good of man-kind and yes, ok, so pot-kettle."
Jack deposited his hands in his pockets and looked ponderously at the table. "It seems to me that he was just watching his back. If you find out that he did anything that you four wouldn't have then you let me know."
His voice trailed off as his eyes locked on one of the files. It was the personnel file of one of the CIA agents. This agent had been involved with MENSA. He was a mid-level agent. He had worked extensively with McKay prior to his disappearance. This agent had later transferred into undercover military service. But none of that interested Jack at the moment. What interested Jack at the moment was the familiar face at the top of the page. "Aw damn! I shared my pizza with that guy and everything!"