Author Topic: Chapter 16  (Read 5607 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 16
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:31:08 AM »
They'd spent over a day on Tollanna, all told, and Tony was itching to get back by the end of it. Most of the missions the Survivors had been on when he'd left had been recon, or offworld training. One had been combat, however. On his orders, Cayo had taken a score of Survivors to shoot up one of Nereus' temples, hopefully to bring it down. As they were short on C4 and ammunition, most Survivor teams were using Goa'uld staff weapons by now. Tony had to admit, it had been very strange ordering an attack on a place of worship. But then, as far as the Goa'uld were concerned, temples and training grounds might as well be the same thing.

Two people stood at attention in the command tent, as Tony perused the latest reports on Ahardt's trainees. Because of the lack of paper, reports were brief, succinct, and typed on the computer by Nelson himself. It made for a refreshing change from the wordy and probably misleading reports he'd used to read, and write, he admitted to himself, back on Earth. He gave it a few more seconds before saying, "At ease."

Captain Andres Page and Lieutenant Edward Avery relaxed slightly as Tony stood and gave them a cursory glance. "I take it Hargrove has got you both up to speed on what we're doing here."

They both nodded. "We're both looking forward to serving with you, Colonel. It's been too long." Before Avery could continue, there was a knock on the support beam next to the tent flap.

"Come in."

Hargrove stepped in, looking worried, and Cayo followed with an uncharacteristic scowl on his face. They both spoke at once.

"Sir, we've got a situation-"

"Colonel, there is a problem in-"

"Stop." He said the word mildly, and was a little surprised when they actually did stop. "Hargrove, you first."

"Actually, Colonel, Cayo should probably go first. Mine could take a while." At Tony's nod, he stepped outside, and Cayo stepped forward.

"There were some troubles on the last mission, sir. While you were away, I mean. We succeeded and no one was hurt, thankfully, but when the fighting was harshest two of the recruits, well, ran." He put a lot of contempt in the word.

Tony riveted on him. "Are they still out there?"

"No sir. Galosi and I tracked them down, and brought them home. He is guarding them in Barracks Three now."

Tony let out a sigh, only partially out of relief. The Survivors had had their fair share of washouts during training: people who'd failed because of physical reasons. Unfortunately, just as many were liable to fail for psychological ones, and they didn't have anyone who could do a psych eval here. The only way to be sure was to throw them into combat and hope they could hold up under the strain. "All right. I'll take care of this shortly. Make sure Ahardt knows about this, and doesn't let them on the training yard until I can talk to them." He looked at Page and Avery. "You two remember Cayo, from early on, don't you? He'll show you the sights, and your accommodations. He'll also be in charge of your mission assignments, until I can deal with whatever Hargrove's situation is. On your way." He dismissed them.

Page's eyes widened, and Avery coughed lightly. They looked at each other. "Colonel, can we have a word with you. In private?"

After a moment, Tony carefully kept his voice even. "Cayo, give us the room, please."

After he'd bowed and left, Avery spoke again. "Colonel, you don't really expect us to take orders from, well, them, do you?" He finished awkwardly. Page nodded his agreement.

Tony felt a strange sensation in his gut. It took him a moment to recognize it. Rage.

Suddenly, he was back there again. Standing over the three graves, delivering last words for three kids who'd died under his command.

"Stand to," he said quietly.

They both stood at attention, looking worried. Tony stood in front of them.

"You're new here, so I'm willing to cut you some slack. You both trained at the SGC, and have offworld combat experience, so I decided to put you on the mission list immediately, instead of in training. Your accomplishments speak for themselves. Can you tell me what all of that means to the Survivors?"

They both shook their heads.

"Absolutely nothing. As far as they're concerned, you're just two more recruits."

"But sir, if you're in command-" Page began.

"This is not the SGC!" Tony roared. They both jumped. "I'm not in command because I happen to outrank everyone! I'm in command because I helped build this movement from the ground up. Everyone here has worked for the recognition and respect of the others. Ahardt, Hargrove, Desousa, even the civilians have each earned their place here, just like everyone else!"

With effort, Tony calmed himself. Well, mostly. "I need you here; I won't dispute that. But if you can't swallow your pride and treat these people with the respect they've earned, I'll throw you both through that 'gate myself, and leave orders to have you shot if you ever come back. Understood?"

