Force over Distance: At All Angles Part 5

A ship or a gate or a ship.

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

Text iteration: Midnight.

Additional notes: None.

At All Angles: Part 5

Plants have taken back this city. That is the way of things.

“Doc, get up.”

It’s not entirely transparent to him what he’s doing on the ground and no one is conjecturing at the moment which leaves him uncertain as to what precisely has happened to his hash table specifically whether he is using it or it is using him who is in control of his mind and if he can ask that question does it mean that he is or is ability to ask simply indicative of consciousness which is presumably necessary for self-determination but perhaps not sufficient. He is decompensating as inevitably as the plants grow between the broken material of the road, destroying it with their black, twilit-band leaves optimized to absorb everything they can from the sun which is close and hot but oblique its electromagnetic waves travel through the atmosphere slantwise, slowing and refracting and refracting and refracting to a point where red meets the darkness to make a color that’s more

“You’re better than this,” Telford has time to hiss before Greer pulls him up. “You’re better than this.”

He wishes his hash table was not so set on giving him a hard time. He shouldn’t have included Telford but that was perhaps true in a context that extended beyond computational constructs but the man has a point and he is better than this he doesn’t just mindlessly run from something that will always inevitably catch up within the confines of a closed system and right now with no shuttle and no gate this is the closed-est of closed systems. So this is what he will do he will

“Come on,” Greer says.

“No,” Rush snaps.

He will operate his hash table with multiple personality disorder and he will indirectly—well best not to think about what’s outside his hash table but he’s making stepwise adjustments to this way he is now without Young and without Destiny and so he’ll attempt to think of something that doesn’t involve pure running away because they cannot run far enough they will not stop chasing him until they have him and until they have broken open his mind and taken it apart and there are things they could do things that

“You’re never safe from them,” Chloe whispers her eyes wide and her hair wet. “Not until you’re dead. I don’t think anyone understands that the way we do.”

There’s a voltage differential building in his mind and one day one of these things that other people call flashbacks will release like a shockwave across that never lets him go and he cannot afford this right now he cannot he cannot

“Don’t you fucking dare,” Greer says, his face centimeters from Rush’s own his arms hurt where Greer is gripping them. “You stay with me, Rush.”

“Yes,” Rush says and he’s breathing very fast. “Yes yes. I need to think. We can’t outrun them.”

He acknowledges Greer’s statement and he explains his actions and he explains a reason for those actions and this is definite progress for him he has more space to run his algorithms and whether that’s adaptation or adrenaline he will merely continue heuristically. If you have difficulty understanding a problem try drawing a picture but insight into insight is a tricky business and does he understand this it’s difficult to say but the problem can be outlined in the following manner: they descended nearly ballistic at a time point before the Nakai dropped out of orbit and now the Nakai are here and a rescue party is not and their shuttle is dead and no one can find them even if they come they’re no longer with the shuttle and they must break out of their closed system. Planet, ship, space and Nakai between to traverse the distance in question they will need a ship or a gate or a ship.

A ship or a gate or a ship.

“Y’know,” Young says, shoving his hands into the pockets of his BDUs, “your current data set may not represent future system states.” Young looks up at the buildings. “Awful lot of resources you have here. Possibly.”

“Can you run and think at the same time?” Greer shakes him once. “‘Cause it’s kinda required.”

Rush narrows his eyes. Young is not part of his hash table because—

Black skyline against a purple sky three hundred and sixty degrees a shell of a hemisphere narrow space quadrilaterals blocking light at various distances this is a city but he needs a lab who lived in this city who were they there is glass or a functional equivalent shining amongst the plants what is this place what is this place he needs a direction this is the outskirts and they need the center but where is the center or where is a lab or is it

or is it

Who would live in a twilight band and is there naquadah here or was it brought here brought here—not de novo here on this scorched and freezing locked fucking rock oh no no no no it was brought here it was brought here their precious fucking naquadah alloy but is it an alloy that’s an assumption who are they or what are they these people who lived in a twilight band who came here to do something and died and died and died they must have because where are they

Greer drags him forward.

