Transmutation Part 2

Chapter 6

Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

Monday, June 6, 2005

With the conference room doors open, Carson could hear the voices long before he reached the room.

“I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die. Of all the stupid idiotic cultures out there that think they should stab first and talk second, I’m going to die because of a group of suicidal Ancients that couldn’t clean up a failed experiment.”

“You’re not going to die, Rodney.” John had that tone he used when he refused to believe things could go wrong.

“Well, it’s not like I was able to ascend the first time around. If not for my last moment of brilliance that allowed Carson to use the machine to save me, I wouldn’t be here now.”

“Ok,” John said, “Why can’t we use the machine again the same way?”

“Seriously? What exactly do you do with all the reports my department generate? I’m going to audit your system to find out what exactly you’re accessing during office hours.”

“Hey, leave my system alone. You’ve got plenty of people in your own department that you should be auditing instead.”

“As if I’m wasting my own time keeping the idiots from self-destruction. I let Kusanagi monitor the mayhem they are plotting. Radek…Radek is the one that makes them regret it.”

“Well, Radek will be happy to resume his mayhem prevention activities tomorrow,” Carson stated as he entered the room. “I’m keeping him in the infirmary for another day for observation and to finish testing. But, the man is in perfect health. A wee bit underweight, but a few good meals will set him to rights.”

“Good, great. But what about me? We completely dismantled the ascension machine to prevent anyone else from accidentally activating it; then we parted it out for other repairs.” Rodney started.

“Jus’ calm down, lad, and we can wait for Elizabeth to join us.”

“Calm down?”

“Rodney, take a breath,” John interceded. “I think it will be ok to wait for Elizabeth.”

“Okay, fine. I’m sure we have all the time in the world to wait for Elizabeth to grace us with her presence while dying man over here has his life ticking away. Oh, John, you need to get another one of those brainwave things so I can try that meditating thing. I mean, it could still work, right?” Rodney looked around with a worried expression on his face.

“Sorry, I’m late,” Elizabeth stated as she entered the room. “How is Radek doing?”

“Oh, yes. Let’s all worry about Radek now.” Elizabeth looked at Rodney strangely, which was not a surprise considering not three hours ago Rodney was begging the man to live. “Well, it’s not like he’s the one dying now.”

Carson interrupted, “Radek is doing fine. He will be released tomorrow, right as rain.”

Elizabeth acknowledged that with a single nod. “So, then, our next concern is Rodney’s situation.”

“Yes, Rodney’s situation.” Carson began.

“Dead man walking.”

“Rodney,” John said with a warning growl.

“Rodney, you are not dying,” Carson stated. When Rodney scoffed at him, he repeated himself firmly, “Rodney, You. Are. Not. Dying.”

John looked tentatively relieved, “Carson?”

“Look, after Rodney’s little miracle in the infirmary, I pulled up his records from the ascension incident and compared them to what’s happening now. I also had a chance to finish reading Dr. Lam’s reports and added her DNA comparisons to the data. We are in a unique circumstance wherein we can compare Rodney’s original DNA sample, to the samples both immediately prior to and after he contracted the flu. Additionally, I was able to extract DNA samples from the blood samples taken after you collapsed here on Atlantis, and during your recovery from the collapse.”

He forwarded the data to them. “Rodney’s DNA has changed. And there are markers similar to the ascension experiment. But as you can see, the change has stabilized and stopped. There were no changes between the time I last checked you and today. You are not going to die.”

“I’m…I’m not going to die, John,” Rodney repeated.

Smiling, John responded, “See, I told you it would be fine. What are we going to do about changing him back? Or, can we?”

Carson shook his head, “As far as I can determine, there is no changing back. The cells have undergone a complete transmutation. The mental gifts are similar to ones developed by the Ancients when they were on the cusp of ascending. According to the DNA analysis, Rodney should be able to develop several of these gifts. The need of the moment just pushed healing to the front. But many of the ones he had previously may express themselves.”

“Ok, fine. I can deal with that as long as I don’t have to ascend. I mean, I’ve always been more advanced than all of you mentally. So, I’ll just learn to control myself around you.”

“Well, thanks, Rodney. Glad to see you can adapt.” John snarked.

Carson just shook his head and continued, “I have begun a comparison of Rodney’s readings to others in the expedition that have had any symptoms of the flu. An initial sampling shows that Rodney is not the only person whose DNA is mutating. This virus is causing us to essentially evolve into something of a hybrid ancient, for lack of a better explanation.”

Elizabeth Weir sat up straighter and leaned forward, “So we are all becoming Ancients? Are you saying we will all be able to understand them better? We have a chance of reaching ascension?” Carson withdrew slightly from the look of avarice in her eyes.

“Um, not all.” Carson glanced around at the others before refocusing on Elizabeth’s narrowed eyes. “While everyone is getting the flu, not everyone is affected the same way. Only a small percentage of the population has the active ATA gene. A slightly larger percentage has the dormant ATA gene. My tests confirm that the virus is attempting to mutate everyone with either form of the ATA gene.”

“So, I’m…” Elizabeth started.

“Not changing,” Carson confirmed.

“The easiest indicator is that those with no Ancient DNA whatsoever get a very mild form of the flu that passes with no complications, usually within 12-24 hours. Those with any Ancient DNA are getting more severe forms of the flu. According to Dr. Lam, the patients in her samples that are changing all report severe muscle and bone fatigue. It is one symptom of the body trying to adapt to the changes.”

She was shaking her head as if trying to find fault in Carson’s report, “but Katie Brown and Dr. Zelenka had no Ancient DNA. Your gene therapy didn’t work on them either.”

“Elizabeth, I told you when I developed it that the gene therapy only had the potential of activating the ATA gene if the subject had a natural expression, to begin with. It was turning on the dormant gene, such as in Rodney’s case. But, it only had a 47% success rate. Radek and Katie didn’t have enough of the dormant gene for it to work.”

“But they have enough of a gene for this virus to activate it?” Elizabeth asked, looking like she was fighting down being upset.

“No, they don’t,” Carson stated.

“Wait, Carson.” John jumped in, “You said those without it were getting only a mild flu. Katie, Radek, and Richardson didn’t have any mild flu.”

“No, they all had a dormant gene that was too weak to activate, either with my therapy or with the virus. The virus was literally killing them as it tried to mutate them enough. There were just too many changes; their bodies couldn’t take the change and gave out. Without Rodney’s healing, Radek would have been dead.”

“So, now?”

“Now his DNA shows the same changes we are all experiencing. Whatever Rodney did got him through the crisis and allowed the change to complete in him.”

“So, I could have saved Katie?”

“Rodney, don’t…” John began before Carson interrupted.

“No, I don’t want you thinking that. We will never know if your body had adapted to the change enough at that point to access the ability. And, there were those of us in the room at the time that are undergoing the transmutation that didn’t instinctively reach for any healing powers when you did. So, no blame. You were present and able to save Radek, that’s all you need to know.”

“Agreed,” Elizabeth concurred softly to Rodney, before immediately focusing on Carson and firmly giving directives.  “So, we need you to begin studying how to give these abilities to others. We need a focus on non-gene carriers.”

“What? No. Now that we know what the virus is doing, we are working on developing a vaccine to protect people from it.” Carson stated. “I have already sent my findings to Dr. Lam with the data burst before this meeting.”

“Of course, that is the priority.” Elizabeth agreed.

John nodded his approval before asking, “So, you are saying that all of us with the ATA gene who had the flu are going to develop the same abilities as Rodney?”

Carson immediately nodded his head before stopping and wavering his hand side to side. “It is the most likely outcome given my analysis. However, we don’t all have his big brain, so while we will all have the potential, not everyone may reach it. Also, based on your experiences when trapped in the time dilation field, not everyone was proficient in every skill. So, while everyone might have the ability to heal, some will heal a paper cut, while others can save someone from death.”

“Well” Rodney said, “ we know from my failed attempt at ascension that in addition to healing, there was telepathy, telekinesis, and my sight and hearing were better.”

“At the village, they could sometimes see what was going to happen before it did,” John added.

“Aye, Precognition,” Carson added it to his list. “I’m sure there’s a whole bag of goodies that we just don’t know about yet.”

“But we’re not in danger of ascending?” Rodney asked.

“No, Rodney. I suspect it might make it easier for some people to reach ascension, but by our previous experiences and Dr. Jackson’s account, you have to want it and actively seek it. You’re safe.” Carson said with a roll of the eyes as Rodney breathed a sigh of relief.

“So, you are saying that we will have people here and at Stargate Command that are able to read our minds?” Elizabeth asked tightly.

“Weren’t you paying attention,” Rodney popped off before Carson could respond. “He said anyone who got the flu and had Ancient genes, on Earth that’s potentially 4% of the population.”

Elizabeth took a deep, sharp breath and stood, “I need to prepare a communication for the IOA notifying them of this outcome.” She turned and left the room at a brisk clip.

Carson just stared for a moment as the doors closed behind Elizabeth’s retreating form, “I’ve already sent my report to Dr. Lam. I’m certain Stargate Command will inform the IOA.” A repeated thumping had him turning back to see Rodney beating his head against the conference room table. He looked at Colonel Sheppard who just shrugged before patting Rodney on the back.

“Hey buddy, you’re gonna live. What’s the problem?”

“Do you know how much trouble my pack of idiots gets into by touching everything they shouldn’t? How much more of a mess are we going to have when all they have to do is think about it?”

 – – – –

Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C.

Monday, June 6, 2005

Jack O’Neill stood at parade rest as Dr. Carolyn Lam completed her presentation, briefing the President, Vice President, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with a selection of others that happen to include the newly read into the Program Surgeon General, Mya Bradford.

“With the data supplied by Dr. Beckett on Atlantis, we have now been able to isolate the virus and are working on a vaccine.”

“I told you.” Vice President Robert Kinsey was winding up. “By God, I told all of you that allowing that monstrosity to remain open and active would bring us trouble. And, here I stand, vindicated for my beliefs. So now your alien microbes have escaped your containment and are threatening our very way of life.”

“Enough, Bob!” President Hayes cut off his rant before turning toward O’Neill, “So, if I’ve got this right, the flu that is going around is an alien virus that is mutating the DNA of some of the people who catch it. And, the ones that are mutating are going to start showing ‘superpowers’ that will allow them to heal people and move things with their minds.” He made motions with his hands. “I feel like I’ve walked into some X-Men movie.”

“Mr. President,” Dr. Lam interjected, “while we suspect it might be the case, we haven’t confirmed that the virus originated off Earth.”

Kinsey pointed at O’Neill, “Your report showed that he was the first case and you don’t think this was something extraterrestrial, Doctor?”

“Sir, to the best of our knowledge the point of origin of the infection is the D.C. Region. General O’Neill is the first documented case at this time, but we have reason to believe that he is not our patient zero. Based on timing and spread of the flu, we suspect he contracted the virus here.” Dr. Lam completed as if she hadn’t been interrupted.

“You are actually going to stand there and tell us that this is something from Earth?” Kinsey scoffed in disbelief before going back on the attack, “Or, is it that you’ve made a mistake and now you are trying to cover it up?”

“Now, wait just a moment, Kinsey.” O’Neill stopped him.

“That’s Vice President Kinsey to you, O’Neill.”

“Fine, Vice President Kinsey, my people are off limits. You want to attack someone, you come at me. There was no attempt at a cover-up. The moment we realized what we had, we contacted the President for a meeting.”

“We have only your word for that. How do we know this isn’t one of your experiments that got out of control?”

“There was no experiment. If they were experimenting, then the first outbreak wouldn’t have been in D.C. of all places. We try to keep this crap away from all the spooks, not call attention to it.” Jack threw back.

“O’Neill.” Jack pulled up short when General Maynard reprimanded, but a superior officer present or not, he won’t allow Kinsey to continue attacking his people.

President Hayes leaned back and rubbed a hand across the side of his head like he was having a headache. “OK, I think we all need to take a breath here. No, Bob, there are times for finger pointing, but right now we need to see what the repercussions are.”

“If I may, Mr. President, where do we stand on creating a vaccine?” Admiral Bradford asked.

Jack motioned to Carolyn to respond, “We have positively identified the virus. We are working now to create the vaccine and should have a viable sample to test within the next week.”

The Surgeon General nodded in understanding before the President said, “Well, a week before we can get something out there to stop it…that’s not so bad,”

“I believe you misunderstand, Mr. President. Under normal flu vaccine production methods, it takes upward of six months to prepare for a flu season, and even then, there is not enough vaccine to inoculate everyone in the country.”

“Wait, Mya, so you’re saying that it could be months before we can get this under control?”

“Yes, Mr. President.” Admiral Bradford responded.

“Yeah, see, about that…we may have a way to shorten that process drastically, but it’s not exactly FDA approved,” Jack said.

“How confident are you on the process, and how close are you on receiving FDA approval for it?” Bradford inquired.

“We are extremely confident. You could say this process has been around a long time. Practically Ancient.” Jack hemmed.

Dr. Lam took over, “The equipment is available on Atlantis, but we can’t exactly go about getting FDA approval.”

“You expect us to allow you to inject people with something created in an alien lab?” Kinsey got up to pace, “I always believed you people were merely desensitized to the dangers out there, but now it’s obvious that you are one of them.”

“Excuse me?” Lam’s eyes narrowed in anger.

“That’s what this thing does, right? It passes normal people by and only affects the ones with alien DNA. That’s what your report says, isn’t it? The same aliens that created the lab you want to use?” Kinsey’s eyes practically sparked in hatred.

“I said enough, Bob.” Henry Hayes lay the file in his hand to the side. “Let’s keep our eye on the problem here and worry about fault later. The sooner we can get this situation under control, the better. I take it once a vaccine is created, we’re going to need the office of the Surgeon General to encourage people to get the vaccination?”

“Yes, sir.”

General Maynard was watching closely, “But that’s not the real problem at this point, is it, General O’Neill?”

“No, sir. It is not. Even if we could stop the spread of the virus today, we can’t reverse it. It’s out there now. The best we can determine is it takes approximately two weeks from infection until the changes in the body complete.” Jack explained.

Hayes exchanged looks with Maynard, “So, what you are saying is within two weeks we are going out to have people out there running around with superpowers and no control or knowledge over who it is?”

