M & W Advanced Systems

Disclaimer: These characters are lovely, but not mine; this story is for fun, not profit.

A/N: First SGA story, first challenge story! Challenge: Genretwisting Deadline Challenge 2011. Thanks to amber and camille_is_here for their helpful suggestions! Reviews help writers know what works and what doesn't – and also help us return to the keyboard with renewed energy!

Rodney McKay burst into the offices of M & W Advanced Systems a few minutes after 10, pretty close to his usual time. There was no point in coming in any earlier these days: business had dried up completely with the downturn. No one was willing to lay out the kind of cash needed for the high-tech smart house designs that McKay created. Elizabeth ran the office, handled marketing, client relations and billing. She could always reach her business partner by cell when there was work to be done, but it had been months since he'd gotten an early morning call. This Tuesday morning was no different, and so he'd spent a few hours working on projects at home, and stopped at The Bagel Hole to pick up his second breakfast on the way in. He'd already eaten half of his own bagel and passed the bag holding hers to Elizabeth. It had taken 3 years to train him, but once he started bringing her breakfast he never forgot it.

He was on his way into the tech room, mumbling something about a heating problem at his apartment, when his progress was arrested by his business partner's brisk interruption. "Rodney, we have a new client."

"What?" Rodney spun around so quickly that crumbs flew. "Did you say a new client? A client who wants us to do something for him? Please tell me it's not someone else's problem customer who needs a bulb changed in their home theater because the teenagers spend too much time playing video games and never turn the thing off. Please tell me it's not some clown who wants a security system to protect his beanie baby collection from a rival collector who might climb in his window. Seriously. Is this a client or is it another sad, sorry excuse for work so we can pay the rent?"

"Rodney, you agreed to this. Your designs just aren't selling these days, and there's no sign of a rebound yet. We have to pay the bills. And if you want the heat turned back on at home, you'd better slap a smile on your face and say, 'yes, sir, this is just our kind of project!' to whatever our new client wants." She looked at her watch. "And wipe the cream cheese off your chin; he's due here at 10:30."

"Yeah, well, thank god my ex-wife moved to Chicago last year. Wouldn't Sam just love to hear your latest ad-copy: 'Security for home and office, advanced sound and video systems, smart house design: we do it all! Whatever your home or office needs, contact Weir and McKay!' You make it sounds like we'll do practically anything!"

"Yes, that was the idea, Rodney. We'll do practically anything at all to keep this enterprise going until business picks up for what you really want to do. Don't forget that!"

Half an hour later their new client arrived. Elizabeth was sitting at a large desk in the main office, while a smaller desk close to the door was empty excepted for several file folders, a stapler and a closed laptop. Their receptionist/secretary had been let go several weeks back, but they pretended religiously that she was just out for the day.

"Hello, I'm Carson Beckett," the attractive visitor said. "Am I in the right place? Are you Miss Weir?" His smile reached his eyes, lending warmth to his greeting, and his Scottish accent was as appealing as his smile.

"Dr. Weir, yes, but please, call me Elizabeth." And Elizabeth rose and stretched out her hand to greet the man across from her. "I'm glad to meet you. Have a seat and let me get my colleague, Dr. McKay." She gestured to one of the chairs around a small, round table in another corner of the room, and walked through to the lab to summon McKay.

When all three were seated, McKay assumed his usual, unfortunate air of superiority, and asked Beckett what they could do for him. 3-D entertainment system? Automatic lighting, sound, and perhaps kitchen systems coordinated with his schedule and tied into some biometric scanning technology so both his breakfast and beer would always be ready when he was? What would it be?

Beckett looked confused, but was quick to answer, "No, no, nothing like that. I thought you were a security company! Have I got that wrong?"

Elizabeth drew Beckett's attention before he could see Rodney rolling his eyes – and before Rodney had a chance to mock their new client and explain that they were not in the bodyguard business. "Of course, you're absolutely right. Security is a major part of our business. What can we help you with, exactly?"

"I've had a break-in at my place, and I need help," he responded.

This time Elizabeth wasn't quick enough. "Well I'm sorry to hear that, but it sounds like you need the police, not a tech genius like myself. Elizabeth…" Rodney nodded and started to rise from his chair.

But Carson responded quickly. "No, but it's preventing another theft that I'm after. I already know who did it and what she's after, and I know she'll be back again because she didn't get it on her first try."

Less than two weeks later the three were gathered again, dressed to the nines and ready to put into motion the plan they'd been working on since their first meeting. With them were two men whom Rodney referred to as the "muscle." John Sheppard was trim, fit and handsome. He looked like he belonged in the expensive suit he was wearing, and in Beckett's elegant home. The other man, Ronon Dex, fit Rodney's label better: tall and well-built with brows that seemed threatening even when he was relaxed, or so Beckett assumed; he'd not seen the man relax. Sheppard and Dex weren't on the regular payroll at M & W, but they'd been called in for special projects in the past – often to test out the security component of McKay's smart house systems. They weren't the only brains and brawn team available, but they were good, and Sheppard and Elizabeth had developed a relationship based on respect and trust. For this job they were an integral part of the plan.

A trap had been prepared for their prey, one that she would not be able to resist. Nor would she be able to succeed in stealing what she was after, a silver locket that had been in his family, Beckett told them, for decades. Teyla Emmagan was an elusive jewel thief; the police had never been able to make a case against her, but Beckett knew that she was the one who had broken into his home. Her criminal career had been so successful that she was considered by most people to be a fine, upstanding member of society – high society, of course. And so, she would be at the party that evening, a fund-raising event for a local retirement home. The team planned to allow her quite a bit of freedom to roam about the place. When she was comfortable and sure of herself they knew she would strike, and Ronon and John would be ready. In addition, to ensure the safety of Beckett's valuables, the security that Rodney had designed was virtually unbreakable. Without the proper codes, she would never get to the carefully protected locket.