“I need a terminal,” Rush says and look how well he’s doing he will fucking end them all no one leaves him on fucking planets Destiny will wait for him he will always always find his way back to her.

“What kind of terminal?” Greer says.

“The only—“  he reaches out as if he could touch it his terminal that remains theoretical. “The only kind I ever need,” he finishes, clenching his fist.

“Something you can stick your hand into,” Greer says quietly, looking behind them.

“Yes,” Rush hisses and he can feel the branch and spread of parallel processing begin in an anticipatory whir in his mind but he doesn’t have the capacity for it. Not yet. “It worked with the shuttle; it’ll work with anything.”

That is a generalization and that is progress specific case to general case and he’s a fucking heuristical genius thank god for that.

“This is the point where usually I’d say, ‘doc, y’can’t go sticking your hand in random pieces of equipment.’ Not without antivirus software for your brain. But, we’re pretty fucked.”

“Yes,” Rush says. “Yes that’s accurate.”

The metal is cool against his back and he can conceptualize what he wants to do which is to keep going but he fails to do it and he’s not sure why that is but Greer’s not dragging him forward anymore Greer’s not even here and what happened exactly he’s inside a structure and he can’t breathe very well which indicates recent physical activity or recent panic not mutually exclusive or maybe his heart is just failing difficult to know when one has these spontaneous resets he was running and the reason for that was what exactly? Maybe his hash table knows.

“Hey,” Daniel says, leaning forward and looking out from under his eyebrows and he did not key to the AI he keyed to Daniel the real Daniel. “Hey Nick.”

Greer is not here.

Rush nods at him but says nothing but he hopes Daniel will tell him where he is and he tries to project in Daniel’s direction but it is so hard.

“Yeah, sure,” Daniel says, miraculously managing to pick up on his intent. “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything more than what you’ve got in your searchable database; I’m sure the actual Daniel would be much more helpful, but hey. You work with what you’ve got. So. You’re inside a building in the center of an abandoned city. You passed the city limits—at some point, I’m not actually sure when, because you don’t track that very well. You’re looking for a computer terminal where you can interface and try and determine if there’s anything here that can get you back to Destiny. Namely, a ship or a gate.” Daniel raises his eyebrows like he’s not sure if he should keep going or not so uncertain

“Nick,” Daniel calls, his voice echoing through the cement hallways of the SGC. When he doesn’t turn the other man catches him up.

“Daniel.” He looks pointedly at the grip the other man has on his arm.

“Sorry.” Daniel steps back. “But I think maybe I didn’t make myself clear in the briefing. I think this is a bad idea. A really really bad idea.”

Rush smiles faintly at him. “No, y’were quite clear on that point.”

“A device that’s supposed to help you let go?” Daniel lowers his voice. “A device that’s supposed to change the electrophysiological properties of your mind with no description of how? A device used by Anubis? Nick. You can’t really be thinking of doing this.”

Rush says nothing.

“I said this to Telford, and I’ll say it to you. A device like this—it could ruin your mind. It could kill you. Whatever it does—you may not ever be the same.”

“I know that.”

“Then why—”

I have to go.” Rush pulls away.

“Don’t,” Daniel calls after him. “Please don’t.”

“I have to go,” Rush says.

He opens his eyes and it’s dark and it’s dark and it’s dark only a dim light comes through the windows and everywhere there’s broken glass or its functional equivalent and why is it all broken all of it as if all the shatterable things on this planet shattered in one moment one terrible moment but the structures still stand they’re laced with a naquadah alloy he can’t see it here but he could see out outside the naquadah shot through like a web like a thing that had grown into the metal like something alive.

“This place is theirs,” Chloe whispers. “You know it is.”

“Yes,” he says and he shuts his eyes but that doesn’t keep the knowledge away their terrible aesthetic is all over it boxy structures with curiously curving interiors technology that’s partially organic that grows its way to completion that’s not meticulously constructed but spreads like disease but the naquadah, naquadah, naquadah—that is not theirs.

“But why?” he asks Chloe and he doesn’t explain what he means, not to her.

