Big Changes — Chapter 8

Staff Sergeant Morris held the door for Tony and he sighed Alec hadn’t let him off the City without a security detail. He had tried to argue but the Sergeant Major had merely raised an eyebrow and said, “You’re one of the 10 strongest natural gene holders in the program, sir. A security detail is not being overcautious.”

So Tony was saddled with three armed Marines or was it three armed Marines were saddled with him? Tony smiled to himself, at least, he had been able to convince Alec to send guys he was familiar with. Corporal Daniels put Tony’s bag in the trunk of the car they were using to return to Nellis and Sergeant Lum got in the driver’s seat. They had gotten to stay off base at the Red Rock, apparently it was Rodney’s favorite casino, and he had arranged their stay. Rodney hated staying on base while in Las Vegas and refused to inflict that on Tony. He insisted Tony should enjoy the few days he had left on Earth even if the casino was on the wrong side of town. They were not leaving their bags even though they weren’t checking out. Something to do with security. Tony really didn’t want to know why SGC people were so paranoid. They were on Earth after all.

At Nellis, they boarded the helicopter to Area 51 with General O’Neill. Something Tony was grateful for. With O’Neill talking with the pilots, he could focus on the upcoming interview with Dr. Keller. Tony had a gut feeling this investigation wasn’t going to be resolved in the two weeks Atlantis had left on Earth.

As they drew closer to the base, Tony looked around underwhelmed by the base. He didn’t know what he was expecting but this … emptiness wasn’t it. He was lead inside an underground compound and that was cool. Tony suddenly realized that nothing compared to Atlantis. The City had spoiled him for military bases and he gave a little laugh. At the questioning look from Morris, he shrugged and just smiled. How crazy was his life, that an underground bunker at Area 51 was unimpressive. He quickly smothered another chuckle as General O’Neill introduced him to the SF assigned to escort them to Dr. Keller.

Dr. Keller didn’t have her own office unlike Atlantis. She had taken a demotion to come here. Everyone blamed Rodney for her leaving Atlantis but that wasn’t the whole truth. Yes, they had argued, bitterly and publicly, over Atlantis returning to Pegasus but the truth was that none of the senior staff wanted her to remain as CMO. John didn’t trust her and it showed. The military trusted John; he fought for and with them so his mistrust became their mistrust. The civilians found her naive and the other medical staff found her ineffectual at the administrative side of being CMO. Mr. Woolsey had grown tired of fixing the problems that arose because she failed to order necessary supplies or do other critical tasks. The truth was she was going to be replaced as CMO, if not by Dr. Beckett, then by someone. Having her trade positions with Dr. Mills had given the illusion of her choosing to step down. When people asked why she was leaving, she always told them that she wanted to be closer to her father. He had a stroke and could be moved to an assisted living facility in Las Vegas. It was a long commute but she could see him everyday if she wanted.

“Dr. Turnball,” the Airman who was escorting them said, “This is Director DiNozzo from Atlantis.”

The portly man looked up from his desk and looked blankly at the Airman, “Director of what?”

“The Atlantean Security Force,” Tony said pleasantly as he entered the room, “General O’Neill sent me to talk with Dr. Keller. Privately.”

The man made a face but quickly schooled his expression to bland neutrality. Tony’s interest was piqued; it seemed like Keller wasn’t well liked here either. Dr. Turnball stood and locked his computer screen, “Privately, huh?”

“The Colonel said they could use room 21-995, sir,” Airman Banks said. Turnball nodded, “I’ll take them the rest of the way, Banks. Are they cleared to leave this area without an escort?”

“No, sir,” Banks replied.

“Right, I’ll show them how to call when they’re finished. Dismissed, Airman.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

Turnball started walking down the hallway, saying, “You just pick up the phone and press ‘0’. That’ll get you the base operator who will be able to send an escort. Takes about 10 minutes for them to arrive. Bathrooms are in these locker rooms and that’s the break room. About how long do you think you’ll be?”

“I’m not sure,” Tony answered, “Thanks for the assist.”

