Mathématique: Chapter 13
“Believe it or not,” Vala said, “we’re here to rescue you.”
Revised Author’s Notes: This is a piece of fan fiction. It’s a trope-twisting, epic-length, crossover AU that spans all three series of Stargate. There’s a lot of science. A lot of plot. A lot of emotions. Timelines have been slightly altered so that season 4 of Stargate Atlantis (without Carter in command) occurs contemporaneously to season 10 of SG-1, which occurs in the year prior to season 1 of SGU.
Disclaimer: I’m not making money from this; please don’t repost to other sites.
Warnings: Stressors of all kinds.
White-coated medical personnel had appeared from the linear dark of corridors and from behind closed office doors to flit from station to station around the SGC infirmary, logging into terminals, unlocking cabinets, and activating touchscreens beneath eerie blue light.
Apparently, ‘unscheduled offworld activations’ were serious things.
Rush couldn’t justify the inexplicable dimming of the lights. He hoped it was due to some practical consideration—such as emergency lighting operated at a lower than typical level of power consumption, thus freeing up energy for other purposes—but he was dubious that this was actually the case. It seemed unnecessarily dramatic. He had no direct evidence of inefficiency on the part of the SGC, but he was deeply suspicious of the efficacy of any organization, even one ostensibly built upon the foundations of something as auspicious as interstellar travel that proceeded via the warping of spacetime.
“So,” he said, narrowing his eyes in Dr. Lam’s direction. “You’re certain I can’t leave? Even though we distinctly heard General Landry,” he drew out the man’s name in an attempt to subtly indicate his displeasure and/or remind her of the man’s rank, “give the order for nonessential personnel to evacuate the base?”
“I’m sure. You’re not going out there,” Lam said, her heels clicking against the cement floor as she paced toward the door, checking the integrity of its lock, or some other intrinsic property that was obscured to him.
“I’m not essential,” Rush said, crossing his arms over his chest, still perched on the gurney he had been sitting on for the past half hour, watching the pale silhouettes of medical personnel pass back and forth, bright against the dimness.
“You’re not joining the evacuating throng.”
“Yes.” Lam replied. “If you were out there, you’d see. Topside, it’s a throng. Subside—well, it’s anyone’s guess. And you,” she said, placing a special emphasis on the word, “do not belong in a throng.”
“Mmm,” he said. “Perspicacious.”
“So I’ve been told,” she said, finishing her apparently purposeless check of the door. She gave him a fleeting smile.
“Don’t you evacuate under these kinds of conditions?” he asked her. “I can’t be sure, of course, but you seem like an intellectual resource who wouldn’t be directly integral to a firefight.”
“I’m flattered,” she replied, raising one eyebrow at him as she crossed the room, heading for a cabinet on the far wall, her shoes clicking across the pale blue sheen that the lights put on the polished cement. “But medical personnel don’t evacuate unless there is a general order to do so,” Lam inserted a key into a locker that he otherwise would not have found particularly noteworthy, opened it, and pulled out several identical alien-looking devices. She handed one to Rush.
“And this is—“ he said, skeptically examining the coiled metal. It was cool to the touch and lighter than expected.
“A weapon,” Lam said, depressing a small button on the side of the device. It sprang open in her hand. “It’s called a zat.”
A zat. How onomonopoetic.
“No thank you,” Rush replied, placing the sinuous curl of dull metal next to him on the gurney.
Lam locked eyes with him. “Seriously? Because I haven’t been working here for all that long, but I have to tell you, that is the first time I have ever—“
The repetitive clang of metal on metal interrupted her, and the handful of medical staff whirled towards the sealed doors to the infirmary, most with zats in hand.
Rush found the set of white-coated, weapons-wielding physicians to be—a really fucking bizarre set.
Resignedly, he picked up his alien handgun out of a sense of collective obligation.
The metallic clangs sounded again, but this time it was quieter, more akin to urgent knocking.
Lam walked purposefully toward the door. She held down a button on what was evidently some kind of intercom unit.
“Please identify yourselves,” Lam said.
“Vala Mal Doran. And guest,” Vala’s voice crackled through the speaker system.
“Colonel Everett Young.” The man sounded as though he were in a particularly bad mood as he gave his authorization code and confirmed that Lam was clear to open the doors.
Lam pressed a release to reveal Young leaning heavily on Vala, one hand braced against a wall.
