Tuesday - 15th August (early morning)
Finally, after what seemed like days, the headlights of Sam's car appeared in the distance through the trees. It seemed to take ages before it arrived too. Captain Collins had apparently taken his C.O.'s comments on careful driving to heart, or maybe, Jack mused, time really did pass more slowly when one was waiting? He made a mental note not to mention this to Carter, as she was bound to give him a comprehensive lecture on the subject - with bullet points - when they got back.
At last, Collins pulled up behind the Viper.
"What kept you?" Jack asked.
"Well the fact that this doesn't have a V10, 450 horse power, eight liter engine would be one reason," Sam replied, getting out of her car. "Sir."
"Ouch. Sorry I asked," Jack said. He radioed the humvee and told Lieutenant Phillips to set up another roadblock at the other entrance to the trail so that both ends were secure. He knew Teal'c wouldn't appreciate the marines' boots trampling across any signs that their fugitive had left.
Sam took a couple of mag-lights out of the trunk and handed one each to Teal'c and O'Neill. She and Captain Collins would use the lights on their P90s. Major Castleman was to remain behind with the cars in case the other Doctor Jackson tried to steal another one. While unlikely, Jack wasn't prepared to rule it out. Neither was Major Castleman.
"You are perfectly correct, O'Neill, in thinking that your vehicle was deliberately pushed off the road and into the ravine," Teal'c said at last.
"The bastard! I knew it! I knew he couldn't be dead." He turned to Castleman. "See!"
"You can keep your pay then," the major grinned.
Jack did a double take at that then returned his attention to Teal'c.
"The other Doctor Jackson is indeed proceeding on foot. At first, he traveled along the road for several yards, then climbed the bank on the other side of the road where it becomes less steep and he appears to have set off back towards the highway. He is wearing soft shoes which, judging from the marks where his feet have slipped, do not have much grip. Also, he is limping. It will not be difficult to track him, O'Neill."
Much to Daniel's relief, Harry didn't try any heroics. They wait for the cops to turn around, then set off back to the Springs. Daniel took up the conversation again. There was much he wanted to know as well as what he needed to know.
"So, if not a military base called Stargate Command, what do you call it?"
"Oh, give it up, Jackson," Harry grunted. "It isn't going to work."
"Look, either I am who you think I am, in which case you wouldn't be telling me any secrets I wouldn't already know, or I am who I say I am, in which case, if I'm to find my way back home, there are things I need to know that I... well, I probably can't find out anywhere else. Not in time anyway. So please. Humor me."
"Oh, for goodness' sake, you're making my head spin," Harry grumbled. "All right, if it'll keep you quiet.... It's the Stargate Trading Corporation."
"And there's no military involvement?"
"So where do you keep the Stargate?"
"In the basement of the West Organization building in the Mall."
"What?" Daniel exclaimed. "Citadel Mall?"
"Eh? Oh, very funny," Harry snapped. "Stop playing games."
"What? I'm not playing games. It's a perfectly straightforward question and I'm only asking because it sounds like the height of folly to put a device like the Stargate right in the center of a civilian population. I take it you do have an iris?"
"An iris - thing like the shutter in a camera that you close to stop an alien incursion? You haven't, have you?"
"Well... I guess not."
"I can't believe this," Daniel said, "You have a Stargate. In the middle of a city. With no iris. And no military armed guard? And I can't believe I just said that..."
"Because, back home, I'm the civilian who's always campaigning for less military interference."
"Ah! Gotcha!" Harry said with a note of triumph. "You said you were a member of a military unit."
"I am. I'm a civilian consultant with a military unit called S.G.-1. We're a first contact team "
"Well, I know that."
"You do? Oh. You mean your Daniel Jackson is in S.G.-1 too? Or something like that...?"
"Something like that," Harry agreed.
"So what happens when the Goa'uld come through? Ah, no. I remember. You said you hadn't come across them. Oh but... you've got zat guns so you must've come across their Jaffa."
"One of our A.P. teams came home with a couple of them. Got the bad end of that one," Harry said with reminiscent sadness. "The Z-guns were the only useful things we got from that trip. Couple of friends of mine were killed - Hank Boyd and Mike Mansfield."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Daniel said. "We lost our Major Boyd too, a couple of years ago to a black hole - but Major Mansfield's still alive. Sounds like those were Goa'uld Jaffa who killed your friends - medieval armor and no concept of stealth?"
"Yes. If we see them through the portal, we just go straight on to the next allocosm. We never interact with them."
"Ah. But you might like to consider improving the security round your Stargate. They came through ours before we had the iris fitted, and a few guys with zats aren't going to hold them for long."
