Chapter XXXII - Learning Curve
"So how many suspects do we have?" Jack asked, looking at Daniel. "You seem to have read all the reports. How many people came here on a regular basis?"
"Well, actually, only four. S.G.-7 came on their own as there was no threat from the goa'uld or any other people here"
"And no one had seen any of the jaguars?"
"Jeez, Jack," Daniel said in surprise, "You were paying attention!"
"Where it potentially affects the safety of my team, of course I pay attention," Jack replied indignantly. "So whom do we have in the frame?"
"Ah, Dr. Curtis, Dr. Czabaniuk, Lieutenant Li and... Major Ferretti"
"Oh for crying out loud, Daniel! Having an Italian name does not make you member of the Mafia!"
"I know that, Jack," Daniel snapped back, "but when it potentially affects the safety of my daughter then I have to consider all the possibilities, and being a friend of yours - mine too incidentally - does not mean that he isn't involved."
"Well, we can't do anything about it right now, so there's no point in arguing. I suggest we just find as many of these diamonds as we can. Now that we're all actively collecting, rather than sneaking a few into your pockets"
"Was not sneaking," Daniel muttered.
"Were too! Anyway, we should get the job done a whole lot quicker now. That'll give us more time to get to the bottom of things back on base."
"How many diamonds do we require, DanielJackson?"
"Ah, that's kind of difficult to say actually. The value of a diamond depends on the 'four Cs' - carat, color, clarity and cut. Diamonds are measured by carat weight. One carat weighs a fifth of a gram, so that's about a hundred and forty to the ounce. Bigger is usually better, but not necessarily, and we have to bear in mind that at least half the weight of these will be lost in the cutting."
"So we've only got half as many as we think we've got here?"
"Um, well, that depends on the other three Cs," Daniel replied with a look that said 'please do not interrupt me again'.
Jack returned an unabashed stare but let him continue without further comment.
"Diamonds can come in a variety of colors - very pale colors - pink, blue, even green sometimes. Those are called 'fancies', but generally speaking the closer to colorless, the better. Yellow is not good. Clarity is an indicator of the number of internal flaws a diamond has. The fewer the better, obviously, but that's not something we can tell from looking at them in the rough. The final 'C' is cut. If the pavilion - that's the bottom part of the stone - is too steep or too shallow, you lose some of the brilliance of the stone and hence lower the value."
"Harry said the cutting's excellent."
"Oh. Well that's good."
"So what's the figure we're aiming for, Daniel?"
Daniel gave a mirthless laugh.
"The value of my daughter's life? Twenty million dollars..."
Jack whistled softly.
"She doesn't come cheap, does she?"
"I presume, DanielJackson, that you have made some calculations about the quantity of diamonds that will purchase Serena's freedom?"
"We-ell, I've browsed sites on the Internet and come across diamonds of four to five carats, colorless, flawless and presumably of first rate cut for around $150,000."
"So, we need about... um... ah... a hundred and thirty of those? That doesn't sound so hard," Jack said, brightening.
"I do not think it will be quite so simple, O'Neill."
"No, neither do I, Teal'c," Daniel agreed. "We're pretty much in the dark as to what the ultimate value of any stone will be. It could be that much, or it could be only a tenth of that figure - or less."
"So we have to go for overkill? Uh, sorry, Daniel. That... kinda came out wrong..."
"Don't worry, Jack, but yes. I can't afford to take any chances. Guess that's what they had in mind. Specify twenty million and with luck they'll get a whole lot more."
Without the need to be surreptitious, the three made faster progress during the afternoon. By the time the fading light put a stop to their 'beachcombing', as Jack had termed it, they had found a considerable number of diamonds. In relatively good spirits, therefore, they returned to their campsite at by the ruins.
"Runkuracay," Daniel remarked cryptically as they arrived.
"Runkuracay," he repeated. "This place needs a name and that seems appropriate."
"Mm. It comes from the language of the Incas. Runku means 'piled' and 'racay' means 'derelict house'"
"So it means a heap of ruins?"
"Peachy! You're good."
"You sound surprised, O'Neill."
"No. More... impressed, by all that - stuff he has floating around in his brain," Jack replied, gesticulating for emphasis.
Daniel shot him an old-fashioned look and set about preparing their evening meal. Afterwards, they counted out their haul and found they had a further five hundred and seventeen good-sized stones to go with the eighty five from the morning's collection. Not bad so far.
