Mathématique: Chapter 4
“Dang it,” Mitchell said. “Jackson and Carter are infecting my lexicon.”
Chapter Warnings: Stressors of all kinds. Grief. Physical injuries.
Text Iteration: Midnight.
Audio status: Locked.
Additional notes: None.
“Well,” Young said, angling his head to trap his phone between his ear and his shoulder, “I wouldn’t want to use the word ‘crazy—’” he broke off to lever open his second beer of the evening.
“It’s okay,” Mitchell cut in, good-naturedly. “You can say crazy. I mean, Jackson used the term ‘crazy’ and Jackson is the nicest, most politically correct guy that one could theoretically make up. He’s also a little bit ‘crazy’ by his own admission, so his feeling is that he knows the territory. He owns that territory. He’s set up little colonies that pay Crazy Tax. He’s built himself a summer home on Crazy Beach. My point is that if you tried to construct a nice human from the top down, you’d get Jackson. Er, probably. Anyway, what you’ve said so far makes me think that, yeah, your neighbor is renting out an adjacent Beach House of the Brain. Right next to Jackson’s metaphorical vacation condo. You can tell me all the details. I won’t judge.”
“Um, ‘if you tried to construct a human from the top down’?” Young echoed dubiously, closing his fridge.
“Dang it,” Mitchell said. “Jackson and Carter are infecting my lexicon.”
“You did not just say the phrase ‘infecting my lexicon,’ did you?” Young limped from his kitchen into his dimly-lit living room. The overhead lighting in this place wasn’t great, and he hadn’t had the time or the energy to set up any of his assorted lamps.
“Lexicon is, like, Jackson’s second favorite word. Even Vala’s saying it now.”
“Can I confess something to you?”
Young made a face and sipped his beer. “Sure. Go ahead.”
“I wanna get team T-shirts that say ‘SG-1 does it with a lexicon.’ It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.”
Young rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I can see Teal’c wearing that.”
“For your information, Teal’c is pushing for team T-shirts.”
“Sometimes I really can’t tell if you’re serious or not,” Young replied.
“SG-3 has one. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from SG-3 though. Something along the lines of: ‘We Fuck Shit Up!’ It’s not even witty. I checked with Jackson to make sure I wasn’t missing a clever pun or something, but nope.”
“What’s with the T-shirt fad these days?”
“The medics started it. I’m surprised you didn’t already know. Johansen was the instigator.”
Young winced, staring at his ceiling. “Ah.”
“Yeah,” Mitchell said with a determined casualness. “Anyway. We were talking about your neighbor. You were gonna give me the off-the-record version of your take on the guy.”
Young wasted a skeptical look on his ceiling. “Well, he’s definitely eccentric, but I think there’s maybe an argument to be made that this goes beyond just your run-of-the-mill SGC science-type.”
“In what way?” Mitchell’s tone flattened into something more serious.
“Something’s definitely bothering him. I ate dinner with him tonight and maybe two or three times he was on the verge having some kind of emotional breakdown in my kitchen. He managed to rein it in every time, but—” he broke off with a shrug that Mitchell couldn’t see.
“Hmm,” Mitchell said. “Anything seem to trigger it?”
“Well, it definitely seemed like a ‘triggered’ thing, but if you can figure any connection between chopping vegetables, kitchen tables, and General Landry, let me know.”
“All those things came up during the course of your conversation?”
“Well, he made me dinner.”
“He can’t be that weird if he’s making you dinner.”
“I never said he was ‘weird.’ I said he was interesting. Not the same thing.” Young limped over to the darkened window and nudged the half-open venetian blinds aside with the rim of his beer bottle. He looked down on the parking lot.
“No one ever makes me dinner.”
“So ask Dr. Lam out already, and maybe she’ll make you dinner.”
“First of all,” Mitchell said finally, “no way am I asking out General Landry’s daughter. Second of all, she works ninety hours a week identifying intergalactic plagues and trying to cure ‘em. She doesn’t have time for normal stuff. Third of all, if I ever asked her out, which I am not going to do, I would cook dinner for her.”
“Right. You haven’t thought about this at all, I see.”
“We were talking about your neighbor. The interesting one. The eccentric, angst-ridden mathematician who lives down the hall and cooks for you now.”
