Force over Distance: Chapter 2

“Destiny likes him.”

Chapter warnings: Stressors of all kinds. Loss of autonomy. Physical injuries. Boundary violations.

Text iteration: Midnight.

Additional notes: None.

Chapter 2

When he heard Rush's name, Young's eyes flicked up from his bowl of processed protein to take in Eli at the next table, the kid's hands mid-flight in some expansive gesture, before dropping his gaze back to his spoon.

“Call me crazy,” Eli said, his voice carrying easily, “but seriously. You guys. Destiny—” he paused. “Destiny likes him.”

“Destiny likes him,” Scott repeated, deadpan.

“I know. I know. I realize how that sounds. But I'm telling you, ever since—”

“Impossible,” Greer cut in. He leaned forward, fingers forming a blade that pressed against the table, tips down. “You wanna know how I know that?”


No one likes that man.” Greer sat back.

Young looked down again, but not before he caught Eli's half-smile. “Talk to me when you work for the guy,” the kid said. “Er, work with the guy.” Young could almost hear him rolling his eyes.

Young scraped the last remains of his dinner out of the bottom of his bowl, then limped out of the mess. His left knee and his ribs reminded him with every step that it was too soon to resume his normal routine. He clenched his jaw and pressed onward through corridors that hadn't yet regained full power in the wake of last week’s attack.

Though he’d been heading in the direction of the bridge, he turned aside at the observation deck to rest his injured leg. He couldn't help the sigh of relief that escaped as he settled on the small bench in front of the glass. The ship spread out before him, a dark and solid platform against a flowing blur of stars.

Last week had been a close call.

When Young shut his eyes, he could still see them through the veil of sparks that had rained down as one of the lighting panels blew—the ungainly, alien movement of their limbs had drawn up a primitive terror from deep in his mind. A small contingent of them had boarded the ship though shields that had faded to nothing under continuous bombardment.

He’d been on point, James to his right, the rest of his team behind him in a fan. There had been no cover.

Young took a deep breath, grabbed the cool railing that ran the perimeter of the deck, and bowed his head under the memory of gunfire. He could feel the ghost of his rifle’s kickback against his shoulder.

“You’re fine.” He wasn't sure if he was talking to Destiny or himself, but he gave the railing a squeeze that blanched his knuckles and pulled himself to his feet.

Young’s knee was giving him hell by the time he reached the bridge. He hit the door controls and limped forward to lean against the edge of a console. Half the Science Team was spread out over the room, monitoring key systems.

“Hey.” Brody sat in the central chair, studying a mid-air display of curving lines annotated with Ancient text. “How's the leg?”

“Better.” Young scanned the room. Park, Volker—he sighed.

“Yeah,” Brody replied. “He's not here. He’s never here.”

“Y’know,” Volker said, “I thought that once we were all on the same page with finding the bridge and cracking the code—he'd stop avoiding us.”

“I don’t think he likes us.” Brody didn’t take his eyes off the display in front of him.

“He likes us,” Park said. “I mean,” she amended with a circular hand gesture, “in his way.”

Young pulled out his radio. “Rush, this is Young. Come in please.”

“Rush here.”

Young raised his eyebrows.

“Lucky you.” Volker glanced up from his console.

“Rush. Here. What can I do for you, colonel?”

“Where are you right now?”

“Control interface room.”

“I thought you were supposed to be repairing the weapons array with the rest of the Science Team.”

Young waited.

No response.

The room was quiet except for the occasional tap of fingers on touchscreens. Young crossed his arms and leaned against the instrumentation panel that Eli favored, taking some weight off his bad knee.

Young lifted his radio. “Rush.”

Across the room, a dark array of monitors lit up with a flash of gold and blue.

“Is that the—” Volker began.

“Yup,” Brody confirmed, his eyes fixed on the screen in front of him.

