Mathématique: Chapter 30

Oh. Right then. There was an outstanding reason for doing what they were doing. This was a contingency plan. It must be. 

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. Injuries.

Chapter 30

Rush needed sunglasses or he was simply not going to fucking survive the drive to the base; he would die of a photosensitive headache on the way there, either directly, as his cerebral vasculature disintegrated like tissue paper, or indirectly, as he drove his fucking car off a fucking cliff in a fit of blinding, blinded agony.

Young knocked on his door.

Rush tore open the third box of the early afternoon without looking, searching for sunglasses by feel alone. The air was unnecessarily dry and unnecessarily bright.

“Rush,” Young called through the door, “we’re gonna be late.”

What the fuck did he care if they were late? He didn’t want to fucking go to this fucking meeting anyway. He hated meetings generally and he especially hated this meeting; he couldn’t think of a meeting that he hated more than this one, not even UC Berkeley faculty meetings regarding the administrative ephemera that were the gaudy trappings of any organization that received money from a federal funding agency. But this meeting, this meeting, was specifically focused on him and not just on him but on the colocalization of him and useless tasks.

The only thing he hated more than stupidity in the abstract was forced practical participation in a stupid affair.

The sunglasses were a lost cause. Or maybe just lost. He was tempted to ignore Young’s insistent knocking, to keep going, given that he’d already devoted so many resources to finding them. The urge to maintain his stranglehold on the goal of a world more shaded was almost too much for him to bear. Almost.

He gave up.

He picked up the bag that held his computer, phone and signal scrambler and opened his door.

“Nice,” Young said, friendly and uniformed and leaning against the doorframe.

“What is?” Rush asked.

“The suit,” Young said.

“Oh,” Rush said, looking down at his jacket through the glaze of his headache. “Yes well—“ he started to pull his door shut.

Young stopped him with a well-placed boot. “Keys?” he asked. “Phone? Signal scrambler? Laptop?”

“Yes yes yes and yes,” Rush said. “Do you have extra sunglasses, by any chance?”

If Young said no, there was a possibility that he might expire before reaching the base.

“You can have my sunglasses,” Young said, pulling a pair out of his pocket, “if you let me drive.”

“Done,” Rush snapped, taking the proffered shades and slipping them on with alacrity, feeling them take the edge off a photosensitive headache so edged that it approximated a diamond razor blade.

“Are you—hung over, hotshot?” Young asked slowly.

He wasn’t. But he felt like he was. Close enough. “Yes,” he said.

“No you’re not,” Young replied, limping after him as they proceeded toward the elevator.

And Young thought he was a lot of work?

Rush hit the elevator button with more than the requisite force, hooked a hand over his shoulder, and tried to pretend that his brain was not trying to change phases into a new state of matter. He wished it luck. Really he did.

“Okay, so here’s the plan, hotshot,” Young said.

Oh there was a plan was there?

“You just sit there and look pretty, while—“

Rush pulled his shades down and fixed Young with a distinctly unimpressed look, which he found painful but worth it for the extremely satisfying effect it seemed to have on Young.

“You just sit there and look like an overextended mathematical rock star,” Young amended, with so much composure that Rush suspected the other man might have been baiting him, “while Dr. Perry and I do the talking.”

Rush repositioned his borrowed sunglasses in a fluid upslide. “I don’t understand why you’re even going to be there. Aren’t you in charge of people with guns? Do you know a god damned thing about MMORPGs?”

The elevator door opened. Rush motioned Young forward, one hand against the doors.

“Right now I’m in charge of everything,” Young said, as he limped into the pitiless glare of the fluorescent elevator interior.

Rush had no idea what the scope of Young’s professional responsibilities were—past or current. It was possible that he wasn’t exaggerating. It was also possible that he was exaggerating, though the fact that Young had been invited to this absurd meeting indicated that the former possibility was more likely than the latter.

“As for MMORPGs,” Young said, “well, I read the report. It seems like a decent idea in exchange for about ninety million dollars from the senate appropriations committee.”

“Were they planning on giving those ninety million dollars to me,” Rush said, “then perhaps you’d have a point.”

“I can see this is going to go well,” Young muttered. “Can you please be polite to the United States Senator who controls resource allocation for the entire Icarus project?”

“When am I not polite?” Rush asked dryly, his fingers digging into his shoulder, his head tipped against the back wall.

