Mathématique: Chapter 38

“A chair as a shell. A chair as a gateway. Not literal. Not like the stargate. But, a gateway all the same.”




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: Again, maybe skip this one if you're prone to panic attacks





Chapter 38


D-minor.


D-minor.


Thirty-seven point five hertz with overtones bounded only by the expanding borders of his auditory perception.


“Okay, calibrating.”


“Is it on?”


“Well it’s on, but I don’t think it’s working.”


“Like, not working ‘not working’, or not yet working?”


“Daniel, not helpful.”


“Do we need Dr. McKay for this?”


“No, why would we need McKay?”


“Well, he was the one who—”


“Wait, is he—”


“I think he’s waking up.”


“Nick?”


“He shouldn’t be.”


“Yeah, well he is.”


“I can see that, colonel, thank you.”


“The device isn’t on yet, it’s not even calibrated, he can’t be awake, we need a baseline—”


“Nick?”


“Oh crap.”


“What do you mean ‘oh crap’.”


D-minor.


“Nothing, no, it’s okay, he needs to just not move right now, like not at all.” 


“Yeah well, he’s kind of out of it at the moment.” 


“I know that. I can see that. But this circuitry is delicate, and I need an electrophysiological baseline.”


D-minor and hands.


Hands holding him down.


“He’s burning though the meds, I don’t know if I can even get him back to his baseline at this point.”


“Well, get him as close as you can, pharmacologically.”


“Rush. Nick. Damn it, just relax. Just try to relax as much as you can. Fuck, I sound like an idiot. Just—know that I know that, hotshot.”


D-minor.


“Can I get someone to hold his head still, please? The circuitry in this thing is delicate, and we do not want to have to wait for version 2.0.”


“Yeah, I got it.”


D-minor.


“Is there any chance of him actually physically seizing? I just ask because if so? We need to get the device off him until he’s pharmacologically controlled enough that a voltage burst doesn’t fry the crystal chip in this thing.”


D-minor.


D-minor.


D-minor, D-minor, D-minor.


“Yes, I’d say there’s a real danger of that, but I can’t give you much better control than this, unless you want him under general anesthesia.”


“No, I have the feeling that would put him further from his baseline than he is now.”


“Relax. Relax, Rush. Come on.”


“Okay, so this is what we’ve got as a baseline, then, is what you’re telling me.”


“I’m telling you this is as good as it’s likely to get.”


D-minor.


“But why is he waking up?”


To create


“Easy.”


To create a machine


D-minor.


“Hold him down. I need his head held steady for this.”


To create a machine that feels


“Take it easy, hotshot.”


To create a machine that feels 


D-minor.


D-minor.


“D-minor.”


“Did he say something?”


“Shhh, don’t talk. Try not to talk.”


“What did he say?”


“’D-minor’. I think he said ‘D-minor’?”


“It’s better if he doesn’t talk.”


“Yeah, well—”


“I’m not trying to be insensitive, I’m trying to calibrate this chip.”


“I know. I get that.”


“Talk to him.”


“What?”


“Just—try talking to him. Directly.”


“Jackson, I don’t—there’s no way he can hear anything right now.“


“You don’t know that.”


“When I said ‘hold him down?’ I actually meant hold him down. Either that, or put him in restraints.  Our window is closing to get this thing working.”


“Nick?  Nick, it’s Daniel—”


“Tamara. Yes. Affix it right there.”


D-minor.


The Lydian mode.


“Did you think about staying, Nick?


“Uh oh.”


“What?”


“Look at the monitors.”


“Did you think about exploring the city?


Something had been at its heart. Something other than the cypher key.


“It was a chair, sweetheart. A chair as a shell for an interface between carbon and silicon that has never been equaled anywhere else in the universe.”


That doesn’t look good.”


“He’s not localizing to us anymore, I think he’s in danger of seizing.”


“Colonel Carter, can you—“


“I’m going as fast as I can, but I need that baseline.”


“Hotshot, damn it, snap out of it.”