"Well, I don't think it'll be a problem. We haven't had anything we couldn't handle so far, and after we lost Hank and Mike, we asked the Furlings "
"You've met the Furlings?" Daniel asked excitedly. "What are they like? Jack thinks they're probably small and furry."
"No - more lizard-like actually. They said the killers were called 'Tziffers' who work for... for things called 'Kwarls.'"
"Oh. Don't they sound pretty very much like Jaffa and Goa'uld?"
"Mm, now you mention it, they do, don't they? Anyway, the Furlings said they'd wiped most of them out several millennia ago, so they aren't regarded as a serious threat."
Harry thought about it. He hadn't made the connection between Tziffers and Kwarls when Jackson mentioned Jaffa and Goa'uld when they first met - it had been a long time since the loss of Hank and Mike, and the names weren't totally similar, especially not with the lizardy sibilance of the Furlings' speech - but he felt he still should have done.
The trouble was, he'd been so confident that he'd got his bête noire bang to rights that he'd gotten sloppy in his thinking. Now, the more he heard, the more credible Jackson's tale was becoming. Not that he was totally convinced by any means - it could still be a carefully concocted tissue of lies - but he was beginning to waver, to consider the situation objectively and not to allow his personal vendetta to cloud his judgement.
"So what else do you want to know?" Harry asked.
"Eh?" In the darkness, Daniel blinked in surprise. "Oh... er... well you said you couldn't find my world with your Allocosmic Portal, but you must have some means of tracking and contacting specific worlds, or how can you make viable trade arrangements?"
"Of course. When we find a useful world, we log their space-time co-ordinates in the A.P. main frame and set up a linkage. But obviously, there's an infinite number of allocosms, so if someone puts in a random code then sets it to delete once the A.P.'s been used, then we have no means of tracking it. That's the main reason we have security in the A.P. Chamber. We get quite a few people trying to 'disappear' for one reason or another..."
"But... When your Daniel Jackson came into my reality, he pushed me through into yours. Wouldn't that make a difference? The portal must either have been kept open, which I doubt if you have some security down there, or he had to re-open it from our side. If the latter, then wouldn't there be a record of where I came from?"
"Not necessarily, but it could narrow it down to a few thousand - maybe less." Harry considered it. "At the time, it seemed like Jackson was just trying to take his chance on a random jump, but now I think about it, he could well have had some help from our side. He can be very charming when he wants to be. Gives generous bribes too. And if that doesn't work, well, he has blackmail information on most of the people he deals with."
"So, if he had help...?"
"...Maybe we could narrow it down even further."
"So you... you believe me, then?" Daniel said, trying to keep tantalizing hope in check.
Harry realized that he'd been talking to Daniel as if he really were a different person, and mentally drew back. "Steady on, Jackson. I'm not going that far."
"But you'll at least consider helping me?" Daniel said, adding softly, "please."
The other Doctor Jackson might be on foot, limping and probably not as fit as their own, but it soon became evident that he had all Daniel's indomitable spirit and his exceptional intelligence. Teal'c temporarily lost the trail a couple of times. Then it disappeared altogether.
"He is a cunning adversary, O'Neill," he said. "I have clearly underestimated his abilities, assuming his skills and proficiencies to be similar to those of our own Daniel Jackson. They are not."
"You mean he's better at bamboozling people that ours is?" Jack asked.
"If you mean that he is better at misdirection, then you are correct. This man has laid a false trail using very subtle clues and then, I think, changed his route a second time, continuing along the trail away from the highway. We may even have walked past him in the dark."
"Guess they don't call 'em 'sneakers' for nothing."
"Indeed, O'Neill. I shall attempt to discover the new trail."
It took Teal'c quite a while to pick up the trail. His colleagues followed at a discreet distance. The dirt road continued on a looping detour around a low, wooded hogback. The fugitive had followed the road around the hogback then continued on aways once it had straightened out again. He had left a couple of stray threads for Teal'c to find up the bank to the east of the road - just enough for an experienced tracker to find but nothing too obvious.
A little further on, he had doubled back again and climbed the hogback at its lowest - and narrowest - point. Once Teal'c, had turned the corner at the furthest point of the detour, the other Doctor Jackson must have scrambled down the other side close to where he'd pushed Jack's truck off the road.
S.G.-1 and Captain Collins followed and found Major Castleman lying in the road near the Viper. Sam ran to see how bad the damage was. It seemed that the fugitive had made good use of Daniel's sneakers, and the butt end of the Glock to lay him out. There were no other injuries.
"Dammit!" Jack exclaimed forcefully. "It should not be this difficult to track down a geek, for crying out loud!"
Castleman groaned as Sam checked him over, opened his eyes a little and asked the traditional woozy, "Where am I...?"
