Force over Distance: At All Angles Part 7
They are coming.
Chapter warnings: Stressors of all kinds. Loss of autonomy. Physical injuries. Boundary violations. Childhood trauma.
Text iteration: Midnight.
Additional notes: None
At All Angles: Part 7
He does not like the water.
It flows Cimmerian over his boots soaking his BDUs and he doesn’t like it he does not and Greer does not like it either or if it’s not the water that Greer doesn’t like then it’s something else in this labyrinthine network not a sewer no this is where they lived and how they lived half in the water half out but all in the dark building up and building down from the surface. Maybe it is the dark that Greer doesn’t like or the way it closes in around them and around the beam of the flashlight and presses in presses down. It is difficult for him to breathe and there are multiple reasons for that.
“Something is wrong with Greer,” Volker whispers to him in the darkness.
He flinches and pulls away in a digital discrete response his ability to respond in an analog manner is fading and only marginally retained at this time point.
Greer steadies him and rights him by increments slentando before letting him go but he is silent.
“You need to calm down,” Volker says, “and you need to talk to Greer. Try to act like a normal person for once. Y’know, not completely devoid of every human sentiment?”
This is perhaps a good idea even if it does come autoschediastically by way of Volker.
“Greer,” Rush whispers. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah, doc. I’m fine.”
The sound of water moving over rock and metal.
“He’s clearly not fine,” Volker says. “But then, why would he tell you if he wasn’t? You’re about the least approachable person in my entire sphere of human and alien interactions.”
“Your hash table is awfully hard on you,” Riley says mildly.
“With good reason,” Volker says.
“Greer,” Rush says again but then he stops with that because he’s not sure how to continue how to get Greer to tell him what is wrong and does it matter he is not entirely sure of anything in the internal disorder that he faces he cannot tell what is real and the dark and the water is not helping but he is finding a gate that is what he is doing and when he finds it he is going home. “Something is bothering you. This much is obvious, even to me.”
“Not a big deal, doc. I just don't like enclosed spaces.”
The dark presses in and a prima vista he can understand that he can at least in a literal way he just isn’t sure what he should do about it and he’s terrible at relating to people he wasn’t always this way he can’t have been but now he does not know what to do or what to say what would Gloria
“Yes,” Telford hisses barely visible coming in and out of the darkness. “Gloria. Or have you forgotten about her? Is she locked away somewhere down in that fucking fatidic subconscious swirl that makes up the fucking core of your fucked up mind? Is she buried there? Do you know where she was buried? Have you seen the place? You haven’t even been there, have you? She died, and you left the entire planet behind as if that is what defines progress for you, autoerasure on an ever-increasing scale. If it weren’t for me, and it weren’t for Mandy, who on Destiny would know so much as her name?”
Rush flinches and processing requirements suddenly increase and he is upset or maybe because he is upset causation is
“It’s not true,” TJ says. “You define yourself by your purpose which has become your essential nature. There’s nothing wrong with this. You are the only one who needs to remember her.” TJ looks at him in the darkness. “She would understand.”
“Oh yes,” Telford says casually. “I’m sure she understood you very well. Very well. At the end.”
He flinches and his hand comes up and he is about to he is about to he is about to he is about to create a list of consecutive integers beginning with two and ending with n. “p” will be defined as the first prime number which is the first listed item which is two and starting from p he will count up in increments of p and mark each of these numbers in the list then find the first number greater than p that is not marked and p will now equal this number shift the twos and shift the threes the sieve of Eratosthenes when the multiples—
“God, you’re unbelievably solipsistic,” Volker snaps. “We were talking about Greer.”
“You cope algorithmically,” Daniel says. “Nothing wrong with that. Just keep going. Talk to Greer.”
“Yes,” Rush says to Greer and his voice sounds breathless. “This is a common problem.”
“Yup,” Greer says shortly, “pretty common.”
He does not need his hash table to point out paralipsis to him he employs the technique often enough to recognize it when he encounters it even if he cannot recognize much else abstractions are not the problem for him nor have they ever been and while his lexical capacity remains unhindered branching needlessly untethering further from the context that he lacks, his explicatory power diminishes and it is hard to hold onto here in the dark and he is wet and he does not like the water and Atlantis was not like this and if he is not there then where is he and when is he but context is dragged by what it is linked to and this is Greer that he was thinking about and who is with him and he does not know what to say but he proceeds ever-heuristically and what he will do is this he
“You’re going to ignore me? You think I’m not insightful?” Telford hisses in the dark. “I’m the most insightful thing in your hash table, Nick, because everything that you’ve buried is keyed to me. I’m the only one who can keep it down there for you.”
