Mathématique: Chapter 7

What did they want from him anyway, this fraternitas sanitas that razed civilizations to the ground with a wink and a smile and obligatorily cheeky commentary?

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

Text iteration: Post-breakfast tea.

Additional notes: None.

Chapter 7

It occurred to Rush that sometime in the last ten hours Young had decided he wasn’t mentally stable. Annoying as this was, it was less concerning (in the light of day) than whatever conclusions Dr. Daniel Jackson, triple PhD, had come to the previous night.

Rush wasn’t certain how seriously to take Jackson. 

The man had been institutionalized in the past, which Rush only knew because Jackson disclosed it as a talking point in conversations designed to demonstrate the depths of his pan-cultural, hands-on understanding of the ins-and-outs of the human condition, where ‘human’ was a Star-Trekian stand-in for any sentient species. 

Yes well.


Fuck that.

Especially fuck it, because it’d been a mistake, Jackson’s so-called brush with psychosis, made by an overly confident individual in the SGC Psych Department. Jackson hadn’t been unstable. Not then, not ever. The man was a metric for sanity and such a fuckin’ rock of well-adjusted sensitivity he could sit in a coffee shop and tell you he understood how y’felt because it reminded him of that time he’d destroyed a civilization (not to mention his wife’s abduction, psychic enslavement and murder; not to mention the man’s own horrible, horrifying, protracted death that took the form of a high-velocity skid along the unyielding asphalt of the electromagnetic spectrum, where flesh met ionizing radiation in a bloody, disintegrating smear).

Daniel Jackson, triple PhD.


Putting things into perspective.

For everyone.

He tried to see the crepe he was looking at.

What did they want from him anyway, this fraternitas sanitas that razed civilizations to the ground with a wink and a smile and obligatorily cheeky commentary?

Young hadn’t said anything for approximately forty-five seconds.

That was a long interval in Colonel Young Time; he estimated it’d be something like eight to twelve minutes in Nicholas Rush Time.

He should say something.

He had a headache.

He wished he hadn’t decided to make crepes.

Neither of these things seemed like particularly good topics of conversation.

“Does it bother you,” he began, watching a matrix of batter solidify in the pan, “that your organization has obliterated indigenous cultures on countless worlds?”


“Uh,” Young said, uncomfortable, “maybe that’s something you should take up with Jackson?”

“Why? I want t’know what you think about it.” Rush realized he had two fingers (rather aggressively) pointed at Young. He pulled them back and returned to monitoring his crepe. “I can infer what Dr. Jackson’s thoughts are likely t’be.”

“It’s a complicated question,” Young said.

“Yes well.” Again with the hand: a broad sweep, pulled back. He was doing his best. His best.

“People have put thought into it,” Young continued. “Not so much in the early days, when it looked like the Earth would get blasted back to the Bronze Age by the Goa’uld. Nowadays though, the IOA has a whole division on—I don’t know, Culture Destruction? Don’t think they call it that though.”

“Surely you jest,” Rush said.

Crepe to plate, batter to pan. He hated mornings. 

The light in the kitchen was merciless and he couldn’t help but think of the source, the white-hot, radioactive, alien source in the local archeologist’s Relatable Death Narrative. It was difficult to tolerate the idea of Dr. Daniel Jackson throwing away all that he was or, maybe, all he’d been in that moment. It must’ve been a kind of death—they all must have been kinds of deaths. Some people had one and, apparently, some had many; variegated and splitting with the quantum foam or linear temporal unravelings and re-ravelings, back and forth along the same line through time. But in that fatal moment, when Jackson had touched the thing that would kill him, he wouldn’t have known there’d be anything but the high energy, high frequency waves that would tear through him, that already had, that already were

Electromagnetism: his least favorite.

Rush stared at the dark metal of the cast iron skillet against the white of a well maintained stove and wondered what had possessed him to make crepes. The problem with crepes was y’had t’fuckin’ stand there. And fuckin’ serially make them. While people talked.

“You okay?” Young asked.

He tried to imagine what he must look like to Young. He suspected it was an approximation of an emotionally labile, barely functional, unpleasant culinary savant.


(But what did he look like to Jackson? That was was the real question.)

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Rush asked. There was no way for Young to answer in a noninflammatory manner, but Rush was interested to see what the man would come up with.

“You stopped eating crepes about five minutes ago.”