Park darted to the newly activated console, scanning through—well, whatever it was the Science Team scanned through. Young moved to stand at her shoulder. He couldn't be sure, but it looked like their primary and secondary arrays were back online.

“This is good news, I take it?” Young asked the room in general.

“Everything's online except the main weapon,” Park replied. “All three arrays are up. Power flow is stable.”

“I wish he would explain how he does this stuff,” Volker said. “Even just one time.”

“You mean this wasn't you guys?” Young asked.

“Nope,” Brody replied.

Park looked over her shoulder and met his eyes guiltily.

“Rush.” Young cracked the man’s name like a whip into the radio.

“You're welcome. Rush out.”

“He's been in a bad mood all day,” Park said, and Young couldn't quite tell if the expression on her face was sympathy or apology.

“Well that makes two of us.”

He left them to their work on the bridge and headed to the control interface room, his limp becoming more pronounced as he went. Much as he would’ve liked to go back to his quarters, he couldn't stand the idea of leaving Rush to his own devices for too long. He slowed as he approached the CI room, his steps turning quiet against the deck plating. He rounded the corner and stopped just inside the room, leaning against the doorframe.

The room was dark. The only light came from the consoles, radiating up in a pale blue glow. Rush perched in front of the main interface, studying the illuminated display.

Young considered several openers and discarded them. “You missed dinner. Again.”

Rush didn’t look up. “I wasn't aware that you were keeping tabs on me. Again.”

Young sighed. “Good work with the weapons array, although it might be nice to clue the rest of your team in on what you're doing.”

“Yes, well. Maybe next time.” Rush hooked a hand over one shoulder and pressed his fingers into the base of his neck.

“How's it coming with the main weapon?”

“Not looking promising.” Rush's hand ghosted from his neck to his temple, brushing delicately over the small wounds left by the neural interface device. “The main weapon was designed for use in conjunction with the chair.”

Young grimaced. “But we've used it without the chair before. You figured out how to unlock the firing mechanism months ago.”

“That was a workaround.” Rush glanced up at him, then, just as quickly, dropped his eyes. “When I fired the weapon four days ago from the chair it reset the system.”

Young clenched his jaw and did his best not to let Rush’s evasiveness get to him. “So make another workaround.”

“Oh absolutely.” Rush dug the heel of his hand into his eye socket. “Fine. Done. No problem. I'll just crack and dismantle the six adaptive algorithms that are currently locking me out of the ship's central processing core. I'm certain that will have no negative repercussions.”

“What do you need?” Young asked. “Help from Earth? You want Eli down here?”

“I don't need anything. Anyone.”

“Well, I need that weapon working,” Young said. “Preferably before we drop out of FTL again.”

“Someone can just—” Rush paused, raking his fingers through his hair, “—sit in the chair again, if it comes to that.”


“It very well may be the only way.”

“I said no.”

“Right then.” Rush’s mouth quirked into that half smile Young hated. “So. I’ll just rewrite the laws of physics to suit your whims, shall I?”

“That chair could have killed you.”

“I’m aware.” Rush didn’t look up from the glowing schematics on the main console.

“Are you?”

The words had been almost inaudible, but Rush’s hands, scrolling through glowing circuit diagrams, froze in midair. Young watched the man’s fingers hover over a representation of a crystal array, then forced his gaze upwards. Rush looked at him, clear-eyed and sharp. Young could feel the full force of the other man's intellect narrowing down and pressing into him, cold and precise, like a screwdriver between the blades of a clam shell.

Young cleared his throat. “Just fix that weapon.”

He could feel Rush's gaze on his back as he turned away.

That night, he dreamt of the attack.

The 0300 drop out of FTL wakes him. The first wave of weapons fire impacts the shields with a distant and ominous sound before he finishes pulling on his jacket. He sees them from the window in his quarters—two ships, maybe more, opening fire at close range.

There’s no mistaking them. The familiar, boxy shape of their craft belongs to the aliens that had taken Chloe.