He will explore this logically there is certain information that he wishes to obtain from Greer and that he wishes Greer to have and how to orchestrate such an exchange is not immediately apparent to him but commonality of experience is a good place to start and Greer does not like this place it is difficult for him like the way that he does not like the water and that is not a preferred avenue of thought because
“Before it hits your consciousness,” Telford hisses, “as it comes up—you bin it. And you bin it to me. Everything outside your table is keyed to me.”
“Not everything,” Young says.
“I can see why this is confusing for you,” Riley adds.
because it has been defined as not preferred and it is best not to interrogate one’s premises when one is trying to proceed noctivagant and cold and wet, this is what is called “practical” and it may be what makes him a suboptimal in his humanity there’s no meaning in such a thought but he thinks it anyway and he wonders what kind of person is he that he locks down and works around always, looking for problems he’s capable of solving and was he always like this he thinks it was always like this. Why did Gloria stay why did Gloria come with him always Gloria could Gloria could Gloria could always she could always and she had wanted to she had wanted to go home she had wanted to be with her family because they had loved her and she had loved them and he was not there and she had wanted to she had wanted to she had wanted only that one thing—
“Greer,” Volker snaps. “Not Gloria. Greer.”
“Circuitry is dark,” Rush says and this is a shared experience and therefore appropriate. “And there is no space there.”
Greer says nothing for a time period that Rush can only guess at and this was the wrong thing to say. Gloria would have known, Gloria would have, Gloria knew what to say Gloria or Young would have known he is not like Gloria, Gloria talked more and Gloria cried easily like Chloe but she always turned away and it was always quiet and Young does not cry and he does not cry but the Ancients they cried but their crying somehow it was easier to breathe through and did not close the throat like human crying does and if it had been difficult for them to breathe through crying then maybe they also would have stigmatized it and if Chloe if Chloe could
“Yeah,” Greer says quietly. “Yeah, I guess it would be.”
“I can’t—“ Rush breaks off. “I understand that your dislike of enclosed spaces exists even though I am unclear as to its etiology.”
“Just give it up,” Volker says. “You’re hopeless.”
“You’re doing okay,” Daniel says. “Keep going.”
“You’re awfully chatty, doc,” Greer says quietly. “What’s going on?”
“You did not want to come down here,” Rush says.
“Honestly,” Greer says, “I didn’t want to come to this planet at all.”
He continues to walk through water.
“When I was a kid,” Greer says, “my dad used lock me in a closet sometimes. You want an etiology, doc? There it is.”
He’s not expecting this and it’s so much like something that might come from his own head that he doesn’t trust that it is real but if it is real and Greer is really here—
“I don’t know why I’m telling you this, doc, except sometimes I get the feeling like maybe you might know what it is I’m talking about.”
“Yes,” Rush says and this is not really helping his state of mind but he suspects again paralipsis and so he says, “only a closet?” Why is he doing this he does not want to think about this here now in the dark and the cold and in the water he does not like the water he has never never liked the water
“What did I tell you?” Telford hisses. “It’s written all over you.”
“Nope,” Greer says and his breathing is fast. “Not only.” Then he says, “You?”
“Greer,” he says closing his eyes trying to control his hash table, “I’m trying to remain mentally solvent.”
“Right,” Greer says. “Sorry.”
“Hi,” Riley says, kneeling next to him in the dark, flowing water. “You’re really quite interesting, aren’t you? Not easily classified.”
“Doc.” Greer shakes him. “Doc. Come on. Talk to me.”
“What.” Rush pulls away from Greer and he is cold and he is wet.
“Rush,” Greer says and they are both sitting and the water is half a meter deep.
“What,” Rush snaps.
“You have to tell me when you get tired.”
“I don’t get tired,” Rush hisses.
“Rush—” Greer breaks off with open hands. “Do you even know what just happened? Do you know what the hell we’re doing?”