“As I’ve been trying to tell you over the course of your constant interruptions,” Young growled, letting the blinds fall shut, “this guy is noteworthy in that I got a personal phone call from General Landry today about the fact that he’s now my neighbor.”
Mitchell whistled softly through his teeth. “That is some serious ish right there.”
“Yup,” Young said shortly. “Turns out my neighbor’s number one on the LA’s Abduction Wish List.”
“I heard that,” Mitchell replied. “Though how anyone ranks higher than Jackson, I just don’t get.”
“Hard to believe.” Young wondered how many people had been briefed on the rank order of this list. SG-1, apparently, had been given a heads-up.
“What would the LA want with some math genius?” Mitchell asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
“Landry didn’t say?”
“Nope,” Young replied. “He tried to get me to read Rush the riot act about going anywhere other than the base without security. Turns out the SGC keeps tabs on this entire building; did you know that?”
“Yeah, Jackson mentioned it. Your building, Jackson’s building, and the god-awful brick thing on the corner of Main and Crescent. Too many abductions over too many years, I guess.”
“Guess so. They don’t have any personnel permanently assigned to Rush because he so rarely goes anywhere other than the base. He’s supposed to call if he’s making other plans.”
“And today he didn’t call?”
“Nope,” Young said. “He went shopping and didn’t let anyone know. People were losing their shit until he showed up on the camera in the building lobby after forty-five minutes with his groceries. Landry was not in a good mood. I think they might put someone on him twenty-four seven.”
“I’m not sure how much good that’s going to do,” Mitchell said, dubiously. “If it were me, I’d be worried about, oh, y’know, the beaming technology that SG-11 saw the LA use about a week and a half ago? They must have gotten that from us, don’t you think? I don’t really see the Asgard giving it to them—” Mitchell trailed off.
“Yeah,” Young agreed. “We’ve got a serious leak somewhere.”
“And the thing that sucks,” Mitchell said, an edge of real anger distorting his otherwise casual tone, “is that it’s probably someone with access to a lot of classified materials. Meaning—”
“We probably know him. Or her.”
“Yeah.” Mitchell sighed. “I can see why Landry’s losing his cool. He can’t keep Rush on the base, because it’s about as safe as a sieve at the moment, but he can’t assign the guy a security detail that tracks his movements because having people file reports on his location would just be another piece of leakable info. Basically? Anything he does to keep official tabs on this guy is just going to backfire if the LA gain access to any kind of data about him, which they will, because they seem to be slowly creeping up on most everything they want.”
“Plus,” Young added, “the man’s not the most cooperative person I’ve ever met.” He turned away from the window, pulled out his pocket knife, and halfheartedly slit open the top box in the nearest stack.
“Well at least the building has signal scramblers, right? So they won’t be able to beam him straight out of his apartment. I think I remember Carter saying something about that. I got some put in at my place last week. That’s how I know I’m moving up in the world.”
Young snorted, gave up on the box, and dropped into an orphaned kitchen chair.
“Though, to be fair, I think it might have been Sam who insisted I get them—probably because if I get abducted, she’s going to have to file our compiled mission reports, which are a pain, as you know.”
“Say the scramblers go down. Could they beam him out without a transponder?” Young asked.
“First of all, I bet he has a transponder,” Mitchell replied.
“Yup. Hopefully the LA won’t be able to get it to transmit a signal without the correct query code. Which they really should not have, because if they have his, then they probably have everyone’s and we are screwed.”
“Look at you, with all your new tech knowledge.”
“Sam and I hang, okay? We’re buddies. I’ve probably got the equivalent of a master’s degree in engineering at this point. But second of all, they definitely could beam him out without a transponder signal if they can get an accurate enough fix on his location. They’ve been doing that more and more recently. And, a lot of the time? It doesn’t end well.”
“A local transport sweep in the absence of a signal lock,” Mitchell’s voice went flat. “Jackson’s taken to calling it ‘the slice’.”
“Yeah. It’s messy. That’s why we almost never do it.”
“You think they might try that on Rush?”
“Maybe, if they were sure they could get him in one piece.”
“So, does Landry expect you to protect this guy, or what? Because, no offense, but you’re not really in protecting-shape at the moment.”
