Recipient: eviljr for sga_santa 2008
Posted to: sga_santa and gardner_ross
Warnings: Violence, Rodney whump
Summary: Jeannie’s convinced Rodney to come back to Earth for a wedding, but during an innocent walk in a Toronto suburb Rodney is kidnapped by someone looking for Mr. Grant Jansky. Now, John, Ronon, and Jeannie need to discover who Jansky is and why would anyone take Rodney in his place.
mis * tak * en
1300–30; ME mistaken (v.) < ON mistaka to take in error.
"What are we doing here, again?" Rodney sounded as though he was strangling. By the look on Jeannie's face, she more than half-way wished he was.
"We're attending our half-brother's wedding," she said through gritted teeth. "Graciously." Rodney snorted and tugged at his collar again, watching the couple at the altar exchanging their vows. They looked ... happy. Jeannie hit his arm as he pulled at his tie. "Will you stop that?" she hissed.
"I can't believe I let you talk me into coming," he said. "How do we know this guy is actually our brother, for sure? Maybe he lied."
Jeannie turned and gave him a long, disbelieving stare. "Because he looks just like us, because he has no reason to lie... it's not like anyone would want to be related to us, and, oh, yeah... because he was born to our mom?"
Rodney subsided into red-faced discomfort. Ronon elbowed him with a grin. "More family is always good, McKay."
"Thanks so much for the pithy advice. Shouldn't you be scanning the crowd for hostiles or something? Bodyguards are supposed to be quiet and inconspicuous," he muttered.
"You're at a wedding, McKay. Nothing's gonna happen." Ronon smirked at him. "After all, this is Canada. Didn't you tell me all about how safe it is here?" Rodney rolled his eyes then jolted as the clapping started. As the happy couple started back up the aisle, he studied his new brother with a critical eye.
He was young, easily ten years younger than Rodney, perhaps more. Rodney had missed the details in the cloud of shock, though he was sure Jeannie had them all memorized. His brother (his brother... who the hell gets an extra brother at forty years old for Christ sake?) was slightly shorter than he was, but Jeannie was right. He looked a lot like them. Blue eyes, wide mouth, slightly crooked at the corner. Sharp cheekbones that would blur with age just as his had. Rodney barely even looked at the pretty woman on Jacob's arm. Marion Jacob Hudson.
Rodney supposed the name alone was enough verification for him. Their mother was nothing if not consistent in her truly horrifying choice of names. Ultimately it had been her that had brought them together, however indirectly. Jacob had been clearing out her office to make room for his new wife to have a sewing room, and had come across old paperwork about Elaine Hudson's first marriage, to Dr. Graeme McKay. Paperwork that included photos of her children. Jacob had seen the photos of Jeannie before... but had been told they were Elaine as a child. He'd been shocked and angry to find out otherwise, and had set out to find them immediately.
Jeannie had been equally surprised, first to find out that she had another brother, and then to discover that the mother they'd been told had died when she was ten had instead died only two years ago. She was furious, but in her own inimitable way had embraced Jacob completely. Then she had contacted Rodney and demanded he come home for their brother's wedding. Unluckily enough Daedalus had repaired the gatebridge (though there was no plan to rebuild Midway) and so he didn't even have the 'impossibility of crossing the galactic divide' excuse for not coming.
Rodney still hadn't really decided how he felt about it. He figured he might come to a conclusion at some point, like, maybe... thirty more years or so.
Jacob, on the other hand, knew exactly how he felt about it. He was absolutely, utterly thrilled. Jacob caught his eyes and beamed at him. Rodney sighed and smiled back with a little wave. Ronon nudged him with an elbow again, and he could feel the grin on Ronon's face.
Family and weddings. Jesus, he was getting old.
Three hours and eight beers later, he was starting to see the benefits of this family stuff, especially when it came with an open bar. Which, of course, was exactly when Ronon insisted on them taking a walk. He kept muttering something about how Rodney would get louder when he drank beer. Louder? LOUDER? HA! That just showed what Conan knew about it. He opened his mouth to tell Ronon how wrong, wrong, wrong he was... and found himself being dragged out of the hall by his entirely over-muscled teammate.
He knew he should have brought John as the muscle. But noooooo - John was busy with training up new marines. There never seemed to be an end to new marines. Or new scientists. Maybe they should stop killing them off. That might help.
He heaved a sigh and got his feet more fully under him, feeling his mood drop like a stone. He rubbed a hand over his eyes, appreciating the cold air of the night against his face, Ronon's solid presence at his side. He had to admit that much as he bitched about the necessity of having a bodyguard along, only John would have been more welcome.
He almost missed the shouting in the noise of passing cars, would have in fact if Ronon hadn't tensed beside him. He lifted his head, wincing and squinting against the glare of passing headlights. The shouts resolved into words, coming from behind them, approaching fast.
Two sharp points of pain had him grunting and staring down at his chest in confusion. He heard Ronon roar beside him, saw him start to spasm, opened his mouth to shout for help... and the world went away in a white wash of pain.
"Exactly how long has he been gone?" John was talking even before Jeannie got the hotel room door fully open. He took in the room in a single long look. Ronon sat in the sole chair radiating fury and embarrassment, long legs sprawled wide and bag of ice held against his head. The bed was rumpled just enough to show that Jeannie had been sitting on it. John stepped inside and let his CSIS liaison, Duplessis, enter behind him. Ronon was immediately on his feet, sizing up the newcomer. John gave him a quick once-over to verify he was ok; based on the way he moved and the scowl on his face he was pretty much unharmed.
