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Fanfiction: Broken Wings, Chapter 7

For author's note and disclaimer see Chapter 1

 

It was a testament to her strange working patterns that no-one blinked an eye at Sam turning up at the SGC way before her working day was supposed to start. She was tempted to blame Malcolm and would for form's sake because he was NID, no matter how much their friendship mitigated the organisation he worked for, but it was the second call from Cam that had her climbing out of a comfortable bed, and the third call from John that her deciding to head straight for the SGC rather than choosing to stay at home and work.

She'd long since gotten over sitting in the large leather chair in Landry's office. Her year in Atlantis had given her confidence in her command abilities and it no longer felt like she was a child playing at being a grown-up. She sank into the leather with a grateful sigh and booted up her laptop. A gate technician – Andrea – brought her coffee and asked if she wanted something from the mess. Sam requested the Danish she liked and more coffee. She started work impatiently.

The email with the latest chatter that had caused the ruckus was in her inbox along with a non-apology from Malcolm. It took her less than a moment to understand why Stan had deduced it deserved attention. The Trust and the Alliance both had the same intelligence in the same format using the same code.

That wasn't good.

She sucked in a breath and stared at the screen. She swore silently and creatively at Malcolm and the NID. Dismissing Stanley Kymbol's conclusions that the data was nothing more than a coincidence was short-sighted. The implications given the timing of the data and the phrasing of the code were clear: there was either a single source or a joint operation at play. The thought of the Trust and the Alliance working together sent a shiver down her spine.

Her fingers tapped restlessly against the wood. She'd tangled with both organisations enough in the past that she was fully aware of how ruthless each could be; she could hear the mental echo of a shot that killed a man she had deeply respected, feel the phantom touch of binds around her wrist that kept her prisoner while thousands of Jaffa died slowly thanks to a poison delivered through a stolenStargate.

The two organisations working together to some end involving Cam and John was not something she wanted to truly contemplate. She nodded a thank you to Andrea delivering her make-shift breakfast and reached for the coffee first.

Sam hoped it wasn't a joint operation; hoped that it was a single source that was feeding the two organisations because she wasn't foolish enough to believe that it was a coincidence like the guys at the NID. A single source would be easier to track down and simpler to deal with. Another thought occurred to her; that it might be a third party wanting to redirect attention. She rolled her eyes. It wasn't like they didn't have enough bad guys already. They were still picking up the pieces from the Wraith attack. The Lucien Alliance was gearing up for war. The Trust was a continual pain in the ass. Did she really want to create some unknown other entity too? But she knew it wasn't a question of creating; it was a question of exploring – and eliminating – the possibilities.

She started her information search on Stanley. She stayed legal on the first sweep, using the access she was granted into federal systems with the care and respect that everyone would expect of Samantha Carter, a decorated Colonel in the United States Air Force and the temporary commander of the SGC.

She found out Stanley went to MIT; he had a degree in Advanced Mathematics and Cryptography. He was in the top three of his class. He had a driving license. He owned a small one-bed apartment in Washington. He came from a small town in Iowa where his parents and two sisters continued to live. He'd worked for the NID since graduation. His employment history showed a solid performer, good at his job, but not one who garnered attention. That he bought a ticket at the airport and flew to Jacksonville one hour after finding the data, informing his superiors and being told to forget about it, was out of character but there was nothing in his immediate information to suggest a cause. He'd bought another ticket barely fifteen minutes before and would be back in Washington before the end of the day. His bank accounts showed no unusual amounts or movement; his credit cards revealed his purchases and his hobbies. He looked normal on the surface.

She started digging.

Her second sweep was not legal, and one that only a few people in her life would not only expect her to perform but anticipate that she would. She hacked into federal systems and databases that she didn't have access to without a second thought. She made mincemeat of the university's firewalls and security to uncover Stanley's academic record and his buried university email account. She plundered Stanley's bank records back to the moment he opened his account. When the server the credit card company used gave up its secrets with barely a murmur, it made her seriously consider changing brands.

Everything came up blank.

Normal.