“Nah,” Young said. “I’m just supposed to help out the security in the basement by convincing Rush to adhere to protocol and call dispatch if he wants to go anywhere.”
“Isn’t that an advertisement that he’s gonna be, I don’t know, available for abducting?”
“The goal is to make sure he’s constantly covered by transport scramblers. They’re most worried about a remote beam out. Plus, the LA can’t be wired into our grid in real-time. They just can’t. They don’t have the Earth-based manpower for that.”
“Unless they teamed up with the Trust.”
“God damn it, Cam, I don’t need this kind of—” Young broke off as the power flickered.
He narrowed his eyes at his shitty overhead lighting, wondering if he’d imagined it.
He didn’t think so.
He reached for the weapon he wasn’t wearing.
“Everett?” Mitchell said.
“Yeah, hey,” Young replied, standing with difficulty. “The power just flickered.”
“Huh,” Mitchell said. “You, uh, concerned about that at all?”
“Well,” Young layered a reasonable tone atop the unreasonable pain that came with limping toward his bedroom at a speed too quick for his back and hip. “It’s probably nothing. But there was a car here earlier in the day. Some kind of non-SGU surveillance. It happens often enough for various reasons, but—” he trailed off.
“Yeah.” There was an edginess to Mitchell’s voice that echoed the restive feeling in Young’s gunless hands. “You’re right. It’s probably nothing, but maybe you should call down to the security station in the basement. Just make sure they’re answering.”
Young opened the drawer of his nightstand and pulled out his sidearm.
“Yeah. Better safe than—”
The power cut out.
In abrupt and total darkness, the quiet hiss of cool air moving through ceiling vents faded to silence.
“Everett?” Mitchell said, right with him, and, maddeningly, fifteen minutes away by car.
“The power is down entirely,” Young growled, his eyes beginning to adjust to the light that filtered from behind his half-closed blinds.
“I’ll call it in,” Mitchell snapped. “Go get him.”
Young pocketed his phone and moved through the dark of his unfamiliar apartment, painfully checking his bad hip on the corner of an empty bookshelf. He gritted his teeth and continued into his living room. where the light from the street angled irregularly into the room. He threaded his way through half-unpacked boxes until he reached his door.
Silently, he opened it, trying to balance his instinct for speed with the practicality of a slower, more cautious approach.
If this was an attempt by the LA to abduct his neighbor, Young was pretty sure it would proceed in one of two ways.
One. If they were technologically capable of beaming Rush out and they knew the location of his apartment, then they’d attempt to take down the building scramblers, each of which had its own independent power generator. If this was their plan, they’d be in the basement right now, quietly neutralizing building security.
Two. If they couldn’t beam him out, they’d likely come for him through the front door. It was doubtful they’d risk a search of the entire building, but they wouldn’t need to if they’d previously accessed the security logs in the basement.
Either way, his window of opportunity was narrow. Speed over caution, he decided.
The hallway was a pitch black void, its depth lost in uniform darkness. He left his door open; the weak light from the street would be enough to orient him. Young moved forward, his sidearm at the ready, navigating by feel. The emergency lights hadn’t come on, which meant that someone had drained or disabled the backup generator.
His fingers grazed over one door. Then another. At the third, he paused, knocking softly.
“Rush,” he called.
No one answered.
He knocked louder.
“Rush, if you’re in there, open the door or I will break it down.” He kept his voice low and forceful. Hopefully it would carry just enough for Rush to hear him.
Given the state of his back, it was unlikely he’d be able to make good on his threat, but what the hell else was he supposed to do? Grimacing, Young stepped back several paces and tried to steel himself against the inevitable pain that would come with—
Rush flung the door open.
“As if you could,” the man said conversationally. He was backlit by moonlight and streetlight streaming in through his windows. “You’d be lucky to break down a cardboard box.”
Young breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank god. Come on.”
Rush considered him. “I’d really rather not, thank you.”
“Now’s not the time to argue,” Young growled. “Let’s go.”
“Why are you carrying a gun?” Rush countered.
“Because this situation is—ugh. Can I justify myself to you later? You need to get out of your apartment. Right now.”
“Find someone else to rescue from a power outage. I’m otherwise engaged.” Rush’s tone was dry, but, as he spoke, he shifted his weight subtly.