"Still on the trail, Major, and the good news is, the Viper's still here and it's fine," Sam assured him.
"Bad news is, you've probably got a concussion. Castleman sat up, wincing as he moved, and squinted up at Jack. "Please... don't tell anyone I got taken out by a "
"Dweeb?" Jack asked. "It's ok, your secret's safe with us. After all, he's making monkeys out of all of us."
"Oh, not monkeys, sir," Sam said. "He may not be military at heart, but our Daniel can mix it with the best, and the other one's clearly just as smart. Which is a good thing, because anyone with less intelligence would probably have used the other end of the gun..."
"So I'm alive because he was too savvy to risk a gunshot?"
"I think so. This way, it's given him more time to escape."
"So why not take my car? Or yours?"
"He probably overheard Colonel O'Neill send S.G.-3 to set up a roadblock and might have deduced that there'd be a roadblock at the other end too, plus he'd have to risk us shooting him if he tried to drive past us."
"It appears that he has used the dying light from the burning truck to illuminate his way down into the ravine," Teal'c put in. "I suspect that he is familiar with this area and has a specific goal in mind."
"Damn. We'll call a halt until daylight," Jack decided. "We need to get Castleman back to the infirmary, and there's no point in trying to follow his trail down there right now, especially if he knows the terrain better than we do. It won't help if someone takes a tumble. We don't want any more injuries."
"Nor anyone taken hostage," Sam added.
"I concur. He will be in need of a rest himself by now. If there are no sounds of active pursuit, he may lower his guard enough to sleep and we may then take him unawares."
"Like we did at Daniel's apartment..." Jack muttered sotto voce, then announced, "We'll go back to base and bring more climbing equipment back with us." He turned to Castleman. "I think it would be best if Collins drove you back, Major."
"I'm not sure that's such a good idea, Colonel," Castleman replied. "It's not that I don't trust Collins with my car, but I don't think it would help team unity. Maybe Major Carter would like to be my chauffeuse?"
A delighted Sam pressed her car keys into her C.O.'s hand as Teal'c and Collins carefully loaded Castleman into the Viper.
"Well, if you're sure, Major."
"Quite sure, Colonel."
"Ok And no speeding, Carter! That's an order."
With Daniel's agreement, Maybourne pulled in for a comfort break and some refreshment at a Waffle House. Dawn light was filtering through thinning banks of low cloud suggesting a fine day to follow. Daniel hoped so in more ways than one. He walked behind Harry across the parking lot, letting him know that he still had the gun in his pocket so that he wouldn't be tempted to try anything silly.
Harry went along with it, for the time being at least. Having spent a little time in Jackson's company, he'd noticed subtle differences in the way he was behaving from the more arrogant charm he was used to.
He was an intelligent man, and once he'd let go of his animosity towards Jackson, he appreciated that if he was wrong about this guy - that he really had replaced the criminal he knew and loathed - then he, Harry Maybourne, would effectively have aided his escape. His desire to see Jackson pay for his evil deeds was superceded by his desire for that payment to be made by the right person.
There were plenty of empty tables at that early hour of the morning. Harry ordered a grilled bacon, egg and cheese sandwich plate and a soda. The waitress turned to Daniel who, having no money on him, looked hopefully at Harry.
"Ah," Harry caught on quickly, "don't worry, I'll pick up the tab for this one. But don't overdo it, 'kay? The S.C.I.D. isn't overly generous with expenses."
Daniel breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn't had anything to eat or drink since - when? Having skipped breakfast before the mission to P6X-312, it must've been dinner the previous evening - oh, except for a sip of revolting tasting water in the lock-up. He ordered a double waffle, covered and smothered, and a large coffee, then looked to Harry for confirmation. Harry was giving him an odd look. Daniel sighed.
"Er, make that a single," he said.
"Double's fine," Harry nodded to the waitress.
"Is there a problem?" Daniel asked after she'd gone to call in the order.
"No. I was just a little surprised, that's all."
"Surprised about what," Daniel asked as the waitress came back with their drinks. "Thanks" he said with a happy smile.
"You're welcome," the waitress smiled back.
"And thank you too, Harry." Daniel raised the mug to him, then breathed in the aroma with obvious delight and tasted the coffee. It certainly wasn't best java, but he'd been deprived long enough to enjoy it. As he drank, he noticed Harry giving him that odd look again.
"What's the matter, Harry?"
"You really going to drink all that?"
"Of course, why? Don't you like coffee?"
"It's alright, but it wouldn't bother me if I never had any again. What?" Daniel was looking at him as if the world had suddenly stopped turning. "You really do like that stuff, don't you?"
Daniel gave him a 'well duh!' look.