An hour after arriving at the SGC, Sam concluded that Stan was a patsy. She called Malcolm and suggested the NID might want to escort Stan home and ask him who he's trying to impress because Stan would never have gotten on the plane to Jacksonville if someone hadn't encouraged him; Sam was sure of that. She quickly wrote some code to interrogate the systems for information on Stan's known associates to see if she could track down who had set him up.

While it performed its job, Sam ate her Danish and went to work on the personal favour John asked of her when he'd called: examining everything about the Trust's interest in Sheppard International.

Half-way through her study of the intelligence and Sam had already concluded that there was more than enough data to warrant John's concern. The report from the main NID agent assigned to watch the company had noted that Patrick Sheppard had been fully aware of the Trust. The agent had posited that Sheppard had refused to allow the Trust a foothold in his organisation because of control issues rather than any objection on moral grounds to the Trust's agenda. There was evidence of two known Trust operatives working in the senior management. The agent had noted that Patrick Sheppard was aware of them but David Sheppard's awareness was unclear.

The agent – a Veronica Klass – was meticulous in a way that Sam appreciated. Klass had investigated Patrick Sheppard's death and found, despite the suddenness of it, that there was no evidence of foul play. She had noted the surprise of John's inheritance given the estrangement, the supposition that Patrick Sheppard was attempting to ensure the Trust could not control his company from beyond the grave. Sam wondered whether John realised that if his brother was to die, Dave's shares would automatically revert to John under the terms of his father's will. Klass had concluded that the Trust could not simply remove David Sheppard.

There were more notes on John's gift of the proxy to his brother; that Dave Sheppard actually controlled his brother's inheritance and was doing a damn good job of making John a multi-millionaire. Sam bit her lip, knowing John would hate her knowing the detail, and moved on. By the end of her reading, she was concerned enough to agree to John's veiled demand that she had someone from the Stargate programme talk to his brother about the Trust. Klass was of the same opinion, noting in one report that whatever protection Patrick Sheppard thought he was providing for his company and younger son, John was not seen as a visible threat to the Trust. Dave Sheppard was vulnerable. He had a wife and two kids that the Trust could use. He had full control of the company thanks to John's proxy. Of course, Klass's last report detailed the surprising news that John's return to Earth and plans to attend the board meeting with his brother could potentially change the Trust's opinion.

It might explain why the Trust was seeking intelligence on John's whereabouts; why they might want to snatch him, Sam mused. She sat back and laced her hands over her belly as she contemplated everything.

Her phone rang.

She picked up with a glance to see how the search through the systems was going. Still compiling. 'Carter.'

'I have agents with Kymbol at the airport in Jacksonville.' Malcolm said by way of greeting. He sounded pissed but Sam knew his ire wasn't for her but for his organisation dropping the ball.

'OK.' Sam said waiting for the other shoe to drop.

'Can you get the Odyssey to beam me to them?' Malcolm requested politely. 'I want to follow up on this personally.'

His involvement was the only apology the SGC – that she, Cam and John – would get. Her laptop beeped at her and she tugged it closer, reviewing the information laid out neatly with a grim smile.

'Sam?' Malcolm's impatient prompt reminded her that he was waiting for her response.

'Will do. And Malcolm?' Sam stopped him from hanging up with the use of his name. 'You should ask Stanley about Gina Lovell.'

'Lovell?' Malcolm repeated the name back to her. 'She's been part of his team for almost a year.'

'Yeah, and she died in 1989.' Sam said succinctly. 'There's a newspaper report they evidently didn't track down and delete. The birth dates match. They obviously stole this woman's identity and created another one.' She paused. 'According to their credit cards, she and Stan have been having lunch for the last six months.'

'Shit.' Malcolm snapped out because he knew what that meant; the Trust had had someone in the NID for almost a year. Who knew what intelligence had distorted; what operations lost because of Gina Lovell. 'I'll get back to you later.'

'You'd better.' Sam hung up on him before he could. It was a small point of one-upmanship but Jack had taught her well. She gave the order for the beaming to the control room to pass onto Colonel Bryant Morrow, the temporary CO of the Odyssey, and thanked God she didn't have to talk the misogynistic prick herself.

