Force over Distance: Chapter 5

He didn’t see Rush’s right hook until it met his left eye. That focused them both.

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

Text iteration: Midnight.

Additional notes: None.

Chapter 5

Young’s wrists ached like hell.

He perched on the edge of a gurney in Destiny's infirmary, his injured leg elevated, and watched TJ reorganize her pharmaceuticals for the third time in a row. It was well past midnight and, although they’d been together for the better part of the evening, they hadn't spoken much.

It was probably for the best, since Young wasn't confident in his ability to carry on a normal conversation that lasted longer than three minutes.

He tried to think of nothing other than the way TJ’s hair collected the overhead light.

Watching her was easier than watching Rush. Young’s chief scientist was unconscious on an adjacent gurney. The man hadn’t so much as twitched for hours, but his thoughts had built to a churning pressure against Young’s mind. Whatever connection they’d formed was one hell of a lot more powerful than anything Young’d been prepared to imagine.

It didn’t seem likely that things would get easier when the scientist regained consciousness.

Young tried to avoid gaming out worst-case scenarios, but he'd already come up with three or four that were gut-wrenchingly awful.

He’d rather not play any of them out in front of TJ.

“I think that may be the most organized pharmacy I've ever seen,” Young said, as she finished arranging bottles by color.

She looked down, a tinge of pink tipping her ears. “Just working out a system. I want to be quick, when I need to be.”

Young fought a smile. “And you think third time’s gonna be the charm, do you?”

“It’s more like the eighth time.” She fought a smile of her own. “But you never know.”

“TJ,” he said. “It’s been a hell of a day. Get some rest. I’ll stay with him.” Young flicked his gaze toward Rush.

TJ shook her head, a stubborn little set to her jaw. “I want to be here when he wakes up.”

“Does he look like he’s anywhere near waking up?” Young asked. “The chair got him pretty good. You might as well grab a few hours while you can.”

“Radio if you need me.” She gave him a sharp look. “And then you're going to get some rest.”


Young gave her a good stretch of time before he eased his leg off the gurney. He limped over to the inner set of infirmary doors and shut them, then approached Rush’s bedside.

He crossed his arms and looked down at the scientist. “Pretty sure neither of us wants an audience for this.”

Young laid a hand Rush's shoulder.

Nothing happened.

He gave the guy a brief shake.

The scientist’s eyelids flickered.

Young focused on the place in his own mind where he felt the foreign engine of Rush’s thoughts most clearly, then gave the man the mental equivalent of a shove.

Nothing about Rush’s thoughts got clearer, but everything—the swirl, the churn, the presence—ratcheted up in intensity.

The scientist wasn’t awake yet, but he was close.

“Rush,” Young said.

The other man clawed his way back to awareness through layers of interference: dreams of running programs, disorganized memories, snippets of language and symbol, mathematics and music. It didn’t resolve as the scientist opened his eyes.

If anything, it got worse. The light in the infirmary hurt like hell.

“Hey.” Young squinted at Rush’s photosensitive headache. “You're not going to have to relearn English, are you?”

Rush blinked at him.

“Yeah, okay, that was probably a little much,” Young muttered, one hand pressed to his temple.

Still nothing.

“Hi,” Young tried.

Rush’s thoughts were blur and glare and two colliding languages.

Young slowed down. “Do you know where you are?”

The lights in the infirmary dimmed themselves.

On the other side of their link, Rush’s intellect revved like an engine.

“Damn it.” Young braced himself. “Rush. I can explain. Just take it easy.”

Rush did not take it easy.

Young lost himself in the rise of the scientist’s consciousness. It came on like wind, like water, like a swirling firestorm of reactive flow. Nonlinear. Nonverbal. Noninterpretable. Young tried to pull back. He tried to make space, but he wasn’t sure how.

They were panicking.

Both of them.

“Hold it together,” Young said through clenched teeth.

The scientist had zero interest in that suggestion.

