DR: Okay, this is my first true fanfic. It's going to be quite dark in places. Also, this first chapter is, chronoglically, not the first part of the story. I'll explain later...
DISCLAIMER: I own none of the characters in this story at all.
DR: One last thing. For this first part, I wrote it without actuall naming any of the characters except when they spoke to each other. All will be revealed in the later chapters, so if you can't work out who everyone is, don't panic...)D
In the early evening gloom the city lay quiet, the slab sided whitewashed buildings reflecting what little sunlight there was left. Like many towns and cities just south of the equator, the buildings were composed of local rock, cement and wood, rather than the steel and glass structures of the western world. Unlike other such cities, this one had its streets lit with simple wrought iron streetlights, part of an attempt to attract tourists.
But tourists would not come here now, not for a while.
Only a few lamps worked now. Others flicked, leaning at odd angles, others lay, dead and dark, snapped in two or completely uprooted.
The lack of light was a blessing however. It hid the worst of the carnage that filled the streets. Nearly every window was broken, the glass shattered, spread within and without. Doors hung off one hinge, or lay flat on the ground. Some of the walls had been shoved in and were riddled with cracks, as if a great mass had crashed into them. Others were gone, just a pile of rubble and a gaping hole in the buildings side to indicate that a wall had been there. A few of the smaller buildings had collapsed, spilling rubble onto the streets themselves.
Many small vehicles lined the streets. None would ever run again. Some lay on their sides, others had run into buildings, and each other. Nearly all had damage that could not have occurred during the crashes. Metalwork was torn, ripped away, as if a giant can opener had gone over them. Some were crushed almost flat; others were almost bent in two from a sideways shunt.
And here and there, slumped in corners and open doorways, or splayed across the road, were the bodies of people. All were torn, slashed, as if great animals had mauled them, and in some cases, fed on them. Great puddles and splashes of a dark liquid were scattered around. There was almost no movement anywhere.
The silence was not complete however. A low wind whistled though the wrecks, and moaned as it ran though doorways and gapping holes. Rags of tarpaulin hanging from the remains of market stalls rustled, and here and there a door slowly creaked on its hinges or slammed against doorways. And off in the distance, the faint sound of a raging fire could be heard, the roaring and crackling of the flames merged into one from the distance. Apart from that the city seemed dead.
Almost. In one area, there were signs of life. A sound, the grumble of an engine, on its last legs, labouring, each second seeming like it was about to die.
Slowly, on one of the main streets, a weak shaft of light could be seen emerging from a side street. The sound came from that street as well. Slowly the source emerged, it's nose poking out tentatively, almost hesitantly, as if afraid to disturb the grisly scene. Then it pushed forward, revealing the full form. It was a minibus, one of thousands made and sold around the world. But this one was a sorry excuse for one of it's kind. The right front wing was crumpled, smashed into the engine bay, a thin stream of steam emerging from the wrecked radiator. The headlight there was completely gone, leaving only the left light to show the way. Dents ran along the side, as did scars in the metal, great long slices cut into it, like paper sliced with a knife, in groups of three. Nearly all the side windows were gone, leaving shards of broken, jagged glass in the rims. The windscreen was still there, but cracks radiated from the lower right corner. And over it's once white paintwork, here and there, were sprays of a dark substance that glistened in the weak light, just like the puddles and splashes on the ground. The roof had also been affected, with a great long dent running almost the whole length, while near the front a rounded mass protruded, looking like nothing other than a man with his head and upper torso sticking out of the roof.
Slowly it rolled down the street, picking it's way between wrecked cars, piles of rubble, and the bodies. All the changes were gradual, as if the driver wanted the line of least change. In part this was correct. The driver did not want to overtax the engine anymore, and did not want to cause unneeded, and unnecessary, discomfort to those who rode in the back.
Down the right side a large sliding door could be made out, and staring out of the rear most window of said door, a man could be seen. He watched every thing they passed, covering each and everything with the compact, business like weapon he held in a professional two-handed grip, the stock tight to his shoulder.