The ping of the IM system alerted her to Jack informing her he'd beamed to Nevada. He was on an inspection tour of Area 51 to see how the repairs were going; to call in and check on the wounded in the hospital. Sam called him on a secure line and updated him, going over her plans and getting his input. She had just made a note of the last of Jack's suggestions – and they were suggestions; he trusted her to make the decisions – when she saw Major Paul Davis lurking at the office door with fresh coffee and more Danish.

She waved him in, said goodbye to Jack and was surprised to realise that it was almost time for her working day to start in earnest. She updated Paul first over the working breakfast he'd obtained.

Paul was a programme veteran; a skilled politician; loyal to the Air Force, to the programme, and since George Hammond's death, to Jack as the Head of Homeworld Security. Jack had loaned her Paul when Landry had taken Walter with him on his super-secret mission.

Sam finally came to a halt and requested his input. Paul had once outranked her but his desk job, no matter how vital and important, had seen her outstrip him professionally. His experience with Earth based conspiracies far outweighed her own though and she was sincere in wanting his advice.

Paul brushed the crumbs of his Danish from his fingers with a napkin as he considered his response. 'There's not much we can do about the NID issue.' He began. 'We're very lucky this situation uncovered Lovell or whoever she was.'

'And Agent Barrett will discover the extent of that damage now he's aware of it.' Sam agreed.

'Which leaves us with two issues,' Paul said, leaning forward in the visitor chair, his eyes gleaming with intelligence. 'Firstly, there's the issue of whether Colonels Sheppard and Mitchell were the focus of a joint operation, and then secondly, there's the issue of Sheppard International and the Trust.'

'I'd like you to handle the latter.' Sam informed him briskly. 'You could beam to Washington this morning, brief David Sheppard and go over his security arrangements.'

Paul nodded. 'I met Patrick Sheppard once.'

Sam stayed silent and waited. Paul only went off at a tandem if it was relevant.

'White House function. Black tie thing.' Paul said. 'Just after the Atlantis team came back to debrief after the first year.' His eyes went distant; presumably seeing into the past, the whirl of perfumed women and penguin men; classical music and babble competing under the roof of the White House. 'I must have been five steps behind him when the President greeted him like an old friend and said he must be proud of John's promotion; that obviously with the classified work John was involved in he couldn't say much more but that Sheppard Senior should know that the President and the Pentagon appreciated how many lives John had saved in the past year.' He lifted a hand. 'Of course, I knew the truth that the Major as he was then and his father hadn't talked in months.'

Sam shifted in the leather. John hadn't told her; not even when she'd broken the news of his father's death. She'd suspected the truth of it though; her own brother and father had been estranged for too many years for her not to recognise the signs in someone else.

'Anyway, Sheppard thanks the President, puffs up proudly and immediately started lobbying for something for his company.' Paul tapped his fingers against the folder of information on Sheppard International on the desk. 'That old man knew how to turn a situation to his advantage.'

And Sam got where Paul was going with his story. 'You think Patrick Sheppard's will together with the threat from the Trust was meant to encourage John to leave the Air Force and join the business.'

'I think Patrick Sheppard counted on the Colonel wanting to protect his younger brother.' Paul's lips twisted with disgust. 'He was a piece of work.'

'Well, I'm fairly certain Patrick Sheppard never anticipated that the military would support John in ensuring his brother's safety.' Sam said brightly. John was too important to Atlantis for them to lose him; even Landry who wasn't John's biggest fan – the unauthorised mission in the stolen puddle jumper that saved Jack, Woolsey and Atlantis was still a sore subject – conceded that.

Paul nodded again. 'I'll take care of it.' He tilted his head. 'Do you think the Trust and the Lucien Alliance are working together?'

'I'm not sure they are.' Sam sighed. 'If John's right, and I'm inclined to say he is, why risk revealing Gina now? Something about this doesn't make sense to me. I mean, until two days ago, Cam and John hadn't even planned to be on vacation together.' She screwed up her face as she tried to work out what's going on with minimal information and sleep.

'This Gina person's been in place for a long time, right? Maybe whoever was behind this had something else planned.' Paul suggested.

'In which case, Cam's probably the target.' Sam said thoughtfully.

