Mathématique: Chapter 4

“Dang it,” Mitchell said. “Jackson and Carter are infecting my lexicon.”

Chapter warnings: Stressors of all kinds. Grief. Physical injuries. Mental health challenges.

Text iteration: Midnightish.

Additional notes: None.

Chapter 4

“Well,” Young said, angling his head to trap his phone between his ear and his shoulder, “I wouldn’t wanna use the word ‘crazy—’” he broke off to lever open his second beer of the evening.

“It’s okay,” Mitchell cut in. “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: 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, 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, closing his fridge. 

“Dang it,” Mitchell said. “Jackson and Carter are infecting my lexicon.”

“You didn’t just say ‘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 supplement with lamps.

“Lexicon is, like, Jackson’s second favorite word. Even Vala’s sayin’ it now.”

“Uh huh.”

“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 pushin’ the team T-shirts.”

“Uh huh,” Young replied.

“SG-3 has one. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from SG-3 though. Something along the lines of: ‘We Burn Shit Down!’ 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 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. Shit, that’s the wrong word. He didn’t pass out from any run-of-the-mill SGC science grind. There’s something else going on with him.”

“How do you know?” Mitchell’s tone flattened into something more serious.

“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 reined it in every time, but—” Young broke off with a shrug Mitchell couldn’t see.

“Anything seem to trigger it?”

“Well, it 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 your conversation?”

“He made me dinner,” Young admitted.



“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 makes me dinner.”

“So ask Dr. Lam out already, and maybe she’ll make you dinner.”


“First off,” Mitchell said, “no way am I asking out General Landry’s daughter. Second, she works ninety hours a week identifying intergalactic plagues and trying to cure ‘em. She doesn’t have time for normal stuff. So. If I ever ask her out, which I am not gonna do, I would cook dinner for her.”

“Right. You haven’t thought about this at all, I see.”

“We were talkin’ about your neighbor. The interesting one. The troubled, angst-ridden mathematician who lives down the hall and cooks for you now.”

Young let the blinds fall shut. “That’s not all he has going for him. I got a personal phone call from General Landry today. About him.”

Mitchell whistled softly through his teeth. “That is some serious ish right there.”

“Yup,” Young said. “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 had gotten a heads-up. SG-1, maybe, had gotten the intel in the first place.

“What would the LA want with some math genius?” Mitchell asked. 

“Cam, that’s why I’m calling you.”

“I’ve got no idea. 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 whole 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.”

“Not sure how much good that’s gonna do,” Mitchell said. “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 back? They must’ve stolen that from us. No way do the Asgard hand them that kind of tech.”

“Yeah,” Young agreed. “We’ve got a leak somewhere.”

“And the thing that sucks,” Mitchell said, an edge of anger distorting his casual tone, “is 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 be another piece of leakable info. Basically? Anything he does to keep official tabs on this guy is gonna backfire if the LA gain access to any kind of data about him, which they will, because they seem to be 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 can’t beam him straight out of his apartment. I think I remember Carter saying something about that. I got some at my place last week. That’s how I know I’m movin’ up in the world.”

Young snorted, gave up on the box, and dropped into an orphaned dining chair. 

“Though, to be fair, I think it might’ve been Sam who insisted I get them—probably because if I get abducted, she’ll have to file our compiled mission reports.”

“Say the scramblers go down. Could they beam him out without a transponder?” Young asked.

“I bet he has a transponder,” Mitchell replied.

“You think?”

“Oh yeah. They’re all the rage. SG-1’s had them for weeks now. The fancy kind that won’t transmit a signal without an encrypted query code. No way the LA has those. Because if they did, your neighbor and everyone on the LA’s list would be long gone.”

“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. Speaking of, there’s a work-around for a beam-out without a transponder. Doesn’t go so 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 don’t do it.”

“You think they might try that on Rush?”

“Maybe, if they were sure they could get him in one piece.”

Young grimaced.

“So, does Landry expect you to protect this guy, or what?  Because, no offense, but you’re not really in protecting-shape right now.”

“Nah,” Young said. “Landry would consider it a ‘personal favor’ if I do my best to supplement the security in the basement and browbeat my neighbor into following protocol.”

