"I had things to do," Rodney McKay whined. Well, he considered it complaining manfully but in the end, really, it was whining.
"I understand perfectly, Dr. McKay," Richard Woolsey soothed. In meetings, he was always formal, addressing everyone by their titles. It had taken them a while to get him to use their first names over meals or other social encounters. "But I appreciate you all coming promptly this morning." He looked around at SGA-1... his lead team. The most likely to get into trouble but also the people you wanted with you when there was trouble.
"Come on, Rodney. You know you were just going to terrorize the minions," John Sheppard drawled. "And you had me on light-switch duty, so there's nothing all that important at the moment."
"Gentlemen!" Richard said firmly to focus their attention. He nodded at Teyla Emmagan and nodded. "And lady."
Teyla nodded back, warmly.
"I have good news and, shall we say, a request," Richard continued.
"We going home?" Ronon Dex perked up at that thought.
"Yes, indeed, we are going home," Richard said with a smile. "The IOC has decided that it is better to have Atlantis where it belongs in Pegasus rather than on Earth."
"Which really means that no one could decides who 'owns' us without giving something major to the others," Rodney translated.
"That is the consensus General O'Neill and I have come to," Richard agreed easily.
"When?" John asked. His pose was loose and easy but the tightness of his eyes told Richard that tomorrow wouldn't be soon enough.
"Six weeks," Richard said. "Everyone wants one last pint of blood from the city before we go back."
Rodney groaned. "No more visiting delegations!"
"No, no more visiting delegations," Richard promised. "But they do want some... tangible assets and dissemination of information about the ZPMs."
"That's... not a good idea," Rodney said slowly. "While we have been using the ZedPM as an energy device, it wouldn't take much to use it to power a weapon. Much as I want to go home, to Pegasus, Earth is still a pretty decent place to visit. I'd like to keep it that way."
"What are they looking for?" John asked.
"In reality? Weapons," Richard confirmed. "But I'm hoping we can leave without having to turn too much over to anyone. Which is where the request we have before us comes in."
"Who wants what?" Rodney sighed.
"Interestingly enough, the British would like to borrow you for a week," Richard said.
"Me?" Rodney squeaked.
Richard shook his head with a small grin. "Sorry, that wasn't specific enough," he replied. "They would like all of you to come to London for a week."
"All of us?" Teyla asked, eyes curious. She – and Ronon – had not escaped notice of the visiting groups, being the official 'aliens' among the Lanteans. Some of the questioning had been both personal and extremely rude. One group had only backed down when Ronon started cleaning his fingernails with a particularly sharp looking knife he pulled casually from its hidden location in his clothing.
After that, Richard kept a closer eye on visitors and left no one alone with either Ronon or Teyla. John had appreciated that, being busy defending almost every military decision he had made over the past five years.
"Yes, the request is for all four of you to travel to London for a week to consult on a matter they would not tell me or anyone else any more about. But you were all specifically named in the request." He shrugged. "In any case, I would only send you as a group, as a security precaution."
"And what do we get in return?" John asked, always wary of anything that looked too good to be true.
"The Brits will help us get Atlantis away from Earth within the six weeks and will help the SGC, umm," Woolsey cleared his throat discreetly, "manage any information that is released," he said. He added with a small grin, "Or disinformation, if you will."
"They have to be up to something!" Rodney suggested.
Richard nodded. "The Prime Minister has convinced the President that the entire thing is above-board," he said. "You are, however, requested to assist the British with their project."
"And if we find we don't like what they are asking?" John asked.
Richard gave a small shrug of one shoulder. "You can do as you please, then," he said.
"Not sure I like this," Ronon put in.
"Can we at least get the Daedalus to transport us?" Rodney asked, not quite petulantly. "I'm not flying commercial."
"I have already checked and we can get some help there," Richard agreed. "While I do not want to have you away at this point, it will also be good for you to take some personal time away from Atlantis. If you don't do it now, I know it won't happen as we get closer to launch."
John gave a small grin and kicked Rodney under the table as he was about to protest.
"When do we leave?" Teyla asked.
"Tonight, or rather, early tomorrow morning our time," Richard answered. "With the time difference, you'll be there first thing in the morning, local time."
"Guess we're going on a mission," John said. He saw Ronon perk up at that, knowing Ronon was always happier with action than talking.
"Really? You had to jinx this?" Rodney protested. "London can be fun!"
"You have been there before?" Teyla asked.
Rodney flushed. "Well, once. For a conference," he got a dreamy look on his face. "But it was fun..." He collected himself. "Okay, I didn't see much of anything but the hotel and the airport. But the food was good."
John took in the pleased look on Rodney's face but didn't push it. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what kind of memories Rodney had about London. He should be glad that Rodney had some happy memories from his past and the sudden stab of... concern puzzled him.
"What gear can we take?" John asked, being practical.
"I don't think you can take anything that's obviously a weapon," Woolsey replied. "Britain still has some strict gun laws that you need to at least try to work within. And since this is unofficial, civilian clothes will be in order."
"Would there be someplace we could stash equipment in case of an... emergency?" John said.
"We most likely can come up with some options for you," Woolsey smiled knowingly. "I'm not sure what the schedule is for the Daedalus once you've been transported, but you can take your communicators and call on them for assistance. If the ship is available, that is. But I will go back to consult with General O'Neill about what kind of options there are for tactical support."
"That will help," John allowed. John was glad that Woolsey wasn't taking this request for their assistance at face value, either.
Rodney stood up. "I have some things I need to take care of before we go anywhere," he announced. "Are we done here?"
John looked at Woolsey and raised an eyebrow to ask the same question.
"Yes," he said. "Let me know if you need anything and keep in touch."
"Will do," John promised.
"Come on then," Rodney ordered. "Chop, chop!"
"Chop, chop?" John echoed.
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Come along, we don't have much time."
"Do you need myself and Ronon?" Teyla asked.
Rodney paused to consider for a moment. "Sure, that's probably a good idea," he allowed.
Rodney used a transporter to relocate them to another section of the city and then led the way to one of his 'personal' labs. It had a handwritten sign that said Keep out! That means YOU! –MRM, PhD PhD
Rodney ushered them into the lab and shut the door behind them. Then locked it.
John wondered what Rodney was working on that made him so paranoid. But after a moment he realized it was mostly Rodney being Rodney, more than anything else.
Ronon looked around once, as much in curiosity as in an automatic security reflex whenever he was in a new location.
Bustling to one side, Rodney dug out some crates. Ronon followed him over at Rodney's wave and Rodney automatically handed him the larger one. "On the table," he gestured to the middle of the room.
Ronon placed the crate on the workbench and with a small oof!, Rodney placed a second crate there.
He opened the larger crate and rooted around a bit. He drew out a device the size of a softball and tossed it toward John, "Catch!"
John caught the device automatically and it lit up and hummed happily at him. It also became lighter weight in his hand.
"Toss it gently into the air now," Rodney directed.
John did and the device arced up slightly and then... just hung there.
"Cool!" John breathed. "What does it do?"
"It's something I've been working on since I saw one on the Destiny," Rodney preens. "They called it a kino – it's got a video system in it. It can record video as well as send images back to a base station."
"How do I..." Before he finished the statement, he realized he knew the answer. He carefully thought come to the device and it came to his hand. Another thought of off did the trick.
"That one is keyed to you now," Rodney said. "You can control it mentally." He dug into the crate again. "I have others that won't require the gene, so anyone can use them as long as they have the controller which also serves as a video screen."
"Can they be hacked into?" John asked as Rodney handed devices out to Teyla and Ronon to test.
Rodney rolled his eyes but John held his ground with a firm look. Rodney huffed. "Okay, maybe Sam or Radek can get past the encryption but it's on a Lantean frequency and I've set safeguards so they will only answer to the controllers we have." He gave a small grin. "And the ones keyed to a person with the ATA gene can't be hacked at all."
"Okay, this is definitely cool then," John said with a grin.
Rodney spent a few moments showing Ronon and Teyla how to manipulate the kinos. They took to the devices quickly and soon there were multiple devices flying around the room.
"How are they powered?" John asked.
"It's not infinite but they have batteries that should last about 100 hours on a charge," Rodney replied.
