Mathématique: Expansion Pack

“There’s going to be like—math. Math and languages and crypto and the story and the graphics—ugh. It hurts me. My soul aches with how good it looks.”

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.

Expansion Pack

Eli would legit like to know where the heck people come up with names for these places. Because seriously.

“I see that your SAT scores were excellent.”

Seriously. “Golden Tree Tutoring: Where Teaching Meets Learning” seems to possibly be a front for a portal to Hell, as featured in the pretty-much-never-to-be-exceeded-in-terms-of-ironic-excellence TV series: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Except, this time, instead of Hell containing various demons and vampires and maybe the odd zombie or two (somehow putting zombies in a Hell dimension has never really sat quite right with him and so perhaps he shouldn’t conflate Hell and the brain-eating undead; it sends his inherent science-sense tingling) GTT:WTML seems to offer evidence that Hell consists of arithmetic without theoretical underpinnings and the memorization of lists of words without comprehension for eternity. Eli has often speculated that Hell consists of manual determination of the statistical properties of vast quantities of M&Ms or something equally boring, and he now has preliminary evidence that this is indeed the case.

“Um, yeah, thanks,” he replies, glancing at the poster on the wall behind his interviewer. It depicts a child looking rapturously at a suspiciously unremarkable and therefore probably nefarious butterfly while her mother looks on with a glazed expression of pride. He’s not really sure how to respond to a compliment that might be compliment or might be a test of how he responds to compliments or might just be a set up for the next question, which is the one that they always ask.

“But I see that you left MIT after only one semester,” the interviewer says, adjusting her glasses, tucking a graying brown strand of hair behind her ear. “Why is that?”

“I had some family problems,” Eli replies, trying not to fidget with his pencil or think about anything in particular, especially not Butterfly of the Damned over there on the wall. “My mom was sick. She is sick.”

He decides that GTT:WTML, should undergo a personalized renaming in honor of Eli Wallace. It shall henceforth be known as God Tortures the Talented: Why is This My Life.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. Wallace,” the woman says, and she really does look sorry. “Do you have any plans to resume your college education?”

“I do,” he says. “I definitely do. I’m just looking for something in the short term that might help me make ends meet.”

He’s also looking for something that will fund his monthly online subscription fee to the unspeakably awesome MMORPG associated with the otherwise uninspired Wormhole X-treme franchise. Well, Dr. Levant is pretty okay, he supposes, but the point is that his mom does not consider MMORPGs to be a necessary expenditure for an “unemployed young man,” even if that young man happens to be a gaming prodigy of the type unseen for generations upon generations of the world of men.

The interviewer looks appropriately sympathetic. “Normally it’s not our policy to hire non-college grads,” she says. “But we might be able to make an exception in your case, given your circumstances.”

“Oh,” Eli says, genuinely enthusiastic about his prospects regarding both employment and gaming and trying not too look at the creepy two-dimensional butterfly on the wall behind his interviewer because he does not need that thing in his life right now; it’s stealing his positive energy. “That would be awesome.”

“How would you feel about a trial period?” she asks.

How he feels about a trial period depends entirely upon whether he will be paid or not.

“That sounds completely reasonable,” he says. “However, like I said, I’m looking to make ends meet and I do have another interview lined up later this week, so—”

“Is it with ‘Growing Tree’?” she asks sharply.

He freezes, and then thinks about the fact that he just froze, and how he’s probably now sporting a deer-in-the-headlights kind of look because a) he doesn’t have any other interviews lined up so maybe he’s about to be busted but b) if he did, and it were with Growing Tree as opposed to Golden Tree, what would that mean? Would that be good? Would it be bad? Are the two companies related? Do they talk? Are they competitors?

He decides no one would name their tutoring center “Golden Tree” unless “Growing Tree” was already taken and they were bitter.

“Yeah,” he says. “How’d you know?”

“Just a hunch,” she replies, vexed.

“Well,” he says, “I could maybe put off the interview with them until after the trial period, if you were able to pay me during that time. If not, I totally get it.”

She nods at him. “You’ll start at twenty-five an hour,” she says. “High school math.”

“Cool,” Eli says. “No problem. I mean, thank you.”

“You’re welcome. We’ll be in touch regarding student names and locations. Sessions are usually held at a library close to the student’s home or school.”

“Great,” Eli says. “I look forward to it.”

“You’ll have a performance review in three weeks.” She stands to shake his hand. “Welcome aboard, Mr. Wallace.”

“Thanks,” he says, smiling at her.

He leaves GTT:WTML and steps into the twilight of late July with the quiet ring of a bell affixed to the door. Even though the sun has already set, the day is still punishingly hot. Like freaking Tatooine, rather than Boston, except for all the red brick and the asphalt and the distinct lack of Tusken Raiders.

He’s halfway to the bus stop when his phone rings. He pulls it out of his pocket and glances at the caller ID.

“Luke Skywalker,” Eli says, “here to rescue you.”

“A childish fantasy epic just called,” Rob replies, “it wants its one-dimensional hero back.”

“Oh yeah, like Kirk is so multidimensional.”

“Did you get it?” Rob asks in a distracted, flat tone accompanied by furious keyboard clicks and taps that tells Eli he’s probably deep in the City of Souls and making a good effort to mount an assault on the Dark Tower, presuming he’s playing Astria Porta: Prometheus and hasn’t switched over to something subtly less awesome while waiting on Eli.

“Yup, I got it,” Eli said.

“Good, because you will not believe what I’m about to tell you,” Rob says, and the clicks stop abruptly as he pauses the game.

Eli gets chills, despite the warmth of the evening.

Chills of ominous, awesome, epic portent.

“The trailer is out,” Rob says. “For the Prometheus expansion pack.”

“I’m on my way,” Eli says. “We must view. We must discuss. We must watch repeatedly. Over four-dollar box-wine and Cheez-Its.”

“It looks,” Rob says, drawing out the words, “amazing.”

“Duh,” Eli replies.

“No, I don’t think I’m doing this justice,” Rob says. “It’s going to require learning a language.”

Eli stops dead on the sidewalk. “Wait. Wait wait wait wait wait. Like, an Earth language?”

“No, think J.R.R. Tolkien and Elvish,” Rob says. “They wouldn’t make you learn a language if it was not going to be the most awesome expansion pack in the history of awesome. There’s a quest to unlock the lexicon that’s already available.”

“Please tell me that’s what you’re—”

“Yeah dude, it’s in progress. Get home so that we can call up Dane and coordinate for this thing.”

Eli starts walking again, his phone pressed to his ear. “I’m on my way.”

“There’s going to be like—math. Math and languages and crypto and the story and the graphics—ugh. It hurts me. My soul aches with how good it looks.”

“Do we have a date?” Eli asks.

“This fall,” Rob says. “September.”

“And do we have a name for this expansion pack of epic import?”

“We do,” Rob says, “but it gives nothing away.”

“Don’t make me beg,” Eli says. He begins to run as he sees the lights of the approaching bus in the darkening air.

Mathématique,” Rob replies. “They’re calling it Mathématique.”

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