Chapter XXVIII - Small Victories
Daniel stared at the incriminating name. So that was the source of the leak - had to be. It all fell neatly into place. His first priority right now, though, was to get Serena back and then he and a certain member of S.G.-3 would be having a serious heart-to-heart...
First things first. He had to set up a mission to P6C-111. He could do this. Teal'c would back him, he knew. He just needed to get Jack on-side, and General Hammond, too. The General shouldn't be too difficult. Bless him, he'd always been willing to accommodate Daniel's requests providing there was nothing pressing to be sorted out first - little things like incipient goa'uld invasions. And it was all pretty quiet at the moment.
Jack was Another Matter. He was bound to ask questions - awkward questions, questions Daniel didn't want to answer. He'd have to tread very carefully indeed here. Maybe, if he could face Jack with a fait accompli...
General Hammond was busy, but given the serious turn of events involving members of his flagship team, he was most willing to rearrange his schedule to accommodate Dr. Jackson's request for a meeting. Daniel, with the report on P6C-111 in hand, knocked hesitantly at the office door. On Hammond's invitation, he went in, followed by Teal'c who pushed the door to.
"Come in, Doctor Jackson - oh, and Teal'c, too. Sit down, both of you, and tell me what this is all about."
"Ahm, General Hammond, I'd like your permission to organize a mission off-world - please..."
Hammond looked at him in patent surprise. Oh, this was not going to be easy, even with the support of a mystified but trusting Jaffa.
"Does this mean you've recovered Serena?" Hammond said at last.
"Ah, no. I'm afraid not."
"Oh. Then why are you wanting to go off world? It's only two days since you requested exemption from off-world activities."
Daniel shuffled in his seat, clearly ill at ease, but Hammond wasn't about to let him off the hook too quickly this time.
"Ah... well, General, there - there isn't a great deal that I can do - right now - and - um - I - er - I need something to - um - to occupy my mind... You understand?"
"But don't you need to be here even more so now?"
"Oh. We-ell actually, General Hammond, I've - um - I - er... I've employed a private detective agency to search for Serena," Daniel replied, almost defiantly.
Beneath the desk, his fingers were crossed. He hoped Hammond wouldn't take up the challenge and attempt to dig more deeply. Even more, he hated having to lie to a commanding officer who deserved the utmost respect, and he didn't want to have to invent further information about the non-existent agency. He sent Teal'c a pleading look.
"I believe it will be beneficial to DoctorJackson to focus his efforts on something within his capabilities."
"You do, Teal'c?"
"I do, GeneralHammond."
"I see. Unfortunately, with Major Carter still hospitalized, you don't have a full team, and I don't have anyone spare to provide you with the back-up you might need."
Daniel chewed his lip.
"Actually, General, with the mission I have in mind, I think the three of us can handle it. You see, I just happened to come across this report on - ah - P6C-111"
"A designated planet for a delta site?"
"Wh? Er... yes, sir," Daniel stammered, having forgotten for the moment General Hammond's almost encyclopaedic grasp of all the worlds they'd been to.
"Surely we have enough information and to spare on that world. There've been a dozen mission already. What could another one achieve?"
"Ah, well, sir, when S.G.-1 went there in the first place, we thought that higher life forms had never evolved there - or been taken there..."
"That's correct, Dr. Jackson, nor has any subsequent mission come up with any evidence to change that assessment"
"Yes - yes it has, General. If I may...?"
He spread open the document on P6C-111 and extracted the photo that Serena's kidnapper had provided. Now that he was on his own territory, he was able to launch into one of his expansive and erudite expositions. No more hesitations here. He was so taken up with the subject to hand that he didn't even notice O'Neill slip like a ghost into the room.
"The Incas, you say, Dr. Jackson?" Hammond said thoughtfully. "And we've never come across any Inca worlds before...?"
"No sir, so I think it would be a highly important mission for us to undertake."
"And what does Colonel O'Neill think to this venture of yours?"
Rats! The crunch question...
"Oh, ah, he - doesn't ac"
"He thinks it's an excellent idea, General," said a familiar suave voice behind him.
Daniel spun round violently in his chair. Twinkling brown eyes met shocked blue ones as O'Neill grabbed him before he fell. He'd expected to have to use all his not inconsiderable powers of persuasion to achieve his objectives. To succeed with so much less hassle than he'd anticipated really should have made him suspicious. Instead, he was just relieved and was already focussing his mind on putting together a mission plan so that they could ship out as soon as possible the following day.