Almost immediately Young locked eyes with Rush and glared at him in a manner that indicated extreme displeasure. Rush glared back at him over the tops of his glasses in a manner that hopefully indicated equally extreme disdain.
Young rolled his eyes.
Rush raised his eyebrows.
“Colonel,” Lam said, stepping laterally to take some of Young’s weight. “What happened? Were you injured?”
“It’s nothing,” Young said through gritted teeth as one of Lam’s staff hit the door controls. “I’m fine.”
“Believe it or not,” Vala said, “we’re here to rescue you.”
“What?” Lam asked sharply, eyeing the pair of them dubiously.
“Well, not you, hot stuff,” Vala amended. “That one, over there.” She smiled at Rush. “Hello, gorgeous.”
Rush nodded at her.
“What’s going on?” Lam asked, as she and Vala steered Young in the direction of the gurney that Rush was leaning against. “No general advisory has gone out yet.”
Rush got out of their way in the most expeditious manner possible.
“We’ve got an in-progress foothold situation downstairs,” Young said, managing to articulate understandably through an impressively clenched jaw, “and so we’re not staying,” he continued, clearly making an effort to derail his own forward momentum.
Vala stopped with him, but Lam determinedly tried to proceed in the direction of the gurney until the three of them came to a staggering, uncoordinated halt.
“Rush,” Young growled, “come on.”
Rush looked at him skeptically. “You can barely walk.”
“Excuse me,” Lam said, “but Dr. Rush is not going anywhere.”
“What?” Young replied, sounding exhausted and incredulous and like he had just about reached the end of his mental and physical resources.
“Not until I get clearance from General Landry,” Lam replied crisply. “I’m not releasing him to you. Not to you, not to anyone.”
“He’s not a patient,” Young snapped. “He’s not yours to release.”
“Everyone on or affiliated with this base is my patient,” Lam snapped right back, pulling out her radio as she stepped away, carefully removing Young’s arm from her shoulders in the process. “If we’re in the midst of a foothold situation then I have to assume, until proven otherwise, that this is related to the LA—and I am not,” she paused, cocking her head at Young, widening her eyes slightly, as if trying to remind him of something, “releasing him until I am specifically cleared to do so by General Landry.
Young looked at her for a moment, torn between approval and aggravation.
Rush tried not to find the entire situation patently ridiculous, but it was difficult.
Young was not going to fucking abduct him. Probably.
“Okay,” Young said, “radio it in, but make it quick.”
Rush stepped forward, giving Young a dubious and obvious once-over. “You look terrible, you realize.”
The line of Young’s jaw loosened and subtly shifted in a way that suggested he might be amused. It was hard to tell. “Coming from you,” Young said dryly, “that means a lot.”
Rush narrowed his eyes.
Lam shifted the channel on her radio and the device crackled to life with the tail end of whatever Landry was saying. “—Siler to shut them down. Shut them down entirely.”
“This is Lieutenant Scott—visibility is down to a meter on level twenty-eight. Sir, we can’t see what we’re doing, I don’t know how they’re operating in this stuff.”
“Understood, lieutenant,” they heard Landry growl.
Lam stood, her frame tense, waiting for an opening in the chatter.
Vala caught Rush’s eye and with a subtle tilt of her head, managed to convey the idea that she wouldn’t mind a hand in supporting Young’s weight.
“This is Siler—ventilation is sealed with respect to the surface, but if we shut down the internal recirculators anyone without a mask below level twenty-five is going to have a difficult time breathing. This stuff is heavy and is going to entirely displace normal air on the lower levels if we don’t keep mixing.“
Lam’s eyebrows pressed together, and she angled her head down.
“Difficult time breathing?” Rush repeated, stepping in and closing one hand around Young’s elbow before the other man could argue, and then pulling his arm over his shoulders.
“They’re pumping some kind of dense gas through the gate,” Young said, subtly leaning into Rush. He looked at Lam. “Flip to the priority channel and override, you’re not going to get a break.”
“I’m not going to override for—“ Lam stopped, midsentence, looking up at something near the ceiling.
Rush followed her gaze, twisting slightly to see a thin stream of whitish vapor that had begun to cascade down from a vent near the ceiling.
“Well that’s not good,” Vala murmured, her head angled up.
“I concur,” Rush said, looking at it dubiously.
