Force over Distance: At All Angles Part 2
Greer releases a shuddery breath and sits a minute, holding his luck tight.
Chapter warnings: Stressors of all kinds. Loss of autonomy. Physical injuries. Boundary violations.
Text iteration: Early morning.
Additional notes: None
At All Angles: Part 2
Greer opens his eyes.
The light’s purple.
The way it glints to violet over edges and pools black in corners reminds him of the small room on the small street where red evening sun passed through blue curtains over his bedroom window, but—
This isn’t his damn bedroom. Not even close.
The air tastes strange. Acrid.
Gleaming edges, twilit surfaces, dark lines, and angled glass make up the whole world.
He shakes his head to clear it.
The memory of the crash bursts over him, all blast and crush. His heart hammers the inside of his ribs and he fights his harness outta nothing but wild instinct.
It doesn’t give.
Course not. It hadn’t given with the ground impact.
He forces a measured breath.
“This is a goddamned miracle is what this is,” he mutters.
He’s hanging sideways.
His left arm aches, after dangling for who the hell knows how long. His body feels too heavy, like something more than gravity’s pulling him down. He looks up, and his forehead smacks the warped metal of the shuttle wall. He looks down, and—
The doc’s across the cockpit and groundside, his hands still buried in a dead circuit board. In the dim light, Greer can’t make out much else.
“Oh this is—this is fucked up,” he mutters. He clears his throat, then projects a little better. “You with me, doc?”
“Yeah.” The word cracks as it comes. “You’re right; that’s a lot to ask.” He swipes a hand across his face. “Okay,” he whispers to himself. “Okay.”
Priority number one: get clear of the wreckage.
Priority number two: currently unresponsive.
He runs his hands over his upper arms, his shoulders, his torso. He twists, passing palms over thighs, doing a visual check, scanning for injuries—
As soon as he sees the thing, he feels it. A three-inch piece of metal, peeled away from the base of his chair, has speared his calf clean through.
“Yup,” he sighs, “seems about right.”
In light this dim, it’s difficult to tell how much blood he’s lost. Best not to think about it.
He jerks his leg free.
Holy hell does that sting.
He swallows a shout and squeezes his eyes shut against the pain, the warm gush of flowing blood, the world going gray at its edges.
“So, yeah, that did hurt, doc, but I’m good,” he gasps. “I’m good.”
He waits for the mist to clear, for color to come back to the world. When he’s satisfied he’s not pinned anywhere else, he hooks his good leg around the base of the chair, wraps an arm around the back, and unbuckles his restraints. He falls, but he saves it with a quick reach-around for the dangling harness strap.
Either gravity’s stronger than usual, or he’s lost more blood than he cares to admit.
He lowers himself, then drops the last few inches to the opposite sidewall. He comes down a few feet behind the doc. His knees buckle as he hits the warped panel. A bolt of pain shoots from calf to spine, tracing the path of a pissed-off nerve.
“Yeah.” He breathes the red-hot edge off the fire in his leg. “Don’t you worry about me, doc. I am fine.”
He gives his injured leg as much space as it’s gonna get in a smashed-up box, then sets himself up to get a look Rush. The man’s still strapped in, his hands tangled in a crushed console, his eyes shut. Greer holds his breath, crosses his fingers, and checks guy’s throat.
He’s got a pulse.
Greer releases a shuddery breath and sits a minute, holding his luck tight.
It’s quiet as hell.
Rush’s eyes snap open, focused on nothing.
Greer just about jumps out of his skin.
“Doc,” he hisses. “Stop tryin’ to send me into an early grave. Eight times in a day is enough. You got that?”
Greer tries to ease up, tries to ignore the feeling of someone breathing down his neck. “Sorry. Sorry. You okay?”
“Rush,” he says, loud and clear and slow.
That gets him a long, intent stare.
“Hey man.” He keeps it soft. “Amazing landing. Zero points for style, though.”
Rush looks at the split-open control panel, his expression devastated.
Greer feels like seven layers of asshole. “Rush, no, c’mon, man. Look at me. Me.” He lays a hand on the scientist’s shoulder, like he’s seen the colonel do sometimes.
It doesn’t go as planned.
Rush flinches hard. He yanks his hands out of the dead nest of wire, curls into himself, shuts his eyes, clenches his hands, and presses them into his temples as though he can hold himself together with two closed fists.
Greer, wired to hell, flinches too. “Jesus, doc.”
Yelling at the guy does. Not. Help.
He takes a beat.
He shifts. He settles. He doesn’t lay a finger on Destiny’s chief scientist, even though the need to make sure the man’s not bleeding out somewhere crawls through the mind-tunnels of Greer’s earliest, oldest training.
