Posted: Wednesday 26 November 2008

Disclaimer; This fanfiction uses existing ideas, characters and or worlds, but is an independent work of art. I own nothing, hence the reason for publishing my writings here instead of in real books where I could make some money.

Scourge of the Goa'uld - Prologue - Murphy's Law in Action

It truly was a marvellous sight.

The shimmering waters bounced light around across the concrete walls.

The gentle hum of power sent tingles down his spine.

The warm, glowing red lights set around the ring of water at even intervals were quite fetching.

The beauty of this sight was marred by the team of heavily armed soldiers standing in front of it on a grilled ramp, ready to step through - which they did.

Ripples played across the surface of the vertical pool of water as each member of the team went through. Not four seconds after the last one was through, the water disappeared as though it was a blue fireball dying out in the exact centre of the Ring.

Ranma turned around and went back to his seat in the Briefing Room, irritated at the unnecessary tightness of his dress-blue uniform as he sat down.

This was his very first Briefing after he graduated from the USAFA, as his shiny new second lieutenant bar attested to ... and the older men already sitting around the table in waiting for the Commanding Officer didn't seem very keen to be working with a rookie fresh from the Academy, regardless of how impressive his files were.

Ranma wasn't exactly wet behind the ears where hostile confrontation was concerned, but his head was still spinning from the information he'd been given the day before when he first arrived at Cheyenne Mountain

Humans weren't alone in the universe.

There existed several alien races out there, and Earth was engaged in a secret war against a race of parasitic beings called the Goa'uld, who would burrow their way into someone's neck, wrap around the upper spine of its host and extend tendrils into the host brain to gain full control over them. He had seen the footage of one such incident taking place in the Stargate Command - a veteran called Kowalski had been the unfortunate victim, and had been killed after an operation that seemingly removed the parasite, but only turned out to have been the dead husk.

That particular footage made Ranma realise that if he was expected to step through that thing, he was not going to be near it when it started or disengaged - he might lose something vital.

On base there was an alien being of a race of servants to the Goa'uld, called the Jaffa.

Speaking of which, accompanying the bald, overweight General was the flag team of the SGC - the SG1, where the Jaffa was stationed. Ranma had yet to learn their names - heck, he barely remembered the General's name - but his general shape made it easier to recall ... he was shaped almost like a ham turned upright, he was a ham man - Hammond. Not that he'd ever share this method of recalling the man's name ...

Ranma was the first to rise to his feet and into a firm stance of attention, a feat he completed before the more experienced men had even realised who had entered the room.

"At ease," General Hammond commanded in his thick Texas drawl as the last man in the room was at attention. "Have a seat, gentlemen - SG1 will brief you on your next mission ... or your first, as is the case with young Lieutenant Saotome."

"General Hammond, I believe introductions are in order," interrupted the large, black man with a gold tattoo on his forehead.

"Fair enough," agreed the General, and indicated each of the SG1, Ranma already having introduced himself to the team he had been assigned. "This is Colonel Jack O'Neill."

"That's with two L's ... there's another O'Neil and he has no sense of humour," added the man. Ranma could sense not only great sadness about the weatherworn man, but also experience in the darker of the military arts - this man was a warrior in the truest meaning of the word. From the man's semi-relaxed stance, and attempted wit, Ranma could only conclude he hid his true intelligence and feelings behind a mask of idiocy, bravado and humour.

"Next is Captain Samantha Carter," continued Hammond, ignoring O'Neill's comment.

"I read your thesis on worm-holes, Captain," commented Ranma lightly. "A bit over my head, but my physics tutor seemed to think you could walk on water."

"I'm glad," Captain Carter accepted gratefully. "I just don't think I'll try that trick for a while."

"True, it's very complicated at first," agreed Ranma in a tone that could be conceived as joking.

"I believe you've been told about Dr Daniel Jackson, the man who deciphered the glyphs on the cover stone found over the Stargate at the Giza dig," continued Hammond.

"Hi," greeted Dr Jackson pleasantly, if in a somewhat bashful manner.

"And finally, we have Teal'c, of Chulak," finished General Hammond.

"It is a pleasure to meet a fellow warrior," greeted the muscular man with a reverent bow of his head, then extended his hand, which Ranma reluctantly accepted, only to find the hand clasping his forearm instead of the hand. "Tek'ma'tek Lieutenant Saotome."

"Huh?" interrupted O'Neill quizzically to Dr Jackson.

