The warmth of the late afternoon sun sank into Rodney, through his skin, into his very bones. The Ancient metal of the pier beneath him was pleasantly warm, unlike earth alloys that would have been at skin searing temperatures after sitting all day in the sun. It was surprisingly relaxing, and he found he couldn't even be bothered to dredge up his usual complaint about skin cancer as he felt the stress of the day begin to fall away.
He scowled as Sheppard smirked at him, but his heart wasn't really in it. Sheppard handed him a beer. "What did I tell you?" he asked innocently.
Rodney rolled his eyes as he took the beer and popped the top. "Fine," he agreed grudgingly. "You were right." As much as he hated to admit it, leaving the lab before Radek started threatening to have him forcibly removed had been a Good Thing. He had been raining down the fiery Wrath of Doom on three of the new idiots for activating Ancient tech that they had no idea how to control. Just thinking about it made his blood boil. Sheppard getting him out of there had probably saved him from a stroke.
Rodney shook his head and let out a huff of laughter. "I'm still tempted to fire them all," he said, then took a swig. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "I could actually do it, you know," he began, gesturing with the beer can. "I don't have to worry about wasting power dialing the gate to Earth, or if Caldwell can accommodate them on the Daedalus. We're right here! I can just toss the whole lot of them back on a transport and tell Landry to send me some real scientists!" He smiled as he warmed to the idea.
Sheppard chuckled as he opened his beer. "Yeah, you could, but you know that the next bunch would be pretty much the same." He took a drink, then stared out into the distance over the water. "I think your best strategy at this point is to let them quake in fear while you're gone. Don't go back to the lab before you leave, just – let them stew." Sheppard looked over at him and Rodney thought, and not for the first time, that with his ears and that mischievous grin, he really did look like an elf. He snapped his attention back to what Sheppard was saying.
"You know that right now, they're all asking Zelenka if you're always such an asshole and how anyone can possibly want to work with you."
Rodney nodded. Scientists loved to gossip, and his scientists *really* loved to gossip about him. Especially when it came to terrifying the newbies with stories of things that had actually happened. It was amusing to watch as they gradually realized his staff hadn't been making any of it up.
"Well," Sheppard continued, "after they hear all the horror stories, some of them are bound to cut and run before you get back."
Rodney swallowed a mouthful of beer, and then frowned. "So? It would be more fun to fire them. And they deserve to be fired."
"I know," Sheppard agreed. "But think of it this way. Not only do you get rid of the idiots - since the ones who run away are likely the ones you want to fire anyway – but, the ones that do stick around probably stand a better chance of surviving in Pegasus since they can take a reprimand and follow instructions. Then you don't have to ask Landry for anything. You get what you want and you can save the grand gesture for some other time you want to make a point."
Rodney gave him a look of mingled admiration and respect. "That's... actually a good plan," he said. "A really good plan."
"I know," Sheppard replied, and took another pull of his beer. "That's why I'm the team leader. I use the tactical approach to any given situation and come up with a cool plan."
"Right. I'll remind you of that the next time we're running for our lives after one of your cool plans goes horribly awry, Colonel Strategy."
Sheppard casually leaned in to flick Rodney's ear, which earned him a half-hearted, "Bugger off!" as Rodney grabbed his hand and laced their fingers together. Sheppard's mouth curled into a happy grin and he tried to cover it by taking another drink.
Rodney bumped his shoulder. "Plus, if I fired them?" he continued. "That's almost like a badge of honour to some of the idiots I've fired over the years, and I certainly don't want to give them a leg up in the scientific world." He nodded emphatically, the finished off his beer and set the can down.
"There is that," Sheppard agreed. "So hey, how long are you gone for again?" he asked, even though he knew perfectly well it would be about 8 days.
"A week." This time, Rodney's scowl was genuine. "It's going take at least a week," Rodney grumbled, and John smiled. He'd been waiting for the griping to start.
"Ahh, c'mon, Rodney, it'll be fun! It's not *that* long, and you get to work on the big guns and tell Carter how she's wrong." He lifted his beer to his lips and waited for the sputtering to start.
"Fun? Ha!" he fumed. "That's a week I could spend on something far more important! Like researching the database for references to how to build a ZPM! Or increasing the efficiency of the engines so when we take off, we don't displace a million litres of water and flood downtown San Francisco! And don't even get me started about the idiotic gaggle of pseudo-scientists currently invading our city who all appear to have gotten their degrees from a Cracker Jack box!"
Sheppard nodded seriously. "There's only one solution to your problem."
Rodney's eyes snapped up. "What?" he demanded.
Sheppard let go of Rodney's hand to pull another can free of the plastic six-pack ring. "Have another beer."
Rodney took the beer and set it down beside him."Or maybe we could fool around instead," he said, smiling as John's eyes went dark. Beer forgotten, John reached out and pushed him to lie back on the sun-warmed pier, covering Rodney's body with his own. Rodney's arms came up to wrap around John, one hand drifting up so he could thread his fingers through John's crazy hair.
"You have the best ideas," John murmured, and then it was all about the hot wet kisses that would have to last them both till Rodney came home.
Johannes typed in the last few details, then sat back to review his work. It was flawless - no one would notice anything out of the ordinary, even if they had reason to look. Which of course, they wouldn't.
Hacking AFIS hadn't been much of a challenge. He'd slipped right through their security and added a few extra lines to the query program. If anyone ran the target's prints, it would direct them to the new identity he'd created.
He was currently logged into the secure DMV database. Carefully selecting a photograph from his files that met state licensing requirements, he dropped it in place and studied the result. The blue eyes seemed to glare back at him, slanted mouth lending the face an annoyed look. He hit the enter key and the database politely inquired if he would like to save the changes. With a flourish, he clicked 'yes'.
Birth certificate, record of employment, finger prints, tax records, and now a driver's licence – all belonging to one Albert Meier of Jacksonville, Arkansas, an unemployed manufacturing plant worker who was currently undergoing treatment for acute paranoid schizophrenia, and scheduled for a court competency hearing in two days.
Not that he would be coherent at his court appearance, but in the unlikely event he did manage to speak on his own behalf, it wouldn't matter. By the time the hearing was over, there wouldn't be a judge in the country who would do anything but commit him to the state hospital for a full psychiatric evaluation.
Rodney looked up from his laptop when he heard the knock. Who the hell was at his door at this hour? He put his laptop on the sofa and looked through the spy hole in the door to find two burly MPs there. That was strange.
He left the chain on, but opened the door a crack. "What?"
He rolled his eyes. "No, I'm the Easter Bunny. What the hell do you want?"
The two looked at each other before turning back to him. "We need you to come with us please, sir."
Rodney frowned. "Why? What's going on?"
"We'll explain on the way, sir."
"Yeah, I don't think so," he said as he shut the door in their faces. He flipped the lock and turned to grab his cell from the coffee table. He hit the speed dial before lifting the phone to his ear.
"Sam, what the hell is going on?" He demanded, scowling as she responded. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do know what time it is! So would you please tell me why there are a couple of MPs outside my door at this hour?"
He didn't hear her reply over the sound of his door exploding inward as it was kicked open. He whirled around to find himself staring down the business end of a zat.
"I'm really going to have to insist, Doctor," said goon one, his face impassive.
Rodney slowly raised his hands, cell phone still in his grip. He could faintly hear the sound of Sam's voice as he watched goon two pick up his laptop and type something in before shaking his head.
"No good, it's locked down," he reported. Goon one glanced over and Rodney seized his chance. He whipped his cell phone at goon one's head and dove for the zat gun.
The phone caught the man square in the temple, throwing him off balance. When Rodney plowed into him, he went down, hard. Rodney struggled to wrest the zat away as goon number two came toward them, his own zat out. Rodney managed to hit the firing mechanism repeatedly, and goon number two vanished, along with Rodney's laptop.
They rolled across the front room, and Rodney put every lesson that Ronon, Teyla and Sheppard had ever drilled into him to good use. He used his mass to his advantage, and felt a savage satisfaction when his attacker let out a pained cry. He used his elbows and threw back his head when the other man had his wrists pinned, solidly cracking the man in the face and yanked himself free of the punishing grip.
Goon number one swore effusively and managed to flip them over. The change in position gave Rodney a little more leverage, and he renewed his struggled for the zat, but the other man drew back a leg and kneed him in the stomach. Agonizing pain ripped through his gut and he lost his grip on the weapon, curling up reflexively around the injury. He was semi-aware of his attacker talking to someone else, but then there was a bright flash and everything went black.
Brandon Lewis gazed out the floor-to-ceiling window offering a panoramic view of the bay and bridges from high above the city. He stared at the water, willing himself to see through the illusion. He knew the city was hiding there, but his eyes refused to cooperate. White capped waves and the occasional seagull were all they could perceive.
A buzz pulled him from his reverie and he retrieved the Blackberry that was inching its way across his desk as it buzzed again. He glanced at the incoming number. Johannes. It was about time. He lifted it to his ear.
"Sir, the primary package has been intercepted but the secondary objective was lost. I regret to inform you there has been a casualty."
Lewis scowled. "Phase two can only be deployed if the package is intact! I made that eminently clear before-"
"Sir, the casualty was one of the operatives securing the package. The package is secure and intact."
His eyebrows rose, a look of surprise colouring his features. "Really? How interesting." The planning had been meticulous, months of waiting for the target to be isolated and vulnerable, and still there had been a casualty. The man clearly wasn't as defenceless as he'd been led to believe. "It's a pity the secondary objective could not be recovered. That will make this more complicated as well as push back our time line. Deploy phase two."
Sheppard's eyes were locked on Ronon's as they circled each other. Ronon feinted to the left, but he didn't fall for it.
"What is it, corporal?" he called out, never looking away. If his concentration wavered for a split second, Ronon would have him laid out on the floor.
"Colonel Carter's on the horn, sir."
He grinned. "Did Dr. McKay wear out his welcome already?" he said as he lashed out. Ronon smirked back at him and danced out of arm's reach.
"I – sir, the Colonel asked me to tell you that Dr. McKay is missing and that she needs to speak with you ASAP."
Sheppard's head whipped around, and the marine blanched as Sheppard pinned him with his stare."When did this happen? And why wasn't I informed immediately?"
Ronon's hand came down to grip Sheppard's forearm, and when he looked over at him, Ronon handed him his radio. "You took it out so it wouldn't get broken when I knocked you on your ass again."
Sheppard silently took it and placed it back in his ear. He nodded at the nervous marine, then grabbed his towel and strode out of the gym, Ronon a silent shadow beside him. He tapped his earwig as he headed for his room.
"Chuck, patch me through to the SGC," he said. After a few moments, Carter came on the line.
"Colonel Sheppard," Carter began, "Approximately 1 hour ago, Dr. McKay was abducted by unknown assailants."
"How did they get to him?" Sheppard demanded. "I thought you had extra security on McKay! Especially in light of what happened the last time he was on Earth."
"We do," she said. "We had personnel on the scene less than 10 minutes after the incident."
Sheppard entered his room, and threw his towel on the back of his chair. Ronon just leaned by the door as Sheppard grabbed a small satchel and began to toss a few personal items into it. "What do you know so far?"
Carter sighed. "Whoever did this had inside information. They must have been planning it for a while. We've been checking every lead, but we haven't been able to determine where he's been taken. I can tell you that he put up one hell of a fight."
The gentle note of respect just stoked his ire. "He was supposed to be helping you hammer out some design specifications for the new prototype for a couple of days!" he snapped."He wasn't supposed to be putting up a fight!"
