Cast Between Worlds
A/N; This story has a couple of 'slashy' moments but no explicit sex.
Chapter 16; First Command
Harry leaned forwards in his office chair and poked at the screen of his tablet as he bumped a message off to the tabs at the side and opened a different piece of software to find the internal reports sent to him by the other flights on Atlantis. He wasn't really happy to find out that he had an office when Elizabeth had gleefully informed him of such with an almost laughing John standing next to her. At least John had been laughing until Elizabeth reminded him that he was two weeks overdue on his own reports.
Between the two of them they had masses of 'paperwork' to do even though it was all done of the tablets and electronically sent to Elizabeth who collated all of the department reports and that was sent through the wormhole on their weekly report.
Harry's reports were pretty simply really provided nothing too drastic was going on. The leaders of each flight on Atlantis reported to him and normally that meant two flights of four F-302s that were permanently stationed on Atlantis, part of the First Tactical Flight Wing or TFW for short, and on the odd occasion, like now, when Viper flight was on the Daedalus he had Cobra and Adder reporting to him rather than having to collect a report on Viper flight himself. When the Daedalus arrived though he was responsible for the embarked X-304 flight's reports and needs too even though they remained under Caldwell's command. It was in the works to give Daedalus her own '304 flight in the near future but there just weren't enough '304s operational for that yet. There were only three flights on Earth, two on Atlantis and one on the Daedalus. And they wanted at least one flight at the Alpha and Beta sites too. The only reason Atlantis was getting three was because the '304s were their heavy hitters since they couldn't permanently station a BC-304, a Battlecruiser, in the Pegasus galaxy.
At any rate he had to turn all those reports into one big report which was essentially updates to personnel files back on Earth and readiness reports for his five flights and the mechanics and ground crew that reported to him as well as requisition orders for spares and more importantly the ammunition that the Daedalus brought out to them on each trip. But that was just his job as Flight Commander. He also had his role as Head of Security on Atlantis but most of the day to day tasks for that went to Captain Forks and Sergeant Bates. He met with them for at least ten minutes a day no matter what he was doing, unless he was on the 'Skirmish', to authorise things and make sure he knew what was going on.
At least his office was part of the hanger bay though which meant he could start off first thing by prepping his Viper and then do all his paperwork and was there when his flights arrived and worked in the hanger. It was the only place suitable for storing so many aircraft with a launching area just outside even if it was just for vertical take offs and landings. They could land horizontally in emergencies but the space was short and they were building sections of runway over draining channels that cut the useable length almost in half.
There was just one other section of the city capable of housing some sort of airfield but there was no space for internally storing the aircraft but Harry had designated it as their emergency airfield and as soon as an incoming attack alert went off one of the flights of F-302s and one of the X-304 flights moved location straight off to split their aerial forces in case the hanger was hit. That airfield was also larger and could take a Battlecruiser like the Daedalus if it ever had to land.
Harry finished pulling random data from Hugh's report on Adder flight and adding it to his main report and then typed a note on the bottom highlighting his concerns over Adder flight still being left hanging for a fourth member. The X-304 was flown weekly and maintained almost as often as the other 304s but it needed a permanent pilot and they needed to make their decision and either give him a new flight commander for Adder flight or a new pilot and name Hugh flight commander. Each week he made sure his report was just a little more sharp sounding to drive it home. He decided that in a few weeks he was going to write it all in red and then after that have Rodney do something to it so that it flashed and danced over the report for a while just to get his point across.
He sent his flight report directly to Elizabeth since they were technically reporting outside of the military chain of command and then sent his security report to John and sent Major Lorne, Captain Forks and Sergeant Bates a copy. He sent one to Lorne because they were equals and Harry knew he liked to be kept in the loop and as for Forks and Bates it was best to let them know he was actioning their suggestions and it saved time on him telling them what he'd passed on himself.
He was just about to unplug the detachable keyboard when he got an internal message back along with Elizabeth's confirmation. "John would like to meet with you to discuss this afternoon's trip." Elizabeth had typed to him. He tapped the return message box to type his acceptance and was quickly told that John would meet him in the hanger. John often came down in the mornings with Harry to chat or talk business while Harry did his pre-flight checks. Since Harry was taking his Viper to the continent this afternoon as part of this next week's Skirmish John had obviously figured Harry had more work to do with it. In reality Harry needed to pack the small bays with his own gear. His weapons would remain live as a precaution but he didn't plan on even pretending to shoot at those going through the training this week.
What he did like was that this week it was just John and him going as overseers. John was taking a Jumper to act as a base and cloaked recon ship to monitor them without spooking them and Harry was looking forward to some peaceful time with John after the stress of what had happened with losing his memories the week before.
"Jumper one and two, this is Viper-one. Flyby, circle and land at your discretion." Harry ordered simply as he spotted the two jumpers far out on the horizon with his scope. He backed up to his Viper which was sitting near the cliff that dropped down three hundred feet to the forest below which stretched west towards the horizon. Behind him was a long slow drop down towards the vast ocean beyond the settlement and then off towards Atlantis far in the east. Rodney told him that this cliff was due to a fault-line that had probably been dormant for millennia, a sub-fault branching off the main ones out to sea. Harry just liked it because it stretched north and south like a defensive wall. It turned a little less severe further south and most of the teams headed that way to find a way down even though the easiest route down was actually towards the mountain range to the north. The cliff got way bigger up that way but there was a pass about a day's hike in that direction that gently took you down to the plains below and got you more fresh water.
One of the marine teams had found that route on their second trial because they had decided on the mind set of 'what-the-hell, might as well have some fun'. If teams went further south they'd find a way down about a day and a half's hike south and end up finding drier routes through a few long miles of marsh land before the forest gave them purchase. Either way both teams this week would be camping on top of the cliff the first night since they wouldn't attempt a suicidal trip down.