Chloe and Rush.

He skids into the hallway, then sprints toward the bridge, calling for Scott on the radio.

“Everyone to their stations.” He shouts to be heard.

“Understood,” Scott replies.

When he arrives, the bridge is lit up with a golden glow, trajectories and vectors projecting across screens in moving arcs. Chloe catches his eye as she darts from Eli's station to one of the forward consoles, bare feet flashing, her expression tight with fear.

“Report,” he snaps.

“We're taking heavy damage.” Rush is behind him. “Shields down to thirty percent.”

“Thirty percent? How is that possible?”

“Something is draining a massive amount of power from core systems.” Eli cuts across the sudden shrill of an alarm. “It's being sequestered somewhere, but—”

“So we should prepare for boarding?”

No one answers. He looks at Rush, only to find the man focused intently on thin air somewhere to his right, head cocked, as if he’s listening to something Young can’t hear.

Great. That’s all they need right now.

“Scott.” Young lifts his radio but doesn’t take his eyes off his chief scientist. “It looks like we may be boarded. Send two of your team to arm the civilians. I'll meet them in the mess and take command of them there.”

Rush is still staring at nothing.

“How much time do we have?” Young asks Eli.

“Five minutes.” Chloe responds instead. “Maybe less. I'm rerouting power to preserve core systems, but it's a temporary measure at best.”

“Keep doing what you can. Greer's team will buy you as much time as possible.”

The door to the bridge swishes open and Park bursts into the room, followed by Brody and Volker.

“Brody.” Rush’s eyes snap back into focus. He points to the console where he’s standing, then makes for the exit with his quick, ground-eating stride. Young grabs his arm as he passes, shoving him back in the direction of the others.

Where do you think you're going?” His frustration spills over, and he bites the words out in a snarl, unable to restrain himself despite the gravity of their situation.

“There's no time for this!” Rush comes right back into Young's personal space, his face twisting from surprise to anger in the space of a heartbeat. “Let me go.”

“Nobody leaves this room,” Young replies, loud enough for them all to hear. “Nobody opens this door. For anything. You got that?”

A burst of enemy fire from the nearest ship finds its way through their weakened shielding, rocking Destiny down to the deck plating. Young is thrown into a metal railing and feels a sickening crack in his left side. He hits the floor hard, the wind knocked out of him, the wail of multiple alarms loud in his ears.

Rush rights himself and makes a break for the door.

Young catches the scientist's ankle. He pulls, bringing Rush down. He gets a boot to his jaw for the effort, but not before he drags Rush back inelegantly, one hand around his belt, his upper body half-pinning the other man's legs.

Guys!” Eli shouts. “Seriously? Come on!”

In that moment of distraction, by chance or by design, one of Rush's elbows finds Young's broken ribs and connects solidly. Pain shoots down his side. Young loses his grip, and, with a burst of energy, Rush frees himself and heads for the door.

It opens for him as he approaches.

On the threshold, he pauses, a bright silhouette against the dim corridor, as though he’s listening for something. Then, without a backward glance, he leaves the open frame, disappearing into darkness.

What the hell was that?” Eli shouts.

Young pushes himself to his feet, his hand pressed against his ribs. His radio crackles.

“Sir, this is Greer.”

“Go ahead.”

“Sir, Rush just ran past us like a bat out of hell.”

“I know, sergeant. Just—” Young pauses to catch his breath. “Let him go.”


“That makes one of us,” Eli snaps over his shoulder.

“Eli,” Young snaps right back. “Less talk, more work.” He brings his fist down on the door controls and leaves the room. Greer is waiting for him in the hallway, Atienza and Reeves flanking him. “Nothing gets through.” He meets Greer's eyes, and tilts his head back in the direction of the door. “They're the only shot we have of making it out of this.”

“Yes sir.”

