Unto the Breach
Author: Grey Bard
Indirect sunlight filtered through the colored windows of the gate room, warming the bustling crowd on the floor below. Major Lorne's team fastened and refastened snaps and bundles while awaiting clearance to leave for their mineralogical survey of M4G-359. On the other side of the room, today's repair and ongoing study team were synchronizing radio frequencies as they geared up to leave for a unexplored spire on the eastern pier. It was just like any other morning in the city of Atlantis until the klaxon sounded.
In her office, Elizabeth Weir's ear piece crackled to life. "Dr. Weir, we've got an incoming wormhole."
She sat bolt upright in her chair. "Oh?"
"Who is it?" she asked, already halfway out the door.
There was the sound of a very short scuffle, then stillness. "That won't be necessary, Sergeant," said a new voice on the other end of the radio. "We're from the NID, and we're here to help you."
Compared to the usual Atlantis standard, the emergency senior staff meeting was far more formal than usual positively wary. Dr. Weir looked askance at the three strangers standing before the conference table in stiff black suits. "I won't say I'm not surprised to see you here, Agent..."
"Bester," answered the man in the middle, wearing the stiffest, blackest suit. "These are my associates, Agents Hikaru and Levitt. We're here about an individual who is a threat to the Atlantis base, Earth, and the NID."
John Sheppard raised his eyebrows. "You heard we got the goa'uld out of Caldwell, right?"
"Who is it?" Weir asked.
"That's just it, Dr. Weir," Bester said, staring out from eyes so dark that they seemed to have no pupils. "We don't know. And the NID does not take kindly to not knowing."
He went on. "For some time now, we've been aware of a leak somewhere in the Stargate community. Someone who interacts with alien technology every day has been selling information to a foreign government, and by foreign, I mean Earth-foreign. A nation that would never be cleared for such data. Analysis of the information leaked has allowed us to track it back to the source, and that source is, unfortunately, the Atlantis base."
"I don't believe it!" That was Sheppard.
"We should hear him out." That was Weir.
"They've hacked the data burst, haven't they?"
"You have it exactly, Dr. McKay." Bester tilted his head with a small pinched smile and went on. "And most conveniently for our traitor, the codec on the data compression wipes away all traces of a filepath."
McKay leaned back in his conference room chair, crossing his arms. "I'm sorry, when we were trying to fit thousands of man hours of data into three seconds a week, we forgot to take into account the needs of counterespionage."
"Quite all right, Doctor. But it does mean that the investigation has to take place here, at the source and before the Daedalus arrives to complicate the situation. The last transmission from our leak took place after the last time it was docked here, and we'd like to catch our spy before he or she has a chance to leave or get word out. Hence our ... little visit."
The very serious young man in black to Bester's left stepped forward. "The NID's been given full authority over this investigation. On matters of homeworld security, you are obligated to provide unconditional assistance."
Bester and the other NID agent looked at him, and he shrank back just a little. "Thank you, Agent Hikaru," Bester said, with a hint of command.
"Hold on a minute. Didn't we conduct our own investigation the last time something like this happened?" Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard asked.
"Yes, and I was very impressed by the complete report of the incident, Colonel. Be that as it may, we're not under quite the same ... desperate circumstances in this case. I'm sure you'd agree, Dr. Weir, that really you'd be better off leaving this to outside experts."
"Of course, Agent Bester," she agreed, sounding rather relieved.
"Great, fine, so you called this urgent meeting why?"
"Why, to gain all of your help in coordinating this, Dr. McKay. We can hardly engage in a full scale rush espionage probe on a closed base without interfering with a great deal of your daily procedure. You're going to need to shut down all non-essential network access, and then reroute functions as necessary to shut down one primary subnetwork at a time, not to mention the security details."
Dr. Weir shrugged lightly. "That shouldn't be a problem, should it, Colonel Sheppard?" she said more than asked and John sat up a little straighter.
"No, no, of course not. I'll get Lorne right on it."
"And, of course," Bester went on, "We'll need your personal assistance with some of the more unique features of the Atlantis operating system, Dr. McKay. We on the counterespionage side of the equation haven't had the benefit of months of help from a Goa'uld systems analyst."
"Will that be all, Agent Bester?"
"Yes, I believe it will, for now."
"Then good luck gentlemen, Agent Levitt."
Several feet out of the conference room, Dr. McKay managed to take the NID agent aside. "My personal help, Agent Bester? I'm sure I could have gotten one of my people to do this for you. Was it my stunning good looks, or scintillating conversation?"
"You're the lowest security risk. He smirked. "As Chief Science Officer for our only outpost in another galaxy, we obviously vetted you within an inch of your life. Having worked for classified projects as long as you have, I assure you, we know everything there is to know about Dr. Rodney I. McKay. I doubt you'd sell out Earth for anything less than a System Lord, let alone these cretins."