“The stuff has gotten into the air re-circulators,” Young snapped, looking at Lam. “Call it in. We have to get him out of here.”
Lam flipped her radio back to whatever it had started on, depressed the button and spoke into it.
“This is Dr. Lam for General Landry, Colonel Young and Vala are here to provide an escort to one of my patients—can you authorize?”
She waited for a moment.
“Carolyn,” Landry replied. “Let them go. How’s the air on twenty-one?”
“It just started to come through up here,” Lam said into her radio as she opened a cabinet.
Young and Vala were already moving toward the door. Rush matched their pace, trying to take as much of Young’s weight as he could.
“Masks,” Lam snapped at them, as they approached the door. “Wait. We have masks.”
One of her staff came forward with three in masks in hand.
“Fantastic,” Vala said, pulling hers on.
Young followed suit.
Rush looked dubiously at his.
“You realize that if the gas is heavier than air and displaces breathable oxygen and we’re trapped in a local sink then filters won’t actually help,” Rush said, looking at Young. “Right?”
“Just put it on,” Young growled.
“The stuff could be toxic as well as dense,” Vala said shortly.
They both looked at her.
“What?” she snapped. “Not just a pretty face, here. Now let’s go, gorgeous.”
Rush put on his mask.
Lam stepped forward and pressed the zat he had abandoned back into his hand. “Good luck,” she whispered as she opened the door to the quiet of the corridor beyond.
The light was dim and blue. It reflected off surfaces and soaked down into blackness in corners, behind pipes, and in the dark recesses of doorways. There was no one in sight. All of the nonessential personnel had presumably already made their way up the long stretches of stairs. He wondered what Amanda Perry did in situations such as this—when the elevators were shut down and an evacuation order was sounded. There must be some kind of protocol in place for her. Hopefully.
After threading their way along a set of homogenous corridors, they reached the stairs. The air in the stairwells had a faintly hazy cast that was more pronounced near the floor.
The sight of it was unnerving.
“This looks worse than before,” Vala whispered, glancing at Young. “Is it coming down from above us?”
“We’ll find out,” Young said. “But if this stuff is in the re-circulators then it’s a good bet it’ll start showing up all over the base.”
“Let’s go,” Vala said edgily. “I don’t like this. It’s giving me a bad feeling.”
“Agreed,” Young growled back, adjusting the grip he had on his handgun, which was currently digging unpleasantly into Rush’s left shoulder. They started forward together, managing to make it up the first flight of stairs at something approximating a normal speed. Rush suspected that such a pace was not going to be sustainable. Not for Young.
In the infirmary, he’d heard Landry give what might have been the tail end of an order to shut off the air re-circulators. That would be a colossally stupid idea. They needed to filter the stuff out and pump clean air in. If the gas wasn’t toxic—if it was just sinking beneath normal air, if it was just sitting down in the lower levels, then without self contained breathing units everyone down there would suffocate.
He hoped someone fucking realized this.
Carter would realize. He’d seen her source code. She would know. Was she down there? Of course she was. Where else would she be?
“Was Colonel Carter in the gate room?” Rush whispered into the turbid air.
“Yeah,” Young gasped as they made the next landing. He took several deep breaths. “Why?”
“Simply curious,” Rush replied, equally breathless. It was difficult to tell if he was having trouble breathing because of threatening panic, or because of reduced oxygen content in the air, or because it was fucking difficult to drag Colonel Young up flights of stairs. They weren’t mutually exclusive possibilities.
He felt unnaturally warm.
“Let’s pick up the pace,” Young said.
They went, tearing through the haze as quickly as they were able.
He didn’t understand this mist. He didn’t understand its purpose.
Young’s arm tightened suddenly around his shoulders, his sidearm digging mercilessly into Rush’s left deltoid as Vala took a misstep.
“Sorry,” Vala breathed, her voice high and breathless. “Sorry, handsome.”
For the sake of convenience, Rush decided to assume that whoever had dialed the SGC—he’d call the dialing party the LA, again for the sake of convenience—had hostile intentions.
“It’s fine,” Young hissed. “Keep going.”
So. The LA had presumably dialed into the SGC for malevolent purposes unknown and in order to achieve their objectives, had flooded the entire base with this dense, nearly opaque gas. The thing he didn’t understand was why they would choose to hamper their own incursion by use of such a double-edged weapon. Surely it would cause them the same amount of inconvenience and danger that it would cause the base personnel? It stood to reason, therefore, that it had some other advantage that was not immediately apparent.