Rush made a break for the doors. Young, mostly panicked himself, and sure it would be a bad idea for the scientist to leave the infirmary, tackled the other man. They hit the floor in an explosion of agony. His feet. His wrists. His knees. His side. He couldn’t track which sensations were his, he couldn’t track which thoughts were his. He wanted to go. He wanted to stay. He wanted to ask. He wanted to answer. He tried to speak, but no words surfaced under the weight of warring priority queues.

Priority queues?

He didn't see Rush's right hook until it met his left eye. That focused them both.

Damn it, Rush.” Young fell back, his hand pressed to his face.

Rush twisted out of Young’s grip and put some space between them.

They faced each other, on the floor, breathing hard. The pain of Rush injuries faded. Young’s knee and eye and ribs took the foreground.

Rush drew his injured wrists to his chest and worked at orienting himself. It was tough to say how it was going—the scientist’s thoughts were a wild and foreign pressure on Young’s formerly well-organized mind.

The seconds slipped by.

“Hi,” Young tried, one hand clapped to his face.

“What the fuck?” Rush breathed.

Young wasn’t sure if the question was rhetorical, or if the scientist wanted an answer. If the other man did want an answer, then Young had no idea what to say. He raised his hands, palms open, hoping to either calm Rush down or ward him off. Maybe both.

“I can hear you in my head.”

“Yeah,” Young replied. “I know.”

“You know?” Rush stared at him. “Is it just you? Or everyone?”

“Just me. I think.”

Rush didn't respond. The scientist’s thoughts condensed, then fractured into starburst patterns. He was looking for any kind of answer from his own mind and finding nothing.

“You have no idea what happened, do you?” Young asked, his voice and his thoughts quiet.

Rush shook his head, once.

“What do you remember?” Young asked.

He got a stream of images from Rush, flashes of things he'd worked on, equations, dimly lit terminals—non-linear and disorganized. In a manner that was not at all transparent to Young, Rush settled on their breakfast conversation about the chair interface.

“That was sixteen hours ago.” Young replied to the image, saving Rush the trouble of putting together a question.

“Fantastic.” Rush pressed his fingers against his temples. “So d'you want to fill me in, then?”

“You don't remember sitting in the chair?” Young asked, hoping to trigger a memory.

“No,” Rush said shortly. “I'm fair fucking certain I wouldn't have volunteered for any such thing.”

“You were trapped.” Young focused on his memory of the event—Rush caught behind a golden, collapsing field.

The scientist’s mind tore into Young's, seizing on the memory and flipping through the incident like a rolodex, leaving disorder in his wake. It was disorienting. It bordered on painful. Rush’s mind was every bit as powerful and destructive as Young had imagined it would be. And it wasn’t stopping.

Young was panicking.

Or Rush was.

They both were?

If Young didn’t do something there wouldn’t be anything left of his mind. He pushed back with all his strength, trying to shut Rush out of his head. They locked together, the mental battle as brief and fierce as the physical one moments earlier. After an interval of deadlock, Rush gave way, jerking back as if he’d been slapped.

They faced each other, breathing hard.

Young was alone with his thoughts. “Stay the hell out of my head,” he growled.

“Out of your head?” Rush repeated, as if the words were being torn out of him. “You want me to stay out of your head? I don't even know how the fuck this happened, let alone how to keep my thoughts to myself.”

Young forced himself to take a deep breath. Then another. Then another.

Rush inched backward, until he was braced against the infirmary wall. The guy looked utterly miserable.

“Sorry,” Young murmured.

“Don't be fucking sorry,” Rush snapped. “I've been trying to block you out since I regained consciousness.”

“Fair enough,” Young replied. “You want me to keep blocking you out?”

Yes,” Rush hissed.

Deciding this was as close to a truce as they were likely to get, Young maintained the block and plowed ahead. “I'm not sure how much you got from that—” he lacked the words to describe Rush's mental assault, so he just waved a hand near his head.

“Very little,” Rush said shortly. “Astonishingly, your thoughts are somewhat difficult to follow.”

