"GC-Four, you have a go"
The immortal words ring in my ear for the first time, GC-four, Gatecrasher team four, our very first solo mission. Okay, so it was supposed to be a simple mission, find out why the Goa'uld put a great big honking Run Away' sign outside the gate when there was clearly an abandoned mothership visible on the surface in the distance.
Whilst Stargate Command loved the thought of adding a mothership to the navy, no doubt trying to get a rare one-up over the RSS, the situation was enough to make them nervous. The Goa'uld don't abandon warships, especially motherships for no reason and they certainly don't mark a world as unsafe unless they really have to, it's a sign of weakness.
Of course, the Malp picked nothing up that could explain this, no dangerous level of radiation, perfectly breathable atmosphere... And no movement.
That was what had Carter worried of course, I mean, there was plant life all around, though no trees which would disappoint General O'Neill were he here, but no signs at all of any animal life larger then an insect. Whilst such a situation could have evolved naturally it was extremely unlikely, and yes, the Malp could just have missed the signs of any of its sensors but the lack of animal life, combined with the warning off sign was making everyone wonder about a Bio-hazard. To put it bluntly, about a bacterial or viral contamination, hence why a GC team was being sent, our suits were fully sealed after all.
Unfortunately, our apothecary was quick to confirm Stargate Commands worst fears, within minutes of placing a sampling of this worlds bacteria on a sterile section of meat we had brought through the gate, the meat was visibly being broken down.
Which frankly scared the hell out off me and the rest of my team, I know we had checked the seals on our suits but one leak and well, I really didn't my meat' being visibly broken down thank you.
Unluckily, the job of investigating the bacteria, virus whatever it was went to the apothecary and the Doctors the other side of the gate, leaving us with little to do. So, I decided to leave the Docs to it, and took myself off to the mothership, along with Dobson and Bane. Raven and Phalanx I left to guard the gate and the apothecary.
Even in our servo-augmented Power Armoured suits, it took three hours to reach the mothership and we found it in a somewhat derelict state. It was obviously an older vessel, Cheops class and it bore the Mark of Ra, the first System Lord we had killed all those years ago. There were plants and bushes growing right up to the base and even in nocks and crannies over the ship itself, it was clearly weatherworn and even stained but despite that, I could not see any obvious damage to the ship itself. I could see nothing that might prevent it being operational, externally at least.
As we came up to the base of the ship, we begin to see signs of how quickly death had come to this world. There were the bones and armour of Jaffa scattered around the base of the ship, contorted and distorted, more then a few looked like they had broken their own bones as they tried to escape the horrific pain being inflicted upon them.
It was chilling to put it mildly, but I wasn't going to turn away. We were here now and it wasn't as if we would be leaving this world in a hurry. Might as well see if we could discover anything useful in the ship, such as how exactly this thing started in the first place, or, knowing the Goa'uld, exactly how it had escaped.
The ship itself was filled with more dead Jaffa, each more horrifically distorted and contorted then the last. It wasn't long before we noticed that the bones of the Jaffa were starting to show old signs of scaring and the firm conviction fell upon me that something had escaped, and those unlucky beings had gotten a concentrated dose, thereby suffering the worst of any being on this planet.
It wasn't long before we found the most likely source, what appeared to be an old lab, but it wouldn't be of any help to us, it was scorched and burned, the damage radiating from several points on the roof, besides obvious laboratory equipment and the doors. My first thought was that somebody had known that what they were investigating was a threat to themselves, and had rigged destruct charges they hoped would prevent escape. If that was what truly happened, and unless we found a working terminal, it was unlikely we would ever know for sure, then their attempts at containment had obviously failed.
Still, a quick check of the ship showed that there was no obvious damage internally and as far as I could tell, if the little matter of an extreme biohazard could be dealt with, the vessel could be commissioned into service. Unfortunately, that biohazard would make recommissioning the ship an extremely tricky proposition.
Then word got through, a circling UAV had spotted animal life in the distance and could we please take a closer look and confirm?
Of course we could, this thing, whatever it was, had killed every piece of animal life for miles around so finding any animal life alive at all was a bonus, if we could find out exactly why this group of animals had survived when no others had, then we had a much greater chance of figuring out how to return safely to Earth and maybe, just maybe, taking a little' present with us.
The animals, which we could see clearly as we approached amount to a whole colony, deer-like creatures nervously eating grass and plants next to a lion-like creature that looked like it should be a carnivore, not the herbivore it was acting like. There were even birds, darting across the sky, but careful, always careful not to cross a boundary we couldn't see.
