"Do you know what the driving force in the universe is, Dr. Jackson?"
"Love?" Daniel said facetiously as he looked around the distinctly squalid rooms the man had brought him to.
"So you're a glass half empty kind of guy?" Daniel said.
"Do you know why I wanted you here?" the man asked, ignoring Daniel's comment.
He grabbed a couple of heavily loaded backpacks and started shoving a few odds and ends into the outer pockets.
"I didn't even know you wanted me here," Daniel said.
He frowned, studying the young man in front of him: short brown hair, average build, and a certain way of holding himself that Daniel had come to associate with a military background. The man stared back, his hazel eyes alert.
"I don't even know who you are."
"Where are my manners?" he said in a mocking tone. "Name's Mark Watkins. At least part of the time."
"Should that mean anything to me?" Daniel asked.
"Only if Maybourne told you about me. Otherwise, no."
"You're another member of his off world operation," Daniel deduced.
"Not just another pretty face, are you, Doc?" Watkins said sarcastically.
Daniel grimaced and refused to respond.
"Yes, I was part of Maybourne's operation. Until he screwed us over."
"He...what? Uh...no, I think you've made a mistake," Daniel said.
"No mistake. Maybourne brought O'Neill in to do the actual dirty work. Just like he brought SG-1 in to try and catch us on the moon."
"No," Daniel said, shaking his head. "I mean, yesMaybourne did bring us to the moon...."
"But...Maybourne was arrested and tried, just like the others. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to death, for crying out loud," Daniel said, wincing a little when he heard himself use Jack's trademark phrase.
"Then what's he doing here?"
"Escaped. From death row at a federal penitentiary? Not even Maybourne's that good," Watkins scoffed.
"Okay, I realize it doesn't sound very convincing, but...." Daniel paused, his face screwed up in concentration. He peered over at Watkins. "You framed Maybourne."
"A simple yet effective plan, if I do say so myself," Watkins said smugly.
"Collins and the others were becoming a liability. Maybourne was the perfect fall guy."
"So...you never intended to attack the Tollan at all? It was just a trap for Maybourne?"
"The operation was real," Watkins said. "At the time I didn't know it was the Tollan but.... That doesn't matter. Unfortunately those idiots, Collins and the others, exposed the operation to Maybourne." Watkins finished his packing and shrugged. "I decided to go ahead with the plan. If Harry was still on our sideno problem. If he wasn'twe'd eliminate him."
"Why didn't you? Eliminate Maybourne, I mean."
"Major Carter and Teal'c were too close to our position, and they hadn't been knocked out by the nerve grenade. It wasn't worth the risk."
"So instead you killed Collins, Hurst, and Emory, and left Maybourne to take the heat."
"Killing all my birds with one stone," Watkins said proudly. "The bonus was that I knew that Harry would ask SG-1 for help. After all, O'Neill's about the only person left on Earth who'll give Harry the time of day."
"Why did you want SG-1 here?"
"Not SG-1. You, Dr. Jackson. I need your linguistic skills."
"Well, that seems obvious," Daniel said. "What kind of translation?"
"It's better if you don't know too much," Watkins said.
"But I'm going to need some kind of background. A reference point."
"Call it a treasure map." Watkins paused to hold a large, wrinkled sheet of paper in front of Daniel.
"I hate to break it to you, but I can't read Pankeeran writing," Daniel said, his eyes rapidly scanning the page. It was only a slight lie. Daniel was getting used to the alien letter forms, but he still needed to use his notes to truly translate anything.
"You'll learn," Watkins said, his voice holding a subtle threat.
"It's not that easy," Daniel argued.
"Compared to learning the old language it is."
"Old language?" Daniel said, looking up at Watkins.
"This planet used to be inhabited by aliens. And they didn't speak English," Watkins said. "But I've managed to collect some relatively rare reference materials for you to use. A dictionary and...."
"You knowlinguistics isn't just about the direct translation of one word into another. I mean there's context and...."
"Whatever," Watkins said impatiently. "You can work it out later. We gotta go now."
"Go? Go where?"