“Hey,” he says. “You ride a disintegrating shuttle down through a thick-as-soup atmosphere and you can have twenty minutes. No problem. I will watch your six.”
Greer waits him out.
The doc can’t hold his tension. He’s bleeding energy, and pretty soon he’s uncurled with his hands back in the shuttle circuits.
“We got us a new planet to explore.” Greer reaches forward, real slow, hand open. “So far, all I can tell you is that it’s purple. Gravity’s kicked up, some. Nothing’s on fire. Yet.” He goes for the buckle on the guy’s harness. He unclips him, and, again, Rush flinches like hell.
“I get it,” Greer keeps his tone light. “By all rights you should be done for the day.” He scans the beaten-to-hell interior of the shuttle, mentally cataloguing what he’ll need to come back for. The rope and flashlights are a must. A gun sure as hell woulda been nice.
Unfortunately, someone insisted ‘guns would not be necessary’ and would ‘pose a decompressive hazard.’
Eli’s gonna see a ‘decompressive hazard’ up close on the other side of whatever bullshit they have to carve through to get back to Destiny.
“Doc,” Greer says. “How we doin’?” The scientist’s eyes are dark and wide, his gaze back on the broken to hell panel eight inches in front of his face. “I get the feeling that if I try dragging you out of here right now, it’ll be a pretty shit experience. For both of us. Any thoughts on that?”
Rush’s gaze flicks to him then back to the panel.
Greer gives the ruined aft compartment of the shuttle a once-over. The rear doors are warped. Purple light slants through a wide gap in the metal.
“I been learning Ancient for ya,” Greer murmurs. “Here goes nothing.” He clears his throat. “Salve. Quid est nomen tuum?”
Rush quirks an eyebrow.
“Hey,” Greer says, hopeful as hell, trying to clinch the guy’s interest. “Salve. It’s me. I hope you still understand English, because that’s all the Ancient I know, other than Lisa’s ‘Danger Words’.”
Rush holds Greer’s gaze.
“I know you’re not at your best right now, but this’ll go a lot better if you can get it together even a little, doc. A lot better.”
Rush looks back at the exposed circuitry of the shuttle.
“Nope. I’m much more interesting than a broken ship. C’mon.” Greer inches forward. “Talk to me, you little Scottish asshole; I can see you thinking.”
Again, Rush meets his eyes.
“Come on, man. Say something. Say anything.”
Rush just looks at him, damn it.
“That’s fine.” Greer tries to file every rough patch off his delivery. “I don’t need words. I’m a man o’action. You get it. I’ll confess something to ya though, doc. I’m a little worried about you being as good as plugged into the shuttle when it hit the ground. That’s not helping you out. If the colonel was here, he’d be talking you down. Talking you up. Whatever it is he does to sight you down the human line again. And, I’ll be real, doc, even though I’m shit compared to him, fixing you up is pretty high on my priority list. Because I can build the hell out of a fire, but other than that—” Greer trails off.
Wind whistles through the crack in the rear compartment.
“Greer,” Rush whispers.
Hallelujah, praise Jesus, fuckin’ amen. Greer is gonna start back with church, he’s gonna do it tomorrow, Matt Scott is gonna be so happy.
“Yeah,” Greer says, chill as hell, like this isn’t the best thing to ever happen to him. “Yup. You got it. It’s me. Your favorite sergeant. How’s it goin?”
Rush shuts his eyes.
“Come on, doc. I get that there are about a million reasons you’re having a shit day, but we gotta get outta here. Either that, or fix the shuttle You think there’s any chance of that?”
Rush stays quiet.
“Doc,” Greer says, low and insistent, “can we fix the shuttle?”
He has to wait a long-ass time, but—
“Warped toric joints,” Rush whispers.
“The shuttle has—warped toric joints.”
Oh hells yes. Terrible news, but god damn if it isn’t a real answer to his real question. Shuttle not fixable. Why? Warped toric joints. That’s why.
“Oh yeah?” He keeps his voice casual.
“Yes,” Rush breathes. “And—” He stops there and stares at the gutted circuitboard in front of his face. He traces a ripped-to-hell wire, the shard of crystal it’s soldered to. He’s quiet for so long that Greer’s certain he’s gotten lost in his own head, except for how he finishes with “—I destroyed its central processor.”
Rush sweeps his fingers over shot circuits.
Greer frowns, resisting the urge to yank the guy’s hand out of a nest of live wire. “So we’re gonna to need to be rescued, then?”
“So you think you can get us out of here?”