“No, sir, Mr. President,” Maynard said, staring at O’Neill. “What he is saying is that there are people out there right now with powers, no accountability, and no idea how they got them. The Stargate Program may have to be declassified.”

– – – –

“Tony! I have the list of patients our missing doctor was seeing. He had a half day on Friday and only met with three patients. His last one of the day was Master Sergeant Brent Newman.” Tim McGee came jogging around the corner into the bullpen area after two hours down in Cyber Crimes.

“You got his address, Probie?”

“Right here.” Tim waved his phone.

“Well, let’s go ask the Master Sergeant some questions. Since the good doctor never arrived for his Friday golf game, Newman may have been the last person to see him.”

Tim headed for his desk but glanced at Gibb’s desk along the way. “Boss still meeting with the Director?”

“Yes, he is.” Tony grabbed his gun and bag. He stopped on the way to the elevator next to Rick Balboa’s desk, “Hey Rick, headed out to interview a witness.” He reached out a hand and McGee slipped a hastily written note into it. “Here’s the name and address. Can you let Gibbs know?”

“Sure, Tony. My team’s on cold cases, so give us a call if you need help.” Balboa replied while accepting the note.

“Right, and risk the wrath of Madam Director?” Tony smirked at him as he turned to enter the elevator. When the doors closed he asked, “Do we know what Newman sees the Doc for?”

“Well, his prior posting was classified, but he is being seen at Bethesda three days a week for physical therapy and twice a week with Dr. Huang for post-traumatic stress.”

They walked quickly toward the car; Tony was secretly glad to get away from the passive aggressive anger management disaster taking place between Gibbs and Shepard. It was exhausting being in the same office with them.

Tony got behind the wheel and drove toward the Sergeant’s house without his normal line of banter. He was enjoying the mental calm and didn’t see a reason to fill the space. Traffic was moving smoothly so he allowed himself a moment to decompress.

“So, Tony. Do you want to talk about it?” Tim asked after about fifteen minutes of silence.

“About what Probie san?”

“About the fact you have slept on my couch the last three out of four nights? About your hyper-vigilance around Gibbs?”

“Whoa. Hold on there, what do you mean hypervigilance?”

“You are the one who said I need to pay more attention to body language, Tony. You flinch just before Gibbs tries to headslap you. What I don’t get is, you obviously see it coming, but then you sit there and let him hit you.” Tim shifted on the seat.

“I don’t let him hit me.” Tony could feel McGee’s eyes on him. “What about you, McEmo? You have been avoiding Abby’s lab for a few days now. Did you do something to disturb our Mistress of the Dark?”

“Way to change the topic, Tony.”

“That’s not an answer.”

Tim hesitated in thought. “If I answer, will you?”

Tony scrunched up his face a moment, “I will consider it.”

McGee sighed, “I’m just uncomfortable down there lately. I can’t explain why. Abby is just so…so…Abby.”

“Ah, yes…so, Abby. I actually can understand that.” Tony acknowledged.

“So.”

“Yes.”

“You said you would answer.” Tim huffed.

“Actually, I said I would consider answering. I have—considered—and decided not to answer.” Tony gave a big toothy grin but let it fall when he glanced over at Tim’s reaction. “Look, if you don’t want me dropping by your place, I understand.”

Tim shook his head. “No, it’s not about you coming over. I don’t mind that. It’s just…you tell me you want to teach me to be a better investigator. But when I do what you say and start paying more attention to people, you blow me off. I want to feel like you respected me enough to talk to me.”

Tony took a deep breath then let it out in a loud sigh. “Look, Tim. This isn’t about you. There are just some things going on in my life right now that I’m still trying to understand. I’m just not ready to share. But when I am ready, I want you to know I trust you enough to let you know.”

“OK.  There’s Newman’s house.”

Tony parked in front of the house, and they walked up to the door. McGee glanced over as they walked past the closed garage. “Sgt. Newman’s SUV is in the garage.”

Ringing the doorbell, Tony pulled out his badge. After a short wait, he rang the bell again.

A voice from within called out, “I’m coming. Hold your horses.”

The door opened a crack in front of Tony, barely revealing a man who stood as tall as Tony. He was using his body to block the door, but it was dark behind him. Voices by Dream Theater could be heard playing on the radio in the background, “Can I help you?”

“Master Sergeant Brent Newman?” Tony asked. The man nodded once. “Hi, I’m Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, and this is my partner, Special Agent Timothy McGee. We’re with NCIS. Do you mind if we come in to ask a few questions?”

“About what?”

“I understand that you have been seeing Doctor Huang at Bethesda?”

Newman paused a moment as if evaluating, then his brow scrunched up confused. “Oh, Doc Huang, yes. Wait. I heard a rumor at PT. Is Doc Huang really missing?”

“Yes, he is. Would you mind if we come in?”

“Sure, of course. Please. I don’t know what I can do, but I’m happy to help.”

– – – –

There was darkness, and his head was pounding with a sharp ache. He was laying on a hard, cold surface. Voices were rolling through his head along with the rolling in his stomach. Timothy McGee tried to turn over and felt his arm stretch painfully, cold metal encircling his wrist tightly. He decided to open his eyes, but the dim light caused a sharp spike of pain.

The voices were rising and falling. He should know them. Should know where he is. Breathing through the pain, he opened his eyes again. His eyes fell on wooden steps and concrete, the spike of light coming from the open door at the top of the stairs. He closed his eyes briefly once more, swallowing down the bile that threatened to rise. When he reopened them, he could see the outline of a body wrapped in plastic.

He tried to move back away from it and felt that pain in his arm and wrist again. He looked up and saw his wrist handcuffed to the metal railing above his head. The railing bolted into the concrete. The voices regained his attention. He shifted again, moving slowly. The throbbing in his head grew worse.

Tim refocused toward the voices. Thin windows high up in the background allowed dim light to show the confines of a basement. There were two men in the center of the space. One standing, the other on his knees, hands restrained behind his back. He focused to make sense of what they were saying.

“You don’t want to do this. You have to know they’ll go for the death penalty if you kill a federal agent, Brent. Just let me and my partner go, and we can all walk away from this.” Tony…that’s Tony.

“You’re one of us. How can you be working for them if you’re one of us?” The standing man asked with a growl.

“Brent, I’m not sure who you are talking about. Who are they?”

“Don’t feed me that bullshit, Agent. I can tell, you’re one of us. How are you doing it? You stopped the voices…how?”

“I don’t hear any voices, Brent.”

“DON’T. LIE. TO. ME.” The man, Brent, punctuated each word with a jab of the handgun he held against Tony’s chest. “I know you hear the voices too. I heard them talking about experimenting on us. Dr. Huang wanted to ‘test’ drug protocols on me. That’s all they do to us at that place. Tests and trials. They are experimenting on us, and no one cares. But I can hear them now, even when they try to hide it from me. I know what they’re thinking.”

Sgt. Newman, Dr. Huang, Bethesda missing doctor. That’s right…questioning a witness. The information came back to Tim. He listened to them. Tony’s voice trying for calm, the sergeant becoming more agitated. Tim searched himself with his free hand. His pockets were turned out, jacket off, shoes off, belt, holster, gun and keys were gone. Looking around he saw his service weapon laying on the floor in the corner of the room next to his gear.

The sergeant suddenly kicked out at Tony who fell backward onto the floor. Newman grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and pulled him back up onto his knees screaming into Tony’s face. For a moment, Tony looked at Tim and their eyes locked. He saw the fear as Newman straightened his arm, and Tim knew Tony was going to die.

Tim broke eye contact and looked desperately back at his service weapon. He needed it, and he needed it right now.  He jerked and pulled at the cuff and could feel the skin break and blood flow. But, Tim couldn’t get it loose. He reached out toward his weapon as the pain in his head spiked, and the gun flew across the room into his hand. The moment his fingers wrapped around the grip he turned, aimed and fired twice.

Tim’s vision dimmed at the moment he saw both bodies hit the floor. “Tony!” he called out as pain spiked in his head again and he was lost in the throbbing nausea.

Tim felt a hand against his cheek, “Come on, Probie. Need you up and moving now.” The voice sounded tinny and muffled through his ringing ears.

“Tony!” He moved and groaned as his head throbbed.

“Whoa there, McHero. Stay still, let me check you over.”

Tim tried to move his arm and winced, then groaned when the wince caused another sharp pain.  “Key.”

“Yeah, didn’t see where he threw those. Hold still, let me get that.” Tony touched the cuffs and concentrated on the one around Tim’s wrist. Tim looked up and felt something moving between Tony and the cuff. There was a click, and it released, Tim’s hand falling.

“How did you?”

“That’s a conversation for later Probie. Balboa should be here any minute. I was able to get a text off to him before Newman saw my phone. So, I need you to concentrate on what I’m saying. Newman had you locked to the stairs and was going to kill me. You were able to reach your weapon and shot him. Do you understand?”

“Tony, I think I made it fly across the room.” The sensation of the gun flying into his hand ghosted across his mind briefly.

Tony’s hands gripped tightly on Tim’s shoulders for a moment before Tony repeated himself, the stress in his voice clear while trying to sound calm. “Timmy…It is imperative that you understand me. You reached out and were able to get your hand on the weapon. Repeat it.”

“Tony.” Tim’s head was pounding harder and his thoughts were moving slow.

Repeat it!” Tony commanded. “I reached out and was able to get my hand on the weapon.”

I reached out and was able to get my hand on the weapon.

“Good boy.”

“You’re gonna explain this?” Tim asked with a whine.

“I promise.”

Tim lifted his hand to his face, but stopped and looked at his bleeding wrist. “Tony, how did you open the handcuff?”

“Oh, Probie, there is soo much we need to talk about.”

A crash above with light pouring in caused Tim to curl in on himself as he heard a familiar voice yell, “Federal Agents!”

“Basement!” Tony called out as Tim felt his hands ease Tim down to lay on the floor. “Rick! We need a bus and Ducky down here.”

– – – –

Chapter 7

Bethesda Hospital, Bethesda, MD

Monday, June 6, 2005

Tony sat in the hospital room with his feet kicked up on the corner of Tim’s bed while staring at his phone. Tim was asleep again, but the nurses would be back in about an hour for another check. He tapped the edge of the phone a few times before taking a breath and placing the call.

“McGarrett.”

“Hey, Steve. You free to talk?”

“Yeah, sure. You ok babe, ya sound stressed?”

“I’m fine.”

“Right. Ya wanna try that one again?”

“I’m ok, really. Just had a close call today. Wanted to hear your voice.” Tony cracked his neck.

“Define close call.” Steve’s voice changed, half concerned and half situation commander.

“We had a missing person case. McGee and I went to interview the witness, turned out to be the perp. Got the drop on us. But everything turned out fine.”

“Ok, I believe that as far as it goes. What part are you leaving out?”

“What makes you think I’m leaving something out?”

“Tony,” Steve said in the softest command.

“He knocked out McGee and cuffed him to a rail. I tried to talk him down, but he was off his meds and ranting at me. Completely irrational. Luckily McGee woke up and was able to reach his firearm in time to take out the perp.”

“Whoa, back up there. What does ‘in time’ mean?”

“Just that he was in time. It’s nothing.”

“Ku‘uipo, talk to me.”

Tony drew a shaky breath, “I was on my knees, and he was pulling the trigger.”

“Shit! Babe, I wish I could be there for you.”

“No, I’m a federal agent. I can take care of myself. And, Tim really came through for me today.”

“It sounds like I owe him one.”

“We both do.”

“But, let’s get one thing straight. Federal agent or not that doesn’t stop me from wanting to be there for you. I know when we got back together after your Wendy City Fiasco that we agreed to keep it in the closet because of our careers. But, DADT is history.”

“I know, I’m glad I don’t have to worry anymore about you facing a court-martial if you were caught. I never wanted to be the reason you lost your career. But my situation hasn’t changed.” Tony said, frustrated. “Though it totally sucks that you were sent off to whatever hole you’ve disappeared down right before the President signed the Repeal, so you owe me Repeal sex, SEAL.”

A soft chuckle, “I feel like I missed out on that one, too. It was gonna start out with me in my Full Dress.”

“You can’t go teasing a guy with a vision of you in Full Dress when I’m not getting any relief tonight. That’s just not fair.” Tony was silent a moment. “Can you say where they’re stationing you?”

“No, sorry. I really did fall down the rabbit hole on this one. We were on lockdown until today. This base is a little crazy. But you know classified.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Look, I know you’re not out at work, and I completely respect your reasons. But there are two things I need to let you know. First, I put you down as my next of kin. If something happens to me here, then they will contact you.”

“You know I hate talking about that.”

“Suck it up. Second, if the need arises, they have a protocol for rounding up the families for protective custody. If they have to contact you by phone, they will tell you they are following the P3 Protocol. In person, they will show you a card that has a P cubed in the lower left corner. They will still call it P three. Anyone calls it anything but exactly that, you walk away. If you’re uncertain, ask them a question, and their answer will have the word charmed in there someplace. No idea why that one. You got it?”

“P3, Charmed. That’s perfect.” Tony grinned for a moment. “This assignment must be really out there, Steve.”

“You have no idea, Babe.” There was the faint sound of someone calling Steve’s name in the background. “Look, we could get a lockdown here any time, so don’t know when I can contact you. But with all the weirdness in the world today, be careful. And, take care of our hero. Man saved your life. As far as I’m concerned, he’s ohana.”

“You be careful, Cuore Mio.” Steve hung up, and Tony sighed before putting away the phone.

With his head leaned back against the chair and his eyes closed, he focused on his hearing. He’s noticed that it’s improved a bit since the weirdness began. He can hear a few moans and groans, the murmur of conversation, and many of the other evening sounds of a hospital at work. He wasn’t really trying to focus in on any one thing, just general practice, working on isolation and control. This was his life, and now it looked like it would be Tim’s, too.

At the end, Sergeant Newman had been crazy, but not crazy. For a moment he was able to push through and get a read on the Sergeant, and the man had been like Tony, able to hear thoughts. But there was something broken inside. Whether it had happened to the man in combat or as a result of these strange abilities, Tony wasn’t sure. But from that flash, the man believed the doctors here were experimenting on patients. He could see it in a way. Walking around while Tim was being scanned, Tony had taken a peek. It was slightly terrifying how much of medicine was educated guesswork.