Jeannie grabbed his hand in both of hers, clinging a little in that 'help me or I will rip your arm off and beat you to death with it' McKay way. "Thank God you're here."
"Took your time, too." Ronon growled. John amended his mental assessment from 'unharmed' to 'unharmed, and pissed'. "It's been six hours."
"I had a long way to come." John retorted. Fuck. Six hours, already. He closed his eyes, calculating. Jesus. Rodney could be absolutely anywhere by now. He fought back the swell of rage and fear at the realization. It was one thing for Rodney to be kidnapped on some tiny-assed excuse of a backwards planet where there were all of fifteen huts and a pigsty to search. On Earth, with six plus billion people and ten times that many possible hiding places it was something else entirely.
And something that had been happening all too fucking frequently lately.
"Who's this?" Ronon continued to stare down at Duplessis. The Canadian blinked up at him, amused.
"Sergeant Duplessis, this is Ronon Dex, Jeannie Miller." John waved his hand between them impatiently. "He's our liaison while we're here if we need anything."
Duplessis shook Jeannie's hand. He was barely her height, which made Ronon's continued glare look a little like a Mastiff staring down a Terrier. He had short-cropped brown hair and dark eyes to go with painfully pale skin and a slim build. He also had a ready smile. John could barely remember his name from one moment to the next.
This kidnapping thing Rodney had going was getting really old really fucking fast. John shook his head a little, trying to break loose some of the tension that was making him something well beyond irritable. He needed to keep it together, damn it.
"Were you able to find any trace of him using his sub-cu?" Jeannie asked anxiously, still holding on.
"Why do we have those again?" Ronon gave up on trying to intimidate and flopped back in his chair.
"I ask myself that every single time."
"How often does this happen to you?" Duplessis raised an eyebrow.
"Too often." John sat on the bed, kicking Ronon's foot in passing. "Tell me what happened."
"We were at the wedding. McKay was getting loud. Took him for a walk. Heard some shouting, turned around, got hit by some sort of stun weapon. Saw McKay go down. Passed out. Woke up. Went back to the wedding, pretended everything was fine, got out of there. Called you. Here now."
John shot Duplessis an unfriendly look. "We appreciate your support, really." The smaller man held up his hands in surrender and wandered to the window. "Anything else?"
Ronon shrugged. "What they were shouting, sounded like a name."
Jeannie's eyes widened, so much like Rodney's that John's heart squeezed in his chest. He pushed it away. "What name?" She demanded.
"Not sure. Think it was, um... " Ronon's eyes narrowed in concentration. "Granski? Gran... Gran..." He nodded once, firmly. "Jansky. Grant Jansky."
Jeannie looked blank. Duplessis looked bored. Neither of them seemed to have any idea who the hell Grant Jansky was. John sighed.
"Give me a minute," Jeannie said, taking the three steps to the tiny desk with enough resolve to have Ronon bailing out of her way. She flipped open her laptop, grabbed the now-vacant desk chair, and started to type. "Ten minutes and I'll tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Grant Jansky."
Rodney woke slowly, the sluggish beat of his pulse echoing oddly in his ears. His mouth was dry, his eyes gummy as he tried to open them. He groaned, muscles twitching with latent spasms from the Taser. When he finally pried his eyes all the way open, a dirty white wall filled his vision.
He rolled onto his back, memory coming back to him slowly. His head felt... wrong. Fuzzy, dislocated. More than could be explained by getting Tased alone.
Those bastards. They'd drugged him. Rage stirred, tried to rise to the surface, but subsided into a blank wall of nothingness. His eyes closed again.
A boot to his ribs brought him back awake.
"Jansky. Wake up."
"Wha..." Rodney's mouth didn't want to work. What the hell had they given him, anyway? "What do you want?"
"We want the AI."
All Rodney could think of was Atlantis, and... No. Not just no, HELL no. "No."
The boot met his side again, more forcefully this time. "I want the AI. Tell me where it is."
"Don't know... what you're talk..ing about." Rodney curled onto his side reflexively, trying to protect himself from another kick and dry-heaving with the pain in his side. His captor knelt beside him on one knee, pushing his face into Rodney's space. It was a perfectly ordinary face, with dark hair and dark eyes and a skiff of stubble across the length of jaw. When Rodney looked into the flat eyes, he saw nothing but coldness and his own reflection.
"Mister Jansky," the man said slowly and carefully, as if to ensure Rodney understood him clearly. "I want the AI, and I will do whatever I have to to get it."
Rodney shook his head, resting his temple against the floor. Lassitude was sliding welcome tendrils down his arms and legs as whatever drugs they'd given him took hold again. "You got the wrong person," he told the man, fighting to keep his eyes open. "Idiots." He tried and failed to snicker. When Ronon got here, this guy was gonna be *dogmeat*. With Apollo in orbit all they had to do was hook onto his sub-cu and they could pull him right out. In fact, he was pretty surprised they hadn't alre... Shit. The Taser.
He was pretty sure he would have been terrified by the thought if the drugs hadn't been rolling over him like a big fluffy blanket.
"A pathetic ploy, Jansky." The man leaned over even further, until his mouth was right against Rodney's ear. "You're going to give me what I want, or I'm going to keep after you until you do."
"Nice place," Ronon muttered as the elevator opened. John had to agree. This place had class written all over it. Then again, it was an investment bank. Decorating on the cheap would be pretty stupid.