Harry shrugged, staring thoughtfully at Daniel's bare chest under his leather jacket. "Threw your shirt into the ravine, didn't you?" It was more of a statement than a question.
He gestured Daniel to lean forward. Daniel did so, thinking Harry wanted to say something private, but instead, Harry stretched his hand across the table and ran his fingers through the light hairs on Daniel's chest.
"Maybourne!" Daniel leaned away sharply, giving Harry a very old-fashioned look.
"Been a while since you waxed, has it?"
"You know - waxed your chest?"
Daniel looked revolted. "Me? I get enough pain in the cause of duty, thank you very much. I am not a masochist!"
But Harry, as usual, was unfazed. "'Behold, Esau my brother is an hairy man,'" he murmured, "'and I am a smooth man.'"
"Harry?" Daniel asked, wondering if his companion had lost the plot completely. "A bit late to be getting religion, isn't it?"
Harry looked him in the eye and said, "I believe you, Daniel."
Daniel looked at him, puzzled for the moment, then the penny dropped. "Jacob - the smooth man - was 'the supplanter...'"
"Somehow appropriate, don't you think?"
"And my opposite number waxes his chest," Daniel said, shaking his head at the thought.
"He's quite a vain man, very much into the 'body beautiful.' Spends a lot of time in the gym, working out. Also, he hates coffee. Thinks it pollutes the human system. Doesn't even like the smell. In fact, coffee's a banned substance within a hundred yards of his office."
Daniel snorted. "Definitely a Bad Man, then!"
They chatted comfortably over their extremely early breakfast. Daniel was very interested in hearing about the differences between the two realities.
This world's Doctor Jackson was nominally the team leader of F.C.-1, their premier First Contact team, but his influence - malign influence, Harry said - stretched throughout the S.T.C. - except for Hammond who had been as straight as they came. It was Harry's opinion that that had been his downfall. Hammond had been Chairman of the Stargate Trading Corporation up until his death.
The corporation was well known throughout the world. Harry wondered how Daniel's S.G.C. had managed to keep secret such a big source of national wealth for so long.
"Easy. Just invoke national security and involve the military. The threat of a long stretch in jail - if you're lucky - or a death sentence for treason if you're not - is enough to keep most people quiet."
"I imagine it would be. But doesn't anyone - the press for instance - ask questions about how the treasury's acquired such a large surplus?"
"No, because there isn't a surplus. In fact, they're always trying to cut our funding because powering the 'Gate is so expensive, and the only things the military are interested in are things with potential military capabilities," Daniel scowled.
"Ouch! What a waste."
"Oh yeah! Anyway, if your Doctor Jackson's the team leader, what does Jack do?"
"He's the Finance Chief of the S.T.C. - at the moment anyway. We're hoping to bring him to book for certain financial irregularities. He has a very byzantine line in creative accounting."
"Jack? An accountant?" Daniel found this quite amusing. "So who's in the team then?"
"Doctor Jan Fraiser "
"In a front line team? Never!"
"Why not? It's said that she and Daniel together could charm the birds out of the trees."
"She's not a medical doctor then?"
Harry nearly choked. "Well, in a manner of speaking," he laughed. "She's a sexologist with a very nice line in pheromones. If a civilization's leaders are female - or gay - and not interested in a sexy little minx like Jan, Daniel's pretty much as effective at producing lucrative trade agreements - if you know what I'm saying?"
"Then there are three other scientists, Sarah Gardiner, Rodney MacKay and Robert Rothman."
"Oh god!" Harry looked at Daniel in concern.
"I take it your Robert is dead? And that he was a friend?"
Daniel nodded. "Jack shot him," he said baldly. He took in Harry's wide-eyed surprise. "He had to," he added quietly. "Robert got snaked... er, he was taken over by a goa'uld."
"Sorry to hear it."
"Sarah's an old girlfriend. She got snaked too, but Osiris - the goa'uld that took her - managed to escape. I hope, one day, we can set her free. Somehow..."
Harry made sympathetic noises.
"I don't know any Rodney MacKay though - not yet anyway."
"Nice guy, very cheerful," Harry said.
"What about Sam and Teal'c?" Daniel asked, moving away from a still-painful subject.
Sam was married to Charlie Kawalsky. They both worked for the exceedingly prosperous Carter Cybernetics Company owned by George Hammond's long-time friend, Jacob Carter. Both the Stargate Corporation and Carter Cybernetics came under the umbrella of the mammoth West Organization.
On one trip, F.C.-1, had found and befriended a girl called Reece. She was later discovered to be an android. She'd joined their company, had helped them develop replicator technology, and now ran that side of the business.