The Jumpers flew overhead, dipped down towards the sprawling forest before turning and pulling slowly up to clear the cliff. It gave the teams a good look at the fact there was no chance of climbing that cliff safely before the Jumpers slipped over Harry and his Viper and set down with their rear doors towards the cliff face. The teams quickly piled out and Harry directed them all to transferring the extra and emergency supplies into Jumper Two which John was keeping for the week and then once Jumper One was clear it took back off to drop some supplies off at the settlement before returning to Atlantis.
"Alright, find a spot and park it." Harry ordered sharply to the sixteen. It was large groups this time. Two groups but both simulating two off-world teams even though none of the eight marines or eight 'civilians' were in fact on the normal off-world teams. Four were in fact new since the last time the Daedalus dropped in and none of the rest had been here more than a few months. They all settled down on the ground just as John joined Harry by the nose of his Viper. John leaned his shoulder on the nose and Harry turned to frown at him before shoving him off.
"Hey!" John complained even as the marines snickered quietly.
"It doesn't need your help holding it up… sir." Harry tacked on the last bit. John just rolled his eyes and pretended to rub the pain from his shoulder. "Right then first things first I hope you've made yourselves known to your team mates." He got mostly nods. "Part of the point of this week is to get to know people better hence why you'll recognise people in your teams as those you probably already work with on the city. This'll give you a chance to really get to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team mates."
Harry turned and walked to his open cockpit, he jumped up a few fold out steps and hit a couple of buttons. His Viper hummed and his missile bay doors snapped open and six racks of missiles and bombs folded out. "We might be on Atlantis' home planet but that does not mean there aren't things to hurt you lurking around. The worst of which is a creature very similar to a bull but that eats meat and hunts in packs. This is not target practice and we are not here to kill off the local wildlife but that does not mean that these are duds or that the marines in your teams are not carrying live ammunition."
"When we talk about safety here on this exercise we mean it." John added in.
"Can we hunt for food?" One of the marines raised his hand.
"No." John shook his head. "As per our agreement with the Athosians we do not hunt the wildlife here. The Athosians are careful where they hunt food and we don't want to step on their toes. Feel free to eat the fruit but stay clear of anything that is not on your crib sheets. Other things might poison you."
"Now the scenario here is simple." Harry started. "Back to the east is a settlement that you have been visiting over the last few days in your groups. A science team and a marine team as escort. There are no particular people in charge and how you plan and make decisions is really up to you." He paused as they all looked around their groups before starting up again. "You spend a lovely night in comfortable beds but when your designated pilot starts up your Jumper for a survey of the area it doesn't work. None of you are qualified or even qualified enough at guesswork to get it working again so you need to plan accordingly."
"We have radios, sir?" One of the Corporals pointed his out. They were kitted out exactly as they would be normally with radios, code emitters for the shield on the gate and their tracking systems.
"You have and can operate anything you have on you." Harry nodded. "Exactly what you would have on a mission like this. Your mission is to get all of your team safely back through the 'gate' and back to your lovely quarters and hot showers."
"This is your chance to get answers to the fine points of this exercise. Anything you don't think to ask now will leave you guessing later." John announced.
The groups muttered together for a while and a couple of the marines pulled out pen and notebook to jot down questions though there didn't seem to be many. "Where's the Stargate, Major Potter?" One of the biologists asked shyly.
"Found it!" A marine in the other team grinned and help up the tracking device each team would have. "To the probe we normally send through the gate."
"Just as you would leave a beacon by the gate on a mission like this." John nodded. "Next?"
"How far is that?" Another of the scientists from the first team asked across to the second.
"That team doesn't exist." Harry cut in.
"It's okay." One of the marines from his own group spoke up. "Forty kilometres in a direct line."
"And Major Potter picked this lovely location because you can't go in a direct line. There's nothing too technical about any route you can take but don't try to be heroes. Speed isn't the objective here right now." John added in.
"Sir?" One of the scientists from the second group started. "Surely if we don't report in as scheduled on the first day Atlantis will dial the gate and contact us by radio. Can't we just have them send a Jumper?"
"And I'm sure Atlantis will call." John nodded but just left it at that. "You are to use your designated channels. Don't switch to listen to one another. Stick to them." By the time it was dark and they were setting up camp for the night Harry would call both groups one at a time as Atlantis, learn of the 'situation' and then tell them the bad news that one of their Jumpers was out on a mission and the other available one was broken.
"Is this 'planet' we're visiting known for any enemy presence, sir?" One of the marines asked.
"They haven't been raided in eight years but you never know." Harry shrugged. He didn't plan on doing any of that until they were at least a few days into their journey.
"So as we're not expecting any Jumper without contact from Atlantis we can assume any aircraft that doesn't state itself as friendly is in fact an enemy?" Another marine asked.
"Follow your standing orders on that matter." John stated simply. Which essentially meant don't fire on a target you can't destroy and don't attack a target that might not have even seen you.
"Any chance any of us got a good survey of the terrain between the gate and the settlement?" One of the scientists asked.
"I don't know." Harry shrugged. "Did you?"
They all groaned at that since the answer was no since none of them had any sort of map. "This one isn't going to be so bad, especially not compared to exercises that the marines have gone through before. They can all tell you some stories to pass the time. This is a 'get yourself home' exercise rather than a 'keep yourself alive one' so you can try to enjoy it." Harry told them with a grin.
"But keep in mind that Major Potter can be rather… changeable with his plans." John smirked. "So don't be surprised if the shit hits the fan."
"Yay." One of the marines deadpanned.
"Right." Harry nodded happily. "Keep yourselves safe and have some fun. Oh and please don't just follow the other team all the way into hell."
"That's a good way for the shit to suddenly decide to hit the fan." One of the marines muttered to a friend just loud enough for them all to hear.
"Exactly." Harry announced happily. "And don't worry since with the Jumper here we can track your body heat from miles away so we'll know where you are if something happens."