"Welcome to Gardner Ross Cunningham. How may I help you?" The pretty brunette receptionist smiled at Ronon, fluttering her eyelashes. John smiled his most charming smile at her and opened his mouth to speak, but Jeannie elbowed her way past him.
"Do you know Grant Jansky?" She demanded. The receptionist blinked, taken aback.
"Mr. Jansky is an employee here, yes," she replied slowly. "May I ask what your business with him is?"
Duplessis reached into his pocket and pulled out his ID. "We need to speak to Mr. Jansky immediately."
"Uh." The receptionist's obvious distress caught the attention of a tall, distinguished man crossing the bottom of the steps to their right, and he came over with a smile that was coldly polite.
"I've got this, Marian." The man turned his attention to them. "I'm Adam Cunningham."
"John Sheppard." John shook his hand firmly. "We need to speak to Grant Jansky. Is he here?"
"Oh." Adam's grey eyebrows rose over wintery blue eyes. "I have no idea if Mr. Jansky is in yet. What is this regarding?"
Duplessis displayed his ID. "Do you have somewhere we can speak to Mr. Jansky privately, Mr. Cunningham?" Adam's lips compressed in annoyance, but he gestured to a large meeting room encased in enough glass that it put the Ancients' obsession with windows to shame. Reasonably soundproof, John imagined, but calling it ‘private’ was a real overstatement.
They all trooped in, taking seats around the table. Adam took a place at the head a bit pretentiously, John thought privately, then gestured grandly at Duplessis to speak.
"We believe Mr. Jansky may have some information that would be able to help us with a missing person's case," Duplessis said politely. "We need to speak to him immediately."
Adam's eyebrows rose again, in surprise. "Really? You think Grant is involved with a disappearance?" He half-laughed, but John had stopped listening. His attention was caught by a couple exiting the elevator, a man and a woman. The woman was closer and was largely obscuring the man, who turned his back to them as the woman moved to step past him. Ronon was already back on his feet and almost to the door when John really registered that he recognized those shoulders, the set of the man's head, the slope of his back... He beat Ronon to the door, opened it.
"McKay!" Ronon shouted, making them all jump. The couple turned, astonishment on their faces. The blonde looked alarmed as John bore down on them at a half-jog. The man... Rodney... looked ready to bolt. John stepped past the blonde and grabbed Rodney's arm, holding on tightly. Relief coursed through him. He ignored Adam's indignant exclamation behind him.
"Where have you been?" He ran his eyes over Rodney critically, looking for visible injuries. "We've been worried sick. You should have called, damn it!" On the heels of relief came anger. "You know better..."
"John," Jeannie interrupted, placing a quelling hand over his on Rodney's arm. "John, let him go."
John released him, his eyes lifting to Rodney's face for the first time. The fear there had him taking a big step backwards, hands lifting soothingly. "You aren't Rodney." Ronon was speechless at his back. The blonde, on the other hand, found her voice.
"Hey! Keep your hands to yourself!" She said, stepping firmly in front of Not Rodney. "Who the hell are you anyway?"
"Sorry." John was still blinking in shock. This guy was the spitting fucking image of Rodney, from his wide blue eyes and thinning hair to the nervous wringing of his hands. Jeannie was pale beside him. "Sorry, I'm... I'm sorry." The man was missing the scar on his temple from the jumper crash, and was also missing Rodney's edge. "I thought..." He couldn't catch his breath, couldn't make his brain work.
Jeannie caught her balance first. "I'm..." She choked a little, started again, with a forced smile that John thought had to hurt. "I'm Jeannie Miller." She held out her hand. The man looked at it askance, but the blonde took it almost aggressively.
"Ziggy McLeod," the blonde said, still clearly irritated. Jeannie smiled brighter, leaned around her a little.
"And you are?" Jeannie asked him gently.
"Jansky," Ronon growled behind John, who had just shaken off his astonishment and come to the same conclusion. "He's Grant Jansky."
Grant blinked at Ronon then broke into a blindingly sunny smile, ducking his head in a combination of shy and eager that would never, ever appear on Rodney's face. John's heart lurched in his chest. Jesus. "Yes, yes," Grant said cheerfully, pushing Ziggy aside gently so he could face Ronon directly. His hands waved in front of him, as if their movement was a pre-requisite for his voice. "That's me. Um. Um. Who, who are you?"
Adam coughed. "Perhaps," he suggested slowly, "we should all return to the boardroom. We can talk there."
"Oh, no," Grant stuttered, "Nono. I have, I have work to do. I have..."
"Have you ever heard of Elaine Hudson?" Jeannie interrupted. Grant stopped, stared at her blankly for a moment, then shook his head.
Ziggy had gone pale at the name. "I have," she whispered. "I know that name." She turned and placed her hand on Grant's arm, gently urging him to the boardroom. "Grant, you need to come and talk."
A face full of freezing water brought Rodney awake in a rush of fear and spluttering. He coughed, feeling the water surging up his nose and into his mouth. He shook his head violently to get away from it.
"Glad you're awake, Grant."
"Who are you?" Rodney gained enough breath to gasp it out brokenly. The man stared at him with his dark, flat eyes. His face was blank, harder by far to read than the trouble Rodney usually had figuring people out. He wheezed painfully, curled on his side around the starburst agony in his ribs.
"You can call me..."