"Chandre? Where or what is Chandre?" Daniel asked.
"You sure ask a lot of questions, Doc," Watkins said.
"It's kind of what I do," Daniel admitted.
"Chandre is the old name for the moon," Watkins said tossing one of the loaded packs at Daniel. "Ready?"
"No, but I don't suppose that really matters," Daniel said. Watkins waved him toward the door. "No, I didn't think it did."
"All right, Maybourne, I want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but and I want it right now," Jack said, marching up to Maybourne's cell.
A long afternoon spent in a futile effort to obtain anything more than the minimal effort on the part of the Tandarran police followed by a long train trip back to Amendeep followed by a very long night waiting until he could get in to see Maybourne had done nothing to improve Jack's mood.
"I told you the truth," Harry said, a puzzled expression on his face. "As much as I know."
"I don't have time to screw around, Harry," Jack said angrily, his hands wrapped tightly around the bars to Maybourne's cell. "Someone jumped Carter and Daniel in your hotel room in Tandarra."
"Do I look like I'm kidding?"
"Are they okay?"
"Carter's fine. A little woozy, but fine. Daniel, however, is missing," Jack said. "Now what else were you messing with?"
"I told you...."
"And now I want you to tell me the whole story. Not the edited PG-13 versionthe whole story, Maybourne. Now."
"I don't know what to tell you, Jack. I honestly don't know how or why Collins and the others were in my room that night," Harry said.
"But you knew they were in Tandarra?"
"Yes," Harry admitted. "I'd seen them in a bar two nights earlier. I may have listened in on their conversation."
"What were they talking about?"
"Well, it certainly wasn't about their plan to get themselves murdered in my hotel room," Harry said sarcastically.
"Harry," Jack growled.
"Jewels. Crystals. Some kind of treasure or something," Harry said. "That's it, Jack. That's all I heard. And I swear they never saw me. I have no idea who killed them, or who might've taken Dr. Jackson."
Jack gritted his teeth, planted his fists on his hips, and slowly began to count to ten.
"Unless?" Jack said sharply.
"Unless Watkins was around somewhere."
"Who is Watkins?"
"Captain Mark Watkins. He's the only other N.I.D. agent I haven't been able to account for," Harry said.
"And you didn't see fit to mention this Watkins before?" Jack said, his voice rising in disbelief.
"I didn't see any reason to. As far as I know he wasn't involved in the Tollan operation."
"Did he work with Collins, Hurst and Emory?"
"It wasn't a big operation, Jack. They all worked with each other at one time or another," Harry said.
"Is he here on Pankeer?"
"I don't know," Harry said. "I haven't seen him, and the others never mentioned him. I assumed he'd either taken off on his own or was dead."
"Is that likely?"
"Dead? It's possible. On his own?" Harry shrugged. "Watkins likes to be in control. And he's smart. Smarter than the others. He wouldn't have had a tough time keeping them under his thumb. I just figured he'd found himself a better set up."
"But he could've been pulling the strings all along," Jack suggested.
"Is that everything?" Jack asked. Harry started to speak but Jack held up his hand to keep him silent. "Everything, Harry. If I find out that you were working with these guys on some jewel heist or...."
"Come on, Jack. They were the last people I wanted to see. They thought I'd set them up."
"You did set them up."
"All the more reason to avoid them."
"Damn it," Jack muttered. "Okay, lookI need a description and any other information you can give me on Watkins."
"You think he's behind all of this? The murders and Dr. Jackson's kidnapping?"
"He's my number one suspect right now," Jack said. "Although, to be honest he's the only suspect I have at the moment."
Daniel stumbled slightly as Watkins shoved him toward a chair. They'd spent a full six hours on horseback after reaching the moon. Even if Daniel hadn't been tired, he would've still had trouble walking. His butt was numb and his thighs had only faint memories of each other. Daniel could almost hear Jack's wisecracks about his current bowlegged gait.
"I take it you don't ride much," Watkins said, amused by Daniel's discomfort.
"Never if I can help it," Daniel said, easing himself into the chair. "Where are we?"