The elevator doors opened at the end of the hall, and he could hear the sounds of visitors incoming. Looking at Tim, he decided to head them off. Or, at least make the assault less brutal for Tim. He picked up his empty cup and stepped out of the door, closing it behind him.

“Tony!”

“Abigail, there are patients here that need their rest. Please try to be respectful.”

“Sorry, Ducky. Tony. Are you ok? When I heard you were almost shot, I was like all scrunched up inside. But you look ok, are you ok? Because I need you to be ok. First Kate was shot, then you were almost shot, and I need people to quit being shot.” Abby said in one long breath with a rib-crushing grasp.

“Can’t breathe, Abs.” Tony wheezed out.

“Oh, sorry. I was just really worried about you. Have they released you?”

“Let the man talk, Abs,” Gibbs interjected when it looked like Abby would ramp back up.

“They didn’t admit me.”

Ducky stepped up to give him a quick once-over and took Tony’s hand to look at the gauze bandage on his wrist. “It looks like you had some minor injuries here.”

“Mainly bruising. One of the cuffs cut in a little when I was trying to get it open, they just bandaged it up. No, McGee’s the one relying on their hospitality tonight.” Tony motioned toward the door behind him but put a quick arm around Abby when she tried to storm past him. “Nope. You can go in, but you need to be soft and quiet.”

“How is the lad, Anthony. According to Rick, he had a head wound. There was a good bit of Timothy’s blood on the floor where he lay.” Ducky asked.

“Yeah, he’s got seven stitches on the ol’ noggin. They have him for observation from the concussion. He just fell back asleep so, try not to wake him up. He’s still waking up nauseous.” Tony urged them.

“Come along, Abigail, let’s see if we can slip in without waking the poor boy.” Ducky gave a nod to Tony as he wrapped an arm around Abby for control.

Tony watched them enter with trepidation while Gibbs stood next to him.

“You sure you’re fine, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked neutrally.

“Yeah, Boss. Doc’s written me off work for two days for the wrist. IA already dropped by. Standard interview and psych eval at the end of the week. So I’ll be off the rest of the week.” Tony assured him absently as he was trying to listen to Tim to make sure Abby didn’t wake him and never noticed Gibb’s hand coming up behind him to headslap him.

His head rocked from the impact, and his reaction was instant and fast. His hand shot up, he caught hold of Gibbs by the wrist, spun and pinned him against the wall between one breath and the next. There was silence in the hallway for a moment as his position registered on them.

“What the actual fuck do you think you’re doing, Gibbs?” Tony released him and stepped back. Gibbs only glared at him, his jaw clenching, without saying a word. “What? You got nothing for me? Not four hours ago I had a guy ready to pull the trigger, and you think the correct response was to hit me? What is your damage?”

“You were in trouble, and I wasn’t your first call. What’s wrong with you, DiNozzo?” Gibbs growled with a glared.

“Me? It was a routine Q&A with a witness. You were with Madam Director again, and I had no idea if you even had your phone on you up there. Balboa’s TEAM was available for backup and knew our location. Exactly what part of that wasn’t logical?” Tony looked at him. “Is this about me, or about Shepard’s issues with you? Because if you have trouble with her, keep it behind her door. When I’m out in the field with my partner, I would like to know that my backup is going to be there, not distracted by personal issues.”

“You saying I don’t have your back, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked in a dangerously low voice.

“There’s no one I trust more to have my back…when you’re there, Boss.” Tony turned and opened the door to enter the room, just in time to see McGee puking all over Abby.

– – – –

Apartment of Timothy McGee, Silver Spring, MD

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Tony sat at the table, sipping his coffee while casually flipping through pages of his magazine on his kindle. He smiled slightly and stood up to refill his cup while pouring a glass of orange juice for Tim, just as the man came shuffling into the room.

“I want coffee.” McGee demanded. Tony just gave him an unimpressed look without speaking. “My head is fine, DiNozzo. ”

“Now, now, McCranky. I’m not going to be the one answering to Ducky if he finds out I’m feeding your addiction. It hasn’t even been 48 hours. Now drink your juice like a good little boy.”

Tim shot him the bird as he reached for his glass.

Tony, realizing what was missing, reached out with his mind and Tim’s meds flew from the counter onto the table in front of him.

Tim hesitated a minute, glancing between Tony and the meds before reaching out and opening the bottle to take today’s dose. He paused, then slowly screwed the cap back onto the medicine bottle and set it down carefully in front of him. Eventually, he raised his eyes from the bottle to meet Tony’s.

“You ready to talk, yet?”

“Well Probie, you think you can concentrate today?” McGee just stared at him, waiting him out.

“Ok, for me it started the day Ari tried to kill Kate. I don’t know how or why, but it was like I was staring down his scope at Kate the moment before he pulled the trigger. It’s why I shoved her. After that, it was just a world of weirdness. You’ve seen the moving things, the mind reading, the hearing and sight are better. Shoot, every now, and then I just seem to move faster than should be possible. And then there are the visions.”

Scratching the back of his head Tony shrugged, “most of the time not very useful. I mean a vision of my mail lady putting the same letter in my box might be a sign of some kind, but when she finally put that letter in there…well look at me, according to them, I might be a candidate for the hair club for men. If that’s a warning, I don’t think I want to know.”

“How did this happen to us?”

“Not. A. Clue.” Tony sighed and leaned back. “Honestly, before you and Sgt. Newman the other day, I thought I was the only one.”

“We need to talk to someone about this. There has to be someone out there that knows what’s going on.” Tim insisted.

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no, my padawan. Do you know how many truly terrifying B-grade horror movies start out with the innocent young man going to the good doctor for help before being transformed into the horrible monster that is erroneously hunted down by the villagers? I have no desire to disappear into some classified black hole where I will never see the light of day. Nope, nada, not happening.”

Tim swallowed his pills and put the glass back down. “Do you really believe that would happen?”

Tony flashed back to one of his visions about himself. He’s strapped down to a table as someone approaches with an extremely large needle.

Tim shot up and back from the table. “Shit, Tony! What was that?”

“One of those visions. That one I’m paying attention to.” Tony looked away.

“Okay. Yeah. Um, this is just….”

“Weird.” Tony supplied.

Tim hesitated as if considering and then nodded. “So, what do we do now?”

Tony set his coffee aside. “The first lesson, when your emotions are out of control, so is everything else. Second, practice. You moved that gun on Monday on adrenaline and desperation. To do it at will, you need some practice. Third, what happens in fight club, stays in fight club.”

“Alright, I can do that.” Tim scrunched his face for a moment, “So is this why you keep sleeping over here?”

“…”

“Tony?”

“It’s nothing for you to—alright, trust—yeah, I’m getting bad vibes in my apartment. And the neighbors are mentally noisy. I just can’t sleep there.” Tony admitted.

“But you can sleep here?”

“Yeah. Strangely enough, you are a pretty mellow guy. And you have these natural mental—shields? I’m not sure what to call it. Just,” he motioned with his hands around his head, “I can’t read you. And you don’t leak.” He looked at Tim with a raised eyebrow. “You having any trouble with the mind reading?”

“Haven’t tried. Honestly, I still have a headache, so I’m a little afraid to try.”

“No Probie, probably a good idea to give it a rest at this point.”

Tim got up to rinse his glass. “So, what do we do now?”

“Well, McGoogle, I thought maybe you could hit the information highway and see if there’s anything out there about this kind of thing happening to anyone else.” Tony offered.

“Yeah, good idea, Tony,” He walked to his computer and booted it up. “I’ll want to build in some protections so it can’t be traced back to us. Someone out there knows something about this. And, I’m betting someone is talking.”

– – – –

Cheyenne Mountain, CO

Sunday, June 12, 2005

As Carolyn Lam exited the wormhole from Midway Station, she walked down the ramp from the Stargate into the Cheyenne Mountain gateroom. Admiral Mya Bradford and a three-man team from the CDC accompanied her. “If everyone could follow me. The protocol is for a medical check on both sides of the Gate.

In the infirmary, she resisted undermining her staff by giving orders. She submitted along with the other travelers as they were checked, x-rayed, and donated samples. It was a small price to pay for her first trip to and from Atlantis. While they waited for the final clearance, General Landry appeared.

“Doctors. I understand from Dr. Beckett’s report that the process was a success and we have a viable sample for a vaccine.”

“Yes, General. We have the vaccine, and the CDC team we left on Atlantis is working to mass produce vaccine. Our associates here with the CDC will coordinate to get an Earth-based production approved.”

“The City of the Ancients was beyond any of my imaginations. What a difference a week makes in your worldview. I find it difficult to believe that just seven days ago I would have denied with my last breath that aliens could exist. And now, to have stepped through an alien-built device and walked on another planet in an entirely different galaxy.” Admiral Bradford smiled, “Sorry, I must sound like a little girl excited about a new toy.”

“No worries, Admiral. I am quite familiar with that reaction around here.” Landry replied with a small smile.

“I am impressed with the lengths to which you go to prevent off-world bio-organisms from gaining entry to Earth. But I do admit that in the same vein, I worry about the almost casual way in which I have seen your teams moving through the device. It is something to think about.” Bradford stated.

Hank leaned against one of the beds. “Do you have any recommendations, or are you of the opinion that we should shut down the gate, like Vice President Kinsey?”

“Oh, no. It exists, and the knowledge out there is worth the risk. But, is there anything else we can do to protect Earth? We still have not located patient zero, so we do not know if this current threat began off-world.”

– – – –

Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Tony and Tim stepped off the elevator bickering over whose turn it was to buy the coffee. They turned the corner to see an explosion of streamers and posters covering the desks in their part of the Bull Pen. “My God, Probie. Quick, search for Gargamel, it looks like a deranged smurf threw up in here.”

“TIMMY!…TONY!!!…YOU’RE BAAAAACK!” Abby came running full tilt from around the corner, and Tim sidestepped at the last moment, allowing Tony to experience the full body Abby welcome.

Tim quickly slid around the paper wrapped object that was formerly known as his desk to ensure there was an object between them. He and Tony had done a lot of experimentation over the last week and had determined that he was a bit sensitive to touch. His mental shields would disintegrate, and he would need time to reboot if he was overwhelmed with emotion.

“Hey, Abs. Really good to be back. Looks like you went all out.” Tim tried to keep his voice positive.

Tony approached his own desk like it was hiding vipers. “Yeah, Abs. A bit much for just a week off, don’t you think?”

“Oh, no! It’s perfect for the trifecta. You are back from Administrative leave, Timmy is back from his week of medical leave, and Kate is back on desk duty from her medical leave.”

“Kate’s back?” Tim perked up.

“Not yet, she’s going to be here any minute. We talked yesterday. She’s approved for desk duty. Security is going to call Gibbs when she arrives.”

They started dismantling enough of the decorations that they could access their desks without taking down so much that it would upset Abby. It was about twenty minutes later that Gibbs arrived with Ducky and Jimmy Palmer from Autopsy and Director Shepard descended the stairs to grace them with her presence. Slowly people all over the floor stood and turned to watch the elevator.

There was a single ding, and the elevator doors opened. Kate came out, dressed as primly as usual and stopped when she saw all the people. Applause erupted, and she blushed.

Slowly everyone moved forward for the welcome backs, handshakes, and hugs before they drifted apart.

“Kiss me, Kate,” Tony greeted her once the crowd had dispersed.

She stepped forward and gave him a peck on the cheek. “One-time only DiNozzo, I heard that I owe you one.”

“Well, that’s the way things go around here. You owe me, I owe Probie. As long as we’re still here to get the job done.” Tony grinned.

“That’s actually borderline profound coming from you, Tony,” Kate said.

“Good to have you back, Kate,” Gibbs added. “Maybe we can get some work finished around here.” Then he turned, “McGee, you released for field duty?”

“Yes, Boss. Both medical and psych following the shooting. Copy on your desk and in HR.”

“Good, review your reports from last week’s shooting and sign off. I’ve already received your clearance on the shoot. So, I will get us back on the rotation.” Gibbs threw away his empty cup and left for more coffee.

“Gee, shucks, glad to have you boys back,” Tony muttered.

Tim worked on his reports while Kate and Tony traded comments. Kate’s were getting a little forceful because Tony was responding in his usual frat boy manner. When he finally finished, he printed it off and put it on Tony’s desk for review.

“Why are you giving that to DiNozzo, McGee?” Kate looked between them confused.

“So Tony can review it before I submit it to Gibbs.” He answered matter-of-factly as he started to move back to his desk.

“Is that what he told you to do? You know you don’t answer to him, McGee.” Tim stopped.

Tony stiffened. “Hey, Probie, you mind heading down to see when your firearm will be released? Then head over to the armory. I know you have your backup piece, but I want you to check out another weapon for now. I should be through by the time you’re back. Then we can all head to the firing range for practice.”

“Sure, Tony.” Tim gladly fled.

– – – –

Tony waited until Tim had moved beyond even their hearing before standing up to walk over and lean against Kate’s desk. “You know, we really are glad to have you back, Kate. But, while you were gone, McGee and I reviewed some information, and I made a decision that I’ve allowed things to slide for too long. I’m the SFA of this team. I know sometimes Gibbs ignores the chain of command and treats us all as equals, and since he’s the Boss, I guess that is a decision he gets to make. But McGee is still a probie, and he is approaching the end of his probationary period without having acquired the skills and certifications he should have at this point.”

Kate opened her mouth but he over-rode her, “I know it’s not Gibbs way, but ultimately I’m McGee’s training officer of record, and I need to make sure you are not undermining my authority with him.”

“Are you really trying to help him, or are you just wanting to act superior?” She asked.

He jerked slightly, mentally acknowledging that she was completely serious and truthfully believed he just wanted someone to boss around. Shaking his head, “It is in my job description to help him. It’s time I step up and do it. Frankly, it’s my job to oversee you as well.”

“Not on your life, DiNozzo.” Kate interjected defensively.

