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Jessie’s boots made crunching sounds as she walked down the gravel road. If this turned out to be another dead end, she was going to personally put a boot in some Tok’ra ass. Due to a typo, SG-7 had been sent to P3X-973, home of the Amazon, as Jessie now referred to it. They should have been sent to P3X-937. Took two weeks for the Tok’ra to realize they had a typo in their report. Idiots. Even though Jessie agreed wholeheartedly with Jacob about the importance of finding this "destroyer of armies" technology, the majority of the intel they had gotten from them had been crap. She adjusted her pack as they walked down the road, mingling with the other travelers. At least this planet was inhabited by people whose IQ appeared to be higher than the average vegetable. And no mud pits in sight. Her lips curled into a smile. As much as she had detested that mud, it had led to a most satisfying experience. She made a conscious effort to direct her thoughts back towards work. She and Cam were spending most of their free time together, but they had agreed that when they were at work, their interactions would be strictly professional. She glanced at the people around them. The main business on this planet appeared to be trade, which gave them the advantage of not standing out like a sore thumb. A few inquiries were made, and they realized better time would be made if they split up.
"Spencer, you and Watson head on over to the east end of town, see what you can find around the temple. Pisano, you and I will try to find out who’s been through here in the last week." Cam smiled at Jessie. "If you discover anything, radio in. Otherwise, we’ll meet back here in an hour."
Jessie wasn’t very optimistic they would find anything, but she kept that thought to herself. Halfway to their destination, she and Spencer ran across some type of monument that had carvings on all four sides. Giving it a quick once over, Jessie made a mental note to examine it more thoroughly on their way back.
The temple was ten minutes further down the road. It wasn’t overly large, but was intricately carved, a mixture of inscriptions and hieroglyphics. Thankfully it was open to the public, so they had no trouble accessing it. And, on the plus side, she recognized references to Tu right away. Jessie spent some time translating the inscriptions while Spencer recorded each section.
Jessie had just finished one part when she leaned back, tapping her pencil against her lips.
"Remember that monument on the way in?"
"Do me a favor; go record the side that faced east. I think those engravings might tie into what I’ve got here."
"Okay. Just the east side?"
Jessie frowned. "Do that one first, but go ahead and get all four. I’ll finish up here. It’ll save us some time instead of running back and forth."
She moved over to the last section as Spencer gathered up his equipment and headed out. Jotting down the last of the notes, she slipped her notebook back into her pack and exited the temple. There were a few people coming and going, but not many. Glancing up at the front of the temple, she noticed some type of carving that ran in a horizontal band across the top. Squinting against the sun, she tried to get a better look. She stepped around the building and realized the carving continued along that side as well. Walking slowly, she tried to decipher the symbols. Took another corner around to the back of the temple. Still focused on the inscription, she failed to notice how quiet it had become, nor did she see the movement behind her. The hand that clamped across her mouth caught her completely by surprise, nor did she have time to react when she felt the sting of something on her neck; she was unconscious before any instinct had a chance to kick in.
Almost an hour had passed before they realized Jessie was missing. Another hour was spent frantically searching for her, to no avail. A couple of people remembered seeing her at the temple, but no other sightings. Checking at the gate, no one remembered seeing her leave. Reinforcements were called in, but a full-scale search turned up nothing. It was as if she had disappeared into thin air.
Jessie drifted in and out of consciousness. By the time she regained full use of her senses, she had to battle a wave of suffocating panic. Small room. Table. Chair. Dirt floor. Bars across the front. Oh shit. Where the hell was she? Taking a couple of deep breaths, she tried to quell her fear. She moved slowly, sitting upright, seeing if she had any injuries. ‘Okay, no blood, not injured, that’s a plus’. She stood, getting her balance, perusing the space, before she heard a sound in the distance. ‘Please’, she thought, ‘don’t let it be the clank of Goa’uld armor’. The footsteps grew nearer. Holding onto the edge of the table, she waited until the source of the sound appeared; a man not much taller than she was, dark hair, slender build, carrying a tray. Punching in a code, he patiently waited for the bars to slide open before stepping inside. She watched him warily, scanning her memory, but not recognizing him.
"Good. You are awake. I was beginning to worry." He set the tray down on the table.
"And you are?"
"My name is Thomon. I’ve brought you something to eat, and drink. It has been a while since you last were able. Please," he said, gesturing to the tray.
Jessie looked at the tray, realizing the depth of her hunger, as well as her thirst. Thinking it couldn’t be any worse than what they had already injected her with, she reached for the goblet and gratefully drank the cool water. She watched Thomon as she took a seat at the table, gingerly sampling the fruits and bread he had brought her.
"Where am I?" she asked.
"That matters not," he answered evasively.
"It matters to me," she replied.
"You are a reader?" he asked, ignoring her previous remark.
"A reader?" Jessie frowned. "If you’re looking for a psychic, you’ve got the wrong person. I don’t do readings."
Thomon shook his head. "Not a psychic. A reader of ancient writings."
Her mind raced back through her last memories. Translating the inscriptions in the temple. Sending Spencer away. Trying to decipher the carvings outside the temple. Damn it. She had been so engrossed in what she had been doing, she failed to pay attention to her surroundings. And now she was paying the price for that little lapse in judgment. How many times during her training had Mitchell told her, ‘Never let your guard down’—he was undoubtedly going to kick her ass, if she managed to get back home.
Jessie looked at Thomon. "I’m an archaeologist. I can read some writings; not all."
Thomon inclined his head. "It will be easier on you if you can read what will be shown to you."
Before Jessie had a chance to respond, the crunch of footsteps echoed down the corridor. "Thomon!"
"I’m in here, Kaitsenko."
Kaitsenko? Oh dear God. Jessie never thought she would have wished to be in the possession of the Goa’uld, but at the moment that was exactly what she was wishing for.
A figure blocked out a good deal of the light coming from the hallway, and the bars slid open after he entered the code. Jessie swallowed hard as he stepped into the dim light of her cell. There was no doubt in her mind she was in a great deal of danger. The man who stood before her was tall, heavily muscled, and had the eyes of a snake; no warmth whatsoever emanated from them. A chill ran up her spine. This wasn’t good; it wasn’t good at all.
"Finally. I was beginning to think you were so weak you wouldn’t survive the transport."
Jessie remained silent, her eyes locked on him.
Kaitsenko turned his gaze to Thomon. "She will be able to translate the text?"
Thomon swallowed convulsively. "She said she can read some writings."
Kaitsenko’s eyes narrowed. "I have something I need translated. You will do that."
Jessica stood up from the table. "I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to translate anything. It just depends…"
She got no further than that before Kaitsenko pulled out a wicked looking whip, lashing out with no warning. Jessie instinctively turned away from him, raising her arms defensively, protecting her head. The whip whistled through the air, landing squarely across her back, slicing through her shirt and t-shirt and cutting a long, thin line down her back. Her breath hissed between her teeth at the unexpected pain. He brought the whip down again and she managed to block it with her hands, sustaining lacerations to her palms. Jessie stumbled backwards, trying to move out of Kaitsenko’s reach.
He walked over to her, grabbing her by her hair and viciously yanking her face up to his. "You will do what I tell you to do, or you will suffer the consequences. Do you understand me?"
Jessie nodded as best she could, wisely keeping any comments to herself. Kaitsenko pushed her away from him, causing her to lose her footing. She fell heavily against the chair, the edge of the seat striking her hard in the ribs, knocking her breath from her. Kaitsenko had gone to the front of the cell, touching something at his waistband. The bars slid open, and he and Thomon exited the room, leaving Jessie more than shaken, her hand pressed against the pain in her side.
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