Around this little oasis of life, there was death. Mounds and mounds of bones from birds, those deer's, it really looked like there was every type of bone imaginable in the pile, a pile which vanished into the distance, visibly surrounding the little oasis.
I naturally reported this to the apothecary, and to put it mildly, he was interested. He said it sounded like it wasn't anything the animals had or were that was protecting them, but like it was something different about the area they were in. That much was obvious even to me, and there was already this claxon ringing in my mind, screaming that the answer was right in front of me but it must have been too obvious, for my conscious mind couldn't figure it out.
We carefully skirted the oasis, not wanting to move into it ourselves, it might have increased our chances of survival yes, but we had no idea if we would be carrying the disease, whatever it was, into an otherwise uncontaminated area, and we were certainly contaminated.
However, I wasn't ready for exactly how contaminated we were.
I certainly wasn't ready to collapse, my foot giving way beneath me as it suddenly burst out into the most unimaginable agony ever. I was a trained soldier, not just that, but as part of Gatecrasher basic I had received additional training in resisting interrogation and pain and yet it took merely three seconds for me to lose my mind to the pain. I had no control; I just writhed, my muscles firing erratically, my body contorting as the pain overtook me, threatening to tear my own bones out of joint.
Then, abruptly, the pain changed, it was still unimaginable pain, but a different pain. It was enough for me to regain some sense, to realise that whilst I still had no control over my body, that whilst my heart was beating to dangerous levels, I wasn't writhing any more. My muscles had in fact locked.
It took a few seconds longer to realise that it was heat I was feeling, heat inside my armour.
Then, it was gone, just a lingering burning, aching that screamed at my senses. Unsurprisingly, I collapsed unconscious.
I don't know how long I was out, but the first thing I saw was Dobson, out of uniform, in obvious discomfort due to the burns that seemed to mar his body but happy.
"Your awake good, we weren't sure if you were ever going to wake up"
Dobson frowned, "a seal failed on your suit, near you left foot, which is gone by the way, the damage was extensive enough the even with the limited view that could get of it through my helmet cam, the Doctors back at base ordered it be cut off"
"But " I paused, "I can still feel it"
Dobson sighed, "I'm a medic, not a Doctor, but I think that's normal. Unfortunately, I have no idea when we will be able to get a Doc or the Apothecary to take a proper look at it"
A thought niggled at my mind, and I starred at Dobson, but I wasn't running at anywhere near full steam and it took me a few seconds to put the question I wanted to ask into words, "When did you get burnt?"
He winced, "as soon as you started convulsing, these small monkey types appeared, threw you into one of the hot springs. Managed to get your armour off too, they seem to be quite intelligent... then, they went after us. Bane is still hiding; they didn't even leave him his pants"
He frowned, "they left us alone after dunking us though, burned we might be, but nobodies watching us as if we were a threat anymore"
The claxon that had been ringing in my mind before my collapse suddenly silenced, "Dobson "
He looked at me, worried.
"What is the most basic way to kill a bacterium?"
He looked at me puzzled, "penicillin, bleach all these have been tried already, they don't work"
I sighed, wishing, just wishing that for a second, the pain would all go away, "we're surrounded by hot springs, this is the only oasis of animal life on the planet, its got to be at least 10 degrees hotter here then at the mothership, or the gate..."
Dobson still hadn't gotten it, "so?"
"Heat! If this is a bacteria, then it's most likely very vulnerable to heat!"
His mouth widened into an O, then he dashed off and with a groan, I closed my eyes and feel unconscious.
They destroyed our suits of course, they had too many small nocks and crannies where this beast of a bacteria could survive and my neighbours no doubt think I have a really bad sunburn thanks to a second dose of heat, this time courtesy of Stargate Medical but my teams alive, I'm alive, albeit relearning how to walk, this time with an artificial foot so all works out well.
The world itself is still out of bounds but it's a weakened threat, we know how to deal with the bacteria that caused so much pain and destruction now. I have little doubt that at some point an effort will be made to retrieve that Mothership, maybe even find a way to cleanse the world of what has to be the most dangerous bacteria I have ever heard of.
They confirmed that of course actually, the apothecary took five minutes to spot it was a bacteria; he just didn't pass that along to us, for which he has been disciplined.
There is even this hope that some of the survivors could be transplanted to a safe world, one without the bacteria which forced them to hide in such a small oasis but it will be some time before we will get that far.
One day we will return to plague world.