Force over Distance: At All Angles Part 3

The nature of his problem is a dictionary problem.

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

Text iteration: Midnight.

Additional notes: None

At All Angles: Part 3

There are—


The nature of his problem—

is a dictionary problem but he doesn't have the processing power to make a hash table the standard solution an associative array would be best but maybe he can live with a dynamic array can he even

Random access should be must be retained.


Too much data, not enough metadata.

“You’re all right,” Young says.

This is what he will do he will

This is what he will do he will

This is what he will do he will create a hash table that doesn't bin all of his data but only a portion it can’t be all because the cost per lookup must be low if he’s to respond with anything approaching normal speed and it must be well-dimensioned because certain keys will have many corresponding values but he probably has the capacity for this and it should get easier as he goes he’s just not clear on how he will interface with the data outside the hash table and whether he will interface with it or it will interface with him.

“A limited hash table as your base,” Young says. “I like it. That’ll work. Most likely.”

He suspects that Young is not here.

People pull their context with them and Young pulls nothing situationally appropriate.

Rush says nothing.

He builds his hash function. Too many collisions will slow him down significantly if he creates all his keys now then he could have a perfect hash function but that won’t leave him room to adapt and his mind isn’t meant to work like this anyway things tear through his consciousness putting too much rigidity in will ensure nothing but shatter.

“Don’t waste time making it perfect.” Young watches Greer go back into the shuttle. “And watch your clustering, genius. It’s gonna jack the lookup cost.”

Rush says nothing.

It is dark and he is slammed down on a table he is still wet he is so cold but not cold enough

He jerks and he stops

“—so we’ve got, oh, I don’t know, a million bucks worth of fancy tools and kinos back there, but not much in the way of—”

“—and you know how I feel about that. Anyway, if I have to use my knife in self defense I am personally gonna force Eli—”


He has a hash table. Should the Nakai


be included in the table or should they remain outside there are pros and cons to both the probability he’ll encounter the Nakai again in the near future and by near future he means before he leaves this twilight band is high and it would be useful to rapidly access information about them but the cons are that said information serves as a focus for

It’s almost a relief as they tear through his chest to implant the transmitter because for a moment they’re out of his mind, and he was not built for this, he knows he wasn’t; being conscious for the cut and spread is not sustainable and nothing but sustain. Their knowledge of his anatomy can’t be any better than his own and maybe that’s why they don’t place it in his heart just adjacent to

yes as a focus.

Maybe they do not go in the table.

Maybe the table will be keyed to people but which people and he’s not sure what Young is doing here and what Greer is doing here and are they hallucinations or delusions or are they here and where is he and when is he and he has a lot of memories that seem to involve Nicholas Rush he was the one that Colonel Young knows and the one that Greer knows.

He is ninety-five percent certain that he is Nicholas Rush.

“Doc. Come on. Give me a hand here, will you?”

He’s sitting

and he feels unstable so he puts his hands down in front of him and his hands are touching rocks that are dry and they look purple and the sky is purple and this is the twilight band and he directed them here using the shuttle the dead shuttle that was so afraid and now he’s alive and it’s not alive it has no processor it cannot do what he wants or it wants it cannot do anything and it is possible that he might have been damaged as well what happened when the shuttle hit the ground he doesn’t remember maybe it will come to him maybe that’s already what this is and he'll be forever hitting the ground.

“Hold these, will you?” Greer hands two objects to Rush and if he can touch an object that’s handed to him by a person does that mean that that person is real.

He looks at what’s in his hands and he decides it is a radio and radios are now keyed to Eli.

“A modified hash table,” Eli says. “Based on people. That is hot. But like, in a computational sense.” Eli smiles. “Obviously. But here’s my question for you: is that really the best idea? Because you did indeed correctly identify that little number in your hand there,” Eli raises his eyebrows at the radio, “but because you keyed it to me, now you’ve got me as baggage. I guess that’s a con, unless you find having me here helpful, in which case it’s a pro. But who all are you binning on?  I’m willing to bet that not all of them will be as nice to you as me.”

“I think they’ll be helpful,” Rush says.

Greer looks at him. “The radios?” Greer says. “How come?”

“Um, yeah,” Eli says. “You don’t have to talk to me, cause I’m kinda you? You should talk to Greer. I think he might actually be, y’know. Here.”

“In case—”

He needs a teleological argument to clarify a statement he didn’t intend to make why would he want a radio on a planet what is the purpose of a radio perhaps he can simply state its function is that an appropriate response to the question of why is a radio helpful Greer is looking at him.

“In case we want to transmit a signal through space by modulating electromagnetic waves.”

“Yup. We might wanna do that.” Greer looks down at his leg. “I’m likin’ the English, Doc. Not gonna lie.” Greer’s eyes shift to the tree line. “You gonna be okay here by yourself for a minute? I need to get the first aid kit.”

Greer looks at him.

“Yes,” Rush says.

“Can I have a radio?” Greer asks.

Rush looks at Eli, still sitting next to him on top of the small rocks.

“Yeah,” Eli says, motioning with his head.

Rush hands Greer one radio.

“Thanks, Doc,” Greer says and then he’s gone and he is alone there is no one next to him and no one in his mind and no one he can see he can tell where Destiny is he can feel her like a fish hook in his thoughts pulling him back across a distance that he can’t cross and it’s so quiet and he does not like the water.

“You’d better get your shit together, Nick,” Telford says, smoking a cigarette. “You’re fucking pathetic. You think you have the processing power to build and operate a hash table? Good luck.”

“Please don’t talk to me,” he says.