"Have fun." John announced and punched Harry lightly on the arm. Harry nodded and climbed up into his Viper before waving down at the groups who scrambled to grab their kit and get well out of the way as Harry shut the cockpit and started up the ion drive. He skidded it up just a foot from the ground and tipped himself back off of the cliff and out of sight before twisting around and punching out across the forest. He circled around to where John and he planned to spend the first night and shut everything down and locked it up tightly for the night as John landed. They'd cloak and go back up to watch the groups start off but there was little they could do to get themselves into trouble on the first day.
The Jumper sat innocently on a ledge quite high up the range of mountains on the far side of the valley not far from where the 'Stargate' was for the exercise and Harry's Viper was sitting not far away. Harry and John had set up their roll mats on the floor of the Jumper side by side and opened out their sleeping bags one on top of the other as a bed but in such a way that they could quickly make it two beds but the chances of anyone finding them here, a five day walk from the settlement, was slim. The only people that could come to them in short order was somebody from Atlantis in a Jumper but Atlantis was more likely to radio them first so they could relax.
They'd just had a pretty long session of kissing as they stripped each other and just cuddled for a while as the sun set knowing that within the next hour as it got darker for the two teams they'd set up camp and look to getting food out. Right now though Harry was happy. He was on his back with John laying over him and Harry's softening cock was still inside his lover but John wasn't one to just sit still for long and he soon pulled himself up and rolled to the side to stretch out his muscles since he'd done eighty percent of the work over the last half an hour.
"You're really vocal when you want to be." Harry grinned sideways at his friend, lover and commanding officer.
"I'm making the most of the fact we're completely alone." John grinned in amusement before tugging at Harry to pull him against his side. "Shouldn't we sort the teams out?" John prompted.
"How about I do that and you make us hot rations." Harry bargained.
John nodded. "At least the Jumper's filtration is good enough we don't have to go outside."
"Yeah, I get to watch you cook naked." Harry grinned before rolling onto his back and grabbing his radio and the headset. He plugged the headset in but left the speaker running as he shifted to watch John get up and head for the rations. Harry just loved John like this, completely carefree and completely naked. Especially with the just-shagged look he was wearing.
Harry grabbed a small device he'd pulled from stores and activated it on one frequency. They'd had to mess with the IDCs for this so he could select each group separately or he'd have both teams talking to him at the same time. He checked his radio was on team one's frequency knowing the Jumper was monitoring both channels as well as the link to Atlantis and then checked he'd received the return signal from the team. Their IDCs would have alerted them to the fact that the Stargate had activated.
"SG-5, this is Atlantis, over." He stated simply as John crouched to light the burner for some food. Harry took a second to admire the view between his legs to his low hanging balls but blinked himself back to reality as his radio came back to life.
"Atlantis, this is SG-5, over." One of the marines responded.
"You're overdue for your daily check-in." He told them. "Is life that boring out there that you all took a nap?"
John looked back at him with a raised eyebrow but didn't comment. "Uh… negative, Atlantis." He knew which Marine it was now and he'd be having trouble knocking off the sarcasm. "Our Jumper is US so we started back for the Stargate."
"That's quite a walk, SG-5." Harry told them with a grin.
"Uh, yeah. Any chance of a pick up?" The team asked.
"That's a negative I'm afraid, SG-5." They wouldn't be all that surprised in that. "We've got one out on mission and Lieutenant Colonel Shepard nose-dived one at the settlement."
"Hey!" John complained before Harry took his finger off the button. He knew the Marines would have heard that.
"We'll put repairs on priority and come collect you as soon as we can but for now continue to head for the gate. We'll dial every six hours for a report and as soon as we can we'll pick you up." Harry declared. "What's your sit-rep and position from the gate?"
He rolled over to grab his notebooks. "All understood, Atlantis. We're eight in number and all in good health and supplies. Not much in the way of dangerous indigenous here so it's just a long trudge through the wilderness." The marine played along. "We're currently thirty-seven kilometres from the Stargate on a bearing of one-zero-two magnetic but the terrain isn't suitable for a direct route."
Harry was glad they'd been keeping an eye on their position geographically. Their trackers pointed them towards the beacon and told them the distance but without GNSS satellites like NAVSTAR it couldn't tell you your location. But using the planet's magnetic north they could give themselves a geographical location that Harry could plot on his survey map which was orientated to magnetic north for this exercise rather than the geographic north pole that the Jumpers could navigate to.
"Roger that." Harry agreed. "We'll dial again in six hours."
"Copy that, Atlantis."
"Atlantis out." Harry switched off the transmitter to their beacon. Harry shifted his systems around to contact the other group and went through almost the exact same conversation with them except he was talking to one of the scientists this time but clearly one with knowledge of hiking since he didn't have to fish for the information he needed. In the end it was obvious that team one had reduced their walking speed to fall back from team two as both teams had chosen to head south along the ridge.
By the time he was finished John had sorted them out some food and they sat side by side and ate through a nice meal of fresh food from the settlement before tidying up. Harry was just moving to lie down again when John grabbed him and pushed him face down onto the bedding and then pinned him with his body.
Harry groaned as he felt John's cock growing against him and didn't resist as he let John have his way with him.
Three days later
Harry and John had given them two nights of peace and quiet as the groups cleared the marsh area and moved uphill a little away from the river and into the forest once more and knowing how at ease the groups were feeling now he decided on the third day to buzz the groups in the Viper with John cloaked to assess their reactions. The groups were only three kilometres apart. The lead group, team two, had decided on a more direct line and were thus having it a little harder trudging through bogs and marshes between the hills whereas team one, though slowly falling behind, were following the contours and having a much easier time of it. They were going to take longer to reach the Stargate but they finished the day with more energy and were more prepared if something happened. They'd purposely walk to the summit of the hills on each occasion and sketch out everything they could see in all directions and plan a route by what they could visually see. Team two were doing the same thing but only if their path took them to near the summits.