Chapter XXIX - Touchstone
Sam was transferred from the Air Force Academy Hospital to the S.G.C. infirmary at 0900 hours. She had her arm immobilized in a sling and was still looking a little pale. Otherwise, she seemed okay, which was just as well since her father was incommunicado on a mission for the Tok'ra. A sizeable collection of cards, flowers and assorted confectionery came with her. Janet noticed that there was even a card with a picture of a Harley on the front. It was signed, 'From Joe Naz. (P.P.C.)'
"Nice thought," she smiled as she settled Sam in.
"I've no idea who it's from," Sam murmured. "Oh, I think I can hazard a guess. When I arrived at the Pike's Peak Center, there was a young biker talking to the police. Someone had given you basic first aid already - someone who knew not to try and take your helmet off, so I suspect he was the one who was responsible. Daniel certainly wasn't in any fit state to give you the help you needed. Maybe this 'Joe Naz' works at the Center."
"Oh. Guess I owe him then. Thanks, Janet."
"He-llo," came O'Neill's sing-song greeting from the doorway.
"Looks like you've got your first visitor. Come in, Colonel."
"How're ya doin', Carter? Good to have you back in the S.G.C."
"Good to be back, sir," Sam smiled.
"Thought you might get bored in here, so I brought you something to read," O'Neill said, placing a well-worn and obviously treasured book on the trolley over her bed.
"Oh, you shouldn't have, sir."
Sam looked at the title on the spine.
'The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man's Recreation' by Isaak Walton. No, he really shouldn't have.
"Thank you," she murmured, hoping he'd put the wince in her voice down to physical pain.
"I expect you to have read it from cover to cover by the time we get back."
"Get back, sir?"
"Ah, yes, Carter. We're going off-world as soon as Daniel has all the details settled."
"You're going on a mission?" Sam asked, with a reproachful look that added 'without me?'
"Where to, sir?"
"Now that I don't know. It's just a little something Daniel's cooked up 'to occupy my mind...'"
"What about Serena?" Sam exclaimed. "Is she? Has she?"
"No, Carter, I'm afraid she's still missing."
"Then how can Daniel?"
"Oh, it's pretty clear Daniel has an ulterior motive, though what it is I'm not entirely certain as of right now. Teal'c's in on it too, apparently."
Sam looked a question.
"Well, much as I would love to see what further lies Daniel might concoct for my delectation, I've decided to let him off the hook. For now. I'm guessing it's something to do with Serena and I do have a clue, thanks to Maybourne."
"Maybourne? He's involved in the kidnap?" she exclaimed, wide-eyed.
"Oh, he's involved - right up to his slimy neck, in fact - but not in Serena's abduction."
"Actually, he's trying to help."
"Maybourne?! What's in it for him?"
"Well he's getting paid twice over for one thing."
"Ah... I'll - um - I'll tell you all about it when we get back, okay."
Sam's scowl said no, it wasn't okay.
"Oh-oh. Here comes one of the co-conspirators. Just keep it under your hat for now, eh? Teal'c, ol' buddy! Is Daniel ready yet, or is that a silly question?"
"DanielJackson is in fact ready and waiting to brief us, O'Neill. MajorCarter, I hope you are recovering well?"
"Er, yes, thank you, Teal'c."
"I am very pleased to hear it. As we will soon be going on a mission to P6C-111, I have brought you some books to stave off boredom," Teal'c continued, placing 'Oprah Winfrey : Entertainer, Producer & Businesswoman' and 'Jerry Springer's Wildest Shows Ever!' on top of 'The Compleat Angler'.
Sam bravely smiled her thanks as Daniel arrived at the double.
"Sam!" he gasped, "I am so sorry I haven't been over to see you, or - or to thank you for saving my life"
He took in the display on every surface around her bed.
"Or brought you any flowers, or anything - but I'll make it all up to you when we get back."
Sam had been feeling a little neglected by her adopted 'little brother', but taking in his tousled hair and haggard face, still ornamented by multi-colored bruising, her sense of pique evaporated.
"Don't worry Daniel. You had more important things on your mind," she replied with a gentle smile.
"Er, thanks, Sam. I owe you big time. Oh, and I've been in here often enough to know how bored you can get, so I brought you something that I think might interest you..." he said as he produced yet another book with the air of a conjuror bringing out a white rabbit. "...'Theory and Observation in Ancient and Medieval Astronomy'."
"Oh wow!" she breathed ecstatically, reaching out with her free hand for the heavy tome.
Teal'c and O'Neill exchanged puzzled glances.