Simple, direct, to the point, and emphasizing a surrogate rather than a primary endpoint with a sharp sort of spectrographic tact like the bottom of the atomic orbital hierarchy. It was a good answer. It didn’t give him a rational out. That was fine; he’d take an irrational out. “I despise crepes.”

“Okay,” Young replied.

He must look fairly unbalanced if the man was letting that one slide. Discouraging.

“I mean, I guess I could see it,” Young continued. “They’re kinda girly.”

Rush braced his hands on the warm corners of the stove and half turned, angling his head down to fix Young with an unblinking, steady look over the tops of his (stolen) sunglasses.

Young shifted uncomfortably. “Except for the part where they require tons of technical skill.”

Rush didn’t move.

“Which is not to say that girls—or women, aren’t technically skilled, or, uh, it’s not like technical skill makes something masculine. Colonel Carter is—“ Young trailed off.

Rush stared him down.


“You’ve got a very aggressive, uh,” Young made a vague hand motion in Rush’s direction and decided against finishing his sentence. “Crepes are kinda artistic? You seem like a guy who appreciates—” Young cut himself off.

Rush quirked an eyebrow.

Young collected himself and performed a cold reboot. “Crepes, artistry, and technical skill are all gender neutral. I appreciate breakfast.”

Rush untethered his left hand from the stove and snatched Young’s plate. He flipped a crepe onto it with a hint of a smile.

“Let’s pretend the last thirty seconds never happened,” Young said.

“I’ll allow it.” He poured the last of the batter into the cast iron pan and wondered how long he’d need to stay, scrutinized, in this apartment.

“So, what’s the plan, hotshot?”

He wasn’t sure what Young was referring to, but it didn’t matter. There was a final common pathway to his answer. “I’ve no plan whatsoever. What’s your plan?”

“Depends,” Young said, like a personification of slow-drying paint.

Rush shut his eyes and tried to imagine a world in which the glacial speed of Young’s sentences didn’t irritate him. “On what?” he asked, with as much alt-reality pleasantness as he could borrow.

“I don’t wanna bother you while you’re making your ZKP. Or whatever’s going on out there.” Young tipped his head toward the kitchen doorway and Vala’s laptop, which was, Rush assumed, still open on the table, building itself a spreadsheet of the quantum state data he’d recorded in Dr. Perry’s lab. 

“It’s just compilation.” Rush glanced toward the open doorway. “Should be done by now.”

“Will it bother you if I keep unpacking?”

“No; it’s your apartment.”

“You planning to sleep?” Young asked. “Ever?”

“Possibly,” Rush said. “If so, would that need to be incorporated into The Plan?”

Gingerly, Young slid off the counter. “Just curious.”

Rush began washing dishes.

“You’re not from Earth,” Young said, “are you.” It wasn’t a question.

Rush looked at him. “Pardon?”

Young handed him the mixing bowl.

Rush was too astonished to do anything but take it.

“Jackson hinted at it,” Young said. “But don’t worry. My security clearance is as high as they come.”

“Jackson—” He broke off. Restarted. “Jackson said what?”

“Well, he’s pretty cagey. He just implied. Combined with—” Young waved a hand, “everything? It makes sense.”

“Everything? What ‘everything’.”

“Not sleeping, not knowing about air conditioning, being the top of the LA list, being pissed about the SGC destroying cultures, making our best math guys look like idiots, hating music, liking Vala’s cocktail. That thing smelled terrible, by the way. No one from this planet’s gonna drink that thing with a straight face.”

Rush stared at Young. The water from the sink ran cool and laminar over his hands.

Young smirked.

“Oh shut up,” Rush said.

“I had you,” Young replied.

“No you didn’t.”

“Oh I absolutely did.”

“In no way.”

“Admit it.”

“I don’t think so,” Rush replied.

“It was really obvious, in case you were wondering.”

“I very much doubt that.”

Young picked up a kitchen towel and ran it over clean dishes. In short order, they erased the evidence of Rush’s needlessly elaborate breakfast. Once the kitchen was back to its baseline state, Young vanished in the direction of the bathroom, presumably to take his deferred shower.

Rush sat in front of Vala’s computer. His VBA program was minutes from completion.

He swept his fingers on the table in half a descending scale (irritated, staccato) and logged into his secure email client. In addition to the typical flurry of institutional rubbish, he found an email from Dr. Perry.