“Fuck off,” Rush snaps. “I’m not staying here.”
“It kinda bothers me,” Eli says. “I mean, I’d just like to know what happened here. It creeps me out. Doesn’t it creep you out? Especially in light of what they were working on?”
He does not feel right he has not felt right for quite some time he doesn’t know how to interpret the problems that he is having which seem to be not just mental but physical as well and if he had to make a guess he would guess that it all stems from what he is now which he would describe at a first approximation as heterotelic and he
“I mean, doesn’t it worry you? I guess obviously it must because I'm you, kinda, and I'm worried about it. In a lot of ways they were trying to do something similar to what you’re trying to do and doesn’t it concern you that something went, like, terribly terribly wrong?”
“It’s not the same,” he says.
“What’s not the same, doc?” Greer says.
“Plus, y’don’t know they didn’t succeed,” Rush murmurs.
He nearly goes down again.
“Doc,” Greer says, “you need to stop?”
“Um, if they succeeded, then why isn’t this whole planet gone?” Eli says. “You think they ripped through the multiverse but, weirdly, all their stuff was left behind? Sorry, but that just doesn’t seem likely to me.”
“Nobody rips through the multiverse,” Riley says mildly.
“I’m beginning to question your origins,” he snaps.
“It’s going to work out better for you if you don’t,” Riley says.
“Are you threatening me?”
“No,” Riley says. “I’m making an observation.”
“Fuck you. You destroyed this place. Because the Nakai tried to tear through the D-brane.”
“Of course they did,” Eli whispers. “Of course.”
“We don’t need to threaten,” Riley adds, “but I think you know that.”
“I’m not going to tear through.”
“But you want to,” Telford hisses. “God, how you want to. Think of what you could fix. You have so much to fucking fix.”
“Shut the fuck up, David.”
“What you want,” Riley says, “is immaterial to us. The only thing that matters is what you do.”
“Are you here or not?”
“Like I said, best not to question,” Riley says. “But I think if I were you, I would go left up here.”
“Doc,” Greer says. “I’m here. Keep it together, huh?”
They press on his mind and it is like being held down and he despises that—entrapment without creating a sense of entrapment within and always when they are near it is like this and Chloe feels it too Chloe can Chloe feels it more Chloe had no defenses against them Chloe was almost remade how many of them were remade however many it is none of them know who he is not yet if Greer had touched them as soon as they as soon as he if he had
They are coming.
How can he stop them from coming he cannot there is nowhere to go their motion is constrained and essentially two dimensional forward or back and they cannot go back because they are back there.
“The collective pressure is going to shatter your table,” Chloe says and she is crying.
Yes that’s likely it’s buckling under the strain and the pressure of their thoughts on his is raw and agonizing even now but they cannot sense him not yet only in the vaguest of ways because if they knew, if they knew who he was and what they had they could shred his consciousness from a distance at least partially it will be much easier for them when they touch him but this would be how many times now he doesn't know he just knows that it has happened before and not just one time.
“Tell Greer,” Young says urgently. “Tell him what you know.”
“It's not going to fucking shatter your table,” Telford snaps. “Not if you make a fucking effort, Nick.”
He wishes Young were here they should not be separated his capacity to exist alone is
“Do you understand what’s happening to you?” Riley asks.
“It hurts so much,” Chloe whispers.
“I don't think you do,” Riley says.
They are coming.
“Remember,” McKay whispers in the dark. “Remember what I told you.”
“Don't do it,” Eli says, his voice pained. “Don't do it until the last.”
“Nick,” Young says. “Nick, you've got to tell Greer. They're almost on top of you.”
“Greer,” Rush says but he can't get anything else out the pressure on his mind is too great and he can feel their approach from behind and quickly so quickly but he cannot explain and simultaneously preserve his ability to respond processing the pain and the pressure and the rhythm of their thoughts and the water is deeper here and they are swimming so quickly through the dark he can tell they’re under the water but he cannot tell Greer and he won’t see them until it is too late and they are pulled down how many are there and where and they will be pulled down and Greer pulls his knife and holds the flashlight and he looks back but he is not looking in the water and that is where they are.
“Three,” Chloe gasps. “Three of them.”
“Matter to energy,” McKay says. “Matter to energy, matter to energy, it’ll be more than enough.”
