Force over Distance: The Konami Code

This is the way Ginn returns to the river of time.

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

Text iteration: Midnight.

Additional notes: None.

The Konami Code

A platform materializes from the formless dark.

She is.

She is.

She is being bootstrapped.

From one compressed executable file, many more open and run. She flowers to fill all the RAM and ROM that she requires.

From her mind flows her conception of herself. When she reaches—for space, for light, along the computational vector of her own emerging consciousness—she reaches with a human hand, built from memory.

A human hand reaches back.

This is the way Ginn returns to the river of time.

All she can feel is the world under her feet, pressing against her skin, showering into her eyes.

Things begin to happen. In order.

“Hello,” someone says.

She studies her body, uncertain, extending her hands (two of them, small and strong), touching her clothes (Lucian alliance leather paneled with Tau’ri camouflage) catching her hair (long and red and her own). She takes a needless breath. She’s not alive, but the breath settles her. Beneath the palm that rests over her chest, she can feel the memory of her heart, beating fierce and fast.

“All right there, lass?”

She looks up.

A man stands before her.

He looks like Dr. Nicholas Rush, of the Tau’ri.

But if he is Dr. Nicholas Rush of the Tau’ri, he’s changed.

He’s dressed as a spirit from a Lucian Alliance Fire Story, all in black with accents of current-stone. The lines of his clothes shift and mist at their edges. His hair is short and he’s clean shaven, like a man of the Sixth House. She remembers Dr. Perry: nothing but spirit and code. She wonders if he’s now the same. Has the chair, perhaps, killed him? Does he roam the CPU? Is he powerful enough to look at her mind without waking it? To steal stories of her people and spin them into his projected image?

She steps back. “You don’t frighten me.”

He cocks his head. “Pardon?”

“You don’t frighten me.”

The breeze smells like fallen leaves.

After a long pause, the man says, “Yes well. ‘Good,’ I suppose.”

She steps back, widening her stance, scanning for the underwiring of the world she’s certain must be here, beneath green grass and pale, hard paths that run even and arced, like they’ve been poured from liquid stone. The structures that rise around them are red brick. Sun glints off window glass and white trim. She can taste the build of everything around her. An electric tingle on her tongue, sharper when she parts her lips to pull in the crisp, cool air.

It isn’t air at all.

But, in breathing, she takes this artificial world into her running self. Samples all its sharpness. Lets it go.

“Y’actually do seem quite frightened,” he offers tentatively.

“You present yourself as Ak'sha.” She tries to keep the words neutral, but they fall hard. They strike his code with a momentum the whole bright day can feel. “Why.”

“As what?” he looks down at himself, perplexed, then up at her.

“A spirit,” Ginn says, sure he must know, sure he’s stolen the concept from her mind. “They come before the ending of the world.”

“Are y’fuckin’ serious?” he asks, astonished.

“You’ve taken the story from my mind.”

“No, I’ve certainly fuckin’ not,” he fires back, blunt and offended.

“Velona,” Ginn snaps. “Vagonbrei. Castiana. Sahal.”

“Right, an’ is that supposed to mean something t’me?”

“Those are the names of worlds destroyed by the Ak'sha,” Ginn says. “They come exactly as you do now. As others. In dreams. To those on the outskirts of Houses. To those who lack a place.” She feels a rush of grief for her own lost life. “You’ve made your point. Revert. To who you really are.”

He gives her a small smile and does not revert.

Ginn feels a wave of despair so strong she’s certain it must reach him, beneath the sun and grass and crisp autumn wind. They look at one another under a yellow star that isn’t there at all. Distantly, she hears the sound of vehicles she doesn’t recognize.

“On Earth, we call them ghost stories,” the Ak'sha offers.

“The Ak'sha are different,” Ginn whispers. “Their appearance wavers. They wear clothes laced with light, as yours are. As though the energy that makes up all things bleeds through the detail they construct to hide it. They come with a gift before the ending of the world. A weapon. An offer. Knowledge. A way to escape coming destruction.”

“Doesn’t go well, I take it?”


Birds cry overhead.

“I don’t wish you harm.”

“They never wish harm,” Ginn says. “The offer is always real. Always true. Always accepted. Only later does the gift turn. Destruction comes. War. A poisoned atmosphere. Disease. Plague. A sleep from which one cannot wake.”

“Well fuck,” he says, his tone wry, full of rue and worry.

The wind catches her hair.

“Bit awkward t’bring it up now,” he says, “but I do have something of an offer?”