"That's not important," Watkins said, spreading the paper out in front of Daniel again. "What you need to concentrate on is finding out where we should be."
"I need to rest."
"You'll rest when you figure it out."
"Be reasonable," Daniel said. "The more tired I am, the more likely it is that I'll make mistakes."
"You seem to be a little confused about who's in control here."
"What about food then?" Daniel persisted.
A surprised grunt escaped Daniel when Watkins activated the bracelet. The jolt was short, but strong enough to jerk Daniel forward, off of the chair. He grunted again when his kneecaps hit sharply on the wooden floor.
"Get started. I'll find something for us to eat," Watkins said, staring at Daniel as he slowly climbed back into the chair. He pulled out the control device and tapped a few keys. "I can determine how much freedom of movement you have with this. I can restrict you to one spot or give you the run of the room. Right now you've got about ten square feet, enough to stretch your legs if you need to."
"Why the bracelet thing?" Daniel asked.
"You can thank Maybourne for that," Watkins said.
"It's his. The Pankeeran security forces use them instead of handcuffs. If I hadn't thought to nab it from his hotel room, I'd have to keep you tied up." Watkins gazed benevolently at Daniel. "And as long as you do as you're told, I see no reason for you to have to be handcuffed or tied to the chair. I'm not a cruel man, Jackson."
"Just a greedy one," Daniel said sharply.
Watkins didn't say a word, but his eyes were cold.
"Um, okay," Daniel muttered, breaking the eye lock. "You said you had a...."
"Dictionary's right there on that table. And a couple of other things you might need," Watkins called from the small kitchen.
"Who wrote this...treasure map?" Daniel asked as he flipped through the books Watkins had left for him.
"Crazy old coot named Scarthen."
"Scarthen. Who was he?" Daniel asked.
"Again with the questions, Dr. Jackson."
"I told youI need context if you want me to translate this accurately," Daniel said, rubbing his temples wearily.
"Scarthen was a human who lived a couple of hundred years ago. He discovered a secret that the aliens who originally lived here had hidden. That enough context for you?" Watkins said sarcastically.
"It's a start."
Sam gave an exasperated sigh as she had to stop for the third time to ask directions to the forensic chemist's office.
"We must be patient, Major Carter," Teal'c said gently.
"I know. It's just that this is the only specialist we haven't talked to yet, and she's the one most likely to be able to help us," Sam said.
"I am aware of that," Teal'c said.
"I know you are," Sam said apologetically. She made a frustrated wave at the placards on the walls and doors. "It would help a whole bunch if we could read the damn signs."
"Daniel Jackson's skills would be most useful," Teal'c said.
"Of course, if Daniel were here...."
"We would not be in such a hurry," Teal'c agreed. Teal'c stopped and looked around, getting his bearings. He inclined his head toward a door. "I believe that is the office we seek."
Sam tapped lightly on the door before opening it. The lab was empty but for one woman with spiky blond hair wearing some sort of protective smock over her clothing. She was busy working on something Sam couldn't see, and didn't seem to have noticed that she had visitors.
"Excuse mewe're looking for a forensic chemist," Sam called to a woman's back. "Mem Errin?"
The young woman turned to face them, and studied them cautiously for a moment.
"Is she here?" Teal'c asked.
"I am. You're the people from Earth, aren't you?" Errin said.
"Well? What do you need?" Errin said curtly.
"Forgive us for interrupting...." Sam said with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"We're understaffed. I have three weeks of work backlogged at the moment," Errin explained. "I've been asked to help you and I will. But I don't have time for social niceties so if you don't mind...?"
"Our friend has been kidnapped, most likely by the true murderer," Teal'c said.
"So we don't exactly have any time to waste either," Sam said.
"Fine," Errin said. "Then let us proceed."
"Was Colonel Maybourne tested for foreign chemicals?" Teal'c said while Sam continued to glare at Errin for another moment.
"Of course. He was tested for all the usual drugs of abuse," Errin said.
"Usual," Sam said, thinking. "You mean usual for your world, right?"
"Yes, of course."
"Colonel Maybourne is from another planet," Sam pointed out. "So were the victims."
