Mathématique: Chapter 35

He was ignoring a chord progression.

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. This is a really intense one re: panic attacks and mental illness. To be clear, there’s a strong sci-fi element here. This isn’t describing a psychotic break, it’s describing an alien influence. Nevertheless, this is one to skip if you’re concerned. On the other hand, if you’re 0% concerned, go ahead and put on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony while you read it.

Chapter 35

He was ignoring a chord progression. A swath of sunlight cut across the dimness of the deserted Irish pub, illuminating the dust in the air and the ridges in the wood grained floor. He had seen better pianos than the one at which he sat. He had played better pianos. He had owned better pianos. He could hear his own breathing, clipped in the quiet air. He was ignoring a chord progression. He was alone.

“Are you okay, hotshot?” Young asked him.

Yes well. He was alone, except for Young. The piano was upright and old. This not a selling point when it came to pianos. Nevertheless, he had been assured that it had been recently tuned. He hadn’t verified that assertion, because to do so would require touching it. He hadn’t touched it. He didn’t want to touch it. It stretched before and beneath him in a menacing expanse of stained spruce and lacquered basswood.

“Yes,” he replied. “I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be fine?”

“Mostly I ask because you look like shit.”

“You tell me that at least once a day,” Rush said. He did not look at Young, because he was busy. He was ignoring a chord progression. He stared at the keys, trying to touch them and not touch them at the same time.

“Hotshot,” Young said, the word meaningless but for its ring of warning.

He didn’t answer, because he was keeping his hands subordinate to his mind. And, he was ignoring a chord progression. Until he was ready to stop ignoring it. That was what he was doing.

“We can leave,” Young said. “We can leave and come back later. Or, y’know. Never.”

“I’m fine.” He glanced at Young, who stood as implacable as the floor-to ceiling beam he leaned against.

“We’ve been here for an hour,” Young said, slowly. Slowly.

“Do you not have projects to run, budgets to fuck up, strategies to devise, and people to kill?” Rush said, a peripheral snapping.

Young didn’t move. “People to kill? I’m all caught up.”

Rush looked back at the piano. It fanned out predictably, the same way every time. There was a series of events that should be undertaken. In an order. An order that he’d determined. That he’d determined nights ago. Two nights ago. Three nights ago. Nights ago.

“You’re—just going to let that one slide?”

The things that he does—they will be sequential, they will be in a series, that is what will make them a series; at the end he will have a summation that is a logical progression and converges on a value or a concept, like infinity or zero or a rational or irrational number. The limit of the summation would be the platform from which he would crack the ninth cypher. Or from which it would crack him right back.

He could feel the threat of his own poorly controlled thoughts as something coiled within him, waiting for the attentional turn of mind and hand. The turn of mind and hand. Not yet. Not yet. He was ignoring his chord progression.

“So, are you going to actually—play that thing?”

He had twisted music to a place that lacked a steady outlet from his thoughts. Melody was not a thing that could be buried with the dead. He wondered why that was. He had thought a piano could help him? It couldn’t help him. It couldn’t shield his psyche from the turn of mind and hand. Nothing could help him. He twined his fingers around the ridged edge of the bench on which he sat.

“Rush. Hey. Are you going to answer me or what?”

His hands would not come off the wood where he had anchored them until he could be sure that when they did they would produce the sound of vacant cities from memory. And not anything else from memory. Like—Schumann, for example.


He wasn’t sure what was happening in his head or what was trying to happen but it was not a thing he found he wanted. When he reproduced the tonal structures, he would do it with his hands and not his mind. His hands and not his mind. Which explained, in part, why he was ignoring a chord progression. It was becoming difficult as it spiraled toward a binary choice. Altera or—

It wouldn’t be Schumann.

The pool from which his musical perseverations were pulled was limited in scope, bounded by key and interval. It had always had been this way and he’d never looked too hard at the proclivities of his subconscious, why dig out old foundations when city walls could be built atop a base more primitive—this happened all the time. Perhaps not on Altera. Altera or Atlantis. They were loved. Built from new.

It would be Beethoven.


It would not be Beethoven, because he would not be playing anything except Ancient chords. Alteran chords. Lantean chords. Converging on D-minor. He could hear it in the background of his thoughts. To crack this cypher was to crack himself right out of all foundation he possessed. He was ignoring a D-minor chord, and, unsupervised, it passed in and out of Alteran intervals, blending his classical training into something he did not recognize at the threatened borders of his conscious perception.



