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Catch and Fall

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Kathy was nervous enough as it was, going into the boardroom. Some of the other PAs were at least as efficient as Jonathan, because neither Alex Moreland nor Simon Collier looked surprised to see John, but they did look over Rodney, Ronon, and Lorne with marked wariness. Jonathan took up post just behind the left side of Dave’s chair. Some other wives were scattered around the edges of the room as well, watching the young, male PAs bustling in and out with coffee and laptops and notepads and pens. No one had broken rank yet and dared hire a new female PA. Kathy noticed the way a lot of the PAs looked to Jonathan for guidance. Kathy also noticed the self-satisfied smirk that flashed across Moreland’s face when Ambassador Shen and Dr. Ambrose took up seats behind him.

Ambrose looked discomfited, out of place in his white lab coat, and he was clutching his tablet very tightly. He looked even more alarmed when he looked at Rodney and recognized him.

John was up to something. If he was setting Dave up for a fall, Kathy would catch him. She would always catch him. But she didn't know what was happening, didn't know what to do, if she could stop what was about to unfold.

Kathy forced herself to relax and smile, but her heart was pounding. She thought of her little girls, how they smiled every time Dave announced there was a new email from Uncle John. She wanted to scream. She wanted to cry.

Lorne looked completely composed now, but he and Jonathan hadn’t looked at each other once since they’d both entered the room. If Kathy didn’t know better, she’d think they were complete strangers.

Dave flipped open his leather portfolio - he was old-fashioned like his father in some ways - and cleared his throat. “All right, let’s get started. This meeting is being recorded, and after Jonathan transcribes it everyone will have minutes. Are we ready?” Dave scanned the others’ faces, and seeing no objections, said, “Let’s begin, then, with the retention votes for the officers on the Board of Directors.”

Dave started at the bottom, with the executive secretary, and worked his way up. Everything was going smoothly, all of the officers retained. Kathy darted a glance at John. He was watching the proceedings with marked attention, but his expression was unreadable. Rodney looked bored, kept looking at Ambrose. Ronon wasn’t paying attention at all, was engrossed in his mug of hot chocolate. Lorne was alert, wary, scanning the room. He was tuned to John, not Jonathan.

What were they planning? What were they -

“And the chief executive officer, David Sheppard?” Dave asked.

Only half the board raised their hands, cast confused looks at the half who did not. The half who were staring at Alex Moreland for direction. Simon Collier was staring down at his hands.

Alarm crossed Dave’s face for a second, but then he smoothed his expression into one of calmness. John, by contrast, looked like a cat who’d been splashed with cold water. Why was he surprised? Rodney was pinning Ambrose with a look, and Ambrose was shrinking in his chair. Ronon was alert now as well, had set his mug aside.

“Your objections?” Dave asked. “Or, in the alternative, your nominations for a replacement?”

“Let me make my objections,” Moreland said, “and if enough of the board finds them persuasive, then I nominate myself, of course.”

“Of course.” A muscle twitched in Dave’s jaw.

“Your objections?” John asked.

“You’re not a member of the board,” Collier said sharply.

John’s smile glinted like the edge of a knife. “I am one of the majority shareholders, and this is a shareholder meeting, not a board meeting.”

Collier raised his eyebrows, looked to Moreland, whose expression remained steely and impenetrable.

“My biggest concern about our current CEO,” Moreland said, “is the deception he’s perpetrated on the entirety of Sheppard Industries by signing false financial statements, misstating the company’s value and artificially inflating the price of Sheppard Industries stock.”

Dave blinked. “What?”

Moreland waved a hand, and his PA shuffled forward, handed him a binder full of documents. Moreland set it down loudly on the table and flipped it open.

“Anyone can take a look if they want. David Sheppard signed financial statements that don’t match the company’s actual finances. I had a forensic accountant look into it.” He pushed the binder down the table to Collier, who didn’t even look at it, shoved it across the table to Genevieve Bancroft, who reached for it with shaking hands.

Kathy darted a look at John. He’d risen up, moved to stand at Dave’s right hand, and Lorne was right behind him.