There wasn't anything really wrong in either plan and he wouldn't be picking them up for either but team one's plan was more to his own style though when on the summits they were very exposed to enemy searches but that wasn't a problem before he buzzed the teams. They were so close together but in separate valleys that team one got warning when they heard the sound of his engines as he travelled up the valley in an eastwards direction. He spotted team two because he knew where they were but John was already cloaked near them and at the first sound of something artificial the entire team hid themselves out of sight.
He disappeared into the east out of sight for almost twenty minutes, as if raiding the imaginary settlement near the ridge before he headed back towards the gate, though this time buzzing team one further to the north and they were well out of even his hope of spotting them.
They were so quick to hide, even team one which hadn't had any warning, that he didn't plan to do it again but he would monitor their reactions and if he decided they weren't being cautious enough when camped out or even while travelling he would change his plans again and hit them harder. Maybe buzz them at night or block the nicest route with a camp of Wraith.
He was just settling back towards their staging post when his Viper gave him an alert that he'd programmed in to remind him that Atlantis was about to dial Earth for their weekly report. He'd already organised it so that his and John's own mail was brought out to them so they could work through their reports before going back to the city.
He was taken by surprise not two minutes later when his subspace receiver came up onto his HUD with an emergency alert from the USS Daedalus which to his estimate had to be a hell of a long way away. It was basic but the first line made him jump into action.
"Flash. Atlantis, this is Viper One. Confirm receipt of emergency burst from Daedalus and confirm Stargate is shut down." He demanded through the radio knowing that on this frequency and with the fact he'd sent emergency transmission codes his voice would have automatically come across the speakers.
There was a worrying pause and he punched higher up towards the atmosphere, ignoring John for the moment in order to be in a better position to get a sensor lock on Atlantis. He'd hit the black to get there as fast as possible if necessary. He skimmed the contents of the message but barely got one line in before Atlantis was transmitting. "Viper one, this is Atlantis Control. Message received and Stargate disengaged and locked out. Wait one for Doctor Weir."
He acknowledged before starting a spiralling decent back towards where his Viper had the Jumper on sensors. John had stayed with the teams just in case knowing that Harry would talk to him soon. He selected a local frequency and while monitoring Atlantis' transmissions he called up John as he read through the burst from the Daedalus. "John, it's Harry. Sorry about that."
"What's going on, Harry?" John demanded knowing that nobody else was on this frequency within range.
"The Daedalus sent an emergency burst on sublight from between the galaxies. Literally the edge of its range. Earth got intelligence that Atlantis has been sabotaged somehow. Supposedly we were going to be destroyed as soon as we dialled back to Earth for our check-in." Harry told him.
"That's called cutting it close." John pointed out unhappily.
"Hence why I made to hit the black." Harry told him referring to his rapid ascent though John wouldn't have heard his transmission to Atlantis. "Wait one, John." He stated as he heard Elizabeth on his link to Atlantis.
"Viper one, this is Atlantis." Elizabeth called him. "I assume your Viper picked up the burst from Daedalus?"
"Yes it did."He nodded to himself as he brought the Viper around to slowly slip across the forest basin. "I've told Colonel Shepard about the situation."
"I need you and John back here now." She told him.
"Confirmed." Harry announced. "I'll bring this exercise to a halt but I need another Jumper to come out to pick up the second team."
"I'll send Jumper three out now." She told him as Harry adjusted his angle to head for team one's position. He'd tell them of the situation as he pinged their location to Jumper three and let John pick up team two.
"I'll hit the black and be with you shortly." Harry declared. "Permission to scramble Cobra to the black just in case?"
"I was just wondering the same." Elizabeth nodded. "Put all flights on standby and launch Cobra flight into orbit."
"Roger that." Harry nodded before activating the flight link that Hugh Stevens and Justin Knight, the Flight Commanders for Adder and Cobra flight respectively as well as the hangers themselves. "All Flight, all flights. Move to immediate notice. Fuel and test power birds and standby for orders. Cobra flight you have permission to launch. Notify Atlantis Control when ready to launch and take up position in orbit directly above Atlantis and go dark. Priority One orders apply. Maintain radio silence for now. All flights report confirmation of orders."
He got Hugh and Justin's confirmations instantly and then one of the pilots from the eight F-302s reported confirmation. He banked around and took up a hover above team one who had taken cover as part of the exercise. He selected both teams' frequencies using his Viper and included John who had probably been getting antsy but he would have heard his call to the flights since he'd had to transmit over something in addition to the X-304 link. "All stations, all stations, this is Viper One. Exercise is scrubbed. Teams are to hold position. Team two will be extracted by Jumper two shortly. Jumper three is en-route from Atlantis, team one move to a suitable pick up point. On arrival on Atlantis report to your senior officers or department heads for briefing on current situation. Confirm receipt."
"Viper one, this is team one. Confirming receipt."
"Viper one, this is team two. Confirming receipt."
"Viper one, this is Jumper two. Moving to pick up team two. I'll see you on Atlantis." John declared.
Harry slipped sideways away from team one before hitting his throttle. He headed up towards thinner atmosphere and it only took about fifteen minutes for him to skim the atmosphere and adjust for re-entry towards Atlantis. His Viper picked up the four X-304s of Cobra flight hanging spread out directly above Atlantis and he wasn't too surprised they'd moved so fast. He ignored them for the time being and headed for Atlantis and was soon powering down alongside Adder flight and two of the F-302 flights waiting on their little runway. All of the pilots were nearby as well as the few members of their crew and a marine squad that was stationed in the hanger when Atlantis went on alert.
"We still on city-wide alert?" He asked the Marines who nodded.
"We were told we'd remain on alert until you and Colonel Sheppard were back to meet with the senior staff and make a plan." The Sergeant in charge of this security outpost declared.
"Alright." He nodded. "Do you know what is going on?" He asked the three Adders, sixteen F-302 pilots, eight marines and two tech staff. They all shook their heads.