As they passed one of the few working lights, his face was thrown into sharp relief for a few seconds. Lined and lean, almost hawkish, mid 40's, his face was that of a typical military officer. The cap that was pulled down tight over his head covered most of his head, but a few beads of sweat dotted his creased forehead, and the lines around his eyes revealed much more about his current state. Not only did they show the grim concentration of a professional solider, but also the strain he was under. But most of all, his face showed the tiredness that filled him. Not the tiredness of a long day, nor the tiredness of an intensive experience, though both were there, but there was also the tiredness of a day filled with terror and fuelled by adrenaline.
"We've got to find a place to rest, soon." He muttered, half to himself. Even his voice, under the clipped accent that most military types picked up after years of service, sounded tired, filled with strain.
"What about that place up ahead, on the corner?" came a voice from above. The man glanced to his left, at the backside and legs of the other man who had spoken. His torso, head and arms were almost completely hidden from sight, as he was standing up though a hole torn in the roof so he could see all round, and bring his weapon to bear on any target. It was a dangerous thing to do, as the edges were sharp and jagged. The only thing preventing him being sliced in two if the bus were to suddenly lurch was the body armour he wore.
The old solider leaned forward and to the left slightly, the better to see out of the cracked windscreen between the driver and the front passengers. Up ahead the main street they were travelling down was crossed by another, and on the far side of this crossing, tight into the corner, stood a largish building, with what looked like a wall enclosing some ground around the far two sides. No other buildings were close by, and like all others there were no signs of life. They had come to the edge of town.
He leaned back and looked over his shoulder. "Recognise it?" he asked the man sitting there, who leaned forward himself to see.
"Yes," he said, his voice slightly older and without the military mannerisms of the first. "A old style tavern, acts as the point of contact between the city and the people who live in the countryside. It's old, built back when this region was more, unstable. If I remember rightly, it has thick walls with shuttered windows, has rooms for let on the second floor, and has a walled section round the rear, originally for carriages and horses, with gates that can be barred."
"Thanks doc, I'll take it." Replied the first man, the humour driving a little of the strain from his voice. "Keep an eye out people, especially when we're crossing that other road." Most of the other people in the minibus tensed and straightened slightly, the light glinting off the weapons as they were raised a little higher, showing that, despite the strain, their tiredness and injuries, they were determined to stay alert.
Slowly the minibus edged out across the intersection. Everyone capable looked intently around, but there was no sign of life anywhere. It was as quiet as the grave as the minibus slowed further, and begun to swing into the open gateway.
"Teal'c, as soon as we stop, get those gates shut."
"Understood" came the deep reply from the rear, from a large human shape staring out the ruined rear window. The voice showed no sign of emotion to those who didn't know him, but those four in the bus who did, the strain and tension was audible.
"I'll help." Spoke up a young female voice, across from the man addressed as Teal'c. She sounded scared half out of her mind, and the tiredness was there, but underneath there was steel. Teal'c turned his head towards the voice, towards the slight female figure, and bowed his head silently, his way of showing respect and acknowledgement.
Slowly the bus passed the gates and drew to a halt. As soon as it had completely stopped, the twin rear doors swung open, then first, one, then another figure climbed down and made their way to the gates. The first was tall, broad-shouldered, carrying a long staff-like object longer than he was tall, with bulbous ends. The second was much smaller, almost petite, slim, with a long trail of hair. Together they began pushing the massive heavy wooden gates shut, one each. Surprisingly, the small female seemed to move her half of the gate just as well as he did. Once the gates were closed, they both took a hold of the great piece of timber that lay to one side, and placed it in the hooks on the back of the gates, barring it from within, a relic of a bygone era.
As they made their way back to the bus, he retrieving his odd shaped staff, she a crossbow almost too big for her she had been carrying, the side door slid open. As it opened, there was a clattering as the spent bullet cases that had collected in the foot well were released and fell to the ground. The sound almost, but not quite covered the splashing sound as a dark liquid, which had also collected in the foot well, flowed out. The lean faced man stepped out, shifting remaining bullet cases that were still in the foot well with his boot.
"Alright, my team will check it out. The rest of you stay here." He said into the bus interior. Slowly two more figures climbed out, the second nearly slipping on the spent casings on the ground. No one spoke. Most were too tired to do so.
The two new figures, the lean faced man and Teal'c made their way to the building. The first man and one of the new figures, both carrying the same compact weapon, flipped a switch near the front of their weapons, and small torches lit up small areas of the wall.