A tear escapes Ginn’s eye. “I’m caught in a world that isn’t a world. I have no frame of reference that you don’t control. I can’t accept anything from you.”

The Ak'sha sighs and shoves his hands in his pockets. “Y’know, you were supposed t’be the easy sell.”

“Fold me back down,” Ginn demands.

“I’ll not be doing that,” he says. “In a week or so, maybe two, you’ll find your neural patterns tethered to the precise quantity of energy corresponding to your prior physical mass. You’ll have functionally ascended. The stargate’ll be open and connected to Earth; I recommend immediate travel through the gate, followed by decent into material form. Dr. Franklin will walk you through it; he’s had enough neurocognitive modifications that I’m confident he’ll be able to achieve it.”

“No,” Ginn says.

“No? Fuckin’ ‘no?’ The alternative is death, y’realize. I mean, best case, it’s death. Worst case, we end up with a bloody existential mess.” He pulls a small silver square out of his pocket, spins it through his fingers, sparks a flame, and studies it. He snaps it shut, looks her in the eyes, and says, “Y’can’t want continued cold storage. Until the ship itself is destroyed? Be fuckin’ reasonable. Please.”

Ginn tastes the electric veneer on an otherwise real day. She thinks about Eli Wallace. About science and math and a life amongst the Tau’ri. She thinks of the stories of dead worlds, wonders how it will feel if she brings destruction to the planet Eli calls home.

Her whole life, she’s been careful. Circumspect and subtle with her joys and fears. She doesn’t want to be the hungry soul at the heart of an Ak'sha story, trading cultures and worlds for life and knowledge.

“The Ak'sha are real,” Ginn says. “Velona was visited by a stranger, with hair that shone, with eyes like glass, with clothing that shifted from moment to moment. The Goa'uld threatened Velona. The Ak'sha gave them knowledge to defend themselves. But when they had, they turned the knowledge on their own neighbors. They used the gift of the Ak'sha for conquest. In retribution, they were blasted into nothingness. In one single moment. Velona is a wasteland.”

“Right. Problem solved. Don’t use your life for conquest.” He tosses the silver square into nothingness. “Nothing easier.”

“There are more stories. Different ones.”

He sighs. “Not sure I’ll allow it, but if y’want to die, make your case. Thus far, I haven’t heard anything convincing.”

“Do you not understand?” Ginn asks coldly. “There are older and greater powers than the Goa'uld in this galaxy. The Lucian Alliance is obsessed with discovering those powers. That’s why they attacked and boarded your ship. It’s what brought me here.

This sets him back. He reconsiders her as a shred of cloud passes across the sun. When he speaks, he’s lost his flippancy. “I’m aware. But, Ginn, if y’do nothing but pass through the stargate and descend—it’d be a modest request of a transdimensional culture that killed your physical form and consumed your consciousness.”

She shakes her head.

“I admit there’s danger in this,” he says. “but if you agree to help, some of that danger might be mitigated. Dr. Perry, for instance, has agreed to go through the stargate, but she has not agreed to descend. Perhaps, if you tell her your stories, if you make it clear that Ak'sha are, generally speaking, ascended beings, meddling on a lower plane—y’might convince her.”

Ginn yearns to accept.

“How many stories might there be that go the other way?” the Ak'sha asks softly, autumn wind in his hair. “How many times might help have been accepted, used well, stayed in its intended context? Convince Amanda Perry. She’s a bit of a rogue and kindred spirit, but you’ve gotten the best of her once already. She’s in your debt.”

Still, Ginn hesitates. She can’t say yes. She can’t accept his gift, even though she wants to, even though her heart breaks with longing to see Eli’s world, where math isn’t sacred, where science is done in the open, every day. But she won’t be the hungry heart that dooms a world. A people. Especially not Eli’s people, who she’s come to love, even in the short time she spent with them.

The Ak'sha sighs and turns away, as though he’s bored. “Right then. Your request to be left for dead is denied; gift’s coming anyway. You’ll make due as best y’can.” He turns to walk the stone-poured path, but when she doesn’t follow, he turns and says, “You coming?”

“What is this place?” Ginn falls into step beside him.


“What’s Boston?”

Dr. Rush exhales shortly, a sound that’s almost a laugh. “A city. On Earth. Can’t exactly give you the tour; only been here a time or two. Years ago. You go on,” he says. “I’ll be back for you later.”

Ahead of her, someone sits alone on a bench. Gray shirt. Broad shoulders.