Tony held back a snappish reply, reminding himself he knew her personality well enough to have known she would fight back. “Yeah, Gibbs set that tone on the team when he hired you. But regardless of what Gibbs may want, I’m the SFA of this team. That means that when it comes to chain of command, I do rank you. It also means that I have job duties for which I’m responsible that you are not.” She opened her mouth and he motioned her to hold for a moment. “Frankly, I don’t want to fight this fight with you Kate. So, against my better judgment, I’m going to respect your feelings and Gibbs’ direction about it and let it slide. But when it comes to Tim, I would appreciate it if you could give him a chance to succeed here. Even if you don’t agree with my position.”

He picked up his coffee and headed out to find Tim.

– – – –

Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Carson answered his computer and Elizabeth’s face appeared. Lately, she had taken to conducting mini-meetings over video chat to reduce time away from work. It was logical, but Elizabeth had always wanted that face to face interaction in the past that gave her more control.

“Carson, I understand that the team is in full production with the vaccine, so you have stepped back from that project.”

“Yes, Elizabeth. The process is working smoothly. I am available to the team for troubleshooting, but the system is straightforward once it’s set up.”

“Good, very good. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to review your communication from the IOA in the last data burst. But I was asked by the committee to hold on to their latest request until the vaccine was confirmed,” she stated.

“Oh, and what request do they have?” Carson opened his email to review.

“Well, I’m certain you can see some of the benefits of the abilities provided by the virus. And since we will soon have civilians running around with those abilities, the IOA and member nations are interested in having you research if there are equivalent genes in people who do not have the ATA,” Elizabeth stated matter-of-factly.

Carson shook his head, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Elizabeth. After all, there are still people dying out there because of this.”

“I understand your concerns, Carson. But this is just an extension of what is happening to people now. Of course, we aren’t looking for you to develop something that will actually be used on human beings. They just want to know what’s possible in order to anticipate what others might try and ways to explain and counter them.”

“Well, I do agree it is fascinating. And, frankly, I have suspected that some of these changes were not natural in the Ancients.” Carson’s reticence giving way to excitement about the scientific study and advancement of his field.

Elizabeth smiled, “I’m so glad you agree. The IOA is giving you full freedom in exploring this topic. I can’t wait to see what you find. But, because of the current atmosphere, maybe we should restrict this project to just the two of us.”

Carson flashed on recent discussions with the CDC staff who were currently creating vaccines against these very changes. They would be vehemently against any study to advance the changes. “Oh, of course, Elizabeth. Just between us for now.”

– – – –

Chapter 8

Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

Father’s Day

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Tony was drumming along to the music being broadcast from the multiple displays around the bullpen. The weekend staff had the concert playing on the TVs. It was the Four Fathers for Fathers in Times Square music event. Four music superstars that all happened to be fathers giving a special free concert in Times Square for fathers and their children. When it hit a steady bass beat, he began bopping his head along with the music. Across the bullpen, Tim started bopping his head along with Tony, never missing a keystroke on the report he was working to finish.

Kate narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips in distaste and anger. It had been a week since she had returned to desk duty and Tony was getting tired of this passive aggressive war she was waging against his training of Tim. She kept interfering with the mentoring, accused him of manipulating Tim for his own enjoyment, and actively subverted his authority. Of course, never in a way that he could get Gibbs to take action.

To make matters worse, she had recently recruited Abby to her campaign. Between Abby trying to lecture him, and her misguided attempts to separate Tim from him, it was moving past annoying and into disruptive territory. It didn’t help that Tim was developing an aversion to Abby’s touch. Tim had confided in him that Abby’s emotional landscape was extremely unstable and that he frankly didn’t understand how she functioned.

Micah Jones, an analyst on their International Desk, was one of the many agents around the building working out of TAD desks in the bullpen area so they could listen to the concert today. He called out, “Hey, turn that up. I love this song.” The volume rose, and Kate’s mood darkened. Earlier, in an attempt to curtail Tony, Kate had turned off the TVs, only to have the entire room erupt in disapproval.

She kept saying that he was manipulating Tim, and he just didn’t understand that. Other than deferring to Tony on appropriate occasions, there was nothing different about McGee. I mean, this wasn’t the first time the two of them had agreed on a song, but she acted like it was.

Now, he wasn’t dim, he understood the real reason for her frustration was her continued desk duty status. And he realized that he was the easy target for her anger. But it was starting to push a line he had decided he was not going to allow people to cross again. So he was working out a way to talk to her like the adult she refused to credit him with being.

It would be soon because she needed to own this anger, Tim didn’t deserve being caught up in it. Kate’s anger increased every time Gibbs sent the two of them out into the field and Kate was forced to stay behind. The latest point of contention was a cold case that they were reviewing.

Kate had reviewed it and put it back in the pending stack instead of the reviewed stack. Tim picked it up and, using several of the techniques Tony had been discussing with him, had spotted a previously unexplored angle. That and quite a bit of legwork in the field had led to the arrest of two suspects in the misappropriation of about $300,000 in Navy supplies.

Tony had taken the first interview but sent McGee in solo on the second. Kate had protested loudly about allowing the probie to take an important interview while bypassing her, and Gibbs had just stared him down until he quoted Rule 38 at him. Tim stumbled a little at the beginning, but a little mental coaching from Tony soon had him taking confident control in the interrogation. Before they knew it, Tim had the suspect unwittingly admitting the crime and giving up their buyer. Gibbs had just stared and left observation without even a word of praise for McGee.

Which is how they had ended up here, with McGee finishing his report, Tony compiling last week’s reports for the SFA submission, and Kate back on cold cases. Kate’s verbal pecking was curtailed by all the extra people watching the concert on the TVs.

The music was rising to a crescendo when screaming and a loud cacophony of crashing, screeching  sounds blocked it out. Standing up, Tony saw the horrific events unfold on the monitor. A large truck rolled past the barriers and into the crowd. People were screaming and pushing to get out of the way as the truck slammed into one of the food carts in the square.

The camera zoomed in on the carnage as people picked themselves up, but there in the center of the screen was a small boy of about five or six who was pinned between a barrier and the food cart. The bright red blood flowing from his mouth indicating the severity of his injuries.

Suddenly a young man, maybe mid-twenties, pushed his way through the crowd to the boy. The food cart flew up into the air and moved several feet, people backed up around it. When the man turned quickly to catch the child who was collapsing to the ground from where he had been pinned, the cart dropped with a crash as if it had been suspended by a string that was suddenly cut. The man and child started glowing.

“Are you getting this. Dear God, please tell me you are getting this shot.” Could be heard from the reporter on scene. As abruptly as it began, the glow ended. The man gave a swift hug and set the child down on his feet and pointed at a man being restrained by members of the crowd nearby.

In the ensuing silence, the only thing that could be heard was the loud cry of “Daaaaaaaddyyyyyy!” As the child ran into the arms of the waiting man. The camera zoomed tightly in on the miraculous reunion before panning around to find the young hero once more. But he had disappeared into the crowd.

With everyone gathered around the monitors, and the network looping the footage with commentary, Tony slipped out of the bullpen with Tim following him closely. They made it down to an observation room and locked the door before Tim exploded. “What the hell was that? Do you think he is one of us?”

“I don’t know, Probie. It’s not exactly a club with a membership roster.” Tony started pacing. “He obviously has to be like us. Which begs the question how many of us are there, what caused this, and who knows about it?”

“Tony…can you heal like that?”

Tony stopped pacing to stare at Tim. After a few moments, he cocked his head to the side in consideration and then reached out to take Tim’s left hand. Tony turned it to show the paper cut on his palm that Tim received while they were comparing written and electronic inventory records. Tony stared at the cut for a couple of minutes before he covered it with his hand and the hands started to glow. When it stopped, he released the newly healed hand.

“I never even considered that possible,” Tony told Tim with a slight shrug.

Tim flexed his hand, “Me neither, but now that I’ve seen it, I’m certain I could do the same.” He looked away, into the empty interrogation room. “What should we do now? Before it was just logical to think there were more of us, but now…we’re not just out there, but now people know it.”

 “Step one Probie, keep it together. Knowing there are people out there that can do things and knowing that the two of us are part of it are completely different things. Step two, we need an exit strategy. I don’t know how all this will blow…over or up, but we need a bolt hole and a way to lay low.”

“You’re still having the nightmare?”

“Yep, and I plan to be sure that it does not come to pass.”

– – – –

Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

“So, Jack, we’re no closer to identifying the Angel of Times Square?” President Hayes inquired with a raised brow.

Kinsey jerked back, “Henry, I vehemently protest calling those…people angels. It is an affront to God-fearing people everywhere that we are allowing them to perpetuate that heresy.”

“Give it a rest, Bob, I didn’t exactly pick the name,” Henry said gesturing to the magazine and newspaper headlines littering the desk. “It was the guy who told the kid he was an angel.”

Jack wasn’t so sure of that. He was of the opinion that the guy told the kid his name was Angel and the kid or his father misunderstood. The alternative was that the guy was either naturally unhinged or the change had driven him there. And, that was not something Jack willingly considered.

The Change as most in the mountain were calling it, despite the science staff’s list of preferred descriptors, was freaky enough. Jack was doing ok with the telewhatsis, moving things around. But the mind-reading was really freaking him out. They had learned that while everyone had the potential for all of the abilities, not everyone was equal in control or strength. Jack closed his eyes briefly as a spike a staticky irritation came from the outer office. He focused on blocking the feeling and at least succeeded in reducing it.

No matter how strong you were, it took practice. Though some people were just naturals in some ways. For instance, this mind-reading thing. They had discovered that around one another the static disappeared. A buffer zone was created, and those thoughts that leaked out were more ordered and easier to handle. Normal people were loud and leaky. Walter Harriman had coined the term, staticky, and it stuck. The outside world was staticky. But, some of their people, especially those with natural mathematical acumen, were able to create natural shields. It told them that some abilities could be linked to how the individual’s mind worked.

 “Jack, you want to join us in this conversation?” Henry asked with a brow raised.

“Sorry, you have someone in your outer office who is frustrated by the wait, and it’s a bit distracting.” Jack mentioned as he focused his thoughts back on the issue at hand.

“That is exactly what I mean, Henry. Hiding things at this point is counterproductive when all we are doing is protecting those that could be out there right now reading our thoughts to steal secrets for foreign governments and terrorists.” Kinsey had growled, telling Jack he missed something in the conversation.

“Bob, all knowing about it would do is create fear and uncertainty in people who are already confused. At least right now they’re focusing that confusion on prayer. I would think you of all people would approve of that.”

“Approve that those virus-created freaks are out there misleading people into false beliefs?” Kinsey jerked back.

“Hey,” Jack interjected angrily, “Those virus-created freaks just happen to be innocent U.S. citizens.”

“Are they? Are they really?” Kinsey asked with a fire in his eyes, “The way I see it, they are not even completely human. What rights of citizenship does an alien have?”

Henry held up a hand. “OK, Bob, I’m cutting you off right there. I think we all just need to calm down. We are not getting into that kind of discussion now of all times. And, frankly, I’m not comfortable with that line of reasoning. Some of those people helped elect us into office.”

He shook his head while tapping his fingers on the desk. “Frankly, Bob, I really worry about how much I can trust you at this point to do what’s needed for this office and our party. You have an interview scheduled with ZNN on Friday to downplay all these people claiming to have angelic powers, and I want confirmation from you that you can be trusted to toe the line. I don’t need a loose cannon while we are trying to calm people down here.”

“I know my duty, Henry. I am a God-fearing patriot. You can trust me to do right by my god and my country.”

Yeah, Jack thought, that’s what I’m afraid of.

– – – –

“How goes our vaccination campaign?” Jack asked as he stepped into his office with Paul Davis at his side.

“The Angel story has slowed our momentum, but the Surgeon General and the CDC are on target with healthcare workers. We are shipping doses to the areas of highest viral nodes, but it’s an uphill battle to get ahead of it. We need the public to get on board and actively seek out the inoculations where they are available.” Davis reported.

“Give it to me straight, Paul,” Jack said as he took off his jacket and sat down at his desk. “Should the program be involved in the vaccination distribution any longer?”

“Honestly, sir, this is a matter for health professionals. We need to focus on repercussions to the program if and when the project is declassified.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.” Jack rocked back and forth in his chair, considering. “Paul, I don’t know how much time we have, but between you and me, declassification in some form is coming. I don’t think it’s gonna be sunshine and roses when it does.”

“No sir, it isn’t.”

“We need contingency plans.” Jack logged into his computer and pulled up a file. He entered a code to unlock it. “This is one we came up with early in the program. Danny and I were going back and forth in some off-world prison. At the time Daniel was of the opinion that people would be fascinated with the thought of life out there. I figured they would lose their minds. If the whole angels thing is an indicator, I think I win that bet.”

He sent Paul the file. “We have several versions, based on situations, but I’ve dusted this one off once or twice since we discovered Atlantis. With the gate bridge in place, this is almost viable. First thing first, we need to make sure Atlantis has the resources to take on a drastic increase in personnel and quickly become self-sufficient. It was always supposed to be a priority for the expedition, but Elizabeth dropped the ball when the wraith were discovered.”

“Yes sir, I understand. The reports have been unbalanced between approved supply lists and Dr. Weir’s reported supply list. And, her requisitions have always been light on the necessities.”

“Yeah, when Sheppard was here for his last debrief, we discussed it.” Jack acknowledged.  “We’ve been stocking up for a major increase in troops. Elizabeth won’t like it, but the President has already determined that we need to refocus our efforts out there from purely scientific to an offensive force against the wraith if we are going to protect the Earth from them long-term. And, frankly, if the program goes public, then we may need that space to protect some of our people if public backlash becomes violent.”

“It was Sheppard’s opinion, and McKay agrees, that Elizabeth, while a good negotiator, is not the leader Atlantis needs going forward. Her decisions and ethics are frankly questionable. I’m telling you this because I need you to identify someone to head up Phase 1 of this plan. I want Atlantis ready to take on an invasion of civilians and military. And, I’m talking families. I’ve got an itch in my gut that says we may already be behind the curve on this. So, I mean everything: tampons and underwear to seeds and water filters and beyond. Phase 1 is called Refuge, and I want us to have one.”

“Yes, sir.”