“Hotshot, if you use the word ‘please’ and the word ‘fuck’ in the same sentence, that doesn’t count as ‘polite’.” Young sounded amused but he looked disapproving.

“It’s neutral,” Rush replied.  “The polite and the profane cancel out.”

“Nope, I’m pretty sure ‘fuck’ always wins,” Young said.

The elevator doors opened into a shaft of natural light coming through the glass doors of the building.

“Oh god,” Rush whispered, one hand coming to his head.

“You feel like shit,” Young said. “Don’t you.”

It wasn’t a question, so he didn’t have to answer it. He could just walk forward into the light, trying to move his head as little as possible and think about how fucking amazingly obsequiously, terribly, embarrassingly, grateful he was for the existence of Amanda Perry who seemed to: a) genuinely be excited about Astria Porta: Prometheus in the depths of her strange, joyfully ironic heart, because it was a game that sounded, to him, so incontrovertibly stupid that he couldn’t even describe it in the abstract, the stupidity had to be experienced as a visceral, subjective phenomenon; b) have enough scientific connections that he would have to do nothing other than the mathematical rendering of the cypher set; c) want to make his life easier for reasons totally obscure to him.

Maybe he seemed like he fucking needed it.

What he really needed was for his life to be harder in some kind of demonstrable way. It was too easy to drown in one’s own mind in an impersonal apartment thinking about nothing but mathematics.

He made his way over to Young’s car, some black, aggressive-looking thing with more accelerative capacity than seemed, in any way, necessary.

“You remembered my car,” Young said, with unmistakable surprise.

Rush found this excessively irritating. “Is there a reason I wouldn’t remember your car? Do you have me confused with a stereotype you’ve invented regarding the scientific community?”

“Take it easy over there, hotshot,” Young said, unlocking his car. “You need coffee?”

“We’re late,” Rush said.

“We’re not that late and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be worth it.”

“Possibly,” Rush admitted.

Rush sat in the mercifully dim briefing room, watching Young wrap up an overview of the Icarus Project tailored for the masses with level one security clearance or less, except in this case it was for a mass of two—an overly opinionated senator and his senior aide, who seemed in no way ‘senior’ other than the fact that her security clearance exceeded his own.

He found this unsurprising.

He glanced at Perry and found her looking at him. She widened her eyes meaningfully. Unfortunately, he had no idea what he was supposed to be taking from her expression. Perhaps he looked uninterested? Perhaps he looked impolite in some way.

Rush straightened marginally, but not enough to imply that he thought that any of this was, in any way, a good idea or a good use of his time. He had several objections to this entire concept, none of which he’d been encouraged to voice, and several of which he had been expressly advised against voicing by both Young and Perry. He deeply despised the idea of any kind of intellectual stricture placed upon his work, especially the kinds of strictures that were time consuming and a waste of academic assets—not only his own considerable talents which could, unquestionably, be better employed, but it was also a waste of Perry’s assets.

Perry was certainly a valuable resource.

He drummed his fingers against the table once. The senator’s aide looked over at him. Perhaps repetitive finger movements were frowned upon by the American political establishment. Better put a stop to that then.

He had, to this point, avoided thinking too much about the request being made of him, but given that he was uninterested in Young’s slightly modified version of Dr. Jackson’s: Historical Highlights of the SGC funding pitch, Rush found that that he had little else to think about.

He had a difficult time focusing on cryptography when trying to actively suppress intense aggravation.

Essentially what was being asked of him and, by extension, Dr. Perry, was encoding the cyphers within the gate into a form that would be computationally decipherable when turned over to a private company with no security clearance for incorporation into a game popular among shiftless young people who lacked ambition.

In return, the SGC would gain a monetary sum used, presumably, to further their mission.

The idea was worthy of ridicule on several levels.

Young made his pained, stoic way back to his seat as Dr. Perry began speaking.

There were—he looked at the ceiling, trying to estimate—there were perhaps ten people, give or take nine people, on the planet who would have been able to take a cypher set that was encoded in a foreign language—in a foreign computer language with incredible cryptographic breadth, built for and into the hardware of an Ancient device—and transpose it into something that a terrestrial programmer would be able to make any kind of fucking sense of. None of those people were at the SGC.