They made the next landing and paused for a moment, breathing hard, Vala’s hand pressed to the gleaming white silhouette of the number eighteen, emblazoned on the wall in reflective paint.
Someone was shaking. It was either Young or Vala—already exhausted from their rapid ascent from level twenty-seven.
Rush looked down at his feet. The skin of his ankles above his shoes felt oddly warm.
“Go,” Young said again.
They started up the next flight of stairs.
If there was an advantage conferred by the gas to the LA, then it was likely to derive from some property intrinsic to it. It was dense. It was opaque. It seemed to cause some kind of mild exothermic reaction on skin contact.
“Shit,” Young hissed quietly.
Rush looked up.
Ahead of them, pouring off of the level seventeen landing, was an advancing wall of white.
He tensed, feeling his already labored breathing speed up.
“Deep breaths,” Young said calmly. “Hyperventillate and then hold it. We’ll go straight through past the landing. It will be clearer above seventeen.”
“Right,” Vala said, her tone clipped, her chin angled up. “Of course it will.”
Rush nodded shortly, forcing himself to take a deep breath in the face of the rapidly advancing blue-white wave.
He took a second breath.
And then it hit.
He lost his depth perception and his visual field in one disorienting swoop, but more than that—it became immediately apparent to him what the utility of the gas was to the Lucian Alliance.
Instinctively, they all slowed.
Every centimeter of his exposed skin was lit up with a luminescence that was emitting at the red end of the visible spectrum and likely into the infrared, if the warmth was any indication.
Neither Young nor Vala were emitting electromagnetic radiation of any kind.
Rush held his free hand in front of his face, watching the vaguely pinkish-red light flicker around his fingers, his forearm, glowing faintly through his white shirt—
“Go,” Young shouted, breaking the spell and pulling them all up through the mist.
What the fuck. What the fuck. He was emitting electromagnetic radiation in an exothermic reaction between the mist and either something he’d been coated with, which was fucking unlikely, or something that he was. How did Ancient genes work, anyway, and what did they do?
“We’re slowing down,” Vala said, her voice breathless. “I think we’re slowing down.”
“I can’t tell,” Young whispered.
It was so quiet.
And so featureless.
Except for the glow.
“Ignore it, gorgeous,” Vala said. “Ignore it.”
The mist was a tag. It was one component in a two-component tag. The other component being him.
He couldn’t see anything but white. He couldn’t breathe.
“Do not,” Young gasped, “do not panic, hotshot.”
He wasn’t panicking.
He wasn’t even remotely.
Not panicking. Emitting, but not panicking.
“One,” Vala said.
Counting steps. Not a bad plan.
“Two,” Vala said.
Young was trembling.
“Three,” Vala said.
He couldn’t breathe.
“Four,” Vala said.
That was expected.
“Five,” Vala said.
It was hard to orient. It was hard even to feel the press of gravity in a field of featureless white.
“Six,” Vala said.
He was going to die here.
“Seven,” Vala said.
Unless he was abducted first.
“Eight,” Vala said.
In which case, he would die somewhere else.
“Nine,” Vala said.
“Ten,” Vala said.
But they would still die here.
“Eleven,” Vala said.
Vala was counting steps.
“Twelve,” Vala said.
It was hard to hear her.
“Thirteen,” Vala said.
Young was so heavy.
“Fourteen,” Vala said.
He took the next step but there was no step there. Everyone made the same mistake.
The sensation of falling was hard to discern, but the sensation of three people tangled against a hard surface was not.
He spread his hands out against the featureless white. The surface in front of him was hard. Was it a door or was it a wall or was it the floor.
He tried to feel gravity. He shut his eyes and tried to feel it.
The stairs were behind him. He was on the landing.
Young was gasping, trying to push himself up. Rush tangled his right hand in the fabric of Young’s jacket. “Vala.” He called as best he could. “Vala.”
He could hear her, breaths coming like sobs, a blurred shadow on the other side of Young, the inverse of his own reddish glow. There was no time for anything but accuracy.
“Left,” he breathed, dragging Young forward, across the landing. He tripped against the first step, falling against the ascending stairs.
Vala managed to keep Young from following him down.