– – – –

Richmond, VA

Thursday, June 23, 2005

“Oh, look at this one, Probie. The Church of Elvis is claiming that the aliens will return Elvis soon and have sent their angels to light the way home.” Tony flipped through another page on his tablet as he leaned back against the passenger rear door.

“Why do you insist on reading that crap, Tony?” Tim asked from the driver’s rear seat of the SUV as Gibbs drove in his usual stomach twisting manner toward their crime scene in Richmond, VA.

“Yeah, DiNozzo,” Kate added from the front passenger seat. “People of true faith are examining these miracles, and you have to read drivel about Elvis.”

“Hey, don’t knock the King of Rock and Roll. Seems to me these people have as good a chance of having the answers as anyone else in this circus.” Tony responded. It was Kate’s first day back on limited field duty. Which meant that she could participate in the initial interview and scene investigation but would have to stay behind if anything physically demanding started. Frankly, he figured Gibbs pulled a few strings and Tony wasn’t going to go there.

He and Gibbs had butted heads twice in the last week. Nothing excessive, but he had made sure Gibbs knew he wasn’t backing down anymore. He wasn’t reading the man, because frankly, he was a little scared at what he might find, but Gibbs had been keeping things on a low burn.

Thing is, Tony had made this deal with himself that he would focus on Tim’s training, and then start looking for other opportunities once he was confident Tim could stand up for himself. But the more time he spent with the man, the more he realized that Tim was quickly growing into someone he could trust with his life. He would have to talk to him soon about his plans. Well, his plans if the whole superpowers thing blew over. Because, for the first time in a long time, Tony was feeling like he had a real partner.

Gibbs broke into Tony’s reverie, “How about we focus on the case. What do we have?”

Tim jumped in before anyone else could respond, “Sydney Jacob Markham and Jason Lewis Markham, six years old twins. Reported missing by their sitter, Fran Taylor this morning. She last saw them at seventeen hundred hours yesterday, when their father returned home.”

Gibbs nodded as he changed lanes at 85 mph, “Father?”

Kate jumped in, “Sergeant Jacob Markham, Marine Corps. Injured nine months ago in action. Currently in rehab from the second of three scheduled surgeries. According to the initial report the twins missed school, and there was no answer at home. Ms. Taylor was contacted by the school and came to the home to check on the family. She is the one that discovered Sgt. Taylor injured and unconscious in the home. The children were missing.”

“The mother?” Gibbs asked.

“Uh, no information. But there is a sealed custody order, and the Sergeant has sole custody of the children.” McGee reported.

“Why is it sealed?”

“Um, I don’t know, Boss.”

“Well, find out, McGee.”

McGee glanced at Tony and asked mentally, “What does he think I am? A mind reader?”

Tony grinned broadly at Tim, and they both mentally laughed.

– – – –

Richmond Memorial was busy as Tim and Tony walked through the doors and kindly received directions to ICU to see Sgt. Markham. The man was in bad shape, but they got permission to get photos of the injuries. The doctors were concerned about them interfering with their patient, but once they explained that the man’s children were also missing, they quickly cooperated. It was obvious the man had fought back against his assailants with everything he had.

The moment the medical staff stepped away for another patient in distress, Tony raised the camera and whispered, “Timmy, do you think you can do your mental mambo with him?”

“I don’t know. It’s only been you and me.” Tim returned, glancing around to see if anyone was watching them.

Tony could feel Tim reach out to read the man in the bed. Tony’s own abilities at mind reading were relatively mild. When he interacted with Tim, he had to work at it unless Tim invited him in. But McGee could practically perform a surgical strike. It wasn’t comfortable knowing someone could just enter and take what they wanted, but strangely, he trusted Tim not to tread anyplace Tony didn’t want him.

A doctor approached to herd them out of the ICU, and Tim stepped back quickly. Once in the hall, Tim established a link so they could communicate silently as they walked. “Very weird and disjointed. He knew the woman that was present, tried to block her from entering the home. When he stepped out, he was blitz attacked by at least three others. He was unconscious before they took the kids because it all goes dark.”

“Can you identify her?” A mental image was passed to Tony. “But, it’s not admissible because the sergeant didn’t exactly tell us, Tony.

“Don’t care about that, just want to get those kids back.” Tony hesitated, “Can we heal him?”

“Maybe. You’re better at that. I may have a bioengineering degree, but your phys ed lends a lot more to the actual functioning of the human body. Knowledge really helps,” Tim noted.

“Yeah, but how to do it without a new ‘Angels Among Us’ incident?”

“Yeah.”

– – – –

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Thursday, June 23, 2005

“Moooooommmmmmyyyyyyyyy!”

Jeannie Miller turned toward the swings to see her daughter Madison running toward her at full speed before launching herself into Jeannie’s arms as she bent down to pick her up. She had on the pale blue tunic and shorts with sunflowers that had been one of Mer’s birthday gifts for her. It had too much style for Mer to have picked it out himself, but Maddie had insisted on only wearing Uncle Mer’s gifts since his visit.

As much as they fought, she had come to understand so much more about her brother since discovering the Stargate Program. She still disliked information being classified but could understand that the world wasn’t ready yet. Hopefully, by the time Madison was old enough, she would be able to explain to her why Uncle Mer couldn’t be around.

“Jeannie,” Mina Banks called as she approached. “Is everything ok? How did the appointment go?”

“Oh, um…well.” She smiled and blushed.

“OMG. You’re pregnant. How long? So, you didn’t have the flu.”

“Oh, I had the flu alright. I’m only a few weeks along, so sometime right around when I had the flu. I was afraid I was getting another round of it, but the doctor confirmed morning sickness.” Jeannie admitted, “Caleb doesn’t know yet.”

“Don’t worry about me, I’ll keep it quiet,” Mina said with a big smile.

“I just want to thank you for taking Maddie. I know it wasn’t planned, but when the doctor had a sudden opening this morning…”

“Don’t think anything of it. We are always happy to watch Maddie. And Kyle adores their play dates.” She shook her head and gave Jeannie a hug. “If you ever need someone to drop everything and watch her, you let me know. God knows I understand how tired you can get that first trimester. My three really kicked my rear. So I’m happy to give you a break if you need one.”

“You’re the greatest Mina.” She motioned Maddie to pick up her backpack.

“Mommy, what’s pregnant?” Madison asked.

She stopped at a bench and sat down with her. “Well, pregnant means that we’re all going to have a new baby. It’s going to grow here in mommy’s tummy. And, in about nine months, you will have a new little brother or sister.”

“How did the baby get inside your tummy?”

“Well, Mommy kinda laid an egg inside, and then Daddy put a seed into it that allowed the baby to grow.”

Maddie shifted her head to the side the way Jeannie knew she did when she was considering the answer to a problem. “Oh, OK.”

They stood and started walking toward the car. Madison set the backpack with a change of clothes onto the floorboard before climbing into her booster seat and buckling herself in. Jeannie smiled at her through the rear-view mirror as she buckled up herself and checked the mirror to back out of the parking space.

“So, Mommy, was Uncle Mer talking about the baby when he said you and Daddy were in your room breeding?”

“Your Uncle Mer said what?” She kept her voice even while imagining ways in which to eviscerate her brother verbally.

“He took me to the steakhouse for real food because he said he refused to eat plants if you and Daddy were going to be upstairs breeding,” Maddie said as she reached down to pull a book out of her bag.

“Well, next time your Uncle Mer wants to take you to a steakhouse, you tell him he has to talk to Mommy first.” She looked at her daughter in the rear-view mirror, “And, Maddie, I don’t want to hear you call it breeding again.”

“Why not if Uncle Mer says it is? Uncle Mer is the smartest person on the whole planet.” And damn if Maddie didn’t raise her chin defiantly in that way Meredith had of challenging everyone to prove him wrong.

“Well, that’s debatable,” Jeannie muttered. “There is a whole conversation about intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence that you and I are going to have one day. But just because someone is smart, doesn’t mean they know everything. You always have something new to learn, and next time your Uncle Mer and I talk, he will be learning a lot.”

She signaled and pulled into traffic, heading toward her favorite restaurant to pick up something for lunch. They need something special to celebrate their new addition. It was about twenty minutes later when she finally broke free from the beginnings of lunch hour traffic and her cell phone rang. She glanced at the speakerphone to see HOME on the display and checked the time, oh, she was late, and she forgot to call Caleb.

Jeannie put the phone on speakerphone and answered in a rush before he could speak, “Honey, I am so sorry I’m running late. I just picked Maddie up from a playdate, and I’m trying to get back from across town. I figured I would just stop for some takeout, so I’ll probably be at least another hour. If you don’t have to go back for office hours, would you mind terribly if we…”

“Jeannie—RUN, JEANNIE!  TAKE MADDIE AND RUN! THEY’RE GOING TO…” three quick gunshots exploded through the phone as Caleb’s voice was silenced.

“CALEB!” Jeannie screamed. She dropped the phone before quickly taking the next exit and speeding through the city streets. For a several minutes, she could swear a couple cars were pacing her before she crossed train tracks and they were cut off. She cut across a parking lot and a shopping center, changing lanes and directions at random. Not sure where she was going or why.

It was Madison’s crying in the back seat that finally brought her back to herself. They were in an abandoned carwash when Jeannie stopped a moment. She found her phone and thought hard about where to get help.

“Shh—Maddie baby. Shh. It’ll be alright.” She knew keeping the phone was bad and she had a short time to either use it or ditch it. She scrolled through her contacts and tried the one that might be able to get her some help.

– – – –

Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Jack O’Neill sat back and rubbed his temples as Dr. Bill Lee finished his presentation on Dr. McKay’s latest discoveries. Jack honestly didn’t understand half of it, but the scientists in the room were practically panting. The gene upgrade had boosted McKay’s intelligence or something. Everyone in the mountain was excited about this newest algorithm. According to Lee, and more importantly Carter, McKay was sitting on the process of recharging a ZPM. In fact, if things were going right, he and a team of his scientists were testing the process on some far away world right now.

Carter was equal parts excited and disgruntled that the man had come up with the solution—whatever that solution really was. The more important part of this whole review was to determine which things needed to remain on Atlantis and which research should be transitioned to Earth. Carter had a lot of opinions on that one.

Landry appeared to be paying close attention to the presentation, but Jack got the feeling the only thing the man heard was recharge ZPM.

As the presentation was coming to a close, Carter’s cell phone rang. She had one of the few cell phones in the mountain that was able to receive calls due to her position as chief scientist for the program. Sam looked slightly embarrassed as she glanced at the screen and sent the call to voicemail. Three seconds later the ringing started again.

“Colonel, do you need to answer that?” Landry asked.

“No, sir.” She sent it to voicemail again. “Ahem, so there are at least five of these projects I feel would be more effectively studied with the resources we have h…” The ringing started again.

“Oh, for crying out loud, answer the call, Sam,” Jack growled. His headache was rising along with that tight feeling in his gut.

She picked up the phone to touch the screen. “Carter.”

“SAM!” Jeannie Miller’s voice could be heard from across the table. “Sam, someone is after me, and I think they killed Caleb.”

“What?” Sam exclaimed and quickly hit the speakerphone. “I have you on speaker, say that again.”

A child could be heard crying in the background, “Caleb called me and told me to run with Maddie, then there were gunshots. I think he’s dead Sam. I don’t know what to do. There were some cars that might have been following me. I think I lost them, but I’m not sure.”

“Dr. Miller, this is General Landry. Where are you now?” He stood and looked at Jack who nodded back. Hank opened the door to call out an order. “Get me an open comm to the Apollo.”

“I’m—I’m not sure. It’s an old car wash. I pulled in after I lost them, but I don’t know how long I can stay here. What should I do?” The voice was breathing heavily and stressed.

Harriman’s voice came through the door, “Sir, the Apollo is overhead and triangulating her position.”

Carter interjected, “Jeannie, I want you to grab Maddie and anything else you need and hold her and the phone close. We are going to transport you up to the Apollo.”

“OK, Maddie, baby. Come here. I want you to hold onto Mommy real tight and close your eyes.” They listened for a couple minutes until the phone cut out.

 “Stargate Command, this is Colonel Ellis, we have Dr. Miller and her daughter now.”

“Acknowledged Apollo. You can beam them down to the gate room floor now.” Jack immediately lead then out of the conference room.

Moments after he reached the gate room Jeannie and Madison Miller appeared. She looked around and sat Madison down on the ground before wrapping her arms around Sam to cry. Madison dropped a book that had been in her hand.

Jack kneeled next to Madison who was standing frozen in her little blue outfit with a backpack over her shoulders.  “Hey, kiddo. My name is Uncle Jack. Don’t worry, we are going to make sure you and your Mommy are ok.” He picked her up gently, and she stared at him a moment before reaching a hand  toward the ground. The book floated up into her hand.

– – – –

Chapter 9

Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

Thursday, June 23, 2005

“SG-1 and 9 reporting in from the Miller’s home.” Video from several helmet cams showed on the monitor as the team was beamed into the home.

“Can you confirm the status on Mr. Miller, Colonel Mitchell?” Jack glanced across the table at Hank who tended to mentally twitch when Jack took the lead before looking back toward the monitor.

“Searching.” Cameron Mitchell replied softly. Jack could see him giving hand signals to the teams to spread out on the search from the other cams.

They started on the top level of the house, clearing each room as they progressed before moving quickly to the main level. The discovery was made once they reached the kitchen.

“Victim confirmed. Caleb Miller, multiple gunshots to the torso, close range.” Mitchell reported and Jack sighed.

Daniel turned away immediately upon entering the room, “He never had a chance.”

Jack remained quiet as the teams reported in that the house had been searched. He left Mitchell to issue the commands, “OK, we know that they were after Mrs. Miller and we are making an assumption that it either has something to do with her work with the Program or with McKay. We leave this room alone. SG-9 is on cleanup. Contact your government contacts here because we don’t need the local police working this.”

Gauthier nodded and motioned his team to take the perimeter while he placed a call. SG-9 was comprised of a unit from the JTF2 that was part of Canada’s contribution to the program. They would be left on site to coordinate with the Canadian authorities on the investigation. Jack doubted they would find anything. It was clear that Mrs. Miller was not where they expected her to be and when they had her husband try to locate her, he took the opportunity to warn her. It cost him his life.