"Whoever is behind this crime may have used chemicals unknown to you," Teal'c said.
"You'd like to test for chemicals known on your planet?" Errin guessed.
"Yes, we would," Sam said. "The trouble isit's been several days already. Even if Maybourne was drugged, it would almost certainly have been metabolized by now."
"We always take two blood samples," Errin told Sam. "One is used to perform the standard tests. The other is frozen and stored until the trial is over. We use it if there are any disputes over the results from the first sample."
"Then you still possess a sample taken shortly after the crime?" Teal'c said.
"Yes." "Then what are we waiting for?" Sam said sharply.
"For you to tell me what it is we're looking for," Errin said, holding her hands up in a gesture of ignorance.
"Right," Sam said, chastened. "We'll get back to you."
"What is it, Carter?" Jack said, immediately heading into the sitting room when he heard Sam and Teal'c return.
"We may have something."
"We have obtained a copy of the laboratory reports from the Amendeep forensic lab," Teal'c said.
"I'd like to take it to the SGC," Sam said as Teal'c handed the reports to Jack. "Dr. Fraiser can take a look at it, see if there's anything she recognizes. And even if there isn't, I'd like to get information on what kinds of drugs we look for in our tox screens so that the Amendeep lab can run the same tests. But I'll have to go back. To Pankeer and then to Earth. It'll take time."
"Right now the best chance we have of finding Daniel is to find the person who killed those three men," Jack said. "Will these tests help us do that?"
"So go. Take Teal'c with you."
"I'm going to hang around here, keep bugging the police," Jack said.
"Is that wise?" Teal'c asked.
"If I annoy them enough they may actually get off their butts and do something about it."
"That is precisely what concerns me," Teal'c said.
"Do something about the problem, not about me," Jack retorted.
"My concern is that they may not be able to distinguish between the two."
"Jewels?" Daniel asked incredulously when Watkins returned from seeing to the horses that evening. "You killed three men for jewels?"
"Well, I see you've made good progress. And it's four," Watkins said. "Four men."
"How do you think I got those documents?"
For a moment Daniel stared at the papers as if he might be able to see the blood of their former owner splattered across the words.
"They're not just jewels, Doc, although they are very beautiful. They're clear, like a diamond, but at the same time they seem to have every color...like a prism...but more intense, more brilliant than any diamond you've ever seen," Watkins said almost reverently. He gave himself a little shake, breaking his reverie. "Are you familiar with computer chips? Microprocessors?"
"Uh...only vaguely," Daniel said, confused by the change in topic.
"Ever seen a computer from the 1950's or 60's?"
"Big, aren't they?"
"Yes. It was some years before advances in technology allowed us to miniaturize the components."
"Very good, Doc. And those advances in technology, the ability to build smaller but more powerful computers, revolutionized our culture," Watkins said. "Nowhave you ever studied Goa'uld crystals?"
"No. Well, not me personally."
"They function something like a computer hard drive."
"You can store a lot of information on a crystal," Daniel agreed.
"But there's one limiting factor that can't be overcome," Watkins lectured. "The crystals themselves. They have impurities, flaws."
"And these jewels...?"
"Very good, Dr. Jackson," Watkins said patronizingly. Daniel almost expected a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears. "These 'jewels' are damn near one hundred per cent pure. And dense." Watkins shook his head at Daniel's questioning look. "Something to do with the internal crystalline structure. These stones are better than anything else, found or made."
"Imagine: I can revolutionize intergalactic culture with these crystals. Instead of needing a chunk of rock the size of your head, you'd only need one the size of your little finger. Ships can be made smaller. Powerful weapons can be made portable."
"What's the catch?" Daniel asked.
"Catch? There's no catch."
"There must be. Why hasn't anyone else been mining these crystals?"
"No one knows where they are," Watkins said with a shrug. "Scarthen was the only man in hundreds of years to find the mine. I intend to be the next."
"The location is here," Watkins said, tapping his finger on the page.
"I don't think it is."
"It is. Find it."