Young forces himself into a run, pain tearing down his side with every step, to meet James at the mess. Wray has already organized a makeshift blockade of tables and is herding people behind them as James and her team take positions at the entrance. They’d chosen the mess as the most defensible position during the Lucian Alliance assault—it’s large enough to hold the entire crew and has only one entrance.

That also makes it their last resort.

Young’s radio crackles. “Sir, we have enemy contact!” Scott's voice is drowned out by gunfire. “I repeat, we have been boarded.”

There’s a surge of chatter from the civilians.

“Quiet,” Young shouts into the building panic. “Those with weapons, position yourselves immediately behind the barriers. Those without—to the back.”

He crooks a finger, and James falls in beside him with the rest of her team. Another blast wracks the ship, throwing them off balance, sending a wave of pain through Young’s left side.

“Becker.” Young gestures for the man's weapon. “Let me borrow your rifle.” The sergeant hands it over without comment, gamely pulling his handgun from his belt.

Young leads the team into the hallway. As soon as he clears the door, he can see the intruders, rounding the corner in a group. A panel overhead explodes. Sparks rain down in a shimmery curtain. They’re just as he remembers them—the ungainly limbs, bending unnaturally as they advance, their skin an alien blue under Destiny's emergency lighting.

“Form up,” Young roars. At his side, James’s rifle snaps up. Together, they open fire. Spent shells hit the floor. But—

There is no cover.

The hostiles return fire with a plasma-based weapon, slow to charge but powerful. His team splits down the middle, pressing themselves against the corridor walls as the barrage passes. There’s no opportunity to regroup. From his position on point, Young has a clear line of sight down the corridor. He opens fire again. He sees one of the aliens fall, then a second, before the first member of his own team goes down.

James hits the deck with a sickening crack and, as he moves to cover her, he feels a bolt of pain shoot up his leg—

Young woke with a start. He sat, breathing rapidly, and wiped the cold sweat from his face. His injured leg, trapped in his bedsheets, throbbed painfully.

“Damn it.” He scrubbed the back of his hand across his eyes.

“Colonel Young, please respond.” TJ’s voice rose from the radio, breathy and anxious. He wondered how many times she’d called him.

He grabbed the radio from the table. “Young here.”

There was a pause, and then, “Sorry to wake you, sir.”

He hated that she could still read him so well.

“Go ahead.”

“Lieutenant James has regained consciousness. You had wanted to be informed.”

“I'll be right there.”

On his way to the infirmary, Young found the halls mostly deserted. It was 2300 hours, and only those on the night shift were up and about. He gave Brody a nod as he passed the CI room, then stopped to chat with Airman Dunning before arriving at the infirmary.

TJ smiled at him as he made his way over to James, threading his way around empty beds.

“Sir.” James attempted to sit as he approached.

“At ease, lieutenant.” He held up a hand. “How's the shoulder?”

She gave him a wan smile. “Still pretty sore, but TJ tells me I'll live.”

“Good to hear.”

“I saw you take a hit.” She looked away. “Covering me.”

“Nothing to worry about, lieutenant. As you can see, I'm already up and around.”

“Yes sir.”

“You do what you need to get back on your feet.”

“Sir, can I ask you—”

He raised his eyebrows.

“It looked pretty bad.” She paused, uncertain. “I thought—”

He nodded at her.

“I thought we were gonna lose the ship, sir.”

“Me too.” The ache in his leg was nearly unbearable. “Mind if I—” he gestured toward the edge of her bed.

“Sure,” James shifted to give him room. “Please.”

“Thanks.” Young sat, easing his weight off his injured leg.

“How’d you do it, sir?” James asked, one hand pressed against the bandage over her shoulder.

“Me?” He gave the ceiling a humorless smile. “Wasn’t me, lieutenant.”


“Rush. It was Rush.” He forced his eyes back to hers, forced a smile, forced a rueful laugh. “He saved our asses.”

“Rush? How?” A quick flicker of distaste flashed over her features.