The following morning over breakfast they discussed plans.
"I think another fifteen hundred diamonds should do it, give or take," Daniel said, looking meditatively into the flames of their campfire.
Jack rolled his eyes but agreed without argument.
"We'll stay here today and go back home late tomorrow afternoon," he decided. "That should give us plenty of time to make the tally and allow you to check out the chicken scratchings on the ruins."
Now it was Daniel's turn to roll his eyes. Teal'c's eyes smiled in amusement.
"Seriously, Daniel," Jack continued, "you need to have something to show for the time we spend here."
"If I can concentrate on anything..."
"It will be fine, DanielJackson. O'Neill and I will work on collecting the diamonds. If it appears that we will not reach the required amount in the time allowed, then you may join us tomorrow."
"Thanks guys," Daniel responded, profoundly touched.
"Think nothing of it. Go. Enjoy your research Rock Boy!"
Chapter XXXIII - Legacy
All went according to plan. Daniel had, contrary to his expectations, become thoroughly engrossed in his investigations of Runkuracay and made a number of exciting discoveries. Jack reigned in his usual sarcasm and indulged the enthusiastic archaeologist as he detailed his finds. He felt Daniel needed this as a temporary escape from more pressing matters. Teal'c listened with genuine interest. He and O'Neill had also met with more than adequate success, freeing Daniel to continue with his research on the Saturday morning also.
Over lunch that day, it was agreed that they had sufficient diamonds to meet the ransom demand and Jack wanted to strike camp and head for home immediately. Daniel argued for another hour before they left.
"I just need to take a little more video footage, make a couple more notes, maybe find a few more samples," he explained in response to Jack's surprised look. "I may never get another opportunity..."
Jack, still in compassionate mood, allowed himself to be cajoled.
"Just bear in mind that we already have quite a few 'samples' to carry back to the 'Gate," he warned as Daniel set off into the abandoned town.
"It is good to see DanielJackson gaining a little pleasure at this worrying time," Teal'c said, once Daniel was out of earshot.
"Yeah, it is," Jack agreed as they padded the diamonds to prevent their rattling, and stowed them into inconspicuous places in their packs and pockets.
That done, they packed up most of their belongings. Jack then set up another brew of coffee in the expectation that Daniel would not return within the specified extra hour. He was not disappointed. The archaeologist had obviously lost track of time. Jack gave him another half hour, then called him up.
"Oh, Daniel, slowly becoming fossilized here. Whatcha doing?"
There was no reply. Jack gave an irritated grunt and tried again.
"Daniel! You're long overdue. Respond please. Now!"
Still no reply.
"The man does not change! Come on, Teal'c, let's go get him..."
Twenty-five minutes later, they still hadn't tracked down their errant team member which did nothing for O'Neill's temper. Neither did the cold, dank mist rolling down from the mountain tops which would no doubt render their route down the mountainside slippery and treacherous. That thought made Jack wonder if Daniel had, in his usual inimitable fashion, managed to have an accident. He looked around the wide grassy 'plaza' at the deserted moss-covered buildings for some sort of clue. Overhead, a large black bird of prey circled. He was on the point of instituting a 'house-to-house' - make that ruin-to-ruin - search, when his attempts to raise Daniel on the comm. were answered.
"Oh, hi Jack! Teal'c!"
Daniel's voice somehow seemed to come from two separate places.
"Daniel! Where are you, you sonova...?"
"Right behind you, Jack."
Jack spun round but saw no one.
"Daniel! Quit fooling around and"
Jack did so and saw Daniel's head poking through a small opening at the base of a immense block of stone that was covered in carved pictures and ideograms.
"Are you hurt, DanielJackson?" Teal'c asked, hurrying over to his colleague.
"Ah, no - well, a few bumps and bruises, but I'm okay. Gonna need a hand out though."
"Ya fell down there, didn'tcha?" Jack asked, somewhere between annoyance, amusement and concern. "You're really not safe to be let out without a minder, you know that, don't you?"
"I really don't think you could've prevented it," Daniel responded, a little waspishly.
"Yeah, well, come on, let's get you out of there."
"Ah, wait a minute. You have to see this, Jack."
"No, Daniel, we have got to go. Right now, before this mist gets any thicker. The descent's not gonna be easy on slick ground and we don't want any more accidents"
"No, Jack, I'm not asking you to humor me here. You have to see this."