"That's a hell of a battery," John said. "I'll bet there are lots of things that could use that kind of battery life."
"Takes some pretty rare elements," Rodney frowned. "And the small size of the kino only requires small batteries. But I'm working on it."
"Could have used this... when I was Running," Ronon put in unexpectedly, looking at the device in his hands.
John doesn't quite look at Ronon, who rarely talks about his experience as a Runner. This is one of the few times he's said anything aloud to them. He saw Teyla put a hand on Ronon's arm and he gave a small nod of acknowledgement.
"What else you got there?" John asked Rodney, to give them all something else to focus on.
"Greedy, aren't you?" Rodney teased but dug into the smaller crate.
John moved around the room to look over Rodney's shoulder.
"Rodney!" John breathed.
With a huge smile, Rodney pulled out a hand weapon. He checked something and then handed it to John and said, "Point that at that wall." He pointed off to their right, to the wall opposite the door.
John did as directed.
"It's on low," he said. "You can safely shoot it."
A pink-ish beam came out and splattered against the blank wall.
"You built me a ray gun!" John crowed in obvious delight.
"A stunner, actually," Rodney was obviously pleased with himself. He handed a similar weapon to Teyla, who took it readily.
He offered one to Ronon who considered a moment before he took it. "It's smaller than mine," Ronon said. "Should be easier to hide."
"That was the idea," Rodney admitted. "Your original gun is cool but this is actually more powerful and since it's smaller, you have a better chance at concealing it on a mission."
"When were you going to share this with me?" John demanded but without heat.
Rodney grimaced. "When we needed them," he replied. "Like the kinos, they have the same power source but it's not something we can mass produce. So they're more for an emergency than anything."
"You built us ray guns!" John grinned.
Rodney grinned back. "Guess I did!"
"Anything else?" John asked.
"Now you're getting really greedy," Rodney said. "Sorry, that's it."
"It is enough," Teyla said firmly. "And greatly appreciated."
"Good job," Ronon added.
"Okay, show and tell is over," Rodney announced. "What else do we need to do?"
"Get some sleep," John said. "If we're beaming over into their morning, the jet lag is going to be a bitch if we don't get a nap before we go."
"Yes, mom," Rodney teased.
"And if you're grumpy due to lack of sleep, I'm not going to be amused," John shot back.
"Me? Grumpy?" Rodney couldn't resist a little indignation.
"You are sometimes less than pleasant when you are suffering from a lack of sleep," Teyla said, eyes dancing.
"He's always grumpy," Ronon said.
"Hey! Right here!" Rodney protested.
"See?" Ronon grinned.
"Okay, let's get a good meal and then some sleep," John said. "We'll finish packing up before we go."
"Works for me," Ronon agreed.
"There's apple pie today," Teyla put in before Rodney could bounce into another topic.
"And ice cream," John sang. There were major advantages to being on Earth, even temporarily, and stocking up on Earth food was one of them. Now that they had a date to go back to Pegasus, stocking up on the things they needed to make Earth food would be a priority. It would be a luxury item for them and there were a number of things they could use in trade. John wondered fleetingly if they could take horses or cows with them...
"All right, all right," Rodney grumbled good-naturedly. "Coming."
They went off to lunch and John made sure that Rodney at least went into his rooms although he wasn't sure Rodney would actually sleep. But keeping him out of the labs for a couple of hours would be a win.
John actually took a nap himself. The luxury of being able to sleep in a secure place that was warm and comfortable was sometimes a novelty that he tried very hard to appreciate. London probably wasn't going to be as bad as some of the missions they had been on, but there was no guarantee of safety.
After another meal, John briefed Lorne and Teldy with what little he knew, knowing they'd be perfectly fine without him for a week. He knew Rodney was doing the same with Zelenka and Kusanagi in the labs. He also started Teldy on thinking about what sorts of portable, easily repaired devices that they had not found anywhere in Pegasus that they should take back with them. Teldy had turned out to have some wicked scavenging skills, and this was the time to take advantage of that.
Lorne offered a selection of ceramic knives to John. "You should be able to get these through metal detectors, if you need to."
"Ronon?" John asked, wryly.
Teldy laughed. "Already has a set," she admitted. "It was his idea, actually."
"Came looking to see if Earth had other types of knives than what he already had," Lorne filled in. "He's been through a couple of batches of them, testing their strengths and weaknesses."
"Good enough, and thanks," John said. "I should be back in a week."
"We'll keep a light on for you," Teldy said cheerfully.
Since Rodney had a pile of equipment he wanted to take "just in case", they had decided the Daedalus would pick them up from a space outside of the lab area. That way Rodney – well, his minions really – had a shorter distance to carry anything that he was taking along. John had asked Lorne, not quite facetiously, to make sure Rodney wasn't taking a kitchen sink. Lorne added some weaponry to the pile.
Woolsey came to see them off. "Have a safe trip!" he said.
John nodded and touched his communicator. "Daedalus? Baggage ready for transfer."
The pile of equipment disappeared in a flash of light.
"Ready for your own transfer?" a voice asked over the comm.
"Ready!" John confirmed.
Another flash of light and John found himself and his team in a small room on the ship. John wasn't surprised to find Steven Caldwell there to greet them.
"Be nice to the natives, Sheppard," he grinned. "They're supposed to be on our side."
"Yes, sir!" John grinned back and gave an informal salute. "Any chance you'll be hanging around at all?"
"For a couple of days," Caldwell replied. "That's as much as I know for the moment. Nothing in the queue but you know how that is!"
"I do indeed, thanks!" John said. "Stay out of trouble while we're away."
"You take all the fun out of it," Caldwell replied easily. He looked at the tech manning the console, "I think we're ready."
"Ready?" the tech looked at John.
With a quick glance at the others, who nodded back at him, John replied, "Ready."
This time the location was familiar – in a military sort of way. A military base storeroom, could be anywhere, but the drab grey paint meant US military to John. No one else used that particular shade of grey for anything, anywhere.
An Air Force Colonel was waiting for them. "Colonel Sheppard?" he asked.
"Here," John acknowledged, knowing that without the uniform, it would be harder to identify them, although he was faintly surprised the man hadn't been supplied with their pictures. The Colonel had to have been briefed on the SGC but maybe not on Atlantis. John stepped away from the group and held out a hand.
"Jared Quinn," the man introduced himself as they shook hands. "Good to meet you."
"Good to meet you," John said. "Dr. Rodney McKay, Teyla Emmagan and Ronon Dex," he quickly introduced the others.
Quinn nodded at each introduction but John noted the close look he gave with the identifications. He definitely knew their names but had not seen any pictures.
"What things do you want to take with you?" he went on, nodding at the pile of their belongings.
"Is this a secure space?" Rodney asked.
"Yes," Quinn assured him.
"Then we can leave most of the gear with the red tags here," John decided. Anything with a red tag was their disaster emergency gear. Leaving it here may make it harder to get to in a crisis but it was also more secure. Hopefully, they'd not need any of it.
"Transfer the items with blue tags to wherever we're staying," John directed. That was their spare clothing, some tactical gear and Rodney's couldn't-go-anywhere-without equipment.
"Not a problem," Quinn assured him.
They took the items with green tags, a backpack and small duffle apiece. "We'll take these with us," John said. The Kinos and the new ray guns were in their personal luggage.
"Then if you'll come with me," Quinn said, "I'll have you on your way to your meeting."
Not knowing what Quinn actually knew about their mission, John decided to hold onto his curiosity and followed along quietly.
Quinn handed them each a bulky envelope. "These are your hotel keys, credit cards, and some spending money," he explained. "Once I drop you off at your meeting, I understand you'll have someone else taking you around. But there are cell phones with my number on speed dial and 911 on those phones will reach to my people also. Dialing 999 will get you the local civilian emergency services but don't use that unless you're desperate."
"Thanks," John answered, pocketing the phone. The others did the same although he watched Teyla turn the credit card over a couple of times with a thoughtful look.
Turned out the 'base' was actually a series of warehouses on the outskirts of the city. "Doesn't look like much, but it's secure and low profile," Quinn explained as they looked at the surroundings.
