- *No Site Warnings Apply
- Episode Related
- Fix It
Rodney sank into the familiar comfort of the armchair he’d always preferred, relieved the walls of the loft had finally been painted a more restful colour than lurid green. How someone with heightened senses could be so blind and lacking in taste had always puzzled him.
‘Tea?’ Blair asked from the kitchen area, holding up a teapot.
Rodney scowled at him. ‘Coffee. I’m still not drinking that hippy leaf crap of yours.’
Jim gave a snort of laughter but quickly straightened his face when his partner and Guide glared at him. ‘I’ll have a cup of your delightful tea, sweetums.’
Rodney turned to look at Jim, horror written across his face. ‘Please tell me you didn’t just call him sweetums.’
‘Relax, man, he’s just trying to wind me up,’ Blair called over the sound of the kettle boiling.
‘So what’s brought you home so suddenly?’ Jim asked Rodney quietly.
A feeling of warmth surged through Rodney at Jim’s reference to home, especially after all the trauma of the previous couple of days, and he gave his friend and would-be father figure a hesitant smile, then blinked rapidly. He was not going to cry, dammit.
‘Rodney?’ Jim hesitated for a moment then leaned forward and rested his hand on Rodney’s shoulder. ‘What’s happened, kiddo?’
Rodney gave him something approaching a smile. ‘Nothing. I’m just…tired.’
Jim gave him a level look. ‘Want to try that again? And don’t bother to lie. You know I’ll know.’
‘God preserve me from bossy Sentinels,’ Rodney muttered, rolling his eyes.
‘You don’t believe in God,’ Blair told him, setting a cup of coffee down beside him and slipping into a seat next to Jim. ”Fess up. What’s happened.’
Playing for time, Rodney took a sip of coffee and raised his eyebrows. ‘Has Simon been buying your coffee for you?’
‘He said he refused to drink another cup of the cheap crap Jim usually buys,’ Blair replied. ‘We all win this way: Simon gets to drink decent coffee and Mr Pennypincher here doesn’t have to shell out for it.’
Jim scowled at him, yet Rodney could feel the strength of the love they had for each other and he envied it.
‘Rodney. Tell us what’s happened, because you know Blair’ll get it out of you one way or another.’
Rodney sighed, aware of the truth in what Jim said. Blair had a knack for getting people to confide in him, even those who were aware of what he was doing. It was one of his skills as both a Guide and a Shaman – the ability to see beyond the surface emotions and to delve deeper into the psyche of his subject. Rodney also knew these gifts were available to him if he cared to investigate them but, so far in his life at least, he’d shied away from anything which couldn’t be quantified or understood by science. Maybe it was time he agreed to let Blair teach him what he needed to know and stopped denying his gifts as a Guide.
The second use of the pet name Jim gave him when the pair first took him under their wing at the age of 14 made Rodney’s defences crumble.
‘I’ve been working as a contractor for the Air Force, and…something happened. I can’t give you any more details because it’s all beyond confidential and if I uttered so much as a word too many I could find myself locked away for life. Stuff happened and I was given a stark choice of working in Russia or leaving their employ. I chose to leave.’ He gave them a bleak smile. ‘I’m officially unemployed.’
‘Working in Russia?’ Blair demanded. ‘But you don’t speak Russian.’
Rodney shrugged his shoulders. ‘That didn’t bother them.’
‘But without speaking the language you could have found yourself in all sorts of difficulties, not least from not knowing or being able to ask about food ingredients.’
Rodney shrugged again. ‘What can I say? They didn’t care.’
‘Do they know about your allergies and hypoglycaemia?’
‘I told their…chief scientist, I suppose you’d call her. I think she’s the one who suggested sending me overseas.’
‘Just how much use could you be if you don’t speak the language?’ Blair appeared to be fixated on this point, but Jim tilted his head to one side at Rodney’s reference to the chief scientist.
‘I guess they thought I’m bright enough, which I am, of course, to learn it pretty quickly. They always say full immersion’s the best way to learn a language.’
‘What I don’t understand is why the Air Force wanted you, a theoretical astrophysicist, to go to Russia,’ Jim said, his narrowed eyes on Rodney. ‘It doesn’t make any sense. Why just give them one of our top scientists?’
Rodney averted his eyes. ‘Leave it, Jim. Please.’
‘No. I’m sorry, kiddo, but I can’t. What they tried to do, given your medical history, is very close to attempted murder.’
‘Jim!’ Rodney’s voice was low but no less urgent. ‘Please don’t push it. It won’t end well for any of us. I shouldn’t have said anything. Maybe I shouldn’t have come here.’ He made a move to stand up, but Jim gripped his shoulder again and held him in place.