"Er, it's a form of greeting between friends," the bespectacled man translated. "Teal'c, have you met Lieutenant Saotome before?"

"Indeed I have not," denied Teal'c stoically. "I happened upon him in the gym last night, and witnessed his prowess as a warrior. His skills will be a great asset to the service of this world - And any fellow defender of the Tau'ri is a friend of mine."

"That wasn't all that impressive," Ranma commented sheepishly and rubbed the stubble at the base of his neck, where his pigtail once rested. "It was just a few lesser kata to wind down before going to bed ..."

"Indeed," agreed Teal'c. "Regardless of your statement, the skills you displayed were impressive - not many of Apophis' forces will be a match to you if your skills extend to the handling of a weapon as well as your body."

"That's high praise, lieutenant," commented O'Neill, then plastered a mock superior expression on his face. "He hasn't said that about my skills in a few hours, though ..."

"Indeed," agreed the Jaffa with a humouring smirk.

"So what is your training?" questioned Major Styles, Ranma superior on the team.

"In what way?" Ranma asked for clarification.

"Which style do you practice, and what level are you?" the Major acquiesced.

"Anything Goes, it bases its foundation on the best of all Martial Arts forms, while weeding out the flaws," smirked Ranma. "And after having practiced and learned for most of my life, there is no level high enough to recognise my skills - the closest would be Grand Master ... but I never bothered to ask for the title from the current holder."

There was disbelieving scoffs from the rest of Ranma's team, but the Jaffa inclined his head in recognition of what significance Ranma's claim had. "Perhaps some time in the future, we may practice our skills against each other." He added politely.

"Sounds like fun," agreed Ranma.

"Now on with the briefing - Dr Jackson," interjected General Hammond.

"Thanks," said Jackson and marched to one end of the table, opposite from the General's seat, and the lights dimmed some while the others sat down. "P1-269 is an uninhabited planet, as near as we can tell. The MALP picked up on what seem to be heavily decayed ruins some miles away from the Stargate, but showed no sign of activity or heat. And the road leading to the gate has not been used by anyone for centuries, judging by the overgrowth of weeds and other flora."

"What kind of planet are we talkin' about here?" questioned Captain Mockry, raking his hand across his balding head.

"Like most planets we've made contact with, this planet has a breathable atmosphere," Jackson clarified, as though the Captain was slow-witted - everyone else seemed to have picked up on the flora comment, and as some of it had been named as weeds, it was safe to say the vegetation was Earth-like, which usually meant it was suitable for humans.

As though to clarify this further, the projector lit up and displayed a landscape shot of nearly uninterrupted green, with some dark spots marked by a red square.

"The highlighted area shows where the ruins are," continued Jackson. "Unfortunately, we haven't been able to make the MALP travel that far, due to certain magnetic disturbances in the ionosphere. The MALP refused to travel more than a hundred metres from the gate because of this, and the batteries seem to drain faster than normal - which means you might need to ... er ... give it a push back to Earth when you return."

"That thing weighs a ton!" erupted Dr Lankin, a fresh archaeologist assigned to Ranma's team just days before him, and having already been off-world on a brief visit to some other ruins.

"Only about half that," corrected Captain Carter. "And it'll be on wheels, so it won't feel as heavy."

"I say we let the rookie handle it," smirked Captain Mockry.

"No problem," countered Ranma cheerfully. "Should I carry it if the terrain is too rocky?"

Ranma's light tone was taken for sarcasm, and the briefing moved on.

"The origin of the ruins is a mystery," continued Dr Jackson. The image zoomed in on the red square, showing what looked like Mayan architecture gone to waste. "While the architecture appears to be of Earth origin, there are elements we can't really account for such as the carvings on the walls that seem to contain some sort of runic quality, while not having coherent meaning as of present.

"What we want you to do is to go and take some pictures and make some kind of map of where we might find something of historical interest in the future."

"Thank you Dr Jackson," said General. "Your mission is scheduled for tomorrow and oh-eight-hundred."

"General, sir," Ranma interrupted quickly before they were dismissed. "Permission to speak."

"Go ahead, son," Hammond granted.

"Will I be permitted to bring personal equipment?"

"Each team member will bring standard equipment," General Hammond announced. "But, you may bring anything in addition if you can carry it. Be warned that in the event of an emergency, standard gear is prioritised, and anything else will be abandoned - do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal, sir," Ranma grinned.