"Okay, here's a thought," Daniel said. "Why should I help you? You'll just kill me when you've got what you want anyway."
"Maybe. Maybe not," Watkins said. He gave Daniel an irritatingly smug look. "But we both know you won't give up just yet."
"Why wouldn't I?"
"Because you think that every minute you're alive is time for SG-1 to find you. They won't," Watkins said confidently. "But you're not going to give up on them just yet."
"You know, the only reason I've managed to translate this much is that Scarthen wasn't a linguist," Daniel said, refusing to acknowledge the truth of Watkins' analysis.
"I don't follow."
"A lot of this seems to be simple word to word translation," Daniel explained. "He didn't care about syntax or...well, let's just say he wasn't a linguist."
"From what I've been able to find out about him, he learned the old language purely so that he could try to learn the aliens' secrets," Watkins said. "I doubt he was any kind of real scholar."
"Yeah, well, it makes a lot of this little more than gobbledygook," Daniel said. "I get the impression that he was translating an old document into rough English, and then writing his translation in a rudimentary form of the old language."
"Just find the place."
"Well, there is a mention of Pankeer City."
"Nope. It's hereon the moon," Watkins said confidently.
Jack gave the building that housed the Tandarra Security Force one last look of disgust before setting his feet on a path back to the train station. Jack fumed internally. He'd known that another personal visit to the Chief of Security was unlikely to yield any positive results, but he didn't intend to give the Tandarran a chance to forget about Daniel.
Curiously, the Tandarran had shown definite signs of interest the previous day when Jack had told him about Watkins. More interest than he'd shown in Daniel. Mays had seemed fairly certain that Watkins wasn't tied to the Association, and the Chief didn't seem particularly sympathetic to the man, so Jack was left to wonder what it was about the guy that made the Chief sit up and take notice.
Ultimately it probably didn't matter. Daniel was with Watkins so if the Security Force found him by tracking Watkinsall well and good. Just as long as they found him.
Something niggled at the back of Jack's mind, finally getting through his anger. He kept walking but concentrated his senses on studying his surroundings. After a moment, he smiled grimly. Maintaining his pace he continued on for a couple more blocks. When he saw his chance, he sidestepped quickly into the shadowed empty space between two businesses. He didn't have to wait long for his quarry to reach the corner of the building.
Jack reached out and grabbed the man, pulling him in and slamming him against the stone wall. A brief struggle ensued, but Jack maintained his advantage, jabbing his pistol into the man's ribs while he pressed his left forearm against the man's throat.
"You're not allowed to carry weapons."
"So sorry," Jack said. "Want to report me to the Chief of Security? While we're at it maybe we could have a little chat with him about why you're following me. Of course, he probably already knows, doesn't he?"
The man stared at Jack, anger and a little humiliation clear in the set of his mouth.
"I asked you a question." Jack dug the pistol in a little more painfully.
"I won't talk," he said defiantly.
"Really? Well, no sense in prolonging this then."
Jack put on a very convincing show of preparing to shoot the man.
"Wait!" the man stammered. Jack cocked an eyebrow at him. "They'll kill me if I tell you anything."
"Only if they know about it," Jack pointed out. "And I'll kill you if you don't."
"You're annoying some pretty powerful people."
"Oh, please. I've annoyed bigger and better people. Often before breakfast," Jack said. "Now...who sent you after me?"
The man stared nervously. His eyes kept drifting down, trying to see Jack's gun.
"Tell you whatwe've obviously gotten off on the wrong foot here," Jack said with false cheer. "We need to be a little...friendlier. Don't you think that would make the conversation more enjoyable? So why don't you tell me your name." Jack waited, without much expectation of success, and his pessimism was duly rewarded. "Okay, don't want to tell me your name.... How about I call you Bob? You like Bob?"
"And you can call me sir," Jack said. "Now, Bob, what do you know about Daniel Jackson?"
"Nothing." 'Bob' shook his head vehemently when Jack leaned a little harder against his neck. "He's the guy you're looking for. Otherwise, I've never heard of himI swear."
"Watkins?" Jack guessed.
"He annoyed some powerful people, too."