"Ah, just a minute - don't go away. I'll be back," Daniel exclaimed, dashing out of the infirmary still clutching the book.
"Somehow I cannot see DanielJackson in the role of The Terminator," Teal'c observed as Daniel almost collided with Dr. Fraiser in the doorway, gave her a brief 'sorry!' and scuttled off smartly before she had time to respond.
"Oh, I don't know," Jack said ruminatively, and proceeded to detail Daniel's attack in the elevator. "He needs more discipline, but he sure put the fear of God into Crocetti!"
Daniel returned promptly, carrying an elegant wooden gadget that turned out to be a folding book-rest. He opened it out, placed it on the bed-trolley and set the aged tome upon it.
"Now you won't end up with a sprained wrist as well," he grinned. "Get well real soon!"
Chapter XXX - Pretence
"Which way, Daniel?" Jack asked, once they'd stepped through the Stargate on to P6C-111.
In response, he received a look which asked why they ever bothered having briefings before missions. Daniel pointed southwards towards the mountain range shown in the photographs and immediately launched into professorial mode.
This, Jack surmised, was partly pay-back for his not having listened in the first place, but mainly because nothing was more certain to make him switch off and ignore whatever his archaeologist was saying. No doubt Daniel was hoping that this apparent lack of attention would extend to what he was doing also, and Jack was happy to allow him to think so. He was, however, keeping Daniel under constant covert observation.
The terrain was much like the prairies back home before they were put to the plow. The rolling plain, dotted here and there with small rocky outcrops, supported a variety of grasses and thorn bushes plus a few stunted fruit trees.
Small furry animals, similar to gophers, lived in holes excavated in banks where the ground dropped away into the beds of dried-up watercourses. Daniel seemed to find them fascinating, judging by the way his eyes kept drifting towards the shallow dry valleys. Glossy dark green birds like small cormorants wheeled silently overhead, causing the gophers to duck nervously out of sight.
In the distance, herds of animals like goats, or maybe llamas, watched the humans with only casual interest at best. O'Neill cast a glance over the nearest group.
"Those... whatever they are... don't seem to regard us as any sort of threat. Kinda suggests that there haven't been humans around for a long while - aside from a few of our guys."
"Or that the humans weren't predatory," Daniel pointed out.
"Speaking of predators..." Teal'c said, pointing to a patch of clear ground off to their left where the light sandy soil bore the faint remains of lines of paw prints. "I think they would be more concerned about the creatures that made those tracks. I have noted such tracks in several places since we came through the 'Gate."
"What do you think made them - and how recently?" O'Neill asked, automatically threat-assessing.
"Something akin to the mountain lion in your country, O'Neill."
"Jaguars maybe," Daniel suggested.
Daniel rolled his eyes.
"Yes, Jack. I just finished telling you about the Chavín cult of the Jaguar."
"I thought you said the ruins were left by the Inca"
"Pay attention, Jack. Although the Inca venerated the jaguar as a warrior god, the cult goes back much further. The Chavín is the oldest major culture - the 'mother culture' - of Peru, pre-dating the Inca by over two thousand years. The principal city, Chavín de Huantar, goes back to around 1200 B.C. Maybe the site we're heading for is considerably older than I first thought..."
"Yeah, right." Jack agreed brusquely, panning around with his P90 levelled. "Teal'c, do they pose a threat to us in the present?"
"There were seven of them, O'Neill - three adults and four juveniles, but they should not be a problem for us, however, as they passed this way several hours ago - maybe yesterday - and are travelling in a northerly direction."
"And yet " Jack said uneasily. "I thought jaguars were solitary hunters."
"Well there were no references to sightings of big cats in any of the reports," Daniel reassured him.
"Oh? Read them all from cover-to-cover, did ya, Daniel?"
Jack took in the conscience-stricken reaction to his question. So he had gone through those reports with a fine-tooth comb then? Must've been something very significant in them to make Daniel drag them off-world so abruptly. Without Carter, too. If Harry hadn't put him in the picture, he would be completely in the dark here.
No, actually - if Harry hadn't clued him in, he wouldn't be here at all, and no doubt Daniel would still be going through hoops trying to find a way to get to this world. He focussed on the mountains up ahead. They looked hardly big enough to qualify as mountains - not like the Rockies - or the Andes. More like rocky hills in fact. And erosion had softened their rougher edges. No doubt that was why the Inca people - or whoever - had chosen that location to settle. It was high enough to be defensible - from what or whom? - but not so steep as to be impassable. Which was good...