‘No, Rodney. Don’t leave. This is your home and your problems are our problems. We’ll always be here for you, I promise. But this goes way beyond you, don’t you see? It affects all Sentinels and Guides. Hell, it affects anyone with serious medical issues! If they can treat a high-level Guide like this, what are they likely to do to a low level one who crosses them? Now, tell us exactly what happened.’
Sagging back in his chair Rodney considered his options. He could refuse to tell them anything and leave, but Jim and Blair were his family and, despite his seemingly tough exterior, Rodney loved them for their acceptance of him when no one else appeared to care. His only other viable option was to tell them what he could since Jim was quite correct; Blair would get it out of him one way or another. Accordingly, he took a deep breath and gave them both a hesitant smile.
‘I was called in to help with a problem in a different facility to the one I normally work in, but I wasn’t aware of the politics behind the request. You know I couldn’t care less about politics of any kind, but these had a direct effect on me. I was used as a pawn to allow someone else to get what they wanted, except I didn’t know this at first. I tried to explain this to…the person I was supposed to be helping, but she didn’t seem to care and…’ He grimaced. ‘I called her a dumb blonde.’
‘Rodney!’ Jim shook his head. ‘I hope you apologised.’
‘I didn’t get the chance as she stormed out of the Mess Hall, but it all went south from there. She offered up a solution which shouldn’t have worked and was likely to cause injury and destruction in the facility, and possibly in the local area as well. I called her on it and on the fact she regularly ignored error messages and warnings in the equipment she was using. The General in charge of…the facility she works in backed her up and…told me I was to go to Russia. They’d obviously discussed this prior to that particular meeting and the man who’d originally requested my help was actually working with a— with the enemy. It was a clusterfuck from beginning to end and I should have never got involved in it.’ He shook his head and looked down at the floor. ‘I admit to being a little arrogant when I first arrived, and I was rude to C— the other scientist, but I was trying to help, and the suggestions I made were all legitimate based on the information I had, information which she’d supplied.’
Jim frowned at him. ‘What happened was totally out of order, and you were dragged into it, Rodney. It wasn’t your fault and you’re not to blame. It does make me extremely concerned for all the other Sentinels and Guides working in this and whatever other facilities you worked in, as well as in the greater Air Force if this is the way they treat a Guide, quite apart from you being a Canadian citizen. I can’t begin to think what the Canadian government will say.’
Rodney looked up in alarm. ‘You’re not going to tell them, are you? Christ! The shit really would hit the fan then! As it is, I doubt I’ll ever work for the US military again. If the Canadian government get involved, I might never be able to work in the US again.’
‘They need to know,’ Jim told him, his face set as he watched Rodney.
‘Why?’ Rodney demanded.
‘Because behaviour like this can’t be allowed to continue. This is much bigger than just you, and Blair and I have a responsibility to all Guides and Sentinels.’
‘We appreciate you’re bound by rules and regulations, Rodney,’ Blair began. ‘But as the Alpha Prime Sentinel and Guide pair of the US, we need to know exactly where all this happened and who was involved.’
Rodney shook his head. ‘I can’t tell you that. If you knew the size of the non disclosure agreement I signed and the punitive clauses within it, you wouldn’t ask me.’
‘Very well,’ Jim said. ‘I can find out what I need to know with a few phone calls and I promise I’ll make sure they know you didn’t tell us anything you shouldn’t have. Now, it’s getting late, and you’ve had a long day. Your bedroom’s still made up and waiting for you. Why don’t you get some sleep and we’ll take care of all this tomorrow.’
Giving him a grateful smile, Rodney got to his feet. ‘It has been a long day, but at least I managed to get my apartment packed up. Goodnight and…’ He gave them a small, hesitant smile. ‘I do appreciate you both being here for me. I’ll see you both tomorrow.’
Jim turned to his partner as soon as Rodney had left the room. ‘He’s right that it’s a clusterfuck, but he probably doesn’t realise just how much of a one it’ll be for the Air Force and whoever he worked for in Nevada.’ He got to his feet. ‘I need to make a few phone calls.’
‘Jim! It’s the middle of the night in DC!’ Blair protested.
‘So I’ll wake a few people up. I don’t care.’
Blair shook his head and went to make more tea while Jim picked up the phone and dialled a number from memory. Blair listened to Jim’s side of the conversation while he puttered about with the teapot and cups, but didn’t learn an awful lot from Jim’s grunts and growls which reminded him of Jim’s spirit animal more than a man approaching his sixtieth birthday. The repetition of one word, however, did make him pause as something deep in his memory stirred. Making a mental note to explore this further in a meditation session, he carried two cups of herbal tea across to the sofa where Jim was now scowling into the telephone.