Well. McKay, possibly, could have done it. For a physicist he had a good instinct for code and, apparently, an interest in computational complexity theory.

McKay’s skills were not the point.

The point was that Rush sincerely doubted that Senator Armstrong had considered the plausibility of his ludicrous request before making it. He leaned back, braced an elbow against the arm of the chair and pressed two fingers against his temple. There was no reason Rush could see that might justify such a ridiculous request, even given how uninformed he was regarding the likelihood of success. What was the point of harnessing the untapped genius of the anonymous, unmotivated, proletariat when one had a perfectly adequate resident cryptographer who—


Right then. Of course.

There was an outstanding reason for doing what they were doing.

This was a contingency plan.

It must be.

A contingency plan against his own abduction by the Lucian Alliance.

A contingency plan that was being assembled in a desperate, unfocused manner, with little chance of success.

This didn’t send a very reassuring message about his odds of avoiding abduction by the Lucian Alliance. But at least they were thinking critically. He felt a bizarre sense of pride. As though a struggling undergraduate had just successfully integrated by parts during office hours. He felt like standing up and shaking Senator Armstrong’s hand in the middle of the fucking briefing.

The pained sludge of his thoughts was difficult to see through, to think through. This had never been his life—he had never been a resource on a vast scale, he had never been threatened by something with this kind of scope—he’d always been slow to trust but that propensity he’d recognized as some kind of psychological spandrel from the fucked up places he had clawed his way free of, not a way that he had truly needed to live, but he could not help wondering—

Who understood what this was? This Astria Porta Contingency Plan?

He hesitated, torn by opposing mental forces for a moment, before marshaling all of his intellectual capital to tip himself over into a savage pleasure with whomever had devised this particular plan. Asking him to code these chevrons into a game was to ask him to essentially craft the performance interview for his successor. He could see why they might not want to have such a discussion with him openly. Such a thing would be in atrocious taste. It would be utterly without tact. It would be extremely—impolite.

He felt a muscle in his cheek begin to twitch. His headache began to recede under a second, equally merciless pressure. The urge to cut into this thing and lay it bare was overwhelming. But he could wait. When it was necessary, he could wait. He was certain he’d be presented with an opportunity in very short order.

The meeting was winding down. The deal, to put it colloquially, had already been struck. It had been struck days ago, weeks ago. Even if he could have, he wouldn’t have stopped it.

Perry glanced at him, in the middle of a confirmatory sentence about projected turnaround times and she faltered, the words fading into nothing as she looked at him. Soon, everyone was looking at him.

“Dr. Rush?” Landry asked. “Is there a problem?”

He realized then that he was smiling. His expression felt subtly twisted. He doubted that he looked even remotely amused. “No,” he said, leaning forward in time with the word in one smooth, slow pull. He rested his forearms against the edge of the table and pressed his fingertips together. “Not at all,” he said. “I’m very much in favor of contingency planning.”

Landry’s expression didn’t change, but for a slight bilateral lift of the eyebrows. As if he were making a reassessment of some kind. As well he might.

Perry’s eyes widened in an obvious prompt for him to explain himself.

Young betrayed nothing.

The senator watched him steadily. His ‘senior aide’ looked away, smoothing a piece of hair behind her ear.

“Contingency?” It was Perry who spoke. “What do you mean by ‘contingency’?”

Rush didn’t look at her.

“It would be a terrible shame if you were to lose your cryptographer,” he said, his gaze fixed on Armstrong. “It would be a significant setback to the project. Militarily. Financially. Strategically. The part that has me puzzled is what the ninety million dollars is for. Was that supposed to be for my psychological benefit? So it appeared to be a quid pro quo? The money for the game? Or was it simply the senate appropriations committee finding a convenient way to purchase a controlling stake in the trajectory of the project?”

No one spoke.

Young and Perry looked at one another, then at him with nearly identical expressions of dismayed comprehension.

“Dr. Rush,” Senator Armstrong began, “please understand that—“

“I understand,” he said, perfectly smooth, perfectly calm. “I understand completely. In fact, I agree with you. I think it’s a dead brilliant idea. You get the one person who can unlock the thing to create a mechanism for his own replacement.”

“That’s not what’s going on here,” Young growled. 

“I think that’s exactly what’s going on here,” Rush said. “But tell me I’m wrong.” He smiled at Landry in a quick flash of teeth.

Landry said nothing.