"Are you sure that's safe?" Daniel asked dubiously. "I mean, we haven't met anyone called Reece, but we have encountered the replicators. They're a menace across at least two galaxies. Even the Asgard are having trouble keeping on top of them."
"Yes, little gray guys with big eyes and spindly limbs."
"Like the Roswell grays?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Daniel grinned. "Seems like we do have some similarities between our worlds. They've helped us with our problem with the Goa'uld. But I guess, if the glowy-eyed bastards aren't around much here, maybe the Asgard have stayed in their own galaxy." An unpleasant thought occurred to him. "I hope the replicators haven't wiped them out."
Teal'c was the head of the security team who provided back-up in ticklish situations. His team included Lou Ferretti, Robert Makepeace, Niall Coburn, Clayton Griff and Marcus Reynolds. It was rare that the whole group went off-world together. The S.T.C. was keen to show a friendly face.
"What about Paul Davis? He's a major in my world and acts as liaison officer between the S.G.C. and the Pentagon. We don't see him all that often usually, but it seemed to me that he and your Doctor Jackson are - were - pretty close."
"He was a hot-shot lawyer - one of the very best - and Jackson's right-hand man. Never went off-world but saw plenty of action in the courtroom getting Jackson off from a whole lot of apparently watertight cases... And would you stop calling Jackson 'my Doctor Jackson!'"
As soon as it was light enough - an angry red sunrise it was - the three remaining members of S.G.-1 continued their pursuit of the fugitive Doctor Jackson. Although it was August, it was damp and slippery underfoot, making them thankful that they'd taken the option of returning for more equipment, including hard hats. The body armor was less welcome being heavy, but their quarry was armed and probably fairly desperate by now.
There were signs that Jackson hadn't had an easy descent despite the assistance of the trees. When they reached the bottom of the ravine, Jack stared mournfully at the burnt-out wreck that had been his pride and joy.
"Motherfuckin' bastard," he murmured venomously under his breath.
Teal'c figured that Doctor Jackson had probably traveled some way barefoot in the shallow stream at the bottom of the ravine. It would probably have had the two-fold benefit of disguising which way he'd gone and cooling his sore feet.
It seemed that he'd decided against stopping for a rest, and it took Teal'c quite a while to pick up the trail again. Initially, he had chosen to track back towards the highway. Sod's law said that, with a fifty-fifty choice, he'd pick the wrong one, and he did.
Jackson had traveled a long way in the water. Teal'c was almost ready to give up and try the other direction again, when he spotted a toe print in the mud at the edge of the stream, confirming Teal'c's theory that he was carrying his shoes and paddling. It was the only clear trace he'd left, but Teal'c thought he must be heading for the higher ground on the other side of the ravine.
"This Doctor Jackson must be less of a couch tomato than we thought. He must be quite fit to have traveled thus far and so covertly."
"If his life is at stake, Teal'c, he's probably running on adrenalin," Sam said. "We've done it often enough."
"Good point, Carter," Jack said, "but if so, he's going to run out of steam eventually, and then we'll have him."
But their fugitive still had a few surprises in store. The side of the ravine was much higher on the opposite bank of the stream. Teal'c went up alone. It took much time and effort and a few close calls. He was still following signs but his quarry managed to leave very few. When he reached the top, he found it was not the top after all, but a broad limestone platform, some fifty feet wide, in front of a forty foot high cliff.
He reported his findings, concluding, "I do not think he has climbed further but is taking a rest somewhere near here. There is a cave. I have secured the rope and will await your arrival."
Jack and Sam, still at the bottom of the ravine, exchanged glances.
"I didn't know there were caves in these parts, sir," Sam said.
"A cave, Carter, singular."
"With respect, we don't know that, sir. There could be a whole system of caves, and clearly, in that Doctor Jackson has come here, he must know the cave, or caves, are there. In which case, we're moving in on his territory. We need more intell., sir. With your permission, I'll go back up to the other side and do a little research on my lap-top. If there is a cave system, we're probably going to need a map."
"Ok, Carter, knock yourself out. Um, well, not literally..."
"So why would - um - Doctor Jackson want to kill George?" Daniel asked when they were on the road once more.
"My guess is that Hammond got wise to O'Neill's fiddles - from which Jackson also benefitted on a grand scale - and threatened to pull the plug. He'd arranged a meeting with the Chief of Police, which wasn't all that unusual - they were good friends from way back - but he'd never made an official appointment before. That flagged the fact that it had to be something big. When he didn't show up for the meeting last Thursday afternoon, it kinda rang a few alarm bells. The chief went round to his house and found him dead in bed, apparently of a massive heart attack. He'd been dead for at least thirty six hours."
"Surely, someone at Stargate Comm the S.T.C. must have checked up on him earlier?"