“He sat in the chair. From there, he was able to fire the main weapon and restore shields.” Young shrugged. “Somehow, he plugged himself into the internal sensors and was able to isolate the aliens that boarded us using force fields. He herded them into compartments, then vented the atmosphere.”

“Is he, um—” She didn't finish her question, but Young understood what she meant.

“He's fine,” Young replied. “Or, at least he seems to be.”

Huh.” James kept her expression neutral. “Lucky.”

“I guess so,” he replied.

“Luckier than Franklin.”

“Yeah. I guess so,” he repeated.

An awkward silence settled between them.

Young stood. “I'd better go. You need your rest.”

She gave him a brief smile. “Yeah, sure. Of course.”

“Take care,” he threw back over his shoulder.

TJ moved to intercept him as he left the infirmary, but he waved her off, ignoring the raised eyebrow he got in return. He’d just about made it back to his room when he ran into Eli, almost literally, as the kid rounded a corner, his face glued to the screen of the laptop he was carrying.

Whoa.” Young steadied Eli’s computer before it met an untimely end on the deck plating.

“Hey,” Eli said, recovering his balance. “Thanks. I was looking for you. Do you have a minute?”

“Sure,” Young replied. “But I've gotta get off this leg. Come on.” He motioned Eli in the direction of his quarters. Eli seemed barely able to contain himself, and Young had a hard time keeping up. As soon as they reached their destination, Eli wasted no time in setting up his laptop on the low table in front of Young’s couch.

“What's got you so worked up?” Young resisted the urge to groan as he took his weight off his injured knee.

“So you know I don't like the spying, right? Because—”

“Eli.” Young forestalled the rant with a raised palm.

“Yeah yeah,” Eli said. “I get it. You’re tired. It’s midnight. Everything’s terrible. But you’re gonna want to see this.” He opened a file, then positioned his computer so Young had a good view of the screen.

Young saw a still frame, clearly from the point-of-view of a kino, hovering over a long stretch of empty corridor. Closed doors lined the hallway. Eli hit play, and the footage began to run.

Nothing happened.

“Eli,” Young growled.

“Wait for it,” Eli said.

As Young watched, the standard, yellow-toned corridor lights faded to a soft blue glow in a slow-moving wave that propagated down the long line of the hallway as far as the kino could see.

“I didn't even know we had mood lighting,” Eli murmured.

“Eli, what—” Young broke off.

Beneath the kino, Rush stepped into view, his normally quick stride slower than usual, one hand hooked over his shoulder. As the kino descended to follow him, more of the corridor came into the field of view. They could see the leading edge of the lights dimming ahead of Rush, matching his pace as he moved.

“What the hell is he doing?” Young murmured.

“I don't think he's doing it,” Eli replied. “In fact, I'm not sure he's even aware of it. He's looking down.”

It was true. The scientist’s head was angled down, one hand gripping his shoulder. He looked as exhausted as Young felt.

“Keep watching,” Eli said. “Right here.”

A door to the man’s right slid open, spilling golden light into the hallway before it, too, muted down to the same blue glow as the overhead lights. Rush paused, startled, and glanced at his hand, as if wondering whether he’d hit the door controls by accident. He looked into the room. The kino caught him in profile as he crossed his arms over his chest.

“Oh I don't think so,” Rush said.

The scientist glanced laterally and noticed the kino. He reached out, blocking the camera, and then the kino was sailing back the way it had come, the picture bleaching as it adjusted to the newly elevated ambient light levels.

“Damn it.” Young closed his eyes. “That's the chair room, isn't it?”

“Yup,” Eli confirmed.

“What the hell is going on?” Young fixed Eli with a glare. “Don't tell me he's running the ship. Again.”

“I doubt it.” Eli, only slightly deterred by Young’s glare, worked to contain his enthusiasm. “I think maybe the ship is trying to communicate with him. It's almost like it was inviting him in, y’know?”