Dear Dr. Rush,

It took four hours for my technicians to realign the crystal array you reconfigured and another hour to recalibrate our detection equipment. Next time you feel the need to dismantle someone’s array, don’t pick mine.

All this being said…were you intentionally collecting quantum superposition data?

Amanda Perry, Ph.D.

Quantum Propulsion Director

SCG-Cheyenne Mountain

Rush sighed, squinted at the ceiling, and hit reply.

Dr. Perry—

Apologies. Experience has taught me formal requests to destroy someone’s painstaking work are so often denied.

With regards to superposition data: of course I was intentionally collecting it. Why do you ask?


Nicholas Rush, Ph.D.

Civilian Consultant

SGC-Cheyenne Mountain

He hit send. He checked the progress of his VBA program. He got up, grabbed a pair of scissors and sliced open a box labeled: DINING ROOM. He quirked an eyebrow at the solid wall of tablecloth that greeted him, then shrugged and laid it out stepwise over the kitchen table. Beneath the tablecloth was a serving platter of dubious aesthetic quality and even more dubious functionality.

He heard the quiet chime of his email client.

Dr. Perry was an early riser. He set the platter next to Vala’s laptop, slid into his seat, and opened the message.

Yeah, it was hard to ignore the 2n output you were getting for your n input. You redesigned a (barely functional) hyperdrive control element? Congratulations! But also: …why.

He smirked and hit reply.

I was trying to approximate a DHD and ended up with a poor man’s version of a quantum computer. Satisfied?

She wouldn’t be. He watched his email client, absently Für Elise-ing on the fuckin’ platter until he caught himself and stopped.

No. For a DHD, the internal geometry is requisite and our array lacks symmetry. If you have a few minutes, lets discuss on the SGCs messenger app.

There was a link in the email. He clicked it, and dutifully forced Vala’s laptop through the necessary security hoops.

MandyPerry: Hi.

NicholasRush: Hello. Internal geometry is requisite?

MandyPerry: Yes.

NicholasRush: Are you typing anything?

NicholasRush: Hello?

MandyPerry: Think about it. All DHDs store and permute not only their own location information but also the location information of the six other DHDs they communicate with via subspace. They also lack—god you’re impatient.

NicholasRush: They lack what?

NicholasRush: I’m not impatient.

NicholasRush: Any time now.

MandyPerry: They don’t have an unlimited buffer and they don’t all carry the same constellation panels either. This means one has the problem of taking an identical and limited set of crystals in an identical configuration and imbuing each one with location information that shifts in real time. The only way to efficiently store and use that kind of data is by changing the quantum state of Ancient crystals in a location-based manner.

NicholasRush: Hmm.

MandyPerry: Now who’s slow?

NicholasRush: By “constellation panels,” you mean the depressible parts on the surface of the DHD? How many are there?

MandyPerry: You don’t get out much do you?

MandyPerry: 38.

NicholasRush: (2^5)+6

MandyPerry: Yes…how is that significant?

NicholasRush: I don’t know that it is, but there’s something teleologically appealing about it, considering the intersecting three lines composed of six points used to define the destination target. 

MandyPerry: Do you look for patterns in the digits of pi?

Rush rolled his eyes.

NicholasRush: How is that relevant.

MandyPerry: I get the significance of “plus six,” but what’s so special about 2^5?  Do you think it’s connected to the cyphers within the circuitry of the gate?

NicholasRush: Possibly. It makes me wonder if the central control crystal of a DHD could function as a 32-qubit quantum computer, if properly interrogated. There are seven crystals within the DHD, correct?

NicholasRush: Hello?

NicholasRush: You’d better be typing something substantive.

MandyPerry: Correct. As for your supposition about the quantum computational capacities of the DHD central control crystal—this is not a new theory, but it’s never been empirically demonstrated. We don’t use a functional DHD here (Earth), and if you try to turn the control crystal of an offworld gate into your own personal quantum computer, the concern is that you may screw it up to the point you can’t gate back from wherever you are. About six months ago I demonstrated that drive control crystals of Ancient hyperdrives could, when isolated from drive mechanics, function as a quantum computer.

NicholasRush: How?

MandyPerry: I used a drive array to solve Shor’s algorithm.

NicholasRush: Excuse me but you did what.

MandyPerry: I had the feeling that might be relevant to your current interests.

NicholasRush: That’s spectacular.

MandyPerry: I know. You should come by my lab. I’ll be in around 11 AM. I can meet you at my office.