"Waitwaitwait!" Rodney held up his hand desperately. "Don't. Don't. Don't tell me." He took another breath and tried to push aside the splintering feeling in his chest. "Don't tell me." He rested his forehead on the cement floor.
The man dropped to one knee beside him. "You're concerned I'll kill you instead of let you go if I tell you who I am." He hummed a little under his breath. "A reasonable fear." There was a swift motion near his ear and Rodney flinched away, only to feel a needle enter his shoulder. A stinging cold made its way up his arm and entered his chest. Immediately his heart started to race. "A very reasonable fear. But the only way I'm ever going to let you go is if you help me." The man leaned closer, his breath hot against Rodney's ear. "You can call me Marcus. And then, you can tell me how to get the AI running."
Rodney gritted his teeth against the feel of the drugs tearing through his system. He was a lot more lucid this time, and had at least figured out that this, whatever it was, had nothing to do with him. He had nothing to tell this guy, and even if he simply told the truth and said he'd never heard of this Grant, Marcus had already demonstrated he didn't believe him.
So which way was likely to get him hurt the least?
Give in, obviously. Pretend.
Rodney opened his mouth to say, 'sure, absolutely, no problem, anything you want', and instead was utterly shocked to hear himself say, "Go to hell." He had only the barest moment to wonder what the hell he thought he was doing before Marcus had dragged him up and shoved him in a chair.
Marcus lashed him in place securely before stepping back and sneering at him. "This," he said grimly, "is really going to hurt."
"So, so." Grant paced along the length of the window, gaining speed. "So, she's my sister." He pointed at Jeannie with a hand that shook visibly. He was so freaked out the white was visible all the way around his eyes.
Jeannie spoke in her most careful voice. "Yes, I think so." She licked her lips nervously. "We recently found out that our mother... Meredith's and my mother... had remarried and had another child that we'd never known about." She laughed, her bitterness leaking out into the sound. Grant was watching her with a single-minded focus that John probably would have found unnerving if he didn't already know Rodney. "We'd been told she was dead. Jacob only just found out about us." John noticed her hands were shaking, too. "It seems Mom had more secrets than we suspected."
Grant spun on his heel, rounding on Ziggy. "She's my sister. You didn't, you didn't." He took a breath, visibly tried to calm down. "She's not... not... She's not a hire, right?"
John and Jeannie exchanged confused looks. A hire? Ziggy blushed deeply. "No, Grant." She looked at Jeannie. "When I found Mrs Hudson, she told me she barely remembered his father. That all she remembered was that his favourite car was a Duster."
"My," Jeannie's voice shook, and it took her a couple of tries before she could talk. Grant was staring at Ziggy with hurt and rage written all over his face. John couldn't help but think that Rodney was a veritable poker face expert beside this guy. "My father drove a Duster for years. Got one brand new in 1970."
"I was born in 1966," Grant told her, momentarily distracted. She didn't reply, so he turned back to Ziggy. "You met my mother? My real mother? You met her and you didn't tell me?"
"NO!" He shouted it loudly enough that the glass rattled and Ronon jerked half to his feet. John jumped too, immediately working to control the rush of adrenaline. He found his hand at the outside of his thigh, clutching for the sidearm that wasn't there. Outside the room, Adam and Duplessis looked up from their intent discussion. "No! Just... Just leave." Grant wrapped his arms around his chest, looking as though he were trying to hold himself together. John's fingers twitched with the desire to comfort him. "I don't want to see you right now."
Ziggy nodded slowly, tears swimming in her eyes. She compressed her lips and stood, leaving silently. She stopped briefly to reassure the two politicos and then hurried away.
"That bitch," Jeannie spat out, startling them all again. "How dare she keep my brothers from me!" She stood up, shaking head to foot. She approached Grant, laying a tentative hand on his arm. "I don't know why she did it, Grant." Tears started to well and she wiped them away with her free hand. "And I don't care. I'm just," she half-sobbed, glaring her frustration in a way that was so McKay that John smiled involuntarily. "So glad we found you now." She threw herself at him, and he caught her reflexively. She hugged him fiercely until he finally hugged her back.
John cleared his throat. He hated to break the moment, but watching the two of them was like a knife in his chest, waggling with his pulse, reminding him with every beat that as much as they looked like him they weren't Rodney, that Rodney was missing, that it was wrong wrong WRONG and needed to be fixed. Right now. Both sets of blue eyes opened, turned to look at him.
"We need to find McKay," Ronon said it for him. Jeannie immediately wiped her eyes, slid back into brisk efficiency.
"We will," she said firmly, taking Grant's hand. "Grant's going to help us."
"I am?" Grant thought a moment then nodded vigorously. "I am, I am. Tell me, tell me what happened."
Ronon repeated his version of events, finishing with, "They were shouting your name. Looking for you."
Grant was shaking his head. "I don't know why anyone would want to target me," he said, still thinking. "Not since, since... Never mind. I don't talk about that." For an instant he looked utterly desolate. "But, I still might be able to help. See, I created a new program, to predict futures contracts based on traffic patterns, but it didn't do that very well."
"And?" John prodded. The mental clock in his head ticked over to fifteen hours since Rodney'd been taken. He could feel the seconds counting away in his pulse.