Both nodded, somewhat timidly.

"I said do you understand?" He raised his voice again.

"Yes sir!" Both of them practically shouted.

"Then get out," he said harshly. "Report to Cayo."

Tony spent a few moments massaging his temples, after they'd left. He had the feeling this was going to be a very long day.

-.-

As the Colonel approached the 'gate, Hargrove could see clear signs of stress and fatigue in his walk and on his face. To be fair, Hargrove was feeling some of that himself. He'd never expected it, but he actually did miss Suna. Strange. He'd enjoyed spending time with other women, in years past, but he'd never actually missed them when they weren't around.

"All right, I'm here. Care to tell me why we couldn't discuss this back at the SR?"

Hargrove cleared his head as he began punching in symbols on the DHD. "During Cayo's mission, they found some sort of device that the Jaffa apparently fought tooth and nail to protect. Cayo ordered it brought back with them, but very wisely left it on 779 for security reasons. I sent Blake and Argyros to take a look at it when we got back, and they just radioed in." He pressed the central control button, and the 'gate activated. "From what Blake was saying, I thought you'd want to see it yourself."

The Colonel raised an arm at the 'gate, tiredly. "Lead on."

Just beyond the 'gate on Planet Savannah, as Suna had dubbed it, they could see the Goa'uld device. It looked like a flattened horizontal cylinder attached to a rectangular stand, about the size of a shoe box, with a lit display in Goa'uld on one side. The usual gold color on most of their tech was no exception here, but Hargrove could make out what looked like a silvery metal threaded through the ends and width of the cylinder. The lights on the display flashed in a regular pattern.

"Ok," the Colonel admitted. "You've got me. I have no idea what that is."

"Neither did we, at first." Blake responded as Argyros continued to run his wrist-scanner over the device. "Best we can tell, it's some kind of energy projector, but the design threw me at first. Most Goa'uld energy projectors are weapons, like their staff or zat guns. This one seems to be built like a bomb."

Hargrove gave the Colonel a significant glance. "Now you know why I wanted you to see this personally."

"I assume it's been disarmed." His tiredness seemed forgotten, at least for now.

"Actually, the device was never active." Argyros continued scanning as he spoke. "The connection between the trigger and the projector itself appears to be faulty."

"It's a dud, Tony." Blake explained. "When Cayo and the others found it, Hargrove said the Jaffa had been trying to set it off."

"And if they had?" His voice was calm, but Hargrove could see some tension in his hands and shoulders. "What kind of blast yield are we talking here?"

Blake looked uncomfortable. "It's not a bomb in the traditional sense. It wouldn't explode or anything. From the radiation traces Archie's picked up, it's more like this thing would bombard a large area with some kind of radiation I've never seen before."

"I have." Argyros put in, his voice sounding strange. "The Deuca have seen the effects of this radiation before. Based on the trace radiation I've found here… I think that if this device had worked as planned, everyone- everything within at least a kilometer radius would have died within minutes."

He looked around for a moment, letting that sink in.

The Colonel was the first to respond. "Ok, but that doesn't make any sense. Cayo's team found this inside a Goa'uld temple, right? In the middle of a city full of Nereus' worshippers. He'd be wiping out his own people!"

"The Goa'uld have never given the slightest regard for their human worshippers, nor for having to sacrifice them." Argyros responded coldly. "However, while almost all organic life in the area would die in a most unpleasant manner, I believe that Jaffa would survive the effects. Their symbiotes are capable of not only healing them and extending their lifespans, but protecting them from radiation, as well. They would probably lose consciousness for a time, but nothing worse than that."

Hargrove couldn't help but ask. "Just out of curiosity, define 'unpleasant' for us."

Argyros looked surprised, then thought about it for a moment. "You would almost immediately have trouble breathing, as the alveoli in your lungs would be among the first tissues to liquefy. Your nervous system would become erratic, and you would begin spasming as the radiation affected the nerves within your spinal cord. In addition, you would lose control of your bodily functions as-"

"I think we get the picture, Pyrta." The Colonel stopped him. "Ok, so crisis averted. For now, at least." He took a deep breath. "We have to assume that this… radiation bomb was built for us, since it kills humans, but probably not Jaffa. It wouldn't be useful against his rivals. We got lucky once, it seems, but we can't rely on that happening again. Can you give us some kind of inoculation for this?"