"Watch your tone," Carter said, command clear in her voice. "I know you're worried," she went on, a little softer. "I am too. I was on the phone with him when they grabbed him, John, and they still managed to vanish without a trace before we could get to him." She grimaced. "They took out his tracker, left it right there on the floor. There were traces consistent with zat fire – at least one person dead, likely an operative. There were two sets of prints besides McKay's, but they aren't on record anywhere. Whoever did this has money and a plan. I'm guessing it's the Trust."
Sheppard stuffed a pair of socks in his bag. "I'll be in Colorado as soon as the Daedalus is within beaming range," he said. "Don't fight me on this, Sam." Please, he begged silently.
"I wouldn't dream of it. We'll see you shortly."
Ronon grunted and Sheppard looked over at him. "We'll find him." He let out a snort at the look Sheppard gave him. "You do the book stuff. Just point me at the people I need to shoot."
The man in the wheelchair stared at his hands. His knuckles were swollen and covered with small cuts, with red marks around his wrists. Snippets kept flashing before his eyes – a fight, fists and guns, struggling to get away. Sharp pain and screams. Worried voices calling out to him. He let out a sigh of frustration as he swiped a hand over his face.
His Team. He knew they were looking for him, but he didn't know them. They were nameless faces, tantalizing memories that danced just out of his reach before slipping away. He opened his mouth, trying to catch the words in his teeth before they escaped. He snapped his teeth together with an audible click and held his breath, but nothing happened. Disappointment crashed in on him like monochromatic linear plane waves, and he missed the sound of the ocean and the salt tang in the air. He couldn't hear it or smell it and everything was all wrong.
Someone beside him cleared his throat, and he looked up to see the tall man standing at his side, gazing at him nervously. Lawyer, came the hazy thought. What did he need a lawyer for? He struggled to speak.
"Miss the ocean..." he said as he tried to focus, but everything was hazy around him, colours wrong and unreal. Like the fog planet when you knew the truth. "Need my team, need to get out of here..."
"I understand, Mr. Meier," the man whispered to him. "And I'm trying to help you do that, but I need to you to remain silent. Can you please do that?"
The sound of the lawyer's voice was odd and stretched out. Why did the man keep calling him that? He didn't want to listen any more, he wanted to walk away, but he couldn't seem to stand up. He peered up owlishly at the man sitting behind the desk. The bench. The judge. Right. He was waiting for an answer.
"Council, did Mr. Meier have a statement to share with the court?"
"No, your Honor-"
"Need to get out of here," he said, voice scratchy and uneven. He needed to make sure the judge knew. But he couldn't trust the judge, or councils, he couldn't trust anyone but Team. "Need my Team."
The man beside him put a hand on his arm. "Mr. Meier, please! Just let me represent you!"
"Don't call me that!" He yanked his arm away, accidentally knocking over the water glass on the table, splashing himself and the police officer beside him.
The judge watched the scene unfold before him, and then leaned forward on his elbows. "Mr. Meier, if you have something to add-"
Tendrils of anger cut through the fog. "S'not my name!" he bellowed, so frustrated he felt the prickle of tears in the corners of his eyes. Stupid morons!
The judge took a deep breath. "So you have stated several times since entering my courtroom. However, your identification and fingerprints clearly show that you are Albert Meier. So far, you have presented me with no evidence to the contrary, and have exhibited significant confusion about your identity and whereabouts."
"Doesn't matter," he mumbled, only half paying attention, wrapping his arms around himself as he rocked back and forth. "Need my team. Lookin' for me."
"Who, Mr. Meier?" his lawyer whispered to him, desperation bleeding into his voice. "Who is looking for you? If you can give me the name of a family member you could be released into the care of, the judge will probably agree to let you go. Can you just give me a name?"
He shook his head, trying to clear it. "Worried. He'll be worried, you know? It's his turn, an' there's not even arrows. So easy!" He looked up at the judge with a lopsided grin. "Was my turn last time," he confided. "I brought the city to him, you know? That was hard!"
"I'm sure it was," the judge agreed. "Mr. Meier," he said, continuing over his protests at the name, "given the information presented to me in your file and the doctor's reports regarding your behaviour, as well as your state here in my courtroom, I think it is best for you to stay in the hospital until you have stabilized to keep you safe. I find by clear and convincing evidence that you still present a danger to yourself, and you are herby remanded into the custody of the state hospital for 180 days."
"No!" he cried, trying to clamber out of the wheelchair, but the police officer firmly settled him back into the seat.
"Mr. Meier," the officer spoke gently, "we agreed that you would stay in the chair."
The anguish and frustration was written all over his face. "Stupid, stupid! Morons! Not Meier! Need my team, where are they?" he demanded, grabbing the lawyer's arm. "They want my brain! Want me to fix ancient weapons, but I won't! You have to help me!"
"Please calm down, Mr. Meier," the lawyer soothed, prying the fingers from around his wrist. "I did my best to help you. I'm very sorry, there's nothing more I can do."
He shook his head as he watched the police officer wheel his client away, still raving about alien conspiracies and cities in space. If the Meier had just been able to keep his mouth shut, he might have been able to help him get out of here. Secretly, he was glad Meier would be off the street and getting the help he needed. The way he raved made it sound like he'd seen one too many episodes of Wormhole Extreme.
John flipped through the report in his hands and tried to keep a lid on his frustration. It had been a long two weeks spent tracking down leads that went nowhere. They hadn't seen any sign that any known or suspected Trust corporate connections were cranking up any suspicious operations. In fact, Barret had advised him that recently, things had seemed exceedingly quiet.
The last time, they'd been able to track Rodney and Jeanie down by following the clues from Jeannie's nanite research to Devlin Medical Technologies. He knew it was crazy, but he'd been hoping they'd have similar luck on this round, but they hadn't found anything so far. All the R&D for the project Rodney was helping Carter with was being done in house at Area 51, and only scientists with top level clearance were on the project. Unfortunately, it was becoming clear that they had a mole who knew enough to pass on information about staff and schedules, and that was all it took.
He raked a hand through his hair and let out a sigh. Even if someone had Rodney working against his will, if he had access to a computer, he'd find a way to contact them. He'd piggy back on some kind of signal, encrypt a message, bounce something off a satellite – he'd sneak something past his captors. This was Rodney after all. He could build probably build a transmitter from odds and ends sitting around whatever lab he was trapped in – and he'd do everything he could to help them find him if he was alive.
John refused to accept any other possibility. He knew there had to be a clue somewhere - he just didn't know where to start.
Sandra studied the chart before her. Her new one-to-one, Albert Meier, had been sedated when he'd first been brought to the acute care unit via ambulance. She glanced at the signatures on the paperwork and frowned. She thought she knew all the paramedics after working at the hospital for so long, but she didn't recognize those names at all. It was a little strange.
Considering the details of his court appearance, she wasn't surprised he'd been given the full 180 days in state hospital. The problem was, like usually, there were no beds available at the moment. It wasn't unusual to have patients like Albert spend two months of their six in the acute care unit because of the shortage. Until a bed opened up, he'd be under her care, and she'd do everything she could to assist his recovery.
She flipped the page and made a face. Dr. Friesen was the attending physician. He was a difficult man to work with, and often discouraged his patients from taking part in therapies that most doctors regarded as helpful. His treatment protocols were often strange to the point of seeming absurd, but he claimed amazing results with patients who were plagued by deep, recurring paranoid delusions. And it was certainly true that once discharged, none his patients ever returned. She could remain professional when working with him, but Sandra really didn't like the man.
Meier's first few days had been under double lock down. It was no big surprise since he was a delusional patient with a history of psychosis and violent episodes. Only Dr. Friesen and his handpicked nurses had been permitted anywhere near him. That, in and of itself wasn't unusual. What had been strange was the first night on the unit that Meier had a violent episode. He'd started shrieking about space vampires coming to eat them all (and that was one she'd certainly never forget) but when she'd intervened and tried to call a code grey, Meier's team had told her they could handle it and all but thrown her out of the room. Topping off the weird-o-meter, Friesen had come in personally at 4am to handle the situation – and the man hadn't even been on call.
Despite the deference the hospital administration gave Friesen, Sandra got a bad vibe off him. She knew from previous experience that she'd end up fighting him on treatment options for Albert, since she'd been through it once already with Leonard. She'd been too vocal in her disagreement over Leonard's treatment, and then she'd just never been assigned to work with him again. Doctors weren't supposed to have any say over who the nurses worked with, but Friesen seemed to have the charge nurse under his thumb. He didn't want her working with a patient, he put a word in her ear, and that was that.
She'd just have to see what was the best fit for her new charge and, if it came down to it, quietly tailor and implement a treatment regime for him herself. While she normally considered herself a team player who followed the rules, she felt very strongly about her ethical commitment to her patients. There were sometimes situations where it was better to ask forgiveness than permission. Seeing the twitching mess Leonard had become in Friesen's care, she decided that this was one of them.
She slid the file back into the cabinet and took a deep breath. It was time to go meet the man she would be working with for the next few months.
Sandra stood by Albert's door and watched him for a moment. He was bent over his desk writing, slowly rocking back and forth, with papers scattered all around him. He muttered quietly as he wrote, stopping briefly to stare out the window. He lifted a hand and snapped his fingers three times quickly, then exclaimed, "Morons!" before hunching back over his paper and writing with a renewed vigour. She knocked on the door jam and he startled, whirling around, arms extended protectively over his work.
"What?" he demanded as he glared at her. She smiled.
"Hi there. I'm Sandra. I'm one of the nurses here, and I'll be working with you. I just thought-"
"Well, you should stop," he cut her off. "It's d-d-dangerous when you voodoo practitioners think. And I only work with other scientists, so save it for someone who c-c-cares. Now go away, I'm b-busy."
So it wasn't the most auspicious introduction she'd ever had with a patient, but it wasn't the worst. "Okay, then, Maybe I should come back a little while later, then."
"Oh, just g-g-get it over with," he said rolling his eyes, and she suppressed a smile. He was going to be a lively one. At least she wouldn't be bored.
"Thank you, Albert" she said, coming fully into the room.
He became agitated. "That's not my name!" he insisted, the rocking becoming more rapid as he shook his head "I d-don't need my head shrunk, thank you very much. I g-g-get enough of that after bad missions, and I d-don't need it now."
He had his arms wrapped around his waist, staring at the floor, muttering again. She took a step closer, trying to engage him while keeping a reasonable distance. She'd discovered early in her career that even the most stable patient could become violent without warning. One such patient had landed a wild swing during Sandra's first month on the unit, leaving her with a spectacular black eye and a lesson well learned.
She finally caught Albert's attention, and when he focused on her, she gave him her best, let's-be -friends smile. "Alright. Can you tell me what your name is?"
He opened his mouth and froze, a look of surprise morphing into frustration as he snapped it closed and looked at the floor. "I c-c-can't remember," he said, quietly, anger bleeding out around the words. "But I know it's not Albert."
"Well, I have to call you something," she said. "Is it okay if, just for now, I call you Albert? When you can remember, you tell me, and I'll make sure it gets put in your file and written up on the white board in the common room so every knows, okay?"
He looked at her then, equal parts suspicion and hope. "Okay. Fine."
She saw him visibly startle at her comment. "Albert?"
His voice grew distant, almost hollow. "You're cool, I'm fine," he muttered, eyes rolling back into his head.
"Crap," she said. "Someone bring me some Benadryl!" she called over her shoulder before turning back to keep an eye on Albert.