“Thanks,” Young said. “I think. So, during the attempt to repair the main weapon, you got close to the central interface chair. It trapped you behind a shrinking force field. We couldn't get you out in time. It forced you into the neural interface. Any of this coming back to you?”

“Unfortunately, no.” Rush tipped his head back against the wall. “I'm surprised I'm at all coherent, considering what happened to Dr. Franklin.”

“Yeah,” Young drew the word out cautiously. “Your experience with the chair—well, it wasn't the same.” He paused, wondering how much to tell the other man. The benefit of holding anything back seemed pretty limited.

“In what way?” Rush asked.

“The running theory is that you were modified so that you could interface better with Destiny.”

“Modified?” Rush's tone was eerily controlled, given he’d been abducted by a piece of technology, drugged, injured, genetically made over, and had regained consciousness to find himself with a direct mental line to arguably his least favorite person on Destiny, with the possible exception of Volker.

All that, and still, the other man gave nothing away.

“As in genetically modified,” Young answered.

“Ah,” Rush said delicately. “And how extensive are these—” he waved a hand, “modifications?”

“Sixty percent of your genome,” Young said. “Give or take.”

“Right then.”

They were silent.

“That doesn't explain hearing your thoughts,” Rush said. “Unless telepathy was an undisclosed Ancient skill?”

“Someone had to pull you out of the chair,” Young said evasively. “That someone was me, and this is the consequence.” He made a sweeping gesture to take in the space between them.

Rush watched him with narrowed eyes.

“Look.” Young felt a building headache. “I’m glossing over a lot. I know. If you don't believe me, you can ask Eli. Tomorrow.”

“I will.”

“I'd expect nothing less.” Young stood, closed the distance between them, and knelt next to the scientist. “Just know, I recognize how fucked up this is.”

“Congratulations,” Rush said dully.

There wasn't much of a choice in the matter, so avoiding eye contact and clamping down on the block between their minds, Young gritted his teeth and pulled Rush off the floor. His knee barely held up under the strain. He battled his way to his feet and deposited the other man on his gurney.

They didn't look at one another.

“You need anything?” Young asked.


Young sighed. He filled a cup with water and grabbed an extra blanket from one of the empty gurneys, then dropped it unceremoniously on the end of Rush's bed. He put the water down on the bedside table, within Rush’s reach. He crossed his arms.

Rush stared determinedly at the nearest wall.

“You're a lot of work,” Young said. “You know that, right?”

“It’s been mentioned.”

“I've gotta call TJ.” He pulled out his radio.

“Wait,” Rush said.

Young paused, eyebrows raised.

“Does she know about this—” the scientist used two fingers to motion between his temple and Young.

“The link between us? Yes. She, Eli, and Greer know about the link and the genetic modifications. They've got orders to keep it under wraps for now.”

Rush nodded tiredly. “Maybe we can just leave it blocked.”

“Maybe,” Young said. “Not sure this is the best time to experiment.”

“Possibly not,” Rush agreed.

Young let his barrier fall, wincing as the pressure of the other man’s thoughts amplified his headache. Or maybe it was the other way around? He had no desire to work it out.

Young lifted his radio. “TJ, you awake?”

“Yeah.” She responded quickly, but Young could tell he’d woken her. “This is TJ. Go ahead.”

Rush looked at him, startled, then arched an eyebrow.

“What?” But even as Young said it, he understood, somehow, that Rush had picked up on his previous relationship with TJ. It was, most definitely, news to the other man.

Rush smirked at him.

“If you weren't in on that piece of gossip, you need more friends,” Young growled.

Rush gave him an exhausted shrug.

Young depressed the button on his radio. “He’s awake.”

“I'll be right there,” TJ replied.

Young crossed his arms and tried to think of nothing as he stared into TJ's well-organized pharmacy. The way her hair had caught the light kept snagging the edges of his thoughts, no matter how he pushed it away.

“It won’t work,” Rush said, grudgingly.

“What won’t work?”

“Thinking of nothing. You can't think of nothing for a prolonged period. Focus on something innocuous.”

“So you're being helpful now? That's a new one.”