“I think we should go.”

He wanted to control this.

He wanted to control this.

He wanted to control this.

He did.

But he was fixed.

He couldn’t stay.

He couldn’t leave.

He couldn’t play Beethoven, he couldn’t unleash the tones he needed, he couldn’t do a fucking thing, caught between the vertiginous drop of asymptotes that approached divergent limits. Had he thought he could do this? He couldn’t do this. But he had brought himself to a point from which retreat was impossible.

“This isn’t a good day for you, hotshot.”

None of them seemed to be good days.


He was ignoring it.


He was ignoring it.


He wasn’t ready.


It wasn’t D-minor.

“I’m thinking you try again tomorrow.”

Altera. A hostile note implicit in the sweep of grass and sea. Nested sets of deaths beneath its surface. Sorrow in the contour of its skyline, nearly transparent in the light of a white star. Sheppard had wept, he’d wanted it so much—clutching his chest, screwing his eyes shut, trembling on a transparent floor.

Perhaps it was worse to be deaf to the sound of the call. D-minor. Almost D-minor. Relatively conjunct, cadences unclosed, polyphonic texture, within which motives grow.

Altera. He took a breath and then released it.

In a moment of balanced forces, he understood that he was no longer capable of ignoring the chord progression. Good. This was what he had come here for. To let it out. And, to let it in. He was ready.

He let go of the bench.

He turned his mind.

The chord and key and intervals of Altera exerted a shear force on his mind that reached out—either over spacetime or from his own memory, he could not tell and it did not matter—to pull open a bounded edge of his consciousness. 

But this didn’t feel right to him, this was what he did—the cracking of codes and the torqueing of terms and the forcing of formulas—not what was done to him; he was not a thing to be broken into, he was not composed of circuits amenable to rerouting, he was not a thing to be unlocked, he did not come open it was other things that did that, other things, other things, other things other things other things. That came open to him.


D in the contra octave.

D in the contra octave, transposed to great, transposed to small, transposed up the entire keyboard, but every variant of D made overtone to the note in his mind that vibrated at thirty-six point seven hertz.

He struggled to free himself, struggled to divert out into another mental avenue, because he didn’t want this imposition of tonal structure, not this way, not shoved upon him by an aggressive, foreign influence in his thoughts, from whatever it was that was spreading the pins and tumblers of the architecture of his self, from whatever it was that combed its melodic reworking through his thoughts and coerced him into shadowed versions of chromatic scales he knew.

E in the contra octave, its overtones limited by his hands on the piano and by the upper bound of neural extrapolation that stretched to accommodate the demands made upon it by the flawless, forceful reproduction in his mind. The hold permitted no escape from its counterpoint of cryptography, inverted. It was breaking him open, his mind adjusting in a step-wise accommodation to the demanding press of a remembered city, made implacable by its nature and by his. He could neither move nor deviate, held in place by the inevitable progress of compression waves that filled the air or filled his thoughts.

F in the contra octave, G in the contra octave, A in the contra octave. B-flat in the contra octave.

The surrendering crack of his psyche penetrated from his mind to his hands, a melodic plunge into and out of the harmonic minor of the chromatic reformation of his consciousness and no wonder it had been Beethoven, no wonder it had always been Beethoven in these times. He was made this way, he was wired for D-minor, it was similar, it was nearly identical—the Ancient, and the D-minor progression. It came into and out of his conscious perception in a rhythm unendurable and slow.


And its variant.


And its variant.


And its variant.

The tempo of the shifting key destroyed all defense against its lyric thrust until it overwhelmed his shredded opposition and slid inside his mind without resistance—a creation of a standing wave of compliance as it took the minor key of D and bent it in an incremental arch, a final, tonal pull of hand and mind.His thoughts, pliant in confusion, submitted to the languid change of key with a contracture that locked the new configuration in its place.

When he could, again, hear the work of his hands, a hazed echo of Beethoven emerged without focus from the fluidity with which he played.There was a dissonance of sound and thought. He couldn’t reproduce the slow burn of the tones inside his mind. Theory clashed with practice. He stopped playing.