"The colonel," he said as he rocked in place. "He's the cool one. We're a team. He picked a brain and a caveman and a princess and we're a team."
One of the MHTs poked his head in. "Gloria's coming with the Benadryl," he said. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, we're good," she assured him, then turned her attention back to her patient. "Albert? Can you hear me?"
He started talking again, in that same disconnected monotone. "He doesn't leave people behind. He'll be looking for me." The rocking was getting more agitated.
The other nurse walked in the room, syringe in hand. "Here you are," she said, handing the syringe to Sandra. "What's happening with Albert?"
"Thanks, Gloria. I'm pretty sure he's having an acute dystonic reaction," she said, prepping the syringe. "I didn't want to take a chance that benztropine might be contraindicated."
Albert spoke again. "I have to save us. I have to go back to work. There a problem with the stardrive." As abruptly as he'd slipped into the odd behaviour, he snapped out of it. His voice took on its previous strident quality, complete with stutter. "I have to fix it so we can g-g-go home, and it's really hard without c-c-computers, so I have to do it on p-p-paper and it's taking a long time so, g-g-go away."
Without waiting for a response, he turned back to his papers, feverishly scribbling down a jumble of numbers and symbols that looked like pure gibberish.
Gloria's eyes widened. "Okay, I'm not actually sure what that was, but it wasn't a dystonic reaction," she said. "But, if it looks kind f like a duck -"
Sandra nodded. "He may be having an atypical reaction, who knows. I'd rather be on the safe side," she said as she moved to the side of the desk so Albert could see her. "I'd like to give you some Benadryl so you don't have another reaction like that one. I need you to roll up your sleeve for me, okay?"
He looked up suspiciously. "I d-d-don't want it."
She nodded. "If you really don't want it, you can say no, but I'd really feel better if you let me give this to you. I can promise I will be very quick and it will be a small poke."
He let out a huff, but finally said yes. He muttered a loud "OW!" when the needle went in, but it was over quickly.
"I'll put that in the sharps container," Gloria said, taking the syringe and leaving the room.
Sandra watched Albert for a minute as he tried to rub his arm, glare at her and cover up his papers all at the same time.
"Albert, would you like me to bring you a folder for your papers?" she asked.
"You can't have them!" he said, picking them up and holding them to his chest.
"It would be for you to keep," she said. "So you could keep them all together, and close it when other people are around so they can't see your work. I noticed that you seemed to want to keep it private."
He glanced down at his papers, then slowly brought his eyes back up to meet hers.
"Y-yes. I would." He caught his lower lip in his teeth, and she waited for a moment in case there was something else he had to say. And then he surprised her. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," she replied with a smile. "I'll bring one for you a little later."
She decided that was the perfect note to end on. When he turned back to his scribbling, she slipped silently from the room and headed for the nurses' station to make her notes. As she typed, Gloria brought her a cup of coffee.
"You are a goddess among women," she declared, taking a deep swallow of the bitter brew.
"Just remember I brought you coffee the next time you have chocolate," she nurse replied.
She chuckled, then turned back to the computer. Gloria looked over her shoulder at the chart.
"So, is this one from outer space?"
"Nope," Sandra said with a shake of her head. "He's from Canada. He only works in outer space."
"Oh my god, you are such a geek!" Gloria said with a laugh. Sandra grinned back at her.
"Hey, you recognized the reference, what does that say about you?"
"That I've been working with you for too long, and have been contaminated by your geekery."
"Speaking of which, I brought the third season of Wormhole Extreme for you."
"See?" moaned Gloria theatrically. "Contaminated."
Sandra took a sip of coffee and reviewed the groups that were going on that day and noted that there was a music group that morning. Most of the patients she worked with truly enjoyed the experience and she hoped Albert would be interested in attending.
After saving the notes she'd made in his chart, she locked her computer and made her way to his room. She found him hunkered over his notebook, as usual. The file folder she'd given him sat on the desk, filled with the loose papers he'd been writing on since he arrived. She looked again and frowned. She was sure that it had been a lot fuller the day before. Perhaps he'd hidden some of them somewhere in his room –he was very secretive about what he was writing. She made a mental note to ask him about it later if he seemed amenable to talking.
"Good morning, Albert," she said, waiting for the inevitable response. He didn't disappoint.
"That's n-not my name!" he said, but the bite didn't seem to be there today. She smiled.
"What would you like me to call you?" she asked. It was getting to be a game with them by now. "How about George?"
"That's even worse," came the acerbic reply.
"Okay then, Albert it is," she said. "It looks like you're getting to the end of your notebook. Would you like me to get you a new one?"
He cocked an eyebrow at her. "You d-don't usually ask stupid questions," he said. "Of c-c-course I need a new b-book." He got a crafty look in his eyes. "Or a laptop."
"Just a notebook, I'm afraid," she said with a laugh. "Actually, I've got a suggestion for you today. Lydia is running the music group today. It's happening in about 5 minutes, and I thought you might be interested."
He scowled. "You always have some stupid suggestion," he complained. "Fine," he said grudgingly, but he closed his notebook and stood up.
She walked with him to the group room where other patients were milling around and they watched for a moment as the music therapist flitted back and forth, efficiently getting patients settled and set up with various instruments.
"Would you like to give it a try?" she asked.
He hesitated for a moment before stepping inside. Lydia was there a few seconds later. "Hi, Albert."
"That's n-not my name," he said as she directed him to sit at a table nearby.
"What would you like me to call you?" she asked as she selected an instrument for him.
He shrugged as he looked away. "I d-don't care."
Lydia placed a keyboard on the table it in front of him. "How do you feel about trying one of our keyboards today?"
When he looked down at it, he balked. "No," he said, backing away from the table, shaking his head. "I d-don't – I c-can't."
"It's okay if you don't know how to play," Lydia said in an effort to encourage him. "C'mon, Albert. It'll be fun."
Sandra was puzzled by his reaction; she'd seen his fingers twitching over an imaginary keyboard more than once when classical music had been playing, and now he just looked incredibly sad. She took another look and realized he had the strange, blank look he got sometimes, just before – and yes, there it was, eyes rolling back in his head. She moved in and caught him before he collapsed, directing him back into a chair, and waited.
"The colonel said it would be fun," he said in that hollow, monotone voice. "I have to find him. I have to warn him about the weapon. I–"
A discordant jangle of sounds as someone banged on a triangle like it was a chow-bell startled Sandra and disrupted Albert's trance like state. He abruptly curled in on himself and wrapped his arms around his middle. "I want to g-g-go," he said, the rocking so hard that his chair was skittering across the floor.
"Okay, Albert" she said, as Lydia removed the keyboard. "Okay."
Lewis was losing his temper.
"Doctor Friesen." he spoke into the phone in a precises, clipped tone that conveyed his dissatisfaction. "The whole point of having him in that facility is so it will be easy to medicate him and keep him under control. The fact that the state is keeping him prisoner is just an added bonus. No pesky escape attempts or security. He's not actually there to get better, so please insure that he does not."
He listened for a moment, then cut in. "I don't care about hospital boards or nosy nurses. It is your job to keep him coherent enough to produce diagrams and schematics, but too drugged to do anything else. We've already lost several weeks because his computer was destroyed. We can build the weapon ourselves, but not without the diagrams, and the only place those exist are in McKay's head."
There was another pause, then Lewis shook his head. "You have one more week. If you can't get them from him in the hospital, we'll have to move him to a remote location and do things the old fashioned way. That will likely end up becoming messy. And I dislike messy a great deal, so do try to complete your task in the allotted time."
Albert made his way around the perimeter of the room, constantly checking around him as if watching for potential threats. He finally made his way forward to sit in the empty chair, looking for all the world like a condemned man facing a firing squad.
Sandra wasn't sure he was ready for group, but she'd encouraged him to give it a try. She took a seat slightly behind and to the side of him and otherwise stayed silent.
After all the patients were settled, the therapist went around the circle, inviting everyone to introduce themselves by sharing a happy or silly memory if they wished to do so. When he reached Albert, he gave him a welcoming smile.
"I'm glad you joined us today, Albert," he said. "Is there a fun memory you'd like to share with the group?"
"That's not my name," he said, glaring at the therapist. "And what's the p-p-point? You d-don't believe a word I say anyway! This is stupid and a waste of my t-t-time."
A wan looking blonde girl spoke. "You have to let go of the things that aren't true," she said as if by rote. It sounded like she was reciting from memory.
"And how d-d-do you know they're not true?" he demanded.
She looked nervously at the therapist who nodded. "Everyone knows that we don't have cities that fly in space."
He gave her a scathing look. "Well then, everyone is an idiot," he declared. "I happen to know that we d-d-do."
The man sitting on the other side of him rolled his eyes. "Albert, you're a nut case, man!" he said with a laugh.
"First off, I'm not the one who licks the floor, c-c-crazy man," he said, and the man other patient stopped laughing. "Second, that's not my name. Finally, you're a moron, so just shut up."
The room exploded with laughter, causing Albert to startle and lose his balance. Sandra reached out to steady him, withdrawing her hand once he was secure. She fought down her smile as she watched the therapist calming the group. One thing to be said for being Albert's one-to-one was that it was rarely dull.
Sandra came back from her lunch break in hopeful spirits. Yesterday's talk therapy session had been really good for Albert. He'd spoken with less and less stuttering as the session went on and it had been good to see his confidence increase. She frowned as she checked her watch. The nurse spelling her was supposed to have Albert in the common room by now so she could take him to his afternoon group. While Albert was many things – arrogant, presumptuous, and insulting – he had proved to be a stickler for being on time, and he would be giving Tina a very hard time if they were running late.
She saw Leonard sitting by the window and walked over to him.
"Hello, Leonard," she greeted him. He looked up at her.
"H-hi Miss Sandra."
"Have you seen Nurse Tina or Albert?"
Leonard's face crumpled in on itself and he looked down at the floor. "Doc came and got him," he mumbled.
Sandra kept her expression pleasant. "Thank you, Leonard. I'll see you later."
She hastily made her way down the hall to Albert's room as her thoughts churned. Friesen had already seen Albert this morning. What the hell was he doing with him now?
She stopped momentarily when she saw the nurse that accompanied Friesen on most of his patient visits standing outside Albert's door. She tried to be fair, since she really didn't know the man, but just being around him made her uneasy. She steeled up her resolve and strode forward.
He turned his head to stare at her as she approached.
"Doc's busy with the patient," he stated in a tone the indicated she should back off.
At that moment, Dr. Friesen stepped out the door, with a stack of what looked like Albert's scribblings in the folder he held. Well, that certainly explained where they'd been vanishing to. "Doctor," she greeted him with a forced smile.
He gazed at her coolly. "What are you doing here?"
"I was just coming to check on Albert. We were supposed to meet in the common room. He has group in 10 minutes, and since he's always so good about being on time, I wanted to make sure he was okay."
He studied her for a few more moments before turning to the nurse and handing him the folder with a quick nod. As the other man walked off down the hall, Friesen spoke again. "I don't think Mr. Meier will feel much like participating in the group today. As a matter of fact, I'm not convinced that any of these therapy groups are really helping him at all."
She fought back the grimace. "If you've read the progress notes in his chart, you will see that he's benefited a great deal from these groups. He's come out of himself and participated in a variety of expressive therapies. I certainly don't want to overtax him, so I'll just check in with him and let him know he'll be missed."