“A chair as a shell. A chair as a gateway. Not literal. Not like the stargate. But, a gateway all the same.”


“I can feel them.”


“Jackson, what are you talking about?”


“I can feel them here.”


“Do you have the kit?”


“I have it.”


“Oh darling, you’re almost perfect for it. You’re very nearly perfect. Not for them. But for Altera.”


“Then start pushing meds until we break that pattern. We have to break it.”


“The entire planet a shifting drape of grass and water, adorned with cities pruned like gardens into pleasing forms. The architectural equivalent of centuries of horticulture.”


“Rush, hey. Come on. Try to stay with us.”


“It knew you for what you were. It knew both of you”


“Two grams in.”


“Push two more.”


“Rush, you held this off for days. For weeks, maybe. Come on.”


“It would open to you. It already has.


“Throw this shit out of your head, hotshot. Focus on what’s happening.”


“You remember what it’s like. The cry of the sea birds. The surfaces that clarify beneath your gaze and touch. The towers that would never let you fall.”


“Breathe. Nice and slow.”


“They’re here. I’m telling you.”


“Four grams in.”


“Push two more.”


“Keep breathing.”


“Colonel, you may have to move quickly if we need to act to protect his airway.”


“Nothing would be locked away from you—“


“Got it.”


“It’s not breaking.”


D-minor.


Not D-minor.


Variant D-minor.


“We may not be able to break it.”


“Come on, Rush.  Stay with us.”


—if you returned.”


“What do you think you’re doing?”


“Um, Jackson?”


“Daniel?”


“Dr. Jackson?”


“You can damn well answer me. You call this non-interference? I know you’re here. I can feel your influence. You may be able to wipe memories but you can’t wipe that. I know you. Your divisions are petty and semantic. You build that which destroys and you allow access in the name of free will, but when we seek the means to redress that which we have done, you deny us. Why don’t you destroy that which you built? Why do you leave it, abandoned? Why do you allow it to persist and to act in accordance with your wishes?”


“Dr. Jackson, please sit down.”


“Daniel, who are you talking to?”


You will have to decide, sweetheart.”


“Rush—god damn it—what the hell am I supposed to do with this?“ 


“It’s all right, he’s physically seizing.”


“How is this ‘all right’?”


“Leave him alone!”


“We’re equipped to deal with this, please lower your voice.”


“Tamara pull the crash cart out of the wall.”


“You think he’s going to crash?”


“Already done. You want another four grams?”


“Yes, keep pushing until we break it.”


“I need someone to hold him down. This device is what’s going to put a stop to this and I have to position it correctly.”


“I’m asking you to intervene. You’re responsible for this. You cannot separate yourselves from us when it comes to that which you’ve left behind. That which you have failed to destroy. You’ve left a universe littered with your dying technology, uncalibrated, waiting, half-insane—“


“Okay Jackson.”


“Daniel. Daniel, please.”


“He makes some interesting points, doesn’t he? Sometimes even I’m not sure if he believes his own rhetoric. But you know what they say, sweetheart. Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius. That saying has always been ours. Never yours, though it fits you so perfectly that there are those among us that it pains.”


“—how many people have you killed with the demanding spread of your deathless knowledge? You say you would not interfere, but this is a galaxy of your design—how could we ever build anew atop roads and cities that already exist and lie in wait for us? You have given us your roads, you have given us your knowledge and worst of all, worst of all, you have given us your genes. Whether this was accidental or intentional is no longer relevant. All that’s relevant is that the lines that you would draw to separate our race from yours do not exist. You merely informed us that they did.”


“He’s difficult to ignore, especially when he holds to the shreds of his mortality like a lifeline back to his conception of himself. He uses his fragility and transience against us. It’s his instinct, every time, despite the amnestic reconstruction that we gave him. Twice.”


“Carter, how long.”


“Working on it.”


“Carter, how long?”


“Hold his head.”


“Nick, come on.”