“Fuck off.” Rush put his own point to practice by vindictively concentrating on the pain in his forearms and feet.

Young fought for his equilibrium as the pain Rush was feeling bored into his consciousness. He thought about raising his block, but figured that was very likely what Rush wanted him to do. He took a breath, kept his shields down, and mentally reorganized TJ’s pharmacy based on size of container.

They waited in silence until TJ arrived.

She locked eyes with Young as she opened the infirmary doors. He gave her a subtle nod. As she passed, he caught the familiar scent of her hair. He couldn't keep it from Rush.

“How are you feeling?” TJ asked the scientist.


“Bullshit.” TJ cocked her head, tired enough that her professional veneer cracked. Her word choice startled a faint smile from Young.

It startled the same expression from Rush.

Young was hit with a wave of confused familiarity as Rush integrated his new insight into TJ’s body language.

Young stood. Pain lanced through his injured leg.

Rush twitched.

“I've gotta get some sleep,” he told them. “TJ, you okay down here?”

She nodded. “I've got it covered.”

As Young made his way back to his room, he practiced focusing on what he was doing, rather than allowing Rush's sensations or waves of indecipherable thought distract him. He had only moderate success, especially when TJ began changing the bandages on Rush's feet.

When he arrived back at his quarters, he was too exhausted to do anything other than lie down on his couch and close his eyes.

He woke to someone banging on his door. A glance at his watch confirmed he hadn't slept for more than four hours. In the back of his mind, he sensed Rush, like the man had always been there, dreaming about something that involved math. Locked doors. The Ancient language.

“Damn it.” Young dragged himself off the couch and opened the door to find Scott standing with his fist raised, mid-knock.

“Sorry to wake you, sir,” Scott said.

“What is it, lieutenant?”

“We dropped out of FTL about five minutes ago?”

Young brought a hand up to massage his temples. “How'd I miss that?”

“With respect, sir, you're exhausted.”

“Anything coming up on sensors?”

“No other craft. We're orbiting a moon that, well, uh, Eli says there’s something special about its magnetic field that’s distorting our sensor signature, so we might avoid attracting any drones. There's signs of vegetation. Might be a good opportunity to take a look?”

“I'll be right there,” Young said.

“What about Dr. Rush?” Scott asked.

“He's off duty.”

“There's a rumor going around he was hurt pretty bad.”

“He was,” Young said shortly, “but he'll be fine.”

Probably he would be fine.

Scott nodded.

“I'll be there in five,” Young said.

He had time for a quick shave before heading down to the gate room. Eli was already there, yawning as he went over the kino footage from the planet. “How's it look?” Young asked, peering over the kid’s shoulder.

“Awesome,” Eli said, mid-yawn. “Plants everywhere, drones nowhere, creepy aliens also nowhere, and a few hours on the clock.”

Young nodded. “Assemble a team,” he told Scott. “Check-ins every twenty minutes.”

“You want to bring TJ in on this?” Scott asked.

Young thought about a potentially supplemented pharmacy. Then he thought about a potentially crashing chief scientist.

“No,” he said. “She's needed here.”

Young stayed in the gate room long enough to see Scott, Greer, James, and Park step through the event horizon. Then, clapping Eli on the shoulder, with a brief, “Call me if anything happens,” he headed for the supply room.

On his way, he turned over the problem of Telford and the communication stones. In addition to the looming threat of involuntary replacement, he now had another issue. He was due to give his formal report on the recent attack in less than three hours. Unfortunately, Young was pretty sure that switching bodies with someone in the Milky Way wasn’t the best idea while mentally linked with his chief scientist.

Delivering his report in person was out of the question, but failure to deliver his report would only give Telford more ammunition in his campaign to replace Young and get an alternative team onto the ship. Try though he might, he couldn't come up with a solution that would last more than three or four days. And, even then, he was gonna need an assist from a junior officer. TJ or Greer.

Greer was a hothead.

TJ was a terrible liar.

The situation was far from ideal.