“You want to see how far your superiority complex gets you with the Lucian Alliance?” Young whispered, shifting his own weight, planting his center of gravity over his good leg. “I said, let’s go.”
“And I said: ‘why do you have a gun’,” Rush hissed with a viciousness that was almost distracting enough to hide the subtle click of the spring latch beneath the man’s fingers.
Young was pretty sure the mathematician was about to shove him back and shut the door. But if he did that—
“How do I know you’re not the leak?” Rush snapped, unwisely confirming Young’s guess. “You move into this apartment and two days later—”
“Rush. You have to trust me. I programmed your phone. I—”
“Unconvincing.” Rush cracked the word like a whip and stepped back.
Young drove forward with his good leg, managing to hit the door with enough momentum to knock the other man off balance. Rush recovered quickly and slammed into the door, nearly succeeding in knocking Young back in turn. Pain shot from his spine down his injured leg in a searing current as he held his ground against Rush in a static, painful contest.
“This is,” Young gasped, shoving on the door, “one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done.”
“Which part?” Rush snarled, shoving back.
“Can you please just—”
“No,” Rush snapped.
Young lost a few more inches.
He needed to get this thing done.
Young shifted his position and tried to get line-of-sight on an exterior wall. When he had it, he sighted along the barrel of his sidearm at a point just above the window.
The noise was deafening, loud enough to wake the whole building, but it had its intended effect. Rush flinched. Hard. Young shouldered the door open, grabbed Rush by the upper arm, and yanked him into the hall.
“What is wrong with you?” the other man shouted.
Young ignored the question, shut the door to Rush’s apartment, and tried the handle. With the spring-lock activated, it failed to turn. Hopefully, the mathematician didn’t have his keys on him.
“Sshh,” Young hissed. “Not so loud.”
His ears rang with the report of the shot as he dragged Rush back toward the sliver of light at his open doorway.
The dragging didn’t last long. By the time they’d covered half the distance, Young was using the man as a crutch. And, no question about it—the guy was helping him.
Sorry, hotshot, Young mentally apologized. You really don’t belong in this world of xenopolitical intrigue, do you? You belong in front of a chalkboard. Don’t help people who you think might be abducting you.
Now wasn’t really the time to be looking a gift horse in the mouth, so Young didn’t offer his neighbor a crash course in abduction avoidance. With Rush helping him, they quickly covered the remaining distance. Once they reached his apartment, Young eased the door shut.
“I can’t hear a fucking thing,” Rush said, too loudly. “Why, exactly, did you—”
Young spun him around and clamped a hand over his mouth. Hard.
“Shut. Up.” He spoke quietly, directly into Rush’s ear.
Young let him go. The mathematician pulled away, backed up a few steps, then made for the window.
Yeah, Young thought. That’s a great idea. Go to the window in the middle of your own attempted kidnapping. Take a look around. See if anyone’s in the parking lot with a gun, or an anesthetic dart gun, or a poisoned dart gun, or a dart gun with a transport-trackable compound, or some a la carte combination of all three.
The man had no common sense. Not a shred.
With a painful effort, he managed to snag Rush’s shirt and drag him back before he reached the window. He wished he had handcuffs, though he was pretty sure that if he cuffed Rush on his floor it would ruin any chance he had of convincing the other man to make him dinner ever again.
“Get down on the floor,” Young mouthed, pointing at a relatively clear space at the foot of his couch, “and stay there.”
Rush shot him a disdainful look, but complied, dropping fluidly into a cross-legged position, content to let Young have his way. The guy’s attitude wasn’t ideal for making it through a late-night abduction attempt unscathed, but Young would take what he could get.
His cellphone buzzed. Young looked down to see a text message from Mitchell.
::World Series, 1985::
Young recognized the message for what it was—an attempt by Mitchell to determine whether Young had his phone.
::Royals vs. Cardinals:: he texted back.
He waited, his left shoulder braced against his door, his weight distributed over his right leg.
::Cavalry’s on the way. Ground based monitoring is picking up low atmospheric temperature fluctuations in your area, consistent w/a cloaked ship. Status?::
Rush could probably handle texting.
Young passed his phone over to the other man with a warning look and then focused on the sounds in the hall. Rush took the phone, raised his eyebrows, and began a composing a reply that was, hopefully, short and useful.