"They didn't get chance. O'Neill sent round a memo on Wednesday morning saying that Hammond had rung in to say he wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be coming in. And didn't want visitors. Thing was, there was no trace of any 'phone call from Hammond's residence, and at the time he made the alleged call, he was already dead."
"Hence the tox. report you mentioned?"
"Yeah. Ironically, they needn't have bothered killing him. O'Neill'd already slipped up. The annual audit had found a sizeable anomaly so the finance department had been under covert observation for some time."
"Maybe it was the 'covert' bit that led them to kill George?" Daniel suggested. "If they didn't realize they were being investigated, maybe they figured that if they silenced George, they'd be in the clear?"
"Maybe. I understand there was a bit of a falling out between Hammond and O'Neill earlier in the week though Raised voices behind closed doors, if you know what I mean? It wasn't the first time either by all accounts. Rumor has it that O'Neill was after Hammond's job Wanted to be the head honcho. So maybe Hammond's card was already marked and it was a case of sooner rather than later."
"Have you heard the result of the tests for poison yet?" Daniel asked.
"Preliminary results haven't come up with anything yet, but there are a few more tests to do."
"I don't think they'll find anything now."
"Because Paul seemed pretty certain you wouldn't be able to prove your case in court. I mentioned that you'd been talking about the toxicological tests. He wasn't too happy about that but said 'it' should have dissipated before anyone called the cops."
"So Davis was involved in the murder too?"
"Up to his neck, I'd say, and though I don't like speaking ill of the dead, I don't think it was the only murder he was involved in."
"I doubt it, unless he was poisoned here. He was the victim of a hit-and-run back home."
"Same here," Harry said.
"Then I suspect there's at least one other murder that our friends have gotten away with, because when I mentioned the tox. report, Paul asked specifically if the tests were being done on Hammond." "Thanks. I'll look into that."
"You know, I can't believe what a corrupt lot my people are in your world. I thought the military was a collective pain in the ass - still do - but it seems like commercial organizations are a whole lot worse."
"Well, this country has had great benefits from running the Stargate and A.P. as commercial ventures. It's just that a few people got greedy, is all."
"More than greedy!" Daniel exclaimed. "I've always thought that, if the military weren't involved i-if the Stargate was public knowledge - then I'd get to do follow-up research on some of the - the amazing archaic civilizations we've found - be able to link them to the parent civilizations on earth."
"Oh yes, you claimed to be a - what? - Archaeologist? Anthropologist?"
Daniel gave an indignant growl. "I didn't claim to be. I am."
"Whatever. You wouldn't be any better off here. The S.T.C. doesn't have any interest in anything that doesn't have commercial value. Academic research has a pretty low priority."
Daniel could've wept. Remove the military and another bunch of ignorant assholes moved in. He shook his head. "And another fond illusion bites the dust," he lamented.
"Yes, well... maybe there's another world somewhere where everything's as it should be."
"Yeah. But how many worlds and how many universes do we have to visit before we find it?" Daniel asked drily.
"You're not going to like this, sir," Sam radioed across the ravine.
"Like this is news," Jack muttered. "Will I be able to understand it? If not, just give me the Reader's Digest version."
"It's well within your compass, sir. We're not quite looking for a needle in a haystack."
"I can feel a 'but...' coming on."
"But..." Sam said obligingly. "It looks like Teal'c has reached the entrance to the Howling Cave. It's the first cave in one of the longest cave systems in the country."
"How long, Carter?"
She sighed. "Just under twelve miles, sir."
"Shit. And you're right. I don't like it."
"There are half a dozen named caves or caverns and a whole lot of interconnecting passages and crawl ways. They have a tendency to flood after a downpour. While the outer two caves are suitable for novices, much of the rest is recommended for experts only - and properly equipt. So I think we can probably add speleology to this Daniel's C.V."
"Speleology, sir. Spelunking...? Caving...?"
"Oh. Why didn't you say so?"
There was an exasperated sigh from Sam.
"So basically," Jack went on, "we're playing away?"
"On Doctor Jackson's turf, yes sir."
"Great. So we could be traipsing around in there for days and never find him?"
"Well, I do have a map which should help."
"That sounds a little better. Tell me, Carter, are there any other exits from the system?"
This time, there was a significant pause that said 'you're-going-to-like-this-even-less, sir,' then, "Quite a few. Some potholes on the top surface where the water's worn shafts down through the limestone, several - including the one up there - part way down, and a number of exits along the spring line... where the layers of limestone sit on top of impervious rock."
"You could think of it as being like a big piece of Emmental cheese with cracks and crevices connecting all the holes inside the cheese." "Oh. Well... that's just dandy!"