“Not a problem,” Turnball unlocked the door, “Here you go. Keller has a meeting at 3 PM. I hope you’ll be finished by then. I’m doing performance reviews for four members of my staff today so I’ll be unavailable most of the time. If you need to contact me, the base operator can send me a message.”

“Understood,” Tony stuck out his hand, “Thanks again.”

“I’ll send Keller right in,” he said as he shook Tony’s hand.

“Do you mind, sir, if I send Corporal Daniels with you?” Asked Staff Sergeant Morris.

At Turnball’s assessing gaze, Tony injected, “It’s not necessary.”

Turnball gave Tony a flat look, “It’s fine, Staff Sergeant. If you’ll follow me, Corporal?”

Tony hummed as they left and shrugged when Morris looked at him. He looked around the room and pointed to a corner, “Mike, I would like you to pull up a chair and sit there. I want you, Earl, on another chair in that corner and would you head to break room to see if there is bottled water? If there is, I’d like at least two.”

The two Marines shared a glance and moved to do as Tony asked. Tony moved a third chair to another corner, “I want Tommy in this seat.”

Tony grinned at Morris’ expression and asked, “Are you going to ask?”

“No, sir,” he answered and Tony laughed. “Tommy is the least physically intimidating of you three. That’s why I want him in her line of sight. I’m hoping with the two of you behind her she’ll be uncomfortable.”

Tony situated another two chairs across one end of the table and put his tablet in front of the chair facing the door. There was a brief knock and Lum re-entered the room with five bottles of water. He gave two to Tony and set one on Daniels’ chair. Morris thanked Lum for the water and both men sat down as Tony fiddled with his tablet.

Another brief knock and the door opened to admit Corporal Daniels and Dr. Keller. Tony waited a beat before looking up.

“Dr. Keller,” Tony slowly stood and gave her his most charming smile, “Please a have a seat. I’m Tony DiNozzo from the Atlantean Security Force. Thank you for agreeing to speak with me today.”

“Mr. DiNozzo,” she simpered, “I’m pleased to meet you. Dr. Turnball didn’t say why you wanted to speak with me. I can’t imagine what the Atlantean Security Force would want with me.”

Morris and Lum rolled their eyes from behind her as both men clearly heard the implied ‘little ole’ in her tone. “Dr,” Tony gently corrected her, “but please call me Tony. Won’t you please sit. Would like a bottle of water?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Thank you, Jen,” Tony said as they finished, “You’ve been very helpful.”

They both stood and Dr. Keller looked up at Tony with doe eyes, “Will you be in Las Vegas long? Perhaps we could have dinner.”

“Unfortunately, I’ll be leaving tonight,” Tony replied, “but thank you for the invitation. Corporal, would you escort Dr. Keller back to her lab?”

“Yes, sir,” Daniels turned to her, “Ma’am?”

The three men watched them leave the room and Tony gave a small wave in response to Dr. Keller’s. After the door closed, Morris turned to Tony, “I thought we were spending the night, sir?”

“We are,” Tony said absently, “I just couldn’t bear the thought of spending any more time with that woman. Earl, you’re closest to the phone, would you please call for an escort?”

“Yes, sir,” Lum said moving to the phone after exchanging a look with Morris.

Daniels knocked on the door before opening it, “She stopped at the head and sent me back, sir.”

“Interesting,” Tony mused, “There are lockers in there, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

With a pensive look, Tony sat back down and worked on his tablet until their escort arrived. A different Airman came to escort them back and told them when he arrived that the General would be in meetings for the next several hours but had arranged a place for Tony to work while he waited. It had a secure connection to Atlantis. The Airman suggested they have lunch in the dining facility and dropped them off at the dining facility after agreeing to return in an hour to take them to the office.

“Ray,” Tony as Kowalski’s face come on the computer screen, “I need to get in touch with Mills’ security detail. I want to know what he’s doing and who he’s talking to.”

“I spoke with the Sergeant Major,” Ray replied, “and got the contact info. I touched base with the Staff Sergeant in charge this morning. This team has escorted him to a couple of conferences previously and he reports nothing unusual in Mills’ behavior.”

“Good. I want twice daily contact with them until he returns to the City.”

“Got it. Was Keller helpful?”