A mini-van was their transport to the meeting, with Quinn himself driving. He sped through the city and the round-abouts without hesitation. John became aware that he was glad to not be driving – this 'wrong side of the road' thing would take some getting used to.
After about half an hour of steady driving in medium traffic, they pulled up to a medium sized house on a clearly residential street. John had glimpsed the famous "Eye" in the distance but since they hadn't crossed any major bridges, he figured they were away from the center of the city.
"You have rooms at a hotel closer in to the center of the city," Quinn said as he turned off the vehicle. "Call me if you need any transportation at any point. In the city proper, you can easily take the Tube or get a taxi and there's a Tube station about half a mile in that direction." He pointed back the way they had come. "Back three blocks and then to the left."
"Thanks and good to know," John said. "Hope we don't have to call on you!"
Quinn laughed, "I hope so, too. And if you need a tour guide, let me know, I have some local lads who would be glad to show you around."
"We may take you up on that!" John said. He mentally crossed his fingers that they would get some time to simply sight-see.
"Thank you for your assistance," Teyla told him as he gave her a hand in getting out of the van.
They went to the door and it opened as they walked up.
"Colonel Sheppard! So glad to see you again!" A man of medium height, thin but lightly tanned, stood in the doorway. John remembered him from the IOC visit about six weeks ago.
Steven Bending was the British representative to the IOC, one of the newer members. Bending had stared at him and his team the entire time he was on the city. John hadn't really remembered Bending until now and should have realized that Bending was behind the request for them to be here.
"Come in," he said. "Sorry to be so mysterious about all of this but it was the only way I could think of to talk with you without you thinking I'm totally bonkers," he babbled.
The house was stark and didn't have that lived in look that it should have if anyone really lived here. The furniture was sparse and what little there was was plain and there was nothing hanging on the walls. The generic blinds were down so that no one could see in but in the middle of the day it made the house gloomy.
"It's a rental," Bending explained. "I needed someplace to work from that had privacy and this was the best I could come up with."
"Rodney?" John asked without looking over his shoulder.
"Checking!" Rodney sang back. He had his 'special' LSD in his hand, the one he had been able to modify so that it not only looked for life signs, but also for electronic signals. While Rodney checked, John knew Ronon and Teyla were looking over the physical security of the building.
"Nothing obvious," Ronon called from another room. "But a ten year old could break in without any problems."
"We're clear," Rodney added. "No bugs that I can find."
"It's not perfect," Bending said weakly.
"It is what it is," John said calmly with a small shrug. No sense offending the person who had enough... something to manipulate two governments to get them there.
"So, what are we here for?" Rodney demanded.
"Let me show you," Bending said. "In the back."
It had probably designed to be a family room, John decided. It was larger than the rooms in the front, airy and looked over the miniscule back yard.
Just about every square inch of wall space was covered with newspaper clippings, photographs and other papers.
Rodney stood in the middle and spun around slowly. He stopped to peer closely at something.
"Want to give us the short version of..." John waved a hand at the display. "Whatever this is."
Bending went in to the table in the middle and brought back a newspaper and handed it to John.
"I think this pretty much sums it up," Bending said.
Mysterious Creature Leaving a Trail of Victims in Its Wake!
The newspaper was dated 1887. The image in the center of the page was, clearly, a Wraith. Next to it was a picture of someone who looked uncannily like John.
"I... think I need to sit down," John said the first thing that came to his mind.
"Certainly, certainly," Bending said. "Here, in the kitchen. There are chairs and a table."
The kitchen was also nothing-special, with the same anonymous blinds on the windows but it had the promised table and chairs.
John sat down heavily and spread the paper out on the table.
Rodney had followed them to the next room and leaned over his shoulder to take in the headline in a instant. "Fuck me."
"Yeah," John breathed.
Bending sat at the table and pointed to the picture that's not-John. "I saw the resemblance when I visited Atlantis. That's your great-great-grandfather Jonathan Sheppard," he explained. Pointing to the other person in the picture, he looked at Rodney, "And that's your great-great-uncle Linus McKay."
Rodney fumbled for another chair and sat with a thump. "Great-great-uncle?" he asked faintly.
John tapped the paper thoughtfully. "How do you explain this?" He pointed to the article that named Ronon and Teyla.
"That, I have no explanation for," Bending admitted. "There are no records of these people actually existing at that point in time. The names are admittedly unique enough that they should be traceable. There are no records of a 'Ronon Dex' or 'Teyla Emmagan' in 1887."
"What kind of paper is, or likely was, The Atlantis Times?" Rodney asked.
Bending grimaced. "It obviously no longer exists and it only ran for a couple of years," he replied. "It specialized in stories like this, about creatures that didn't exist."
"Like The Quibbler," Ronon offered.
"Okay, you have to stop giving him books like that to read," Rodney pointed at John, conveniently forgetting that he had read all the Harry Potter books himself. Twice. At least. "You've corrupted him completely!"
Bending grinned. "Actually, that is a good analogy," he agreed. "This paper had only a small circulation and I was fortunate to get this copy when I was doing my research. The cost of five cents was ridiculously expensive at that time and that also helped drive it out of business. The major London papers were still two cents in the same time period."
"What were you researching?" Teyla asked.
"Well, we're in London, so the very obvious Jack the Ripper stories," Bending admitted with a small blush. "But I was looking at it from an 'outside of London' point of view and hoped to see if the Ripper had any victims outside the city proper."
"Jack the Ripper?" Ronon asked.
"The York Notes version of the story is that a serial killer roamed through Whitechapel, just outside of the city proper, and killed at least five and maybe as many as eleven women. The murders were pretty gruesome, even now, but the murders have never officially been solved and there's an entire industry built around the theories. But the murders happened in 1888."
"And how is your approach different?" Rodney asked.
Bending brightened. "Ah! I've taken the approach is that London is where the killer ended up, not where he started," he said.
"And where do you think he started," John wanted to know.
Bending stood and led them back to the family room toward a map on the wall. He pointed to the markers that were scattered about London.
"The red markers are the 'known' Ripper victims," Bending started. He pointed to a close together grouping near the city.
"These green markers," he pointed to a grouping or markers that were set to the north of the red markers, "are unexplained deaths but none have the Ripper's signature on them."
"And the yellow?" Rodney stepped closer to the map. The yellow markers were far fewer but interspersed with the green.
"Murders that had some elements of the Ripper's signatures but incomplete," Bending said. "Throats slashed but no mutilations. Or mutilations that were not as extensive as the Ripper's work."
"Like he was practicing," John added.
"Precisely my thought!" Bending grinned.
"What about the black markers?" Rodney asked. Again a small number but they stretched from north of London going east, toward the sea.
"Bodies that were only found as bones," Bending said soberly. "People who were known to be alive one day and nothing but dust and bones the next."
"A Wraith." Ronon exclaimed grimly.
Bending shrugged. "Now that I'm aware of your Stargate programme and know about Wraith, yes, I think so."
"But... 1887?" Rodney demanded. Then frowned, like something had come together in sudden inspiration.
"What you got?" John asked.
Rodney dug out his laptop, looked around for a place to work and went back to the kitchen. He started tapping on the keys. A small "huh" had him peering closely at the screen before going back to his typing.
"Anything else?" John asked, turning back toward the family room.
Bending nodded and pointed to the blue markers. "A slight uptick in disappearances, all very recent," he said. The pins were spread over a wide area north of London. "No bodies ever found but if you look," he pointed to the map, "the disappearances are not too far from one of the oldest Tube line but spread out over wide enough of an area to not automatically be considered the work of one man. Or one -- creature. I don't have the authority or the resources to search the Tube but it's easy to imagine the killer is using the tunnels to his advantage."
"Tube?" Teyla asked. "Colonel Quinn used that term and I'm not familiar with it."
"Subway," John replied and then realized even that might not make sense. "An underground train system. Tunnels under the ground are dug and a railway system is built inside it. There are stations – access points – at some determined intervals."
"Ah!" Teyla understood. "Yes, enclosed and dark places would make it easy for a Wraith to hide while he made his plans."
"How would it have gotten here?" Bending asked.
"Hibernation, as a guess," John offered. "We know from experience that the Wraith can hibernate for thousands of years. We ran into what had to be a ten thousand year old Wraith at one point. Put a ship on autopilot, go into hibernation, and hope for the best."