"And?" Grant looked confused. Jeannie squeezed his arm and smiled at him encouragingly. "Oh! No 'and'. But. But, it does other things really really well. Like predict results based on seemingly random events." He gave a beaming smile. "And, like find things that are missing." He opened the door to the boardroom and led them across the hall, to a small door labelled 'Supply Closet'. "I don't work in here anymore, but I still, uhm. Play. Here." He opened the door with a flourish, waving his hand at the bank of servers and monitors that filled the back wall. "This, this is Deirdre." He smiled proudly, ducking his head at their expressions. "She, she's my AI."
Marcus was being ridiculously careful not to hurt his head. His fingers and hands, it seemed, were equally off limits.
Everything else, though, seemed to be fair game. His left leg was on fire with pain from ankle to hip and his right had taken to throbbing viciously in time with his pulse, sending spikes of agony through his stomach and groin. Escape wasn't an option. Rodney felt the darkness around his vision start to ripple, and he begged it to take him into oblivion already. Stubbornly, his brain refused to give in, the drug cocktail Marcus had injected him with keeping him awake. Rodney gasped for breath around the deep ache in his side where he'd been kicked. Marcus hadn't even been asking him questions or pestering him about this AI. He'd just started hurting him with a workmanlike efficiency that was almost more alarming than the fact that his body was being beaten to a pulp.
Overall, this trip sucked. He was *so* not coming back for a wedding, ever again.
Marcus slapped him, not hard enough to even leave a mark but with enough effort to sting, to bring Rodney's eyes open again in an exhausted kind of outrage.
"Are we done here yet, Grant?" Marcus asked him, sounding almost gentle. "Are you ready to get to work?"
Rodney blinked at him dumbly.
Marcus' face twisted into a parody of concern. "I don't want to hurt you, Grant, but I need you to get the AI working, and I am willing to continue to hurt you until you do. Ultimately, I am quite certain I can outlast you."
Rodney closed his eyes. He didn't think anything was actually broken, yet. He could continue to take the beating (and what the hell was that about anyway? He was never any good at taking the beating. He was totally going to give John a stern talking to about his contagious martyr ways) or he could give in, work on the fucking AI, get it working, and get a message to someone.
Why the hell hadn't he thought of that before?
A sharp prick in his shoulder and a cold bite of drugs reminded him. He heard Marcus sigh heavily and a rustle as the other man started to move away. Probably to give himself room to swing.
"All right! All right, all right." He tried to shout but it came out as a croak. "I'll... I'll do it. Just, just don't hurt me any more." He was embarrassed by how easily tears sprang to his eyes, but Marcus' movement had jarred his ribs and he blamed it on the pain splintering through his chest. "Need. Need painkillers," he said through gritted teeth. "I can't think like this."
"Of course, Grant."
He heard another rustle and opened his eyes to see Marcus approaching with another needle. He tried to shrink away.
"It's a synthetic morphine," Marcus explained, jabbing it into Rodney's hip through his pants. "Works a bit faster and should leave you lucid."
Rodney was too busy relaxing into the pure bliss that was the cessation of pain. He blinked at Marcus hazily and almost smiled at the man. The impulse woke him up a bit, got his brain going. Marcus took hold of the back of his chair, tilted it, and dragged it (and Rodney) across the floor to the door.
On the other side was a computer setup that put some of the bigger labs at Atlantis to shame. Marcus dragged him to the centre keyboard and set the front legs of the chair down on the floor and then set to releasing the bonds around his wrists and forearms with a care that had Rodney's gorge rising in his throat. He preferred his torture to come with just the sneering and violence, instead of the mental whiplash of gentleness and solicitous care.
He supposed it said something about his life that he'd experienced enough of both to have a preference.
He took a deep breath and flexed his fingers experimentally. Everything seemed to be working ok, the drugs working both to wake him up and to keep the pain of his injuries at bay. When Marcus flicked on the centre monitor, Rodney leaned forward, interested despite himself. He reached for the keyboard.
Fifteen minutes later, he was more confused than ever. He knew, knew with absolute certainty that he had never written this set of programs or even anything like it, but the style and flavour of the programming was his. Oh, sure, he'd never used that particular design pattern in that particular way, but that use of memory stack overflow as a deliberate feature, well. That was all his. He'd never seen anyone else able to exploit a critical flaw into a programming methodology. Not even Radek had that particular quirk of tangential thinking. And the way it was used here, to model anxiety of all things? Brilliant. Totally fucking brilliant. He wished he'd thought of it himself.
"Hello, Deirdre," he said under his breath, "let's see what you can do."
"Deirdre is a very very smart AI," Grant told them enthusiastically as he typed hyper fast on the keyboard. Jeannie leaned over his shoulder, watching the code scroll on the screen. John shifted his weight from side to side, wishing there was room to pace. Ronon was poking around the other stuff on the shelves. Grant continued, "I originally built her to be a predictive stock program, but when the subprime mortgage crisis hit she got upset and I didn't have the heart to make her do that anymore."
Jeannie used one long finger to trace a particular thread in the code, careful to keep from touching the actual screen.
"It got upset?" John frowned.
"Oh, yes. She's very sensitive." Grant opened up another window on his second monitor and pointed at a spiky graph that John couldn't interpret. "This is a map of her anxiety levels versus baseline. I don't use her for specific stock analysis any longer, but I can see when a big drop is going to happen ‘cause she still watches and she hates it when people lose money."
Ronon held up a set of bizarre looking handmade goggles. "What's this?"
Grant glanced over. "Oh! Those are VR goggles," he said with a smile. "Play games, make money." He looked embarrassed for a moment then ducked his head. "Or, play games, lose money, sometimes." He laughed a little under his breath.