Young tried to hear anything over the ringing in his ears. Was the Odyssey in Earth orbit? It couldn’t be. Otherwise, they’d have beamed Rush out by now.
He glanced over at the mathematician, who was still texting Mitchell. “Keep it short, hotshot. He only needs to know where we are and that we’re together.”
Somewhere, someone was deciding whether or not to recall the Odyssey for this.
It was probably O’Neill.
In the hallway, barely discernible over the monotone pitch that had been with him since he’d fired his shot, he heard the crash of a door being forced open.
Rush looked up at him.
Young gave him a look that hopefully communicated the sentiment of: I told you so.
Rush rolled his eyes, then shifted forward, passing Young his phone.
Another text from Mitchell stood out, bright in the darkness.
::Telford clear to beam into your apartment?::
::Clear:: Young texted back.
In the hallway outside, he heard a shout of alarm and the telltale chirp and buzz of zat fire.
A column of blue light appeared in the middle of Young’s living room, bright enough to sear his retinas. He flinched, throwing a hand in front of his eyes. Rush did the same. When the light faded, he saw Telford’s familiar outline, dark against the faint light that filtered through the window.
The other man edged gracefully around a few boxes and stepped forward, his sidearm out. He gave Rush a short nod. Even though it was past twenty-three hundred hours on a Friday night, the fact that Telford was in uniform didn’t surprise Young.
Telford clicked his radio subtly.
“What’s the plan?” Young whispered.
“The plan,” Telford replied, just as quietly, “is that we’re going to fix this fucking leak tonight.” The other man opened his bag and switched on a dim flashlight. Inside the bag were four rectangular devices.
“Scramblers?” Young mouthed his question.
“Travel edition,” Telford confirmed. “We pulled these out of Cam’s place.” He shot a pointed look in Rush’s direction. “Can he stay with you tonight?”
“Yeah,” Young said. “Of course. But why not just recall the Odyssey and beam him out of here?”
“The Odyssey’s in orbit.”
“We think that’s exactly what they want,” Telford whispered, pulling a scrambler out of the bag. “Getting his transponder query code is one of their top priorities, and someone hacked into the Odyssey’s incoming buffer.”
“Fuck,” Young hissed. “So does that mean—”
“Yes. It means they now have my query code and SG-3’s query codes. But they don’t know that we know that. Presumably.”
Rush stood and moved toward them.
Telford frowned, motioning the mathematician down to the floor with one hand.
Rush ignored him, reached forward, and grabbed the scrambler out of Telford’s hand. He examined it and then clicked it on, with a pointed look. It lit up with a faint blue glow, illuminating the three of them in the darkness.
Telford directed an appreciative eye roll at Rush, then activated a second and third device and handed them both to the mathematician. “Create a perimeter,” he said, setting the fourth device on the floor near the apartment door.
“Hey.” Young grabbed Rush’s shoulder before he could go anywhere. “Create a perimeter without walking in front of any windows.”
Young shot Telford a disapproving look.
Telford shrugged. “He’s the Jackson type,” he whispered. “Not the Carter type. You’ve got to find stuff for them to do or, all of a sudden, they’ve transported themselves to an alternate plane and started a transdimensional war. Not that I’m bitter. About the transdimensional war that Jackson dragged us into. Why would anyone be bitter about that.”
Young wasn’t about to touch that comment with a ten foot pole. Maybe a ten foot pool cue, later, after about twelve beers, on a day when no one was in danger of being abducted. So, never.
They waited in silence.
Telford’s radio clicked twice and the power levels came back up.
They blinked in the sudden glow of Young’s crappy overhead lighting.
“Telford to SG-3. Can someone give me a verbal confirmation that we’re in the clear?”
“Sir, this is Reynolds—we disabled three individuals with Alliance insignia in Dr. Rush’s apartment. The basement station is also clear. We’re going to need additional manpower to secure the entire building.”
“Radio it in.” Telford paused, looking up at the ceiling before continuing with, “Did you recover Dr. Rush’s computer?”
“Can I have that back, actually?” Rush asked pointedly.
“Nope,” Telford said, “not until it’s been cleared.” He depressed a button on his radio. “I’m assuming temporary command of SG-3. Secure the prisoners and regroup at Rush’s apartment.”