As they approached them, Daniel was becoming more and more tense. His apparently endless flow of information about Peruvian civilizations, and why it was so important to investigate the ruins that they'd missed the first time round, began to dry up. He seemed to be having difficulty in concentrating on his subject. It wasn't uncertainty about their direction either, as he'd been taking regular readings of their direction and referencing his notes at regular intervals as they went.
There was a break in the slope as the ground began to rise. Daniel stopped at the edge of an alluvial fan which spread out from a small dry valley, and waited for Jack and Teal'c to catch up. As he waited, he went down on one knee and fiddled with his bootlaces. After a furtive look at his companions, during which Jack affected to be checking out the higher terrain, he pick up several pebbles and put them in his pocket.
"Where to now, Daniel," Jack asked, making the archaeologist jump slightly.
"Erm, straight ahead up to that crag on the left of the valley then take a right around the rocks on the other side of the valley."
"Okay, well, 'lead on, Macduff'!"
"Um, that's 'lay on, Macduff and damned be him that first cries, "Hold, enough!"'. It's from 'Macbeth'. Macduff just challenged Macbeth to a duel to the death."
"Yeah, whatever. After you."
As Daniel scrambled up the uneven slope, now and then putting down a hand to steady himself, Jack wondered why Daniel should chose to walk up the valley bottom. It was strewn with rubble carried down by the long dried up river while there was much more secure footing along the top of the bank. But... Daniel rarely did things on the basis of a whim.
Teal'c shot him an enquiring look. Jack just shrugged in reply and turned to follow Daniel up the river bed. Still watching Daniel like a hawk, it didn't take him long to realize that each time Daniel 'stumbled', he later put his hand into one of his pockets. He paid more attention to the pebbles on the riverbed, and soon learned to spot which 'pebbles' Daniel was surreptitiously - as he thought - slipping into a pocket.
Adding two and two, and coming up with a creditably accurate total, Jack picked up one of the dull glassy-looking pebbles and examined it. He turned to Teal'c, who was a little way behind, held up the pebble between finger and thumb, and signalled a covert order to the Jaffa before putting the pebble in his pocket.
It took well over an hour to reach the ruins of the 'Inca' town, by which time they were all ready for a break.
"We'll have an early lunch," Jack decided, "then rock-boy can do his thing. Judging by the size of this place, we could be here a while..."
Daniel threw him a look that somehow managed to combine irritation and gratitude.
"You're welcome, Daniel," Jack grinned. Once Jack had done a perimeter check of their chosen campsite and found no threat, Daniel set up the propane stove and set about brewing coffee. Teal'c unpacked the M.R.E.s and selected the Beef Chili with Beans. No one wanted the Parmesan Chicken.
As he finished the last of the coffee, Daniel was too busy checking his notes, maps and photos to notice Jack move over and squat down beside him.
"Oh, Daniel," Jack crooned, "close your eyes and hold your hands out..."
"Ah - what...?"
"Just do it, okay!"
Puzzled, Daniel did so.
"Some more for your collection," Jack said, and dumped a couple of dozen 'pebbles' into the cupped hands.
Daniel opened his eyes wide in shock, dropping several of the stones. Jack almost laughed aloud at his horrified expression.
"So, Daniel, how many more do we need?" he asked gently.
Chapter XXXI - Show and Tell
For several moments, Daniel was too stunned to speak. His earlier relief at having - as he thought - pulled the wool over Jack's eyes had shattered into a million sparkling fragments, then reintegrated into acute consternation. Teal'c added his collection of grubby pebbles to the heap in Daniel's shaking hands.
"Er... th-thanks, guys," he stammered at last, "I - I don't know what to say..."
"'Sorry' might be a good place to start," Jack suggested.
"Um, yes... S-sorry Jack, Teal'c."
Jack sat down on a large slab of dressed stone beside Daniel.
"Ya know, it kinda hurts when one of your team keeps you out of the loop when he's in trouble."
"Yeah, well I can identify with that," Daniel said drily.
"That wasn't the same thing at all," Jack retorted, stung. "You know I had no choice."
"And that was different from this?"
"Yes! I was under orders. You chose not to trust me. That really hurts. I thought we were friends as well as colleagues?"
"We are, Jack, and I already told you that I trust you with my life - have done. I just wasn't certain I could trust 'the Colonel' with Serena's life with National Security at stake - wasn't certain that 'he' would trust me. I'm sorry - really sorry - I couldn't tell you what was going on. I wanted to, nearly did in fact, but in the end, I didn't dare take the risk..."