“Damn it—”

He couldn’t see. His vision was a field of fraying gray.

He could only hear. A variant of D-minor. And.

“Rush, god damn it.”

He didn’t think he was playing anything, but he was still hearing that which he was not playing. “Get up,” Young growled, hands around his shoulders. “Get up.”

He didn’t think that was going to turn out very well for him.

“Don’t do it,” Young said, dragging him up and pushing him down in waveform reposition, forcing his head between his knees, one hand on the back of his neck. “Don’t even think about passing out, hotshot. Do. Not. Do it.”

His visual field began to clarify from beneath its haze of gray.

“Deep breaths,” Young said, as he shifted to sit next to Rush on the bench of the piano. He did his best to comply, trying to ignore the inescapable, alien music in his head.

“Slow deep breaths,” Young said.

The situation he found himself in was not preferred.

“I’m fine,” he said.

“Oh yeah,” Young said darkly, one hand still pressing between his shoulder blades. “You look it. You look real fine.”

“I’m fine,” he repeated, sitting up straight.

Young pushed him back down.

“If you pass out,” Young said, “you are, for sure, spending the night in the base infirmary.”

He heard a broken chord inside his head.

“Lam is on shift,” Young continued, “and Lam is tough to bullshit.”

That was true.

“Even for a god damned champion bullshitter, such as yourself.”

He tried to listen to Young, rather than the tones and overtones unwanted in his mind.

“Flattered,” Rush said indistinctly, “I’m sure.”

“Yeah, I’d rank you somewhere between Vala and Jackson,” Young continued, “though, of course, it’s hard to be positive. That’s the nature of bullshitting.”

“Will you fucking let me up?”

“Are you going to pass out?”

“No,” he snapped.

Young eased up on the pressure he was applying to Rush’s back and shifted his grip, curving a hand over one shoulder and exerting a slowing counter-weight as Rush pushed himself into a seated position.

“D minor,” he said, pressing the heel of his hand against his eye socket. “Not quite D minor.” He could still hear it. It might never, never leave him. That wouldn’t turn out well.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Young asked.

Rush looked at him. Young appeared unsettled. “That’s their tonal structure. A variant D minor.”

“So this was—useful to you?”

“Very,” he replied.

“How do you know it’s a variant of D minor, hotshot?” Young asked, in a measured, specific, and cautious manner that implied he considered Rush’s frame of mind highly vulnerable to interpersonal perturbation.

He knew. He knew. But—how did he know?  What had happened to his mind on Altera, and had it been objective, quantifiable in any way, or had some perceptive switch been flicked, some internal barrier circumvented? Would he know if any of those things had happened? Maybe he wouldn’t. The fact that he had insight into the fact that he had no insight seemed promising.

“I know,” Rush said.

“But how do you know? All that key smashing do something for you?”


Young seemed unconvinced. “Why do you know now, but you didn’t know this morning?” Young asked.

“Because I was trying not to think about it this morning,” Rush said acidly, trying not to think about it in the present moment either, and failing. Failing.

“Cool it over there, will you?” Young said, shaking his shoulder gently.

Rush looked away.

“I think you need to see someone,” Young said.

“I’ve already ‘seen someone’.  On multiple occasions. I’ve passed two psychological evaluations and an entire battery of neuropsychiatric tests.”

“I know,” Young said. “But—I don’t think that any of those were for your benefit, hotshot. I think at least some of those were part of your genetic workup.”

Yes well, in retrospect, that made sense.

“I fail to see your point.”

“I think you should talk to Lam and tell her that you can’t fucking sleep and you should describe to her whatever the hell it is that happens when you hear music. Or tones.”

“I don’t see what she’s going to do about any of it.”

“Well, it will make me feel better,” Young said. “You look like shit, Rush.”

“Get t’ fuck,” he said, with a quick, wry smile.

Young looked away abruptly and stood, clapping Rush’s shoulder. “Stay there,” he said. “I’m gonna find the guy.”

“What ‘guy’?” Rush asked, pressing his fingertips to his temple.

“The guy who owns this place,” Young said. “Tell him we’re done?”

“Oh we are, are we?”

“Yes,” Young said. “We’re done.”

“We’ll never be done,” Rush said, looking up at him.

Several hours later, he stood in Young’s kitchen.