“You thinking of trying to beam out to their ship?” Young asked. He couldn’t conceal the misgiving in his tone.
“If we can get access.” Telford locked eyes with Young. “‘Strike where the grass is tall,’ to quote an enemy aphorism.”
Telford shrugged. “Landry okayed it. We’ve gotta fix this fucking leak. But until we do,” he pulled a small pneumatic tube out of his bag and held it up. His eyes shifted to Rush. “Nick, I’ve got a present for you, straight from Colonel Carter.”
“No, thank you,” Rush said.
“’No thank you’ is not an option,” Telford replied. “Get over here.”
“What’s it do?” Young asked, trying to head off a civilian versus military power struggle before it had the chance to get off the ground. He gave Rush a subtle nod and the mathematician approached cautiously.
“It encrypts the signal coming from his transponder so that even if they steal his query code and elicit a transport signal, they shouldn’t be able to get a lock on said signal without the corresponding decryption key.”
“I invented that,” Rush said dryly.
“Yeah, but Carter made it into an implantable chip,” Telford replied, raising his eyebrows, “so she gets the credit. Give me your arm.”
Rush eyed the pair of them dubiously. “I do not take,” he broke the word off crisply and paused, “orders.”
“Nick.” Telford turned the man’s name into a familiar, exasperated pull. “Stop giving me a hard time.”
“Stop giving you a hard time?” Rush said, his pitch rising.
Young found the guy’s incredulity pretty sympathetic when it wasn’t sharpened into a verbal sword and going right for the throat. This had been a weird night, even by SGC standards. It probably looked like some kind of absurdist nightmare to a man who, until pretty recently, had been a college math professor.
“The only reason you weren’t abducted tonight is because your neighbor,” Telford’s voice hardened, “took some commendable initiative.”
Young tried to sand down some conversational edges. “So, uh, you guys know each other?”
“We do,” Telford said, shortly.
“As I believe I mentioned,” Rush murmured, his eyes flicking to Young, “I know a large number of colonels.”
“Unfortunately for us,” Telford said, dryly. “Stop being difficult on principle, Nick. You want me to get Carter on the phone? She can give her opinion. You want to call Jackson? Take a poll?”
Rush looked at Young.
Young shrugged. “It’s probably a good idea.”
“Give it to me,” Rush snapped at Telford. He didn’t extend his hand.
Young would say this for him: he was quick on the uptake, when he wanted to be. Maybe there’s hope for you yet, hotshot.
Telford offered the device, and Rush snapped it out of his grip and turned it over in his fingers, scrutinizing it carefully before unbuttoning the sleeve of his shirt and pressing the device against his forearm. He discharged it with a pneumatic hiss.
“Thank you,” Telford said, a sarcastic bite to the words.
“Oh no, thank you,” Rush replied, with a discourteous level of courtesy.
Telford rolled his eyes and started for the door.
“David,” Young said quietly.
Telford paused, his hand on the doorknob. He looked back over his shoulder.
“Good luck,” Young said.
“Thanks,” Telford replied. His eyes flicked toward Rush, then back to Young. “Don’t let him do anything stupid.” He threw the door open and pulled it shut it behind him with a quick twist of his wrist as he vanished into the hallway.
The room was silent.
Young turned to Rush. “Do a lot of stupid things, do you?” he asked, dry and mild.
Rush narrowed his eyes.
Young looked back at the closed door, surrounded by the mess of his semi-unpacked belongings—half of which he never wanted to see again, half of which he had never really wanted to own in the first place—and thought about Telford, taking command of SG-3.
“Feeling a touch of nostalgia for our gun-wielding past, are we?” Rush said, copying Young’s dry delivery but managing to file his tone into something with more of an edge.
“Would it kill you to be polite?” Young growled. “I just saved you from probably hours, maybe days of torture courtesy of the Lucian Alliance, no thanks to you, by the way. I’m also letting you sleep on my couch. Again.”
“I won’t be sleeping.”
“Whatever,” Young growled, bringing a hand to rest over his lower back. “I’m taking a shower and then I’m going to bed. You can do whatever the hell you want, as long as you don’t leave.”
“I’ll need your computer,” Rush informed him.
“What do you mean ‘no’.”