"Stole something that belonged to them."
"I don't know. But they want it back."
"What about Daniel?"
"I told you I don't know anything about him."
"What do you know, Bob?"
"I heard you were nosing around, looking for Watkins," the man said, eyeing him nervously. "I was just trying to find out what you knew."
Jack grimaced as he applied just enough pressure the man's throat to render him unconscious. He slid the man down the wall to slump over on the ground. Jack gave him one last look of scorn before leaving.
"Just can't find good help anywhere these days."
"Doc?" Watkins voice was soft, but nevertheless threatening.
"It's not here," Daniel said defiantly.
Unable to sleep more than a few hours, he'd convinced Watkins to give him the freedom of movement to return to the documents and then spent the early morning hours trying to make sense of Scarthen's writings.
"Don't mess with me, Doc."
"I'm not. There are no specific directions, no 'x' marks the spot. Just vague references to...vast plains."
"Vast plains?" Watkins said disgusted.
"Vast...vastuman," Daniel mumbled to himself now. "Vast man plains?" He shook his head. "I don't know what it means."
Watkins went to his pack and pulled out a square gray object about twelve inches square and four inches tall. He sat down at the table, flipping the thin lid of the device up and manipulating some keys.
"What's that?" Daniel asked, intrigued despite himself.
"A laptop computer," Watkins said, his eyes glued to whatever was on the screen.
"Really? Didn't know Dell shipped to the outer planets," Daniel said dryly.
"It's the Pankeeran version. And it's Maybourne's," Watkins told him. Daniel's eyes widened in mild surprise. "Heyit was sitting right there and even if Maybourne realizes it's gone, it's the least of his worries."
"I suppose you steal candy from babies, too?"
"You know how it is, Doc. You spend a mint on the latest, fastest computer and six months later it's obsolete. I find it easier to just steal a new one." Watkins turned the laptop so that it was facing Daniel. The image of a faded map filled the screen. "Is there anything here about those plains?"
Daniel pulled the computer closer, taking a second to identify the basic controls that would allow him to navigate around the map.
"What is this?"
"A very old map made by the aliens who lived here first." Watkins subsided into silence as Daniel peered at the image, eventually pulling over the documents he'd been working with.
"Vasuman," Daniel said.
"It's Vasuman, or something close to that. Here," Daniel said, turning the screen back to Watkins and pointing at an area in the upper left corner.
"This is it? This is the place Scarthen was talking about?"
"I don't know for sure. He mangled the language enough that I can't make an exact match."
"But do you think it's a match?" Watkins asked.
"If I had to guess.... Yes. Probably." Daniel shrugged. "But according to the map these plains cover a pretty big area."
"What else does the paper say?"
"It says all kinds of things, most of which is barely comprehensible."
"Read it to me," Watkins ordered.
"I said read it to me. Now."
Frowning, Daniel began reading the document, stumbling through the words that at times seemed to be nothing more than a list of vocabulary words with no relationship to each other. Watkins listened intently, then made Daniel go back and read it again.
"Okay, okay!" Watkins interrupted excitedly on the second reading. He pulled up a new image on the computer screen. "That Three Whatchamacallitsthat's familiar."
"The Keerit? Familiar how?"
"Ha!" Watkins crowed. "Look."
Daniel looked the screen. Watkins had overlaid the old map with a more modern one. Watkins' finger hovered over a dot whose identifying label did seem very similar to the words Daniel had translated. The spot was deep into the Vasuman plains, far from any identified habitation.
"Pack your bags, Doc. If we ride straight through, we should be there by early morning."
"Ride?" Daniel said, unable to suppress a wince.
"Don't knock it," Watkins said as he gathered their few belongings. "At least you're still alive."
"Yippee yi yo," Daniel said with a resigned sigh.
Janet Fraiser gritted her teeth to keep an exasperated sigh from escaping.
"Teal'c, I'm working as fast as I can," Janet said, eyeing the pacing Jaffa pointedly.
"Of that I am certain," Teal'c said, not breaking the rhythm of his footsteps for a second.