"If it landed here at the time indicated by the newspaper, I am guessing that your Earth was much less advanced than it is now," Teyla extrapolated. "It would be on a planet that would be a rich feeding ground but there would be no way to get a message back to Pegasus about it."
"And a small scouting party would not have a Queen, so even if there were more than one, there would be no way to reproduce," Ronon added.
"Good thoughts," John agreed. "Stuck on a relatively primitive planet, far from home, the Wraith would hibernate until the technology caught up to what they needed to phone home."
Even Teyla rolled her eyes at that.
"What?" John grinned. "It fits."
"We need to find what might be a hibernating Wraith and a hidden ship," Ronon pointed out. "Not easy."
They all glanced at Rodney who had been ignoring the conversation while working on his computer.
John, Teyla and Ronon all knew they were in for a wait of an unknown length. Since they weren't under an imminent crisis, Rodney could work in peace for a bit. John took pity on Bending's puzzled look, "Can we get some food? He's going to be a while." John waved a hand at Rodney.
Bending looked startled for a moment, then pulled out his cell phone. "Any preferences?"
"Pizza," Ronon put in.
"It's morning!" John protested.
"Pizza's always good," Ronon countered.
Teyla rolled her eyes. "We would be glad to have whatever is easiest," she said. "Is there any traditional fare we should have?"
Bending laughed. "Umm... not that we can get delivery for that's any good," he admitted. "True English food is pretty, umm... well, it's not that special."
"We've eaten a lot that’s not special," John added. "We'll take whatever we can get. But nothing with citrus. McKay's allergic." He considered. "Maybe some traditional English food would be appropriate for him."
"No citrus," Bending repeated. "Let me see what I can do." He dug into a kitchen drawer for a handful of what obviously were take-out menus.
"Should we get it or is it safe to have it delivered?" John asked.
Bending looked up at him. "I... I've never thought of that," he admitted. "It's always just me, so I've never given it a thought."
"How about you order and then you and Teyla can go and pick it up while Ronon and I do a basic security check in the neighborhood," John suggested.
"You'll be conspicuous if you leave the house," Bending countered. "This is mostly residential and from what little I've seen, many of the families know each other. I had a visit from the woman across the street when I first moved in who was disappointed that I would only be living here occasionally." He grimaced. "I usually pull the car into the garage and keep the blinds closed so no one usually knows I'm here at all."
"Which we messed with by getting dropped off out front," John pointed out. "Four people carrying bags don't disappear in this neighborhood. Even if we are in civilian clothes."
"I... didn't think of that," Bending replied weakly.
"Let's just get some food, before McKay passes out on us, or starts bitching, which is much more likely," John re-directed the conversation. He and Ronon would work out security as they went along at this point. There didn't seem to be an immediate concern but, with the mention of Wraith, none of them would let their guard down.
"Hey!" Rodney protested, automatically. But it wasn't enough of an interruption for him to distract him from his work.
Bending called for pizza – which one evidently could get at almost any time of day – and, with an eye on Ronon, a couple orders of curry. "Thirty minutes," he announced.
"Okay, tell me more about what you have here," John ordered, looking into the workroom.
"Most of this is boring," Bending said. "The one thing we Brits are good at is keeping records, so there are lots of newspapers available. In the past ten years, folk have put a number of them online, which makes the information easier to get at but the sheer volume of it is somewhat overwhelming."
"We have had a similar experience in Atlantis," Teyla replied. "The Ancients left extensive records but there is so much that it has been difficult to find solid, relevant information."
"McKay and his minions are always complaining about the lack of a good search engine," John added. "At least here you can Google something."
"There are still millions of hits on 'Jack the Ripper' on the internet and much of the local information suffers from the same lack of organization," Bending groused. "You'd think it would be easier, but it's not."
"How did you find all this?" John asked.
"This is actually about ten years worth of research," Bending said. "I'd been puttering with this on and off, but it wasn't until I became involved in the Stargate program that I realized that maybe you had the answer to what I was looking for."
"Give us the highlights," John requested. It would keep them busy until they could leave to get the food.
Bending went through much of the background information that he had compiled. He was well organized, a fact John appreciated, and didn't get bogged down in too much detail.
Bending looked at his watch. "Let me get the food," he said. "Shouldn't be long." He looked at Teyla. "Would you still like to come with me?"
"I would be honored," she replied. She gave John a look that reassured him that she was prepared for most any eventuality. They had learned that even the most banal errands often turned in unexpected directions.
John decided that Bending was right and that he and Ronon would draw too much attention if they walked about the neighborhood, so he found the bathroom and washed up briefly.
Ronon found some paper towels somewhere and set them on the table near Rodney, who was still oblivious to them. John figured the food would draw him out.
It was only twenty minutes later that the car pulled back into the drive and into the attached garage. Teyla came in with pizza boxes in her hands and John wanted to laugh when Rodney's head came up when the smell hit the room.
"Pizza?" he asked. John bit back a laugh at the way Rodney's head swiveled, checking for the source of the food he smelled.
"Yes, and there is no citrus," Teyla promised. "I double checked before we left the restaurant."
"Restaurant is a kind word for it," Bending laughed. "But the food's good, that's a promise."
"Smells good enough," Ronon put in.
They had brought back drinks as well as food, and there were a few minutes of minor but comfortable chaos while selecting drinks and plating food.
Rodney hummed in happiness while eating his pizza, but John could see his thoughts racing even while eating. Ronon and Teyla dug into the pizza and the curry eagerly and John watched as Ronon went back for seconds on the curry.
"Can the cooks make this?" Ronon asked.
"I don't see why not," John replied. "We'll have some better supplies to start with and some better trained people when we go back."
"Good," Ronon declared as Teyla looked on in amusement.
"Okay, how about some give in the give and take," John suggested to Bending. "I know you're on the IOC but how do you have the connections to get us here?"
Bending blushed at that. "Well, while it's not really worth much, I'm actually Lord Steven Bending and technically forty-seventh in line to the Throne." He considered. "Well, a lot further down than that once Will and Kate have their baby. And even further down the list if Harry ever marries and has babies. I have a job as a librarian for a high end barrister – lawyer in the city."
"Lord?" Teyla asked.
"English royalty," John explained and that explained a lot. The Brits were a notoriously tight group and someone in the IOA with the ear of the Queen would be able to convince the Americans to send them to England. And not a crackpot since the Brits wouldn't have risked asking this big of a favor if there weren't something to back it up, even if he was 'family'. There was something they considered legitimate in his theories.
"Why aren't there more people involved in this?" John asked. "You have an army and police force that have good reputations."
"None of them have been face-to-face with a Wraith and until the Stargate programme goes public, there aren't a lot of folk I can ask for assistance," Bending admitted. "So it's really only me." He sighed. "And until I have some more proof or concrete information, I can't make enough of a fuss to get assistance. I had enough to convince Her Majesty that I needed assistance and she believed me enough to help me get you."
John sat back, realizing that was true. The non-disclosure agreements would be difficult to negotiate and, until he had met them to put faces to the pictures in his newspaper, Bending probably was considered the 'eccentric' cousin in the family.
"Is the Daedalus still hanging around?" Rodney asked suddenly.
"Should be?" John replied. "What you got?"
"Well, London is a densely populated area, but if the information is correct, the Wraith had to be operating in a finite area where he could feed regularly but not draw too much attention to himself," Rodney started and waved at his computer. "I've re-calibrated the LSD to better distinguish between human and Wraith life signs, but since we need to cover a bigger area than I can with the hand held device, I need to Daedalus to do the scanning."
"Makes sense," John replied. He brought out his communicator. "Daedalus?" he called.
"Here," Caldwell himself answered. "What can I do for you?"
"We think we have a stray Wraith," John started and waited while Caldwell replied with, "You have got to be fucking kidding me!" under his breath.
"Yeah," John sighed. "I know. Only us."
"You sure?" Caldwell demanded, suppressing the horror in his voice.
"Pretty positive," John asked. "And probably an old one. There're records that look like the Wraith from over a hundred and thirty years ago. McKay's working on something to track him down."