Mitchell waved everyone out of the kitchen. “Ok, back off and leave a clear scene. Sam, Daniel, let’s go pack some bags for them. Is there anything you can think of that she might want?”

“Um, well, there are some photo albums in the office. Other than that, I’m just not sure.” Sam shrugged slightly before turning to jog back up the stairs.

“Ok, I’ll get the albums. SG-9 can pack up anything else once Mr. Miller is taken care of here.”

“So, we just leave him there?” Daniel motioned slightly toward the kitchen. “It doesn’t seem right.”

“Yes,” Cameron shook his head. “We leave him and let proper channels handle the cover story. Local professor killed in home invasion. Wife and daughter are staying with relatives.”

Jack voiced his agreement before cutting the feed. “Get a move on, people. The man died protecting his family. Let’s honor his sacrifice.” He stood up and backed away from the table.

Pacing back and forth in the conference room he weighed his options. That feeling in his gut had been building since he saw the footage of the Angel of Times Square. Jack had told Paul Davis that he thought they were running late. It wasn’t until he held Madison Miller that he saw how right he was.

He needed to take action, but deep inside he just knew that Bob Kinsey should be kept out of the loop. He had held onto that little girl and promised her they would keep her safe, and that was precisely what he was going to do. He needed to keep them all safe. Well, sometimes it was better to beg for forgiveness instead of asking permission.

He picked up the phone and dialed his office. “This is Major Paul Davis.”

“Paul. No time to find a lead. Refuge is a go. You have my authority. Make it happen.”

“Yes, sir. Sir, is there something I need to know?” Paul asked.

O’Neill scrubbed his nails over his scalp. “Yes. We suspect an attempted kidnapping of Dr. Jeannie Miller and her daughter. Mr. Miller was murdered when he warned his wife.”

“I understand, sir. Um, sir. I’ve had an inquiry regarding one of our Atlantis personnel.”

“What kind of inquiry?” Jack asked. He looked up as Hank Landry entered the room and he gestured for him to take a seat.

“NCIS is attempting to contact Sergeant Jason Markham. His brother is in ICU at Richmond Memorial Hospital, and his six-year-old nephews are missing and presumed kidnapped.”

“Well, shit,” Jack sat back. “I don’t believe in coincidence. OK, first things first. I want contact with every next of kin for our personnel. Start with Atlantis. Those people are counting on us to keep their families safe, and I want a full accounting. Get your team on it, Paul. Someone doesn’t answer, I want boots on the ground tracking them down.”

“Yes, sir. Just a roll call, sir?”

“Ah, Hell. I’m not waiting on this one. We need to move quickly.” He looked over at Landry who did not look happy about what was coming. “On my authority, I am enacting the Pied Piper Plan. We are sitting on a ticking time-bomb, and we need to know that our people are confident their families are being protected. And, Paul, I want Refuge to run concurrently.”

Landry was shaking his head no, “Jack, we do this, and we’re breaking national security protocols. We do this, and there’s no going back.”

“Hank, look around. It’s out there now. How long do you think it will be until one person, one reporter with the ability to mind-read gets the scoop of a lifetime. It’s coming and I would rather our people focus on doing their duty when that time comes and not on trying to get to their kids.”

Jack considered the kidnapping issue, “Paul, I’ve got a bad feeling the Markham kids aren’t the only ones missing. I hope to god I’m wrong, but I want my ducks in a row. There’s a file in my desk labeled Feds. There are a few people with the FBI that are read into the program already. A computer geek and some boy genius that tripped over the program a few months ago. There’s also that sniper guy we used to track that goa’uld that got loose. Just, put together a team that can take over from local law enforcement.”

Paul acknowledged him, “Yes, sir. What about this NCIS team? They are supposed to be good.”

Jack shook his head. “No, we’re not reading anyone else into the program yet. As long as it’s not crossing over what we are doing, let them work. Just get a team together than can shadow what they are doing and step in to pull the national security card if we have to. But I want someone finding those kids.”

“Yes, sir,” Davis replied.

“You got a team we can throw onto this for backup, Hank?”

“There’s that SEAL team you recruited. They arrived here when the virus outbreak started, so we haven’t had a chance to train them for gate travel yet.” Hank lifted one shoulder in a dismissal of culpability.

“OK, fine. Get this SEAL Team front and center on tracking down family members if we don’t get an initial response. The geek, the boy genius, and the sniper can fill out the team. Let them have whatever resources we can spare to get this done.”

– – – –

Quantico, Virginia

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Penelope Garcia followed Major John Smith and his two-man team as their FBI escort led them through the doors labeled Behavioral Analysis Unit. They had approached her in her office first. After she briefly reached out to read them and realized they were legit, she had packed up. Now she had two laptop bags over her shoulders and a huge purse at the ready while one of the men helped her with her go bag. Smith had just examined her and her surroundings before shaking his head and turning to leave.

She stopped at the doorway to watch the action. Smith seemed to ignore the fact that sound and motion stopped as he entered. Instead he focused on his primary target, who was spinning in his chair at a desk in the center of the room. The escort attempted to motion the major and his team toward the office a level above, but time was crucial, and the man wasn’t concerned about niceties.

Garcia tuned into his thoughts again, curious about his impressions and wanting to confirm there was no ill will against her young friend. Smith’s thoughts were broadcasting clearly. Looks like a kid, was his first thought before he reined that in. The kid is rated as a genius, and that counts for a lot in my world. Looks were always deceiving. One look at McKay and you wouldn’t automatically assume the man could destroy a solar system. But I’ve seen him run in terror from a glass of lemonade at Area 51 one day. And then create a car bomb for the idiot who thought it was funny to threaten him with lemons the next. Idiot should just be glad McKay programmed it to confirm no heartbeats close enough for injury when it exploded. Genius was fucking scary, no matter the age or package.

Garcia pulled back in surprised and tried not to smirk. The man has nothing but respect for intellect. Good.

Without breaking stride, Major Smith passed by the people gawking at him and approached the spinning chair. “Dr. Spencer Reid?”

Spinning stopped as he leaned back and looked up. “Um, yeeessss. I’m…ahem…I’m Dr. Reid.”

“Sir, per the agreement you signed with the U.S. Military, we need your services in consultation on a classified matter immediately. The General indicated you might want to pack your books, sir.”

Garcia watched as Reid did that analyzing thing before his eyebrows suddenly raised. “Oh! Ok, yes. Let me get my bag.” He moved the chair backward and stood while packing up several items in a satchel.

“Excuse me.” Garcia watched as Hotch and Morgan approached. “Can I help you, Major?”

“No, sir. We are here to request the assistance of two of your personnel: Dr. Reid and Ms. Penelope Garcia.” She waved slightly when they glanced at her in the doorway.

“Well, the BAU doesn’t function like that. I am Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner. I’m in charge of this unit, and we work as a team.”

“Not today, Agent Hotchner. We only require Dr. Reid and Ms. Garcia.” Smith motioned, and one of his team reached out to take the overnight bag that was pulled from under the desk.

“It’s OK, Hotch. Garcia and I stumbled on a classified project during a consult while the team was in Napa working the Vineyard Murders case. They told us that they would have us on a list of civilian law enforcement to be called if any issues occurred that needed investigation.”

“I don’t like the idea of my people being out of contact with the military when I have no information about the case or project.” Gideon stated firmly as he joined them. “And we are much too busy to take on an additional consult, without any specifics. So, no. Unfortunately, your project will need to wait until the country calms down from these angel occurrences.”

Hotch gave a motion. “Gideon, I can handle this.”

Smith maintained his expression. “No sir, this will not wait. I assure you that your people will be under our protection, but this is non-negotiable. Your Director is being informed as we speak.”

“Now wait one moment. Hotch, you’re not going to let them just take the two of them?” Morgan spoke out. “We don’t know anything about them.”

Dr. Reid turned to them, “Morgan, of course, he’s going to let us go. First, it’s not like you could stop them. Second, I would appreciate it if you could at least trust my judgment. Garcia and I have worked with them before, and if they say they need us, then they need us. They aren’t exactly the types to ask for help outside their Program if they can avoid it.”

Hotch motioned the others for silence, “I do trust your judgment, Reid. But I would like to have a way to contact you to assure myself you are fine.”

“I will pass your request on to my superiors.” Smith stated as he signaled his men to leave.

Gideon shook his head slowly, “Can we at least know the nature of the project they are helping you with?”

Smith turned to him and with a straight face said, “Deep Space Radar Telemetry,” before turning and leading them out of the room.

– – – –

Richmond, Virginia

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The phone rang, and Gibbs aggressively changed lanes while hitting the speaker button. “Gibbs,” he answered as they drove to their next interview.

Gibbs was getting frustrated by their lack of leads, and he was taking it out on the team. McGee was sent back to DC with the evidence so that he could run down information on the mother and brother. Tony had ordered Kate to take the evidence, and he admitted now it was the wrong tactical move but—come on. She was on limited field duty, so it made sense for her to drive it back.

Kate, of course, didn’t agree with that. She wanted to remain in the field so that her oh so high and mighty profiling skills could be utilized. She argued that escorting the evidence was a probie’s job. Unfortunately, she got to Gibbs first, and he changed the order without discussion. Well, without expecting discussion. You better believe Tony had pushed that issue with the man. Eventually, he got one of the famous Gibbs ultimatums and Tim was headed home while Kate was smugly sitting in the front seat.

McGee’s voice came through the speaker. “Uh, Boss. I was able to get information on the mother. Name, Pamela Markham, age 29. Get this, last known address was a halfway house in Norfolk. The records are sealed, but I was able to track down the court clerk who is now retired. He told me that Mrs. Markham had a mental break. She became convinced that the twins were demons. She became irrational and tried to kill them. Luckily her mother had become concerned about her behavior and stopped by. She was able to stop her. Her uncle was a Superior Court judge. To keep the case quiet, Sgt. Markham was awarded sole custody, and Mrs. Markham was committed. That was almost three years ago.”

“So the mother is out of the picture.”

“No, Boss. She was released to a halfway house in Norfolk four months ago, New Haven. I called them, Mrs. Markham missed the last two bed-checks, and her employer reported her for no call, no show.”

“Send us the addresses, McGee.” Gibbs hung up the phone.

Tony received a text from Tim with the addresses, phone numbers, and contacts. He followed that immediately with a picture of Abby in full rant. Ouch.

– – – –

Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

Thursday, June 23, 2005

“Oh, someone is building up some seriously icky karma here.” Garcia shivered as she spun the Ancient toy in her hand. It changed from an orange to a blue light with a humming vibration that was soothing. They were speculating it was a type of pacifier, but it helped calm the bad feelings, so she was happy Daniel had given it to her.

“What do we have, Ms. Garcia?” The SEAL team commander asked from the large table in the middle of the war room that had been allocated to their team. They had been beamed from Virginia to Cheyenne Mountain hours ago and had barely taken time for introductions.

“Well, first things first my little Greek statue, it is Garcia or Penelope, or your Goddess of the Information Highway. But Ms. Garcia is much too formal for our little crew.”

“Very well, Garcia.” Lt. Commander McGarrett replied with a twinkle in his eye.

“Acceptable for now. Second, according to your little call tree crew in the next room, we are up to twelve missing. As of this time, only Mr. Miller and Sgt. Markham were injured.”

Garcia grimaced a little. Mr. Miller had died to protect his family, and Sgt. Markham still might. With NCIS so deep in the case, it was decided to leave Sgt. Markham in place due to Program security. It felt wrong, but that wasn’t her call.

Spencer was utilizing the whiteboards on all walls to coordinate data. He had the victim wall and was waiting by the printer as Garcia printed out their latest potential victim. He had an association chart across once side and was steadily filling it in.

McGarrett was reviewing photos from satellite feeds to which their team were given access. It was a bit like a game of Where’s Waldo on a massive scale, but they hoped that whoever was doing this was taking the victims to the same location. If they could just find one of them.

“What I don’t understand is why these people?” Steve stood up and walked behind Reid to stare at the chart. “The first thought, of course, is that they are family members of Stargate personnel, but if you want to gain leverage against the Stargate program, you would need to go after higher-profile targets. The only one they did that with was the Millers, right?”

Reid nodded, “Yes.”

“So, what do they stand to gain by taking these?” Steve gestured, “They’re different ages, sexes, races, geographical locations, education.”

“Actually, they have a lot in common,” Spencer stated as he turned back to add more notes to the board. The silence drew out as everyone stopped to watch him. He turned back to grab a different pen color and saw them waiting. Blushing, he started talking while marking the board, “They are all close family links to Atlantis personnel. Given what we now know to be the virus that has changed many of us in this room, these are the family members of people who have powerful expressions of the ATA gene whether natural or through Dr. Beckett’s gene therapy and have potentially been in contact with their family members. If you correlate temporary duty assignments and leave schedules, you will find that the nine members of the Atlantis expedition with missing family were on Earth sometime within the month before the outbreak of the virus. It stands to reason that they are searching for Patient Zero.”

Ian Edgerton, who had been waiting by the car with his gear when they emerged from Quantico, was lounging to the side with a cup of coffee. He had just been quietly observing Spencer’s methods with a slight smile. The smile dropped as the description proceeded. “What’s the significance of Patient Zero?”

“Patient Zero is the first person in which this virus presented. By identifying and examining that individual, we may be able to determine what caused the infection and how it resulted in the infection spread that we have now. Was it deliberate, a mutation of a naturally occurring virus, an actual virus of alien origin? At this point, we are operating on conjecture.”

One of the SEAL Team turned his hands upward and outward, “I thought they came up with a vaccine. So, does it really matter at this point?”

“Yes. Yes, it does matter. If it was deliberate, could they use this person to adapt it and reinfect us? Honestly, we need the answer to those questions if we are going to assure the public that it is under control once the story breaks.” Spencer turned back and continued to add data points to his chart.

– – – –

“Boss just got a hit on our bolo for Pamela Markham,” Tony called out as Gibbs exited the coffee shop drive thru and pulled onto the road.

“Where?”

“Norfolk County Morgue.”

“Damn.” Gibbs banged on the steering wheel then took a U-turn to head for the highway.