"I suppose that makes a sort of twisted sense," McKay admitted.
Agent Bester gestured down the hall. "If you could show Agent Levitt where to disable the nonessential access?"
"Right this way."
"What do you mean, you've just changed the server protocols? I knew the old server protocols. They worked.
"We put the changes into effect three days ago, sir. Dr. Zelenka said there was a memo.
"A memo. Obviously.
"Once it gets out of the beta stages, it will be much more efficient.
"I'm sure. And the compilation file directories?
"Were renamed, yes.
"Just checking. No, no, I'll figure it out myself. What's another two hours when you're dealing with highly classified material?
When Dr. McKay finally got down to the control room, his day did not improve. His second in command was in the middle of a heated argument with Agent Bester.
"You cannot just do things! There needs to be a stability maintained!" Radek glared, one hand held protectively over a laptop.
"And if that were true,
Zelenka noticed his presence, and rounded on Rodney. "Did you hear what he suggested for our shield monitor computers? It is unconscionable!"
"Only a simple reboot and security scan, Dr. Zelenka," said Agent Hikaru.
"Only! Five hours. Five hours without any but the most basic shield monitoring. It cannot be borne! I do not know what you are doing, but it ought..."
McKay rubbed his forehead and sighed. "Zelenka? I need a word with you.
"I must say, I was very impressed by your work on Project Arcturus. Fine use of alien technology, particularly on a tight schedule."
"Yes, if you like collateral damage to the tune of five sixths of a solar system. Don't flatter me, Agent Bester.
"Such things are only to be expected when dealing with equipment several thousand years old, I don't hold it against you.
"We're not so different, you and I. You simply want to protect Earth and protect your own. I want the same things too."
"That's very touching. I'm sure you have a very nice homily about stargazing and family picnics, but I really, really don't care right now. All I want is to find this spy quickly, send him back to Earth with a bow around his neck, and send you home with him. Is that so much to ask?"
It was too much to ask. It was only after two days of hard work with the city on lockdown, and scientific progress brought near to a standstill, that there was any new news at all.
I've been working with your Agent Hikaru, and we've found your leak.
Not who, so much as how. We know how the information was getting out.
All right, then Dr. McKay, how?
It's quite clever, really. The spy hid the information in self extracting files hidden in another, larger, more innocuous file. It would then extract, once compiled for compression, and hide as a system file in the data burst. There must be a confederate at the other end who knows what directory to open, and from there it is quite simple.
The SGC will have a little surprise, then. Where is it coming from? Linguistics, anthropology? With the high volume of multimedia information...
"No, and no. The control computers, the lab networks, they're all clean. So are most of the networks in the personal quarters.
"We've traced it back to router hub three. I'm afraid it could be any of all the marines in the second tier barracks.
It just never gets easier, does it?
No, funny thing about spies, isn't it? We'll need to check every single computer from that area for recent activities, and match it with times of use.
If you would be so kind as to take the usage logs with Agent Hikaru, Agent Levitt will deal with the confiscated computers.
When the break finally came, McKay was in the mess hall, still going over usage logs and data burst compilation records on his PDA as he ate.
One moment, he was alone at the table with two of his teammates, the next, Bester was standing there. It was fairly disconcerting. "If you could leave us for a moment, while the good doctor and I go over some matters of security?" Agent Bester said with a sharp glance at Ronon and Teyla, both of whom had never set foot on Earth, let alone lived there.
Teyla nodded in simple courtesy, and picked up her tray to leave. "Certainly, Agent Bester. I believe there is a free table by the balcony.
Bester caught Ronon by the arm as he rose to go. "He passed out? Very nice work."
Ronon lowered his eyebrows as if to growl, before pulling away to follow Teyla. Bester coughed a short laugh. "You have some fascinating coworkers, you know, Dr. McKay."
"Really, I hadn't noticed," McKay said, looking back down at his PDA.
"I must say, I was very interested to hear about Miss Emmagen," Agent Bester said, suddenly earnest.
".. Oh?" He looked up, sharply.
"Do you think she'd be willing to donate her body for examination - after, of course, she was done with it? The possibilities of a successful human line of descent with Wraith DNA are immeasurable."
McKay shook his head. "You had something to say?
"Yes. Agent Levitt has finished her survey of the router hub 3 computers. If you would walk this way?
In the emptied barracks hall, Agent Levitt sat going over her findings, surrounded by a large number of carefully labeled laptops. Dr. McKay was listening intently, while Agent Bester stood silent in a convenient shadow.
"Forty seven management ebooks, three pirated self-improvement audios, and the complete works of Andre Segovia."
"Pass, said McKay. "Lt. Cadman?"
"Porn, porn, minesweeper, porn."
"Why am I not surprised? Pass. Private Seeger?"
