- Science Fiction
John put a steadying hand on his son’s shoulder, and Sebastian pressed a little closer. He couldn’t tell if the kid was trembling with excitement or nerves. The gate bridge was complete, and the first transfer from Earth was underway. Twelve X-302s had already come through the gate and had been lifted into the upper part of the Jumper Bay. They’d watched that process from one of the balconies. Avery gave a little cheerful noot as the first person came through the gate. John knew his name was Richard Woolsey but only because Elizabeth had passed around a biography to the entire city so they’d know the man on sight.
His brother, Matt, came through second and Sebastian pressed against him a little harder. John patted his shoulder, and Avery rubbed his beak through the kid’s hair despite its new length. Fortunately, the bird hadn’t been inclined toward grooming, yet. Men in field dress came through in pairs at that point and followed Lorne’s directions out of the room where he was putting new military assets for briefing. John had let Lorne manage him most of the morning since it had come through that Matt was definitely coming through the gate with the new personnel.
Matt trotted up the stairs with a grin. “John.”
John caught his little brother in a fierce hug and blinked back tears. “Hey, look at you—all grown up.”
Matt laughed. “Oh, god, he really does have a penguin,” he exclaimed as he focused on Sebastian. “Hey, kid, you look just like your dad. Sorry about that. Genetics are so terrible.”
Sebastian blinked in surprise then pursed his lips as he turned to John. “Daddy, we don’t need this kind of negativity in our lives. Let’s just toss him back through the gate to Earth.”
Matt grinned. “You’re stuck with me.”
Avery nooted sadly much to John’s amusement, and Sebastian just shook his head. “I guess I’ll have to start researching to find a way to give him a personality transplant or at least figure out a way for him to borrow someone else’s sense of humor since he has a terrible one currently installed.” He offered Matt his fist. “I’m not a hugger.”
Matt bumped fists with the kid. “Your dad told me. Your granddad is most definitely a hugger so you might want to brace yourself for that meeting. Maybe do some meditation and build yourself a happy place.”
Sebastian sighed dramatically. “Daddy.”
“I know. I warned you,” John said. “His asshole gene is firmly activated.” He wrapped an arm around Matt’s shoulders. “Lorne’s going to get the pilots settled, and you’ll get a briefing with Zelenka and McKay tomorrow morning. Your stuff has already been transferred to the rooms we picked. We’re in the same building, but you’re one floor down. It’s the closest we could do right now.”
“Sounds great,” Matt said. “I have a whole bunch of stuff for you guys, and that guy Woolsey has something for Sebastian. I don’t know what it is.”
“Woolsey has something for my kid?” John asked in confusion.
“Yeah, he was asked to identify it for travel off Earth, but I don’t know what happened with that since he had a private conversation with Landry about it.” Matt shrugged. “David didn’t appear to be all that worried—he’s spent some time with Woolsey over the last week. Says he’s a good man but kind of rigid and formal at first glance.”
John glanced toward Sebastian as they entered the transporter. “Have you met Richard Woolsey?”
“No,” Sebastian said. “But I remember General O’Neill taking a phone call from someone named Richard while I was staying at his house. He took the call in his office, so I didn’t hear whatever they talked about. General O’Neill trusts Mr. Woolsey so he can’t be all that bad.”
“O’Neill was supposed to come through with us,” Matt said. “But he was called out of town unexpectedly. They said they’d set up a trip for him tomorrow instead.”
John didn’t know if he could handle any more authority figures in his face, but Sebastian was clearly pleased to hear that O’Neill was coming. They left the transporter near a balcony and Matt wandered immediately in that direction, so they followed.
“It’s beautiful,” Matt murmured. “And kind of weird. What’s that humming I hear?”
“Your ATA gene is allowing you to connect with the city,” John explained. “You’ll get used to it—that’s just the security systems indicating that everything is as it should be. You’ll get a mental and sometimes an emotional push if she wants your attention for a specific reason. Your gene isn’t as strong as mine so you shouldn’t get a lot of prodding from her but if you do, let me know immediately and avoid touching Ancient tech that hasn’t been cleared for your use. McKay and Zelenka will walk you through various parts of the city that can be dangerous for gene carriers.” He pointed to a set of stairs. “Those stairs lead up to our floor, and we’re the second door on the right after you leave the stairwell—apartment 4C. McKay is in 4I. You’re in 3a, here.” He waved a hand over the panel. “We’ll set up your security and everything after dinner.”