The urgency in his voice convinced O'Neill that this was more than just a lucky find. He slithered through the hole into a large underground chamber. Gold glinted in the light of Daniel's flashlight.
"What is this? Tut's tomb?"
"Something like that, yes."
"Oh, tell me ya didn't drag me down here just to look a few gold baubles!"
"Wha? Oh. Yes, Jack. Yes, just dragged you down here to look at the pretty gold trinkets...! Pur-lease! Just when - if ever - are you going to accord me the respect that goes with my titles - neither of which happens to be Mr. Stupid?!"
"Uh - er, sorry Daniel," Jack grunted, taken aback. "So what"
"Stop, Jack!" Daniel cut in. "Stay right where you are. Don't move."
Surprised, Jack did as he was told. He looked sharply round for a threat, P90 poised. Daniel scuttled over and stood beside him moments before the familiar sound of transporter rings surrounded them and they were whisked away.
Still threat-assessing, Jack scanned around the chamber into which they had been conveyed. It looked much the same in size and shape as the one they'd just left. The big difference was that this one contained a familiar-looking golden sarcophagus.
"Shit!" he breathed.
"So I was right?" Daniel asked with barely repressed smugness.
"You really did want to see this?"
"Oh yeah. So what do we have here - beyond the obvious?"
"Well, from what I've managed to translate so far, this sarcophagus belongs to Ayar Cachi."
"What? You're interested now?"
"Well, let's pretend, for the moment, that I am. Who's this... Hanky-Panky guy...?"
"Not far off."
"Not even close, Jack."
"So, from what I remember of Inca mythology, he was the eldest of four brothers created by Viracocha, the supreme creator god, who was also shown as a sun god or a feathered serpent." "Kinda like Ra, then?" "Very much so. Ayar Cachi was not only the eldest of the four brothers, he was also the strongest. He could cause earthquakes using a sling to hurl stones into the mountains... Besides this penchant for violence, he was cruel and oppressive, so his brothers were all afraid of him. One day, they used gold... baubles... to trick him into going into a cave which they then blocked off with an immense slab of rock."
"Like that one you fell down the side of?"
"Like that, yes."
Jack thought about it for a while.
"You reckon that's who we've got in there then?" he asked jerking a thumb towards the sarcophagus
. "That's what it says."
"Think he's still in it?"
"Given that the sarcophagus is sealed shut, I'd say so, but no way am I going to open it and find out. Nothing good ever came out of a sarcophagus. Not even me..." Daniel added with a haunted look.
"That wasn't your fault, Danny."
"No! Now come on. Focus. Any idea what happened to the people who lived here?"
"Very little. There's several month's work here, at least - years even. Not that I'm likely to get the chance. You know, this is the find of a lifetime, and no one outside of Cheyenne Mountain is ever likely to know anything about it. There's a fortune in artefacts here, never mind that so many of them are gold, and here they're gonna have to stay..."
Jack, clueless as he could be sometimes, felt the aching sadness that hung around the archaeologist. Daniel probably knew more, had certainly seen more, than any other archaeologist, yet few were more despised by their fellow professionals - which no doubt accounted for the earlier hissy fit. In a more just world, he would be lauded as one of the greats of his profession.
"Anything else we should see?" he asked hoping to divert Daniel's mind from its current melancholy track.
"Um, yes actually. Quite a few goa'uld artefacts. No honkin' big space guns," Daniel grinned, "but some interesting... devices."
He held up a dreaded ribbon device as he spoke, the grin replaced by a grim expression.
"I'm thinking we should take this with us, at least," he opined. "Wouldn't want it to get on to the wrong hand if he ever gets out of that thing. And it doesn't seem to matter how long they're confined, sooner or later, someone just has to play at being Pandora and let them out."
Damn! Now Daniel's mind was following the more recent Sarah/Osiris track, not to mention his final encounter with Sha're/Amonet...
"Okay, Daniel, bring what you can carry and let's go home."
Chapter XXXIV - Homecoming
The first part of the return journey was negotiated with less difficulty than O'Neill had anticipated. The mist, though it had thickened, proved to be merely the base of a layer of low cloud. Once out of it, the going improved markedly. Unlike Daniel's mood. The euphoria resulting from his archaeological explorations was fading fast as his thoughts returned to the reasons behind his researches in Runkuracay. Moreover, he was coming down from the adrenaline rush resulting from a combination of the tumble into the underground chamber and his discoveries within.