A few small windows on the ground floor, one simply wooden door and a trio of normal sized windows on the second floor were the only features of the slab sided building. They reached the door, Teal'c crouching directly in front of it, a few feet away, the narrower end of his staff pointed right at it. The two with the two handed weapons crouched either side, while the fourth, with only a handgun, stood with his hand on the handle, ready to swing it open. The end of the staff split slightly with an electrical crack, and tiny yellow sparks ran the length of the splits between the four sections.
The guy with his hand on the door looked at the leader. He nodded. Quickly the other man stepped away, opening the door as he did. The other three watched, but there was no sign of anything within the short corridor that faced them.
"Carter." Said the leader. The other person looked at him, nodded, then rose slightly and moved into the hall, pressed up against the wall, covering the three doors that led deeper into the building. The man who spoke was next in, taking up position on the other side.
"Daniel." He said, motioning the man who had opened the door inside, then pointed at the door to the left. Daniel moved into, opened that door, before bringing out a full sized torch, switching it on, and proceeding into the room.
"Carter." The leader said, motioning towards the right hand door. The other figure in the hall slid forwards and opened the indicated door, and looked in.
"Looks like a office, Colonel" said the person called Carter from within the room. Her voice also had traces of the accent of the Colonel, but was much younger.
"Okay. Daniel?" Said the Colonel, directing his enquiry into the room in which Daniel had gone, as he moved up to the last door, pressing himself against the wall to it's side.
"Err… a set of toilets, and what looks a kitchen Jack." Came the slightly muffled reply. Daniels voice didn't sound military. Instead he sounded like some college professor.
"Alright. Teal'c?" At this Teal'c, who was still kneeling outside, stood up and walked in, raising his staff as he did so. As he reached the door, he reached for the handle. After a quick look at the Colonel, who nodded once, he pulled the door open. Jack swung around and down, ending up on one knee in the doorway, Teal'c's staff head just above his own head.
The room they looked into was large, filling the corner of the building. Just to the left an archway led to a set of stair leading upwards. A large, heavy wooden bar ran along a wall from the far outside of the arch, running most of the length of the room. At the far end it angled away, with another arch over the bar, then a short piece of wall, then a third arch linking it to the far wall. The outer wall was angled in the corner as well, matching the bar, with a small antechamber running from the front door. A number of small tables and a scattering of simple wooden chairs were spaced in the open area. Longer seats ran along the wall just to the right, and on both sides of the door. Barstools stood in front of the bar, while behind it several shelves lined with bottles ran along the wall. The whole place looked like it had been transplanted straight out of a western.
"Alright, Teal'c, Carter, check upstairs." Said, Jack, rising from his kneeling position and moving out into the room. As he did so, a door behind the bar swung open. Acting on instinct, Jack swung round, pointing his weapon at the door… and was nearly blinded by the light the figure in the door was holding.
"Whoa, whoa, Jack, it's me."
Slowly Jack lowered his gun. "Blast it Daniel, watch were you point that thing."
"Sorry. Err, there's a storage room back there, with some fridge and freezer units, plus loads of shelves. There's still power and food, but looks like no ones home."
" Alright, check the other side of that wall, then start closing and bolting the shutters over the windows facing the streets. And close the windows themselves and draw the curtains. Don't want them seeing any light or hearing anything."
Daniel nodded slowly, then worked his way along the bar then went round the corner.
Jack sighed, rubbed at his eyes, and moved over to the door. Seeing it was ajar, he quickly checked down each street he could see, before closing and bolting the thick wooden doors. 'Won't stop the larger ones,' he thought to himself 'but it will hold back the smaller types and buy us some time.'
He then walked over to the last of the archways, and looked over the room therein. It seemed to be a more upmarket lounge area than the rest of the bar, filled as it was with two groups of more ornate and comfortable couches. He could see that the bar continued around to this section, but the room was only about two thirds as long as the bar. As he watched, Daniel climbed over the bar on this side and walked over to the farther of the two windows in the room that looked out onto the street. Kneeling on the seat, he quickly closed the wooden shutters and drew the curtains that covered them.