"Whatever you need," Caldwell came back instantly.
"McKay!" John called. "What do you need?"
"Let me go up there and install this so we can run it as soon as possible," Rodney replied. "It's fine grained enough to tell the difference between humans and Wraith, but it'll take more than a simple sweep to find anything."
"Like pushing grains of rice through a fine mesh?" Bending asked.
"Something like that," Rodney admitted.
"How long do you need?" John asked.
Rodney looked at his computer, considering. "Probably a couple of hours to install the program and to get it to work properly," he said. "Maybe a day to do the scan across the local area."
"If you focus on the Tube line area north of the city," Bending put in, "it might not take as long."
Rodney glanced at the map on the wall. "The spread of killing over time has me worried," he admitted. "I'm suspecting we need to check all of Earth in the end."
"That will take..." John bit back. "How long?"
"Weeks, if not months," Rodney looked bleak. "But we have to start here, I think. Then maybe we'll know more about what we're looking for."
Bending looked suddenly wan, and John noticed everyone else look grim. They weren't going to give up with a fight.
"You two okay here?" John looked at Ronon and Teyla.
"We will be fine," Ronon assured him.
"Yes, go," Teyla urged. "We will be of no use on the Daedalus, and we can look further at what Steven has collected."
Reassured that the rest of his team would be safe for the moment, John tapped his communicator. "Two to beam up," John told Caldwell.
"I hate when you say that," Rodney grumbled with a small grin. Teasing Rodney with the Star Trek reference never got old. Heck, beaming up never got old.
With a flash of white light, he and Rodney were back on the Daedalus.
"Whatever you need," Caldwell said by way greeting. Even one Wraith on Earth was one too many.
"Access to your computers," Rodney said immediately and rushed off, knowing where he needed to be.
"I need a secure channel to talk to General O'Neill," John said. "I suspect he'll want to know about this sooner rather than later."
"I suspect you're right on that one," Caldwell said. "Mind if I join you?"
"No, I need to bring you up to speed on this since McKay's manhandling your computers," John answered. It was nice to have at least some moral support at this point. "I suspect we'll need some help in the end, and it'll be useful to have some backup."
O'Neill was in a meeting of some sort and wouldn't be available for another half an hour. John knew that after a hundred and thirty years, another half an hour would be do-able. Rodney also needed the time to get his program working.
Soon enough, O'Neill called. He looked suspiciously at John and Caldwell from the view screen. "Sheppard! What do you need?" O'Neill had a worried tone to his voice. He knew John wouldn't have called if it weren't important.
"Well, there's good news and bad news, sir," John replied.
"There always is with you people," O'Neill grumbled. "Get on with it."
"Well, the bad news is that we think we have evidence of a Wraith here on Earth," John said grimly.
"What the fuck?" O'Neill swore.
"Pretty much my reaction," Caldwell added, wryly.
"The good news," John continued, "is that McKay thinks we can find him."
"What do you need?" O'Neill demanded.
"The Daedalus will do the scanning for us," John said. "And we'll be able to tell you more when we have some idea of what we're dealing with. If it's really just one, I suspect everyone will be happier if there's a finite number of people involved in this."
O'Neill tilted his head slightly in consideration. "I need an update the minute McKay finds anything," he said. "No going off on your own."
"We're probably in the best position to handle one Wraith," John replied. "And Colonel Caldwell has some folk we can borrow if we need."
"I'm still getting some backup lined up," O'Neill said. "We'll worry about PR after we deal with this fucker."
"And I'd like to make sure the Daedalus doesn't go anywhere," John continued and Caldwell nodded. "That will help with any cleanup that may be needed."
"That I can go along with," O'Neill agreed. "What else?"
"We brought some of our own things," John admitted. "I'll have that transported to our location while McKay does his thing."
"Do you need any local help?" O'Neill asked.
"You can keep Colonel Quinn and whatever resources he has on alert," John decided. That would go a long way to keep the local folk in the loop. "We'll work with Bending as our liaison with the Brits, unless there's someone else we need to include?"
"No, the fewer people that know about this, the better," O'Neill allowed. "Bending will know who to contact to let them know there may be a... situation."
More like everything going FUBAR, John thought to himself but kept that quiet. "I'll let him know to contact his people."
"What kind of a timeline are we looking at?" O'Neill asked.
"McKay says scanning the local area will take at least a day, or more likely at least two," John replied. "He says it's a closer scan, so it'll take longer to process." He hesitated, then went on. "Once the local area has been scanned, we're recommending that we scan the planet. That's going to take considerably longer. Months, probably. Less time if we can use more resources. That'll be up to the geeks."
"Okay," O'Neill winced then sighed. "It is what it is. Keep me in the loop."
"Yes, sir," John promised. It was nice going into a situation like this to have some resources he could count on. He loved his team, but sometimes having more firepower and more people just made the job easier.
They signed off and Caldwell asked, "Now what?" he asked.
"How about we move Bending's operations to someplace else?" John asked. "He's in a residential area and that's not conducive to keeping anything quiet."
"Got anyplace in mind?" Caldwell asked.
"Let's check with Quinn," John suggested. "He may have space where he's stationed that we can use. We really only need one room for Bending's materials but I'd like to be closer to our tactical equipment if we can."
"I'll talk to Quinn," Caldwell agreed. "You can get your people packed up and I'll move them wherever they need to be."
"Let me talk to McKay and let him know what's going on," John said.
John found McKay hip deep in scientists, casually berating the others while his fingers typed a mile a minute. He waited for Rodney to notice him before he spoke.
"We're going to re-locate Bending's research out of that neighborhood," John said. "Probably back to wherever we met Quinn. Caldwell's clearing that for us. I'm going to help him pack up and then Caldwell will beam us there."
"No problem," Rodney said. "I have at least another couple of hours of work here before we can start the test scans."
John noticed the mug next to Rodney. "Well, I see you're properly supplied with coffee, but I should be back before you're done so I can make sure you eat."
"Not a two year old," Rodney groused.
"Yeah, also saving the world again," John grinned. "You get busy and forget."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Okay, okay," he said. "Go and do your thing. I'll be fine here."
"Don't break anything," John admonished. "These guys are on our side."
"Right." Rodney had already turned his attention back to the work he was doing.
Knowing Rodney was as safe as he was going to be for the moment, John went back to what he called the Transporter Room and said, "One to beam down!"
The major on duty grinned and handed him a packet. "You'll need these to move your materials," he said.
"Thanks," John took it gratefully.
John beamed back down to the living room. He saw Bending give a small start but Teyla and Ronon waved a greeting.
"Okay, we're going to pack this up and move to a more... discreet location," John announced. "You have too many nosey neighbors, and I don't want to get civilians mixed up in this."
"Where are we going?" Bending asked, looking around somewhat frantically.
"Colonel Caldwell's asking Colonel Quinn if he has space for us at his base," John replied. "If we actually locate the Wraith, we need to be able to move out quickly, and this location is too open for what we need to do."
"What can we do to help?" Teyla asked.
"You and Bending determine what needs to come with us and what can stay," John directed. "If you need help, we can get someone down here from the Daedalus to give us a hand."
"I think Teyla and I can manage," Bending replied. "A lot of this isn't useful and I'm assuming we can come back and get anything we find we've left?"
"True," John agreed. "Rodney's still working on the program to do the scanning, so we aren't in a desperate hurry. Figure you have about an hour to decide what you need and pack it up."
"That'll be easy," Bending gave a sigh of relief. "We should definitely take the maps and some of the pictures that are over there." He pointed to one wall that was covered with some pretty gruesome printouts. "Anything else is a bonus."
"Tell me what you need," Teyla moved toward the wall.
Leaving Teyla to help Bending, John went into the kitchen. "Any leftovers?" he asked.
"Couple slices of pizza," Ronon said.
"We'll get some more food when we've moved from here," John said, digging into a box for a slice. "And we'll probably need someplace to sleep since we don't know how long the scanning will take." John tapped his communicator.
When the major on the Daedalus answered, John said, "Ask if there'll be someplace we can get some sleep after we move? We're okay for now but if this takes as long as Dr. McKay has predicted, we'll need some sleep."
"I'll pass the message on," the major promised.