“Yes,” Tony leaned back in his chair and gave Ray a look, “Very helpful. So helpful I got the impression she’s throwing him under the bus.”

“Really?”

“She had proof that she was following a Dr. Victor Howe’s orders. Howe is conveniently dead; died in a car crash about the same time she and Mills traded jobs. She says that Mills took over the research at that point and she isn’t sure who is giving orders with Howe out of the picture. I asked her why she was doing research Dr McKay had forbidden as CSO and she said that she was told that she wasn’t under McKay as CMO and he didn’t have the authority to restrict her research.”

“Oh, boy.”

“I know, right?” Tony sighed, “I’m not looking forward to Rodney’s response to that. The documents she turned over are ambiguous. I can see how she came to that conclusion but her employment contract is pretty clear that the CSO controls the research on the City. In my report, I’m going to suggest that her current supervisor and she review her contract together so she understands the chain of command. She acted like she didn’t understand what she was doing conflicted her contract or the chain of command.”

“The other scientists did say she was naive.”

“Well,” Tony drawled, “she does act naive but I think that just what it is, an act.”

“Huh. Can we charge her with anything?”

“Nope, she has documentation showing she was following orders.”

Ray shook his head, “You gonna warn them to watch her?”

“Yep,” Tony said popping the p, “Anything I need to know about the City?”

“Not really. The military got a team of Army Rangers bringing the count of different branches to six and the geeks have already ordered the appropriate materials from the USACIDC and MPC.”

Tony laughed, “Great more stuff. How goes it with the training classes the Colonel wanted?”

“Done,” Ray said triumphantly, “With Lewis’ help, all the classes Sheppard requested are staffed and scheduled. Sign ups started today and two are already full.”

“Excellent,” Tony grinned, “Good job.”

“Thanks, but I couldn’t have done it as fast without Lewis,” Ray blushed, “Sheppard stopped by to thank us at breakfast. I’m not sure if I’m happy that the RMO knows my name.”

Tony laughed, “You live with McKay’s cousin, of course he knows your name. You’re family.”

“Bah,” Ray made a face, “Fraze is so different. It’s hard to believe he is related to those two.”

Tony just laughed harder. Ray looked up, “Hey, I’m talking to the Director. You wanna report?”

“Yes, thank you kindly,” Benton and Ray changed places, “Dr. DiNozzo, how was the interview with Dr. Keller?”

“Illuminating; Ray can fill you in. How goes the patrol schedule?”

“Complete as of this morning. Sergeant Major Scrivens and I have just finished meeting with the Colonels and both them signed off. We’ll begin phasing out the teams from the Mountain and Area 51 tomorrow morning.”

“Wonderful. I know that was a harder task than we anticipated. Well done.”

“Thank you kindly. Sergeant Major Scrivens asked me to pass on a message. He said they are on target with the large theater and have acquired all of the supplies you requested.”

“Yes,” Tony crowed and looked up at the knock on the door, “Gotta go. Thanks for the update.”

General O’Neill sat in the chair across from Tony and sighed, “I hate meetings.”

“The life of a General is filled with them,” Tony said seriously.

Jack pointed at Tony, “Yes! Meetings and paperwork. Which I also hate,” he scrubbed his face tiredly, “Sit rep on Keller.”

“I’m preparing a report,” Tony snickered at the dark look Jack shot him, “The highlights: We can’t charge her with anything but she gave me plenty to arrest Mills.”

Jack scowled at him, “Why can’t we charge her?”

“She has documentation proving she was following lawful orders.”

“Lawful?”

“Yes, they came from a supervisor here at Area 51, a Dr. Victor Howe.”

“Why do I know that name?”

“Because you ordered an investigation into his death?”

“Oh, yeah, convenient car accident. A supervisor from Area 51 shouldn’t be giving orders to anyone on Atlantis.”

Tony hummed, “He made the argument that as he was in charge of specific research that Keller was in a unique position to conduct and had the specialized training to do, he could.”

“It doesn’t work like that. Howe was stepping on McKay’s toes and a smart man only does that once.”

Tony gave Jack a small sly smile, “Apparently, Howe convinced Keller that McKay didn’t need to know.”