She slipped around Friesen before he could say anything else and stepped into Albert's room. There was a pile of fresh paper on the desk in front of him, and he was rocking back and forth, scribbling quickly as he muttered.
"G-g-go away!" he hissed. "I'm very b-b-busy!"
As she quietly withdrew to sit and keep an eye from where she wouldn't bother him, she wondered how Friesen had gotten Albert to agree to give up any of his papers.
John was discovering far more about multinational corporations, subsidiaries, shell companies and corporate structures than he had ever hoped to know. He thought he'd escaped this hell when he turned his back on his father's plan to groom him as the next CEO for Sheppard Industries. It was the first time in his life that he was actually grateful for the few business courses that he'd taken to appease the old man before breaking away completely to follow his own path.
Digging through what the NID had already learned about the Trust was an eye opener. The amount of classified information the Trust had been able to gain access to had been staggering. Despite SG1 having cut most of the heads off the monster a few years back, they were still out there, and in force.
Barret and his team worked hard to rein them in, but it was impossible to keep tabs on everything they were doing, and they appeared to have off-world allies who were providing them with weapons and non-earth goods. They had deep pockets - money never seemed to be a problem for them. Barret had uncovered evidence of a host of illegal funding activities from tax evasion and government corruption to terrorist financing. Every time they got close enough to take one of the players down, the rest managed to absorb, hide or transfer the wealth beyond the NID's reach.
"You need to get out of here."
He turned away from the computer to find Ronon leaning against the door jamb, arms crossed. It was awfully familiar. "If you'll recall, McKay is missing," he said mildly, taking the opportunity to roll his head around and stretch. He was getting a crick in his neck.
"Yeah, and I told you when we came, just point me at the guys who need shooting." He walked into the room and stopped by the desk, eyeing Sheppard critically. "You look like hell."
"Thanks, Ronon," Sheppard rolled his eyes. "I'm a little busy right now, so maybe you might want to go play with the marines," he said dryly. "Just don't break them all or Colonel O'Neill will get pissed and I'll have to make nice with him."
"Never thought I'd quote McKay," Ronon said with a shake of his head. "Don't be an idiot."
Sheppard's eyebrows went up at that, but Ronon wasn't finished. "You need to do something or you're gonna crack. I know you. Sitting in a stupid little office looking at computer screens and pieces of paper is what McKay does, and even then, you drag him out to get fresh air once in a while. You are not him, and you need to go shoot some bad guys."
Sheppard was getting pissed. "We have this little problem of not knowing exactly who the bad guys are at the moment, or did you miss that?"
"I got that." Ronon grinned with his teeth bared. "But if you wanna be any good for McKay, you gotta get your head back in the game, 'cause you're losing it in here. You might not be able to shoot the bad guys right now, but you can beat the hell out of a few of these whiny-assed SGC marines and grab some lunch. You know it'll make you feel better."
Sheppard slouched back into the chair and looked up at his friend. He knew that look on Ronon's face.
"Fine," he said, pushing away from the desk and lifting his arms to do a full body stretch before walking out the door. If he didn't agree now of his own accord, he had maybe another hour before Ronon took matters into his own hands. Sheppard wouldn't put it past him to just toss him over his shoulder, dragged him the gym and make him spar until Ronon judged they were finished and let him back out. That would just be embarrassing, not that Ronon would care in the least.
Sandra sat with Albert in the common room as he worked on his picture. He hadn't been interested in the art therapy group today, instead opting to draw on his own. He'd been incessantly doodling, drawing snowflakes, crystalline shapes, and circles covered with strange symbols. She'd asked him about the images as he drew, and his answers sounded like something out of "Amazing Stories" or "Asimov", especially when he started talking about – and drawing - space vampires.
"They don't d-drink your blood," he said as he added an intricate tattoo to the white face he'd drawn on the paper. "They d-drink your soul."
"Wow. Those vampires sounds pretty scary."
"I t-told you. Not a vampire," he said as he put the pencil down and settled his hands in his lap. "Wraith."
She looked down at the image, the cold eyes, the long white hair, the mouth full of sharp, pointy teeth, and felt herself shiver. It was so alien, yet realistic looking at the same time. Wraith was certainly an apt description. "Do you want to tell me about the Wraith?"
His face grew troubled. "Need to g-get back," he said as he started rocking again. "Find my t-t-team. Fix the stardrive, g-get home. C-c-can't let the Wraith find earth."
It always came back to his team, eventually. He seemed to have a real connection to these three people, and she believed they were real. She had a feeling these people would be the key to his recovery, especially this colonel he kept mentioning – if he could just remember.
"I want to help you find them," she said. "Do you know where they are?"
The question really was, would he ever remember anything with the way his visits with Friesen derailed all the work they'd been doing? Just thinking about it made her seethe with helpless frustration. Almost every time Albert saw the man, he was wound up like a spring afterwards, rocking frantically as he filled notebook after notebook with gibberish. It always took a while to get him back on an even keel after that, and just as they would start to make progress again, Friesen would do it again and she'd be back to square one.
He looked up at her, clarity in his blue eyes that she only saw when he was talking about his team. "The city," he said urgently. "Atlantis."
She held back a sigh, and nodded encouragingly. "Where do we find Atlantis, Albert?"
"Do you really think those are helpful questions, Nurse?"
Dammit. She looked behind her to find Friesen standing behind her. She didn't want to antagonize the man, or he'd have Albert removed from her care. "Just following the patient's lead, Doctor," she said with a strained smile.
Friesen sniffed and gave her a disapproving look. "Yes, well, I think you should re-direct him from such obvious delusions," he said as he walked over and looked at the art. "And I don't think that drawing pictures of things from his nightmares is very helpful for our patient."
With that, Friesen dismissed her and turned to Albert. "Hello, Albert," he said, false joviality oozing from him. "I'd like to chat with you for a few minutes."
Sandra silently fumed as Albert meekly followed Friesen out of the room. She knew the drawing, music and other groups were helping Albert, but she could swear that sometimes it seemed like Friesen didn't want him to get better.
Lewis studied the diagrams Johannes had brought him. They were a marvel of technical detail, really, considering the amount of drugs Friesen was pumping into McKay to keep him under control. Unfortunately, they weren't getting the specifications they needed to complete the device.
He let out a sigh. Friesen was becoming a problem. He seemed to be far more interested studying the effects of the alien compounds on human physiology than in maintaining McKay's dosage at just the right level to get the results they needed. It was taking too long to get results, and it would be his neck on the line if the product wasn't delivered on schedule. He picked up the phone and made the call.
"Your time is up, Doctor," he informed Friesen. "We are well past our original timeframe. Have the asset moved immediately, and be sure that you and your staff are on hand. We'll be applying more direct methods and I'll need you to keep the asset viable until we get everything we need."
He paused as Friesen spoke, then nodded. "Yes, if you can manage to keep him alive while we extract the information, you're free to continue your experiments. Just be sure you thoroughly dispose of the remains when you are done. I don't want anything left that could lead them back to us."
Sandra looked at Albert's chart, noting that he'd already had his daily visit with the doctor. While she prided herself on her calm demeanour and ability to work with anyone, the more she'd worked with Dr. Friesen, the more convinced she become that he was incompetent. She'd been a nurse for over 15 years, and in her professional opinion, Albert Meier was not ready to be transitioned to a step down facility, and she'd said as much in the staff meeting. Friesen had rolled his eyes as he thanked her for her input. He'd said he would take it under advisement, but clearly it had been for naught as Albert was still being transferred the next morning. She sincerely hoped that his new doctor was more capable than Friesen.
She replaced the chart then walked over to where Albert sat with a stack of comic books.
"Hello, Albert," she said, sitting down beside him. He ignored her as he continued to page his comic, and she sat quietly at his side until he spoke.
"Not my name," he said as he reached the last page. She waited till he finished it and let the comic drop to the table.
"What would you like to be called today?" she asked, watching him closely. He closed his eyes, hands clenched in fists on his lap.
"I d-don't know," he said as he lifted a hand to rub at his temple, wincing as if in pain.
She pursed her lips. Still adamant that he wasn't Albert Meier, despite all evidence to the contrary, and yet Dr. Friesen thought he was ready to be transitioned?
"I could call you Bob," she said with a smirk. "What do you think?"
He rolled his eyes. "You're just trying to c-confuse me," he grumbled, but she saw the smile dancing on his lips.
She glanced down at the comic he'd been reading. "And what is new and exciting in the city of Gotham today?" she asked.
"Bruce Wayne is c-clearly surrounded by idiots," he replied as he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in his hair. He tilted his head slightly as he stared at her, his face set and his manner defensive. Sandra consciously suppressed a sigh. He seemed to be very aware of his surroundings and quite articulate today – and it looked like he was in one of his moods.
"How about you, Albert? How are you doing today?"
"I'd be d-doing much better if I wasn't in *here*."
"Well, you won't be for much longer," she said with a smile. "You're getting transitioned to the step down facility tomorrow."
He rolled his eyes. "Yes yes, p-prison with a longer leash. I g-get to be a big boy and finally have the option of saying no to the pills you p-people have been alternately shoving down my throat or injecting me in the ass with for the last 8 weeks."
"Yes you do," she returned evenly. "And if you keep doing as well as you have been when you go off the meds, I'm sure the Doctor will be happy to re-evaluate you for early release."
"I think Dr. Frankenstein enjoys p-poking at my brain," he replied with a scowl.
"Dr. Friesen you mean," she corrected, keeping the smile off her face.
"Whatever," he waved dismissively. "You d-don't like him any better than I do. People d-don't like assholes. I'm an asshole and I know that people don't like me. B-but everyone hates him, especially the staff. It's kind of obvious."
Her jaw dropped in surprise and he laughed. "Oh please," he said scornfully. "I may have been committed to the loony bin, but I'm not *stupid*. He's the b-biggest asshole in this place, and he's running the show, no matter what anyone says. I think things would p-probably run a lot more smoothly for all of you if *he* was on this side of the glass," he said, indicating the room they were sitting in.
She took a moment to regain her equilibrium. "Albert, if there is something that Dr. Friesen has said or done that has made you uncomfortable-"
"Oh, give it a rest," he cut her off with a sigh. "I'm g-getting out of here tomorrow on his say so. I'm not messing that up." He gave her a bright, cheery and patently false smile. "I'm d-doing great, Sandra. Tomorrow I am officially sane enough to not have to be in d-double lock down and medicated to the eyeballs twice a day whether I need it or not. Are we done here?"
She nodded. "We're done, Albert."
"Good." He stood and turned to walk away, but stopped when she spoke.
He looked at her quizzically.
An honest smile ghosted around his mouth. "Thanks. And d-don't take this the wrong way, but I hope I never see you again."
She laughed. "Mutual."
Rodney could feel himself drifting in and out, that fuzzy-muddled feeling that came with being on the really good drugs. He thought that he should probably be worried about that. Carson only brought out the really good drugs when something really bad had happened. But even the vague understanding that there was likely pain in his near future wasn't enough to fully cut through the warm cocoon of comfort, and everything faded to black.
The next time he became aware, things were in sharper focus. Aches made themselves known - the complaints of his back, stiff and sore from a substandard bed; the throbbing of his knee, the sharp smell of antiseptic, and - something else. He couldn't quite place it, but it didn't fit.
He could hear voices, a hushed but intense conversation near him. He forced his eyes open, and at first, the images didn't make sense - he was surrounded by cement and conduit, not the familiar cool greens and blues of Atlantis. Was this the SGC? He opened his mouth, trying to speak, but all that came out was a raspy wheeze.