“Give a little warning, Gibbs!” Kate complained from the front as Tony tried hard to brace himself.

He threw his phone over to Kate, “Get Abby on that thing.”

A few rings and pure sound blasted over the phone. Kate winced and shouted into it, “Abby! Turn it off!”

Very faintly Tony could make out, “What?” From the other end. “Sorry—can’t—HEAR YOU!” her voice blared as she turned off the music.

“Abs, what’ve you got?”

“A real bone to pick with McGee. He was only down here once when he dropped off the evidence. He hasn’t been back, and he didn’t bring me my caff-pow.”

“About the case, Abs.” He growled.

“Oh, well about that. The only prints I could match were Sgt. Markham, the children, the nanny, and Pamela Markham. Good job on whoever grabbed the school artwork for the print match on the kids because someone has been naughty and deleted the photos and prints from their school’s identification database.

– – – –

Norfolk, Virginia

Thursday, June 23, 2005

It was 8:30 pm when Gibbs and Kate headed to the morgue to meet with the medical examiner. Ducky had called his friend to grease the wheels and, while a full autopsy had not been completed at this point, they could at least get a preliminary examination.

Tony had been dropped off at the police department to talk to the locals that found the body. When it was revealed that the victim was a suspect in the kidnapping of two boys, they were happy to help him. He was able to get a copy of the preliminary report and learned that a possible witness to the murder was in the drunk tank. A little good ol’ boys in blue networking and he soon had them bringing his witness into a room for a chat.

“Hi, my name is Tony DiNozzo. I’m an agent with NCIS. That’s…,”

“I know what NCIS stands for. I did two tours on the Wyoming. Machinist Mate Les Dunning.”

“Ah, submariner. Good to meet you, Les. I’m hoping you can help me out. I’m told you’re the one who reported a murder to the cops today.”

“Yeah, all the good it did. They locked me up for reporting it.”

“Well, I would really appreciate it if you could tell me what happened.”

“Ok, sure. The government knows what’s going on anyway. Secrets within secrets. So, I was headed to the diner to meet up with a buddy of mine. He helps me out on occasion when I’m a little low on funds. I was passing that alley when I heard the lady screaming about demons. She was trying to fight her way to the two little angels. She hit one of them and then they started to glow. One of the guys from the van grabbed her and broke her neck. They left the body where it fell and shoved the angels back in the van. Then they took off. They never saw me.”

“Angels?” Tony’s voice was tight.

“Yeah. I saw the one on TV. Those little ones looked like kids, but they were glowing like the one on tv. And, they looked the same. You know, identical. They have to be some of those angels.” Dunnings’ eyes were wide and slightly glassy.

Tony shifted in his seat. “OK, yeah, I believe you. But, the cops, they won’t understand. Ya know?”

“Alright, ok, yeah, man. I get it.” Dunning nodded and leaned forward to whisper. “They’re not in the know.”

“Can you describe the van?”

“Big white commercial van. Nothing special. Had a Virginia tag. Just a van.”

“What about the men that were with them?”

“Didn’t get a look at their faces, but they moved like special forces. Definitely military training.”

“Ok, thanks for the help, man. I’ll put a good word in for you with the locals.”

Les nodded. “I appreciate that.”

– – – –

Amber alerts had been active on the twins for fourteen hours. Locals were manning the tip lines and following up on leads, but nothing was adding up. Either the mother got some help, and they turned on her when she tried to harm the kids, or the kidnappers were using the mother in order to get close to the kids. Either way, it felt like the kids were slipping further away.

Tim had kept tabs on Sgt. Markham, and his condition was deteriorating. Tony was breathing hard when Tim told him that. He should have taken the chance and tried to heal the man when he had the opportunity. Tim offered to head back to Richmond and give it a try, but he had been right the first time. Tim could handle surface stuff, but he had no feel for anything deeper.

The emotional landscape he was in was toxic, and his buffer to the static was back in DC. He was sharing a room with Gibbs because Kate finally hit a hard limit and needed sleep. So, motel room in Norfolk while they waited for the full autopsy results and any other leads Tim and Abby could deliver.

He was having a moment of relief since Gibbs was at the diner next door drinking a coffee, so he picked up his phone and made the call.

“McGarrett.”

“Hey, Steve.”

“Tony! How are you doing?”

“Lousy case. Kidnapping, attempted murder. Have a father in ICU and don’t want to be the one to tell him his kids are missing if he wakes up.” Tony leaned back on the bed, “It’s just been a real shitty day.”

“I understand better than you can imagine. Just remember, you’re doing your best. Even if you’re not certain of it now, I know you. You give 110% to everything you do.”

“Damn, I wish you were here now.”

“Me, too.” Steve was silent a moment before he started speaking again, “Look, ku’uipo, I’m gonna be off grid for a while. Don’t want you worrying about me, but it’s best if you avoid leaving me messages for now. Hopefully, we will see each other again soon for that Repeal sex.”

“Off-grid? That’s a little disconcerting. You’re being careful, right?” Tony held his breath waiting for a reply.

“You know me, babe. I’m all in. Just, with all this weirdness happening out in the world, be careful, be aware, and mind your p’s and q’s. You got me? —Tony, do you understand? I want you to mind your Ps and Qs.”

Tony’s brow scrunched up, before smoothing out, “Yeah, Cuore Mio, I got it. Ps and Qs.”

– – – –

Chapter 10

Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

Friday, June 24, 2005

Jeannie Miller settled the straps of the backpack over her shoulders and pulled her daughter in for a quick one-armed hug against her legs. She had a pushcart filled with all the essentials of their lives in a large crate in front of her. It was so little of the life she and Ca—Caleb were supposed to have together. She took a deep, shaky breath before smiling down at Madison’s pinched face and gave her another quick hug as Daniel Jackson walked out onto the ramp.

There were about fifty or so people around her. She wasn’t certain. General Landry had given her a packet of information for Atlantis to advise them of the plans. The rest of these people were families of Atlantis and some of the crew of the ships in Earth’s fleet. The nerves were flowing off them all. But at least they had a chance to leave before they were attacked. She knew better than any of them that she was headed for a war zone. But at least she will be with family, it’s something she desperately needs right now.

“OK, Ladies and Gentlemen. I know we’ve thrown this all at you suddenly and it’s 5 am so you’re not really awake. But it’s important you listen to me now. The device you see behind me is called a Stargate. It was built a very long time ago by a race we call the Ancients. They looked very much like us, and they came to Earth and crossbred with the peoples here.”

“They also seeded many worlds with these stargates. When a valid address is dialed, the gate will light up, and then a vortex of energy will appear. That energy creates a wormhole between the gates that allows us to travel from one gate to another.”

“We will be dialing a space station that is sitting in the part of space between the Milky Way and Pegasus Galaxies. Once this gate is closed, the station which we call Midway will dial your destination. That is a city ship in the Pegasus Galaxy known as Atlantis. It is the actual lost city of Atlantis from history.”

“You will be given a full briefing of all the information once you arrive. Because of how quickly we needed to move on this to protect you all, your family members on Atlantis are not aware you are coming. We just ask you to be patient and calm. The leadership there is good and will be able to sort things out quickly.”

“In the days to come, they will request your help with whatever skills you may have. The learning curve is steep, but the rewards can be more than worth it. I will be honest with you. We do not know how long you will be out there. And it is an alien place, so there are some dangers. But it is one of the most beautiful places you will ever see.”

“You all have your numbers, please just stay calm, and it will make the transition easy.” Daniel pointed toward where Jeannie stood. “Doctor Miller has traveled to Atlantis before and her brother is the Chief Science Officer there. As you can see, she is taking her own daughter with her. Just follow her lead when the time comes.”

Jackson stepped down and to the side as the gate began to spin. He stepped up next to Jeannie and then knelt next to Madison. “Your Uncle Jack asked me to give you something.”  He took out a necklace with a locket. Opening it, there was a picture of the family taken at her birthday party. Caleb was holding Madison, while she and Meredith were on either side. On the opposite side was a picture of Caleb. “Just remember, your Daddy will be with you in your heart as long as you remember him.”

Maddie gave him a hug after he slipped it over her head, before latching onto Jeannie again. “Thank you, Daniel. Thank you all so much. I just know you saved us.”

A sudden whoosh of the gate had a few people screaming and backing up. With a nod from Daniel, Jeannie said loudly, “Common Maddie, it’s time for you to see where your Uncle Mer works.” With her daughter at her side, she pushed her cart up the ramp and into the event horizon.

– – – –

Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

Friday, June 24, 2005

Lt Colonel John Sheppard leaned against the balcony railing while he watched his 2IC, Major Evan Lorne, put the troops through their paces. Just the troops that had been affected by the virus. As more developed these abilities, they realized that they needed practice in order to utilize them seamlessly in the field. The last thing he needed were troops that hesitated at the wrong moment because they were uncertain about what they could achieve.

He was leaving it in Lorne’s capable hands. He had tried to train with them the first few days, but that was detrimental. Lorne and Sgt. Nichols had taken him aside and explained that they were afraid to fail in front of him. He had felt it, but as usual, misread the situation. Well, hell, he always misread this stuff. And strangely, mind-reading wasn’t helping him one bit.

Rodney sat at the table, snacking on nali chips and writing scathing corrections to reports. He was still riding high from yesterday’s successes. Heck, the entire expedition was riding high. Out of nineteen empty ZPMs, Rodney was able to fully charge sixteen.

It was an unheard-of amount of energy. And, though Elizabeth had lobbied for them to install them immediately, Rodney had categorically refused.  Since his reasoning was logical, John had supported him.

But Rodney was right. They had barely explored a tenth of the city. Considering the fucked-up stuff they had found lying around, adding full power to the situation was a bad idea. So, at this point, Elizabeth authorized focusing all of their resources toward searching the city.

Rodney had worked with his city infrastructure team, and they mapped out the power grid, so the search was focusing on phase one, which was housing, social and living spaces, gardens, and water purification. Phase two was storage, manufacturing, and structure. Phase three, Rodney was going to take one section at a time. A lot of the larger or more secure lab spaces were controlled by that last ZPM and Rodney was insisting on a very small team to oversee it.

So, at this point, Radek Zelenka was heading up the exploration teams. Rodney was refocusing on shielding technology. And John was standing around being bored so that he did not make his troops nervous while they trained or helped Zelenka’s team.

The door to the balcony opened, and a welcome sight appeared in the doorway. “Teyla, you’re back.” He moved forward to touch foreheads, and she hesitated briefly before matching him.

He sighed, “So, you’ve heard?”

“John, Rodney, it is good to see you again.” Teyla took a breath and then acknowledged, “I have heard many stories in my short return. Is it true that your recent illness has—altered you?”

“Yes, it is,” John confirmed. “Not outwardly, but we have been changed.” He raised an eyebrow at her, “are you going to be uncomfortable with this?”

“Is it true that this change has remade you into the Ancestors?”

Rodney snorted, “As if. We definitely are not Ancients. What the virus did was activate and rewrite the DNA of anyone who was descended from the Ancients to, at most, make us a hybrid version. But, even if it had somehow changed every scrap of DNA in our body to be an exact duplicate of an Ancient’s DNA, it couldn’t change our experiences to make us one of them suddenly. No more than the fact that the Wraith playing around with your family’s DNA made you a wraith. You are you. Period.”

Teyla smiled briefly at Rodney’s rant and relaxed.

“Colonel Sheppard, to the Gate Room. Unscheduled traveler.”

John triggered his radio, “On my way.” Rodney was already grabbing his laptop and food, so the three ran to the nearest transporter.

Entering the gate room he saw a wave of people emerging from the gate. He jogged up to Chuck who was crewing the station. “What’s happening?”

“IDC from Midway Station, sir. Unknown situation.”

“Let’s get some people in here to help,” John ordered. “And, call Major Lorne.”

Rodney grabbed one of the other technicians in the room. “Find someone in this mess that knows what’s going on and get them up here.”

“UNCLE MER!!!!” A small voice screamed from the gate room floor, and Rodney turned just in time to catch the missile that launched at him.

“Maddie, how…why are you here?”

“The bad men killed my Daddy, and Uncle Jack sent us to live with you so we would be safe.”

“What?” Rodney looked up and around before spotting Jeannie Miller making her way through the crowd. John stepped up behind him and quickly relieved him of Maddie’s weight so he could go to his sister.

John watched him awkwardly comfort his sister with a prolonged hug before pulling her over toward John and Maddie. 

“I’m so sorry, Jeannie.”

She took a deep, shaky breath, “Thank you. I have some information from General O’Neill for you all. But these are all families of personnel. Someone was targeting us, and things are getting strange on Earth, so the General made the call to get us here. He thinks it’s a safer alternative at the moment.”

John nodded then took a few steps up on the stairs to the level above so he could be seen. “IF I COULD HAVE YOUR ATTENTION.” He projected to get the crowd’s attention.

Once they were quiet and faced in his direction, “Thank you. I am Lt Colonel John Sheppard. I am the military commander of this base. Our civilian leader, Dr. Weir is currently visiting the mainland so you will meet her later. I understand you probably have a lot of questions and I want to be sure that they are all answered. But first I would like to get things organized.”

John glanced to the side and saw Lorne enter the room with six more men.

“To my left, is my second in command, Major Evan Lorne. His men are going to sort you all to the mess. It’s lunchtime here, but there is always fresh coffee available and some treats for the kids. If everyone could gather there, we will be able to contact your family members to meet you.”

Lorne stepped up. “This is Sgt. Nichols. He will be dividing you into groups with an escort.”

“Evan.” A woman’s voice called out.

Lorne looked to the back of the crowd, “Mom?” Stunned he looked between her and Sheppard.

“Get your family squared away, Evan. Make sure everyone follows protocol through Medical.”

“Yes, sir.”

John turned away from the reunion with a tight face. “Come on into the conference room, Jeannie. You already know your way around here.”

“Dr. Weir isn’t here?”

“No, she’s been spending time on the mainland lately. So, what happened?”

She took off her pack to sit down and pulled out a couple of sealed manila envelopes and a portable hard drive. Rodney quickly booted up the laptop while John broke the seal on the manila envelope addressed to him.