"We should be about an hour," John informed him. "I'll call back when we're ready."
Teyla was good at getting Bending to defend his decisions to take certain materials with them. Her experience with moving to new locations on short notice had made her something of an expert in knowing what was important and what to leave behind. It didn't mean she liked to make those types of decisions, but her obvious concern coupled with a firm look helped move things along.
Deciding to take the maps was easy, everything else was hard. In the end, they packed up about half of everything Bending had collected rather than leave it behind.
"Got everything?" John asked as he watched both Bending and Teyla circle the room without picking up anything else.
"I think so," Bending replied, fretting but trying not to show it.
John put transmitters on the stack of material they had prepared and handed one to Bending. "Put this in a pocket or some place you aren't going to lose it."
Bending looked at the tiny device and dropped it in his shirt pocket.
"Daedalus?" John called.
"Here!" A female voice this time, one John didn't recognize.
"One stack of cargo with five transmitters and four people," John informed her.
"Got it," she replied. "Let me move your cargo first."
"Understood," John said. The stack of material flashed white and disappeared.
In another minute, she came back. "Ready?"
"Ready," John confirmed.
A brief flash and they were on the Daedalus. "Transferring you to your new location," she informed them.
"Good to go," John agreed.
They were transported back to the military-gray room they had been in originally. Their stack of materials from their initial transport was still off to one side of the room. Quinn and Caldwell were waiting for them.
"Figured you could use some help," Caldwell shrugged when John looked at him questioningly. "Your operation, according to O'Neill."
That was interesting. There had to have been some kind of pissing contest while they were packing Bending up, and O'Neill had simply put John in charge. Oh, well. He was used to being in the middle.
"How about we get Lord Bending's materials organized," John suggested. "He and Teyla could use someplace they can post things on a vertical surface and some flat space for other materials." He looked at Teyla, and she flashed a discrete two fingers at him. "Two helpers, I think, analysts if you have them. Any more people than that will be too confusing."
Bending looked so relieved at the decision to limit the number of folk who handled his material that he overlooked John's use of his title. He had used it to alert Quinn that Bending was to be treated seriously.
"Certainly," Quinn agreed, eager to be helpful.
What the fuck did O'Neill tell these guys? John wondered. Oh, well, no telling, and he might as well take advantage of it.
"Okay, a couple more hours of work and then some down time," John announced. "We've been up long enough and while we've had food, we need to plan to get some sleep before McKay's scanning completes its work."
"We'll lay on some food and arrange for sleeping facilities," Quinn agreed. "Won't be as nice as that hotel we had arranged but should be comfortable enough."
"Anything not in a tent and/or on the ground will be a vast improvement over most places we've been on a mission," John accepted. "Thanks." He hesitated, then asked, "Can we get those bags you took to the hotel back? There will be things we can use in them."
Quinn replied, "Sure, I'll get that taken care of."
John looked at Caldwell. "McKay should let us know when he's done," he said. "If he's not finished in a couple more hours, I'd like to go back up there and check on him."
"That's doable," Caldwell agreed.
"Let's let them do their thing," John nodded at Bending and Teyla. Ronon would keep an eye on them without getting in the way. "We can go talk about what options we have once McKay finds our Wraith for us."
An hour and a half later, John rubbed his forehead with two fingers. He was getting a headache from the 'discussion' between Quinn and Caldwell.
They first had to brief Quinn on Atlantis and what a Wraith was. Turned out Quinn had been on a SGC team for a couple of years and knew something about what was 'out there,' but the Wraith were new to him.
"Enough!" John declared, making them both look at him.
"If we find a single Wraith life sign, it doesn't mean we won't find more in another location or at a later time," John pointed out. "I don't even know if McKay's program will find him if he's hibernating. But if he's not, he's had a hundred years to scope out the territory and lay traps. Underestimating him will get someone killed, and I don't want it to be me."
"I do understand that," Quinn protested. "What I don't understand is your insistence on taking Dr. McKay along with you."
That kind of attitude told John why Quinn was no longer with the SGC. Everyone knew that the geeks saved the day equally as often as the grunts. If you didn't trust 'your' geek, you were usually dead. Or out of the SGC where you couldn't kill anyone else with that attitude.
Unexpectedly, Caldwell backed John up. "If there are traps or Wraith equipment, McKay's the one you need."
Quinn plainly didn't believe them but was outnumbered and knew when to back down. "I have a Special Ops team you can take, at least," he said.
"That I will take," John said. "Are they cleared for this?"
"Not yet," Quinn replied. "But I'll get that done next."
It always amazed John that some idiot hadn't already outed the SGC to the public. Between the WikiLeaks web site and everything else that was supposedly 'confidential' appearing on the front page of some newspaper, the fact that the Stargate existed and that there were people living on other planets was still a secret was somewhat amazing.
"Okay, we all need some more food," John declared, "and I need to check on McKay to see how it's going. If one of you would make sure Ronon, Teyla, and Bending have some food, I'll eat on the Daedalus, since I know McKay won't be ready to leave yet."
"I'll take care of that," Caldwell replied. "I'm interested in seeing what started all of this, anyway."
Knowing that there was no way of preventing anyone from seeing the pictures of his great-great grandfather, John had to give in to the inevitable. Besides, he had a geek to wrangle.
"Daedalus," John called. "One to beam up."
"Yes, sir," the female voice came back.
John was on the ship momentarily. Transporting between places was actually a routine occurrence on Atlantis, so this wasn't anything out of the ordinary. It just seemed cooler because of the flash of light.
"Dr. McKay where I left him?" John asked, not wanting to have to hunt through the ship for the other man.
"I think they're actually in the mess," she told him.
"Good," John replied. "And, thanks!"
John went off to the mess to find Rodney sitting with the same group of scientists he had been working with earlier. The noise level dropped as John came into the room.
"See?" Rodney grinned at John. "I can too take care of myself!"
"I had no doubts," John agreed. "Came to see what's for dinner."
"Meatloaf," Rodney said. "And mashed potatoes."
"Good enough," John said. He went to the miniscule serving area, got a tray and helped himself to the meal. He got an extra dessert without thinking about it and only realized what he had done when he saw Rodney's eyes light up.
"Here," John pushed the dessert at him. "Got you one."
"He's already had two," one of the others ratted Rodney out.
"I've been working hard!" Rodney protested as he took John's extra dessert without embarrassment. "Besides, making sure I get my share of chocolate cake before we leave Earth."
John shook his head. "I don't know, Rodney," he said, nudging Rodney gently. "If you've really had three pieces of cake, I'm going to have to make you run that off. Can't have you lagging behind on missions."
"You really go on missions?" one of the scientists asked. John wasn't sure if that was awe or horror in the man's voice.
"Sure," Rodney shrugged. "You only see some of the best stuff first hand."
"Isn't that like... dangerous?" That really was horror in the voice this time.
Another shrug. "Like working in a space ship that gets shot at regularly isn't dangerous?" He waved a hand. "And you've been boarded by hostile aliens. This isn't always a picnic."
"I guess I never thought about it that way," the other man admitted.
"So, how's it going?" John asked.
"Good, actually," Rodney replied, eating the piece of cake John brought. "We started it scanning half an hour ago, and we rigged an alarm to it if it finds something while we're here. But we left Donaldson on watch."
"And you promised to leave her a piece of cake," someone reminded Rodney as he eyed the piece of cake still on John's tray.
"Oh, all right," Rodney gave in. He turned back to look at John. "The scan is fractionally faster than I originally anticipated but not enough to cut the time down by that much. So we're still looking at up to a couple of days to scan the London area."
"What about Bending's targeted area?" John asked.
"We've given that priority and we should be able to scan that in the first twenty-four hours," Rodney replied.
"Anything else you need?" John asked.
"Not at this point," Rodney answered.
"You want to wait here or come downstairs with me?" John asked.
"I'll come with you," Rodney said. "These guys are capable of watching a screen. And I can watch from the planet as well as I can from here, now that it's running."
"Anything you need to get?" John asked, finishing up his dinner.
"My laptop," Rodney said immediately.
"Sure," John said, expecting Rodney to want at least that much.
They bussed their trays and went back to the lab to get Rodney's laptop. The major on duty transported them back to the base.