After reviewing the plan once more, Elizabeth and the "muscle" prepared to retire to the guest house, well in advance of the arrival of the real guests. Rodney would stay with Carson, posing as his date. Both Rodney and Elizabeth were content with this division of labor, and if Rodney wasn't actively thinking about ways to maneuver a kiss – just for show – from Carson, Elizabeth was actively thinking about doing just that with either or both of the men with whom she'd be entering the party! But she reminded herself that this was work, and that the hefty payment Beckett had already made was all that was keeping the office open – and her mortgage paid. She couldn't afford to screw this up.

A few hours later the party was in full swing. Ronon was spending a good deal of time by the bar, snagging food from every laden tray that a server brought past. While chatting up the servers – and sampling every item on the menu – he kept his eyes on the crowd, and especially on Teyla.

Sheppard was schmoozing, sticking close to Elizabeth and often turning his charming smile on her. But she could see that his eyes were also surveying the rest of the gathering, and as long as he kept his hand on the small of her back, she approved.

Rodney was enjoying himself a bit too much. In his role as Carson's new boyfriend, Elizabeth knew he'd be drawn into many conversations about his work, and if word got to Teyla their plan could be over before it began. So he was also posing as a scientist working on top-secret defense projects; it was perfect for his ego to pretend his work was too important to discuss with ordinary mortals.

While she observed Rodney and Carson, Elizabeth wondered if Rodney had forgotten why they were really here – he seemed so immersed in the part he was playing. Suddenly she felt Sheppard's breath at her ear, as he whispered to her that it was time; Teyla was making her move. Ruefully she realized she had also enjoyed immersing herself in this part, and regretted for a moment that this whole evening was only an act. John kissed her neck just below her ear before he left her side, a promise to anyone watching that he'd be back soon. Elizabeth shivered slightly and then he was gone, smiling and charming his way over to the stairs by which Teyla had already gained the second floor. He turned back at the foot of the steps for a moment, and his smile slipped just a little as he caught Elizabeth watching him. A serious look passed over his face before he grinned, nodded to her and turned to follow.

Ronon had seen Teyla make her move as well, and had already bounded up the back stairs. Between them, there could be no escape for Teyla. Ronon and John would keep her confined upstairs until the party was winding down, and only then call in the authorities. Beckett did not want his name and his problems to make the rounds over this attempted theft; he was a philanthropist but he didn't care for any other thieves setting their sights on his property!

Elizabeth and Rodney circulated. Elizabeth made the rounds again, speaking to some of the people she'd met earlier. When asked she told other guests that she was the CFO of a high-tech company, leaving out any mention of security activities.

It was a shame that Beckett was so averse to publicity. If only they could get a little press out of this night's work, she and McKay might really be able to expand into this field. They could up their fees for all kinds of security systems, and throw in some additional personal attention. And maybe have more chances to work with John Sheppard and Ronon Dex… But for now, to keep up her part in the charade, Elizabeth continued to mingle among the crowd.

When the party was over, Rodney, Carson and Elizabeth made their way up to the safe room to meet John and Ronon, and to confront Teyla. They stopped on the threshold, staring about the empty room in disbelief. Teyla was obviously gone, and it was equally obvious that the "muscle" they'd hired for the occasion had double-crossed them. The safe was open, someone having entered Rodney's complex code and shut down their carefully constructed security system. That was John's work, he quickly realized; that man was a charmer and he'd worked his magic on Rodney while Rodney had been setting up the system.

Carson rounded on Elizabeth and Rodney for a moment, while Elizabeth apologized and suggested he start by checking to see what was actually missing. She kept her head held high, but it was clear to her partner that her own conscience was bothering her. She too had been taken in by the Sheppard charm.

It didn't take long to verify that the locket was missing, along with a small pouch of gold coins that Beckett had never let them see. A large quantity of cash and a small case of diamonds had gone untouched, as had everything else in the safe. The thief knew just what she wanted.

One week later, as Elizabeth sat at her desk looking through invoices and debating which to pay with the meager amount left from Beckett's first – and only – payment, an envelope shot under the door to stop in the middle of the office floor. Though she ran for the door she saw no one, and turning back to her desk she opened the envelope and read the one page signed by John Sheppard.

Dear Elizabeth,

I'm sorry that my actions caused you problems with your client, but I want you to know the truth, about Beckett and about the locket that I allowed Teyla Emmagan to steal from him. I don't know what Carson told you, but you deserve to know the truth.

Most importantly, you need to know that the locket did not belong to Beckett, even though it was in his keeping. The locket is a family heirloom of Teyla's, given to her by her father years ago; it contains a stone from her people's ancestral home.

It's true that Teyla is not an innocent. Teyla's father was a jewel thief, and Teyla followed in his footsteps for over a decade. She was a master thief, but when we met five years ago she confessed it all to me, and she chose to give up that life. Nothing but the loss of something so precious – something that belonged to her – would have driven her to return to that trade.

I can't regret helping Teyla recover her locket. And you should know that your client should not be trusted. For your own sake, and for Rodney's, steer clear of Carson Beckett. He is not whom he pretends to be.

Until we meet again,

John

The End … at least for this story!