The database had little on this planet, just the word ‘powerful’ next to it, which really could mean anything from the planet’s occupants being a powerful race, at least at the time the Ancients were around, to there being a major power source on the planet, to even a ZPM factory. Rodney was betting on the first option, well, not literally. After the debacle with the crystal entity, he no longer bet on offworld discoveries. It was far too distracting.
Still, the possibility of it being a power source – or better – was enough to put it on the mission list. And so here they were, stepping into a charred and blackened world, with charcoal and ash covering the ground as far as the eye could see. The trees were burnt, looking stark and bare, the devastation severe, stunning them into a temporary and awed silence.
“Crap, this place stinks,” Rodney groused, breaking the spell and coughing. Was there ash still in the air? It seemed a little hazy, but not smoky, thankfully.
“Yeah,” Sheppard replied, wrinkling his nose. “At least it looks like the fire is gone. Reminds me of the pictures you see after a forest fire back home.”
“On Athos, we used to have fires in the mountains,” Teyla said. “That is why we never hunted there in summer.”
“I don’t like it,” Ronon stated gruffly. “Feels wrong.”
“I know,” Sheppard agreed, turning to Rodney. “Any energy readings, or life signs?”
“Oh.” Rodney got his scanner out, cursing himself for forgetting why they were here in the first place. “No life signs, but there’s an energy source to the left of us. Hmm…”
“Hmm, what?” Sheppard asked with a raised eyebrow after a moment of silence had passed, jogging him out of his thoughts.
“The signal’s fluctuating. Could be interference, could be the power source. Whatever’s causing it, it’s odd.”
“But worth investigating?”
“Yes, though I’d prefer if we went back for a jumper. I’ll be able to get better readings. I did suggest that in the first place, you know.”
“We know.” Sheppard rolled his eyes, which was so uncalled for. Just because he’d been persistent in getting his view across, despite stubborn colonels who said they couldn’t use the jumpers all the time and that walking was good for them.
“Perhaps Rodney is correct,” Teyla said calmly. “I do not think walking through this would be good for us, even if the fire is spent, as it seems. The air is clearly still polluted.”
Ha. Teyla didn’t want to walk through this any more than he did. Good.
Sheppard sighed. “Okay, you have a point.”
Taking that as his cue, and not giving Sheppard time to change his mind, Rodney turned to the DHD and stopped.
“Might be a problem,” Ronon said as they stared at a cracked, burned and broken-looking DHD.
“Oh great.” Rodney approached the DHD with a mournful look on his face, bending down to check the insides.
“Can you fix it?” Sheppard asked.
“Oh, sure, if I had another DHD to take parts from! This is toast, Colonel, quite literally! I doubt there’s a crystal that isn’t cracked or burnt.”
“What about the gate?” Ronon asked.
“The gate’ll be fine. They’re far more robust than the DHDs.”
“It seems like a bad idea to put a gate somewhere liable to forest fires,” John remarked, looking back at the burnt forest.
“Yes, well, ten thousand years ago this place might not have been forested.”
John sighed. “Looks like we’re waiting for Atlantis to dial in, then.”
“We were not due to report back for five hours,” Teyla said, with a sigh. “Perhaps we should investigate the energy reading after all.”
“It’s either that or sit around here for hours,” Sheppard agreed.
“Be boring,” Ronon stated.
“But safe,” Rodney interjected.
Sheppard ignored him, turning to their left. “Which way?”
Sighing in defeat, he pulled the scanner back out, and they trudged off in the direction of the energy reading.
They had been walking for a good hour, coughing occasionally from the poor air quality, which was a concern. John just hoped they weren’t breathing in anything dangerous or fatal. Perhaps they should have stayed at the gate, at least then they wouldn’t be breathing as deeply, but it was too late to second guess himself now.
The ground had started to rise after twenty or so minutes of walking, and now they reached the top of the hill. The fire had spread a long way, and as they looked down the gentle slope, the burnt and silent forest continued. It was as depressing as it was disturbing, and he’d be glad to get away from this place.
“Okay, let’s take a break,” John said, fully aware of a huffing and puffing Rodney beside him.
“Oh, thank goodness,” Rodney muttered, coughing again. John winced at the sound. Rodney was struggling more than normal, probably due to the dust in the air. They were all looking distinctly grey now. It felt wrong. He knew a forest fire could produce a lot of smoke and ash, and that it could be carried by winds high into the atmosphere to come down later, but it all felt wrong somehow. Like he was missing something.
“The air is getting worse,” Teyla said, concern in her eyes.
“Like that volcano planet,” Ronon added.
“Shit,” John exclaimed at the same time as Rodney, who was looking around them with widened eyes.
“You think that’s what caused the fire?” John asked.
“A volcano? It’s more than possible, though the landscape isn’t typically volcanic in nature.” Rodney paused to cough again. “It is was a volcano, then where is it?”
“The energy reading…”
“No, no, that’s not strong enough to be an active volcano.”
“Could it be, as on Taranis?” Teyla suggested. “You said the dust cloud would cover the entire planet.”
“Oh crap, I hope not,” Rodney said, dread in his voice.
“We need to find shelter,” Ronon said.
“The reading is a lot closer,” Rodney said, pointing down the slope. “Maybe ten, fifteen minutes away. Hopefully, there’ll be a building.”
(get to building, which is Ancient in design)
“This place is solar powered.”
“Hang on, there’s a sensor network over the planet – oh crap. A caldera thousands of miles from here blew recently. there’s a thick ash cloud heading this way.
It’s going to get worse
Yes, anything on the surface will suffocate in an hour or two from now.
this place has air ventilation system – with filters – if I can get them working, it’ll buy us time. Not clear out all ash, but a lot.
Forest fire is just an unhappy coincidence. The (storage) for the solar power discharged in lightning form as they were close to overload. Hence fire.
(some static electricity to burn Rodney’s hands, so Teyla and John have to do stuff?)
(worry about lung damage)
(gets air ventilation working (perhaps Teyla has to go through vent shaft to clear air filters manually later), subspace comms, contact Atlantis, Daedalus to the rescue, six hours.)
(Vent system shuts down, despite Teyla’s attempt to clear filter – air getting thinner. Rod passes out, but still breathing. Teyla passes out next. John passes out, Ronon left to look after teammates, hands on two of their chests – beamed out just as he loses concentration – maybe a scene on Daedalus or back on Atlantis to wrap things up)