Jack gave Tony an incredulous look, “And she fell for that?”

“That’s her story.”

“And she’s sticking to it?” Jack leaned back, “How much do you believe her?”

Tony held up two fingers a very small distance apart, “I’m suggesting that her current supervisor ensures she understands the chain of command and reviews her work closely. If someone on Atlantis had been examining her work output, they would have noticed inconsistencies.”

“Why do you think no one did?”

“Truth?”

“You betcha.”

“I think her status as Rodney’s girlfriend protected her. No one questioned her because they feared upsetting him.”

Jack barked a laugh, “This news is going to go over like a turd in a punchbowl with McKay.”

The three Marines snorted but quickly schooled their expressions when the other two men turned to look at them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“We got a problem,” Ray announced as he entered the office, “Staff Sergeant Messner reports they’ve lost Mills.”

Tony sat back and Benton turned to look at Ray as he continued, “They state he spent the night with a lady friend, not an unusual thing as apparently he’s a horn dog, but didn’t meet up with them as usual. The lady in question says he left early claiming he had an important meeting and he left his phone by accident.”

“Dr. Mills declined an subdermal tracker,” Benton said, “It was not required as he didn’t qualify for a field team.”

“As is his right,” Tony mused, “and the tracker was placed in his phone which was never to be left unsecured.”

“You think he planned this?” Ray asked.

Tony shook his head, “Not so much. He left research unfinished here. He might have copies with him but the conditions on an Atlantis are unique. Continuing his research in an Earth based lab filled with only Earth made equipment will be much more difficult, not impossible but harder. I think he was tipped off.”

“Keller,” Benton and Ray said together and Tony nodded.

“I want the two of you on scene,” Tony said, “Contact Alec, get there and report back in three hours. I’ll contact the Mountain see if we can trace who contacted him in the last 48 hours.”

“Yes, sir,” Both men replied and grabbed their go bags as Tony logged into the secure system. He clicked his radio, “Mr. Woolsey, I need a meeting with you, McKay, and Sheppard as close to 1145 as we can get.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

At 1230, Tony entered the conference with lunch, they earliest they could meet was during everyone’s meal break. Rodney entered muttering at this tablet and asked, “Tony, did you remember no citrus?”

“Yes, Rodney, when I placed the order I made sure to tell them it was for you and John.”

“Good, good,” Rodney sat down wearily and closed his eyes, “I will be so happy when we finally leave. I’m so tired of dealing with assholes on this planet.”

“Me too, buddy, me too.” Sheppard said as he entered. He softly kissed his husband’s forehead. Tony looked away. They weren’t big on PDA but they hadn’t had much time alone in the last week.

Mr. Woolsey cleared his throat when he entered and John moved away from where he was leaning on Rodney, “Richard, how was the meeting with the IOA?”

“Successful,” Mr. Woolsey answered John, “I was able to get the last bit of supplies everyone requested. As of this morning, all outstanding requisitions are approved and will be arriving in the next 10 hours.”

“Civilian and military?” Rodney asked as he sat up.

“Yes,” Mr. Woolsey smugly smiled, “All.”

“That is excellent news,” John said and he turned to Tony, “So what fuckedupness to you have for us?”

“Mills is missing.”

“What?” all three men exclaimed.

“His security detail reported he wasn’t where he was expected to be at 0800. He checked in with his detail at 2200 the night before and reported he would be spending the remainder of the night with a fellow attendee,” Tony consulted his notes, “A Dr. Maria Gladwin. Staff Sergeant Messner reports this is Mills’ normal MO. He checks in when he leaves with whomever he selected for the evening, and then, no later than 0800 he calls them to pick him up. When he didn’t call as usual, they called his phone and Dr. Gladwin answered.”

“What?” Rodney growled, “How? It has a biometric passcode.”

“Apparently,” Tony gave Rodney a flat look, “Mills ‘forgot’ his phone when he left in a rush at 0545. The security features were disabled when Kowalski logged it into evidence.”

“Does Dr. Mills have a subdermal tracker?” Mr. Woolsey wondered.