John found himself liking Rodney's brother a lot. Grant was certainly one of a kind, and he knew that Rodney, despite how freaked out he was going to be at having yet another family member sprung on him, was going to love him. But... they had to find him first.
"This is all fascinating, Grant. It really is. But Rodney is out there somewhere, and I really want to find him and bring him home to meet you, pretty much right now," John interrupted. "Please tell me that this thing can help us find him."
"Oh, yes, yes. Of course," Grant shot him a nervous smile. "Sorry, sometimes I get a little, right, right. OK." He gestured at the screen, explained rapidly. "Deirdre is much more than a simple stock program. I hooked her into pretty much every database I could find. Some, uh. Well. Not exactly allowed. Anyhow, she's got access to almost every piece of information out there, and the adaptive algorithms to determine relevant versus not very very quickly. She's shown an extreme aptitude for finding things." He grinned with a combination of modesty and pride. "We've been using her to find missing people, though the extension to other things based on similar algorithmic models is very basic."
"Ok," John said.
Grant looked at the expression on his face and continued hurriedly, "I've asked Deirdre to find him. She's looking now." He pointed to a rapidly changing set of three dimensional shapes that looked to John like amoebas twisting in agony. Or, perhaps, having amoeba sex. "Green is good, blue is neutral, orange is an unsuccessful outcome." The colours were morphing so rapidly it looked as though the amoebas were moulting. One of them was turning orange. John couldn't watch, and so he turned his back on the screen. Grant hummed in the back of his throat.
Ronon clapped a hand on his shoulder, giving him a companionable squeeze.
"I keep telling them they can't have her," Grant kept talking to Jeannie. "They think they can use her to predict enemy movements and covert activities, and to pinpoint submarines and to derive industrial espionage and to find safe houses and hideouts." He laughed in delight. "Of course, she can, but she doesn't like that kind of work. She’s, she’s sensitive."
John stiffened, felt Ronon's hand dig into the muscle of his shoulder. He turned slowly to see Grant beaming at Jeannie, who was smiling back just as warmly. "Did you say that this program has military applications?"
"Sure! And nefarious ones too, hahaha." Grant replied happily. "But I wouldn't use her like that."
"And you've been approached by people about it?"
"Yeah." He nodded, hands waving. "We even had a break in, about, oh, three months ago? One of the things taken was an old backup, but she didn't work back then." He laughed and patted his keyboard. "She was still being cranky."
"Grant." John had to stop and breathe to get hold of himself. "Do you think, by any chance, that it could be one of those people who took Rodney?"
Grant's smile disappeared and his eyes grew wide so fast that Jeannie put an arm around his shoulders protectively; shooting a glare at John that could have melted lead. They were all saved by a set of tones from the computer, a little melody that sounded questioning.
"Oh my God," John said, "You've built R2."
Grant ignored him, fingers flying over the keyboard. "It's... well, that's weird." He looked up at John, eyes impossibly blue in the light of the monitor. Another amoeba had joined the others on the screen, this one a writhing yellow-pink. "Deirdre's found something. Another AI. Well," he corrected hastily, "not really another AI, but another instance of herself. Out there." He gestured vaguely at the world outside the bank. "It must be the backup." He frowned. "But I don't know how. That program, it, it wasn't working yet. No one would be able to get it going. It should, it should be impossible."
John felt his face break into a smile so wide it hurt. "Impossible," he said proudly, "is what Rodney does best." Jeannie was grinning too. "Now make it tell us where he is."
The AI (promptly dubbed MiniDee, according to Grant) provided them information readily enough, evaluating the information available and giving her location as an industrial address in Vaughn, in the northern section of Toronto's urban sprawl. It was off the highway and away from residential services, and was only minutes from the airport.
After a hurried discussion they agreed that Jeannie would stay with Grant. The car ride passed in tense silence, with John staring out the window desperately convincing himself that the appearance of the stolen AI was a good thing, that Rodney was fine. Ronon sat beside him, radiating impatience and irritation and tapping his fingers restlessly against the grip of his borrowed sidearm. John checked the magazine on his for the tenth time, ignoring Ronon's growl at being jostled.
The plan was straightforward - he and Ronon would check out the building themselves and ensure that Rodney was actually inside before deciding how to move ahead. Duplessis had provided the sidearms without comment, and had withdrawn with his cell to arrange adequate backup, preferably people who understood hostage rescue and the concept of stealth. Duplessis had just smiled at them and nodded. John was unconvinced.
The building was entirely nondescript, a tiny warehouse with absolutely nothing remarkable about it at all. John shuddered at how easily they would have skipped it, how easily people could get lost on his home world amongst all the detritus of everyday life. It would have been so easy to lose Rodney here forever. He blamed the sudden ache in his chest on missing Atlantis.
Duplessis drove a couple of buildings further down, until their car was hidden both from the obvious sightlines from the front and rear doors, and also from the most likely video surveillance angles. John's estimation of the man rose. Another car pulled in behind them, a black SUV that screamed 'cop'. Or 'mobster'. Looking at the uniforms, John went with police. He and Ronon exchanged looks of resolve, then reached for the doors in unison.
They piled out of the car wordlessly. Duplessis was already at the SUV, talking quietly but intensely to the cop who'd been riding shotgun and who was wearing sergeant's stripes. John approached and held out his hand. "Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard; US Air Force," he introduced himself.