“Yesterday, some people broke into our home to take Maddie and me. They tried to make Caleb call us, but when I answered, he…he warned us to run. They shot him.” She took a breath when Rodney pulled a carafe of water from the sideboard onto the table and poured her a glass. Maddie reached out and mentally moved a glass in front of him with a little smile. Rodney grinned back at her and poured another.

“I was able to reach Sam and they had us transported to the Mountain. I’m not certain of everything after that, but they started calling families and found out there were more of us missing. General O’Neill decided to start sending families through to Atlantis until things calm down.”

John clenched his hand. “They are after our families?”

“Not all. At least, not yet. They started with the ones that had family visit Earth from Atlantis recently. Your folder has the information for military missing. Dr. Weir’s has the civilian list.”

“Ok, let’s get the two of you through medical and then we can get you some quarters.” John looked at her, “Don’t worry, Jeannie. You two are family. We’re going to take care of you.”

 – – – –

John sat on the balcony looking out over the city and ocean below. So much had changed in just six little hours. Kate Heightmeyer’s team was on call in case one of their visitors…new residents had issues adjusting. She was of the opinion that it would take several days before any backlash started.

Radek was the hero of the day. He had stepped in for Rodney and cleared the family level housing units in record time. John’s troops had pitched in to arrange furniture. The families, for the most part, pitched in to clean their units as they were assigned.

General O’Neill’s instructions had warned them to expect incoming groups at least once a day as they gathered the families. He had informed the troops, and they were submitting any additional names of family that might be in danger. And, he knew Rodney had done the same with his people. The next few days would be hectic.

Given the danger of the wraith, there was a combination of fear and excitement. That didn’t lessen when rumor spread before John and Rodney could meet with their list of victims’ family members. They did that with a single meeting, but Rodney’s presence added to the fear because of his brother-in-law’s fate.

Rodney was a mess. He glanced over to his partner, stretched out on the bed. Rodney had declared that he was tired of bouncing between their rooms and if they were opening up the towers to occupation, he got first pick. Not the most romantic proposal to move in together, but it was pure Rodney. It also gave them an excuse to be closer to Jeannie.

Of course, when he saw this balcony and the huge tub, he was a little pissed he had been living in a closet for the last few years. The bed was pure luxury, and they had immediately christened it. It wasn’t the earth-shattering sex they usually had when there was plenty of time to indulge or the fun quickies they had hidden around Atlantis in every empty lab or storage closet they could find in the first two years.

No, today had been more about comfort and stress relief. Rubbing off against one another. Skin on skin while touching and tasting and giving themselves permission to just feel. By the time they finally came every nerve ending on his body was on fire. Then they relaxed into a simple embrace just breathing in their combined scent.

Rodney was finally catching a nap, worn out. John knew they would be up in an hour for a late dinner with Jeannie and Maddie who were in an apartment down the hall. Other apartments on this level were reserved for future arrivals.

Alone here on the balcony, John finally gave in and considered the issue he had been avoiding all day: future arrivals. O’Neill had included in that request for additional names a note for John. Until Atlantis, his next of kin had been left blank after he divorced Nancy. Here, it had made sense to put Rodney down. Even before they started sleeping together, he trusted the man to make decisions if he couldn’t.

But, what about the family he left behind? For as long as he could remember, Patrick Sheppard had a plan for everyone and everything. When John was young enough to crave his approval, he had been the golden child. But the moment he made a decision to step off the expected path and stand on his own, he had been cut off and ostracized. He hadn’t had a conversation with the man that didn’t end in an argument since he was sixteen.

And his brothers. David seized the opportunity to shine in their father’s light and followed in his footsteps. John couldn’t blame him, exactly. It wasn’t Dave’s fault that he genuinely wanted the life John threw away. But Dave had cut him off just as quickly as their father for throwing away the family and the opportunities.

What was really going on back on Earth? Dad and the family had private security available, so it wasn’t like all these people. And, did he want to disrupt their lives with the knowledge of the Program? John hadn’t spoken to either of them in six years since the divorce was finalized. And, that had been a one-sided conversation where he was informed that he had yet again found a way to screw up his life before the call was ended.

He could do it. He could walk away from them all for good if it weren’t for…well if it wasn’t for Mattie. He was the only thing good and pure that came out of that family. John’s baby brother would be sixteen now. Mattie had engaged in a clandestine letter campaign to keep John in his life.

Each letter had been a link with life, and when he could, John responded. But the letters stopped when he was reassigned to McMurdo. No explanation and his letters were returned to sender. Was it worth it to try one last time to hang onto family? He just didn’t know.

 – – – –

An alarm notified her that a file she had flagged had been accessed. She noted the user with a smile and back traced him to determine his search pattern. “Oh, you are getting so much better at that my little internet sibling.” Penelope Garcia said to her computer as she quickly put up false trails. “But big sis still has a few tricks.”

“Problems, Garcia.” Steve McGarrett asked as he returned with fresh coffee.

“Nothing that your certified tech goddess can’t handle. However, you should be aware that our stellar NCIS team has figured out their case is bigger than two missing children and they have been able to extrapolate a surprising number of Atlantis personnel. They are searching for families.”

“I’ll inform the General. It may be time that we pull them from the case.”

– – – –

Tony was sitting on the U.S.S. Barry watching the clouds roll in. The display ship in the Navy Yard was one of his favorite hideaways when he wanted to think about cases without interruption. Gibbs and Kate were still in the field, following leads. Tony and Gibbs got into a bit of a row over following a lead that Tony knew deep in his soul was a red herring to confuse the case. So Gibbs was going after the mother’s family who owned a fleet of white vans, but Tony was convinced that if there was a family member wrapped in this mess, it was the father’s family.

He and McGee had branched off in their investigation. There was very little information about the Uncle, whatever he was into was a hole so deep you would never know the man existed short of his brother and nephews. With Tony’s insight and McGee’s skills, they had been able to compile a list of people the man was serving with, if not their location, and were following up on families.

“There you are.” Tim climbed up next to Tony. “You know this area of the ship is off-limits to the public?”

“Well, that’s why I’m up here. No one to see, no one to know. How did you know I was here?”

“Oh, um, well.”

“Spit it out, Probie.”

“There’s like this tether between us. Not like I know everything you’re doing or anything like that. Just that if I concentrate, I can tell what direction you’re in. You don’t feel that?” Tim explained while sitting down beside Tony.

“No, just another layer of the weirdness. You don’t get any of the weird flashes or feelings I do, the deeper feel for the healing, etc.” Tony shook it off, “So, Probie-san, why did you seek out the master instead of just calling my phone?”

“Abby found out we aren’t following Gibbs’ lead and went deep around the bend. I know it’s Abby, and she wouldn’t actually hurt a fly, but Tony, I can’t stay around her. It’s like a constant bombardment I can’t keep out. We really need to find a way to get her therapy.” Tim slouched down against the railing.

“Yeah, that would go over well. Ya see, Boss, Probie here can read minds and Abby’s headed round the bend. So, pretty please send her to a shrink, even if you don’t believe in what they do. No, not gonna work.” Tony rubbed his face and stood up, Tim following him. “So, any further in our search?”

“You were right. Based on the tentative list of personnel we were able to compile, four have missing persons reports filed within the last twenty-four hours. Several others aren’t answering phones, and a call to their employers have them on a leave of absence from work.”

“OK, and what does all of this mean, Tim?” Tony made his way across the deck as they headed back to the office.

“I don’t know.”

“Nope, come on. Use those brain cells the way I’ve been teaching you. Look at the big picture here and then see which puzzle pieces fit.”

Tim’s face scrunched up in thought, “So people are disappearing. But only a few have signs of foul play, the rest of them have taken the time to inform their jobs they will be gone. We have on one hand blitz attacks with apparent abductions, and on the other cooperative victims going willingly.”

Tony shook his head, “Uh-uh, now don’t cloud the issue with conjecture. We have on one hand apparent abductions and on the other hand people leaving their homes willingly. So, to me that says either they changed their M.O. and found a way to convince people to go. Or, we have victims abducted, and this classified Op is pulling in the family members who are at risk of becoming additional victims.”

– – – –

Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Tony and Tim were huddled around the desk plotting out the disappearances vs. the possible abductions on a map. They were trying desperately to ignore Abby as she attempted to pull Ducky into her little Gibbs fueled drama. Luckily, Ducky had quickly become enthralled with their theory and was lending his assistance.

Tony could feel the burn coming off the Director as she descended the stairs and advanced on their position. “Where is Jethro?” She demanded in a low voice.

“Gibbs and Agent Todd are following a lead on the missing children. They are driving to Delaware, Director. Something I can help you with?”

Her face hardened as a burst of frustrated anger shot out from her, “Yes, you can inform Agent Gibbs that we have been directed to cease investigation into the Markham children abduction. This has now crossed into national security territory. And, in the future, if a case is going to involve an investigation into classified data, I want to be informed in advance instead of receiving a call from the Secretary of the Navy.”

She turned to leave as the TV in the bullpen started playing the ZNN Special Report intro. She took a deep breath and then ordered them to turn up the volume and took a seat at Gibbs’ desk. They had been announcing for the last three days that Vice President Kinsey would be appearing to answer questions on behalf of the White House.

The evening crew all pulled up chairs to watch as the screen filled with the image of the reporter, “Good evening, America. This is Michelle Thomason with a ZNN Special Report: Are There Angels Among Us?

The camera angle changed so that images of glowing figures could be seen in grainy videos multiplying behind her. “As most of our viewers are aware, we have been bombarded by images of what people are calling Angels. These began following the incident that is now being called the Father’s Day Miracle.”

“Who are these people? What are they doing here? Why now?

And what does it mean for you? Scientists and religious leaders have expressed a variety of views and opinions about these individuals who seem to be graced with divine powers.”

“Tonight, we examine the facts as we know them and try to answer the question…Are there Angels among us?”

“My first guest tonight is known as a man of sterling character, unquestioned patriotism, and a deep faith in God. Welcome, Vice President Robert Kinsey.”

The camera changed, and the VP could now be seen sitting in a chair opposite Michelle. “Thank you for having me here tonight, Michelle.”

“It is an honor, Mr. Vice President.”

“Please, tonight it’s just Bob.”

“Very well, Bob.”

“Before we get started, I would like to read the official White House statement on the subject.”

“Of course.”

“The President shares the hopes and concerns of the people at this time of spiritual renewal. He urges everyone to remain calm, and in the event they meet one of these people that they treat them with kindness and compassion. While he personally does not share the belief that these people are Angels, he is assembling a group of scholars and scientists to determine what is happening. He asks the American people to keep an open mind and to be assured that there is no danger here.” Kinsey put away his note card.

“Thank you for sharing that message. But, is there anything that you personally can add? You said the President doesn’t believe they are angels. But, what about you, Bob? You are a well-known man of faith. Surely, some part of you believes.”

Kinsey shook his head, “No, I absolutely do not believe these…people are angels.”

Michelle Thomason raised her eyebrows in surprise. “There has been a great resurgence in attendance at churches around the world. The cases of healing have been well documented.” The image of the Angel of Times Square reappeared with the footage. “If this is not an angel, what could it possibly be, Bob?”

Kinsey opened and closed his mouth a few times as he tried to answer. Red seemed to rise in his face until a dam burst. “I can’t do it. It is one thing when we withhold information in order to protect our country, but it is completely different when we allow the good, faithful people of our great nation to be lead astray with lies and falsehoods in order to protect secrets and call it National Security. It is my duty to my country and more importantly, to God, Almighty to stop these lies.”

He reached into the briefcase, that until now had sat unnoticed at his feet, and withdrew a file and a portable hard drive. “This is what they do not want you to know. Take it, have your people verify the information. When I leave here, I will probably be arrested for treason. But I go willingly knowing that my soul at least will be clear of sin.”

Someone ran into the picture to grab the information as the reporter urged him on with the unholy gleam of avarice in her eye. “Please, no matter what we will make sure you have your say, Mr. Vice President.”

“Thank you, Michelle. I have known about this for years but believed it my duty to my country to maintain the secret. That is, it was my duty until they callously allowed the American public to maintain their belief that these…things are God’s Holy Angels.”

“If not angels, what are they?”

“The United States Military, under the dubious control of an International Oversight Committee, has been running a secret project based in the depths of Cheyenne Mountain. This program uses a device created by an alien race long ago that we call a Stargate to create portals to other worlds where they have made contact with alien species.”

He looked directly into the camera, “Believe me I understand that this makes me sound insane, but I assure you that I have the proof to support every claim I make. They have been using the device for years, barely caring that they have nearly annihilated the earth several times in their ignorance.”

“This time, though, they couldn’t hide their sins. You see, one of the off-world bases they have is called Atlantis. It’s in the Pegasus Galaxy, and someone there brought back a deadly disease that has been spreading through our world as a summer flu.”

“The Surgeon General and the CDC have been urging people to be vaccinated against the flu. But what they fail to tell you, is that the flu isn’t dangerous for humans. We’re fine, just a little 24-hour virus that you barely feel. It’s the aliens living among us who are at risk. It alters them and shows us all what they really are.”

“Ahem, aliens, Bob?” Michelle asked, looking off camera for instruction.

“Oh, believe me. I know how this sounds. But the proof is right there in the documents. There are records and DNA tests. Long ago some of these Aliens came to live on earth, and they bred with some of us. This virus attacks them and strips away some of their humanity…if you can really call it that.”

“Currently leading the Stargate Program is a General Jack O’Neill. He is considered a DOD liaison with Homeland Security, but that is a cover story. His actual title is Director of Homeworld Security. And, he’s one of them.”

“I’m certain right now they are making plans on how to eliminate me. You will hear that I had a mental break or something equally believable. And I will disappear into a facility where I will be found to have a brain tumor. Whatever it takes to protect their secrets. And you will be asked to turn over those files in the interest of National Security. This is in your hands now. My conscience is clear. If I must be a martyr to protect my country and my god, so be it.”

The screen went dark for several minutes. Everyone in the NCIS bullpen just stared at it in silence. Eventually, a text message appeared stating that due to extenuating circumstances, the Special Report: Are There Angels Among Us? was postponed. The network would be playing a previous expose on weight loss drugs instead.

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