“Isn’t a call to dispatch gonna be an advertisement of his whereabouts?”

“The goal is to make sure he’s covered by transport scramblers; they’re 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—” Young broke off as the power flickered.

He narrowed his eyes at his 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.” As Young stood, he felt a twinge in his hip that translated itself up his back and down his leg. “The power just flickered.”

“Huh,” Mitchell said.

“Probably nothing,” Young layered a reasonable tone atop the unreasonable pain that came with forcing himself through a cluttered apartment with too much speed. “But there was a car here earlier in the day. Non-SGU surveillance.”

“It happens.” There was an edginess to Mitchell’s voice that echoed the restive feeling in Young’s gunless hands. “But maybe call down to the security station in the basement. Make sure they’re answering?”

Young opened the drawer of his nightstand and pulled out his sidearm. “Good idea. Better safe than—”

The power cut out.

The quiet hiss of cool air moving through ceiling vents faded to silence.

“Everett?” Mitchell said, right in his ear and fifteen minutes away by car.

“Building power is down.” Young’s eyes adjusted to the dark. Slivers of weak light filtered through his closed blinds.

“I’ll call it in,” Mitchell said. “Go get ‘im.”

Young pocketed his phone. As he moved through the dark of his unfamiliar rooms, gun in hand, he checked his bad hip on the corner of an empty bookshelf, sending a spike of pain down his leg. He gritted his teeth and threaded his way through stacked boxes. 

He cracked the door.

The hallway was quiet.

He paused, listening.

If this was an attempt by the LA to abduct his neighbor, it would proceed in one of two ways:

One. If they were capable of beaming Rush out and they knew the location of his apartment, then they’d attempt to take down the building scramblers. If this was their plan, they’d be in the basement right now, neutralizing building security.

Two. If they couldn’t beam Rush out, they’d kick in the front door. It was doubtful they’d risk a search of the building, but they wouldn’t need to if they’d accessed the security logs in the basement.

Either way, his window of opportunity was narrow. Speed over caution, he decided.

The hallway was a black void, its depth lost to 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 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.

Damn it.

“Rush, if you’re in there, open the door or I will break it down.” He kept his voice low and forceful.

He waited.

And waited.

Given the state of his back, he doubted he’d be able to make good on his threat. Grimacing, Young stepped back several paces and tried to steel himself against the pain that’d come with—

Rush flung the door open.

“As if you could,” the man said conversationally. He was backlit by moonlight and streetlight streaming 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.

“Why are you carrying a gun?” Rush countered.

“Let’s go. Right now.”

“Find someone else to rescue from a power outage. I’m otherwise engaged.” As Rush spoke, he subtly shifted his weight.

“You wanna see how far your superiority complex gets you with the Lucian Alliance?” Young planted 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 soft click of a spring latch beneath his 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 asked, unwisely confirming Young’s guess. “You move into this apartment and two days later—”

“Rush. You gotta trust me. I—”

“Unconvincing.” Rush cracked the word like a whip and stepped back.

Young drove forward with his good leg and hit the door with enough momentum to knock the other man off balance. Rush recovered surprisingly fast. He threw himself into the door, shoulder first, knocking Young back in turn. Pain shot from his spine down his injured leg.

“This is,” Young gasped, holding his ground in a static, painful contest, “one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done.”

“Which part?” Rush snarled, his whole weight pressed against his side of the door.

“Can you please—”


Young lost a few more inches.

God damn.

God damn.

He needed to get this thing done.

Young shifted his position, brought his sidearm up, and looked down the barrel into the three inch gap between door and frame. When he had line-of-sight on an exterior wall, he doubled down, shoved the door a little wider, and fired his gun through the crack in the door. The bullet buried itself in drywall.

The noise was deafening.

His neighbor flinched like hell.

Young shouldered the door open, grabbed the guy by the upper arm, and hauled him out of his apartment. He shut the door and tried the handle. It failed to turn. Hopefully the mathematician didn’t have his keys on him.

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” Rush shouted. 

“Sshh.” Young ignored the question. “Not so loud.” He looked the guy over. “You okay?” His ears rang with the report of the shot.