He forced himself back to his feet, resuming his place on Young’s left.
No one had the energy left to count out loud.
He could hear his own blood roaring in his ears.
The air began to clear.
The whiteness faded back down to a turbid blue-white, clearing enough for him to see the next landing.
One, zero, zero.
His chest ached with the need for oxygen.
One, zero, one.
He stopped counting. All conscious thought shunted laterally and down into pure effort.
They reached the landing. He and Vala buckled at the same time sending the three of them back to the floor beneath the white glare of the number sixteen. Vala inched towards him, her hair sweeping over her shoulder in a dark curtain. He spread his hands, bracing himself against the cement floor of the landing, pulling air into his lungs, trying to overcome the powerful impulse to pull off his mask.
He watched his hands.
He watched his hands, where they were pressed to the floor through a few inches of mist, give off a faint red light. In his peripheral vision, he was aware of Vala and Young looking at him. He waited for someone to ask for clarification as to what the fuck was going on. But no one did. Perhaps they weren’t curious. That seemed unlikely. Perhaps they already knew what he had just discovered in his medical file.
If that were the case, Young had really been playing it fucking close to the fucking chest.
It wasn’t much of a conceptual leap to make three assumptions. One—the differential ‘glow effect,’ for lack of a better term, produced by the mist was visually tagging him. The mechanism could be worked out later, but was likely not keyed to him in a personalized way, but somehow predicated on a property conferred by one of the three Ancient genes he carried. Two—regardless of the exact mechanism by which he was fucking glowing, his contact with the mist was producing an electromagnetic signature that had the convenient feature of alerting him to the fact that it existed, but the inconvenient feature of likely being remotely detectable. Three—
“Get up,” Young growled, dragging Rush up by his shirt. “Get up, Rush.”
Three, if his two-part glow-tag were indeed remotely detectable, it would be a signature that could be locked onto for transport or tracked and pursued by infiltrating parties.
That wasn’t good.
“Stay out of that stuff as much as you can,” Young hissed, staring at him from behind the transparent plastic of his mask. “Don’t stick your god damned hands into it.” Apparently, his neighbor had come to the same conclusions Rush had. “I’ll bet,” the other man said, his voice low and immediate, “that you just lit up the hand-held sensors of every LA member on this base.”
“Yes,” Rush replied breathlessly, “yes that’s quite likely. I’m sure they can still detect me.” He swept one hand rapidly through the translucent air, producing a faint red haze on his palm. “But why not pull me out when they had such a—“ he couldn’t catch his breath, but he continued anyway, “—such a spectacular signal?”
“You can’t transport out of the SGC,” Young whispered, “because of all the signal scramblers that we have here. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not all converging on us right now.“
“Boys,” Vala said, with a small cough, “the only way out is up, so what do you say we get going.” It wasn’t a question. She peeled one of Young’s hands away from Rush’s shoulder and forced a return to their previous configuration.
They began to ascend again, heading toward level fifteen.
Rush didn’t understand how Young was managing to do this. All indications had been that the man was seriously injured. He hadn’t ever enquired as to the specifics, but it stood to reason that, given the extended medical leave, his injuries were serious.
“That’s great,” Young snarled, looking up at the thick whitish mist advancing slowly over the landing of level fifteen.
“The distribution and density of these pockets doesn’t make sense,” Rush murmured. “We shouldn’t be running into concentrated blocks of the stuff so frequently and so—“
Vala screamed something that wasn’t English as a wave of destabilization hit him from the side, knocking him down to the steps. He hit hard, Young on top of him. Above them, the air split to accommodate the trajectories of different kinds of weapons, energy based and projectile based.
He didn’t understand how anyone could have gotten ahead of them but someone was certainly firing at them from level fifteen and, while Rush didn’t know much about tactics, he could certainly reason out that having the lower ground in a straight, open stairwell was not a good strategic position.
Young started firing his sidearm right fucking next to Rush’s ear, again, but at least that meant the man wasn’t dead, so, all in all, he supposed that was a net positive.
Rush looked up to see Vala, dark against the blue-white glow of the mist. She had positioned herself ahead and to the right, ascending against the wall, firing a spread with her snake-like energy weapon.
“Fire,” Young shouted at him. “Fucking fire your goddamned weapon, Rush.”
Ah yes. Right.