"Sergeant McNally; Toronto SRU," the man replied, shaking his hand with a confident grip. "We'll wait for you here. Karasoff will give you a radio." He waved, and one of his men started to remove his communications gear.
"No need," John showed his earpiece before tucking it into its accustomed spot over his ear. Ronon mirrored him. "Tune in on encrypted channel A and we'll be good."
McNally nodded, waved at Karasoff, and turned back to John. "We're jamming basic communications channels and video for you. You call us if you need us," he said sincerely. "I hope you don't. Go get your man."
John nodded and took off for the warehouse at a jog, Ronon falling in beside him like a large, angry shadow. They reached the building without incident and after a full survey of all sides stopped by silent agreement along one of the long walls. Windows lined the top of the walls, and Ronon dropped to one knee, cupping his hands for John to use as a step. He stood, taking John's weight comfortably, and John stepped the remaining distance onto his shoulder as easily as walking up a particularly deep set of steps. Ronon stood stone still under him and he peeked in the window.
He didn’t have an angle that could view the floor, but he could make out what seemed to be the outlines of three rooms built into the body of the warehouse. It didn't seem to have any obvious surveillance measures, but given how small those cameras could come these days he was grateful for McNally's jamming systems. The room closest to him seemed to be about ten foot square, and lights blazed above it to throw the edges of the white-washed walls into clear relief. The other two rooms were darker, but seemed to be comprised of one that was about the same size as the first, and one that took up most of the remainder of the warehouse. The door of the outer building opened into a dark hallway. John tapped Ronon's shoulder, and immediately felt the large hands come around his ankle to help him down.
He quickly sketched the layout of the building in the dirt for Ronon, who shook his head at John's gesture towards the door. Ronon tapped his arm and pointed to the top of the warehouse. There was a small opening cut into the metal roof for ventilation. John considered. It would be a tight fit for Ronon, but the doorway and hallway was almost certainly booby trapped. He nodded then tapped his earpiece.
"We have an entry," he whispered, "but we'll need some covering noise. Can you arrange some construction nearby? Something loud and mechanical?"
[Standby,] Duplessis replied. John waited. Three long minutes later, he came back on the radio. [Highway crew six minutes away.]
"Acknowledged," he said. It was incredibly frustrating to be here, right here knowing Rodney was probably inside, but that metal roof meant they needed a plausible noise cover, and that meant six more fucking minutes of waiting. The contained stress on Ronon's face told him he felt the same. They agreed to circle the building again, on the off chance they missed something the first time. They hadn't.
The jackhammer started one building over right as six minutes ticked over in John's head. He and Ronon immediately headed for the drain spout on the north end of the building, each climbing with speed and skill. The roof was loud as expected, but they were able to time their steps with the jackhammer and made them uneven enough to have them not sound like footsteps. They made it to the ventilation door, opened it silently. They dropped inside, onto a catwalk that made John feel at home. They crossed it to the large room.
The room was stuffed with computer equipment. John had never seen so much computing power in one place before, not even at Cheyenne. It was literally wall to wall, with only small corridors wide enough for someone to edge through sideways lacing the place. The heat coming off the equipment was unbelievable, and John suddenly realised what the huge machine taking up the whole back wall was: an air conditioning unit. He looked at Ronon, who looked simultaneously impressed and uninterested.
They continued to the room with the lights blazing, and found it to be starkly white and completely empty. There were scuff marks on the white-painted floor, leading to the doorway. John nudged Ronon, and they crossed to the final room. There, they hit pay dirt.
Rodney was seated at a set of keyboards and monitors that reminded John of the Matrix. As he shifted in his seat, John saw the ropes lashing him in place. The burst of rage at the sight took him by surprise, and only Ronon’s hand on his shoulder reminded him to keep his growl inside. Ronon nudged his arm and pointed to their left, where a man sat comfortably watching Rodney work. The man was nothing special on the surface, but something about the way he held his head told them both that he was a professional. He held a brushed silver handgun in his right hand, and a Taser in his left. Both weapons were directed unerringly at Rodney. The man was wearing a vest and had enough equipment surrounding him that there was no clear shot.
John felt Ronon leave, presumably to check out the other angles and to make sure the man was alone. His own eyes were pulled back to Rodney, automatically assessing him for injuries. He could tell from the slope of Rodney’s shoulders that he was hurting, probably ribs or chest, and by the set of his hips and back against the ropes holding him in place that his legs were damaged. He couldn’t really tell how badly, though. Rodney’s head drooped periodically and he was leaning heavily on his elbows. John felt another hot flash of rage.
Now that he was looking for it, he could see the red flush over all of Rodney’s exposed skin, the sweat matting his hair to his head, and the tremors wracking him. Ronon dropped soundlessly into place beside him, shaking his head at John’s questioning look.
So, just the professional, then. He wasn’t going to be easy to take. He looked unaware of their presence, but he’d placed himself in the most highly defensible position in the room. Just about any entry into the room would give the man enough time to get a shot off. And one shot is all it would take.
Ronon tapped him on the shoulder, gestured at the top of the wall. John’s eyebrows rose. He supposed that could work. Ronon gave him a quick grin and eased out on the top of the wall, gliding carefully along the top of the two by four frame, balancing like a cat. John watched in admiration as the big man settled himself above their quarry. Just as he was about to pounce, John saw a telltale tensing of Rodney’s shoulders and lifted a hand urgently to tell Ronon to wait.