‘Robin, so help me if you don’t— Uhuh. Uhuh. Uhuh. Thanks a bundle, pal.’
Eyes narrowed to slits, Blair glared at his Sentinel. ‘Jim? What’s a Stargate?’
By the time Rodney made it to breakfast both Jim and Blair were already dressed but…
‘Did you two go to bed at all last night?’ Rodney asked. ‘You’re still in the same clothes, and you both look like shit.’
Jim laughed while Blair glared at him.
‘Just saying it like it is.’ Rodney grabbed the pot of coffee and pouring himself a large cup. He sipped it, gratefully, then remembered the others and held up the pot. ‘Sorry. Anyone else want some?’
Jim held out his cup and didn’t say anything but Rodney had spent a lot of time with them over the years. He seated himself at the table and helped himself to a slice of toast.
‘You may as well tell me what’s happened because I know something has. Guide here, remember?’ He tapped his head with a buttery finger.
‘Blair has ordered a review of all Sentinels and Guides employed by the Stargate Programme.’
Rodney nodded and took a bite of toast, then almost choked as the words sank into his brain. ‘What? When did…how did…’
‘I called a couple of old Army pals last night,’ Jim informed him.
‘Old Army pals,’ Blair snorted. ‘Robin Cave is an Army four-star and one of the Chiefs of Staff.’
‘And is read into the Stargate Programme,’ Jim added. ‘Someone will be arriving today to give us a full briefing, but we know enough to make us concerned about how Sentinels and Guides are used in the Programme. I’ve reserved the right to review all those employed by the Air Force and the other services too if we think it’s warranted.’
Rodney gaped at him then a worried expression appeared. ‘Am I in trouble for coming to see you? If I hadn’t come, you wouldn’t know anything about the Stargate.’
‘Perhaps not but I doubt anyone would be brave enough to suggest you be reprimanded for coming home to your family. Particularly after the way you’ve been treated.’
Another bite of toast gave Rodney time to consider this. ‘Who’s coming?’ he asked at length. ‘Did they tell you?’
‘I understand a Major Paul Davis will arrive here around noon with a couple of NDAs for us to sign. Do you know him?’
Rodney nodded. ‘I’ve met him a couple of times. Works out of the Pentagon and is a pretty fair man from what I’ve heard.’
The ringing of Rodney’s cell phone interrupted Jim’s reply. Rodney tugged it out of his pocket and glanced at the caller ID.
‘I need to take this. Do you mind?’
Jim waved his hand and they watched Rodney go out onto the balcony. Jim made no attempt to hide the fact he was listening to Rodney’s side of the conversation and when he returned Jim raised his eyebrows.
‘What’s got Radek all upset?’
‘How did…You listened to my private conversation!’
‘I’m a Sentinel, Rodney! If you wanted to keep your conversation private, you should have gone into our bedroom. You know it’s the only room in the apartment that’s soundproofed.’
‘You could still have listened in there if you’d wanted to.’
‘White noise generator? That’s what it’s there for. Now, tell us why Radek is so upset. Is he alright? We’ve not seen or heard from him for a while, other than the odd note and Christmas cards.’
Rodney rubbed his eyes, settled back into his chair, and picked up his – now cold – coffee. ‘The same people who wanted me to go to Russia ordered Radek to go in my place.’
Blair sat upright at this news while Jim tried to keep a lid on his temper.
‘Don’t they know he’s still wanted in Russia for defecting in 1988?’
Rodney shook his head. ‘I thought they did but…evidently not.’
Blair swore fluently making Jim smile.
‘Feel better for getting that off your chest, Chief?’
‘I’d feel better if I could punch this unknown person in the face! There’s no excuse for ignorance when the information is there for the asking.’ He took a deep breath. ‘What’s Radek going to do?’
‘He resigned early this morning and has cleared out his belongings. Fortunately, he gave me copies of all his research yesterday just in case this very thing happened. We both half suspected it might. I’ve also got his main laptop in my suitcase along with my own. Unsurprisingly, the SGC tried to claim all his work, but Radek had followed my plan of having my computer wipe itself clear if someone tried to log in without the password.’ He gave a humourless smile. ‘All they’ve got out of it is two burnt out laptops.’
‘Serves them right,’ Blair snapped. ‘They earned that shit.’
‘So what does a review of Sentinels and Guides entail?’ Rodney asked after a second slice of toast.
‘We get a report about their work situation and follow it up with a one to one interview if we think it merits it,’ Jim explained. ‘If we’re not happy then we can remove them from their position with no comeback on the Sentinel or Guide involved.’