Rush waited, his eyebrows lifted, his gaze sweeping the room. No one said anything. “I’ll do it for you,” Rush said into the weighted quiet. “Of course I will. But I do want something in return.”

“What?” Landry asked.

He considered asking for level two security clearance, but didn’t think he’d get it. He was certain that, given the current climate at the SGC—  He would get very little. He didn’t have the political astuteness of Dr. Jackson, but there was some chance that by asking for limited information he could get an increased understanding of the power structure concealed in the rafters of the SGC.

“The name of the person who came up with this particular strategy,” Rush said.

“It came from my office,” Armstrong said.

“A name,” Rush said, with ruthless control over his diction.

“I’m responsible for this particular initiative,” Armstrong said.

“It was me,” his aide answered in nearly the same moment, her eyes frightened but her chin angled up. “It was my idea.”

Well. That was unexpected. And probably not useful. The girl looked like she should be in graduate school, not sitting at the bottom of a mountain waiting to fall on top of her.

“And you are?” he said.

“Chloe,” she whispered.


“Chloe Armstrong.”

That was also unexpected. And possibly useful.

“Ah,” he said. “Well, Ms. Armstrong, you seem cleverer than the company you keep. Consider graduate school before politics ruins your mind and you get lost in pointless, endless machinating. Do something of real value. Join a gate team. Prove a theorem.”

She sat unmoving, regarding him with dark eyes and a neutral expression.

Rush stood. “Have a pleasant afternoon,” he said.

“Dr. Rush,” Landry said. “This meeting isn’t over.“

Rush abandoned his coffee cup and his papers, shouldered his bag in a sweep before anyone could stop him, before he could give into his fear that they would stop him. But no one barred his way and he entered the elevator, where his headache reasserted itself like a persistent, consciousness-seeking leucotome.

He fucking shouldn’t have let Young drive in exchange for sunglasses. What had he been thinking. Never again. Rush pressed the button for level eighteen. The elevator doors closed.

He stood alone in the fluorescent box, in no way upset. It was fine. 

He liked their plan. He did.

He liked it.

He approved of it.

It was practical. It fulfilled an important function.

But what had happened to the astrophysicist?

He liked it. He liked it. He did.

What had happened to Volker?

He liked it.

It was a good plan.

He didn’t mind the implicit inevitability of his eventual abduction, it didn’t bother him per se, but he hoped it would be later rather than sooner because he would like to solve this thing before he died or at least make some kind of attempt at it.

This was why he wouldn’t go to Atlantis, why he couldn’t go there because if it weren’t for the cyphers than what was the point of any of it? Of living at all? One might as well just lay down on a Lantean pier and die, but now, now, he wasn’t sure if he would even be allowed to go if he expressed any such preference. The entire idea of going to Atlantis was probably just some kind of beautiful vision of Jackson’s that existed in a haze of hopeful sanguinity, out of phase with reality.

Jackson was like that. Hopeful. Out of phase.

He’d been dreaming of Atlantis. The geodesic arc of its energy shield above silver towers.

The elevator opened and he walked out, heading toward Jackson’s lab in a blur of fluorescent light and irresolving edges. He stopped in front of the man’s door, shook his hair out of his eyes and, for his trouble, was nearly blinded by the resultant spike in his headache. He knocked.

“Come,” Jackson called.

Rush opened the door to see the man seated cross-legged on the floor with an array of candles spread out in front of him, evidently in the middle of something profound and/or absurd. The lights in the room were dim.

Rush didn’t know what the man was doing. He didn’t fucking care. What he did know was that he had zero desire to interrupt a Member of the Formerly Ascended to drive him home in the middle of a day when, clearly, he was busy.

“Nick?” Jackson said.

Rush shut the door and turned around. He wasn’t sure where exactly he thought he was going to go. Anywhere would be acceptable. Perry’s office. That sounded reasonable. He would wait for her. He needed to speak with her anyway.

One of the green-fatigued blurs that surrounded him reversed direction as it drew level with his position.

“Hello gorgeous,” Vala murmured, threading their arms together as she changed their trajectory. “Shit day?”

“Yes,” he whispered.

They sat on the floor of Vala’s quarters, a chessboard spread between them.

Vala considered the arrangement of pieces, her eyes narrowed, and then advanced a pawn.

