A/N: Sorry. I know I haven't updated forever. Just a warning... this chapter sucks. I can't believe I wrote this... but it was so long ago.
Malcolm Barrett turned up the small desk fan in the office and tugged at his collar. He scowled. It was hot even in the high-rise office building, it was August and he was in Dallas instead of D.C., and SG-1 was coming to take over his case.
Not that he didn't like seeing SG-1 - or a certain wormhole physicist, to be more precise - but he'd poured hundreds of hours into searching for the remnants of Ba'al's empire on Earth, and he wanted to be there when they finally uncovered something important.
Athens, Texas. The intelligence was good, and very promising. Barrett sighed. He knew SG-1 knew more than his men could hope to know about Ba'al, and if there was anything to be found, they'd be the ones to do it. And he didn't particularly want to camp out in West Texas in 110-degree weather for a week. But. It would be nice to be able to see the fruits of all the hours he'd spent poring through data, searching for the threads.
Barrett leaned back in the chair and looked at the wall clock. A brilliant blue flash of light filled the room and left him momentarily blinded.
It also left four people in the room with him.
Barrett blinked his eyes, trying to clear the afterimages off his retinas. He stood.
"Agent Barrett," said Carter, extending her hand.
He shook it, still slightly dazed. "Colonel Carter. Good to see you."
Sam smiled. "Agent Barrett, you remember Dr. Jackson, Teal'c, and Colonel Mitchell."
"Of course," Barrett lied. He knew he'd worked with Jackson once, but he only knew the others by reputation. "Welcome to Dallas." He motioned for them to sit down. "General Landry told me you were coming. I'll give you all the pertinent data, but I suggest you take most of the afternoon off. You'll need to get to know this state - it's got an ... interesting... identity."
Sam nodded. "I was giving a lecture in Houston once, and stopped by the state capitol on the way back. They've still got "Republic of Texas" engraved on the floor."
"Takes some getting used to," Barrett admitted. "I've been working out of this office for two weeks now and I still get strange looks from the locals."
"So," Cameron said, "What can you tell us about this clone factory of Ba'al's?"
Barrett moved to fetch a folder from a nearby cabinet, and laid several large satellite photographs on the desk. "Our first tip was from an oil surveyor who was going over the region near Athens," he said. "Some odd signals were messing up his instruments. Of course, it took us a few weeks to learn that and a couple more before anyone checked it out."
Daniel scanned the photographs. "I don't see anything besides ranch houses and roads."
"There really isn't anything to see on that one - that's just an aerial of the town. But look at this," Barrett pulled another photograph out. "It's the latest from the Odyssey. Got it just this morning. Traces of naquadah, and some energy readings that may be from naquadah generators. And a few we couldn't identify. Now, we'd suspected this area before the Odyssey gave us this, from what our spy satellites and others told us. That's why you got the call. But we still don't know if there's anything there - anything intact, that is. We think that the facility is located somewhere in this area." Barrett pointed to a portion of the map that was outlined in red. "The Rockin' S Ranch, formerly owned by J.B. Dunbar. He deserted the ranch about a month ago and sold all the stock. Livestock, that is."
Cameron looked up from a sheet he was scanning. "And do you think that might have anything to do with..." He looked back at the paper. "... the murder of 13-year-old Alicia Walters, around 0100 hours July 22? Body found in a ditch not far from the border of the Rockin' S and Circle H Ranch... must've been her relatives' place... and they moved out within the next week."
"It might," said Barrett. "The fact is, the crime rate in that town has spiked ever since then. So has the number of people moving out. And they're selling for ridiculously low prices, too."
"Wait, wait," interrupted Daniel. "If this facility is Ba'al's, he would've set it up months, even years ago. It makes sense that this sort of crime might happen when he tried to start up an operation - especially in a small town where everyone knows each other - but not months later, when things are deserted."
"Is it possible that it is not deserted?" Teal'c asked. "That Ba'al is still growing clones on Earth?"
Barrett's eyes widened in surprise. This was not something that he had considered. He saw the members of SG-1 exchanging glances, and suddenly he wished he could assure them that it wasn't even a remote possibility. But he'd been in the business too long to write this off.
Could Ba'al still have a presence somewhere on Earth?
Sam settled the black Stetson on her head and made a face at the full-length mirror. She looked like an idiot. The jeans were ok - boot cut Levi's - but the boots looked dumb. They were comfortable enough, but she'd never imagined wearing something like that in public. She looked like a cowgirl wannabe, for goodness sake. The belt was wide and decorated with silver ... whatevers... that looked Western. She tugged her white blouse down over it, trying to hide it. At least the blouse had short sleeves - she'd need it in this climate.
Yesterday afternoon it had been 108 degrees by four thirty. It hadn't cooled off until at least eight o'clock. And all the people they'd talked to said that West Texas was way worse than this.
Sam had tried to pass it off as a Texas tall tale - during the afternoon's outings she'd learned one thing; that everything was bigger in Texas and woe to all those who said it was not! They'd gone to the suburbs, on Barrett's advice, to meet some locals and get a feel for the land. They'd stopped at a state park to fish and listen to some old-timers weave tall tales about the good ol' days. When the weather had gotten too hot, they'd gone to a library and read about Texas history and culture. More tall tales and legends. They'd admired the brave souls who still ran about in hundred-degree weather playing soccer and baseball, and stopped by a working ranch to watch cowboys sweat and cattle move.
Sam thought she'd be safe as long as she didn't act too much like a New Yorker and didn't mess with Texas. The people were very friendly, for the most part, and very proud to be Texan. But they didn't dress like this!
She frowned at the mirror again. She looked like one of the girls she'd seen at the line dance last night, like she'd just come in from a rodeo or something. Even at the dance most girls had just worn jeans and modern blouses. Except for the ones who'd worn calico skirts, of course.
Sam moved away from the mirror and opened the door of the changing room. Good. The hallway was empty. Her ears reddened when she imagined what the others would say when they saw her. She sincerely hoped that they looked just as ridiculous.
She reached the conference room door, and hesitated, hand on the knob. She peeked through the small window. The other three were already there, dressed in their strange outfits. Actually, they didn't look bad at all. It was Barrett who looked out-of-place in his suit.
Teal'c had chosen to go all out, and was sporting a pink-and- orange checked shirt with a bolo tie, along with a large white Stetson and broad belt buckle. Definitely too much Bonanza. Daniel had chosen a more conservative color, without a tie, and was juggling a red bandana and cowboy hat, evidently trying to decide on one. Cameron had avoided the cowboy hats entirely, and had a maroon Texas A&M baseball cap on his head. He'd chosen a solid colour long-sleeved work shirt - Sam wondered how soon he'd drop from heat exhaustion - and was advising Daniel to go with the hat.
Well. Sam had already decided she'd rather hear them tease her to her face than go around giving her strange looks without mentioning her appearance. Even though it wasn't her style, she might as well make her entrance dramatic.
She flung open the conference room door, put one hand on the frame and struck a pose. She did her best to radiate confidence as she asked, "Well, boys, how do I look?"