‘It also means making them all available for interview if and when we request it,’ Blair added. ‘In the past, it’s meant flying someone back to the US from overseas, sometimes from a war zone. In the case of the SGC, it might mean bringing someone back from an off-world site. Neither of us are very happy that Sentinels and Guides have been regularly leaving the planet without the knowledge of anyone within the Sentinel and Guide Council. I’m not sure if the UN knows about the programme or not and they should have been informed.’
‘I doubt they do know. The US military is very keen to keep the Stargate programme in their own hands although I know a couple of Russian teams have sometimes been based at Cheyenne Mountain. Radek always refused to attend meetings there when they were so the SGC should have understood his position.’
‘What did they want you to do in Russia?’ Jim asked. ‘Now that we know about the programme.’
‘I was to help them develop a Naquadah generator programme.’
‘A dense mineral the SGC discovered off-world. It’s a superconductor and can amplify and store energy.’
Jim tilted his head to one side consideringly. ‘I thought most of your work was theoretical? That’s what Robin told me.’
‘It is. I’ve seen a Naquadah generator but don’t have a clue how to build one although I dare say I could work it out given enough time. I am a genius after all. I can only assume they were going to supply me with some plans for one.’
‘They wanted you to teach the Russians to build something you don’t know about yourself?’ Jim asked, incredulously. ‘That’s…’
‘Monumentally stupid,’ Blair finished for him. ‘Who suggested you for this role?’
‘The dumb blonde I upset.’ Rodney gave a rueful grin. ‘I guess it’ll teach me not to do it again.’
‘Would this be Major Carter?’ Jim asked.
Rodney raised his eyebrows. ‘Did your pal give you her name?’
Rodney nodded. ‘She built the original dialling device for the Stargate. It was a fantastic accomplishment; there’s no doubt about it. She did what no one else managed to do before her, but she ignored hundreds of protocols in building it and making it work which have never been reintroduced meaning the whole thing is dangerous beyond belief. I’m surprised they’ve never had any problems before now. As I said to her, it’s mostly through pure dumb luck. It shouldn’t have worked.’
‘Is that your jealousy speaking or your professional opinion?’ Blair asked neutrally.
Rodney flushed. ‘The Stargate wasn’t meant to be used without a dialling device. That’s a fact. I admit I was inconsiderate and made comments I shouldn’t have done but I did apologise, and I doubt I’ll ever do it again. I can learn from my mistakes.’
Blair nodded and patted his hand. ‘Just had to be sure. Now. While you know you’re welcome to stay for as long as you like, what do you intend to do next?’
Rodney’s shoulders sagged. ‘I’ve never had to worry about unemployment before. People have always approached me with requests for my time and attention.’
‘Welcome to the real world, kiddo,’ Jim told him with a grin which took the sting out of his words. ‘I’m sure you’ve had offers from companies while you’ve been with the Stargate Programme, though?’
Rodney nodded. ‘Of course, but I just ignored them. Now I’m going to have to go begging. I hate that!’
‘It’ll probably do you good, man,’ Blair told him ruthlessly. ‘Were there any offers which sounded interesting?’
‘A couple. There was one from a company based in Virginia which…I can’t quite explain it. It spoke to me on a deeper level if that doesn’t sound too crazy?’
‘Rodney, you’re a Guide, no matter how much you try to ignore it,’ Blair said gently. ‘The Guide part of us will often lead us into places and situations we might not normally consider. You need to learn to listen to your inner self.’
Rodney narrowed his eyes. ‘You know how I feel about my inner self. I leave it alone if it leaves me alone!’
‘And yet you’ve been thinking about developing your gifts, haven’t you?’ Jim commented, making Rodney flush and look away. ‘Here’s a suggestion,’ he continued. ‘Take a couple of months to look at your options and do some proper training with Blair. You’ve never had a chance before. It’ll get your head straight for whatever you do next.’
Rodney looked across at the only father figure he’d ever known. ‘You could put up with me for that long?’
Jim and Blair spoke at the same time in their hurry to reassure him. Jim won by dint of putting his hand over Blair’s mouth.
‘Kiddo, your room is your room. No one ever uses it no matter how many people we need to house.’
Poking Jim in the arm after being released, Blair nodded. ‘Jim’s bought the rest of the building over the years as apartments have come available. We own the whole place now although we let out a couple of apartments to other Guides or Sentinels. We’ve plenty of space which means your bedroom is for your exclusive use. As for putting up with you. You’re our family, man. Part of our tribe even if we don’t see you for years on end. And if Radek needs a place to stay for a while, he’s welcome too. I can call him and tell him myself if you want me to?’
Once again Rodney found himself blinking rapidly, and was then pulled into a three-way hug.
‘Agreed?’ Jim asked, pressing a kiss to the top of his head.