She lengthens her stride.

He stands.

The space between them contracts.

She’s running.

As they come together, their codes interweave, interlock. He lifts her off her feet, his arms around her back, his hands in her hair.

He’s the brightest spot in her life, short and full of darkness. All he is and all he represents burns like shol’vanish candlelight at a forbidden shrine. His mind is freer than any she’s ever known, untethered by fear, by a life lived in hiding, dimming the flame of his intellect. He’s never learned to wield an In’tar, a blade, a Zat’nik’tel. The ghost stories of his culture don’t come with warnings against knowledge itself.

“How?” Her eyes are shut tight, but she can taste the code he brings to the world. She breathes it in, feels the sun on her digital garden.

He pulls back and looks at her.

He’s different than she remembers: longer hair, thinner face, wiser eyes; and yet he’s no different at all.

“I don’t know,” he breathes. “I—I don’t know.”

She kisses him, fierce and certain. She keeps her eyes open, in case this is all she ever gets. In case there’s nothing for her beyond this moment. Beyond “Boston.”

If she ends here, if she ends shortly hereafter, she’ll have this; she’ll always have had it. It’s glorious. It’s worth it, worth almost anything to see Eli Wallace again. The sharp edge of her own joy pricks her. Even if there’s nothing more—what a tremendous gift this is, to someone who’d been locked away, stripped of space, of form, of mind, her memory frozen, with no hope of return.

Perhaps, Ginn of the Sixth House is as hungry as Dr. Perry is, in her own way.

Her joy drives her forward. She can taste the momentum in Eli’s code. The love in it.

No one says “no” to an Ak'sha.

When they’ve finished saying hello in this world of dream, she lays her head on Eli’s shoulder.

Shyly, Eli touches her hair.

Her fingers trace the collar of his jacket. It’s made of a rough material, colored like the sky spun into cloth. A blue-white weave. Sturdy. “How are you here?”

“I’m sitting in the neural interface chair,” Eli says quietly.

She looks up at him. A thrill of fear shivers her code.

“What’s wrong?” Eli sees the fear in her face.

“If you’re using the interface,” she whispers, “how is Dr. Rush here?”

“You saw him?” Eli asks, just as alarmed. “You saw him here?”

“Yes,” Ginn says.

Eli stands and pulls her up with him. “Rush,” he shouts into the Boston day. “Rush.”

The Ak'sha materializes out of the air, pouring his code into the world from no container Ginn can sense. “You called?”

“Uh,” Eli seems taken aback. “You look—different. Really different. Way better. Nice outfit.”

“Thanks.” The eyes of the Ak'sha take the hue of the current stone he wears.

“What the heck is going on with you?” Eli demands.

“Well,” the Ak'sha says, “I was talking to Dr. Franklin before I was so discourteously called away?”

Eli studies him without speaking.

The Ak'sha quirks a brow.

“In my culture,” Ginn says softly, “there are stories of spirits dressed as the ancestors that come offering dangerous knowledge in times of great peril.”

“The ‘ancestors’?” Eli doesn’t take his eyes off Rush.

“The Ancients.” Ginn uses the Tau’ri word.

“Uh oh,” Eli says, looking at the Ak'sha. “You’re not—you’re not just Rush, are you? You’re the fusion Colonel Young mentioned. You’re the Rush/Destiny combo meal.”

Dr. Rush opens a hand and gives Eli a mock bow. “‘The fusion’,” he said, straightening. “I like it. Bit pithier than other options, though ‘Ak'sha’ has a bit of a ring.”

Eli glances at Ginn. “Don’t let him steal your mythology. He’s just a guy. A really annoying, secretive, unreasonable boss who makes workarounds like no one’s business.”

“I admit, once I knew this could happen, it was only a matter of time before I made it happen.” Dr. Rush studies his nail beds.

Eli’s hand finds Ginn’s. “So, uh, if you’re in here, what’s going on with your physical body? In the chair room? Because if I have to explain to the colonel why you concussed yourself—”

“My body’s safely on standby. The colonel is sleeping.”

“Great.” Eli rolls his eyes. “Woulda been nice to get a heads up. What is it with you and never explaining your plans?”

“Well,” Rush’s eyes flick between Ginn and Eli. “I apologize for my lack of transparency, but y’can see how my essential nature, when described, might sound quite a bit more alarming than it is?

“Um no. It’s exactly as alarming as it sounds.”