Sebastian took Avery off as they entered the apartment and unbuckled him from the pack harness so he could release him. “We’re having a chicken curry tonight, so I hope you like Indian food. Chief Cooper says everyone needs to expand their palette in case we have to get creative with food sources and the like if we’re cut off from the SGC.”
“He’s house trained, right?” Matt asked as he watched Avery waddle around the sofa and wiggle under it.
“Yeah, of course,” Sebastian said as he dropped down on to the sofa and pulled out his Kindle out of his bag. “We can entertain ourselves if you need to have an adult conversation.”
John laughed. “We do. Don’t leave the apartment and honestly, you could better spend your time figuring out why that penguin likes to get under couches.”
Sebastian raised an eyebrow. “I don’t get in Avery’s private business, Daddy.”
Matt snorted. “Wow.”
John just shook his head and gave his brother a gentle shove toward the balcony. Shortly, he pulled the doors shut behind and moved to lean on the railing in a spot where he could keep an eye on his son. “Thanks for not cursing me out in front of the whole city.”
Matt frowned and looked away. “We all have more respect you and your position here to do something like that, John. I know you’re probably worried that Dad’s going to do something to make things difficult on that front, but he’s not. He’s furious about a lot of things to do with the Stargate program, but he really understands how important the work is out here that you’re doing. Holding back the Wraith is…I’m not sure there’s a more important job in the SGC as a whole.
“The Ori are a hot mess, granted, but they have nothing on a species that needs to rip the life out of us to survive. We’ll push the Ori out of our galaxy one way or another but the Wraith? God.” He shook his head. “Your mission is underfunded and undermanned, and Dad isn’t going to let that go. That’s one reason why I’m here and why I pitched the pilot program. I recruited the best combat pilots I could from the US and Britain. About half of them were successfully given the ATA gene so they can cross train on the Jumpers. Dad’s pushing O’Neill to load you up with special forces—at least two Teams.”
“My ranking NCO is a Navy SEAL,” John admitted. “He left his whole team behind to come here because he’s ATA positive. If they could bring his team, it would be good. He knows them well.”
“Frost?” Matt questioned. “His team was being flown into Colorado for a briefing as we were leaving. You realize they pushed through the construction of the gate bridge so quickly because of Dad, right? They said it be a year or more to complete and he was not on board with you guys not having the kind of support you deserve. He took over the company who had the contract in a very hostile fashion that was honestly kind of like watching a prize fight and retooled the whole project. He streamlined construction, took out all of the waste they’d built in to make more money from the government and brought in a retired astronaut to teach our people space construction.”
John blew out a surprised breath. “I know he’s worried about Sebastian but…”
“John.” Matt huffed. “For fuck’s sake, yes, he’s worried about the kid, but he was devastated when he found out you’d…how could the Air Force keep us in the dark about you being a prisoner of war?”
John winced. “I didn’t have anyone listed as next of kin.”
“Fuck you, John,” Matt snapped. “I don’t get it. I really don’t. You just tossed us out of your life like garbage.”
“It was more like an amputation,” John said evenly and watched his brother blanch. “I’m not proud of it, but I was just trying to survive, Matt. I couldn’t handle his expectations or smothering. He wasn’t like that before Mom died and maybe I should’ve given him more time to get his head on straight. I see it now—his grief and his desire to keep us close and safe. I even understand it. But I didn’t then and…” He shook his head and focused on Sebastian. “I know I broke his heart because if my son disappeared from my life, suddenly I’d lose my fucking mind.” And probably his humanity, John thought. He scratched his wrist absently and took a deep breath.
“Your Dad’s firstborn,” Matt said then. “And he loves you like he breathes, John. He’s practically declared war on half of the military industrial complex in the US in regards to the SGC. He’s hired a bunch of cutthroat bastards to help him root out and outright destroy the Trust. Those assholes don’t even know what kind of enemy they made when they…” He trailed off and looked through the doors to where Sebastian was sitting. “Well, you know what they did. Those sons of bitches thought it wouldn’t matter, but it does. Dad found out where Karen Reilly worked and is setting up a memorial in her honor—some kind of marine educational and rehabilitation center with her name on it.”
“That’s…he’ll be happy about that,” John cleared his throat and turned toward the ocean and Matt joined him. “I don’t think he can hear us but let’s not discuss that right now. If I had the means to get away with it, I’d have already hunted down every single man and woman involved in that and murdered them.”