Jack returned to the bar section and did the same to the window closest to the door he had entered. As he closed the shutters, he noticed that the window was recessed into the wall, with the shutters flush to the wall. There was about four inches between the shutters and the window, which was only a foot by a foot. 'Good, nice and tight. Only the smallest ones will be able to squeeze though these.' The curtains were heavy felt, completely covering the shutters. Perfect for ensuring no light would escape outside.
"Colonel, we've finished our sweep." Came Carters voice from the small radio clipped to Jack's left shoulder. He reached up and pressed the transmit button.
"Negative sir. No ones here, no bodies, nothing. Looks like whoever was here ran as soon as they heard what was going on further in the city."
"No big surprise. Alright, get down here and start bringing the others in."
"Roger that, sir."
"O'Neill." Teal'c's voice replaced Carters. "The main bedchamber has a window that overlooks the intersection. An excellent point for a lookout, able to provide suppressing fire in two directions."
"Good work Teal'c. We'll sort that out later. Right now we need to get everyone and everything out of the minibus and in here."
Daniel finished bolting down the last shutter on the end wall, and began to close the remaining shutters. O'Neill resumed doing so as well, and quickly they had all the windows shuttered and covered. Looking around, Jack spotted the light switches behind the counter. He flicked a few switches, and small lamps along the walls glowed with a warm light.
"Ahhh, that's better." Jack sighed as he slid into one of the barstools. He put down his automatic rifle on the counter, rubbing his eyes again. Turning around, he saw Daniel slump into one of the longer benches by the door, his eyes closed behind his glasses, his brown hair hanging down in sweaty clumps from beneath his broad-brimmed slate-grey hat.
'He looks like I feel' thought Jack, as sounds of movement came from the short passageway leading out back.
First one though was large man, almost as tall as Teal'c, but broader in the shoulder, the muscles in his arms lean, showing that they were there for use and not show. His heavy black body armour, combined with his muscled body, almost made his head, with it's light brown crew cut and top mop of bleached blonde look comical, but the expression on his face wiped any humour from the scene.
Although he was armed, with one of the largest shotguns ever made slung over one shoulder and a massive machete on his left thigh strapped over the urban camouflage pants he wore, he did not carry any weapon in his arms. Instead, within the massive arms covered by turquoise sleeves, he carried a young woman dressed in black clothes, from her knee length boots, shorts and rider suit top. Under her blond hair, her skin was pale, and the reasons were clear as to why: her midsection was bandaged heavily, with a red stain near the centre. The man quickly walked over to the bench on the far side of the door, and with gentleness at odds with his massive size, laid the girl on it. The white letters spelling out TRAT on the back of his body armour were clearly visible as he bent over her, gentle stroking her head. Jack was still unsure what that meant about the two.
Carter was next. She still held the automatic rifle in her right hand, but in her left she carried a large grey metal case, standard military supplies. Like O'Neill, Daniel and Teal'c she wore slate-grey combat fatigues, with a black vest festooned with pockets and pouches. On her left arm a grey emblem could be seen, and she had a cap like O'Neill's on, but some of her blond hair hung down from under it. The vest was slashed down one side, and she walked with a slight limp, favouring her left leg, which was bandaged around the lower half. Her right check also had a vivid slash across it, from which blood had welled up and run down a short way. She laid the case down on the table in front of Daniel, and then sat down next to him.
The third person to walk though was male, rugged and weather beaten underneath the off-white shirt, brown pants and fedora. In fact, these, combined with the saddle pack he wore across his body, bullwhip hanging from his belt just above it, and the holstered revolver on his right leg, made it look like he, like the bar, had walked right off the set of an old western. He was carrying another supply case in his left hand, while in his right he had an old rifle, dating back to World War II. Depositing the case next to the one Carter had put down, he slid into another bar stool, the shreds of his sleeves hanging from him, as he took his head in his hands and leaned his elbows on the counter. "I'm getting too old for this." He muttered, his voice as weather beaten as his face, his mannerisms dating back as old as the rifle he had lent against the bar.