“I don't really consider turning the lights off wherever he goes to be behavior I would characterize as friendly,” Young countered.

“But it wasn't turning them off," Eli said. “It was turning them down.” He paused to give Young a significant look. “He gets headaches.”

Young stared at Eli. “You think the ship was trying to make him, I don’t know, ‘feel better’?”

“No. Well—kind of.” Eli sighed. “Maybe? I mean, when you put it like that it sounds stupid, but—”

“Look,” Young said, trying to stop the coming monologue before it got started. “Keep an eye out. We have no idea what the repercussions are going to be following his use of the chair. I'm more interested in preventing him from cutting the rest of the Science Team off from control of key systems than I am in the ship developing some kind of—attachment to him. If that's even possible.”

“Okay,” Eli said, drawing out the word like he thought Young had come to the wrong conclusion.

“Get some rest.” Young stood to usher him out.

After the door shut behind Eli, Young rested his forehead against it, eyes closed. Beneath his skin he could feel tiny vibrations in the metal. He ran a hand over its smooth surface. “Do you talk to him?” he whispered to the ship.

For a long moment, he was quiet.

“Why won't you talk to me?”

There was of course, no answer.

Young sighed and picked up his radio. “Lieutenant Scott, come in please.”

“Yes sir, go ahead.”

“I want someone posted outside the chair room. No one goes in or out without my permission.”

“Understood, sir.”


“Yes sir?”

“Especially not Dr. Rush.”

“Got it.”

By the time Young's radio went off again at 0500, he’d only managed to get a few hours of sleep.

“Colonel Young, this is Rush, do you read?”

“Damn it," Young growled, barely conscious, fumbling in the dark for his radio. “Go ahead.”

“Colonel, would you please clarify the reason a guard is posted outside the chair room?”

“Just a precaution, Rush,” he replied.

There was a long silence. He wondered what Rush was doing. The possibilities ran through his mind—glaring at the radio, throwing something at a wall, trying to get past whomever was posted outside the chair room—

“Rush,” Young growled.

“If you want me to bring the main weapon online, that requires rerouting the control systems away from the primary interface.”

Young could feel the effort the other man was putting into controlling his voice. He wasn’t sure what to say.

“Which is the chair.” Rush’s tone turned scathing.

“You can work on it later,” Young said, “with the rest of the Science Team.”

“Later,” Rush echoed icily.

“Yes, later. With the Science Team.”

No response.

Young tried to go back to sleep, but it was a wasted effort. He shaved and showered, then headed to the mess. After receiving his allotment of processed protein, he took a seat opposite Camile Wray.


“Colonel Young.” She flicked a quick glance up at him from her bowl of mush. Something she saw made her do a double take. “You look exhausted.”

“I'm fine.”

“How are the repairs coming along?”

“Pretty well.” Young gave his protein mix a halfhearted stir. “We've got all three weapons arrays up and running, and the shields are almost back to full power. There are still a few problem areas that people are working on.”

“What about the main weapon?” Wray forced down a mouthful of her breakfast.

“Rush is tackling it. He thinks they’ll need to interface with the chair to fix it.”

“With the chair?” She frowned. “Are you sure that's wise?”

“No,” Young said. “I'm not sure. But Rush tells me it's the only chance we have of getting the thing back online.”

Wray sighed.

“Yeah,” Young agreed.

They ate in silence, focused on getting the meal over with as quickly as possible.

“We could really use another foraging mission.” Wray scraped the bottom of her bowl.

“True. I'll bring it up with the Science Team.”

She nodded at him and left the table. As she was leaving the mess, Rush rounded the corner at a rapid clip, nearly taking her out. The scientist grabbed Wray’s arm to right her as she stumbled.



Young rolled his eyes.