"We received a burst transmission from the Daedalus warning of a device somehow wired into the Stargate activation. We got the message seconds before we would have dialled Earth for our weekly report." Harry looked at all their shocked faces. "We got very lucky. Be ready for anything and wait for further orders."
"Yes, Sir." Hugh nodded sharply.
"Listen to the reports but for now start and full sweep of the aircraft and contact the beta group to do the same. I want to make sure there is nothing amongst our ammunition or stores that would cause a problem and make one hundred percent sure that our aircraft haven't been tampered with." Harry ordered and they were soon doing as commanded.
Ten minutes later
By the time he reached the control tower he found that John had already landed. The teams were going to be given a short time to wash up and get some hot food from the canteen before they'd be sent to the designated positions around the city. He walked into the control room to find John talking to Ronan, Rodney and Elizabeth. He took a quick look around and noted the two Wraith Cruisers that they'd been watching for a while now as they passed them by. They were just another addition to the current situation.
"Anything?" Harry asked as he joined the conversation.
"Right now we don't know any more than what was in that message." Elizabeth shook her head.
"I want you to send the marines to check out the systems you targeted." John told Harry and winced as Harry flinched at the reminder.
"The Marines are already stationing at all major systems but I'll have the power distribution checked." Harry nodded and stepped away for a moment. He called up Lieutenant Cadman.
"Cadman here." She declared over the military net.
"Organise a full search of critical systems." He ordered. "Captain Forks, for now you're in charge of search team designation but I want Cadman checking out the shield generator and ZPM room. Look for any signs of tampering."
"Roger that." Cadman declared.
Rodney, John and Elizabeth looked at him as he arrived back. "I've got the marines starting searches of all critical systems but I've sent Cadman to the shield generator and then the ZPM room."
"I hate to do this, Harry…" Elizabeth sighed. "We all trust this isn't you but we need your expertise."
"I spent months planning to destroy this city." Harry nodded and knew everyone in the control room was eyeing him. "But I think we need to look deeper. I was limited in my knowledge of ancient technology. I could get through locks but I had to use my own command code. But I wasn't worried about my own anonymity. It was never part of the plan for me to survive."
John and Elizabeth flinched at that. "But there are a lot of people here that have better knowledge than me of this technology. People who could interfere with the programs and hide their trails. Not to mention if we start involving the Goa'uld." Harry continued.
"So if you had unlimited knowledge of these systems, or say… my knowledge… what would you do?" Rodney asked.
Harry decided not to comment on his ego. "The most effective way of destroying this city is the ZPM. Find a way to destroy that…"
"And you'd take out the city." Rodney nodded. "Not to mention the planet."
"Then we need to find signs of tampering." Harry nodded.
"Rodney, get focused on the city's systems. John, Harry, join the search." Elizabeth ordered.
They all broke apart but Harry caught Elizabeth's arm before she could leave. "We need to be thinking about the Daedalus' crew and passenger list." He warned her. "She left only days ago so chances are whoever did this is on board. I'm not ruling out suicides here but the chances are they wanted away."
"I'll order her back." Elizabeth nodded. "And go through the lists myself."
Harry nodded and slipped out of the room, glad he was already fully armed from his exercise on the mainland. He joined the marines and pilots in the hangers going over all of their systems knowing that other than the ZPM itself the Ion Cores were the biggest source of explosion on the city.
He heard Elizabeth calling John and then Ronan before she called him up. "By the looks of it nothing on the X-304s have been touched and the hangers look clean but I want to bring Adder flight down so they can be checked." Harry told her.
"Alright…" She started before trailing off. Harry could hear the Stargate spinning up behind her and commotion. Evidently the gate was dialling out by itself. He heard it wind down and then someone calling out just as his X-304s comms gear alarmed. He'd had the systems running and he spotted Hugh, Izzy and John in their own cockpits straightening up as their own 304s went into alarm. He raised a hand to them because he could hear the happenings in the control room.
"Did I just hear that right?" John asked.
"The gate dialled itself to distract us from the transmitter." Rodney confirmed.
"And it just transmitted a distress signal." Harry informed them. "My Viper picked it up."
"And they aren't the only ones." Rodney didn't sound happy. "Those Wraith Cruisers have altered course. They're heading straight for us."
"I'm swapping out my flights." Harry declared.
"Are you going up?" John asked him.
"Affirmative." Harry nodded. "I can swap back out once Cobra Flight is confirmed clean but I need a four flight team in the air."
"Roger that." John agreed with him.
Harry circled a hand over his head at the other three and then jumped out to change into flight gear even as the other three did the same. In two minutes Harry was powering up his Ion Drive.
"Atlantis control this is Viper one with Adder two, three and four. Permission to launch for relief of Cobra flight?" He requested.
"You have a go for launch, Viper-One." Chuck told him quickly.
"Adder-two, you have the ball." Harry declared letting Hugh run his own flight, even including him.
"Adder-four, go." Hugh ordered and Izzy took off vertically and banked back out of the way, keeping low to the water around the city. "Adder-three, go." John took off a few feet before sliding back off of the runway and out to join Izzy. "Viper-one, go. Take lead of formation."
Harry accepted that and slipped up into the air and up over the city, letting Izzy and John and then Hugh slip up around him. Harry pulled up Cobra flight. "Cobra flight this is Viper-one. Relief in two minutes." He warned the orbital '304s before rotating towards the sky and hitting the power. They were soon in the black and closing with the hanging Cobra flight which were running on low power to avoid detection by anything coming into the system. They powered up sharply and Harry circled them as they put on power enough to fall into formation.
"Cobra-one, you are relieved. Land and check your craft over for sabotage. Don't rush it and do it right. Report to Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard once complete." Harry ordered.
"Cobra-one confirming." Justin Knight stated before turning his flight down towards the city.
"Adder-two and four. Do an orbital sweep." Harry ordered. "Adder-three detach and power down directly above the city."