“Don’t talk to you? I am you, you fucking idiot. How the hell am I actually gonna be here? Think about it for ten seconds. I’m fucking locked in my quarters thanks to you, and all because I tried to help you. That entire crew up there is alive because of me. You are alive because of me. And you know it. Clearly.” Telford takes a draw of his cigarette. “So don’t give me that shit, Nick.”

“I’d prefer someone else.”

“Yeah. Well. If that’s the case, maybe you shouldn’t have keyed anything to me.”

“Please go away.”

Telford sighs and tosses his cigarette into the shallow water. “Nick—”


“You’re not interfacing with the data,” Telford says. “The data is interfacing with you.”

“Not preferred,” Rush whispers.

Is he dealing with the totality of things as they exist or is he dealing with things that do not he’s not certain he can delineate all the permutations of options but he thinks it may be important and he wishes he knew why he’s not on Destiny and he thinks that maybe he is on Destiny but if he is then where is Colonel Young and where is the AI. He could be dreaming he doesn’t remember his dreams often but when he does he wishes he didn’t so maybe that is what this is. Maybe this is what happens to him when he’s in the chair maybe he’s the AI now and this what is made when they combine a thing that cannot do this but the thing that worries him most the

“I don’t know exactly—” he breaks off, trying to hold onto his panic even as his eyes slide shut and then open again, “—how we ended up in this situation but—”

thing he can’t guard against is something happening to Young because that would imbalance him it would have to but why would he hallucinate a world with a purple sky and a broad shallow stream and he does not like the water.

“Hey doc,” Chloe says, her arms wrapped around her knees. “Do you think I’m dead?”

He looks away, one hand pressed to his mouth.

“Do you think I made it back inside Destiny before I was killed by the stellar flare, or do you think Matt and I died out there?”

It is all right because

“—and damn I hope I got a tetanus booster at some point in the—”

“Hold this, will you?”

He is holding something.

“What do you think, doc, is it better to wash this thing in alien water, or just slap some of that antibacterial gel on it and call it a day?”

It is all right because they were on the hull he can remember Lieutenant Scott catching her ankle and catching the hull and holding her there and Colonel Young knew and they had six minutes or maybe seven and they were not so far only seventy-five meters and someone was in the third suit standing by.

He is holding something.

“It’s gauze,” Tamara says.

Rush says nothing. He has no idea if she’s there or not but probably not and Greer probably is and he tries not to talk to people who aren’t there it’s a policy he has.

“He’s injured,” Tamara says.

“You’re injured?” Rush says to Greer.

Greer looks at him.

Rush wonders why he is getting that look.

“Yeah,” Greer says finally. “Yeah. I cut my leg. That’s why I’ve been cleaning it and wrapping it for the past fifteen minutes.”

This is something he should have noticed this is something that he should have

“Hey,” Tamara says, back in his line of sight. “It’s okay. You’re doing your best. And now you can help him. It’s an alien world—who knows what kind of bacteria he’ll be tracking through. Do the real me a favor and save me some work, hmm?”

He says nothing to Greer because what could he say he can barely explain anything on a good day and people who aren’t here are talking to him and maybe Greer himself isn’t real this could be an elaborate construction by the Nakai because wait this makes sense who can talk to a starship with their mind no one can do that maybe he never left and everyone thinks he’s dead maybe how could he be reconciled with Colonel Young he framed him he framed him and then he was left to die Young left him he left him he left him to the Nakai and could they take all this from his mind do they want to ascend does he want to ascend what do they want from him what do they why would they take him off Destiny if they haven’t already gained control of the ship if they did that they would kill the crew the crew probably doesn’t even think of him or remember him anymore but still he’s fucked them over from a distance in space and time.

“Doc,” Greer snaps. “Look at me.”

“I don’t think you’re here,” Rush looks at him. “They’ve probably already killed you.”

Greer stares at him.

“Nah,” Greer says finally. “This is one of those things you should trust me on, doc. I’m not dead, and you’re not dead.”

“I think they’re torturing me.”

“The Nakai?”


Greer looks at him. Tamara studies Greer from the side.

“I think he’s real.” She turns her blue eyes on him and he tries not to look at her but he fails. “I think he’s real,” she whispers again. “I bet he has no idea what a hash table is.”

“Define hash table,” Rush snaps at Greer.

“Um,” Greer says, “one more time?”

“Define hash table.”

“Hash table? Sorry doc, I think you may have some wires crossed on that one. Hash is a food and a table is something you eat it on, but I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as a hash table.”

“See,” Tamara says. “See? If he were one of us, he would know.”

Is he lying does he know he narrows his eyes and tries to tell but Greer mostly looks sad which is odd he doesn’t understand that.

“It’s a computing term,” Rush says because he doesn’t like the way that Greer is looking at him.

“Oh yeah?”  Greer ties off the bandage around his leg.

“Yes,” Rush says and then he reaches out and closes his hand around the bandage on Greer’s leg very hard and the only thing this requires is the understanding and manipulation of energy-mass equivalence which is something he’s been doing in a mechanical context for quite some time now and the energy is so great in even a small piece of mass that it requires practically nothing to provide the requisite energy to rebuild according to previous patterns arteries and veins and cells continuing from behind and coming back from ahead to grow together and this is nothing compared to what he'll attempt for Tamara and it’s over before Greer has time to pull away but he does pull away because

“You’re all right,” Young says. “You just scared the shit outta him. That’s all.”

“I wish you were here,” Rush whispers. He’s lying down again.

“I know, genius. Me too.”

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