"Okay, some sleep, I think," John suggested. "It would be nice to be rested when we tackle taking him down."
"Think there's only one?" Rodney asked.
John shrugged. "Not going to assume there's only one but the evidence really suggests there's only one active Wraith. If there were more running around, I think we'd have more bodies."
"Makes sense," Rodney agreed. The captain on duty outside the room took them to where Teyla and Bending were working.
Bending was going over his work with Quinn and Caldwell when they walked into the room.
"Find anything yet?" Bending asked.
"Too early," Rodney waved him off. "It'll be a few hours before the program scans the target area. And if we don't find anything there, then it'll be a couple of days while it scans greater London."
"I'm suggesting we get some sleep," John said to the group. "Between the time zones and the transporting up to the Daedalus and back, I have no idea what time it is, much less what day."
"Getting soft," Ronon grunted.
Teyla only grinned at them.
"I could use a shower, at least," Rodney put in.
"We have facilities ready for you," Quinn offered. "It's pretty bare bones, but you should get some rest. And we've retrieved your other bags and have them for you."
"Show us the way," John directed.
Quinn led to a building that was obviously base quarters. On the second floor, he pointed to rooms along the one side. "There are three rooms," he said. "They're all the same. Your bags are in the first one."
"McKay and I will take the last one, Teyla in the middle room," he directed. He turned to Bending, "Mind sharing with Ronon?"
"Not at all," Bending assured him. He looked down at his clothing. "Didn't plan on spending the night, is all."
"There are towels and toiletries in the bathrooms," Quinn said. "I'll roust out a change of clothes for you. We don't want to have you wandering anywhere until we have this resolved. No offense."
"Good enough," Bending said. "Thanks."
"Rodney's computer will alert us if it finds anything," John said. "We'll go from there."
"I'll put the Special Ops team on alert," Quinn answered. "They'll be in rooms downstairs. Let me know when you get an alarm and I'll have them ready to go with you in 15 minutes."
"That should be fine," John said. He looked around at the others. "Anything else?"
"We will be fine," Teyla assured him. Ronon went into the first room and handed out the bags that the others might want. John knew he'd want to change into BDUs when they went out in the field.
"Okay, then, get some rest," John directed. He followed Rodney into the small room. Seeing bunk beds, he immediately volunteered, "I'll take the top."
"I should hope so," Rodney said, absent-mindedly. He was setting his laptop up, placing it on the seat of the chair that went with the miniscule desk and setting it next to the bunk.
"Take that shower," John directed. "But tell me what I should be looking at."
"Oh, you'll know," Rodney replied. "It's really just an alarm. It'll make enough noise to let you know when it has something suspicious. The real telemetry will come down from the Daedalus when it has something."
"Okay, loud noise," John grinned. "I think I can handle that while you take a shower."
Rodney rooted through his bag, grabbing clean shorts and t-shirt. "I'll be quick," he announced.
"No problem," John assured him.
John took off his shoes, glad to have his boots for whatever the operation would be. No telling what they'd have to go through, and having his good, broken in boots would make it easier. He boosted himself into the top bunk and lay back.
Rodney was back shortly, using a towel to dry his hair but ready to sleep in his t-shirt and shorts. "All yours," he announced.
"I should move," John said, sleepily. "Don't wanna." Damn, now he had to piss. He swung up and jumped lightly to the floor.
Deciding he really did want to sleep, he pissed and washed up roughly, shedding his civilian clothes. He rooted through his bag for his BDUs, assuming he wouldn't have much time to get dressed when Rodney's alarm went off. He noticed Rodney had stacked BDUs on top of the desk for himself, evidently with the same idea.
John looked at the sleeping man in the lower bunk. Rodney had one hand stretched out toward the computer on the chair and used the pillow to try to prop up his head. But he was already sound asleep, even in the few minutes John had been in the bathroom.
The strident beeping sound woke John up. He leaned over the edge of the bunk. "That it?" he asked.
Rodney was already working at the keyboard. "85% confirmation," he said. He looked up at John, "Worth checking out."
John tapped the communicator that he had worn to bed. "Ronon? Teyla? Time to get moving. Ten minutes."
"Yes, John," Teyla replied. Ronon grunted.
"Daedalus?" John called the ship. "I'm assuming you have the same information we have. Let Colonel Quinn and Colonel Caldwell we'll be ready to move shortly."
"Got it and I'll pass on your message," John heard the voice of the major from yesterday.
John exchanged places with Rodney in the bathroom, glad for a chance to at least piss before he went anywhere. Back in the room, he dug in his bag and tossed Rodney a power bar.
"Peanut butter and chocolate?" Rodney grinned. "Thanks."
"Pretty sure the next meal will be a bit," John shrugged.
Bending followed them down to the first floor where they met up with the Special Ops team.
"You stay here," John directed.
He held his hands up. "Not going anywhere," he agreed.
"Good," John replied. He turned to the Special Ops team. Damn, he should have taken ten minutes yesterday to meet with these guys. He had to hope for the best. "Let us take the lead and follow my orders. You have transponders?"
"Yes, sir," the major who must be the leader said. "I'm Major Murray, and I'll take care of these guys."
"Good enough," John agreed. He tapped his communicator. "Daedalus?"
"Target is stationary. It has not moved since it was acquired," the Daedalus reported back.
"Can you move us close but not on top of him?" John asked.
"Not a problem," he was assured. "Picked out a nice back alley where no one should see you beam in."
"Ready," John called.
They materialized as a group in a dark alley. Rodney had his hand held LSD out.
"About a hundred yards in that direction," Rodney pointed. "Use your kino."
John reached into a pocket, thought on and tossed the unit into the air. Forward John thought, glad that it understood intent and didn't need more precise direction.
"Getting this?" John murmured to the Daedalus. He looked at the image in the small viewer in his hand.
"Very nice," was the reply.
"Ronon, take point," John directed. He looked at Teyla. "Anything?"
Teyla was frowning. "Faint... And, one I think. He's not hibernating but he's not close."
"Rodney?" John asked.
Rodney fiddled with the unit in his hand. "This isn't three dimensional enough," he admitted. "I'm going back to the Tube idea and he's probably underground."
"Okay," John replied. "Murray?"
"Is there a Tube entrance here close by?" John asked.
Murray looked around and said, "About a two blocks in that direction." He pointed away from where the signal was.
"Always the way," John said. He thought come to the kino, which readily came back to him, and he put it back into his pocket. "Lead the way."
They moved quickly to the Tube entrance which was closed at this time of night. One of Murray's men broke the lock on the gate, and they all moved into the station.
"That way," Rodney pointed down the tunnel.
John let the kino loose again, letting it range ahead of them. They moved cautiously down the tunnel, when Rodney said suddenly, "That way!" He pointed to the left, toward the wall of the tunnel.
"Fuck," John said. "Are there parallel tunnels here?"
Murray shrugged. "Not sure," he admitted. He scanned down the tunnel further. "Maintenance door down just a bit, let's try that."
Murray's man got them through that door by picking the lock. John hadn't wanted to use any explosives in case it alerted the Wraith.
The door led to a maze of corridors. The kino helped check out some of the dead ends more quickly.
"Daedalus?" John asked at one point. "Is our quarry still stationary?"
"Yes, sir," the reply came back. "Still has not moved."
"We are closer," Teyla added.
The kino actually saw the stairwell that went down, they would have missed it. Its ability to move at ceiling level let it see over a stack of material that looked solid from where they stood.
Ronon crept down the narrow stairs first. John followed but let Murray and his guys follow him with Rodney and Teyla bringing up the rear.
The bottom treads of the stairs were wooden and led to an earthen tunnel. The kino again ranged ahead, and the sudden blast of light that was a shot taken at the device alerted them that they had found their quarry. They ran down the tunnel toward the source, a weak beam of a Wraith stunner shot over their heads.
Reluctant to not outright kill the Wraith, Ronon used his new stunner. It took only two shots before the Wraith crumpled to the ground.
John quickly slapped a transponder on the body and moved away.
"Daedalus! Wraith prisoner to transport to secure holding!" John called.
The body disappeared in a flash.
Rodney and Teyla came up behind them.