It had begun with an alteration of character. Morphing tones became a pair of tremolos, not strings exactly, but not not strings either. And then, as an overlay, came an unmistakable upper line of falling fifths. Symphony number nine, first movement, in D minor.  Alternate D minor. Variant D minor. He didn’t want this. Yes he did. This, all of this, would be useful. Would it be useful? It would be useful.

Either way—fuck if it wasn’t pure dead fascinating. Fuck if it also wasn’t pure dead difficult to ignore—complicated and polyphonic and loud and no longer precisely D minor—

“Hotshot,” Young said, breaking in over not-oboes and not-flutes and not-D minor, “are you—hearing anything?”

“Why would you ask me that?” Rush replied.

“Because you look like you’re listening to something. That, and you stopped peeling potatoes about thirty seconds ago.”

He looked down. He was, indeed, standing in Young’s kitchen, holding a partially peeled potato. He flinched at the simultaneous, intrusive entry of the not-strings and the not-percussion.

“I was thinking,” Rush snapped, finding it extremely difficult to speak over the symphonic torment of his thoughts, but managing it all the same. This would be fine. This would be workable. He would make it workable. It was useful.


Falling fifths.

That was how it had started.

Did that mean something?


Possibly it meant something.

“Okay,” Young replied. “Well, I’m thinking maybe tonight we’ll just order pizza.”

“I have to write something down,” Rush said.

“Okay,” Young said.

He didn’t much care to work like this, but Young wouldn’t let him return to his apartment without making his life a thing more difficult than it currently was. Somewhere within the swath of paper multiplying beneath his hands was the list that he had made of the resonant frequencies of Ancient control crystals. He just—couldn’t find it.

“Is this what you do every night, hotshot?” Young asked quietly.

“No,” Rush said, lifting his laptop off the collection of papers that it partially obscured. He couldn’t find his list. Correction. Yes he could. He pulled it free from the company of lesser papers.

“The ‘terror fanfare’,” Gloria whispers. 

“What?” he replied.

“Nothing,” Young said.  “I didn’t say anything.”

A unified, polyphonic, distorted wave of noise slammed into his thoughts, obliterating the resonant frequencies he was focusing on. He flinched and slammed a fist atop his list in abrupt frustration.

“I did warn you, sweetheart.”

He pressed one hand to his forehead.

“It sounds strange in the alternate key,” Gloria whispers. “Don’t you think? I wonder if you’ll ever get the original back.”

He doubted it.

“Hotshot,” Young said.

“Do you think the choral portions will be in Ancient?” Gloria asks over the not-bass not-recitatives.  “That seems like it would be distracting.”

What,” he snarled at Young. “Do I not seem occupied to you?”

“I suppose you’ll find out,” Gloria says, over the falling fifths from movement one, “you absurd man.”

“Yeah,” Young snapped. “You seem a little too damn occupied, hotshot.”

Rush looked back at his laptop, at the code of the ninth cypher, and began to work at assembling a series of resonant frequencies that would—

“I’m not sure you’ll ever be able to listen again,” Gloria says, over the beginnings of the orchestral construction of the central theme of the movement.

He swallowed. “I’m fine,” he said, making an effort to look at Young.

Young looked back at him, dark hair lit up by the slantwise light of the setting sun, his expression closed and oddly profound when set against an orchestral background.

“Sometimes,” Rush said, his hands braced against the table, trying to organize himself enough to get the words out before the reappearance of the terror fanfare and the following choral portion of the movement, “it’s necessary to focus so intently on a problem that—“

“Oh sweetheart,” Gloria says.

What the fuck.

“—that the ephemera of daily existence are—shut out and—“

He flinched at the reappearance of the terror fanfare. “Just—don’t talk to me,” he finished, cutting his losses.

“I wasn’t, hotshot, you were the one who said ‘what’.”

Oh Freunde, nicht dise Töne.

He pressed a hand to his head.

“Oh,” Gloria says, surprised.  “It’s German.”

“I know,” he said.

Adquin nos ponemus nostras voces
in plus grata et exultans tonus.

“Nick,” Young said.  “Just—stop working.”

“Rotten luck, darling. You’ve got them both. Ancient and German. At least it’s not a simultaneous overlay.”

“Not yet,” Rush said.  “Not yet.”