“Don't do it,” Eli says. “Please don't. Just wait. You can do it any time. It’s like the ace up your sleeve, y’know? But don't use it.”
“You can't do it anytime,” McKay says. “It requires concentration. Start now.”
“If you do this, you kill four people,” TJ says.
“If you don’t,” Telford hisses, “they'll take the ship. And everyone dies anyway. A horrible, terrifying death.”
“Just wait,” Eli says. “Wait.”
“Switch the transmitters,” Brody whispers from directly beside him. “Broadcast. With intent.”
“There's a certain poetic justice to it," Daniel says, “and it won’t kill Greer.”
“I like it,” Volker says.
“Fuck them up,” Telford hisses. “Fuck them all up. Shred their minds like they’ve shredded yours.”
“Get ready,” Eli says. “Plan what you're gonna do. They'll pull you under, so don't crash when they do it. Be ready. Make a plan.”
“Your table will shatter,” Chloe says. “It's already begun.”
“But we can do this one last thing,” Eli says. “We can do this. We just need a plan.”
“At the moment you broadcast,” Chloe says, “let it in. Let it in and let us go. You'll transmit nothing but pain. Like an infinite loop.”
“They pull you under, and you take the transmitter,” Young says standing very close to him, watching the water. “That’s the plan, genius. They pull you under, you take the transmitter, you put it on, and you obliterate your table.”
He can’t see them but he can feel them with his mind and he is shaking and he can barely stand but he can hold it together for this he can he can and he will he they are close to the gate and if everything proceeds correctly he can he will he will do this he will do this there is a limit to the things that will be asked of him at least requirements will be temporally bounded if there is no other bound and he cannot see the temporal end of requirements but this is required and it is nearly always possible to do and to achieve what is required if the consequences are disregarded as irrelevant sequelae and this is what he will do
“They pull you under, and you take the transmitter,” Young repeats. “Think only of what’s required of you.”
They pull him under and he takes the transmitter he takes the transmitter he takes it he takes it when they pull him under any moment now they will pull him under and he will take the transmitter, he will take it he will take it they will pull him under and he will take it they pull him under when are they going to he can feel them they are almost
“I do like you quite a bit,” Riley says, watching with his arms crossed. “You’re very determined. Though you’re not quite as charming as your other aspect.”
“They pull you under and you take it,” Young repeats.
They pull him under and he takes it he is going to take it and so he is not surprised it will be dark and it will be cold and this will not surprise him and it will not reset him he will not have a hard-disk failure they will pull him under and he will take it they will pull him under and he will take it they will pull him under and he will
“Doc,” Greer’s whisper cracks open and his breathing is shallow and water falls onto water making a hollow sound. “Are they coming?”
“Yes,” Rush says.
And the tunnel is dark and the beam of the flashlight is bright and they cannot see but they will not see because they are in the water and they will pull him under and he will take it they will pull him under and he will take it they will pull him under and
Cold blue fingers close around his ankle and yank him down beneath the black surface of the water but he was expecting this the blackness does not surprise him but they have pulled him under and now he takes it that is step two. He reaches up and Chloe is screaming somewhere in his mind as he touches it and he is screaming as well it tears into his mind there is no sound under the water but he is only doing one thing just one thing that he is doing and he finds its head and then the side of its head and it pins one hand one of his hands but he has another and the other reaches up and pulls off and reattaches and he is wearing it and he shatters his own protection and as it tears in he projects out his own agony out at them and for this to work he has to feel it too and he does looping and burning out circuits he floods through their link through the local link and through the link on the ship and he projects the utter desolation that is in his mind and if they can get anything out of this they never can they never and it lets him go and it tries to pull away but there is nowhere for it to pull to because he is in its mind this time and he is fucking it up and he will fuck it up and he only stops when it stops because it is dead and he has killed it and when he is finishes screaming he breathes in he always breathes in and he is drowning
He takes off the transmitter and he is done and now he has no plan and he has no hash table.
Was anyone here with him he does not know who he is or where he is or when he is only that something is happening to him and that the thing that is happening has a name and that name is drowning but no one is holding him down not this time. His eyes are open but he can see nothing it is black and he is going to die here because that is the outcome of drowning and sometimes dying does not hurt but sometimes it seems that it hurts very badly.