NicholasRush: You’ll have to give me a rain check I’m afraid. 

MandyPerry: Shor’s Algorithm with a crystal quantum computer…how can you say no?!?!?

NicholasRush: Alas, the Lucian Alliance is trying to abduct me today.    

MandyPerry: That’ll ruin your weekend.

NicholasRush: Too right it will.

MandyPerry: How does Monday look for you?

NicholasRush: More favorable than today.

MandyPerry: Where’s your office? 

NicholasRush: I work from home.

NicholasRush: Hello?

MandyPerry: Sorry. From home? How do you run experiments?

NicholasRush: As a general rule, I inconsiderately make use of someone else’s lab.

MandyPerry: Get right outta town.

NicholasRush: You said geometry was requisite, but I see no reason why circular geometry would be requisite.

MandyPerry: I never said circularity was required. In fact, we know it’s not. Atlantis DHDs use a triangular array. Geometric regularity is required to assign location-based data. At least, that’s the theory. Do you think the geometry of the array is significant?

NicholasRush: No idea. It may be an aesthetic conceit.

MandyPerry: Oh god you’re such a math guy.

NicholasRush: What’s that supposed to mean?

MandyPerry: A chemist wakes up to find his bed on fire. He goes and gets a bucket of water to put it out.

NicholasRush: You’re an odd one.

MandyPerry: A physicist wakes up to find his bed on fire. He calculates exactly how much water is required to put out the fire, given the rate of fire spread and the transit time between bed and faucet, He gets that much water, and he puts out the fire.

NicholasRush: I see where this is going and I don’t like it.

MandyPerry: A mathematician wakes up to find his bed on fire. He goes to the faucet, turns it on, sticks his finger under the water and says: “A solution exists!” Then he goes back to sleep. In his bed. His bed that is, to be clear, still on fire.

NicholasRush: Hilarious.

MandyPerry: I do my best.

“I said Rush.”

Rush turned to see Young in the doorframe, his arms crossed and his hair wet. “What?”

“I have a tablecloth?”

Rush looked at the tablecloth-covered table. “Apparently.”

“Were you unpacking for me?” Young sounded incredulous. Maybe even—touched?

Rush felt it best to put the thing in its proper context. “I unpacked exactly two items.”


“You’re welcome.”

MandyPerry: I don’t mean to give you a hard time.

MandyPerry: Seriously. I’m sorry about that. Math is great.

MandyPerry: I love math.

MandyPerry: Hello?

NicholasRush: Sorry; got distracted. I take your point about the intellectual laziness of pattern recognition, but it has its place.

MandyPerry: Absolutely. Especially in cryptography, I would think.

NicholasRush: Now you’re just trying to placate me.

MandyPerry: Is it working?

NicholasRush: No. My data’s long since finished assembling itself into a spreadsheet. I should go.

MandyPerry: You’d get better data from a real DHD.

NicholasRush: I’m aware.

MandyPerry: Talk to Sam Carter. There might be a nearby planet with a DHD you can break.

NicholasRush: Doubt I’d break it. 

MandyPerry: So confident. If it were me, I’d want a ship standing by just in case. 

NicholasRush: Yes yes. I’ll email you if the Air Force ever lets me out of here.

MandyPerry: Keep me posted. It was nice “meeting” you.

NicholasRush: Likewise.

He signed off the secure server and scanned over his compiled spreadsheet to make sure it was complete and appropriately organized. That done, he rested an elbow on the table and curled a fist underneath his chin, visualizing the computational model he’d build (its parameters, its initial conditions). From the next room came the sound of a blade running through tape and the pained scrape of asymmetrical steps over a dusty floor.

Around the time Rush finished the code bones of his model, Young’s phone rang, though it was more of a bloody air-raid siren than a “ring.” Rush flinched. He shut his eyes and tried to detune his nerves into something easier to live with.

“Hey Emily.” Young slurred a three syllable name into two, his tone tentative.

The ex-wife then.


“Yeah, no, I’m sorry. I—”

Rush raised an eyebrow at his terminal window, saved the nascent model, and shut Vala’s laptop. He left the room. Now was a propitious time for a shower.

“I didn’t forget. If you’d let me—”

Rush closed the bathroom door.

The mirror showed his hair to be in its usual state of post-coding disarray; he kept forgetting to cut it. 