As the sixth symphonic loop recommenced, he had to admit to himself that he was perseverating on not-Beethoven as he fucking tried and fucking failed to blend resonant frequencies of control crystals to construct some kind of Ancient equivalent of the circle of fifths. Maybe it would be a circle of ninths? Maybe of tenths? Maybe it would be nine fifths. Ten fifths? Ten fifths would be two. Fuck.

He found it difficult to construct a geometric representation of pitch relationships in an alien tonal architecture whilst a fucking resplendent, detailed version of that tonal architecture was stuck on a fucking loop in his fucking head.

“I called Lam,” Young said, dropping into a chair next to him.

“You did what?” he snapped.

“I. Called. Lam.”

“I heard you,” Rush replied, over the falling fifths. Those fucking, falling, fatidic fifths. Circle of fifths. Yes well, message received, thanks. He didn’t need the constant Beethoven to pursue that insight.  Not anymore. “Why would you do that?”

“What do you think happened to you on that planet?” Gloria asks, like she’s giving him a hint.

“Because,” Young said. “Something’s going on with you. You need to be checked out. She’s going to see you tomorrow, after hours.”

“This is out of the ordinary, even for you,” Gloria says. “You know it is.”

“Fine,” Rush snapped. “I have no idea what you think she’s going to do, but fine.”

“They don’t know what the third gene does,” Gloria says. 

“They don’t know what the third gene does,” Young said.

Rush looked up at him, startled. “What did you say?”

“They have no idea what it does, hotshot. But look, if you can turn Ancient stuff on, then maybe it stands to reason that Ancient stuff might have some effect on you, right?”

“This was my point,” Gloria says.

What the fuck was happening. “I know that was your point, but—” He decided not to finish his sentence.

“Do you think it might be having any kind of effect?” Young asked, slowly and nearly inaudibly over the aggressive line of the not-brass section in his head.

“Remember when you used to come to rehearsals and sit in the back, grading exams?” Gloria whispers. 

“Possibly,” Rush said.

“Hotshot, you’re hearing shit, aren’t you. You can tell me, if you are. You won’t be the first, okay? Not by a long shot.”

“Let’s be clear about this darling, he’s asking you if you’re hallucinating.”

“No,” Rush replied. “I’m just—distracted. I need coffee.”

“I would throw my coffee maker out the window to prevent you from drinking coffee right now,” Young said. “Can I interest you in a glass of water and the maximum dose of god damned Tylenol PM?”

“No,” Rush replied.

“Here comes the scherzo, sweetheart.”

He put his pen down, propped his elbows on the table, and dropped his head into his hands as the not-D minor second movement slammed into his mind like a tonal train or a melodic wrecking ball of some kind that was, like his mind, contrapuntal.

“You okay?”

It wasn’t so difficult, he was certain it wasn’t, all he needed was for everyone and everything in his mind and environment to be quiet for something like two hours and he’d be able to do it. He was close. He had a method. He had a transposition key for the shifts in hertz. All he needed, all he needed, were the sequential crystal combinations.


Triple time as quadruple time, scherzo-trio-scherzo, the gestalt of the sound sickeningly unfamiliar, obliterating the original with its alternate D fucking minor, and how was he supposed to do anything with this—

“Rush,” Young said.

“What?” he said, unable to hear himself over the rise and fall of not-flutes.

“At least this one sounds relatively normal,” Gloria whispers sympathetically or maybe symphonetically. “B-flat major does not transpose as well as D minor. Movement three becomes grotesque.”

“Why don’t you get some sleep? It’s one in the morning.”

He looked over at Young, who was sitting across from him, his chin in his hand, utterly exhausted and backed by the not-melody of the not-trio portion of the not-movement.

“He’s not bad looking,” Gloria whispers. “I think C major suits people with curls, don’t you?”

“No,” he replied, “don’t be ridiculous.”

“How is going to sleep, in the night time, ridiculous?” Young asked, looking miserable and sounding driven beyond whatever limits he had. Young was injured. He had been. Somewhere on some alien world, he had crashed an alien car. That’s what he’d said.

“I’ll go to sleep when I’m tired,” Rush said. “I suggest you go to sleep. You look fucking terrible.”

I look terrible. I do.”

“That’s what I said,” Rush replied, looking back down at his matrices of resonant frequencies.