Hugh and Izzy broke away and turned to circle the planet on a random trajectory as Harry and John slowed to geosynchronous orbit over the city and powered right down.
It was almost three hours before his sensors went into alarm and highlighted a ship emerging from Hyperspace. The Daedalus burst into existence and turned straight towards them. "Atlantis control, this is Viper-one. I have the Daedalus visual. Orders?"
"Tell Colonel Caldwell to land. I'll meet him on the Daedalus." Elizabeth declared.
By this point Hugh and Izzy had re-joined them and the four of them hung in space. Harry watched for a while as the Daedalus closed rapidly without spotting them and left them to it until they were just that little bit too close.
"Adder flight, power up and fall into escort position on the Daedalus." Harry ordered as he pulled up the power on his Ion Core. The Daedalus didn't noticeably react but he could imagine that little manoeuvre had drawn their undivided attention. Harry slipped just over the bow of the Battlecruiser and skimmed the upper surface before spinning around and falling into position just above the bridge. Hugh, Izzy and John fell in around the Daedalus.
"Daedalus, this is Viper-One." Harry declared. "Doctor Weir requests that you land on the East Pier. Doctor Weir requests permission to board once you have landed."
"All copied, Viper-one." That was Caldwell and he didn't sound amused which made Harry frown. Caldwell was normally happy to test the limits of the Daedalus against the '304s but then again this was a pretty serious situation.
Harry watched as the Daedalus slipped down through atmosphere and went back to lingering with Adder flight. Over the next hour he got a call from John to tell him that they'd found a problem with the fail safes that protected the ZPM. Somebody had gone in and shut down the city's fail safes that prevented the ZPM from overloading when something drew on it in such a way that the city itself didn't recognise the problem. The problem was that to reactivate the system they needed the saboteur's access code. John didn't say it over the radio but he knew that they had a suspect.
It was another hour before his radio came alive again. "Viper-one this is Atlantis-control."
"Go ahead Atlantis control." Harry prompted.
"We're preparing to cloak the city and need you to land." Chuck announced.
"Roger that. Clear us for approach." Harry declared.
"You're cleared to land." Chuck told him and Harry powered up and wiggled his wings knowing that Adder flight would have heard the conversation. They powered up too and fell into a loose formation and followed him down into atmosphere. Within a couple of minutes they were landing in concert and shutting down.
"Atlantis control. We are grounded." Harry declared as he powered his Viper down.
"Cloaking now." Rodney declared over all of the networks. Harry couldn't see or feel anything from the cloak like he could from the shield but since Rodney didn't complain it had obviously worked. He did his post-flight checks and talked to all of his pilots and the two Marines that had been left with his ground crew to watch over the Vipers. He gave the orders to weaponise all of the 304s to their maximum in case this didn't work and they had to launch. He left them on immediate notice and left Justin in charge. He was armed with his pistol and his Sai but he stayed in his pilot gear just in case they needed to launch. If the cloak came down then the 304s would have to help the Daedalus take out the Wraith Cruisers.
He found out quite quickly that Doctor Peter Kavanagh was their prime suspect and he was being held in one of the meeting rooms under armed guard. Harry had his own doubts however but he headed up to the control room regardless to see that something else had happened. He touched John on the back and his lover turned to him and sighed out in relief even though Harry's presence wasn't going to solve anything.
"The inertial dampeners just came online." John told him making Rodney spin to take in Harry. The Doctor opened his mouth to explain.
"Which means the Stardrive is about to kick in and overload the ZPM." Harry nodded getting a surprised look from Rodney. "It's an aircraft… of course I know about the Stardrive. How long do we have?"
"Thirty minutes." Rodney declared.
"My office." Elizabeth prompted them all. Harry frowned but turned and walked in the other direction. John gave him a look but went on his way. Harry walked across to where the Marines were guarding the interlocking doors of the meeting room and gestured to them. Stackhouse nodded to him and opened the door and Harry walked straight in.
Clearly Kavanagh wasn't expecting to see him though. Harry leaned on the other side of the table as the door shut behind him. That seemed to worry Kavanagh. "Doctor, you know what lengths I will go to in order to save this city?"
"Sure." Kavanagh nodded.
"You and I haven't really had any sort of time in each other's presence." Harry pointed out. "But I've heard plenty about you. You don't have many friends here and you're quite vocal in regards to Doctor Weir and Colonel Sheppard's work here."
"And that makes me guilty?" Kavanagh frowned.
"Do you think it does?" Harry asked before shaking his head. "Honestly I don't think so. As much as you don't like your superiors in this case I know people like you. You wouldn't willingly destroy your best chance of making something of your work."
That seemed to surprise Kavanagh. "Which means either it's not you or, like I was, you're being forced to damage or destroy this city."
"It's not me." Kavanagh growled out but Harry saw the look in his eye. He as at least telling the truth.
"Well then, you'd better do everything you can to make sure we don't all die in…" He checked his watch. "Twenty-six minutes."
"What!?" Kavanagh was shocked and that told Harry everything he needed to know.
"We're cloaked but the inertial dampeners just powered up." Harry told him. "Which means in twenty-six minutes the Stardrive will power up and… bang."
"It's not me." Kavanagh repeated weakly.
"I believe you." Harry nodded. "But if you were being forced, by a Goa'uld no less, they wouldn't have selected you to be host. You're not trusted enough. Obviously." Harry stood up. "Use this time to try to work out who this could be."
"I have been." Kavanagh declared. "If I was out there I'd be looking into the historical entries to find a hole that shouldn't be there. Somebody had to access the system to make a change and that would be logged so somebody has to have deleted that log entry."
"I'll make sure you're not left here if we have to evacuate." Harry nodded and turned for the door. He knocked and it opened.
"Sir?" Stackhouse asked.
"He's not the one we're after." Harry shrugged. "Make sure he's not left behind."