Shoes, socks, pants, boxers, and two shirts hit the white tile of the floor in a cairn of efficient divesting. (Young’s sunglasses he left on.) He stepped into the shower, thinking of nothing but what he was doing: modeling quantum qubits in superposition (and, ugh, showering).

Exhaustion was his best, most efficient weapon in the fight against his own mind.

Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach, in meiner Brust,
Die eine will sich von der andern trennen.

Young’s shampoo smelled of pine and bergamot. It was packaged in an overwhelmingly masculine bottle: square corners, bold font, opaque plastic.

He’d have to achieve entanglement between his query program and the DHD. No question. It’d be necessary each time, as there probably wasn’t a single key—rather each key was likely generated and transmitted via entanglement for each entanglement attempt.

(Presuming all of his many many assumptions held.)

So. One—achieve entanglement. Two—run the ZKP to demonstrate entanglement. Three—obtain the key as a gift.

He rubbed the (nearly) new bar of soap over his chest.

How did one write code that would run on a crystal?

He sighed.

Dr. Perry would know.

He shut off the shower and pulled a clean towel off a wall-mounted shelf.

He pulled on his boxers and his jeans, then removed Young’s sunglasses while he dealt with his hair.

Maybe Dr. Perry had a point. He was supposed to be cryptography expert, not a fuckin’ numerologist. It wasn’t like the crystal-based networks within the gate had feelings. If his polite approach was a no go he’d figure out how to brute force the thing.

Presumably. If he ever obtained clearance to go offworld and intensively interface with a DHD.

Telford would be of help in that regard.

Or Jackson.

Telford was the best choice.

It would irritate Jackson if he went to Telford. 

It would also likely irritate Telford if he went to Jackson.


Fortunately, this was an easily escaped dilemma.

He pulled his undershirt over his head, picked up his rumpled dress shirt, shook it out, and pulled it on. He used the edge of it to dry Young’s sunglasses, then slid them back into place.

He found Young lying on the couch, one hand over his eyes, no longer on the phone, misery evident in the curve of his fingers into his temples. Yes well. There was nothing like work to distract one from mind-crushing despair. 

“I need to go offworld,” he announced.

Young pulled his hand away from his eyes. “Right now?” he asked, dry and mild.

“No.” Rush approached the couch, buttoning his shirt as he came. “Soon.”

“Good luck with that.” Young shut his eyes.

“I’m not cleared,” Rush admitted.

“Really? You? Not cleared?”

Rush’s hands paused in their serial loop and slide but he regrouped and proceeded (with the buttoning and with everything else). “Given your history of sub par analytical skills, you’ll have t’forgive me if I fail to give a fuck about your preconceptions. I need to go offworld.”

Young opened his eyes and gave him a faint smile.

“Are you going to help?” Rush asked.

Why do you wanna go offworld?” Young countered.

“I need access to a DHD.”

“A few hours at the alpha site might be workable,” Young said.

“I may destroy the DHD.”

“That’d make the alpha site less of a good choice,” Young said evenly. “It’ll also make it harder to get approval from the top brass, because you’ll need ship-based support. Ground security’ll be tough.”

“I’m aware.”

“Plus,” Young continued, “You’re an abduction target, and the more chevrons you unlock, the more the LA’ll want you. Doubt it’s a coincidence that less than twenty-four hours after the base found out that you’d cracked the fourth cypher there was an abduction attempt.”

“So don’t pick a Lucian Alliance planet to gate to,” Rush snapped. “Any natively configured DHD will work.”

“Not that simple, hotshot.”

“Jackson is number two on the list, and I notice he’s not locked in his apartment.”

“Jackson can take care of himself.”

“Oh yes. That’s why he’s died so many times.”

Young snorted. “Why ask me?”

“Y’don’t exactly look busy.”

“Nice try. What’s the real reason?”

“Jackson and Telford are currently having a disagreement. Approaching either of them is—” he opened a hand. Regrouped. “You’re more convenient.”

Young pulled his hand from his face, telegraphing relaxation with enough intensity to sharpen his kitchen knives, two rooms away. “You think they’re disagreeing about you?”

“I didn’t say that,” Rush replied, unnerved by Young’s interest, “but I think whatever they’re at odds about may peripherally involve me.”

“I’ll call Landry on Monday,” Young said. “See if we can’t work something out.”