There was an instant of silence, and then a startled voice cut across the room. "Doc! How the hell is he even awake? That shouldn't be possible!"
"We've been medicating him with Chryophenum for the last month, you idiot. Didn't it occur to you that he might just develop a tolerance for it?"
He knew Doc's voice - and it made him uneasy. Rodney struggled to push himself upright. "What's going on?" he demanded. "Where am I?"
Doc was suddenly at his side, pressing him back down onto the bed. "Now, Dr. McKay, don't do anything foolish. You're going to be quite disoriented while we neutralize the Chryophenum. We don't want you falling out of bed and damaging yourself."
Rodney struggled to throw off the hands pinning him down, and Doc snapped in exasperation. "Oh, for god's sake!" he snapped at the other man. "Get over here and hold him down so I can get more sedative into him."
"No, no! Please!" Rodney pleaded. He was terrified - where was he? What had happened? Where was his team?
"Use the restraints in case he wakes up unexpectedly while unattended," Doc continued, ignoring Rodney's pleas. "I'd be loath to see what kind of mischief the good doctor might get up to if given free rein."
Rodney wrenched his arm free and scored a flailing hit on the goon trying to secure him the bed. The man recoiled and conveniently smacked into Doc, sending the syringe flying.
"Fuck!" the man snarled and backed handed Rodney across the face. Pain exploded through his jaw but he managed to evade the hand grabbing for him and slide off the side of the bed onto unsteady feet.
"Grab him already!" Doc yelled. "He can barely stand up, it shouldn't be difficult!"
Rodney cast about desperately, but there was nothing within arm's reach he could use as a weapon. He scrambled backward only to hit the wall. There was nowhere to go, and the goon reaching for him probably had 2 inches on Ronon and out massed him by at least 30 kilos.
"C'mon, McKay," he said as he reached out a huge hand. "Co-operate and I won't hurt you." His jacket shifted and Rodney spotted the possibility of salvation in the form of a zat tucked in his belt.
He mustered up every ounce of fear and desperation he was feeling – not really an act - and slid down the wall, raising his arms as if to fend the other man off. "No, please, just let me go, please!" McKay huddled down, forcing the other man to lean over him to try and get a grip on his arm.
"This is the guy who took out your partner?" the goon asked in derision. "You must have really been having a bad night, Johannes."
"He's not as helpless as he looks!" a third voice piped in defensively, but the goon just laughed.
Rodney had a sudden memory of being attacked, grappling on the floor, and then being in enormous amount of pain while that voice filled the air around him with obscenities.
He felt a big meaty hand close around his forearm, and he let himself collapse, pulling the guard with him. The big man staggered a step back and let go, hand shooting up to lean on the wall so he could regain his balance. The zat was right there for the taking and Rodney yanked it free and snapped it open in one quick motion.
"What the fuck-"
"I *told*you to let me go," Rodney growled, then zatted him. Unfortunately, physics and gravity had no appreciation for his conundrum, and the oaf fell right on top of him, giving the other two men time to react.
"Goddammit!" Doc swore as he dove behind a cabinet before Rodney managed to push the goon off and get a shot at him. "Can nothing ever be simple with you?"
Rodney kept firing, grimly holding on to consciousness. He got in a lucky shot and watched Johannes crumple to the floor. He needed answers. He needed to get out of here, but he could feel himself fading.
"What's going on?" he demanded, popping up over the edge of the bed to take another shot at Doc. He must have been close because the other man cursed a blue streak. "Why am I here?"
"If you put the zat down, I promise you won't be harmed," Doc called out. "We just need your help with something, that's all. We're going to let you go, I promise." Rodney knew that tone. He'd heard it from the Genii, the Manarians and a number of tribal and council leaders over the years. It was the one that meant the other person was lying like a rug and he was a dead man if he believed any of it.
"I don't think so," he growled. "Where am I? And where's my team? I heard you talking about them - where are they? They better be okay, or I'll…"
"You'll what, Doctor McKay?" Doc's voice was mocking. "You're one man with a zat. You're very weak. I know exactly how weak and I just have to be patient, because you'll be unconscious in a few minutes. Not only that, the guards will be here very soon. They might be… less than gentle in disarming you. You can make it easier on yourself and everyone, including your team if you just give me the zat now. "
Rodney knew he wouldn't last long, and he looked around nervously, waiting for the reinforcements. Where the hell were they? They'd just made a hell of a lot of noise smashing things about, and he'd been expecting more goons at any second, but - nothing. It didn't make any sense, unless...
"You're lying," he said. "There's no one else here, just you three idiots."
"This is a very deep lab," Doc blustered. "They'll be here any moment."
"And I think you're full of shit," said Rodney as he clambered out from behind the bed. He was reasonably certain he was right. And if he was wrong, well, he wasn't going to last much longer, so he just hoped to god he was right.
He slowly made his way across the room, zat clasped in both hands to try to keep it steady. "I want answers," he said as he stopped in front of the doctor, who was crouching beside the cabinet. "First. Where is my team?"
Doc rolled his eyes. "Very touching. I'm not telling you anything." He just stared at Rodney intently, and Rodney realized that he was swaying on his feet. He wasn't going to pass out and just let this asshole win. He grabbed the chair from against the wall and dragged it over, then sat down heavily. Doc continued to stare. Well. Enough of that.
"Okay. You have one more chance. Tell me where the hell we are and where my team is and I'll let you live."
He laughed. "You don't scare me, McKay. I know about you. You yell and bluster, but you have no spine. You have your soldier boy to do all the hard work. You don't have the balls to kill someone."
Rodney caught movement out the corner of his eye and brought the zat up as Johannes lunged. Three rapid shots, and there was nothing but a puff a vapour. He swiftly trained it back on the Doc, watching as the man's face lost all expression and took on a gray cast.
"You clearly don't understand what a few years in the Pegasus galaxy can do. Last chance. Where. The hell. Am I?"
The Doc swallowed nervously. "Earth. You’re on earth!"
"I know that, you moron! Where?"
"Portland," he said, edging away.
"Where is my team?"
"They're not here."
"Are you hard of hearing?" he yelled, suddenly furious. "I didn't ask if they were here, I asked where they were! If I wanted this kind of gross incompetence, I'd be working in the private sector!"
"I don't know where they are, McKay!" Doc yelled back. "We didn't take your team! We only took you!"
Rodney glared at him. "You've been talking like you have them sequestered away somewhere, and now I'm just supposed to trust your word?"
There was a pain starting behind his right eye, and incipient migraine promising to rear its ugly head. He felt a familiar wooziness that told him it had been a long time since he'd eaten anything and things were going to get ugly for him soon if he didn't. He caught himself drifting, and snapped his head back up to catch the doctor stealthily inching toward him. He levelled the zat at him.
"Back off, right now," he said, and the other man held up his hands and backed away. He took a quick glance around the room, looking for a power bar, and cup of coffee, anything - and sitting on the bedside table was a cell phone.
"I'll be damned," he muttered as he snatched it up, quickly shifting his gaze back to the doctor. He quickly tried to dial a number - but no bars.
"You can't call from in here," he remarked snidely. "I did mention that we're in a deep lab."
"Shut up," he ground out as he forced himself to his feet. "You are going to lead me out of here. You try to run, I'll shoot you. You try to attack me, I'll shoot you.
You do anything suspicious at all, I'll shoot you. Clear?"
A groan came from by the bed and Rodney glanced over to see the goon number one was stirring. He heard a rustle and turned his gaze back to Doc, but he'd given him too much leeway, and the other man was on him before he could bring up the zat.
The doc had another syringe, this one filled with some pale milky substance. Rodney struggled not to drop the zat and not to let the needle break his skin, but he was weakening. He pulled the trigger. Even thought the shot went wild, both of them were caught in the nimbus and he felt numbness spread all down his left side. As he tumbled to the floor, the zat gun went skittering into the middle of the room. Doc crumpled as well, the syringe rolling away from nerveless fingers.
With grim determination, Rodney started inching his way toward the gun, using his good arm to pull himself across the floor. He just got his fingers wrapped around it when he looked up to see the goon looming over him. Laying flat on his back, he pulled the trigger three times, and watched as the man vaporized before his body had a chance to fall on top of Rodney again.
"Should have done that the first time," he grumbled as he twisted around to locate the doctor. He was just a little too late, and felt a sharp pain. He looked down to see the doctor plunging the syringe into his leg. With a roar, he kicked the other man in the head, and reached down to pull the needle out, but most of the contents had already been injected.
With a viciousness that even surprised himself, he zatted the doctor, once twice, three times - and then he was alone, with god knows what cocktail of drugs freshly dumped into his body, hovering on the precipice of a migraine, a hypoglycemic attack and total exhaustion. He let out a cynical laugh. At this rate, he was going to start missing the Genii. At least when he faced them, he had his team with him.
The worst of the pins and needles feeling from the zat blast was finally fading away, and Rodney knew he had to make it out of here and try to call Sheppard and the SGC before whatever the hell that drug was hit his system. He staggered to his feet, pocketed the cell phone, and stumbled through the door in search of an exit.
It didn't take long to find the way out. No big surprise that the rat fuck doctor had been lying like a lying liar. Liar, liar, pants on fire. Rodney giggled. Door. Not like the fun magic doors that slid open at home, but still, door, door, window… why did people say to look for windows when there were no doors? Wait, no, when there was no door, you could sometimes find a window. Or something. Like the colonel would do that. And Conon. They would crawl through windows just for fun.
Rodney stopped and thought. There was something very important he needed to do, but he was so tired, and it was cold outside. His hands slipped into his pockets and he found a smooth, hard plastic object. He pulled it out. A cell phone! Right! Phone call! He needed to call someone. He needed to call Sheppard! His fingers punched out the number without a second though. He liked to talk to the colonel. Sheppard was funny, and he smelled good and he liked to fly. Rodney needed to tell him that he was flying right now. He held the phone up to his ear as he held his other arm out like the wing of an airplane and made vrooming noises. Flying was fun, even if he wasn't very good at it, but at least everything glowed for him so he could do it; fly the fancy ship with the glowing lights just using his brain. It was better than fine, it was cool.
He listened to the phone ring and ring and wondered if he ran on the street if he could take off, like on a runway. There was a horrible squealing sound as he stepped out, honking horns and people yelling, but he was concentrating on trying to fly, and then suddenly there was a voice in his head.
"Hello? Who is this?" It was so familiar – it was John! "Hello?"
"HI JOHN!" he yelled happily. "I'm flying!"
"RODNEY!" Sheppard yelled in his ear. "Rodney, where are you?"
There was more honking, but he ignored it as he carefully walked along the yellow line in the center of the landing strip.
"Flying is cool. And you and Conon would climb through a window if there was no door right?" he asked, because it seemed very important that the colonel and Conon would do that. "I remember a story about climbing out a really high window because everything was locked and there was no door," he said, following the stream of thoughts.
"Rodney! Focus, buddy! Where are you? Are you okay?"
Rodney laughed. "I'm right here!"
"Tell me where you are," the voice demanded and Rodney bit his lip. The voice sounded angry.
"Don't yell at me," he said, eyes pricking with tears. "It's scary."
"I'm sorry, buddy, I didn't mean to," John responded, voice much quieter. "I've just been worried sick. Where are you? Tell us where you are so we can come get you," he begged."
"I'm... I'm right here," Rodney said as he put his arm out to zoom through the air, wobbling back and forth like a plane doing stunts. "I'm flying," he repeated, a smile breaking out across his face.