"Going in or going out?"
"Strictly in. He must be an actual knitter."
"Really! I didn't know he had it in him! Pass. Private Vesolosky?"
"World of Warcraft, City of
"Thank you, I think we can pass on that one. Sergeant Haldeman?"
"Some touching video messages to his girlfriend, free of classified details and filmed against a plain gray wall."
"Pass. Sergeant Stackhouse?"
"Solitaire and pictures of his dog."
"Pass. Wait, go back to the one with the videos."
"Just several hours of avis of his..."
"Pull up the date stamps from her outbox, and then get me those systems logs!"
Agent Bester startled into speech. "What? Wait, of course!"
McKay nodded grimly. "Outgoing video files, pre-compression, take up enough space to cover a multitude of sins. It would be the perfect place to hide all kinds of nasty self-extracting little files. If this is it, no wonder we always missed it during the weekly compilation."
Bester took Agent Levitt by the shoulder and nodded at the door. "Take this to Hikaru and ask him to check for shadow hard drives I wonder if our Sergeant Haldeman's laptop has been leading a double life..."
Sergeant Haldeman's laptop was leading a double life, and now Sheppard had to have a quiet and heavily armed word with one of his men, involving handcuffs and a treason arrest. He didn't know Haldeman very well, but something seemed a little off. "What do you know about those videos of Haldeman's, Private Troy? he asked one of the young marines he had brought along for backup. "Do you know how he could consistently get ahold of one of our mission camcorders for personal use? He didn't work in supply.
"Corporal Roberts does, and she always took care of it for him, sir.
She'd take the video, he'd give her his computer, and she'd take care of
everything. She's always been good like that,
Sheppard turned to him sharply. "Everything?
"Oh, yes, sir. Sergeant Haldeman can hardly send email.
He hit his radio switch and broke into a run. "Lorne, we need a security detail on Corporal Roberts, now!"
There was static and on the other end, and Major Lorne's voice came through. "Protective or..."
"The other thing!"
Depending on how you looked at it, there had been no need to hurry. By the time Colonel Sheppard got there, Roberts lay dead on the floor, Lorne and his men surrounding the body and looking as if they felt pretty useless. Agent Bester was locked in debate with Dr. Weir, but seemed perfectly happy with the situation.
"What can I say? he asked, spreading his hands in a quick theatrical gesture. "She was reaching for her gun."
"Agent Bester, this is not acceptable. Corporal Roberts wasn't even questioned, let alone convicted!"
Agent Bester shook his head. "Oh, she was the spy all right. She was very careful, but some of the compiling took place when Sergeant Haldeman couldn't possibly have been online. Not that she could have known that, of course, but it was very unfortunate for her that we had security footage of him entering and leaving Kusanagi's poker game at exactly the wrong time. When half of the guests are scientists, a poker game is hardly the place one could play hide the file with a rogue nation and not get noticed."
"You said you wanted our cooperation, but you set Colonel Sheppard on the wrong man and failed to let him in on your new information! You've been hiding things from us! Weir was livid.
"I never said what kind of cooperation I needed, Dr. Weir. I was hoping the diversion might make her think we were off her trail and avoid this sad little scene, but it was not to be. Bester sighed as Agent Levitt and Agent Hikaru came in with an opened bodybag. "Well, we're done here. Get ready to dial the gate. We'll take it from here, Colonel."
Dr. Weir walked into her office to find her head scientist and his second in command waiting for her and grinning like fools. She sat down at her desk and crossed her arms. "Can I help you gentlemen?"
"We wiped his portable hard drive." Rodney smirked.
"Whose? She asked, nonplussed.
"Agent Bester's. Even with the whole 'Yay, they aren't the faction that is officially evil' thing, I don't feel comfortable with the NID having free reign on anything and everything they could possibly want out of the entire Atlantis database. Would you?
"No, not really, she said, slowly. "You're sure you wiped it?
"And his PDA." Zelenka added, cheerful.
McKay studied that ceiling, innocently. "Someone might have sort of forgotten our security degausser under his chair. Oh, just by accident."
"Those degaussers, ah, you must watch them. They turn on by themselves all the time, too," Radek added in a conspiratorial voice.
"So all the information is wiped?"
"Unless Hewlett Packard has taken to using Asgard processor technology, that's pretty much a yes." McKay shrugged.
The smile Radek Zelenka was wearing was not very nice. "It can wipe a USB key in under thirty seconds. I believe the word I am looking for is toast."
Somewhere, in a room with no windows, a woman woke up.
"Ah, subterfuge. It's amazing what one can do with alien technology these days," said the man watching her, in a satisfied tone.
She shrank back from him.
"Now, Ms..... Roberts, was it?" Bester asked, leaning forward. "Ms. Roberts, I believe we have much to talk about."