Argyros shook his head. "At best, any drugs we provided would only delay the effects. You would be able to continue functioning, for a while, but in the end your death would take days instead of minutes."

"What about Hazmat gear? That's a kind of protective suit we use back home." He explained.

"Any suit capable of protecting you would seriously hamper your fighting capabilities."

"There might be another way, Tony." Blake spoke up. Everyone looked at him in surprise. Hargrove was pleased to see that he didn't flush and go all quiet as he used to, but looked determined and continued. "Even inactive, this thing is giving off radiation traces. Not enough to be dangerous but enough, maybe, to track."

He looked at Argyros' wrist scanner. "If Archie can modify that… Geiger counter of his to check for particle density, we can use it to track down the projector and shut it off."

The Colonel shook his head. "Good thinking, but if I were planning on using something like this, I'd set it on a timer and lock it down in case people tried to do just that."

"Then we just shoot it three times with a zat gun."

There was a pause as everyone considered that. It was a good notion, Hargrove thought. Goa'uld zatnik'tel sidearms could stun or kill, as expected, but firing at the same object repeatedly would cause the object to disintegrate. It even worked when used on other Goa'uld tech.

"We don't know if 'zatting' it would set it off." The Colonel persisted. "And what if they have more than one in the same general area? You wouldn't be able to get a clear enough reading to track any of them down."

It was Blake's turn to look impressed. "True, but why would they? It wouldn't make their targets any more dead, would it? And besides, it might be too much radiation for even the Jaffa to handle. If they have more than one, they're probably too far apart to both be a threat to us, or all stored in one place at the same time." He thought for a moment and continued. "As for the zat gun triggering it… there's only one way to find out, isn't there?"

He looked down at the bomb, and the others all followed his gaze.

"Now that Archie's been able to scan it, I think I can fix the trigger on this thing." Blake continued, hesitantly. He looked at Argyros. "If you can get some kind of suit back here, we can test that theory, safely."

His usual, scientific lack of emotions showing some cracks, Argyros hesitated. "I suppose I could ask for the appropriate gear, but given the nature of our… arrangement, it would be best if I were the one to wear it. The Boule might take exception to me giving you equipment of a non-medical nature, and this blurs the line slightly."

The Colonel shared a concerned look with Hargrove. "Pyrta, no offense here, but you're not exactly a fighter. Have you ever even fired a zat before?"

"I would be firing at a stationary, point-blank target, Colonel." He responded wryly. "I think I can handle it."

The Colonel smiled. "Point taken. Still, I want you to take a few practice shots, both in and out of your gear, before you do this. All right, get to it, both of you. Hargrove and I need to talk over there for a moment. And Blake," he added, "good thinking back there. You know, for a civvy."

Blake practically beamed back at him. "Not bad yourself. You know, for a jarhead."

As Argyros stepped over to the DHD to dial another uninhabited planet before calling the Deuca and Blake got to work on the bomb, the Colonel ushered Hargrove aside. "We've got a problem here."

"I agree, sir. If they've built more than a handful of these things, it could seriously complicate our plans."

"Even the ability to track and disable them won't help much in the long run." The Colonel continued. He took a deep breath. "I think we need to speed up Stage Two. From what you've told me, we're close, but we need to keep pushing, as hard as we can make the Survivors go. I just pray they're ready for this."

Hargrove would also have liked more time, but the thought of one of these bombs going off in the middle of a mission was a chilling one. "I'll look over our list for any targets we may still be able to hit." He lowered his voice, looking briefly back at Blake. "Is Haley set?"

"I think so, yes. She wasn't exactly thrilled when I gave the order, but she seems to know it's our best shot. She was making some final calculations, last I heard." The Colonel sighed. "All right. I'll keep an eye on Blake. Get back to base and get things started. And send someone to relieve me when you can."

Hargrove nodded and stepped over to the DHD. It was only after he'd punched in the final symbol and opened the 'gate that he realized he'd forgotten to salute. Maybe working with the Survivors is changing me more than I knew.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 05:11:20 AM by Daen »