"You want us to release him?" Stackhouse asked.
"Not while whoever this really is thinks we suspect him." Harry shook his head before ducking across the way into the control room. "Who's working on finding a hole in the logs?" He demanded loudly.
"McKay told us to focus on finding a way passed the access code." Chuck told him.
"All of you?" Harry demanded only to smirk when Lieutenant Cadman, at the back of the room, raised her hand. "Good on you, Lieutenant. Just keep ignoring McKay and find me that answer."
"Yes, Sir." She nodded and got back to work. Harry walked through into Elizabeth's office only for Ronan to head his own way. He grabbed the man by the arm and pulled him back into the office only for Caldwell to head out the other door. He watched the man leave before turning to Elizabeth, Rodney and John.
"Where are you sending Ronan?" He asked.
"To get the codes from Kavanagh." John sighed.
"Well that's of no use." Harry shrugged. "He doesn't have them. He's innocent."
"What!?" Rodney gasped. "It has to be him."
"No it doesn't." Harry shook his head. "Trust me, it isn't him. He's not willingly doing this and nobody would choose the most distrusted person on Atlantis to be a spy."
"Then who is it?" John demanded only for Cadman to rush into the room.
"I told Cadman to find out." Harry shrugged as Cadman handed a tablet to Rodney who look it over. "She had the right idea all along. Kavanagh would have suggested it hours ago if anybody had asked him what he thought."
"Harry…" John winced.
"It's Colonel Caldwell…" Rodney whispered out.
"That makes sense." Harry nodded. "A senior officer with full access to a Battlecruiser and Atlantis. Easy to do anything he wants."
"The Colonel? Betray us?" Elizabeth frowned.
"Easy enough if you put a Goa'uld into him." Harry shrugged.
"How do we get codes from a Goa'uld?" Rodney asked.
"Unpleasantly." Harry nodded. "I'll deal with this. Elizabeth, Rodney. Prepare to evacuate if this goes pear-shaped."
He reached for his flight-link as he walked out with Ronan and John towards the meeting room. "Viper-two. Priority call." He ordered and quickly heard a double click. "Iain, I need you to take this radio to Hermiod."
"On my way, one." Iain declared quickly.
"If we need to evac then the Daedalus needs a Commander." John reminded him. "That's you."
Harry grumbled but soon he was gesturing to Stackhouse. "He's no longer a prisoner." He declared. "Go help the evacuation efforts."
Stackhouse nodded as John went in and told Kavanagh he was free to leave. "One, this is two. I have Hermiod and Novak here."
Novak was the chief engineer on the Daedalus and she was someone Harry liked. "Hermiod, this is Major Potter. I need a favour. We know who sabotaged Atlantis but we need your help to get him into our custody. Right now he's sitting in command of the Daedalus and I can't risk a head on assault and we don't have time." Harry declared. "We're in Atlantis' meeting room. Can you please transport Colonel Caldwell to my locator beacon?"
"I will do as you ask." The Asgard told him quietly.
It only took five seconds before a bright white flash erupted in the middle of the room and John drew his sidearm and took aim. "I'd call you Colonel but it's not really is it?" Harry tempted and got the reaction he wanted when the Colonel's eyes burned with a glint of gold.
"I am Goa'uld. We possess the strength of many men." The Goa'uld in the Colonel declared.
"It's not your strength I'm interested in." Harry declared simply as Ronan made to move forwards to beat the information out of him. "And we don't have time so I am very sorry about this, Colonel."
Harry's eyes clouded over with storms and a wind whistled through the city as he went to work quickly but all the wind and the sudden rise in temperature were only side effects as he pulled all of the static charge in the air towards the room they were in. His eyes remained clouded over but this was another thing he and Rodney had trialled before but he'd never been too successful with it but right now it was his only option. He stepped away from John and Ronan and the Goa'uld lurched forwards to attack him. Except when his hand was just about to touch him Harry connected the Colonel to the static charge throughout the room and earthed him to the floor.
A loud snap echoed through the room as a flash of weak lightning hit the Colonel's hand and ran straight through him. It wasn't powerful enough to do actual physical damage but it was just as good as tasering him.
The Colonel hit the floor and his eyes burnt brightly as the Goa'uld resisted. Harry hit him again and the Colonel went limp. "Colonel?" John prompted.
"Sheppard…" The Colonel gasped. "Code…"
Harry grabbed the pen and paper from his trouser pocket and copied it down before handing it to John who rushed from the room with Ronan. "Security detail to meeting room." Harry demanded through the radio and in a matter of seconds Bates and Stakehouse were rushing in and taking in the sight. "Take him to the cells." Harry sighed. "It's the real Colonel for now so go gentle but soon enough it'll be Goa'uld again."
Stackhouse and Bates moved forwards and helped pick the Colonel up between them. Harry stopped them. "We'll sort this out, Colonel." Caldwell just nodded to him.
The next day
"The Daedalus needs a Commander, Harry." John argued as they all sat around the table at their daily meeting. It was supposed to be daily but they rarely actually managed to do it every day.
"It has a Commander." Harry pointed out.
"It needs a temporary Commander until Hermiod can take out the Goa'uld Symbiote and even then the Air Force wants to hold Colonel Caldwell under surveillance until he can be assessed." Elizabeth sighed.
"He was imprisoned by a Goa'uld." Harry argued. "He doesn't need surveillance."
"Any other person who has been imprisoned by the enemy or forced to do something like he has would be required to take leave." John pointed out. "You know that as well as anyone else."
"Don't bring in my screw ups, John." Harry grumbled. "It's not fair."
"It's your fault for winning that game." John teased, shooting Harry a caring look.
"Git." Harry shot Harry a similar look before remembering that Elizabeth was there too. "What about Major Meyers?" Harry asked. "Isn't she the senior officer on the Daedalus? Not to mention actually part of the crew?"