“Did you love her?”
“As much as I could,” John admitted. “Considering I’m utterly gay.”
Matt huffed in surprise. “Wow. Fuck. Okay.” He hummed under his breath. “That explains the whole divorce from Nancy. I couldn’t figure it out, really, because from the outside you guys had a great marriage and she fit so well in the family. She’s been a great addition to the team, and a whole lot of people are regretting their life choices in the government contracts front. She’s also quite furious with you for leaving the planet without even telling her goodbye.”
“At least she was never the violent sort,” John admitted. “Karen was beautiful and brilliant. I was attracted to her in a deeply emotional way that I’ve never really been able to explain. I faked the physical attraction pretty well at first, but she caught on, and after she calmed down, she made me come to terms with who I was and what I really wanted. I’m trying really hard not to resent her for keeping Sebastian from me as long as she did. I don’t think it would’ve been much longer because he said he’d been working up to asking her to meet me when she was killed in the accident.”
“He’s got Dad’s smile,” Matt said. “And his sarcasm.”
“Well, we were all equally gifted on the sarcastic front,” John said. “I think he’s a bad influence on the penguin though.”
“You really need to send Dad pictures of that,” Matt said in amusement. “Almost no one at the SGC actually believes he actually has an emotional support penguin.”
“Oddly? The little thing is actually very good at the whole emotional support thing,” John admitted wryly. “He has a lot of innate empathy and can sense, I think, when you’re upset.”
– – – –
“It is customary for the IOA to give a new contractor a gift,” Woolsey said formally as he put a case on the table between himself and Sebastian.
John had only agreed to the meeting after he’d found out what was in the case.
“Most often a car,” Woolsey said.
Sebastian grinned. “I’m too young for that.”
“Yes, quite, but you’ll renew around your sixteenth birthday so please feel free to figure out what kind of renewal gift you’d like at that time.”
Sebastian exchanged a wide-eyed glance with John. “Seriously?”
“Seriously,” John confirmed and relaxed against the wall.
“I came upon a different option during a lunch meeting with an old friend who happens to work for Sony.”
Sebastian’s mouth dropped open as Woolsey opened the case and revealed a Playstation3. “Wow, that’s…not supposed to be on the market until the end of the year.”
“November 2006, yes,” Woolsey said. “My friend was also able to secure all twelve games set to be released with the device. I’m sure your father will know which ones you’re allowed to play and which ones that should…wait. Other titles will be shipped here as they’re made available as long as you’re contracted with us.”
John inclined his head when they both looked his way.
“It’s really mine?” Sebastian said as he pulled the case toward him. “Really?”
“Really,” Woolsey said with amusement. “Thank you for your work on behalf of Earth, young man.”
– – – –
“Where’s the kid?” Rodney questioned.
“Playing Call of Duty 3 with Matt,” John said as he settled down at the conference table and focused on Woolsey. “So great choice and I reserve the right to veto his car selection if he asks for something stupidly dangerous.”
Woolsey nodded. “Of course, Colonel.” He spread several folders out in front of him. “We have a few issues to work through regarding Dr. Carson Beckett so let’s start there, Elizabeth.”
Weir took a deep breath and nodded as she stared at her tea. “Yeah, okay.”
“He’s been transferred to an off-world research facility and will never be allowed to return to Earth,” Woolsey said. “His knowledge of the program is too extensive and as angry as he is—it is believed he’s ripe to be recruited by the Trust. He currently has no idea he can’t return to Earth. We’ve given him several research projects to keep him busy and transferred all genetic research for the Asgard to his team. He wants to save an entire species—we’ve decided he can try to save the Asgard.”
John blew out a surprised breath. “Can he do it?”
“If any human can, then it would probably be Carson,” Rodney said reluctantly. “Especially with all the knowledge he gained here regarding the Ancients and the development of the Wraith. The Asgard have a cloning problem because they wanted to live forever well, the Wraith are essentially immortal as far as aging goes and the Ancients had a stupidly long lifespan as well.”
“During his exit interview for the expedition,” Woolsey began after McKay grew quiet, “Beckett admitted, Colonel Sheppard, to leaving Iratus DNA in you on purpose to see how you’d react because the Wraith are essentially an Iratus/Ancient hybrid. I would’ve had him arrested and thrown under a jail at that point if I could’ve. He’s honestly too dangerous to leave out of our custody or even on Earth as it currently stands. He thinks he’s in charge of the project he’s been transferred into but the entire team there is in place to monitor and contain him. They’re all military scientists, but he doesn’t know that either. He’s the only civilian on the team and the only one without a weapon of any sort.”