Rush pushed her pawn back and tapped the one adjacent to the piece she’d selected, then moved it foward.

“If you did this,” he murmured, “it would be an opener called the Latvian gambit. It’s risky, but may suit your style of play. It’s likely to unnerve your opponent, given that said opponent is capable of recognizing it.”

“I like the sound of that,” Vala said. “I believe the infrared spectroscopy unit is quite experienced when it comes to chess.”

“When is this tournament happening?” he asked.

“In a few days,” Vala replied, staring down the board as though she were memorizing the arrangement of the pieces. “The ISU has been playing speed chess in the mess at peak mealtimes in a flagrant attempt to intimidate us.”

“That seems ostentatious,” he said, beginning to construct his own pawn skeleton, two fingers trying to press the migraine out of his temple.

“I’m terribly put out that no one informed of this tournament until last night,” Vala said. “How am I supposed to acquit myself in any kind of reasonable manner with only five days of practice time?”

“Consider using your inexperience as a strategy,” he said, his eyes shut, his head turned into his hand.

The room was very quiet.

“Gorgeous,” Vala whispered, “even if they take you, which is not a given, despite the tactless machinating of the American political establishment, we would never leave you with them.”

“What about that astrophysicist,” Rush said, opening his eyes. “Volker. It appears that he’s been left.”

“And what do you think you know about it, hmm? There’s an entire team devoted to finding him,” Vala said as she advanced her bishop.

“A team of four people?” Rush asked dryly. “Forgive me if I’m unimpressed.”

“He isn’t you,” she said.

He couldn’t say whether that made things better or worse, or whether it was meant to simply state ontological fact. In any case, it was hard to argue with. “Do you have any advice?” he asked her.

She looked at him from beneath a sweep of dark hair. “Have you asked anyone else,” she said quietly, “for—advice?”

“I asked Colonel Young. He counseled against being abducted in the first place.”

“That’s the institutional line, I think,” Vala said, still looking at him.

“Yes,” Rush said, moving his knight.

“No one else will say this to you, gorgeous,” Vala murmured, “but I would advise that you do what’s required to survive. If that means that you give them what they ask for—then,” she hesitated, looking away, “you give them what they ask for. They have ways of getting what they want regardless of your best intentions. But if you give it to them,” she continued, her voice pained, her eyes distant, “you control how much you give. You manipulate them into keeping you alive. The rest will follow.”

“Something like this has happened to you before?” he asked.

“No, of course not.  I read about this in Cosmo.” She flashed him a brief, bright lie of a smile that pulled out something matching in him.

Someone knocked on Vala’s door.

“I’m sure that’s Daniel,” Vala said.

“I’m sure it’s Young,” Rush countered.

“Care to make it interesting, gorgeous?”

“Interesting how?”

“I’ll put an adorably hand-tailored but yet tastefully masculine SGC-issued jacket on the table,” she said.

“I don’t think I need any such thing,” Rush said dubiously.

The person outside Vala’s quarters knocked again.

“Just a moment,” Vala called, “I’m changing.”

Rush shot her a look over the tops of his glasses.

“Come now,” she said. “Don’t give me that. If you don’t want a jacket then propose something requiring equivalent effort on your part but that you think that I’ll be equally uninterested in.”

“I’ll show you how to cook a dish of your choice using Colonel Young’s kitchen.

“Done,” Vala said, delighted. She got to her feet. “Let’s see how this turns out, shall we?”

He leaned back against the foot of the bed.

Vala flung open the door to reveal Young and Jackson both standing the frame.

They looked at him, then at Vala.

Jackson cleared his throat. “Changing?” he said. 

“Yes darling, we were playing one of your Earth games known as ‘strip chess’.”

“Strip chess,” Jackson repeated, caught somewhere between skepticism and dismay.

“Is that not an accepted variant?” Vala asked. “Gorgeous,” she turned in a swirl of hair, “how roguishly disingenuous of you.”

Rush shrugged, opening a hand.

“You know,” Jackson said, looking at Vala with what could only be characterized as evident disapproval, “the United States Government has a name for this kind of thing. That name is ‘sexual harassment’.”

“Yes,” Vala said, affecting a serious expression. “I do feel terribly victimized by the strip chess.”

“You are definitely the harasser.  Not the harassee.”

Vala turned back to Rush. “Am I creating an unsafe workplace environment for you, gorgeous?”