"I think we really ought to come up with a plan," Daniel said as they approached the suburbs of Colorado Springs. "I mean, I can hardly walk into Citadel Mall "
"That would be the Barbican."
Daniel laughed. "Guess that's why you thought I was playing games earlier on?" Harry nodded. "I still can't walk into Barbican Mall "
"Just 'the Barbican.' Or 'the Mall.'"
"Right. I can't walk into the Barbican as I am. Your Qua Allocosmic Portal may not be heavily guarded, but I still don't want to get zatted again!"
"You'll be with me."
"Well, bearing in mind that your... that the other Dr. Jackson appears to be Public Enemy number one right now, can you guarantee that some enterprising young hotshot won't shoot first and ask questions later? I mean, I could've got the drop on you and be using you as a hostage, now couldn't I...?" Daniel grinned. Since breakfast, he'd ceased to feel the need to keep Harry in his sights, as it were.
"Guess you've got a point there and assuming we do manage to find your world "
"My universe, actually. We were off-world at the time."
"So Jackson could be anywhere by now?" Harry asked, horrified.
"Oh, I don't think so. If your guys didn't change my clothes while I was unconscious, then he is the only other person who had opportunity and the motive to do so."
"Ah, I see," Harry nodded. "He wanted to blend in with your people?"
"Yes. When he left, probably his prime objective was escape. Maybe he'd already selected another suitable place. Maybe he was just aiming for anywhere that wasn't here. I suspect it was pure co-incidence, or some sort of... of... allocosmic synchronicity - very fortunate from his point of view - that he and we arrived on the same planet in the same universe at roughly the same time. He couldn't have planned it better. Anything that happened afterwards must've been done on the fly."
Daniel thought for a while then continued. "He must've been in the storeroom before me. I know I get kind of focused when I find something interesting, but I would've been aware if someone had tried to sneak in."
"The subconscious red-flags unusual sounds but not the ones it's familiar with?" Harry said.
"Yes, right. I don't know if he'd only just come through and taken cover when he heard voices or if he'd been there a while and been watching us. He would certainly have known that I wasn't alone. Oh, and Jack came into the room when I pointed out the Quantum Mirror so he would probably have been aware that we were both wearing the same uniform. After that, all the... Other Guy had to do was zat me, change clothes, toss me back into your reality so no one will realize he's escaped, and then join S.G.-1 when Jack came back... Jack would've expected to see me, and there 'I' would've been. Problem solved. A new life, tailor-made."
"You don't think he would move on? Put another step or two between him and here?"
"Why would he?"
"Well, right now, he's having to be you. Sooner or later he's going to make a mistake and one of your people will realize something's wrong."
"Oh, I don't know. I'm a civilian - a geek - on a military base. They already think I'm a little flaky at the best of times."
"Trust me," Harry said. "Someone will notice. Admittedly, when I first met you, I fell for the switch"
"Yes, but you didn't finally believe me until you discovered my caffeine habit, and because I'm not into waxing, which you wouldn't have known about if I hadn't thrown the shirt into the ravine."
"Well, looking back, they were just clinchers. You and he are different people, and the longer I spend in your company, the more different you seem."
Daniel thought about it, thought about how comfortable he'd become in Harry's company in a way that he didn't think he ever would be with the home-grown variety. "Mm, I think I see what you mean. You're a big improvement on our Maybourne."
Harry thought back. "So it's true then? The other 'me' is on death row?"
"Was. He managed to escape to some tropical paradise somewhere."
Harry looked a little amused. "What did he do to end up on death row anyway?"
"He was running a group that was, ah... 'liberating'... advanced alien technology from our allies."
"And that's a capital offence?"
"It was deemed to be treason because his activities were endangering our relations with them."
"So why would he do that then?"
"He claimed he was getting the tech. for the benefit of Earth."
" Couldn't he set up a trade?"
Daniel gave an ironic laugh. "Our allies don't believe in trusting such a juvenile race as the Tau'ri with their tech. in case we use it to develop more advanced weapons and use them to wipe out the entire human race. Apparently, that had happened before with another 'young' race."
"Still, they don't sound like particularly useful allies."
"In some ways, but the Asgard protect us from the goa'uld and as far as the others are concerned, well... It's better to have them with us - or more like neutral, I guess - than against us."
"Even so," Harry persisted, apparently a little protective of his opposite number, "the death penalty seems a little harsh. He was doing it for his own country, wasn't he? I mean, it wasn't like he was stealing Earth tech. and giving to an alien race, was it?"
Daniel mulled it over. "Yeah, I guess so, and to be fair, he did help us to get General Hammond reinstated as head of the S.G.C. after he was coerced into retirement."