“Because I didn’t like the way it was looking at me. C’mon.” He spun the guy ninety degrees, got a grip on his upper arm, and dragged him toward the light of 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 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 you think might be abducting you.

But now wasn’t the time to be looking a gift horse in the mouth, so Young didn’t offer his neighbor a crash course in SERE.

Once they were inside his apartment, Young eased the door shut. 

“I can’t hear a fuckin’ thing,” Rush said, still way too loud. “Why—”

Young spun him around and clamped a hand over his mouth. Hard.

“Stay quiet.” He spoke directly into Rush’s ear, loud enough to be heard over the post-gunshot ringing.

Rush nodded.

Young let him go. The mathematician wrenched himself free, shot Young a glare hot enough to melt lead, and headed for the window..

Great idea, Young thought. 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 snagged Rush’s shirt and hauled him back before he reached the window. “On the floor,” Young mouthed, pointing at a relatively clear space at the foot of his couch. “Stay there.”

Rush shot him a disdainful look and dropped fluidly into a cross-legged position.

His cellphone buzzed. Young looked down to see a text from Mitchell.

::World Series, 1985::

::Royals vs. Cardinals:: he texted back.

He waited, sidearm in hand, his shoulder braced against his door.

::Cavalry’s on the way. Ground-based monitoring is picking up low-atmosphere temperature fluctuations in your area, consistent w/a cloaked ship. Status?::

Rush could handle texting. Probably.

Young passed his phone to the other man, then focused on the sounds in the hall. He tried to hear anything over the ringing in his ears. Was the Odyssey in Earth orbit? It couldn’t be. Otherwise, they’d’ve beamed Rush out by now.

He glanced 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.”

Rush nodded. 

In the hallway, barely detectable over the monotone ringing in his ears, he heard a crash. The sound of splintering wood.

Rush looked up at him.

Told you, Young said, with his expression alone.

Fair enough, Rush admitted wordlessly. He passed Young his phone. 

Another text from Mitchell stood out, bright in the darkness.

::Telford clear to beam into your apartment?::

::Clear:: Young replied

In the hallway, he heard a shout of alarm, followed by the chirp and buzz of Zat fire.

A column of blue light appeared in the middle of Young’s living room. He squinted. Rush threw a hand in front of his eyes. When the light faded, he saw Telford’s familiar outline, dark against the faint light that filtered through the window. 

The other man stepped gracefully around a stack of boxes, his sidearm out. He gave Rush a short nod. Even though it was past 2300 hours on a Friday night, Telford was in uniform.

Telford depressed the button on his radio twice, an almost silent signal to whomever was on the other end of the channel.

“What’s the plan?” Young whispered. 

“The plan,” Telford replied, “is we fix this fucking leak tonight.” He opened his bag. Inside, Young saw four rectangular devices. 

“Scramblers?” Young asked.

“Travel edition,” Telford confirmed. “We pulled these from 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 recall the Odyssey and beam him out of here?”

“The Odyssey’s in orbit.”

“Then why—”

“We think that’s what they want.” Telford pulled a scrambler out of the bag. “Getting his transponder query code is one of their top priorities, and someone hacked the Odyssey’s incoming buffer.”

“Damn it,” Young hissed. “Does that mean—”

“Yup. They have my query code. And the query code of everyone on SG-3. But they don’t know we know that.”

Rush stood. 

Telford motioned the mathematician down to the floor with one hand. 

Rush ignored him snapped a scrambler out of Telford’s hand and examined it. He made quick work of activating it. The small device lit up with a faint blue glow, illuminating the three of them in the darkness.

Rush quirked an unimpressed-math-professor eyebrow at the pair of them.

Telford directed an appreciative eye roll at Rush, then activated a second and third device and handed them to the mathematician. “Create a perimeter.” He set 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?”

Rush nodded.  

Young shot Telford a warning look.

Telford shrugged. “He’s the Jackson type,” he whispered. “Not the Carter type. You gotta find stuff for them to do or they’ll transport themselves to an alternate plane and start a transdimensional war.”

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. The power came back up.

They blinked in the glow of Young’s crap lighting.

“Telford to SG-3. Can someone give me a verbal that we’re clear?”