The room below them blew apart in a vicious crackle of electricity. Blue sheets of power arced randomly over the computers below, snapping deafeningly. Sparks showered the room as each of the monitors exploded in turn.
The man who’d been monitoring Rodney arched off his chair as a bolt of electricity as thick as John’s wrist went straight through his chest. Both the Taser and the gun went off as the man’s hands clenched involuntarily. John blinked rapidly, watching through streaming eyes as Ronon flailed wildly to keep his balance and to keep from falling into the maelstrom below. Just as he lost the battle, the entire warehouse went dark.
Ronon tumbled into the room, somehow managing to make it look graceful. Without thinking twice, John followed him in, eyes locked on where Rodney had been. His hand was at his earpiece even as his feet hit the floor.
“This is Sheppard. I need backup and a medical unit immediately. Move!”
[On it,] McNally snapped in response.
“He’s dead,” Ronon announced curtly from the other side of the room, clicking on his Maglite to give John some much needed visibility. Rodney was slumped over the keyboards, held up awkwardly by the ropes tying him to the chair. There were scorch marks all around him, but he seemed untouched by the lethal bolts. John reached for him with shaking hands, almost afraid to find out.
There was a pulse, racing under skin too hot and too sweaty, but definitely there. Rodney was alive.
John closed his eyes as the SRU crashed into the room, focused only on that thrum beneath his fingers that told him Rodney was still with them.
Rodney both loved and hated hospitals. Loved them for the cosseting and the safe food and the quiet, hated them for the sterility and the harsh detergents they used, and the way that the doctors were so utterly and infuriatingly convinced that they were right all the time. He knew who was right, damn it, and it was him.
“At least feed me something half-decent,” he snarled at the nurse, who ignored him as thoroughly as the ones in the Atlantis infirmary ever had. Ronon looked up from his post beside the bed, where he’d parked himself as soon as they’d arrived and refused to leave no matter who asked or what they were doing. They’d threatened to call security, but then John had threatened to take Rodney out of the hospital, and it was all about to devolve into a free for all when Duplessis had stepped in with his ID and a couple of soft spoken words. Fifteen minutes later Rodney had been in a private room with security on the door, and a pullout chair for Ronon.
Rodney appreciated the effort, especially since he’d still been unconscious at the time. From his perspective, he’d pressed the key to tell Deidre to fry Marcus, and had woken up some unspecified time later to see Ronon watching him closely. So far, he’d resisted attempts to find out what happened, too. Closemouthed Satedans were such a pain in the ass.
Luckily the damage inflicted by Marcus’ persuasive tactics was mostly minor, though Rodney’s left knee was going to take a long time to heal. They still weren’t sure what had been in the drug cocktail he’d been injected with, but they were sure that his body hadn’t liked it at all. Between the sprained knee, the bone deep bruises all over his legs and torso and the drug reactions, they’d decided to keep him in just one more night. Rodney would have offered just about anything he could afford to go back to the hotel rather than stay another second.
The nurse left, and John stuck his head through the door. “Is it safe to come in?”
“You must be kidding,” Rodney rolled his eyes. He glared at Ronon. “We’re in Canada. Nothing ever happens in Canada, right. Ronon?”
Ronon flapped a hand at him and went back to his Gameboy. Which he refused to share, the shaggy-headed bastard.
“Are you, uh. Up for visitors?” John looked oddly hesitant. Rodney eyed him warily but nodded. John grinned at him and threw the door wide. Jeannie burst into the room and sat on the edge of the bed, patting him on the shoulder in lieu of anything more demonstrative. He saw the quick shine of tears in her eyes though, and awkwardly patted her back.
He was distracted by wondering about Ronon’s wide smirk and missed the man who followed Jeannie in. John came in too and shut the door, then cleared his throat. He looked up.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me!” He might as well have been looking in a mirror. A nervous, less confident mirror with a reflection that looked about to bolt. The arm John threw over the man’s shoulder was bracing, comforting even, and Rodney shook his head. “Another one?” He demanded.
“This is Grant,” Jeannie told him cheerfully. “He’s a derivatives trader. A very successful one. And, as you’ve guessed, our brother.”
“Grant,” Rodney repeated flatly. The man… his brother, (another one, Jesus!) nodded uneasily, his gaze darting around the room. His eyes met Rodney’s, and for the instant before he glanced back away he smiled. The smile was tentative, eager, fearful, and gorgeous. Rodney’s stomach clenched and he closed his eyes. He could feel Jeannie watching him closely, gauging his reaction, probably wondering if he was going to say something to scare Grant away. That smile, though, Rodney knew that smile, knew the nervous flutter of hands. He knew what it meant, knew it to his bones. His parent’s room had a mirror on the door, and he’d seen that same smile on his own face so many times when he’d come to them, hoping that this time they’d be proud of him, that this time they’d want him …
“Deidre saved me,” he said, instead of any of the bitter scathing things he could have. Instead of what he would have, if he hadn’t seen that smile.
Grant’s head lifted and he met Rodney’s eyes head on. “She, she did?”
Rodney nodded. “I asked her to help, and she did.” He licked his lips. “She’s brilliant, your AI.”
Grant’s grin was like sunshine, it was so unabashedly happy. “MiniDee saved you.”
Rodney couldn’t help but smile back. “MiniDee? She said her name was Deirdre.”
“She’s the early version,” Grant told him. “The not-working one.” He paused, seemed to think it over. “You got her working. It should have been impossible.”
“Well,” Rodney said, “Impossible is what I do best.”