“Get up,” Rush murmured, over a line of not-cellos and not-basses, in the not-fourth movement, one hand on Young’s shoulder, shaking him. “If you fall asleep at the fucking table, you literally won’t be able to walk tomorrow.”

“Kiva,” Young said, starting awake.

“Kiva?” Rush repeated, over the mental vibration of a bass line.

“Did you just say ‘Kiva’?” Young snarled.

Rush raised his hands, startled into a backward half-step. “I said ‘kiva’ because you said ‘kiva.’ What the fuck is ‘kiva’?”

“Nothing,” Young said, taking a deep breath. “No one. Sorry. What the hell time is it?”

“You think I know?” Rush replied, stepping forward to help him up as a familiar, building theme was taken up by almost-violins. “Do you have to work tomorrow?” 

“Let me check,” Young growled. “Yeah. Yeah I do, Rush. And you’re coming in with me.”

“Yes yes,” Rush said absently, trying to ignore the melody of his thoughts.

“Even like this,” Gloria whispers, “even transposed, it’s still beautiful. Think about the range we must have used in our musical works. We played symphonies with our cities.”

“I know,” Rush murmured, directing them towards bedroom.

“That was surprisingly easy,” Young said, heading toward his couch instead. 

“I’m extremely reasonable,” Rush replied, unable to hear himself over the forceful entrance of alien brass.

“Shut up,” Young said. “You are not even remotely reasonable.”

“Five to six,” he murmured, again inaudible as he helped Young sit.

“God damn it.”

“Watch out, darling,” Gloria whispers. “It always comes out of nowhere.”

He flinched at the reappearance of the terror fanfare, but not much. Not much. “Go to sleep,” Rush whispered, over the dissonance in his mind as he turned off the lights.

“Rush,” Young growled. “Do not leave.”

“I don’t plan on it,” he replied.

“Now you can work without interference,” Gloria whispers.

He nodded. The only light came from behind the closed blinds and from his laptop, aglow upon the table. He opened the blinds.

“Rush,” Young said.  “You can turn on the lights, you know.”

“I know.”

“Draw it,” she urges. “You’ll be able to focus on it if you draw it.”

He found the slide of the marker over virginal wall to be viscerally satisfying as he drew a perfect, unerring circle, freehand.

“And now the table. The table of frequencies. Write it out.”

He did so, the terms spaced equally and atypically legible.

“Think of it as not only for yourself,” Gloria whispers, “but for them. For all of them. Anyone could look at this and see where you were headed. Anyone. It’s self evident.”

He staggered beneath the weight of the chorus in his mind, the not-singers in their hybrid of German and Ancient, the not-brass, and the not-strings.

“It’s not just for you. It’s never been just for you. It’s meant to be shared. It’s meant to be experienced by all who can experience it,” Gloria whispers. “Why not blend the functional and the aesthetic if you can? If you have the power to do so? And you do, Nick, you’ve always been able to do it. What is mathematics, if not that?”

He braced his hand against the wall.

Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen

Durch des Himmels prächt'gen Plan,

Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Wie ein Held zum Siegen.

He shook his hair back.

“Don’t hold to the German, darling.  Let that go.”

Laetor sicut eius soles volant

Per caeli gloriosa signum—

He had it. He was certain he did. He simply had to complete the circle of relational pitches, arcing it back on itself, in a stepwise series of perfectly chosen resonant frequencies.

“Begin,” Gloria says. “You cannot continue like this indefinitely. You must begin.”

He began to fill in the pitches he’d worked out over the previous hours, the contours of his thoughts dragged down periodically into arpeggios that would not let him go.

“To create a machine that feels—“ he whispered.

“It is a cruelty,” Gloria confirms, audible even over the vocal assault of the chorus. “It is a cruelty. Is it any wonder that it cannot let you go?”

He wrote down a set of numbers corresponding to a crystal combination, permuting in his mind to the second step, to the third, to the fourth, and then—

“You understand, don’t you, darling?”

It would not work past the fourth, the harmonies were wrong. He would begin again.

“Don’t you, Nick?”

“Yes,” he whispered. “Yes, I understand—but their progression —I can’t control it. I can’t hear it,” he whispered. He was lost in the confused tonal phrasings of his mind. In an alien variant of pitch class space.

“No darling, it’s all you can hear,” Gloria whispers back.

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