“Maybe they stole it,” she says. “They take their tech. It’s how they advance.”

“But why bring it here—to a tidally locked world in an intergalactic void?” He whispers his question.

“Because,” Chloe says. “They were doing something dangerous here. Something very, very dangerous. Something that failed. Something that killed them all.”

He brings his hand to his mouth and he is not panicking he is not panicking he just would like to know where Greer is and where the Nakai are relative to his current position delta-s for both that is what he would like to know and he would like Greer to come back for several reasons, not the least of which is that he doesn’t know how long he’s been here not breathing well against this wall in the darkness and what if something happened to Greer what if he’s dead or trapped or maybe he was never here at all maybe he was a part of the hash table but he’s positive he could touch him but does that mean anything it’s not clear to him but it is clear that he can’t stay here forever against this wall was he supposed to wait or go he doesn’t know and where are the Nakai he doesn’t know that either he gains contextual knowledge and his placement in linear time and his ability to serially organize from Colonel Young and from the AI and without them without them without them at least he needs one of them because without them

“Please,” Rush says. “Please find me.”

“I think you’re gonna have to find us, genius,” Young says.

“I can’t.”

“Yes you can. Of course you can. Just don’t leave without Greer.”

“Okay,” Rush says, his hands clenching and unclenching his vision is graying out and he’s about to pass out he’s not sure why this is happening what is wrong with him what is wrong with him something is wrong with him this doesn’t usually happen even when he panics and there is a non-zero probability that he’s panicking right now because he can’t hear anything over the rushing sound and

“—on doc. Fuck. Fuck. Wake up. Wake up.”

“You know what I find interesting?” Telford says, lighting up a cigarette

He blinks and focuses on Greer who is very close to him.

Rush,” Greer hisses quietly. “You’re doing a terrible job. Now talk to me, damn it.” His voice cracks on the last word.


“Fucking yes, it’s fucking Greer. There you go.” He claps Rush gently on the shoulder.

His nerves feel raw like stripped wires and he jerks but Greer steadies him.

“I found a terminal.”

“A terminal,” Rush repeats.

“Good for interfacing,” Eli says. “Ship-whispering, y’know? You need to find an Ancient ship. Or a gate. Or a Nakai ship. Anything you can fly. I think really anything would work because you can probably fly anything that’s got a propulsion system and can hold onto its atmosphere.”

“Yes,” Greer says. “A terminal. You wanted one, and I found one. It’s two levels up.”

“You don’t even care to know what it is that I find so interesting?” Telford asks, still smoking.

“No,” Rush says to Telford but it’s Greer who answers him.

“Doc. Come on. I know you’re tired but—”

“Yes yes,” Rush interrupts him. “Let’s go.” He tries to stand but he can’t without Greer’s help and again he is not entirely clear on why that might be but

“You’re sick,” Tamara says. “It’s normal to feel this way.”

“You’re all messed up cognitively,” Eli says. “Makes sense you’d be extra tired.”

“Even from a distance, they’re pressing on your mind,” Chloe says, “and it’s painful. I can feel it, even if you can’t.”

“You’re trying to figure things out,” Daniel says. “That takes energy.”

“You’re insane,” Volker says. “There are probably physical repercussions of psychotic breaks.”

“Don’t ask me,” Brody says. “I just work here.”

“Your RAM disk, or rather, its functional equivalent, loses its stored data whenever you change position,” Rodney says urgently. “Have you not realized this?”

“I can’t believe you’re not even curious,” Telford says.

He is

He’s walking up stairs or maybe Greer is dragging him up but what is he doing here and why is he here there are no stairs on Destiny and who is he exactly and when is this and he flinches and pulls away from Greer and they almost go down they struggle and Greer hisses silently and gets one hand over Rush’s mouth before he can say anything and there’s glass everywhere.

Maybe it is a functional equivalent of glass.