While they were traversing the trickier ground, he'd taken care where he was putting his feet. Didn't want to add more bruises and abrasions to his collection. Furthermore, as he was the last in line, a trip could pitch him forward into Jack and start a disastrous mini-domino topple. He could do without a tongue-lashing from Jack right now, especially as Jack was being pleasantly forbearing at the moment.
As the gradient eased, he withdrew into himself. Teal'c, taking point, set a brisk pace once they reached more level ground. After a while, Jack noticed that Daniel was lagging behind. This he put down to the fair-sized haul of goa'uld 'goodies' that he'd crammed in his samples bag before they left.
"Hey, Teal'c," he called, "where's the fire?"
Teal'c turned round and took in the sagging figure of the archaeologist who was some distance behind now, trudging along with head down. Together with O'Neill, he waited for Daniel to catch up.
"May I relieve you of your burden, Daniel Jackson?" he asked, reaching for the overstuffed sample bag.
"Uh?" was Daniel's only response as he returned to the here and now.
He took in Teal'c's outstretched hand and wordlessly handed over the bag. Jack and Teal'c exchanged worried glances.
"Are you all right, DanielJackson?"
"Mm? Oh. Yes, I'm fine Um, why have we stopped?"
Jack shot him a suspicious look.
"Oh, I was feeling a little... tired. Need a short break."
"As do I," Teal'c added, catching on quickly.
"Ah, we'll take five then," Jack said, sitting down on the dusty ground and delving into his pack for some energy bars.
As he and Teal'c chatted about this and that, Daniel was conspicuously silent. He was sitting a little apart, hugging his knees and munching absently. His companions noted the foetal posture with some concern and each decided that he needed taking out of himself.
With the absence of any known threat, the three finished the journey to the 'Gate side by side, with Daniel sandwiched in the middle. Jack and Teal'c kept up a flow of inconsequential banter. Daniel contributed little to the small talk, but at least it prevented him from slipping back into his own private world where an unpleasant series of 'what-if' scenarios kept looping round his brain.
They arrived back in the S.G.C. at 1850hrs, hot on the heels of S.G.-2 and S.G.-6. The former had run into trouble on a world rejoicing in the name of Ulimwengu-Kholomodumoa. Mispronunciation of said world had resulted in a state of war being declared. S.G.-6 had gone to pull S.G.-2's asses out of the fire, and both teams had managed to get themselves shot up pretty badly. Taking in the shambles in the 'Gate Room, O'Neill withdrew smartly with his men to leave the way clear for the medics.
"Catch you later, sir," he nodded to General Hammond who was monitoring the situation.
Jack led Daniel and Teal'c to his office.
"We'll leave the diamonds here for now," he said, unlocking the door of a walk-in closet. "I'll put them in my safe."
"You have a safe, Jack? I never knew that."
"Well, you've never really needed to. However, as Hammond's 2IC, classified documents occasionally come my way, so I have to have somewhere secure to keep them."
Carefully, they removed the diamonds from their packs and transferred them to other assorted containers, including a couple of discarded pizza boxes. Once the stones had been safely stowed away, the three headed for the showers. As the infirmary would be busy for some time to come, they went on to the commissary next. Over something unidentifiable, O'Neill broached what he knew was going to be a thorny topic.
"I'm gonna have to tell General Hammond about the leak."
"What? Jack, you can't! Not till we have Serena back. Please!"
"Daniel, I'm already out of line here for not mentioning it as soon as I knew."
Daniel looked pained, and mechanically chewed over the leathery meat as he thought through alternatives.
"Well, at least wait until we've nailed that slimeball, Crocetti," he temporized.
"Look, I'm sure we can persuade Hammond not to take things further right now. It just doesn't sit right with me to keep him in the dark about something that's his responsibility. I'm sure you can appreciate that, Daniel..."
Daniel flinched guiltily, but still wasn't happy about it.
By the time they reported to the infirmary for their mandatory medical checks, the worst cases had been stabilized but most of the staff still had their hands full with the walking wounded. Consequently, none of S.G.-1 had ever been checked, pronounced fit and sent on their way quicker. Next stop, General Hammond for debriefing.