“That’s my biggest objection,” Moreland said. “But my other primary objection is the way David Sheppard has imperiled this company’s reputation by over-extending the company’s resources in bunk research. Dr. Ambrose?”

Dr. Ambrose rose up, cleared his throat. “Well, we were contracted by the Department of Defense to look into the possibility of generating energy based on neutrino ions, but the possibility isn’t viable without a substance that can contain neutrinos, and there’s no such thing on Earth.”

Ambassador Shen rose up. “Dr. Ambrose, you are one of few people on this planet who are capable of developing such a technology, and you repeatedly assured me that you were on the right path.”

“Only because Mr. Sheppard insisted I make those representations to you,” Dr. Ambrose said.

Dave’s eyes went wide. “I did no such thing!” He cut his gaze over to Jonathan, whose expression was blank, unreadable.

Ambassador Shen cleared her throat. “If I had known what David Sheppard was doing, I would never have -”

Rodney said, “Ambrose, you moron.”

Ambrose jumped, cringed.

Moreland narrowed his eyes at Rodney. “Who are you?”

“Dr. Rodney McKay, PhD, PhD, the man who fired Ambrose after suffering his incompetence for a year,” Rodney snapped.

John narrowed his eyes. “I thought I recognized you.”

Ambrose gulped. “H-hey, Major Sheppard.”

“It’s Lieutenant-Colonel Sheppard now, actually,” John said.

“Oh. Uh, good for you, sir.” Ambrose shrunk back down into his chair.

“Now isn’t the time for touching reunions,” Moreland said. “Right now, we need to get to the bottom of both levels of fraud that have been occurring here for the past year.”

The past year. Jonathan had been working for Dave over a year. Kathy cast him another look, but he didn’t look at her.

“Dr. McKay,” Ambassador Shen said, “of course your expertise would have been most welcome -”

“The point is,” Rodney said, “it’s not non-viable technology, but the components needed to make it viable are currently classified, as Ambrose and Shen well know.”

Moreland raised his eyebrows at Shen. If Ambrose got any smaller he’d disappear, which was probably what he wished would happen.

Bancroft cleared her throat. “Alex,” she said, “all the numbers match up.”

Moreland blinked. “What?”

Bancroft gestured to the binder. “The financial statements Dave signed - they match the records your accountants pulled.”

Moreland frowned. “Give me that.”

Bancroft slid the binder back over to him, and he flipped through it, scanned several pages, flipped through it some more. “But -”

“I always checked over the financial statements before Mr. Sheppard signed them,” Jonathan said. “To make sure they were accurate.”

Moreland’s head snapped up. He pinned Jonathan with a poisonous glare.

Jonathan added, “Martha in accounting really likes opera. I hooked her up with season tickets to the Symphony Orchestra and Opera. She made sure I had access to the books.”

Moreland pinned his PA with a look. “I told you to make sure he signed them.”

The PA - young, mousy - ducked his head. “I gave the papers to Jonathan, and he always brought me back signed copies.”

Realization crossed Dave’s face. “You mean you gave him false statements for me to sign? You assumed I wouldn’t read them.”

“Obviously you didn’t,” Moreland hissed.

Collier cleared his throat pointedly.

Moreland cast him a look. “What?

“In the absence of any financial wrongdoing on my part,” Dave said, “shall we take a vote?”

“There’s still the matter of the fraud in the Defense contract,” Moreland said.

Dave glanced at Jonathan. Jonathan said, “Dr. McKay, have you been receiving updated numbers on the experiments you’ve been running on zero-point energy?”

“Yes,” Rodney said slowly, “in the weekly data updates. Why?”

Jonathan said, “Ambassador Shen, didn’t Dr. Ambrose send along his progress numbers with every email update?”

“Yes,” Ambassador Shen said, just as slowly.

“Did those numbers not prove useful to an ongoing Defense project?”

Ambassador Shen blinked. “Yes.”

Ambrose uncurled in his seat just a little bit.

“And was that usefulness worth the grant monies given to Sheppard Industries?” Jonathan prodded.

