Force over Distance: Every Door Comes Open

Immediately before the bolts engage, he hears the roar of a distant sea.

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

Text iteration: Midnight.

Additional notes: None.

Every Door Comes Open

He is afraid.

Rush sprints through dark halls, tearing over straight stretches then tethering his forward inertia into the arc of rounding a corner with a well-timed placement of his hand on the molded edge of intersecting corridors. He changes his direction without slowing.

Something more than exertion closes his throat.

They’ve been boarded.

He’s not yet sure how it happened, and the mechanism by which this has come to pass is not terribly high on his queue of priorities, though that detail may become very fucking salient in very short order. An alien presence on the ship is something that’s always hung like a threat. Over him. Over Chloe.

There’s only one option for them now.

His boots are so worn that he can run in near silence over the deck plating, covering long stretches under dim light.

Even if he’s successful, there’s no guarantee that this will end well.

He’s approaching the neural interface room when a shredding pain begins behind his eyes and in his temples. It pulls him up short. One hand comes to his head as he wrenches himself to a stop.

It’s not a moment too soon.

He hears the irregular beat of alien steps on metal deck plating.

There’s nowhere to go.

The hallway is open and featureless.

He backtracks, one hand sliding along the wall.


The cognitive dissonance produced by Gloria’s voice in this moment is so intense that he comes to a stop, unsure what to do, what to think.

“In here.” She stands inside an unfamiliar recess in the wall. Her eyes are frightened.

He steps laterally into the small space. The back wall is alight with a faint blue glow. A quick scan of the illuminated text tells him he’s standing in a power relay station—normally concealed, now open.

He faces the AI. She looks back at him. The space is very small. They are too close to one another.

In the cross-corridor, mere meters from his current position, a group of blue aliens tears through the intersection of two hallways. They don’t notice him.

“What are you going to do?” Gloria whispers.

He looks at her over the tops of his glasses. He does his best not to feel assaulted by the disheveled sweep of familiar hair. He hasn’t seen her for months. Not for months—until she had shown up this evening, on the bridge, in the midst of an ephemeral knot of human chaos, suggesting what was already in his own mind.

“I was beginning to think you were a stress-induced hallucination,” he whispers.

That remains a possibility.

“If that’s true, you must admit, I’m an unusually helpful one,” she whispers back.

“Debatable.” He edges toward the corridor.

“Wait,” she says.

He feels a spike of pain in his head and ducks back against the wall, waiting for another complement of blue aliens to pass. 

A few seconds faster and he would have beaten them to the chair room.

He feels a flare of familiar frustration at Young’s obstructionist tendencies. If the man didn’t have the need to violently oppose anything Rush suggested purely on principle—scratch that; purely on instinct, as the man hadn’t ever evidenced much in the way of a well-thought-out worldview—then maybe they wouldn’t have half the problems that currently faced them.

“You never answered me,” she says. “What are you going to do?”

He doesn’t want to answer her. “What happened to Dr. Franklin?”

She looks away. “He was not an excellent candidate for use of the neural interface chair,” she says reluctantly. “He didn’t have an application-layer firewall.”

Neither will Rush.

Not this time.

“Y’don’t say.” He edges into the hallway. This time, she doesn’t stop him.

He rounds a corner, picks up his pace, and makes it to the neural interface room with no further trouble. The AI is waiting for him there. He seals the door and disables the entry mechanism.

“Nick,” she says. “You are—” she hesitates.

He looks at her.

“Unlike Dr. Franklin, you are an excellent candidate.”

He’d rather not find out precisely what she means by that statement, but, based on what he already knows, he can guess. He strides over to the nearest monitor bank and scans though the local cache of programs, wishing he had his laptop as he looks for something, anything that could form a barrier between his mind and Destiny.

“Nick, what are you doing?” she asks. “There isn’t time for this.”

That may be true. Several options exist that might shield his mind—firewalls, various forms of buffering—but all take time to configure and, even if that weren’t the case, all cut him off from too much of the CPU. He needs full access if he’s going to retake the ship on his own.

Doors must come open.

They must be vented into space.

“They’re attempting to disable the FTL drive,” Gloria says, an edge of fear in her voice.

He drums his fingers once on the top of the monitor. He looks at the chair.

Go, Young had said. Sit. Be my guest.

Rush smiles faintly. He wonders what Young is doing now. Whatever it is, he’s certain it’s both ineffective and involves an assault rifle.

“They’ll disable the drive,” Gloria says. “I can’t prevent it.”

He’s not certain he believes her. She wants an apposition of their minds without the firewall. She wants access through every cognitive port he possesses.

She wants this.

But then, in a way, so does he. He always has. The chair has called to him, subtle and persistent, from the day he first encountered it. But there’s a reason he’s never used it.

“Can you act as my firewall?” he asks.

“Yes.” She sheds a layer of Gloria’s borrowed mannerisms and holds herself still.

“Will you?” There’s an edge to his voice.

They face one another other in silence.

He’s bargaining with her, and he’s not sure how she’ll respond. If she says no, there’s nothing he can do. It occurs to him that, perhaps, this isn’t a skill he should model for her.

“This time,” she says. Her face is emotionless. “But only this time.” There’s a significant ring to the words, as if she’s certain this won’t be the last time he sits in the chair.

A small muscle in his cheek twitches.

“It must be now,” she says.

He nods shortly and rounds the monitor bank. As he crosses the floor, he feels the metal against his feet, feels the air against his skin. He fixes his eyes on the chair.

He turns.

He sits.

Immediately before the bolts engage, he hears the roar of a distant sea.

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