Young nodded to Airman Dunning, who was posted outside the supply room. He hit the door controls, then wound his way through stacks of crates until he found the box he wanted. He knew its precise location.

After all, he’d packed it.

Spare uniforms, like spare anything else, were hard to come by. All their desert fatigues were in common circulation, and most of what was set aside had belonged to crew members who had died. Or—

Who had been killed.

Young released the metal clamps on the lid of the crate. Hunter Riley’s black jacket was folded neatly, right on top. He shook it out and smoothed it over the surface of a nearby container. He used his pocket knife to carefully cut the sergeant's name off the shoulder, leaving a neat black rectangle where the patch had been. Fishing through the other man's belongings without looking, he pulled Riley's black, military-issue boots out of the bottom of the crate, identifying them by feel alone.

He re-sealed the bin and left the room. If Dunning was curious about what he needed the boots and jacket for, he didn't show it.

Young made a detour to his quarters and picked up his electric razor on his way to the infirmary.

He limped through the doors to find TJ studying her computer terminal. “How's he doing?” Young asked.

She looked up, dark shadows under her eyes. “He's okay,” her voice was quiet. “Sleeping at the moment.”

“Yeah,” Young said ruefully. “I know.”

“Ah.” She shifted in her seat. “You can tell?”

He nodded and leaned against the edge of her desk. “What are we looking at, long term?” he asked.

“His wrists are going to be fine. His finger dexterity is intact. His sensation is intact. The bolts didn't break any bones—they passed through the space between the radius and the ulna in his forearms.” She fingered her own wrist. “The damage to his musculature and nerves is minimal.”

“What about the feet?”

“That's more complicated. He's got a broken metatarsal in each foot. The injuries aren't severe, but I don't think they’ll heal well. He should stay off them—but there's no way that's going to happen.”

“No kidding.” Young rubbed his jaw. “Talk to Eli, see if he can think of something. The kid’s pretty handy when he wants to be.”

TJ nodded.

“What about the genetic changes?” Young asked.

“Too soon to tell,” TJ said. “If Chloe's any indication, these things need time to propagate through the body.”

“So we wait,” Young said quietly.

“We wait.”

“In the meantime,” he said, dropping his bundle of gear on TJ’s desk, “he needs a resupply.”

Yeah, his shoes are a lost cause.” TJ smiled up him. “And his shirt was looking pretty bloodstained before I tore the sleeves open. His T-shirt and jeans are still serviceable, but that’s about it. I think he just has the one outfit.”

“Yeah, he and Eli were working right up until the last minute. Neither of them came through the gate with anything except their laptops.”

“Figures,” TJ said.

“Tell him he needs to shave.” Young handed her the razor. “I can’t handle the beard.”

“I’m not telling him to shave,” TJ said flatly.

“Fine—just give him the razor and see what happens. Don’t tell him it’s from me.”

“This is not going to be a thing,” TJ said sternly.

“What’s not going to be a thing?” Young echoed.

“You know what I mean. I’m not your go-between,” TJ said. “Be nice to him yourself.”

“Just don't tell him that I told you to tell him. Problem solved.”

TJ bit down on a smile. “Isn't he going to figure it out anyway?”

“Not if I never think about it again.”

“Seriously,” TJ said. “Colonel. We need to talk about this mental link.”

“Later.” Young pushed away from her desk. “I've got a lot on my plate right now.”

TJ nodded. “Later.” The word hit more like a warning than an agreement. “And stay off that knee,” she called after him as he headed for the door.

“Right,” Young muttered.

Back in the gate room, he found Eli perched on a stool, monitoring communications from the planetside team. He sat, chin in hand, looking like he was about to fall asleep—a good sign in Young's book.

“How we doing?” Young asked.

Eli jerked upright. “Fine,” he said, blinking sleepily. “Boring. We’re doing boring.”

“Boring is good.” Young unclipped his radio from his belt. “Sergeant Greer, this is Young, do you copy?”

“Loud and clear, sir.”

“Sergeant, I need you back up here, if Scott can spare you.”