"My point is that pacing back and forth isn't going to speed up the process."
"I did not think that it would," Teal'c said.
"Oh, for...," Janet muttered. "Teal'cplease do that somewhere else."
"Am I disturbing you?" Teal'c asked, finally pausing, a perplexed expression on his face.
"Yes," Janet said with an emphatic nod. "You are."
Teal'c simply stood, looking as if he'd been cast adrift. Janet quickly leaned over and rested her hand on his forearm.
"I'm sorry. I know you're worried and I know you want to get back to Pankeer as quickly as possible, but you're driving me crazy."
"I do not enjoy waiting," Teal'c confessed.
"Nothing for you to do?" Janet asked sympathetically.
"Major Carter is retrieving all the information on Captain Watkins that is available. There is little else to be done here on Earth," Teal'c said.
"Despite working with a handicap, given that I can't read the Pankeeran reports, I should only be a couple more hours. Why don't you go get something to eat? And, if you think about it, pick up a couple of candy bars. Daniel has a tendency to get a little hypoglycemic when he's been kidnapped," Janet said with a smile.
"Indeed," Teal'c said, amusement lighting his eyes. "I shall prepare to render first aid to Daniel Jackson upon his return."
"Well, this is attractive," Daniel muttered as they rode through scrub land.
The sky was just beginning to lighten, and the increased visibility did nothing to enhance the appearance of the desolate vista. The dryness in his throat did help take his mind off of his chafed thighs. For a moment anyway.
"Reminds me of the Badlands," Watkins agreed. "But that, unless I miss my guess, is the Three...whatevers."
Daniel stared at the three conical stone formations that protruded sixty to eighty feet above the otherwise endlessly flat, dusty land around them. And at the small square shape that rested nearby.
"That's it," Watkins said, noticing the building, too. "I'll be damnedwe actually found it."
"Don't you think you're jumping the gun?" Daniel asked.
He realized, as they drew up to the building, that it was draped with something similar to the camouflage net Daniel had seen the military use to hide vehicles and buildings from discovery by aerial reconnaissance.
"That crazy old bastard," Watkins laughed as he slid off his horse. "He hid the damn thing."
Daniel hurried to follow Watkins into the building. He didn't want to take the chance that Watkins would wander far enough away from him to cause the cuff to activate. He made a quick survey of the interior, frowning slightly at all the dust and silt that had built up over years of neglect.
Three sets of bunk beds were jammed into the far end of the room. The middle was occupied by a table and three mismatched chairs. On the far side was what looked like a stove and sink. At the other end were two closed doors. Daniel assumed that one of the doors led to a bathroom. At least he was hoping it did. Outhouses weren't really his thing.
Daniel wandered over to the table. Several books and what appeared to be ledgers of some kind were lying scattered across the surface, nearly buried in dust. He brushed off one of the books while Watkins investigated the doors.
"Okay, where's the mine?" Watkins asked.
"Don't know," Daniel said, glancing up from the book.
"It has to be here."
"Yes, I think it probably does," Daniel agreed. He held up the book, showing Watkins the writing on the flyleaf. "This is Scarthen's name. What's in those rooms?"
"Bathroom and nothing."
"Nothing?" Daniel asked, puzzled. He walked to the door, not waiting for Watkins to respond.
"Not exactly nothing. A little bit of equipment," Watkins said, gesturing around the small room. "A few supplies that are definitely past their expiration date."
"You said Scarthen was...nuts," Daniel said when they'd made their way back into the main room.
"Crazy. Like a fox," Watkins said. "Completely paranoid."
"He went to the trouble to hide his find in the language of another, extinct, race. And to camouflage the building."
"He hid the mine, too? Well, that makes sense," Watkins said. "But where?"
"There must be a reason that we're next to the only geographical formation of any significance in the entire area," Daniel suggested.
"Keep up, Doc," Watkins called over his shoulder as he hurried back outside, heading for the conical rock formation. "Wouldn't want you to accidentally get zapped."
"Thanks for your concern," Daniel muttered, forcing his stiff legs to carry him after Watkins.