"So not totally bad then? That makes me feel a little better."
"Put one over on Senator Kinsey, too, so no, not totally bad," Daniel grinned.
"You got a Senator Kinsey as well, huh?" Harry grunted.
"Sounds like he's a bad egg in both universes," Daniel observed.
"And a royal pain in the ass!"
When Sam returned, Jack was sitting on a good-sized boulder, which had obviously been carried down in spate, and juggling several small stones. It argued terminal boredom for the man of action.
"Sorry to be so long, sir "
"Ow!" Jack squawked as the loss of concentration resulted in one of the stones smacking him painfully on the wrist.
Sam winced. "Er, sorry. I do have some good news though, sir."
"Right, let's hear it," he grunted, massaging his wrist.
"I've been checking personnel files on the base's mainframe. We have several spe cavers in the S.G.C. Major Pierce, Captain Winters, Lieutenants Franklin, Green and Thomason and Sergeants Louis and Ziplinski, all have caving experience, and Captain Janosz who transferred in a couple of months ago, is a member of the National Speleological Society, was raised in Denver, knows this cave system pretty well, and one of the first things he did when he arrived back in the state was to rejoin the Colorado Caving Club which is based in Denver."
"Good work, Carter."
"I managed to raise Major Pierce. He's going to round up the rest of them and meet us by the cave entrance at 09.30."
"What? Are they walking here?"
"He's probably added in time for delays. It's going to take some time for him to get through to everybody, then they'll have to collect all their equipment..."
"Fine, ok. Let's go join Teal'c then."
"Er, where're we going, Harry?" It may be a different universe, but he was pretty sure they wouldn't be taking this route to the Mall... Barbican.. Whatever.
"Well, you said we needed a plan and I agree. So I thought my apartment would be as good a place as any to think things through. I have coffee," he added. "It's only instant though."
"Nevertheless, I'll take you up on the offer," Daniel grinned. "I'm still feeling a little caffeine-deprived." An unwelcome thought struck him. "It's not de-caff, is it?"
Harry chuckled at the look of horror on Daniel's face. "I may not be a coffee connoisseur, but I don't sink that low."
Daniel was rather surprised to find that Harry's apartment, 9-3, was in the same part of town and almost identical to his own. Daniel commented on this and asked where his counterpart lived.
"He has the floor below the penthouse in the West Organization tower in the Barbican."
Daniel whistled. "That must be a pretty expensive piece of real estate."
"It certainly is. I'd love to know what he's got on West to swing that," Harry said longingly.
Daniel thought about it. "You said you have enough evidence to send y er, Doctor Jackson to the gallows?"
"Well, in an ideal world, yes. In this one..." He shook his head.
"But he's now lost his ace lawyer, yes?"
"Then, maybe you could talk him into a trade - all the information he has in exchange for waiving the death penalty?"
"Let's not put the cart before the horse, Daniel. We have to get him back first. Are you sure he won't have moved on to another world or another allocosm?"
Daniel nodded. "Even if your team have tumbled to the fact that he isn't you?" Harry persisted.
"Absolutely certain. The S.G.C. is a military base. It's very well guarded, and our... A.P. isn't on the base in any case. General Hammond wanted it destroyed, but he got over-ruled on that one, so now it's at Area 51."
Daniel grinned. "It's right out in the middle of nowhere near Groom Lake, Nevada, and if you don't even know where Area 51 is, I don't think there's much chance of our friend finding it in a hurry. Besides they're even more secretive there than we are. More likely to shoot first and ask questions later too."
Harry seemed satisfied and went into the kitchen to make coffee. Daniel followed him and they drank in silence for a while as they thought through potential problems. "The next question is how do you think you're going to find your allocosm, with all traces of the co-ordinates erased?"
"Hm, well, you said that my coming through could limit the number of universes "
"It's not going to be a five minute job, you know," Harry warned.
"No, I know that, but before I got zatted, I'd spent about fifteen or twenty minutes cataloguing the artefacts in the room - it was a store room, full of an interesting variety of things - plenty of identifying features... My other self would most likely have heard Jack limiting me to half an hour, so it would make sense for him to watch what I was doing for some of the time in order to learn what I do so he could duplicate it before taking over."
He drank more of his coffee. "I think you could be right about it being hard work to keep up the pretence of being me," he continued, "and my team do know me pretty well after working together for nearly four years. In his position, I think I'd probably look for another post as soon as possible then resign, sell up and start another life well away from Colorado as myself. But that's going to take a while. He won't want his sudden departure to be - well, too sudden."
"So we're on the clock, but it's a fairly long count-down," Harry nodded. He fell silent again for a while. "Right, here's what we'll do."