John rubbed his face with both hands. “Did he say if what he left could be removed?”
Woolsey flushed. “When I asked he told me that it was too late and the changes to your genome are permanent at this point. Since we can’t take him at his word on this subject, the IOA is willing to bring in anyone required to research this situation to the fullest measure of the word, Colonel. The choice, however, is yours. We certainly aren’t going to order you to participate in such a project.”
“McKay can oversee a blood-only research project on the subject,” John said. “But I don’t want to be…they can look but I’m not ready to be subject to any sort of experimentation. I’ve become accustomed to what I am now, Mr. Woolsey, so I’m prepared to leave it alone as long as I don’t…” He cleared his throat. “If I were to go blue again and revert to the animal I turned into then McKay will make the decisions regarding any treatment. My parental instincts are primed already so that would be something to keep in mind. Taking my child off the city would be very dangerous for everyone if it came to that. McKay is our next-of-kin and my choice as guardian for Sebastian should I become incapacitated or killed.”
“Stop talking about your death before I start plotting to shave your head with your kid,” Rodney muttered under his breath, and Elizabeth snorted. “I bet Matt would help, too.”
John spared him a glance but then focused on Woolsey. “What’s the IOA’s level of interest in my child, Mr. Woolsey?”
Woolsey closed the files in front of him and set them all aside. “Unofficially and between the four of us, they are giddy at the idea of having someone of McKay’s potential in their grasp at such a young age. If you were not who you are, Colonel, I’m sure many of them would be plotting to gain physical custody of the boy. The representatives from Britain and China have both expressed disappointment in not having the ability to shape him to the benefit of themselves. They see his potential as both a source of immense power and financial gain. I’ve briefed the president on that situation personally as I felt he needed to know their level of interest.
“He called the Prime Minister of the UK and tore him a new one regarding his rep’s overt and disgusting display of greed regarding a ten-year-old citizen of the United States. We were promised he’d be replaced on the committee. Through back channels, he let the government of China know that he was very unhappy with their representative to the IOA and their position regarding your son could lead to them being no longer welcome at the table no matter the potential consequences. Russia and Canada both backed him up.”
Woolsey cleared his throat. “Hayes then passed his concern regarding China to your father who responded by canceling his plan to build a factory in mainland China. He also ended all of his contracts with companies owned by the Chinese government and released a statement to the press letting the world know that Sheppard Industries would be concentrating on creating jobs in the US and working with materials sourced and made in the US exclusively.”
John blew out a surprised breath. “I…don’t know what to say.”
“Your father essentially cost the Chinese government a little over a billion dollars over the next five years alone because they expressed an unsavory interest in his grandson,” McKay said. “I think that’s all that really needs to be said.”
Woolsey cleared his throat. “He’s also started in on the Trust and is honestly covering more ground than the government has ever been able to because he’s…” He blew out a breath. “He’s neutralized two significant players and financial backers in the organization by taking their companies over. He created a company for the sole purpose of buying out and undermining every single Trust asset he can target legally. He’s also hired private investigators all over the country so he can get them arrested for any crimes they might have committed.
“Naturally, O’Neill became concerned about your father’s life and suggested he get a bodyguard. Homeworld vetted several hundred operatives to act as Dr. Sheppard’s personal security as a result.” He paused. “Well, the older Dr. Sheppard. The youngest Dr. Sheppard is now here and your brother, David, is at the SGC where he has a Marine escort if he leaves the Mountain.”
“Is David contracted with the IOA?” John questioned.
“He agreed to consult for an outrageous fee,” Woolsey admitted and sighed when John laughed. “Matthew Sheppard does have a contract with us, and I’m sure your father wished he’d had the right to veto his choice of signing bonus.”
“What’d he ask for?” John asked curiously.
“Corvette Z06,” Woolsey answered. “Your father sent me a particularly ugly email. I responded with a copy of his son’s birth certificate since he’d clearly forgotten that his youngest is actually an adult.”
“I bet he hates you,” John said with a grin.
“Fortunately for me, General O’Neill is keeping your father busy,” Woolsey said. “Regardless, things are being done to mitigate the danger to your son on Earth. We don’t know how long it will take to contain that situation, but your father is going no-holds-barred at the situation.”