The three pillars were actually joined at the bottom to form one large, roughly circular base. Watkins walked quickly, scanning the rock face as Daniel caught up with him.
"I don't see anything. Nothing," Watkins said. "Do you?"
Daniel joined him, studying the coarse stone more thoroughly. After several minutes he turned to Watkins, waiting just behind him.
"There's something here. I don't think these indentations are part of the natural formation," Daniel told him.
"Try it," Watkins urged.
"It could be a booby trap," Daniel said.
"Go ahead and try it."
Watkins stepped a few feet back and waved for Daniel to proceed. Daniel rolled his eyes but turned back to the anomalous indentations. After a few more moments he took a deep breath and placed his fingers into the small impressions. A section of the rock face seemed to shimmer, then vanished completely, revealing a rough opening about six feet high and four feet wide.
"Hot damn," Watkins said softly. He stepped forward to gaze at the entrance. "You done good, Jackson."
Daniel just stared at the mine entrance, expecting that it would be the last thing he saw. Instead he watched, puzzled, as Watkins gestured for him to lead the way in. Cautiously, Daniel walked in, giving his eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness.
Inside there was a pile of equipmentlanterns, picks, glovesjumbled carelessly against one wall. At the rear, a gaping hole in the floor. Daniel peered over the edge into a roughly circular vertical tunnel about thirty feet deep. Metal rungs set in one side of the shaft were the obvious means of access.
"Grab a lantern," Watkins said. "Let's go check it out."
"Don't get me wrongI'm not complaining herebut...you're not going to kill me?"
"Now that I've actually found the mine, I need someone to do the grunt work," Watkins said with a grin.
"We got it!"
Jack turned from the window in the sitting room at the sound of Sam's excited voice.
"The answer," Teal'c said, smiling.
Sam jumped in before Jack could get frustrated at having to pull the information from them bit by bit.
"Drugs, sir. Maybourne was drugged."
"You're sure?" Jack said skeptically.
"Completely," Teal'c said. "Dr. Fraiser analyzed the test results very carefully. She suspected that a particular drug had been used, one which was not specifically tested for by the Amendeep lab but may have accounted for some anomalies they detected."
"We weren't sure about their measurements, or the scale on the chromatography report. At least, we thought it was a chromatography.... Anyway, we kind of had to futz with the data a bit," Sam said.
"Carter, you know I have the utmost faith in your futzing ability but...."
"We're right, sir. Janet identified one particular drug she thought was the most likely culprit. She gave us the data on the drug and we took that back to the forensic chemist. She ran a confirmatory test under our supervision," Sam said.
"The results are irrefutable," Teal'c concluded.
"And extrapolating from the amount of drug in Maybourne's system back the eight hours or so to the time of the murder, there's no way he was even conscious at the time those men were killed," Sam said triumphantly.
"You're positive?" Jack demanded. "There's no room for error?"
"The results were double checked by both Errin and our own people. There's no mistake," Sam said.
"Is that going to be good enough for the court?" Jack asked.
"Mem Errin has reported the results of the analysis to Colonel Maybourne's counselor," Teal'c told Jack. "A hearing has been set for tomorrow morning."
"Tomorrow," Jack repeated, frustrated by the delay.
"We will find Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.
"You said it yourself, sirthe best way to find Daniel is to find out who's behind the murders," Sam added.
"I know. But we're kind of under the gun here."
"Sir?" Sam prompted, reading the concern on Jack's face.
"The Association is looking for Watkins, too," Jack told them.
"Apparently he crossed the wrong people." Jack grimaced self consciously, angry at himself for not being more careful. "And I tipped them to the fact that Watkins was the one who kidnapped Daniel."
"Are you certain?" "I caught one of their people tailing me in Tandarra." Jack shrugged. "We had a little chat."
"Still, the Association has no reason to harm Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.
"No, not intentionally, but my guess is that these guys don't worry too much about collateral damage."
"If they're following us then that means they have even less idea of what Watkins is up to or where he might have gone than we do," Sam said. "We just have to keep one step ahead of them."
"So full speed ahead and hope for the best," Jack said. "As usual."