Wray disappeared into the hallway. Rush strode across the room and grabbed a bowl of processed protein from Becker. It seemed that his plan was to eat it as fast as humanly possible while literally standing in front of the airman to give the bowl back to him with minimal time wasted. Becker was watching Rush with resigned amusement. Young got the feeling that this was not an unusual occurrence.

“Where's the fire, Rush?”

The scientist looked over at him, eyebrows raised.

“Sit.” Young indicated Wray's vacant seat.

“I'm extremely busy, colonel.”

“So what else is new?”

Rush narrowed his eyes.

“Sit. We should talk about this plan of yours.”

“To what ‘plan’ might you be referring?” Rush asked, turning on a flow of practiced nonchalance like he kept the stuff on tap.

Young didn't trust that tone. He'd heard it too many times before. He did his best to keep his unease out of his voice. “Interfacing with the chair.”

Rush sat down opposite him and tossed his half empty bowl onto the table. “So. Tell me, colonel. What are your terms? Under what conditions will you allow—”

Young held up his hand before Rush could work himself up to full volume. “Stop being so melodramatic.”

Rush gave him an irritated sigh. He stirred his protein mush, lifted his spoon, and watched the white paste drip slowly back into the bowl.

“My conditions are as follows. One, the entire Science Team is involved. Two, someone is to be stationed outside the door at all times, in case of emergency. Three, no one sits in the chair.”

“One, I’ll involve Eli and no one else. Two, what do you think someone outside the room is going to do? Three, fine.”

“This is not a negotiation, Rush.”

“Right then. Everyone but Volker.”


“Perfect.” Rush slammed his spoon down on the table with a metallic clang. “And what time would you like us to start?”

“Any time.” Young kept his voice controlled. “Just let me know. I want to be there.”

“Let's say half past nine then, shall we?”


“Yes. ‘Great’.” Rush stood.

“You didn't finish your breakfast.”

Rush glared at Young, then stalked toward the door. There was a scatter of nervous laughter as the room let out a collective breath.

“Carry on, people.” Young gathered up his empty bowl along with Rush's partially empty one, and handed them to Becker.

He looked in on Scott’s mini-boot camp for civilians and finished up some odds and ends until it was time to head to the chair room. He met up with Eli and Brody on the way. The two of them were chattering about internal rheostats and capacitors. Well, Eli was chattering; Brody was mostly offering monosyllabic statements of agreement. Young fell in behind them with a nod.

They entered the chair room to a flurry of activity. Laptops opened like butterflies atop Ancient monitors. Young leaned against the doorframe next to Greer, watching Park and Volker boot up systems around the periphery of the room. The chair sat dormant in the center of the space.

“Sir.” Greer greeted him.

“Sergeant,” Young replied. “How’s it going?”

“I feel like I'm becoming an expert at this, sir.”


“Watching other people watch computers.”

Young's mouth twitched. “Well, as far as I’m concerned, it beats alien incursions any day of the week.”

“Yes sir.”

Young nodded in the direction of the corridor. “Take up a position right outside the door. We get sealed in here, I want someone to know about it.”

Greer nodded and moved a few steps back. Young leaned against the doorframe just inside the room, trying to take weight off his injured leg.

“Where's Rush?” Volker asked, from his position behind the main console. “We're pretty much good to go.”

“Right here, Volker,” Rush said, as he strode through the doorway.

The scientist hadn't taken more than two steps into the room when the overhead lighting dimmed and the chair activated with an ominous hum. Its restraints snapped open.

Rush flinched as though he'd been slapped and threw up a hand. Acting on instinct, Young and Greer stepped forward to yank him back, away from the chair. Greer shoved Rush toward Young and moved forward, his weapon at his shoulder. Young's injured knee nearly buckled under the strain, but he used the wall at his back to stay upright and gritted his teeth as he rebalanced himself against Rush.

He could feel the scientist's heart pounding underneath the hand he had clenched around his shirt.

No one spoke.

In the center of the darkened room, the chair continued to hum. Waiting.

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