"Just don't bite off more than you can chew," added O'Neill.

"Never do, sir," quipped Ranma.

"Alright, we've only got a day to take pictures, draw maps and return for our daily report," announced Major Styles as soon as every last member of the team was through. This Stargate team had yet to be officially numbered due to the large influx of manpower over the past months. They had been told they would most likely be numbered as SG-18 by the time the bureaucrats had finished taking account of everything. "Let's spread out! Saotome, you take the North side, Mockry, West, Lankin, South - we meet back here at the entrance in two hours ... keep radio contact!"

It had been a nearly three hour march to the ruins of a small city of mysterious origin, and there being excellent weather had not helped the conditions - especially not as they all wore dark green battle-dress uniforms and carried over sixty pounds of equipment.

Ranma hadn't been so strained by this, as it was no worse than what he had been through for most of his life on the road - he instead fished out the digital video camera and readied it for long play before taking out a pad and pen to draw up the structure outlines as one would on a map as he inspected the crumbled constructions around him.

There were a few illustrations around doorways or windows, and Ranma dutifully got a steady shot of them with his camera before moving on.

At the end of the street stood what looked almost like a small temple, similar to a gazebo made out of stone, and over time having been covered in moss and vines.

There was only one thing not completely covered, and that was a sharp corner of some design on the ground, filled with some sort of crystal.

Curious, Ranma set down his bag, mounted the camera in a cassette on an inside pillar, and started the recording as he examined the crystal.

"Guys, I found something ... strange," he announced over the radio frequency they had been assigned.

"Duly noted, Lieutenant," replied Major Styles tersely. "Mark it for later, and we'll get back to it after we're all done."

Sighing at being disregarded so easily, Ranma followed instruction, and found a length of red rope, which he tied around one of the outside pillars of the temple - marking the building for the others' benefit.

Back inside, Ranma was curious - a pest most humans are cursed with. What was hidden under the layers of dust, dirt and growth?

Digging away near the crystal with his fingers, Ranma was rewarded by uncovering more crystal.

Repeating his previous action, Ranma slowly and surely started uncovering more of the crystal design that had been hidden by centuries or millennia of flourishing foliage and a lack of upkeep.

Within an hour, a multitude of intersecting lines and patterns had unfolded before Ranma, all in clear crystal.

For some reason, Ranma was glad he'd started the camera already, because it would be a kick to watch the entire thing emerge again.

Stepping back to once more admire his work, Ranma's foot caught his backpack, and he was reminded of the time.

It was almost time to return to camp.

Looking around, Ranma found his camera on the opposing pillar, directly on the other side of the design.

Picking up his stuff, Ranma had marched no more than a few steps across the large design before he was enveloped in a bright light, and disappeared.

Sitting peacefully on its perch, the camera's red light kept shining, signifying that it was still recording.

As time ran out, Major Styles was less than impressed with Lieutenant Saotome's punctuality.

Sure, he had been in the Embarkation Room before them, but the lad had bugged him just as he entered a building and thus bashed his head in the low doorway in surprise.

"Should we go get him, sir?" questioned Captain Mockry after five minutes.

"Lieutenant Saotome," Major Styles called over the radio. "It's past your curfew!"

There was no response.

"Lieutenant Saotome, if you're not in serious trouble, answer me this moment!"

Still nothing.

"Okay, let's go look for him - and God help him if he's not dying!" the Major swore, and cocked his side arm for effect.

Tracing Ranma's route hadn't been all that difficult, as there were very few streets, and the red rope tied around a pillar on the temple at the end of the street made it very clear where he'd gone to.

It was actually quite interesting, as Dr Lankin remarked, that this temple was the only structure that hadn't collapsed at all over the countless years since the last visitor.

Inside, the group found the design on the ground, but no signs of their missing officer.

"What's that light?" the Captain pointed out, indicating the indentation in the nearest pillar.

"It's Lieutenant Saotome's video camera," observed Dr Lankin.

"Okay, let's see what he left behind for us ... maybe it'll show where he went and why he isn't responding," decided Major Styles.

The three watched the video display of the small recording device, and having been lucky with their rewinding, hit the time when Ranma finished uncovering the design behind them - and stepped onto it with his backpack only to seemingly disintegrate in a flash of light.

"Out!" Major Styles barked. "No one goes back inside this place! Mockry, return to the gate, double time, and inform SGC about our situation - have them send as many Science geeks as possible to find out what happened to my officer!"