“Understood,” Greer replied.

“We’re good, colonel,” Scott added. “We could use another kino sled.”

“I'll have Eli send one through once Greer gates back,” Young replied.

“Thanks, sir. Scott out.”

Behind him, Eli entered the commands to disengage the open wormhole so Greer could dial back in. The event horizon snapped out of existence.

“Kino sled?” Young prompted.

“Yeah, yeah,” Eli replied. “I'm on it.” He slid off the stool. “You gonna be here?”

Young nodded.

“Be right back.” Eli vanished through the door.

Young didn't have to wait long for Greer to step through the gate. “Sergeant,” Young said, as he approached.

“Sir,” Greer replied.

“I need a favor.” Young kept his pose casual.

“Name it.” Greer dropped the ‘sir’ but not the formality of his own stance.

Young glanced at the door to the gate room. “I want to be clear. This isn’t an order. You’re free to refuse.”

“Got it.” Slowly, Greer’s posture began to relax.

Young looked at his watch. “In about an hour, I’m due to make a report to Homeworld Command. I’d like you to go in my place.”

“Sure. Doesn’t sound like much of a favor though.” Greer’s eyes flicked to the open door.

“The favor comes in when I ask you make a few omissions in your report.”

“What do you want me to tell them?” It wasn’t an overt acceptance, but the sergeant seemed to be leaning in that direction.

“They've requested a report on the battle that happened a week ago. McKay may have informed them about the incident with Rush and the chair. I need you to downplay that as much as you can.”

Greer stepped in and lowered his voice. “And when they ask me why you're not delivering the report in person?”

Young nodded. “Tell them I was injured by an energy surge during the repair of the chair.”

Greer cocked his head. “If a mental link with Rush doesn’t count as an injury, I don’t know what would.”

There was a dull clang at the doorway as Eli entered the room, pushing a kino sled ahead of him. Young and Greer looked up.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Eli said, with exaggerated politeness, “did I interrupt your Secret Conference with all this work I’m trying to do?”

Young snorted. “Nope. Just a regular conference.”

“Sure,” Eli said. “A really quiet, really close together, Regular Conference.”

“Sergeant.” Young motioned with his head for Greer to follow him out of the gate room.

“Bye guys,” Eli called after them.

Young and Greer spent the next hour reviewing details before the sergeant reported to the communications room. Young walked him halfway there, stopping off at the infirmary along the way, just in case it was Telford who came through to take Greer's place.

“Good luck,” Young said, as they parted ways.

He watched the other man go, then acquiesced to TJ's insistence that she take a look at his knee, given he was stuck in the infirmary until Greer returned anyway. She changed his bandages and said his plasma burn was healing as well as could be expected.

Fortunately it was not Telford who took Greer's place, but a junior scientist on Bill Lee’s team. Still, it never hurt to keep up appearances. Young spent a few hours in the infirmary monitoring Scott’s progress on the planet via radio. He did his best to avoid paying too much attention to Rush’s dreams, most of which were a mercifully obscure mixture of math and Ancient. He was getting better at functioning with Rush's consciousness churning in the background of his mind.

Asleep, the other man had less capacity to derail Young's focus.

Greer reported back after a few hours without much new intel, other than a mildly gleeful account of Telford’s annoyance at Young’s failure to show for the briefing.

By early afternoon, Scott’s foraging team had returned and the ship jumped to FTL with a supplemented food supply.

The remainder of the day passed quietly. Around sixteen hundred hours, Young gave the okay to start a preliminary exploration of the newly accessible parts of the ship. It was supposed to be strictly a cataloguing mission. Young hoped it would stay a cataloguing mission. The crew seemed to have only the most basic understanding of Stargate Command’s Look Don’t Touch Principle. Then again, most of Destiny's crew was made up of civilian scientists, so Young supposed that he was lucky to get the amount of cooperation he did.

Other than the mutiny, of course.

He blamed Rush for that.