“You?” Rush said, pressing his fingers to his temple. “No, I don’t think it’s you.”

An uncomfortable silence descended, during which everyone seemed to fix their attention on him. For his part, Rush tried to prevent his skull from suffering explosive decompression under the pressure of his headache. He tried to pretend to himself and others that he was currently in Vala’s room, sitting on the floor in front of a chessboard, because a) he had known where her room was and he had come here purposefully, b) they’d had a previous appointment regarding the finer points of an intellectual terrestrial game, and c) he had in no way been upset by anything that had happened this afternoon least of all the subtle and sensitive plans of senior aides to United States senators.

“Did the two of you want something?” Vala asked. “We’re in the middle of playing out the Latvian gambit here.”  She made a sweeping gesture at the chessboard.

“You’re—doing what?” Jackson asked, cocking his head and walking forward to scrutinize the chessboard.

“The Latvian gambit,” Vala said, enunciating in a manner Rush thought might be meant to convey subtle insult. “It’s extremely advanced, darling. I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it.”

Rush stood, removing himself from the sphere of Jackson, Vala, and the Latvian gambit.

Young was leaning in the doorway, his cane aligned unobtrusively with his good leg.

“I actually don’t know very much about chess,” Jackson admitted.

“Oh really,” Vala replied, “because based on the way that you were advising Colonel Mitchell I had the impression that—“

“I’m better than Cam,” Jackson said.

“You want to get out of here, hotshot?” Young asked quietly, with an expression that Rush was going to label as ‘concerned’.

You’re better than Cam,” Jackson continued.

“I need to speak with Dr. Perry,” Rush said, trying to radiate a sense of imperturbability that he did not feel.

“A potted plant is better than Cam,” Jackson finished.

“Um, what are you planning on saying to her?” Young asked.

“Is that a matter of national security?” Rush asked, with all the acidic poise he could bring to bear.

“No,” Young said, “but she looked pretty upset after your dramatic exit.”

“Dramatic,” Rush repeated, fixing Young with a cool look over the tops of his glasses.

“Well,” Young said, looking faintly amused, “you pretty much created a whole bunch of political capital and then set it on fire when you used it to go after the daughter of a senator. I’d say whatever bridges you had to the American political establishment are pretty much burned.”

“I gave her a piece of unsolicited career advice,” Rush said. “That’s all.”

“Colonel Mitchell has a great deal of enthusiasm,” Vala said diplomatically.

“Yeah, well, it was not a fun room after you left,” Young murmured.  “You realize,” Young said quietly, “that none of us knew, right?”

Rush looked away.

Jackson and Vala had grown quiet.

“I didn’t know,” Young said, “Perry didn’t know. Even Jackson hadn’t put it together.”

Jackson said nothing, his gaze direct and transparent.

“As if any of you would come up with something so practical,” Rush said coolly. “It doesn’t matter to me who knew that the game was a front for a frankly desperate scheme to replace me in the event of my inevitable abduction. They should have come to me directly. I could have given them names of people to contact. In fact, I will. I plan to provide Ms. Armstrong with just such a list. Do they think that cryptographers spring de novo from the fucking ether? Do they think anyone is going to solve the series of gate cyphers in their inane game?  Do they think that even if, in the astronomically unlikely event that someone did solve the cypher set in game, that those rendered cyphers would translate flawlessly to the real world? In actuality, solving a cypher, on at least one occasion, physically transported the solver to a new location in order to obtain a second factor. How the fuck would one build such an outcome into a virtual interface and expect it to function as even an approximation of its real world equivalent? By determined application of willful ignorance? By misguided wishing? By praying to the gods of determined patriotism?”

“False gods, gorgeous,” Vala said, quietly. “All the gods around here are false.”

Rush took a deep breath. “I like their plan,” he said finally. “I like it. I do.”

“I hate it,” Jackson said.

“Me too,” Vala said.

“Can’t say I’m a fan,” Young added.

“That’s because all of you have terrible taste,” Rush said. “I need to speak with Dr. Perry.”

“Text me when you’re good to go,” Young said. “I’ll give you a ride.”

“Yes yes,” Rush replied, brushing past him to leave the room.

“Hotshot, do not even think of calling a cab,” Young called after him.

Rush ignored him and stalked down the hallway towards the elevators.     

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