"Hey, buddy," came a strange voice from behind him, and Rodney turned around to see a man getting out of a black and white car. The lights on top were spinning, red and blue, red and blue.
Rodney stared at the lights, mesmerized. "The lights are pretty."
"Rodney?" came a voice from his hand. He looked down at the cell phone. He'd been talking to someone. To John! It was important. His team. They were going to take him home and he would be safe.
The strange man spoke again, derailing his thoughts. "Look buddy, you need to come out of the street. You’re holding up traffic and you're going to get yourself killed."
He nodded seriously. "I have to fly home," he said as he returned his attention to putting one foot in front of the other, following the dotted yellow line in the centre of the road. He'd only taken a couple of steps when everything started to list to the side and he stumbled to his knees, hands flying out to slap the pavement and stop his fall The cell phone went skittering across the road into the far lane and there was a small *crunch* as it was run over by an oncoming vehicle.
"Okay buddy, I'm going to have to ask you to come with us," the man – police officer his mind supplied – said as he crouched in front of him. "We'll take you somewhere safe." he sat back on his heels, arms dangling at his sides as his head lolled to one side. There was another man who was standing beside the black and white car, talking into a radio – must have lost his earwig, he thought – and he felt a sense of familiarity. They were the good guys.
"You're the good guys," he said out loud.
The police man smiled. "Yeah, buddy, we're the good guys."
Buddy. John called him buddy. John kept him safe. John was a good guy.
"Okay," he said with a nod, smiling at the man. He struggled to get to his feet, but everything started to fade to grey and he pitched forward. He felt strong arms catch him before he hit the ground face first. John. Safe.
Noises surrounded him, voices and beeps and soft footsteps. He moaned and turned on his side, drawing his knees up to his chest. He heard the noises change, heard someone approaching, and he was afraid that there would be more needles. He scrunched his eyes closed, because if could keep them closed, maybe he would be safe from the snakes, maybe they wouldn't be able to find him.
"Albert, can you hear me?"
"Noooooo," he wailed, wrapping an arm around his head, yanking the coverlet up under his chin, but they didn't go away, Hands were on him, touching him, trying to pull back the cover.
"Get away GET AWAY!" he screamed as he thrashed away from the hands. "Don't TOUCH ME! Leave me ALONE!" A sob escaped him as he tried to gasp for breath.
"Albert, we need you to calm down," the voice continued. "I'm going to give you a sedative to help."
"No, no, no! No more drugs!" he cried out, but he suddenly felt a warm lethargy encompass him as his limbs grew heavy and lax. "Noooo!" he mumbled one last refusal before collapsing completely into the bed. He could feel the hands on him wrapping restraints around his wrists and ankles, and he felt tears of helpless frustration welling up and spilling from his eyes.
"Run a tox screen and find out what the hell is in his system," the voice snapped out.
"Yes Dr. Amato," said one of the nurses.
He managed to roll his head to the side, glancing down to watch as the nurse drew a several vials of blood. He shifted his gaze up to the doctor. The short, black man stood at his bedside, rubbing his forehead as he looked at a chart.
"This is crazy," the doctor muttered, studying the file. "Why was he even on this much Haldol? What the hell was Friesen thinking?"
A whimper escaped him at the mention of the name, and doctor's eyes snapped up to his.
"Hey, Albert, I'm Dr. Amato," he spoke quietly, crouching down at his bedside. "I've taken over your case, and I promise I'll take good care of you. Right now, I need you to try to relax and get some rest and we'll talk when you're calm and able to, okay?"
He stared at the other man for a minute. "Na muh nmmm," he mumbled in response.
"I'm sorry, I didn't-"
"He said it's not his name," the nurse responded as she finished taking the blood sample and placed a small band-aid on his arm. "He always says that when you call him Albert. You'll get used to it."
"Okay. You just need to let me know what you would like to be called, then," he continued with a smile. "But right now, get some rest."
He didn't want to rest. He wanted to get out of here. There was something very important that he needed to do, and he wasn't safe here, but an inescapable lassitude stole over him. His eyes closed and everything went dark.
"Sir, if I could just-"
Sheppard ground his teeth, took a breath, counted back from 10 and tried again. "General. Please. Just listen to me."
"I have, colonel." Jack pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. God save him from hot headed air force colonels determined to ride hell bent for leather to the rescue. He was starting to wonder how Hammond hadn't gone completely nuts doing this job.
"The answer is still no. Let me explain to you in very small words," he said as he leaned back in his leather chair, lacing his fingers together over his stomach. "Civilians get a might peeved with the military grunts – and that would be you and me, it's not like the average civilian can tell the difference between a grunt, and jarhead or a zoomie – showing up in a civilian setting with a team of military grunts, and getting in the way. Say, interfering with a police investigation. Or visiting hospitals and going through them floor by floor looking for someone like they own the place. The civilians, they complain about that sort of thing, Sheppard. Civil liberties and all."
"With all due respect-"
"By which you mean, none at all." O'Neill voice hardened and he pinned Sheppard with look. "I know it might escape you at this very moment, but I've been on the other side of this conversation when a teammate was missing. Respect sure wasn't what I was feeling for Hammond when he told me to cool my heels."
"Then how can you ask me to stand down?" Sheppard snapped. "I'm not going to go off half cocked and cause an incident sir, I'm just asking that we stop dicking around and wasting time. I'm ready to go, just give me a plane and I'll fly to Fort Lewis and get started!"
O'Neill's mouth lifted into a wry grin. "Funny thing about this whole command shtick is that I'm not actually required to explain myself to you. But here's the thing. I like you. I'd rather you don't do something stupid. You're tired, you're distraught –ah, ah, ah!" he shook a finger at Sheppard when it looked like he was going to argue. "Don't even try. Been there, done that. You need a break. Go for a long run. Have a piece of pie. Take a nap. Skip the pie if you want, but definitely take a nap. If you don't take a break, I will assign an MP to toss you into one of the lovely visitor quarters. And if you don't sleep, I'll have Dr. Lam sedate you. Are we clear?"
"As crystal, sir."
O'Neill let out a sigh and shook his head. "The thing is, I already know your track record when it comes to following orders you think are stupid," he said. "Since this happened to have saved Atlantis as well as my life in the past, I'm inclined to grant you a little leeway when you get mouthy, but I'm telling you, Sheppard – don't be an idiot."
Sheppard froze when O'Neill's hand landed on his shoulder, giving him a firm shake. "We know he's alive, even if he sounds like a fruit loop right now. Take a breather, and get some rest. The geeks are working on any possible leads, Sheppard, it's not like everything is going to grind to a halt just because you're not here."
Sheppard knew O'Neill was right. His eyes felt gritty, his concentration was shot, and the taste of bad coffee coated his mouth. He glanced away, trying to collect his thoughts before looking back at the other man. "I just – I need to do something to try to find him, sir."
"I know," O'Neill acknowledged. He glanced around briefly, and then lowered his voice. "Sheppard, one more thing. I'd never dream of asking, and god *knows* I wouldn't listen to anything that you certainly aren't stupid enough to tell me, but it's pretty clear how important your teammate is to you. You might want to consider toning it down a little."
Sheppard blanched. "Sir, I –"
"Whatever you are about to say? Just don't," O'Neill advised breezily. "I don't know, I don't hear, I don't care. I really, really don't. You see, I care about important things. Things like pie." A dreamy little smile came to his face. "Mmmm, pie." His gaze snapped back to Sheppard, like a laser locking on target. "Now, get the hell off my base for eight hours, Sheppard. One minute less and I call Lam. She has the big needles."
Sandra grabbed Albert's chart and checked the notes from the night before. She was pleased to see he'd only had two sleep disturbances and had settled very quickly afterwards. She replaced it and walked into the day room where he sat quietly writing in his notebook.
The day he'd returned, he'd been completely incoherent, unable to perform the simplest tasks or attend to the most basic matters of personal hygiene. Whatever had happened to him when he'd disappeared had traumatized him so much he'd been in an even worse condition than when he had first been committed.
Now, though, it was like he was a different person, and he'd only been back 3 days. In many ways, he was actually in a much better state than when he'd left. He was stable on his feet, no longer requiring one-on-one supervision, and the stutter was virtually gone. The brilliant mind she'd seen hints of before was staggeringly evident; he'd had a long discussion about obscure math that was all far beyond her with one of the doctors the previous afternoon. The doctor had been forced to leave to finish his rounds, but he'd had a look of awe on his face and said he couldn't believe Albert could possibly have given up a career as a brilliant mathematician to work in a factory somewhere.
Unfortunately, the delusions were also back in full force. He was even more adamant when he talked about the space vampires, insisting that he was a scientist and was personally responsible for saving the universe on a semi weekly basis.
As she watched, Leonard came in. When he saw Albert, his face lit up in a huge smile and he darted across the room to sit beside the other man. While they both benefited from the social interaction, they also fed into each others delusions, sometimes to the point where they seemed to share a common one.
"Hey!" Leonard said, bumping his shoulder gently against him. "Hey, Albert!" He cracked a wide grin when Albert half-heartedly shoved him away.
"That's not my name," Albert said with a scowl.
"I m-missed you!"
She made her way casually toward them in case they got into a conversation that spiralled out of control, pulling them both into a bad place. She wanted to redirect them before anything like that could happen.
"Of course you did. Everyone misses me," Albert said. He crossed his arms and looked over at Leonard. "They're looking for me, you know" he said, dropping his voice. "The minions will sink the city if I'm not there to save them from their stupidity!"
"Right," Leonard nodded. "I'm g-glad you came back, Albert." He scrunched up his face. "Didn't you like the new h-hospital?"
Albert's expression grew puzzled. "I... don't remember. They said they found me walking in the street, and that I never made it to the hospital at all. But I don't remember anything."
Leonard's eyes were wide and he nodded. "I-I hoped you got back to the m-mountain. So you could t-tell them about the s-snakes," he said very seriously. "G-gotta warn them! T-tell 'em that they're gonna put snakes in our brains!"
"Moron!" he said, exasperation evident in his voice. "That's just in this galaxy! Well, except for that one time," he said with a frown.
"I bet it was the snakes," Leonard nodded sagely. "They stole you and t-took your memories. I bet they put a chip in your brain to try and make you do what they want!"
Albert stopped suddenly, looked up and stared at the wall. There was something about a chip. He had a chip once. They were supposed to find him. He just couldn't remember, and it was simply maddening to *know* that somewhere in his brain, the answers were hiding, but he couldn't find them.
He sighed. "What?"
Leonard leaned in, lowering his voice. "I, I bet you could b-build a device that would keep the aliens away. With lights that blink and flash and s-stun them or something. Like a Christmas tree!"
Albert could see wall panels full of multi-coloured crystals connected by relays and wires, and he closed his eyes. "Yeah," he agreed, unconsciously lifting his hands fingers twitching. "I'd just have to pull the control crystal and re-route the secondary systems, and tell the city what I want her to do." In his mind's eye he saw long blue-green hallways with lights flashing off and on at his command, saw the smiling man with hazel eyes and wild dark hair –
"It would make the colonel laugh," he said, dropping his hands into his lap, a sad smile on his face. "But it wouldn't keep the vampires away."
"How 'bout the snakes?"
Leonard elbowed him."At least you can m-make the lights on the tree blink. That would be p-pretty."
"Hello Leonard, hello Albert," Sandra interjected smoothly, and Albert rolled his eyes.
"Not my name," he said in a sing-song voice.