It was Rodney who said, “Yes.”

Bancroft said, “So, sounds like all of your concerns have been dealt with, Alex. Shall we vote?”

Sterling Thompson said, “I say we vote to keep Dave and rethink our votes on Alex and Simon. Also, maybe someone should call the lawyers. And perhaps the police.” He raised his eyebrows at his PA.

Lorne said, “The authorities are already on their way, actually.”

Moreland reached into his jacket and drew out a small silver ball. He lobbed it at Dave and dove under the table.

Dave caught it automatically. There were cries of startlement. Collier dove under the table after Moreland. John reached for the ball, but Jonathan said, “No! Don’t touch it! It’s activated by the Gene!”

Kathy started toward her husband. Dave stared down at the little ball, confused. “What is it?”

Moreland poked his head out from under the table. He glared at Collier. “You said he had the Gene!”

“Every time I brought an Ancient device near him, it lit up.”

“Not him,” Jonathan said. “Me.”

Thompson said, “What the hell is going on here?”

The double doors behind Kathy burst open. She uttered a small cry of alarm and spun around. Men and women in dark suits with guns and shiny badges and ear pieces came spilling into the boardroom.

One of them paused when he saw John. “Colonel Sheppard?”

“Agent Barrett,” John drawled.

“What are you doing here?”

“It’s called Sheppard Industries, you know.”

Agent Barrett nodded. “Right. Good to see you again. You too, Ronon, Dr. McKay.”

Agents swarmed Collier, Moreland, and several other board members, pinning them to the table and handcuffing them.

They were hauled out of the room, their rights being read to them as they went. There were cries of confusion, shouts about lawsuits and lawyers. Dave sank back in his chair, dazed.

One of the female agents approached Jonathan. “Lieutenant O’Neill,” she said.

He arched an eyebrow at her. “That’s the first time you’ve ever called me that.”

“Your work here is done,” the woman said. “Report back to the Pentagon at 0800 tomorrow for your next assignment.”

“Tomorrow?” Jonathan echoed.

Dave turned to him. “Wait, your name isn’t really Jonathan Evans?”

“Just a legend,” Jonathan said.

“Tomorrow,” the female agent said. She spun on her heel and walked away.

Agent Barrett scooped up the binder that Moreland had claimed was evidence against Dave, and then he trotted back over to Dave. “Mr. Sheppard, unfortunately, your company headquarters are now a crime scene. I understand you have an alpha site you can work from?”

Dave nodded. “Yes. Jonathan suggested we have a backup in case of a natural disaster.” He narrowed his eyes at Jonathan. “You knew this was going to happen.”

“I’d hoped to dispose of them more quietly,” Jonathan admitted. “Like Carlson and Peterson and some of the others, but I wanted to be prepared.”

Carlson and Peterson had been let go months ago for falling down on the job - missing important meetings, failing to respond to important emails. Kathy remembered Dave’s bafflement at how they’d both gone so wrong.

“Ha!” John said. “You are General O’Neill’s son.”

“No,” Jonathan said softly. “I’m really not.” He said to Agent Barrett, without a hint of the deference he usually displayed, “Tell the Old Guy I’ll be on his doorstep at 0800 sharp.”

“The girls will miss you,” Kathy said, and all of the men turned to look at her, as if they’d forgotten she was there. Perhaps they had.

Jonathan said, “Tell them I healed up and the Air Force called me back.” He headed for the door. Agent Barrett continued speaking to Dave, who was recovering from his daze.

“Really,” Rodney said to John in a low voice, “what just happened?”

“I’m not a hundred percent sure myself,” John admitted, “but General O’Neill told me to be here and to bring all of you, and he said I’d get a couple of weeks extra leave out of the deal.”

Rodney’s eyebrows went up. “A whole month? With Zelenka and Teldy in charge? Woolsey wouldn’t have -”

“It wasn’t up to Woolsey,” John said. “So, two weeks here, and then we can go see Jeannie, okay?”

“Okay.” Rodney nodded.

Ronon said, “Hey, Lorne, can I get some more hot chocolate? Lorne?”