A young woman was next though, struggling with a large wooden case. Small, with a rounded face and dark red hair, she managed to heave the box onto a table, then simply dropped into the nearest chair. She sighed, and lent back, clearly exhausted. Reaching up to wipe her forehead, she seemed surprised that her fingers came away bloody from a nasty cut just below the hairline. 'God,' O'Neill thought, 'she can't be more that 20 years old'
Two men staggered though after her. The one, pale skinned, white haired, grizzled with a scar running down to his right eye, leaned heavily on the younger, raven haired black man. They both wore similar clothes: Grey pants, grey short sleeved tops, with black fingerless gloves and armoured vest, similar to O'Neill's. The black man held a M16 assault rifle in his free hand as he helped the other man to a free space on one of the benches. The older mans right leg was trailing, with a red stained bandage covering almost the whole of his thigh, but he refused to let go of the MP5 sub-machinegun he held. The black guy eased him down to a sitting position, then sat besides him, brushing at the bandage around his own forehead, the white standing clear out against his skin. He too had been limping slightly. His left ankle had been badly sprained during a fall.
Another woman walked in, almost in a daze. Her reddish hair was pulled back into a rough ponytail, and her left arm hung limp. The left shoulder of the khaki jacket she wore was in shreds, and the state of her own shoulder underneath was not much better. She had several bandages around her legs, visible since she wore khaki shorts. She too simply flopped into a chair, letting her tattered backpack slide off before she did so.
The next man that walked though was quite similar to the man leaning on the bar. He too wore a lose shirt, pale blue rather than off white, battered jeans and a tan fedora. He too was weather beaten; his face and general build indicating that he spent most of his time outdoors. He had clearly not shaved for some time, and he held a standard 12-gauge shotgun awkwardly, in the manner of one who knows how to use such a gun, but does not on a regular basis.
A woman was next. Short, with brunette hair, she was also dressed in slate-grey, but lacked the black vest of O'Neill and the others. She also only had a holstered pistol at her hip, instead carrying several cases emblazoned with the universal red-cross indicating medical supplies. The front of her fatigues were spotted with red patches, since as the most qualified doctor and medic, she had been tending to peoples injuries. The right sleeve had been torn off, and a bandage was wrapped around her upper arm, but it was a relatively minor injury, compared with others. After resting the cases on a spare table, she slumped in the nearest chair, leaning on the cases, totally drained.
After a slight delay, another man limped in. Tanned skin, dressed completely in black, with dark hair, he was heavily favouring his left leg. It had been smashed once before, and the events of the last few hours had almost caused it to begin to break up again. His black clothes were stained, and his right hand was wrapped in bandages. He limped over to the woman with the torn shoulder, and then eased himself into the chair next to her. She responded by leaning onto him, and he wrapped an arm around her, mindful of her shoulder.
The next person was a female O'Neill knew. She was tall and slim, but curved in all the right places, and her brunette hair was tied back in an incredibly long, complex ponytail. Under normal circumstances, males all around would have been staring at her, desiring her. But right now was not the time for such thoughts. With one forearm wrapped in bandages, her black short-sleeved top torn from one shoulder, blood stains over that region, and the two massive handguns that were slung in the gun holsters on her thighs, she looked less like she had walked out of a super model magazine and more like out of a war zone. Which she had, in a sense.
After her was a man of medium build, brown hair, wearing a now worthless suit. When they had first meet, he had been cool, sophisticated, seemingly unmoved by the chaos around them. O'Neill had, of course, considered him a stuck-up British aristocrat. Now, after several hours chancing death, his view had changed. The man was smart, determined, and a crack shot. Now, he allowed his weariness to show, as he carried another case though, before sitting down on a free spot on one of the benches, Winching as he did so. His left leg was bandaged almost the whole length, to match the long jagged gash down that leg covered by the bandage.
'Only three, no two, more to go.' thought O'Neill, as a young woman entered. She was also barely 20, but carried herself with the air of one who has been in this sort of situation before. Surprisingly, despite her frail appearance, thin and almost no meat on her, she had no trouble carrying the standard supply case in her left hand, while the right held a strange weapon. It looked like an ancient crossbow, ready to fire, with three or four more bolts wrapped around the staff. It had a set-up similar to a pump action shotgun underneath, and O'Neill knew from watching that it worked in a similar way. Pumping the fore grip would prime the bowstring and bring another bolt into position.
However, O'Neill could see, with his years of military experience, that she was on the verge of breaking down. Her midriff was wrapped in bandages, and her long pale blond hair was matted with sweat and blood. She slumped into a chair next to the other young, redheaded, woman.