“Well,” Greer winces as he readjusts his position, not sure what to make of Rush’s contradictory statements. “I’m pretty damn sure the colonel’s gonna to try and attempt a rescue.”
“Of that,” Rush whispers, still stroking the metal, “I have no doubt.”
“So,” Greer says, “what do you say we make it as easy on them as we can? Transmit a signal, maybe? So they’ll find us?”
“So they’ll find us.” Rush’s hand stills on the metal.
His eyes are hard to look at.
“Yeah.” All the strength is gone from Greer’s voice.
The wind whistles softly through the sheared and twisted wreckage.
“Do you know what it feels like to be vivisected?” Rush whispers.
The hair on the back of Greer’s neck stands up.
“No,” he says, slow and even.
“Let’s keep it that way.” Rush’s voice is inaudible except for the hard stops of the consonants.
“God damn, doc—” Greer stops. He doesn’t have a way to land his sentence, he’s not sure how they got from rescue to vivisection, except— “You think if we transmit a signal, it won’t be our people who find us? It’ll be the Nakai?”
Rush nods, stroking the shuttle.
And, okay. That was—good? That was something. At least he wasn’t pulling “vivisection” out of nowhere. “You’re doin’ your two-steps-ahead-and-one-step-sideways thing. I get you. Sometimes.”
Rush runs his thumb over half-melted crystal.
“What’s with the, uh—petting the shuttle?”
The doc looks up at him, earnest and forthright and pale enough to be bleeding out somewhere Greer can’t see. “It doesn’t understand what’s happened to it.”
“The shuttle.” Greer means it as a question, but it hits like a correction. Like a reminder.
“Yes.” The doc’s looking at dead circuits again. “The shuttle.”
“Okay,” Greer says, not liking the emerging vibe one bit. “You’ve spent enough time with this thing. Let’s do some sight-seeing.” He shifts his stance and braces his injured leg against some friendly-looking sidewall.
“No.” Rush’s hands tighten on the paneling.
“Sorry, doc, this is gonna suck, but you don’t get a choice on this one.”
Greer hauls Rush out of his harness, grabs the guy’s jacket, and pulls him up, out, and over the chair he’s been strapped to. It takes an extra wrench to break the man’s hold on the ruined console, but, once he does, the doc stops resisting for a nice, disturbing thirty seconds or so. They’ve nearly cleared the aft compartment before Rush gets his act together and starts putting up a fight, but, by that time, Greer has momentum going for him.
They burst through the gap in the ruined rear doors into the light of a violet sky.
Small wet stones slide past each other as Greer steps into a few inches of running water. The stream, flowing quietly in a broad, shallow swath, flickers in the twilight.
No way is he dragging the doc through alien water.
The man tries to wrench himself back in the direction of the forward shuttle compartment. Greer staggers, but keeps a hand clenched on the front of Rush’s jacket, hissing at the bolt of pain that shoots up his injured leg. He steadies himself on the warped edge of the aft doors, so when Rush tries to break away again, he’s ready. Greer drops to a knee and yanks the man into a fireman’s carry.
“You are just shit at the hand-to-hand, doc,” Greer mutters. “We need to work on this.”
The disorientation at his sudden change in position cut Rush’s fight to nothing, and Greer makes the river bank with no trouble.
No trouble other than the alien water in his open wound.
That’s a problem for later. Hours from now, hopefully.
He lowers the scientist onto the loose stones next to the water and kneels beside him, wounded leg burning. He scans the tree-line, hands itching for every gun he’s ever held.
When he’s satisfied nothing’s about to make them its lunch, he runs a critical eye over Rush.
“You hurt, doc?”
Rush has his eyebrows pushed together, perplexed as hell about something.
“Does anything hurt?” Greer asks.
Rush looks like he’s trying to Rubik’s cube his way into figuring out what the hell’d just happened.
Greer doesn’t see any obvious injuries.
“Sorry.” His gaze flicks back and forth between Rush and the tree-lined bank of the wide, stream. “Sorry about that, doc. Told you it was gonna suck. But being in that shuttle wasn’t doing you any favors.”
“Quid—” Rush levers himself up on one elbow. “Too much data,” he decides. “And insufficient speed.”
“You’ll get the hang of it,” Greer replies. “You’re good at figuring—” he waves a hand in the air, “—figuring out all kinds of stuff.”
Rush gives him a forlorn, dubious-as-shit expression.
“You just explained something to me,” Greer says. “That’s an improvement already. We’re gonna be fine.”
Rush looks up, away from Greer, into the twilit sky.
“Yup.” Greer follows his gaze. “We’re fine.”