"Guess I can understand that," Jack said quietly, thinking of Charlie and what he wouldn't have done to keep him safe - everything except what he should have done.
Daniel looked directly at Jack and saw the pain in his eyes. He felt a surge of guilt, thinking that he'd put it there.
"So, how many more do we need?" Jack asked, forcing himself back to the present with an effort. "These are diamonds I presume?"
"Yes Uh, how did you know?"
"Oh, I had a home visit from our friendly neighborhood bad guy."
Daniel looked a question.
"Maybourne?!" Daniel spat out, his face twisted in fury.
"Easy, big guy," Jack said soothingly, recognizing the madman in the elevator. "It's not what you think"
"If he's invol"
"He isn't. At least, not that way. Now will ya cool it...?"
"In what way is the sholva Maybourne involved, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked calmly, giving Daniel a chance to recover his composure.
"Well, he's kinda acting like poacher-turned-gamekeeper," Jack replied. "He's working for the C.I.A."
"Isn't that more like pirate-turned-privateer," Daniel asked cynically and, in response to two blank looks, added, "In the sixteenth century, the English government handed out 'letters of marque' which authorized private individuals to equip ships to attack enemy merchantmen - hence 'privateers' - with Queen Elizabeth I getting her cut of the booty. Basically, it was licensed piracy. The main targets were Spanish galleons carrying gold across the Atlantic from the Americas. So, as much of the gold was already stolen from people such as the Incas, and with the indigenous civilizations being wiped out in the process, I guess we shouldn't be too judgmental about this."
"Er, yeah," Jack agreed dubiously, "and does this generosity of spirit extend to Maybourne?"
"Well, that depends," Daniel temporized, "on what he's doing and how it affects my daughter...?"
So Jack gave his companions an abbreviated account of what Harry had told him. Daniel looked momentarily stricken at the mention of the Mafia.
"Are you all right, DanielJackson?" Teal'c asked in concern.
"Ah, yes, I'm fine. It just struck a nerve having it confirmed that the Mafia have Serena. I'd kinda suspected it might be them. The letter from her kidnappers was standing between the four knights on my chessboard."
"Euw! Horses' heads, huh?"
"Well, now it's your turn. Tell us what you've been keeping to yourself - and this time, don't hold anything back, okay?"
"Or you'll declare me a zatarc, huh?" Daniel asked with a crooked grin.
"Not funny, Daniel."
"Ah, sorry, Jack."
He went on to join the missing dots. Jack and Teal'c listened in sympathy and without interrupting for the most part. Until he reached the part involving National Security...
"...I felt I was missing something, so I went back and started reading the reports more carefully - every word - and then it hit me. It had to be Crocetti."
"Aw, come on, Daniel, just because the guy has an Italian name doesn't make him a member of the Mafiosi!" Jack protested.
"No it doesn't," Daniel agreed. "Do you remember when I went for him in the elevator, Jack?"
"Can I ever forget?" Jack replied, rolling his eyes. "The memory of Rambo Jackson is indelibly imprinted on my memory!"
"Yeah well, either I'm psychic which... I don't think I am, or - my subconscious mind had already worked it out. He really was a threat to Serena."
"Jeez, you have one scary subconscious then!" Jack exclaimed. "Worked what out?"
"Remember when Serena first arrived...?"
"Another memory to treasure - Papa!" Jack mimicked.
"Ja-ack! Be serious. That was last Saturday - God! Less than a week ago! We shared the elevator with Crocetti the following Monday afternoon. Now think back, both of you. How many people had you told about Serena in those - oh - forty hours?"
"I have informed no one, DanielJackson."
"Not a soul, Daniel, on my honor."
"And the others who were there - Sam, General Hammond, Janet, Cassie - how many people do you suppose they talked to about her?"
"I do not think any of them would have discussed your private affairs with another person."
"No, neither do I, Teal'c. Of course, we'll have to check, but if Serena's presence here was only known to the seven of us, then how did Crocetti know, except from Niccolo Peruzzi?"
"Well, it's not conclusive"
"Don't forget, Crocetti was already in the elevator when we stepped in."
"So maybe he'd been up to accounting."
"Ah, that's one thing I did check up on. He'd taken the morning off..."
"Even so Tell me, was Crocetti present on every mission?"
"Er, no, just the first three. Why?"
"Because according to Maybourne, the diamonds have been appearing on a regular basis up until a couple of months ago, which means..."
"We may have more than one leak in our security, O'Neill."