“Sir, this is Reynolds—we disabled three individuals with Alliance insignia in Dr. Rush’s apartment. The basement monitoring station is clear. We’ll need more manpower to secure the building.”

“Radio it in. Did you recover Dr. Rush’s computer?”

“Yes sir.”

“Can I have that back?” Rush asked.

“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.” 

“What’s the play?” Young couldn’t conceal the misgiving in his tone.

“If we can bluff our way onto their tel’tak, we might get a shot at plugging this leak.” Telford locked eyes with Young. “‘Strike where the grass is tall,’ to quote an enemy aphorism.”

Young grimaced.

Telford shrugged. “Landry okayed it; he knows better than anyone that we gotta fix this fucking leak. Until then,” 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’ isn’t an option,” Telford replied. “Get over here.”

“What’s it do?” Young asked.

“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. It’s a second factor.”

“My idea,” Rush said.

“Yeah, but Carter made it into an implantable chip,” Telford replied, “so she gets the credit. Give me your arm.”

Rush eyed Telford. “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 position pretty sympathetic. 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 confirmed.

“As I believe I mentioned,” Rush murmured, his eyes flicking to Young, “I know a large number of colonels.”

“Unfortunately for us,” Telford said. “Stop being difficult on principle, Nick. You want 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 eyed Telford, but didn’t extend his hand.

Young would say this for the guy: he was quick on the uptake, when he wanted to be. Maybe there’s hope for you yet, hotshot.

Telford offered the device. 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 its tip to 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 started for the door.

“David,” Young called after him.

Telford paused, his hand on the knob. He looked back over his shoulder.

“Good luck,” Young said.

“Thanks.” Telford’s eyes flicked to Rush, then back to Young. “Don’t let him do anything stupid.” He threw the door open and pulled it shut it behind him 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’d never 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, 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 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’.”

“My computer is the computer of a colonel with level five security clearance, whereas your computer is the computer of a civilian consultant.”

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?”

“I don’t think so. I think that 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 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 fuckin’ defibrillator.”


“I can see 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 it’s based on premises, includes a method of reasoning, and it has a conclusion or a fuckin’ 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 held up a finger. “I work nearly unceasingly on a problem of such magnitude and scope that it took ten years to understand there was a problem in the first place. Two,” he 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,” he said, adding a third finger, “as are most problems of great tactical importance, this one is time sensitive.”

Young crossed his arms, locked his jaw, and leaned into the wall.

“Moving on,” Rush said, his pitch rising, “my argument is inductive because the conclusion’s not a logical consequence of my premises but 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, “is an argument by analogy.”

This seemed like an awful lot of effort to go to just to make Young feel stupid, or inadequate, or shortsighted. More and more, it seemed like Rush was upset. Which’d make a hell of 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 fuckin’ high as one could get in terms of utility. Were I dying, I’m fairly certain you’d find a way to save my miserable fuckin’ life so I’m therefore certain—”

Yup. This was his math professor neighbor having some kinda meltdown. 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 y’can find a way to get me a fuckin’ computer, which I require to—”


“An’ don’t fuckin’ say ‘Rush’ in that infinitely reasonable manner; it’s infuriating if y’want to know. The idea that you could ever understand the existential horror of a concealed lock is ridiculous. Cryptography drives the ungrounded mad.”

“Yeah, I’m getting that,” Young muttered, threading his way painfully back towards his kitchen. “C’mon.”

“Turing poisoned himself. Gödel starved to death because he thought he was being poisoned. Systems that cannot demonstrate their own consistency are fuckin’ torture; they just exist like that—in other systems you can drill down, reducing to approximation, biology falling to chemistry falling to physics falling to mathematics—”

Rush gripped 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. Not layered on but built in. Integral. It—”

Young threw the water in his face.

Rush stopped talking. He stared at Young.

“Hi,” Young said.

“Oh fuck off,” Rush whispered. 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 tried to keep his tone business-like. “So, you just need the computer? Anything else?”

“Just the computer.” Rush didn’t look at him. “Make it a nice one.”

“You got it, hotshot. No defibrillators?”

“No,” Rush said.

“Just checking,” Young replied.

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