"She has stated that she isn't happy taking command for the return trip." Elizabeth demanded. "She'll still serve as second-in-command."
"I don't like it." Harry grumbled. "My place is here."
"It's either take the Daedalus back along with the Colonel and Viper flight or wormhole back and wait around for its return." John pointed out.
"Huh?" Harry turned to him.
"The Air Force wants you back as soon as possible. Delayed only if you take Command of the Daedalus to bring it back." Elizabeth told him and pushed over a USB stick. "The decision has been made to open Atlantis out as a training centre for X-304s. Like you said, to make the most of stationing three X-304 flights on Atlantis."
"You'll be head of training here as well." John laughed.
"Shut it you." Harry growled.
"All the details are there." Elizabeth told him. "And you've got time to sort things out here before you go. And there's word on replacing Brokewell too."
"Oh?" Harry asked.
"They decided to take your suggestion and give the job to Iain. He'll take the job as soon as you and he return with the trainees." Elizabeth told him.
"And who is replacing Iain on my flight?" Harry had figured it was likely Iain would get the job and it was a good chance for Iain to get a promotion even if he'd find it hard to find a wingman good enough to replace him.
"You'll be training him or her." Elizabeth explained. "You get your choice out of all the trainees. They'll all be split up between the eight current Flights as they become ten Flights."
"So I'm losing two of my pilots from Adder and Cobra?" Harry frowned.
"No." He shook his head. "Earth is taking up the slack since they're increasing their available flights. Apart from Iain taking Brokewell's place and you getting to choose his replacement we wont be affected."
"So who are the trainees?" He prompted.
"Their files are all there." Elizabeth declared. "All eight new recruits are coming here along with the four new dual-seaters."
"Sounds okay." Harry nodded.
"So are you taking the Daedalus back or jumping a wormhole?" John asked.
"I'll take the crate back." Harry grumbled. "I'll place Captain Knight in Command of the Flights here and Captain Forks can take Head of Security."
"I think the Daedalus is slightly more than just a crate." John laughed before standing to walk out with Harry. "Let's go let the Daedalus crew know and then we can check up on Caldwell after Hermiod finishes the procedure."
"More time in Hyperspace… yay!" Harry grumbled. "This time without you." He added quietly.
"You managed without me last time." John grabbed him as they passed one of the generator rooms and closed the door behind them, pinning Harry lightly to the door so there was no way anyone could open it without warning them. John kissed him lightly.
"Last time you were in danger. I had that to focus on." Harry sighed and dipped his head down onto John's shoulder. "I'll miss you. We barely get to spend any time together."
"It comes with the job." John sighed. "You know neither of us can give up our jobs. But this is better than not having each other right?"
"Yeah." Harry nodded.
"Well when Hyperspace gets to be too much just think about me, alright?" John whispered.
"Fancy giving me something to remember you by before I leave?" Harry teased, trailing a hand down to John's stomach and pushing it up under his loose t-shirt and onto his bare stomach.
"Definitely later." John laughed and nipped Harry lightly on the ear.
Two days later
"Everything set to go?" John asked as he walked onto the bridge of the Daedalus with Elizabeth at his side.
"I'm still not overjoyed about this you know?" Harry told John as John came close. He'd officially taken Command the day before and spent the time getting the ship ready for its second attempt to get back to Earth. The crew were a little off about their actual Commanding Officer being monitored in the ship's sick bay but they all knew what had happened and Major Meyers had gone a long way to bridge the gap but as far as the Air Force crew were concerned it was better to have a pilot as their temporary Commanding Officer.
Hermiod had been fascinated to finally have him on board and had asked to run a few tests on him on the way back to Earth. Harry was a little concerned by that but for the sake of their relationship with the Asgard he'd accepted.
"Wont be long before they want to give you one of these permanently." John pointed out.
"Don't kid around." Harry grumbled.
"Sir, we're ready to depart." Captain Kleinman reported with a twist of his head.
"We'll see you in about six weeks." Elizabeth smiled to him. "We'll get off of your ship."
"Take care of yourself." John met his eyes and glanced to his right shoulder where Harry knew he had quite a vicious, yet pleasurable at the time, bruise forming from John the night before. Not to mention Harry as a little sore right now in certain departments. John would be too he bet.
John escorted Elizabeth off of the ship and Harry ran the ship through pre-launch procedures, getting reports from all of the departments. "Passengers are clear of the airlock, Major." Meyers reported to him.
"This will be novel." Harry grumbled. "If I didn't know what it's like I'd try to take those controls from you, Captain." He told Kleinman who smiled back over his shoulder at Harry sitting in the Command chair.
"Ship wide." Harry told Meyers. She nodded and a chime rang through the air. "This is Major Potter. I know these aren't brilliant circumstances for any of you and I know that this is Colonel Caldwell's ship, not mine. But I swear to you that I take my duty very seriously. I am a pilot and although my true bird is in the port hanger I can safely say that right now the Daedalus is my Command and I'll do right by her. So let's have a nice simple trip back to Earth." He turned to Kleinman without cutting the connection. "Take us up, Captain."
The comm cut out and Kleinman went to work. Harry felt the rumble through the ship as the engines kicked in and slowly took the weight off of the landing struts and slowly they rose up until with a lurch the supports retracted. "We are airborne, Major." Kleinman declared.
"Atlantis control, this is Daedalus. We are airborne." Meyers reported automatically.
"Have a safe journey, Daedalus." Chuck declared and Harry knew John and Elizabeth were probably watching from the hanger.
"Atlantis control, this is Daedalus Acting Command." Harry intoned as he thumbed the talk switch on the arm of his chair. "You'd better still be in one piece when we get back."
He cut the connection as Kleinman angled them up and he waited patiently, giving only the orders that he knew the bridge crew needed and soon they were jumping into Hyperspace on their twelve day trip back home. He planned to distract himself getting things ready for the trainees that he'd be coming back with and imagining John with him every time he went to bed.