“I’d expect nothing less,” John admitted. “I knew what I was unleashing when I asked if he could be read-in, Mr. Woolsey. My father was making war before I was born and I know exactly what he’s capable of.”
– – – –
“What was your signing bonus?”
Rodney looked up from his laptop then glanced toward Sebastian who was still playing games with Matt. John figured he’d put a limit on it in a week or so if his son started to have issues managing his time. “Hmm, let’s see the first contract I signed I asked for a cash bonus which I used to buy my sister, Jeannie, a house. The second was property in Seattle that I still own. It’s currently being maintained by the SGC and used for staff retreats as needed in exchange. The last contract I signed, for the expedition, resulted in my niece Madison receiving a college fund that will put her through any institution of her choice with ease. Why?”
“Just curious. No car for you then?”
Rodney frowned. “I actually hate to drive and normally hire a driver when I’m on Earth for an extended period. Did you want me to ask for one with my next contract?” He shrugged. “Just pick out whatever you’d want.”
John sighed. “You’re crazy.”
“Seriously, they offered me a limited edition Bugatti once.”
“That’s ridiculous,” John said. “The maintenance on those things is crazy—an oil change alone can run you over twenty thousand dollars. No one needs a car like that. The fact that it even exists is kind of obscene.”
“Some rich people are really dumb,” Rodney pointed out and shrugged. “And there are companies out there more than willing to exploit the hell out of their stupidity.”
– – – –
The gate room floor was slick enough for Avery to body surf across it which is precisely what he was doing much to Sebastian’s amusement. General O’Neill was due to arrive any minute, so there were a lot of people in the gate room, but Avery really didn’t care about an audience when it came to having fun.
“I used to watch penguins do that on snow at McMurdo.”
Sebastian glanced toward his dad. “Did you like it down there?”
“It was peaceful,” John said. “And I need that after Afghanistan for a lot of reasons.”
The gate started to dial, and Avery stood up and quickly waddled back to him. “He’s not fond of the gate at all.”
“Well, at least his return trip from the gate bridge wasn’t traumatic,” John said as Sebastian picked the penguin up.
The wormhole established after a few moments, Jack O’Neill stepped through carrying a duffle and red leather case. Sebastian watched his Dad leave the stairs and walk over to the general as a Marine stepped forward and took the older man’s bag. The case. He bit down on his lip. It looked like his violin case, but he wasn’t sure. He’d left it behind in California in his safety deposit box because he’d been worried it might get damaged, but he missed it like a limb and regretted leaving it behind more than he could say.
He focused on Avery, and the penguin nuzzled up against his throat.
Sebastian looked up and tried to frown at O’Neil, but it was hard because the man was grinning and he could finally see the case up close. It was his violin. “Hey, General Jack. Why do you have my Stradivarius?”
“Picked it up in California,” O’Neill said blithely. “Your friend Mason Blake said you’d probably love to have it back and that it didn’t belong in a bank vault.” He set the case down in front of him.
Sebastian took a deep breath and gently put Avery down on the stair beside him. “I…figured I wouldn’t see it again for a while.” He picked up the case and ignored the way everyone in the room was looking at him. “My grandmother purchased it for me just before she died. She said my mother couldn’t fuss at her because she had terminal cancer and should be able to do foolish things with her money.”
He opened the case, and several people gasped. Maybe they hadn’t really believed it was a Stradivarius.
McKay sat down beside him. “Which one is it?”
“The Jupiter, 1722.” He put the case down on the floor and slid off the stair to kneel in front of it. “She bought it from an old friend so she didn’t pay as much as she probably should have.” He glanced toward his Dad and found him looking shocked. “I should’ve probably told you about it, huh?”
John sighed. “I…yes, son, it would’ve been nice if you’d told me you owned an instrument worth several million dollars.”
Sebastian gently closed the case. “It’s priceless really since I’d never sell it for any amount.” He offered O’Neill a smile. “Thanks for going to get it. I’ve really missed it and regretted leaving it behind.”
O’Neill grinned briefly then focused on Avery who was staring at him and snorted. “Pretty cute.”
“Avery’s looking forward to fishing with you, General Jack.” Sebastian reported.
The penguin nooted happily then waddled really fast before throwing himself down on his stomach to surf across the floor. O’Neill burst out laughing.