Volker and Brody radioed to let Young know they’d uncovered some “intriguing machinery” behind previously locked doors. So far, they hadn't found anything unambiguously useful, other than several additional power generators that were running at a fraction of their maximal capacity. Volker felt there was some chance the backup generators could amplify the power channeled to the gate. Maybe enough that they could dial Earth.

Young wasn't holding his breath.

A little after nineteen hundred hours, with a wave of pain and a swirl of uninterpretable thought, Rush woke.

Young managed to do a pretty passable job of filtering out sensations and thoughts that occasionally leaked through their link. Unfortunately, any time Rush got to his feet, Young’s tenuous filter held up about as well as a leaf in a cyclone. Young had to spend half an hour working out how to shove the guy’s sensations to the back of his mind so he didn’t hit the damn deck every time Rush decided it’d be a good idea to try standing.

Rush made intermittent attempts to block him out, but, as far as Young could tell, the scientist was having a tough time of it. Rush was burning through his mental energy, and his attempts at holding any kind of block were exhausting and ineffective.

Young wasn't sure what to make of that.

Rush was pretty pissed about it; that much was clear.

It wasn't until Young got back to his quarters around 2300 hours that he realized he hadn't checked in on Rush in person at any point during the day. Whether that was because he constantly received a vague sense of the man's wellbeing, or because he wanted to avoid the scientist, he wasn't sure.

He tried not to think too hard about it.

Young sat down on the edge of his bed, shut his eyes, and focused on his link with Rush.

With a surge of adrenaline and a near-physical snap, he felt the heat of a laptop against aching hands. He could smell crushed grass and hear the sound of a mortar and pestle as TJ worked through testing the plants Scott’s team had brought back. Young could see lines of code—and knew, somehow, that they represented frequency changes in Destiny's shield harmonics.

Rush stopped typing.


Young had startled him.

//Sorry.// Instinctively, he spoke into Rush’s wave of confusion.

//Colonel Young?// Rush's mental projection sounded exactly like his actual voice.

//Yeah. Hi. Expecting someone else?//

The other man sent back a wave of pure irritation.

“Hello?” Eli was sitting in a chair next to Rush’s gurney. “Earth to Rush. I'm waiting for those numbers.”

“Give me a moment.” The scientist kept his tone neutral. //Can I help you?// He seethed at Young.

//I just wanted to make sure you were all right.//

“You're not even looking at your computer,” Eli complained.

//Then why don't you stop by?//

//This is easier.//

//It's also an invasion of privacy.//

Young clenched his jaw. //I’m not thrilled about the situation either.//

//Then get out of my head. Next time I'll drop in on you, and see how you like it.// Irritation was rapidly transforming into anger.

“Hey man, are you okay? You're kind of freaking me out here.” Eli was out of his seat, waving a hand in front of Rush’s face. “Hey, uh, TJ? Can you maybe—”

“Eli,” Rush snarled, and the young man started back. “I said give me a moment.

//Get out.// Beneath the edge of Rush’s anger, Young caught a glimpse of something darker. Deeper. Full of despair.

Young slammed a block into place between them so fast his ears rang with the silence in his mind. He lost the mental picture of the infirmary, the sight of Eli's concerned expression. TJ had been coming—he was sure he’d heard her steps.

Young leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, and stared at the floor of his quarters.

There was no question about it. Rush had wanted Young out of his head but hadn’t been able to throw up a block. Even with all his adrenaline, all his rage, the full power of his ridiculously complicated brain—the man hadn’t been able to force Young out.

“Damn it,” Young whispered.

It didn't make sense.

Of the two of them, Rush seemed to have the more willful personality. If anything, Young would have predicted that Rush would be running roughshod all over him. Dragging his mind through hell and back.

He stared at the ceiling of his quarters for a long time before he fell asleep.

At 0400, his radio went off, dragging him from the depths of a dream he didn't want to remember. He fumbled for the device in the semi-darkness before his fingers finally closed around its familiar contours.

“Young here.”

“Colonel, it's TJ.”

“Go ahead.”

“We have a problem.”


“Yes. He's missing.”

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