Disclaimer: I own nothing. Save all the random people I killed off but I'm not sure if they were copyrighted already. Please don't sue me?

Summary: An AU to the Fourth Horseman (yes it's an SGA fic). SGA-1 come to find out what happened. Non-SGA character death(s).

Feedback: Is my food, water, and sleep. Yes please :)

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

John Masefield - Sea Fever

They don't know what to expect when they step out of the gate, but nothing is quite a surprise. No alarms, no guards, no lighting. Good thing they have flashlights. Rodney mutters something about checking the gate records and hurries away, Ronon on his tail. Teyla glances around the embarkation room, so massive in its emptiness. John dumps his pack and stares up at the vacant control room and picks at the sleeve of his isolation suit.

It had been over two months now; over two months since they'd dialled up for their check-in, only to be told that Earth was under quarantine.

"The Ori managed to infect SG-6, we've tried to contain it but it's gone pandemic," a technician, not Walter, their usual go-between, hastened to explain over the comm. "The death toll is already in the thousands, I don't know that we can—" Someone spoke off screen, "yes, yes, just get the next group ready and prepare to dial the Gamma site as soon as the transmission ends."

No one was talking on their end; McKay stared intently at his console. Elizabeth was maintaining the steadiest of composures; the one that indicted they were really, really screwed. John just gripped the back of McKay's chair and wished he'd gone with his first career idea and become a race car driver.

"Can we help at all? We could send—" Elizabeth began, only to be cut off by the tech's furiously shaking head.

"We're under quarantine, no one's allowed in. Almost half the planet is infected; we're evacuating personnel now but—" another voice off-screen, "I know; I have to finish this first. Just get down there or they'll leave without you." When the tech turned back, John realised it wasn't just the light making the man's face pale. "I need to go, we're evacuating. Dial again in a week. If we haven't found a cure by then . . ." In front of him, McKay flinched. Elizabeth was very still, stony eyes directed at the screen. "The Daedalus, they should be on their way back—"

"They're quarantined. One of the new personnel had the plague, found out just before they left," came the grim reply. "Just stay away. Earth is the last place you want to be right now."

"Understood," replied Elizabeth, boy are we screwed. "Good luck."

The man on the Earth nodded, jaw set, back straight, eyes forward. "To you too."

Then the gate shut down, the link was severed, and there was silence.

They'd dialled the next week and there was no reply. He thinks that was when McKay started working on a power pack that could dial Atlantis from Earth, at least once. They tried again in another week, then a month. After eight weeks, McKay was finished. So were many other things.

Elizabeth hadn't wanted to let them go, if they caught the same illness she couldn't let them back on base. But they had the isolation suits, and a MALP showed no identifiable toxins in the air. The strangest thing was that the iris was down. No one said the virus might have died out by now. They all knew what that would take.

"This is your home?" Teyla asks quietly, her eyes following his up to the control room where a small, grim flashlight darts from place to place.

"It used to be," he answers, only half believing himself. He's never seen anywhere so empty before. He turns on his radio. "Hey McKay, any chance of some light down here?"

No reply, but a minute later the emergency lighting comes on, and he can see.

There's nothing. Just dust and his pack on the floor. The USAF always knew how to tidy up after themselves.

It isn't until Ronon tells them to get up there that they find something. In the hallway outside the gateroom, there's a bad smell, and two soldiers slumped against each other. There's a med kit on the wall, but it hasn't been used. Either what took them was fast, or they just knew there was no help in that small green box. More out of habit John kneels down, reaching a hand towards one neck, then pulling out the dog tags of the soldier. Both still there. He pulls one off, and repeats the process with the next soldier. He doesn't look at the names, there doesn't seem to be a point.

McKay is sitting at one of the many computers in the control room, staring blankly at a screen. He doesn't look up when they enter. There's a body in the chair next to him, female, SGC uniform. Ronon has a hand on the Rodney's shoulder.

"There's a message," the Satedean says briefly before stepping back. Teyla is waiting at the door, it isn't her world. John forces himself to join McKay. "Rodney?"

The scientist doesn't look up, just presses a couple of buttons. A blonde woman appears on screen, John's own rank by her uniform. Her eyes are dark with fatigue, and she isn't smiling. Another button and she begins to speak.