Rush nodded. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Rush surveyed Young’s apartment. It was a nice space: a corner unit, well lit. It was also in unacceptable disarray. Half-empty boxes ate up the available floor space, as if partial unpacking of each individual box was a deliberate strategy. Perhaps the colonel didn’t want to finish. (Rush could identify).

“Get up.”

“Go the hell to sleep why don’t you?” Young countered. “I’m taking the rest of the morning off.”

“No,” Rush said.

“No? This is my apartment.”

“This is the most inefficient unpacking I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Your kitchen has been unpacked for days. Because I unpacked it.”

“Two days. Not even.”

“Fine.” Rush looked down at the nearest half-empty box and, seeing it was full of books, dragged it over to the empty bookshelf. “I’ll do it.”

Young wordlessly growled at the ceiling through clenched teeth. “I’m not gonna watch you unpack my apartment.”

“Nothing’s stopping you.” Rush hauled books out of the box snd began sorting them into stacks.

“Are you alphabetizing?” Young asked from the couch.

“Within topics, yes. You prefer some other system? Size? Color, perhaps?” Rush tried not to watch as Young got to his feet.

Young ignored the question. “This wasn’t part of The Plan, y’know.” The man winced as he straightened.

“Does The Plan include you acquiring decent coffee? If no, add it. Before two o’clock this afternoon.” He picked up his first stack of books, rotated it ninety degrees, and shelved it.

“Why?” Young half-heartedly pulled a desk lamp out of a box. “What happens at two o’clock?”

“I get a caffeine withdrawal headache.”

Young snorted. “How’d you get so dehydrated the other day if you’re a regular coffee drinker?”

“This morning was the first time I had coffee in four weeks.”

“Falling off the wagon?”

It was more akin to getting back on the wagon, but there was no reason to tell Young as much. “I was extremely disappointed to end my dry spell with American instant coffee.”

“My apologies,” Young said dryly.

“Yes well.” Rush snatched the deformable desk lamp out of Young’s hand and affixed it to the side of the bookcase. “I suppose I can let it slide.”

“Thank you. I’m so relieved.”

Rush picked up Young’s knife and sliced through the tape of the box he had emptied, flattened the cardboard and placed it on the floor next to the bookshelf. 

“Don’t you need to be working on your ZKP?” Young asked.

“You’re awfully fixated on my ZKP,” Rush replied. “Would that be because you know literally nothing else about computer science?”

“You were the one who was ‘fixated’ on it, but—yeah. Pretty much.”

“I’ve moved on. Now I’m modeling quantum fluctuations within Ancient control crystals at different voltages.”

“Oh. Great.” Young reached down into a box and pulled out—a fishbowl?

“Is that for fish?” The question had a disdainful gloss he hadn’t (wholly) intended to give it.

“Some people like fish, Rush.” Young growled.

Rush quirked a brow. “Fish are a poor choice for someone who lives alone and might be killed on an alien planet.”

“You’re my fish guy.”

“Excuse me, but what?”

“You’re my fish guy,” Young repeated, more slowly this time, as if concerned Rush hadn’t captured every phoneme coming out of his mouth. “C’mon. You live down the hall.”

“I’m not reliable.”

“I heard you were the chair of the UC Berkeley Math Department.”

“That’s—” Rush hesitated. “That’s no reliability metric, let’s put it that way.”

“No?” Young’s sarcasm came dry and subtle, like flinted chablis.

“Fuck off,” Rush said appreciatively.

Young snorted.

Rush looked down at the book in his hands: The Sea, The Sea. Iris Murdoch. He stacked it with the rest of the literary fiction. “More to the point, given the Lucian Alliance is in possession of beaming technology galactic-scale resources, I don’t think you should count on me being around to feed your fish.”

“Don’t joke about it,” Young said, suddenly serious.

“What makes you think I’m joking?” Rush started shelving the next round of books.

“The LA wouldn’t have a foothold in the SGC if their methods of twisting cooperation out of people weren’t so effective. Seasoned people have fallen to them.”

Rush looked at the floor and tried to imagine being tortured—tried to imagine something worse than the tangled chokehold of his own unexhausted mind. He couldn’t do it. 

Certainly a failure of imagination on his part.

“Yes well. Any advice?” He looked up at Young.

“Yeah,” Young said, quiet and serious, backlit against the day, standing over Rush with one hand braced against the wall. “Stop telling people when you crack each chevron. Let them think you’ve stalled out. Hit a block.”

Rush met his eyes and nodded. 

It wasn’t a bad idea.

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