Rodney answered before Tony could speak, “No, he didn’t qualify for a field team so it wasn’t required. He talked about how he didn’t want the PTBs to track him,” Rodney waved an arm, “and some other bullshit that I don’t remember. I advised everyone to get the tracker but…”

“Ronon still refuses one,” John said softly, “as does Teyla.”

“Yes,” Rodney conceded, “and I understand why but if Ford ….”

John covered Rodney’s hand with his, “Yeah.”

After a moment, Tony continued, “I’ve informed General O’Neill. I’m not sure if you’re aware but AFOSI has assigned a team to the SGC based out of the Mountain. They are taking over the investigation as soon as they’re on scene, in about another hour. General O’Neill wants me to assure you that this team will be investigating Mills disappearance, his research and who might be pulling the strings.”

Rodney snorted his disbelief evident, “Mills’ replacement arrived today. He’s much prettier.”

“You just like him,” John said, “because he won the argument to bring his cat.”

Rodney smiled, “Yep, and the only reason I like you better is because you bought me a cat.”

Mr. Woolsey and Tony both laughed as John blushed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

T-36 hours found General O’Neill meeting with Tony, John, Rodney, Nest and Mr. Woolsey. He had specifically requested Nest as one of her contacts had provided critical information in the investigation into Mills. He brought a bottle of Bushmills 10 year old Irish whisky to share. He poured 6 glasses and set them around the table. He planned to give the rest of the bottle to McKay. He knew they both appreciated fine whiskey. The others gathered around, picked their glasses and Jack said, “Sláinte.”

After everyone sat down, Mr. Woolsey turned to Jack, “General O’Neill, I assume you have something to report.”

“Yeah,” Jack leaned back and contemplated the whiskey in his glass, “We discovered what the goal of the research is.”

After a few moments, Rodney huffed but didn’t speak and Mr. Woolsey tentatively asked, “Are you able to tell us?”

Jack lifted his eyes to Woolsey and then shifted his gaze over to Sheppard, “They are trying to make babies with ATA and Iratus genes.”

Rodney immediately grabbed John’s hand and clutched it tightly as John’s eyes turned black. Tony looked horrified. Mr. Woolsey took a deep breath, “I’m quite certain that Colonel Sheppard has not knowingly donated sperm since our return to Earth.”

“A combination of gene splicing and cloned embryos,” Jack leaned back and closed his eyes, “Cut-n-paste.”

“That is most disturbing,” Mr. Woolsey replied, “Has the team located Dr. Mills or identified who is behind the research?”

“Not yet,” came the very tired reply, “and since DiNozzo plugged the security breach here on Atlantis, the chatter on the research is dwindling.”

“Surely, you’re not suggesting he should have allowed the breach to remain?”

“No,” Jack opened his eyes, “No, especially not since Dr. Simoneit confirmed it would have sent a compressed file each time the ‘Gate opened to Earth. It needed to be shut down. It just complicates the investigation.”

Jack finished his drink, “I promise you we will get to the bottom of this. Trust me, I’ve made this a priority.”

“But I don’t, Jack,” Nest thumped her glass on the table, “I don’t trust you to do what is necessary.”

“Nest,” Rodney quietly said. The cousins looked at each other and Nest finally inclined her head. As she left the room, Rodney took a deep breath and turned to Jack, “We have no choice but to trust you. None of us wish to remain on Earth but you’ve rejected our suggestions for investigators. I truly hope, Jack, that you have made this a priority because if someone Nest cares about is hurt by this, she’ll make you hurt, and if someone I care about is, I’ll destroy you.”

“Dr. McKay!” Mr. Woolsey frowned disapprovingly.

Rodney gave him an unimpressed look, “Come, John, let’s freak out the newbies.”

After the two men left, Mr. Woolsey started to apologize but Jack waved him off. “Don’t worry, Woolsey, I get it. DiNozzo, the rest of this is for McKay; make sure he gets it. Woolsey and I’ve got another meeting to get to.”

“No problem, sir,” Tony said as he picked up the bottle, “See you both tomorrow at the ceremony.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AFOSI – United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations

MPC – Military Police Corps (US Army)

USACIDC – United States Army Criminal Investigation Command

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