"He is gone," Teyla said. "I do not sense any others."
"That's good," John replied. "Spread out and check the area out. Stay in pairs."
The tunnel system was primitive and much smaller than John had expected. The Wraith had to have gotten complacent, or it didn't have enough resources to do much else, even over time.
"Okay, let's wrap it up and go home," John said. "Murray, how about you and your guys stay until we get another couple of teams in here to make sure we haven't missed anything."
"Good enough," Murray said.
"Anything we need from here?" John asked.
"Not that I can think of," Rodney said. "There's no special technology here. His ship must be somewhere else."
"Can we trace that?" John asked.
Rodney shrugged. "If it's dormant, maybe not," he admitted. "But now that we have the Wraith, I can work on that as a separate project."
"Good enough," John said. "Let's go back to the base and do a debriefing."
They climbed back to the surface and found a quiet corner to have the Daedalus take them back to the base. While they could have beamed up from the tunnel, it was easier for the ship to bring up a group from a larger, or more open, area.
"Good job!" Quinn said when they arrived at the base.
"Left your guys behind to do cleanup," John said.
"Fair enough," Quinn agreed.
"You'll need a couple more teams to check out the tunnels we found to make sure we didn't miss anything," John pointed out. "McKay doesn't think there's any tech there, but be careful. Something that looks innocent can get people killed. We'll get someone down here asap to brief you on what to look for."
"Understood," Quinn said. "Anything else?"
"Once we talk to the Wraith, we'll come back and talk to Bending," John decided. "We don't have enough information to know if this is what we were looking for."
"I think he'll appreciate that," Quinn replied.
John looked at Teyla, "You up for this?"
"I am," she replied calmly.
"Daedalus, four to beam up," John announced.
Once on the ship, Caldwell came in to greet them. "Good job!" he said. "Our prisoner is still unconscious, and I've sent O'Neill a message that we've captured the Wraith."
"We still have to keep checking," John pointed out.
"And we should find his ship," Rodney added. "If it still exists, it will probably tell us more than he will."
"Any idea how we do that?" Caldwell asked.
"I'll create a variation of the scan so it checks for Wraith technology," Rodney said. "Since their ships have an organic base, it won't be hard to adjust the scanning program to include that."
"That's good news," Caldwell replied.
"We'd like to check the prisoner," John asked. He nodded at Teyla. "We're hoping Teyla can get some information from him."
"Sure," Caldwell said easily. He led the way to the secure holding room. He stood in the corridor to allow the team to crowd into the miniscule space in front of the cell.
John stood next to Teyla when she closed her eyes, trying to read the mind of the Wraith in the cell. Ronon moved to stand in back of her, in case she needed physical support.
"He is very old," Teyla reported. "His mind is both strong and weak. His age should provide strength, but he has limited his feeding which has weakened him physically." She paused for a couple of minutes and frowned.
Everyone was silent, giving Teyla the time she needed to investigate the Wraith. After about ten minutes, she sighed and opened her eyes. She staggered slightly and Ronon put a hand under one elbow to steady her.
"I am almost certain he was alone," Teyla reported. "There is a certain... loneliness in his mind." She looked at Rodney. "His ship was closer to the sea and was badly damaged. He scavenged parts from it to work in the tunnels, but he does not have the skill to re-energize his weapons."
"Good work," John said. "Thank you."
"That's the best thing I've heard since we started this mess," Rodney said.
"Amen!" Caldwell echoed.
"Yesterday," Ronon put in.
"What!" Rodney yelped. "Wait. It really was only yesterday. Hey! That's good. We can still get some vacation time in."
John looked at the painting he had hung on the wall in his 'den.' Before Atlantis had left Earth, John had received a large-ish crate from his brother Dave.
He had called, asking pretty much what the fuck?
Dave said, "Hello to you, too!"
"Hey, sorry!" John replied. "How are you doing?"
"Not bad, you?" Dave asked.
"Fine, thanks. Now, what is this crate all about?" John asked.
"The family law firm had it," Dave explained. "Somehow, it belongs to you but since you really don't have a good address and anything they have for you gets re-directed to me anyway, they sent it here. So I then sent it to you."
"Thanks. I think," John drawled.
"Talked to one of the lawyers and he was asking me questions," Dave confessed. "Turns out it was in some lockbox for over a hundred years and no one knows what's in the crate. I've been told there was a set of pretty detailed instructions left, describing the person the crate was to be delivered to. Evidently, you fit the description and not me."
"Over a hundred years?" John asked, suddenly suspicious.
"That's what I was told," Dave confirmed.
John looked at the crate that took up serious space in his room as he talked on the cell phone. "Umm... do you think it's safe?"
Dave laughed. "Your guess is as good as mine," he said. "But if you do open it, I'd love to know what's in there."
"I'm... gonna wait," John said. "Things are crazy right now, and I suspect that it's not something I want to rush into."
"Fair enough," Dave allowed. "But do let me know. And... keep in touch this time?"
"Okay, I can do that," John agreed.
When John had moved to new, larger space, the crate had come along with everything else. Rodney had looked at it curiously when John recounted the conversation with Dave but, interestingly enough, didn't push John to open it. John moved around the crate for a couple more weeks before he gave in and opened it up.
What John found was a painting, swaddled in yellowed linen as packing material and a small handful of diaries.
The painting was of Rodney's great uncle Linus. There was a note card with his name and the date July 1881. Well before the article they had seen in the newspaper. A much younger Linus than the one in the newspaper picture.
Why John's family lawyers had a picture of someone from Rodney's family, John didn't know. Not at first.
Not sure why he did it, he hung the picture in the room he used as an office/den. It had a desk and a balcony but was protected from the sun by a balcony above. John knew enough about oil paintings that he should keep it out of the sun. Since he and Rodney usually hung out in Rodney's apartment, Rodney hadn't seen it yet.
John waded through the diaries. The cramped handwriting and the frequent use of something that looked like the letter "f" for the letter "s" made it slow going. But he made a concerted effort to keep at it.
It took another couple of months, what with missions, daily work and hanging out with Rodney in what little there was of his spare time before he found what he was looking for.
Despite my wishes to do otherwise, Linus and I have determined that we must part. He has been my friend and my lover for neigh unto ten years and yet it has fallen to me to continue the family name. With the death of my brother Sebastian, there is no one else to sire children. Father has forbidden adoption and threatens to have Linus sent to prison for what he calls our sins.
I have given Linus the funds to emigrate to the North American Dominion. Father has turned a blind eye to that, knowing it is the only way we will be parted. One of us must leave England and with Father's fragile health it falls to Linus to leave. He leaves next week.
The next – and last – entry in the diary is dated two months later.
I had persuaded Linus to leave me a painting of himself, and I gifted him with one of myself. Seeing the image of my love has become too painful and I can only hope that one of my descendants has the great fortune to meet up with one of Linus' descendants.
If you have the fortune to have someone like my Linus in your life, do not make the mistake I have made. Do not let him or her go.
It took John another week to gather up his courage.
"Well, took you long enough to invite me over," Rodney complained. "Not that I mind but it's like you don't want me to visit you."
"You have all the cool toys at your place," John countered.
"Well, there is that," Rodney allowed. "So what's so special about now?"
"Before we left Earth, I got something from... the family lawyers. Something that took me a bit to get my head around," John explained.
"O—kay..." Rodney replied.
"Come here," John directed Rodney to the den.
Rodney stopped when he saw the picture. "That's... wait! Is that Linus?" Rodney asked softly.
"Yeah," John replied.
"How... Why do you have that?" Rodney said.
"Umm... here," John said. He handed Rodney the diary, open to the last entries.
John couldn't watch. He moved back to the main room and sat on the couch, waiting.
It took a while before Rodney came in and sat next to John. Near enough that John could feel the heat from his body.
"So, Linus and Jonathan?" Rodney asked.
"It... makes a lot of sense," John hazarded.
"It does," Rodney replied calmly.
"What now?" John asked.
"Well, I suspect we can either carry on as we have..." Rodney started.
"Or?" John asked softly, beating down the hope that clawed its way into his heart.
"Or we can see where it goes," Rodney went on. He reached out, took John's hand and twined their fingers together.