“I’m pretty sure that by ‘no,’ I meant ‘no.’ My computer is the computer of a colonel with level five security clearance, whereas your computer is the computer of a civilian consultant with level one security clearance.”
Rush looked down and away, a muscle in his cheek twitching subtly. “How trite. Can you at least—call someone to get me a computer?”
“No, I don’t think so. I think that right now, on a Friday night at twenty three hundred hours in the middle of a power play by the Lucian Alliance, getting you a computer is pretty low down on everyone’s priority list.”
“What if I were dying.”
“What if I were dying. Right now. What if my heart stopped and I needed a fucking defibrillator?” Rush’s eyes were dark. He took a step toward Young.
“I can see from your expression that you’re confused about what’s happening, so I’ll tell you. I’m constructing an argument. Not an argument in the colloquial sense, but rather in a formal sense, meaning that it’s based on premises, includes a method of reasoning, and it has a conclusion or a fucking salient point. I skipped defining a premise, because I thought it was obvious given the events of this evening, but I’ll do it for you now. One,” Rush snapped, holding up a finger, “I work nearly unceasingly on a problem of such magnitude and scope that it took ten years to even understand there was a problem in the first place. Two,” he paused to take a breath and flexed his hand in a circular motion, coming up with a second finger, “this problem is of enough tactical import to move me to the top of the priority queue vis-à-vis ‘minds from which the Lucian Alliance would like rip information’. And three, as are most problems of great tactical importance, this one is time sensitive.”
Young crossed his arms, tightened his jaw, and leaned against the wall, giving Rush a skeptical look.
“Moving on,” Rush said, with an hysterical gilt on his rising pitch, “my argument is going to be inductive because the conclusion is not a logical consequence of my premises but is merely supported by them. As far as methodology goes, my choice,” he said, punctuating the words with a fluid inward curl and stop of his fingers, “was an argument by analogy.”
Young decided that this seemed like an awful lot of effort to go to just to make him feel stupid, or inadequate, or shortsighted. More and more, it was starting to seem like Rush was upset. Which was—well, it made a lot of sense.
The guy’d been dragged out of his apartment at gunpoint and injected with alien tech in the span of about five minutes.
“And hence,” Rush said, his voice cracking on the word, “the fucking defibrillator. The validity of my analogy is based on the utility provided to me, were I dying, by a defibrillator, which would be about as fucking high as one could really get in terms of utility. Were I dying, I’m fairly certain you would find a way to save my miserable fucking life without giving the Lucian Alliance a chance to abduct me, so I’m therefore certain—”
Yup. This was definitely Rush having some kind of meltdown. And really, who could blame the guy?
“You want a glass of water or something?” Young asked, trying to be sensitive.
Rush plowed over him. “I’m certain that you can find a way to get me a fucking computer, which I require to do my work.”
“Rush,” he said.
“And don’t fucking say ‘Rush’ in that infinitely reasonable manner; it’s infuriating if you want to know—the idea that you could ever understand the existential horror of a hidden lock is ridiculous. Cryptography drives the ungrounded insane.”
“Yeah, I’m getting that,” Young murmured, threading his way painfully back towards his kitchen. “Come on. Let’s drink some water.”
“Turing poisoned himself. Gödel starved to death because he thought he was being poisoned. Systems that cannot demonstrate their own consistency, that are true but unprovable it’s—they are—fucking torture; they just exist like that—in other systems you can drill down and down reducing things to approximations, biology falling to chemistry falling to physics falling to mathematics—”
Rush was actually holding onto the doorframe, not looking at Young.
Young filled a glass with water.
“They knew that. How could they not, being what they were? Who they were. The lock is mathematical and not layered on but built in. Integral. It—”
Young threw the water straight in his face.
Rush stopped talking. He stared at Young.
“Hi,” Young said.
“Oh fuck off,” Rush whispered, without ire. He pressed his forehead against the doorframe.
Young passed him a hand towel.
Rush took it and dried off his face and neck. “That was unnecessary,” he whispered, with a dignity that tore at Young’s heart a little bit.
“Sorry,” Young said. “So, um, you just want the computer then? Anything else?”
“No,” Rush whispered, not looking at him. “Just the computer. Make it a nice one.”
“You got it, hotshot. No defibrillators?”
“No,” Rush said.
“Just checking,” Young replied.