“Seriously, Nick, what did I just say,” Rodney says impatiently but unusually quiet right next to him. “Don’t freak out, he pulled you up too fast and you lost about—well, I don’t know if you don’t know, but probably something like ninety seconds and you’re in the middle of some ridiculous post-apocalyptic wasteland that’s really really creepy so let’s just stay focused on the task at hand. Can you do me a favor and tell this guy that when he drags you around you can’t deal with that very well? Speaking on behalf of your entire hash table, we’re tired of orienting you every twenty minutes or so.”

“Settle down,” Greer whispers, his mouth next to Rush’s ear.

Rush nods and Greer slowly lets him go how does he explain to Greer that his RAM disk loses its data with sudden movements.

“My RAM disk loses its data with sudden movements.”

Greer stares at him.

Rush gestures at the wall with an open hand and then makes a sweeping motion up to their current position. “Nothing,” he says, hoping Greer will get the idea.

“Got it.” Greer steps in, pulling Rush’s arm over his shoulders in one smooth movement. “You good?”

“Yes,” Rush replies and they start up the stairs.

“You still good?” Greer whispers, increasing his pace.

“Yes,” Rush says.

“Where’s Gloria?” Telford says from beside him. “Why isn’t she in your hash table?” Where is your brother? Why isn’t he in your hash table? Where is Mandy, hmm? Where is Young?”

Rush flinches.

“Doc,” Greer says. “Hold it together.”

“You know exactly why we aren’t in there,” Young says quietly. “We jack the lookup cost.”

“Oh they jack the lookup cost, do they?” Telford repeats, savagely breaking off the words. “You’re not seeing the big picture here, Nick.”

Rush flinches.

“Doc,” Greer says. “Talk to me.”

“My hash table is questioning its premises,” Rush says he tries not to look at Telford but it’s hard.

“Well tell it to fuck off right now.” Greer says, increasing his pace. “You’re busy.”

Rush says nothing.

“Hey,” Eli says. “Hey, how are you going to search an alien database? Have you thought about that at all? Think about that maybe.”

“They’re getting closer,” Chloe says. “They’re faster than you are.”

“Scary, I know. But, on the plus side, you can convert matter and energy and even if you can’t ascend quite yet—well, you see where I’m going with this,” Rodney says.

He does but it upsets him

because it means that nothing will work out and not only has he already deeply materially failed his brother and failed Gloria but he will fail Mandy and he will fail Everett and he will fail the AI and he will fail the entire crew and that has always been and remains a possibility that interferes with his ability to 

His mind is breaking underneath the strain. It comes apart along familiar lines. He cannot see them clearly through distorting indices of glass and air but he can feel their thoughts against his thoughts. There are things they do not seem to understand but the human psyche opens to them, disintegrating, overripe, like fruit. It suggests to Rush that something in him wants to let them in. Is there a kinship there? Because he’s certain given time and cause that he could come to match their ruthless edge. Or is it something else? Some darker betrayal. Does some part of him enjoy destruction and the rending that they cause as they attempt to reach the places he has locked away from them? And when they find the memories of Gloria, they show her to him, dying—

He’s standing and his hand is braced against a wall and what is he doing but it doesn’t matter because the interface already calls to him, he’s going to touch it and that is what he is doing he will see what happens when he touches it and he doesn’t have a plan he doesn’t have a search tree in mind nothing needs to be preserved he is simply looking for a ship or a gate or a ship—

“To me,” Telford says, “You’ve always seemed like a guy who had the shit beat out of you as a kid. Thoughts?”

A ship or a gate or a ship.

A ship or a gate or a ship.

“Hi Nick,” Sergeant Riley says.

“You’re not part of my table,” Rush says.

“No.” Riley crosses his arms, leaning against the wall next to the terminal. “But that’s okay. Just ignore me.”

“Yeah, doc, I’m really here.” Greer stands next to him. “I’m not in your hash table. I’m right here.”

“I know that,” Rush says because Greer looks so uncertain. “I wasn’t talking to you.”

“Okay,” Greer says. “Great. You gonna do this thing, or what?”

A ship or a gate or a ship.

A ship or a gate or a ship.

“Of course I am,” Rush says. “Don’t touch me.”

A ship or a gate or a ship or a gate or a

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