It made sense; he was the one situated usually in the Milky Way and the plan had obviously been in track for a long time. If it was true, she was prepared to narrow the list of potential suspects to the Lucien Alliance who absolutely hated Cam rather than the Trust, and…oh God, just how stupid had she been?

'Damn!' She lurched out of her chair and paced, throwing an accusing finger back at her laptop. 'Gina. Gina set it up to make the Trust and the Lucien Alliance look as though they're in collusion. She set it all up.'

'Yes, ma'am.' Paul looked at her as though he was worried she'd lost it.

Sam took a breath and sat back down. 'I think I'm right.'

'I agree.' Paul stated firmly. 'Colonel Mitchell would have been scheduled to be on his honeymoon over the next two weeks. I'm guessing they planned to grab him and his fiancée during that time.'

Because people left a newly-wed couple alone on their honeymoon. There was no expectation of check-ins or friendly chats or even postcards. People expected them to be off having sex and a good time. It would have been a perfect opportunity to grab Cam. Plus if they'd grabbed Amy too, they would have had the advantage of using his new wife to keep him in line. She said as much out loud.

'It must have thrown their plans completely when they realised that not only had Colonel Mitchell called off his wedding but he'd elected to go on vacation with another highly trained Air Force Colonel. And let's not forget that flying means they have to log where they're travelling constantly.' Paul's eyes glinted with amusement.

Sam's own lips twitch. She hoped it sucked big time when the Alliance realised their careful months of planning were shot to hell. 'It definitely explains why they tried to force them into going off-grid. It lessens the prospect of immediate back-up.'

'Are we leaving the Colonels out in the open?' Paul asked bluntly.

Sam clasped her hands on the desk before answering, because ultimately that was the big question wasn't it? Did she recall them now they know – well, could reasonably surmise – that there was a threat?

'I need to discuss it with General O'Neill and Mister Woolsey at my usual check-ins this morning.' Sam said. 'But,' she sat back, 'I'd prefer to give them some options.' She didn't say that she thought both men needed the time away to get their heads straight.

Cam had been unhappy for months. She'd noticed it more since her return from Atlantis but looking back she wondered if the first sign hadn't been his unusual quietness at her going-to-Atlantis party. He'd waved away her concern at the time, saying that he was sad at her departure…

'I should have known that they'd break up the band again.' Cam had drawled.

But it wasn't just Cam that Sam was worried about. She let her mind drift to John. If she had to make a guess at his state of mind, he was bone tired underneath the military mask he wore; worn by the losses and grieving. She remembered how it felt. She'd been lucky when she'd hit that patch; there had been the end of one war and she'd gone to R&D. She knew John well enough to know that he wouldn't walk away from Atlantis, Pegasus and the war with the Wraith; he wouldn't take the time he needed.

'I take it option one is that we bring them in?' Paul asked, interrupting her musing.

Sam nodded. 'Option two is to take them off grid as far as the civil authorities were concerned.' She tapped her notebook. 'They use military bases, log their flight plans through us and we could coordinate with the civilian air authorities as we usually do for military hops.'

Paul frowned. 'Or option three; they remain out in the open.'

'They're not a hundred per cent safe that way; it's easier for them to be targeted but, on the other hand, they're using private airfields and accommodation with good security, and we also have the advantage of knowing where they were.' Sam admitted. 'And the Alliance taking them on while they're in the air will be risky given it's their natural habitat.'

Paul smiled at that.

She thought Cam and John would go for option three. They were fighter pilots; risk-takers. She intended to have radios beamed to their next destination so they could request immediate beam outs to Odyssey; it was a slim protection but it was what she could offer.

'I think I have a working theory on why they might have wanted Colonel Mitchell in these particular two weeks.' Paul adds. 'But it's classified. I'll need to talk with General Landry.'

Sam frowned but nodded. She glanced at the clock and Paul stood; their time was up and the SGC was about to shift into its day mode.

Paul nodded. 'With your permission?'

Sam dismissed him. She closed down her searches and backtracked out of the systems, careful to clean-up after herself and leave no trace. She'd brief Cam and John when they got to Panama City. She organised her thoughts and called in the duty Sergeant to make the necessary changes to her schedule.

It had already been a long day but it was only going to get longer.


Chapter 8

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