He was holding a weapon—the same kind that Vala had, EM based and open in his hand. He looked up into the mist ahead, but couldn’t see a damn thing. He fired anyway, toward the point at which energy blasts seemed to be originating from.
It seemed to make no difference. He couldn’t see anything but blue-white above them so he stopped sending purposeless shots into the mist and looked up at the wall immediately above his head.
“What the hell are you doing?” Young shouted, above the deafening roar of gunfire.
Rush fired at the metal railing running along the wall, sending a burst of blueish energy traveling up into the mist that obscured the landing of level fifteen. The blue glow illuminated two indistinct silhouettes, crouching near the wall. That was useful. He began firing continuously, lighting up the railing as Vala took down one of the silhouettes with a flare of blue energy. Young knocked the other one back into the white opacity with a well-placed shot.
Rush started forward, but Young pulled him back. “You are not first, hotshot.”
“Oh yes,” Rush hissed back, “and you’re in fantastic shape are you.”
Vala had already darted forward into the advancing cloud of white, and turned over the person she had either stunned or killed—Rush had no idea what the effect of that blue energy might be. In one quick motion she pulled off the man’s self-contained breathing unit. She passed over the small canister of air and associated mask to Rush.
Rush passed it over to Young, who rolled his eyes and shoved it back at him. Not about to engage in some kind of childish display of petulant altruism, Rush swapped his filter mask for the breathing unit as Vala plunged back into the mist, her sinuous weapon in hand.
“Vala—“ Young hissed, taking a half step up. He grimaced, and his left knee seemed to give out beneath him.
Rush was just barely able to prevent him from going down.
Somewhere in the swirling opacity, he heard Vala fire a single shot.
For a moment she was a backlit, dark silhouette before fading again to white, then she reemerged from the thickest part of the mist with the second breathing unit, which she tried to hand to Young.
He shoved it back at her, and she put it on.
“We’re going back down,” Young whispered.
“Wrong direction, handsome,” Vala replied.
“I know that,” Young said. “Come on.”
“I assume,” Rush said, as Young leaned heavily on him, “that you have some kind of plan.”
“Level sixteen is a good level for us,” Young said, “provided you’re as much of a computational genius as everyone seems to think you are.”
“Meaning what?” Rush asked dubiously.
“Level sixteen has a monitoring station, from which point, I’m hoping that you can unlock a god damned elevator for us.”
“Substantial computational difficulties aside, it sounds risky.” He was fairly certain that elevators were generally taken offline in emergencies to prevent death via stationary, airless metal box.
“I’m not seeing a lot of risk-free options here.” Young coughed, grimacing in pain.
“I suppose you’re correct,” Rush replied. “But my ability to unlock an elevator in a time-efficient manner is going to be contingent on the level of security—“
“Whatever,” Young snapped. “If you can’t do it I have a back-up plan, but it’s not ideal, let’s put it that way.”
“You know what else isn’t ideal? Some goddamned offsite system administrator monitoring this situation mistaking me for some sloppy Lucian Alliance black-hat and trapping us in an elevator in which we eventually suffocate, so what’s your plan B?”
“Can’t you just—“
“No,” Rush snapped. “If Carter or Perry or someone equally competent has so much as looked at the computational security on this base then I’m not going fuck with it and magically recruit us an elevator in five minutes. It doesn’t work like that, Young. This kind of thing requires time, which we do not have, so, I repeat, what’s your plan B?”
Young looked at Vala.
Vala shook her head.
“They’re bound to be in there,” she said quietly. “How else could they have beaten us to fifteen?”
“In where?” Rush asked.
“In the walls,” Vala said. “There’s an access shaft that goes to the surface.”
“Firefights on ladders in long narrow tubes are not a good time,” Young said tightly. “You sure you don’t want to re-think the elevator plan?”
“Does the monitoring station have fucking external access,” Rush whispered, “or is the entire base on a closed network?”
“I think there’s external access,” Young replied. “Does it matter?”
“Yes,” Rush hissed. “Of course it matters. I’m not in the habit of carrying around security scanner applications on my person so I need to fucking obtain one.”
“Keep your shirt on,” Young growled.
Rush shot him a scathing look.
“At the very least,” Vala whispered, “we can get a better picture of what’s going on base-wide.”
“Let’s go,” Young said.
Together they moved across the landing and into the dim, turbid air of level sixteen.