The one mercy is that it’s not a wasting sickness, the infected are dead in twenty-four hours. On a world where the fastest transportation is draft horses built for power and not for speed… it’s just short enough. The bug itself, still undefeated after a week of frantic scientific effort, dies in twenty-six. So when the team finds bodies, they wait. Twenty-four hours of nervous patience, waiting for the telltale shivering that means they got too close.
So far they’ve been lucky, but they owe the luck more to paranoid than divine interference. They’ve got two of the best cadaver dogs Search and Rescue had to offer and twice that’s been the only thing that saved them.
Dogs, although they aren’t real dogs, anymore than the horses are real horses, are immune. Their scale-like skin burns too hot for the virus to survive and their internal biology is too foreign for even a tiny foothold.
They joke, because morbid humor is what keep them going now, that the virus was created by the dogs so that they could have the planet to themselves. Absurd, of course, but there’s something inherently sinister about a sickness that kills this fast and this targeted. It might not be the dogs, but something, somewhere out there wants the colonists dead.