"What would you like to be called today?" she asked, then pretended to ponder the thought. "I know! How about Jimmy?"
Albert shuddered. "No," he said. "I am not a reporter for the Daily Planet. And don't think I can't tell you're trying to change the subject."
"Not at all! Please go ahead," Sandra said, smiling serenely. "I'm perfectly happy to hear you talk about blinking Christmas lights." She turned to Leonard. "I love Christmas tree lights that blink. I always have, ever since I was a little girl."
"So does my niece," Albert said, distracted by thoughts of simple circuits, oscillators, and timer chips. He grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil to start making a sketch. "It wouldn't take much. I mean, okay, you could just run it off a three-bit counter with 8 decoded outputs for a simple pattern, but to do something a little more complicated-" he added a few more lines. "I'd need get a microprocessor and write the code..."
He looked up to find Sandra and Albert staring at him. "What?"
"What does your niece like best about blinking lights, Albert?" Sandra asked, carefully casual.
"What are you talking about?" He frowned. "I don't have a niece." Even as he said it, he saw an image of a little girl with blonde curls and blue eyes. But there was also the face of another little girl, or maybe she was a big girl? Did he have two nieces?
"You s-said she liked b-blinky lights," Leonard said, wide eyed.
Albert stared at Leonard for a minute. "I think so. I don't know." His face fell. "I don't remember," he said miserably.
Leonard nodded sadly. "I bet it was the snakes."
Lewis gazed out at the bay and cursed the incompetence of overconfident, arrogant men. The project was on hold, and their time-frame was shot to hell. Who knew when they would have the opportunity to secure such a valuable resource again?
With McKay back in the hospital and no longer under the control of a Trust doctor, it was only a matter of time before he recovered his memories. He had no idea what the man might have seen or heard while Friesen was working with him, so he had to assume the worst. It was time to slash and burn.
He walked over to his computer and initiated the meltdown protocol. Garbage text began to spool across the screen as a pre-tailored virus invaded to corrupt and obliterate all data on the hard drive and the servers. Afterwards, they would all be physically destroyed.
He picked up his phone and dialed a number. The next time he would have to screen his staff more carefully. They were too close to success to let this hold them back for long. "Initiate meltdown protocol. Move phase two to the secondary backup location. Clean up any loose ends at the hospital. Destroy everything else."
Rodney sat in the corner of the stark Ancient cell and stared at the blue lines glowing in the doorway. He already knew that touching them would mean a severe shock or a burn, possibly both – he could feel the hairs on his arms standing up from the ionized atmosphere in the cell. What he didn't know was how he'd gotten here, or when, or even for how long. He didn't know who his captors were, or what they wanted. He didn't know where his team was, or what was happening to them.
They were so brave, his team. They were heroes, not like him. He was afraid, always afraid. He was afraid of everything. He tried so hard not to be a coward, he tried to live up to their standard, but he always failed, always fell short. He complained and bitched and railed, but he knew, really, that he just didn't measure up.
He was afraid of so many things, but not knowing was the worst. Not knowing left him adrift in a sea of fears that multiplied and spawned more, running rampant with all the possibilities, leaving him struggling to think, to even breathe.
He wrapped his arms around his knees and squeezed his eyes tightly shut when it felt like the walls were starting to close in. He felt his heart rate starting to skyrocket. "Blue skies, blues skies, wide open fields," he whispered, voice shaking. "John will save me."
He blinked. John will save me? He didn't even know if John was alive! But an overwhelming sense of rightness remained when he thought about it. After all, John always did save him. They saved each other. Why should this be any different?
John's face appeared on the other side of the force field. "Hey, buddy," he said with his familiar, casual drawl, but his eyes darted back and forth down the corridor before quickly checking Rodney out. "Let's get you out of here," he said as he deactivated the force field.
"John," Rodney whispered, frozen to the spot. John would save him. Was saving him.
John frowned. "You okay?" has asked. He took another quick glance around, then stepped inside the cell. Rodney nodded mutely, and John offered him a hand up. "Well, come on then, we gotta move."
John pulled Rodney to his feet and the two of them just stood there, staring at each other. Rodney reached out to touch John's face, and John's eyes fell closed as Rodney trailed his fingers down John's cheek. John's hand came up to grab his before opening his eyes again. "We've got to get out of here."
They were just on the threshold of the cell when a guard appeared. Rodney gasped, the guard goggled, and John went for the throat, knocking their captor to the floor and sending his side arm flying.
"Find us a way out of here!" John yelled as he fought with the other man.
Rodney looked down at the laptop he was holding and realized that it was up to him now. John had saved him, and it was his turn to save them both. He ran to the entrance and pried off the panel beside the door. The crystal structure was very similar to the ancient tech he was familiar with, so he started with what he knew. Within a few seconds he realized he was in trouble as unfamiliar code began scrolling down the screen.
He fought off the attack, locking down the virus before it could invade his registry files, but the alien system was a morass of dead ends and roadblocks. He desperately worked at completing the interface, but it was slow going. While the base code was Ancient and very similar to Atlantis, there were enough differences and changes that making the final breakthrough kept eluding him. He tried everything he knew, every trick he'd come up with on Atlantis, but nothing seemed to work. Then the Ancient system launched a fresh attack against him and he was scrambling to keep his laptop from being completely overwritten.
"Rodney!" John demanded from behind him. "Status?"
"Up to my neck in Ancient security measures," he snapped out, narrowly escaping the guardian program while trying another work to circumvent the safeguards that were blocking him at every turn. He attempted to tune out the grunts, curses and sounds of fists and feet impacting on flesh that came from men locked in mortal, hand-to-hand combat.
He started at the warm touch of a hand on his arm, but kept focused on his laptop, watching the code scrolling down the screen.
He sagged with relief, then glanced over his shoulder to find John standing right behind him. One of his eyes looked like it was starting to swell shut, and a trickle of blood trailing down from one nostril beside his mouth to drip off his chin, but he gave Rodney a smile. "You can do it, Rodney. I know you can."
John slid his hand across Rodney's back to squeeze his shoulder, then trailed his fingers up until they rested lightly on the back of Rodney's neck. Slowly, but inexorably, he pulled Rodney closer as he leaned forward, his slight height advantage lining them up for the kiss.
It was warm and inviting, and Rodney whimpered as he clutched his laptop for dear life. John's tongue flicked over his lips. He let them part with a sigh, a moan escaping him as the kiss grew wetter and more sensual. John captured Rodney's lower lip between his teeth, nipping at it before pulling back to look down at him.
"You've got to get out of here, Rodney. Come back. Come home."
"He woke up yelling for the colonel and calling a name," Gloria said as Sandra logged in and pulled up Albert's chart. "It sounded like 'John'. He was begging him not to leave, and the next thing we knew, he's pounding on the door, calling for him again and again." She shook her head, looking confused. "I've never seen him like that, even at his worst. We tried to calm him down, but it was like he didn't even know we were there. We gave him IM meds."
"Thanks, Gloria," Sandra said as she reviewed the notes. She smiled when she looked up. "I think this could actually be the breakthrough we've been hoping for. The colonel's finally got a name."
Weapons at the ready, John, Ronon and Barret approached the building that the NID's intelligence identified as the most likely to be a Trust base. Several NID agents were placed strategically around, watching for any sign of trouble.
The door was standing open and John gave Ronon a hand signal to go. He took point, with Barret and John falling in behind.
Ronon silently made his way through the hallway and deeper into the building. Several NID agents brought up the rear and they quickly swept through every level.
"Clear," Ronon called when he was sure it was safe, and Sheppard holstered his weapon. They'd found a room on the lowest level with medical equipment - some kind of monitors, an IV pole, and a gurney with restraints. There had obviously been a struggle - a table of medical instruments had been knocked over and there was a smashed syringe on the floor.
"McKay was here," Ronon said and Sheppard looked over to see the papers he was holding up. He clenched his jaw. That was McKay's chicken scratch alright.
Barret carefully placed the syringe in the specimen container. "I'm betting this is what they drugged him with," he said as he screwed the top on and tagged it.
"The techs are going to go through everything, see if they can get anything off the computer here. You guys might want to head to a hotel for the night, there's not much you can really do at this point."
Sheppard started to argue, but Ronon cut him off.
"Let the geeks work, Sheppard," he said. "You'll just be in the way."
Sheppard looked at Barrett. "Let me know as soon as you have something."
"You'll be the first."
"Kids!" Gloria fumed as she set down her bag.
Sandra looked up from the computer and smiled. "What did your lovely monsters do now?" she asked while thumbing through files.
"Josh and Tommy were playing with Tommy's new RC car yesterday," she explained as she hung up her coat. "They started squabbling over the control."
"Oh, no," Sandra chuckled. "Broken?"
Gloria nodded. "I'm thinking it must be," she said as she grabbed a whiteboard marker. "It tumbled down the stairs, and now it won't work. He's pretty miserable."
Gloria jotted some information on the board. "He really loved that car."
"Can it be fixed?" Sandra asked, frowning and she continued to search through her files. "Damn it, those records should be here."
Gloria looked over. "What are you looking for?"
"My notes on Leonard. They're gone. Just like the ones I had on Albert from before he was sent to the step down." She shook her heard. "There is no way I could have lost the records for both of them."
"That is really weird," Gloria agreed. "You are the uber back-up and save a duplicate copy queen." She cocked her head to one side. "Are the archived files gone too?"
"Everything's gone." Sandra made a frustrated noise and let out a puff of air in a failing effort to blow her bangs out of her eyes. "This – I don't understand. Someone had to take those files, Gloria, there's just no other explanation. And then I ask myself why someone would do that, which leads me to seriously consider some of the things Albert's been saying. And that way lies madness, because he's a mental patient who has had a severe, psychotic break."
"Maybe there was a massive power surge and our server got wiped?" Gloria speculated. Sandra just looked at her. "Okay, I know that's impossible, but... like you said, what you're considering? That way lies madness."
Sandra rubbed her forehead. "Okay. I need to think about something that is not related to missing files before I'm the one who needs anti-psychotic meds."
Gloria smirked. "Do you know anyone who can fix an RC car control?"
Sandra looked thoughtful. "You know... it's just possible that I do."
Gloria raised an eyebrow and Sandra explained. "Yesterday, Leonard asked Albert if he could make the Christmas lights blink. Well, he started going on about circuits and programming and drew some kind circuit diagram and wrote this, well, code I guess. I asked the electrician who was fixing the wiring in C wing yesterday, and he said that the drawing was some kind of oscillating circuit and the code was a program to make lights blink."
"That's kind of interesting. But what do Christmas lights have to do with the RC car control?"
"I'm pretty sure the controller has a circuit board in it – maybe he would have a suggestion."
"You want to ask a patient to fix my kid's RC car?"
"No, I - well, okay yes. What I want is to ask Albert if he can guess what might be wrong, and if he thinks it can be fixed. And Gloria – he started talking about having a niece when he was thinking about the lights. It's like he's so busy thinking about whatever is right in front of him that the memories can slip by whatever has been holding them at bay. Maybe this will spark something else."
"Okay. I'm game."
Sandra walked over to where Albert sat by the window. He was writing in his notebook, as per usual. She placed the bag with the RC car and controller on the table.
"My name's not Albert."
"Okay, then." She smiled and engaged in their game. "How about Bill?"
He cocked his head to one side and thought, then made a face. "Nope. Albert's better."
She sat down across from him, and he peered at the bag.
"What's that?" he asked.