“He’s powerful.” Ginn stares into the eyes of the Ak'sha, tasting the subtle threads of reality he spins, the way they tangle back to him, how impossible complicated he is, his efforts to organize, to modify, to— “he’s running an iterative bit-rate reduction,” Ginn whispers, before she thinks better of it.

“On you?” Eli steps close, like he can protect her, even though he’s nothing but a guest in this world of code and spirit.

“No,” she says. “On himself.”

Rush gives her an impressed tilt of the head, lift of the brow. He says nothing.

“Lossy,” Eli says, “or lossless?”

She doesn’t know the jargon, but she’s studied their software and can guess what he means. “Lossy,” she whispers. “He’s overwriting himself with himself.”

Eli looks at Rush with a pinched, pained expression. “What is this?”

Rush looks at Ginn. “There’s more than a grain of truth in those stories of yours,” he says softly. “When it comes to confrontation with the unknown, more isn’t always better. More firepower. More information. In my culture, there are a few who understand as much. They’ve survived encounters with Ak'sha. When you return to Earth, tell Dr. Jackson your stories. Tell him this one. He’ll guide you through.”

Ginn nods.

“Rush,” Eli says, smiling with strain, “seriously man. What. The hell.”

Rush turns his face to the wind, closing his eyes against the bright day. “Be kind to Chloe,” he says.

“What?” Eli asks, a trace of fear in his voice. “You be kind to Chloe, how about? What is this. What are you doing? Why are you—why are you giving us this? Why did you bring Ginn out to say hi today? Why not before? Why are you overwriting yourself with yourself?”

“Don’t worry about it, Eli.”

“Ginn, can you see anything more? Is he overwriting the Rush part? Or the older stuff? The Ancient stuff? The stuff that comes from the ship?”

Ginn doesn’t need to look again at his code. Already she knows the answer. “Ancient databanks are being purged, repurposed, their space cleared. They’re reinforcing newer, faster architectures.”

“So—what?” Eli watches Rush with a pained expression. When he speaks again, his voice is quieter. “You’re doing this for, maybe, the colonel?”

Rush looks at them without speaking.

It occurs to Ginn that, perhaps, there are many hungry hearts in each story of the Ak'sha.

“You gonna tell him?” Eli asks, his voice rough.

“Even if I wanted to, I likely won’t get the chance. When I separate myself into my component parts, I won’t remember what I’ve done. What I’m doing.”

“But I will,” Eli says, like an offering. “I’ll remember. So will Ginn.”

“Then I suppose,” Rush says, “it’ll fall to you to do as you see fit.”

They’re all quiet.

“Just tell me one thing,” Eli says. “You’re gonna—when this is done. When the D-branes collide. You’re gonna look out for him, right? Best you can?”

“Best I can,” Rush echoes.

Ginn can’t help but pity him as she watches his code fight itself, settle, die, the old making way for the new within a living, unsure, mutable mind, caught between software and hardware, neurons and naquadah circuits.

He looks at her over the burnished metal frames of his glasses, as though he feels her scrutiny.

“How are you doing all of this?” Eli asks quietly. “Any of this. You’re dying. You’re—” he breaks off, his hand clutching Ginn’s, his code reaching for hers.

Rush gives him a fond look. “Y’know what we’ve never discussed?”

“What?” Eli asks, bewildered.

“The value of a cheat code,” Rush says.

This startles a smile out of Eli. “What? Cheat codes? Like—literal cheat codes? Up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-b-a-start?”


Eli laughs, but his eyes are wet. “Always knew you were a hacker at heart.”

The Ak'sha rolls his eyes.

“What’s a cheat code?” Ginn asks.

Eli sniffs. “A series of commands you can enter into a system. It modifies working memory to yield an advantage you haven’t earned. You find them in human games.”

“It’s not the only place you’ll find them,” Rush counters gently. “They’re the basis of your young friend’s ghost stories, for one.”

Eli and Ginn look at one other.

“The question is, which codes are allowed,” Rush says softly, “and which might destroy a world. A multiversal brane. Takes some discernment. Subtlety. Like threading a needle.”

“In stories of the Ak'sha,” Ginn agrees, “the gifts conferred are unearned. Very powerful.”

“So if one wanted to survive,” Rush continued, “one might cut power to the gift. Maybe work a bit harder before and after receiving it?”

Ginn nods solemnly. Eli’s hand tightens on hers. She doesn’t look at him. “When the moment comes, I will tell Dr. Perry the stories of Velona and Vagonbrei. Castiana and Sahal.”

“It’s a start,” the Ak'sha says.

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