Daniel seemed to find a new lease of life as he detailed his discoveries and produced the goa'uld artefacts which he'd 'confiscated'. He was careful to avoid any allusion to the real purpose of their mission, although he knew Hammond, having initialled all the reports, was probably well aware of the diamonds on the planet.
When he'd finished, the general looked around and asked if there was anything else anyone wished to add.
"Well, General, as a matter of fact there is," Jack said, trying to ignore the dagger-look Daniel was sending his way, "and I'd like to speak off the record for now."
"I'm afraid our security's been breached."
Hammond looked grave.
"You mean the S.G.C.?"
"I do, sir, but it probably happened several months ago, and I understand there's no immediate likelihood of its getting any more serious in the near future. In view of that and the fact that we do have a lead, I'm asking you to leave it in my hands for a few days."
"Does this by any chance have any bearing on the abduction of Dr. Jackson's daughter?"
"Not... directly, but it may compromise Serena's safety"
Daniel pushed his chair back and stood up abruptly.
"'Scuse me," he muttered and ran out of the room.
"What the?" Hammond exclaimed.
"Oh, crap! Excuse me, General," O'Neill responded and set off after his team member.
Before he caught up with him, Daniel disappeared into the men's room. Jack followed him inside in time to hear him throwing up big time. In his haste, he'd left the cubicle door open, so Jack took advantage.
"Easy, big fella," he said gently, firmly rubbing Daniel's back in soothing circles.
Daniel coughed and finally produced a few dry heaves.
"Sorry... sorry, Jack," he mumbled.
"Not your fault, Daniel - 'cept maybe you're pushing yourself too hard. It's not long since you were shot, then you fell down that hole..."
"There's nothing wrong, Jack," Daniel protested weakly, moving over to the sinks to wash his mouth out.
"That's the official medical opinion, is it?" O'Neill asked drily. "Don't tell me, let me guess. You turned the famous Jackson charm on that young new Lieutenant - the smile, that... thing you do with your eyelashes - yeah, that! - said 'I'm fine', and she believed you?"
A rueful smile indicated that he was spot on target.
"Well right now, you're going straight home and off to bed."
"Ah no. First I'm going to see if Crocetti's on base."
"No Daniel, you're going home. Now. That's an order, and to make sure it's carried out, I'm driving you home myself. We're well ahead of schedule. We'll tackle Crocetti in the morning."
Daniel was still inclined to demur.
"You don't give up, do you?" Jack said in exasperation. "You know, I reckon you wouldn't've got off so lightly if Doc. Fraiser'd been on duty, and I probably should haul your ass back to the infirmary and make them check you out properly this time. Now which is it to be?"
Given that choice, Daniel capitulated. O'Neill contacted Hammond, then escorted the exhausted archaeologist up to the surface and drove him home. Daniel was almost asleep by the time Jack pulled into the parking lot at the back of Mainland Street.
In the apartment, Jack ordered Daniel to get ready for bed while he made him a milky drink. After he'd finished in the bathroom, Jack nipped in and raided his bathroom cabinet. Sure enough there was a half full bottle of sleeping tablets. Daniel was remarkably resistant to what he considered unnecessary medication. Well not this time, buster!
Jack took the milky drink, laced with a crushed tablet, into Daniel's bedroom to find him stripped down to his shorts and hunting for a pyjama jacket. No doubt the aim was to keep Jack from seeing the state of his body. As well he might. Jack was shocked. The bruising from the two shots had really come out now, and covered most of his chest and one side. And those bruises had more bruises from his fall earlier that day. He shook his head.
"I really shoulda taken you back to the infirmary," he sighed.
For once, Daniel didn't argue. He accepted the drink without comment and drank it down. Within minutes of his head hitting the pillow, he was asleep. Jack shifted him into recovery position in case of any further vomiting, then 'phoned the S.G.C. to check on the whereabouts of Lt. Crocetti. He'd been on an advanced weapons course at the Academy from Wednesday and was currently on weekend leave. So far as the clerk knew he was at home. Jack took down his address, then he looked in on Daniel who was sleeping peacefully.
"'Night, Daniel," he whispered as he left.
He felt a little treacherous, leaving Daniel out, but he thought he would probably get on a lot better without him. Daniel was up too close on this one. Heck, as Daniel's proxy, he was probably too close too, but that was just Crocetti's bad luck...