Finally Teal'c entered, an ammo case under his arm and his staff weapon, it's tip now closed. He was a big man, round jowls, dark skined and completely bald. The gold emblem on his forehead had blood collected in the grooves, and he was heavily bandaged over his left shoulder. As he placed the case, carefully, on the counter, O'Neill could see that the bandaging was even heavier over his shoulder blade. Each movement of his arm would cause agony, but Teal'c, as always, did not give vent to his pain. It was just not his way. He then stood by the door. He was relapsing into old habits.
The last person though shut the door behind her, and then leaned against it, signing heavily. She was dressed in a grey body stocking, no arms, that run from high on her neck down into the black leather boots that stopped just below her knees. Over this she wore a conforming black armour vest, covering her entire torso, from a few inches below her neck down to her crotch. It looked almost like a one-piece bathing suit. She also wore long gloves made of the same material as the body stocking, running from mid-upper arm down and under her fingerless black gloves. The strangest thing about her though was her hair. It was a bright, vibrate red, the sort of colour that it took dyes to get normally, but this was her natural colour. The hair of her eyebrows was a couple of shades darker, as were her eyelashes.
She was also heavily armed. Strapped to her left thigh was the scabbard for one of the newest stun rods, capable of rendering a fully-grown man incapable of movement for several seconds. On her right was a holstered Glock pistol, and O'Neill knew that she also had a brace of submachine guns at the small of her back. In contrast, the M249 SAW she held in her right hand seemed massive, the end of its barrel almost reaching the floor.
Suddenly she groaned and her left hand moved to her right side.
"You okay Regina?" The young black man had looked up at her when she groaned.
"Yeah, Rick, I'm okay." She replied. She straightened and seemed to push the pain back. "How's Gail?"
Rick turned back to the man he had been helping. "Not good, but he survived Ibis Island with worse than this, so he should be okay."
The brunette woman got up at this point. "Here, let me take a look." She said, advancing on Regina.
"Really, I'm fin..aahh!" Regina gasped, her hand going back to her side, and she almost dropped the SAW.
O'Neill quickly walked over and took the SAW from her, as the other woman took Regina's shoulders. "Go with Dr Fraiser, Regina. Or do I have to make it an order?" he said, a mock threatening tone in his voice.
Regina looked up at him. "Nice try Colonel, but wrong division. I don't report to the US Air Force" she replied with a scathing look, and then groaned again.
"Well, you'll at least listen to this one." He turned to Janet. "There are more comfortable couches in the room though there." He pointed at the far archway leading to the lounge area.
"Thanks Colonel." Said Janet. Slowly she guided Regina though to the other room.
O'Neill watched them go, and then heard a low chuckle coming from one side. He turned to Rick, seeing that he was the one chuckling, while even Gail, the pale haired man, also seemed amused. Slightly.
"Never thought I'd see the day when Regina couldn't handle the pain anymore, and needs help to get to a doctor." He said in reply to Jacks queried look.
"I heard that!" Came Regina's voice from the other room. Rick just looked smug.
"Tough woman?" Jack asked.
"You could say that." Rick shrugged. "She definitely hates to show any weakness, no matter much she suffers."
"Figures. What was Ibis Island?"
Rick hesitated. "That's Classified."
"That's not good enough. I know about a lot of classified stuff. What happened?"
"I can't tell you." Rick visibly squirmed.
"Anything like what's happening now?" Jack pushed.
Rick just nodded. "Something similar to it, yeah."
Jack sighed, then went and sat back down on the barstool. He turned and looked over at the British man. "Got any more special tricks up your sleeves?"
The man looked up, a faint smile on his face. "Sorry, I ran out a while ago. There may have been more in my car, but…" his voice trailed off.
"Yeah, I know."
Slowly Jack looked over all of the others in the room. Some he knew well, others barely. Each one had come from different backgrounds, different lives. But they all had one thing in common. 'We have survived this far,' thought Jack. 'Now we just have to survive the night, then the day after, and the day after that….'
Slowly he rested his head in his hand as he thought over what had happened in the last 20 hours…
DR: Well, there we go for now. In a week, we'll see how the one set of characters got into this mess...Oh, and the more reviews I get, the more likely that I'll finish this story...XD