"This is the acting commander of the SGC. Lieutenant Colonel Carter," Damn McKay. He pats his friend's shoulder because he doesn't know what else to do. It's useless in any case; the scientist's eyes aren't leaving the screen. "I am recording this final record in case I am unable to deliver it myself, and there's no one left in my place."

She coughs, reaches for a glass next to her and drinks. There is still a glass on the desk. It's empty now; the woman sitting in the chair never got a refill.

She goes on to talk about the plague, how it started,how it's progressing, how it's probably going to end. One of her team, a Lt. Colonel Mitchell died of the plague while still on Earth. The others had been trying to turn a Prior to their side when it had self-destructed. He recognises the names Daniel Jackson and Teal'c from mission reports. He wonders if it wasn't better to go that way. A quick burst of hell rather than slow death in an empty world.

"We have finished evacuating personnel. There appears to be," the woman, Colonel Carter, coughs again, "there is no one left uninfected in the immediate area. I have advised all evacuating personnel to remain offworld indefinitely. It is possible the Ori may claim the planet for their own purposes." Carter past the camera, staring grimly out into the gate room, no god damn alien's taking my planet. He's seen that look before. "To prevent this, I have programmed the self-destruct to activate four hours after this recording is played. This can only be deactivated by someone with at least level seven clearance. Earth will then be inaccessible by Stargate."

She's tiring now, having to pause more often. He wonders if she had the strength to switch off the camera before she died where she sat; he hopes so. McKay is still watching the woman on the screen as though it will stop the body sitting next to him from existing.

"Finally I would like to add that it has been my honour to serve at the SGC the past ten years; these final days, not least. Everyone serving under my command," her eyes shut for a moment, it's a dead man's seat she's taken, "has acted with courage and fortitude. I record this in the place of a formal commendation, in the hopes their strength and bravery will be remembered by someone, somewhere, though Earth be long gone."

She takes a final swig, the glass is empty now. She is looking right at them now, tired, dying, and defiant. "In these last hours, I take comfort that whatever Earth's final fate, our people live on. Whoever you are," she smiles, and there's some fond memory in the way she says, "Godspeed."

The screen goes blank.

There is silence again. Teyla and Ronon remain at the door; they say nothing; the message isn't for them, and they've seen worse than a dead woman talk. John looks at the glass like it's a link to an Earth that wasn't quite dead. There's something in the bottom, maybe dust, maybe not. After a moment Rodney stands and approaches the body in a way he's never approached death before,stopping mere inches away, then gently reaching for her dog tags. John stops him, "Ronon?"

The Satedean lifts the corpse as though it were a child he was carrying.

Rodney is staring at him, "but—"

"We'll gate to an empty planet in Pegasus first, then dial Atlantis." Silence. "Unless you'd rather—I thought it was better than—"

"Thank you," McKay answers, and the way he's looking at the small burden on Ronon's shoulder, it could be all the people on Earth. "And yes, it's better this way."

By silent consent, they don't go to the surface. The sad graveyard above isn't what they wanted to show their teammates. Their fading memories are better than a dusty void, set in stone. Rodney doesn't mention overriding the self-destruct, and John doesn't ask. They just dial the gate to a planet in Pegasus where they bury two dog tags, and a Lt. Colonel. There are no people here, but it's nice, plenty of trees.He thinks most people from Earthwould have liked it.John marks the place with his 9mm, because it feels wrong to leave a good soldier unarmed. Rodney watches the small grave for a few minutes.

"You really were great," he says finally, "I'll miss you."

John isn't sure who he's talking to, Carter, Earth, or someone else entirely.For himself, there isn't anything to say. So they leave everything to rest there, in a place that could have been the world they were born in if it wasn't among different stars; if it hadn't been quite so beautiful.

Teyla offers the grave a sad smile, and Ronon nods in that weird way that only Teyla seems to have a clue about. John picks up his pack as Rodney dials the gate. There is an explosion of water which fades to leave a rippling pool. He nods to his team and they enter it; they're going home.

This fic can be solely blamed on reading Mary Shelley's 'The last man'. At the end of the day, Earth is just one small planet in the universe, and it couldn't always be there. Carter seemed an ideal one to record the final message because she is always the last to get these things, and she rarely loses hope. I think when she does, that kind of symbolises it is the end.

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thanks for reading!