She took out the remote control unit and put it on the table. "I was hoping you could help Gloria," she said, and started to explain what had happened. Before she even finished, he'd picked it up, examining it intently.
"Do you have a screwdriver?" he asked. He looked up into her eyes and she hesitated. Normally, that was not something she'd ever let a patient on the unit have, but she did have one in the bag. She glanced over at the nurses' station and nodded, and Gloria came over.
Albert gave her a wry grin. "I'm still too crazy to be trusted not to stab my own eyes out, huh?"
"Yeah, please don't do that," she replied and handed him the screwdriver.
He immediately set to disassembling the remote, carefully laying the pieces in order. "I see," he said almost right away. "I thought it might need to be re-soldered, but it looks like the connection is just loose."
"How did you learn so much about RC cars?" Sandra asked, tone casual and even.
"I race them with John," he said as he focused on getting a wire re-attached to the circuit board. "I souped mine up, and it goes much faster than his, but he always cheats," he continued as he grabbed the screwdriver again.
"He'll find me," Albert said as he secured the wire under the tiny screw, making sure it was snug before starting to reassemble the pieces. "It's his turn, and he never leaves anyone behind."
"It sounds like he really cares about you," she said.
He glanced around anxiously as he continued to work. "You can't tell anyone," he whispered. "It's a secret. If they find out, they'll make him go away."
Sandra digested that for a moment. If Albert was in a relationship with a man in the American military, he had a reason to be concerned. While she couldn't lie and say she'd never mention - it might be relevant at a future team meeting for some reason - but she could make one promise.
"I promise I won't tell them," she said.
He barely glanced up, but she saw the nod of thanks.
He finished with the remote and handed it to Gloria. "Good as new," he said before handing Sandra the screwdriver. She smiled and put it back in the bag.
"Thanks, Albert," Gloria said as she picked up the bag and walked back to the nurses' station.
Sandra folded her arms over her chest and cocked an eyebrow at him,
"So. Would you like to tell me a little about John, the colonel?"
His eyes grew wide. "His name is John!" His mouth curled into a lopsided smile as he nodded. "His name is John."
Sheppard and Ronon walked through the main hospital entrance and then both paused to let their eyes adjust to the dimness inside.
They'd been doing this since Rodney's phone call a week earlier. The cell signal had been lost before they could get an exact location, but they had been able to narrow it down to the Pacific Northwest, likely somewhere in the greater Portland area.
Every John Doe in every morgue - he looked at them all. Every nurses station of every hospital, every floor. Every psych unit. He flashed Rodney's picture, gave his spiel, and got the polite interest and the same speech: "No, there's no one matching that description here."
"You ready?" asked Ronon.
Sheppard eyed him critically. Ronon was completely right that, no matter what they dressed him in, he stood out. At least, when people were busy being distracted by Ronon, it usually only took a friendly smile and a bit of charm to get the information he was looking for.
He could almost hear McKay ranting: "You just can't keep from Kirking around with anything female, can you?" There would be flailing, hand waving and rolling of eyes, possibly a huff, or even a flounce.
Sheppard took a deep breath, put on his best "I come in peace" expression, and made his way to Admitting. The nurse at the desk looked up, took in both him and Ronon without batting an eyelash, and then asked, "How can I help you gentlemen?"
Sheppard flashed her a smile and held out an 8x10 photograph of Rodney. "We're looking for a friend."
It had been an eventful morning and Sandra thought that after the last few days of rain, a little bit of sunshine would be in order. The garden was in bloom and Albert looked like he could stand to get a little vitamin D.
"How do you feel about going out into the garden today?
"Oh, fabulous!" he said, ignoring her question. "Pollen and grass and bees. Are you sure you're not trying to kill me?"
"Are you allergic to anything?"
"Yes!" he tossed out the answer disdainfully, and then his face changed. "I think so."
She shook her head. "Come on, it's a lovely, sunny day."
She couldn't help rolling her eyes. "We have sunscreen on the cart. We have epi-pens at the desk. Also, we are at a hospital. All things considered, I think you're pretty safe here."
He lifted a hand to his neck as visceral memories of his throat swelling closed washed over him, and he sank to his knees, gasping for breath, remembered fear sending his heart rate skyrocketing.
She crouched down close to him. "Listen to me," she said, speaking quickly but clearly. "You're OK, you're just having a panic attack, and I know it's scary, but you have to breathe for me, okay? You can do it," she encouraged. "Take a breath. Come on, Albert, keep breathing."
His eyes fixed on hers, and for a moment he saw someone else; a concerned look on a pixie-like face, framed by blond curls. Blue eyes like his own, a scared voice saying, "Breathe, Mer, Breathe!"
"Mer," he gasped out before talking a big gasping breath and starting to wheeze, taking in big lungfuls as if he'd just run a race.
"My name," he said again when he could manage. "My name is Mer."
"Mer," she said out loud.
He was calming down. "Alright. Are you okay now, Meredith?"
He frowned. "I hate that name," he said sounding vaguely affronted.
They stared at each other for a split second before they both started laughing.
"Only you, Al – Meredith," she said, still chuckling.
"Oh, this is so not fair!" he complained as he clambered to his feet. "I finally figure out my name, and I hate it? I hate it! I've always hated that name! I don't know what my parents were thinking! At least Jeannie got a normal name."
He gestured wildly, hands actively participating in the conversation as he paced back and forth across the room. "And she's the worst! I've asked her for years not to call me Mer, but she still does! She even has Madison calling me Uncle Mer, can you believe that?"
Sandra settled back into her chair. "What did you want her to call you?"
"Rodney, of course," he said, the 'you moron' unspoken but still present. "Everyone calls me Rodney, unless they're cowering in fear and calling me Dr. McKay." He smirked, and crossed his arms. "As my minions well should, because they're a bunch of morons, let me tell you..."
He paled and stumbled a step. Sandra shot to her feet. "Meredith?"
He looked over at her. "Oh my god, didn't I just say to call me Rodney?"
"Okay, Rodney. Maybe you want to sit down?"
He nodded mutely and collapsed into a chair.
She studied him. "So, I'm thinking you look a little discombobulated."
He let out a laugh. "And I thought John was the king of the understatement." He looked around, dazed, like he was seeing the room, the other patients, everyone for the first time. "I sure as hell hope my non-disclosure agreement has a clause to cover insanity."
He took a deep breath, sat straight up and squared his shoulders.
"I need to make a phone call."
She nodded. "Okay."
John fought down another wave of frustration as he and Ronon turned to leave the hospital. He'd thought having military credentials, along with the explanation that Rodney had probably been drugged, injured and brainwashed would make a difference, but he'd thought wrong. Lam had tried to warn him before he left the SGC that he'd get nothing from the Psychiatric staff. She hadn't been kidding. It was driving him crazy.
"We should get food."
John huffed out a laugh. Trust Ronon to keep things real. "Okay, buddy," he agreed.
They were half way to the car when his cell phone rang. He checked the number as he fished out his keys. Unknown caller. He clicked the remote and then answered. "Sheppard here."
He froze, hardly daring to believe it. "Rodney?"
"Yeah, it's me."
"That McKay?" Ronon asked, and John nodded, turning away to pace as he held the phone tightly to his ear.
"Where are you, buddy?" he asked. "I'd really like to come get you."
"I'm in the Adventist Medical Centre Psych unit." There was a pause, and John heard the desperation in his voice. "John, get me out of here."
"I'm on the other side of town," he said. "But I'm heading there now. Just hold on, buddy. I'm on my way."
Rodney paced back and forth, checking the clock for the fifth time. John would come, he knew that, but he was still feeling messed up. Whatever Friesen had been pumping him full of had really worked a number on him. He was having a hard time feeling the least bit sorry he'd zatted the man.
He glanced around, but no one was looking. He let out a sigh of relief. It was really hard to tell what was in his head and what was coming out of his mouth right now. True, John accused him of having no mouth/brain filter, but this was a little ridiculous.
He whirled around to find Sandra standing there. "Nothing," he said.
"Okay." She smiled. "I just wanted to let you know that there are two men here to visit you. John Sheppard and Ronon Dex. Would you like to see them?"
He nodded mutely, eyes wide.
"I'll bring them in, then. Wait here."
He stood watching as she vanished down the hall. A few seconds later, Sheppard and Ronon came striding through the room.
"McKay!" Ronon's voice boomed out, and before Rodney could say a word, he'd been swept up off the floor in a bear hug.
"Urk!" was all he managed as Ronon almost squeezed the life out of him before setting him back down.
"Glad you're okay."
"Th-thanks," he wheezed out. "I'm glad you tagged along to keep Sheppard out of trouble."
Ronon nodded, then glanced over to where Sheppard was frozen by the door. He looked back at Rodney. "I'm going to go outside and wait for Sheppard," he said. "Don't like hospitals. You'll be home soon." With that, he gave Rodney a hearty slap and headed off down the hallway, only pausing to give John a shove.
Rodney drank in John's face as he homed in on him like a heat seeking missile, only stopping when he was inches away. John reached out a hand, and faltered.
"Rodney," he whispered, his voice thick with the emotions he'd never name.
He reached out and clasped John's hand, letting their fingers entwine, before giving in to the overwhelming need to pull him close and make sure he wasn't just another dream.
"I was so scared," Rodney said into his John's shoulder, words just bubbling up as he held for dear life. "I couldn't remember anything, not my name or where I was from, it was like the parasite again but not as bad, only worse because it went on and on and I knew something was wrong but I didn't know what."
"It's okay, buddy, it's okay," John soothed. "We'll get you out of here, I promise."
"But I knew you'd come, I always knew you wouldn't leave me here." He pulled back just long enough to look into John's eyes. "I didn't know who I was, but I knew you did, so it was okay."
There were just no words for that, so John kissed him. It was soft and sweet; it said "I love you," and "I missed you", all the words John would choke on if he tried to say them out loud.
Rodney stared out over the ocean. He'd really missed this, even though he hadn't known exactly what it was that he was missing at the time. He was just grateful that Friesen was dead and he had his life back.
"Penny for them?" John asked, handing him another beer.
"Pfft. They're worth a lot more than that," he scoffed taking the proffered can.
John took one for himself and popped the top. He took a long pull from the can and swallowed.
"Did you hear that Lam offered that nurse a position with the SGC if she agreed to sign an NDA?"
Rodney nodded. "She'd be a good fit," he said. "She managed me when I was completely insane for a few weeks, so everything else should be a cakewalk." He took a sip of his beer and continued. "I was glad that Lam had Leonard transferred to the SGC as well. He was another one of Friesen's projects. It turned out he was a scientist working on alternative energy sources out of Area 51 who vanished without a trace last year." He grimaced. "This has been going on for a long time. I was just the latest prize.
"Barret traced the whole thing back to some high level Trust member named Brandon Lewis," John said.
Rodney shook his head. The name meant nothing to him. "Everything was sanitized, of course," Rodney guessed. "Computers wiped, office gutted, no money in the accounts?"
John nodded. He stared out over the waves. "This is not supposed to happen here," he said. "Pegasus is where the crappy things happen. This is supposed to be like a sabbatical or something."
"Clearly the Trust didn't get that memo," Rodney remarked.
"Well, you can take this as notice that you are not allowed to get kidnapped again. That's it. I'm done with that."
John's tone was light, but Rodney could hear what he wasn't saying underneath the words. He slipped his hand into John's.
"Alright, then," he agreed. "I guess you're stuck with me."
"Good" John said. "I wouldn't have it any other way."