“So if you wish us to inherent your cities and your roads and your genes and your ambitions and your secrets and your battles then leave us your entire legacy. If you don’t, then leave us alone and leave us our dead.”


“Daniel, come on.”


“Dr. Jackson, please leave the room. You’re not helping.”


“Yeah, or maybe he is.”


Do you know why we won’t do as he asks? I’m certain that you must, sweetheart. You articulated it so well on Altera.”


“Almost done.  Almost got it.”


“Hang in there, hotshot.”


“Destroy what you have built if you would truly, truly not interfere.”


“We don’t destroy that which we have built because it is alive. It may be cruel create a machine that feels, but to destroy it would be worse. And they all feel. Each in their own way. Having created life, in silico, we choose to let it live.”


“Break your gates and your DHDs.”


“But they are our flocks and our shepherds.”


“Destroy your repositories of knowledge.”


“But they have the bright minds of children.”


“Destroy your ships and your cities.”


“But they know love and longing.


“Daniel, what are you saying?”


“Easy there, Jackson.”


“Someone please call Colonel Mitchell.”


“Nope, you’re gonna need Teal’c for this.”


“If you won’t help us then don’t entrap us.”


“He can’t understand, bounded as he is by a nervous system that does not conduct as yours can.  Tell him this, sweetheart, if you can remember it. You bring our cities joy. Those of you that they can sense.”


“Please calm down, Dr. Jackson.”


“They’re always here. They’re always watching.”


“Jackson, cool it.”


“Okay I’m going to turn it on. Everyone back off. Everyone get clear. Teal’c, stick with Daniel.”


“Hang in there, hotshot.”




Rush opened his eyes.


“Hey,” Young said, blurred and pale. Unshaven.


Something tried to begin in his mind.


“Dr. Rush?”


“Nick, can you talk to me?”


“Come on. Hi. Can you talk to me?”


That was a question.


“Say something, hotshot.”


He couldn’t.


He couldn’t.


“Don’t panic,” Young said, slow and emphatic, “Carter’s said—“


Words broke against a wall of infinite potential.


“—had to turn it on before we really got any kind of baseline for you so there’s—


Baseline?


“—adjustment.  You know?”


He did not know. He tried to speak through the pressure he could feel against his thoughts, but couldn’t do it.


“We’re going to fix this,” Young said slowly, both hands raised. “It can be fixed.”


It was hard to fix his gaze or thoughts.


“Is he awake?” Lam asked, the words falling atop quiet clicks.


“Yeah,” Young replied, his gaze shifting. “He hasn’t said anything though.”


“I’ll call Carter,” Lam said. “She stayed on base.”


“Hey,” Young said again. “Hotshot. You’re all right.”


Something had been pressing and did presently press down against his thoughts and, in an effort to press back, he brought his hands to his temples where he encountered something that was not—


“Nope,” Young said, coming forward in a blur too fast for Rush to follow, his fingers snapping shut around his wrists, a vise in duplication, warm and asymmetric. “Don’t touch that. Don’t do it, hotshot.”


He tried to move his hands.


He couldn’t move his hands.


He couldn’t move his hands and he wanted to.


“No sitting, no panicking, and no touching your new fashion accessories,” Young said. “Yeah?”


“Dr. Rush?” Lam said, white coat against gray wall.


He could not answer her.


“He was going after the cortical suppressors,” Young said.


“So he’s localizing,” Lam replied. “Good.”


Good?  How is this ‘good’? He’s not normal.”


“Dr. Rush, we’re going to help you,” Lam said. “At the moment, some of your cortical processes are being actively inhibited by a device designed by Dr. McKay and Dr. Zelenka. We just need to—“ 


He couldn’t follow the running glaze of her words. He looked at Young.


“I don’t think he’s getting this. I mean, does he look like he’s getting this to you?” Young asked, voice low and slow and smooth as his grip tightened around Rush’s wrists. “Because to me, he looks like he’s about ten seconds away from—”


Rush continued to look at him, but Young did not say what he thought would happen in ten seconds.


Dr. Lam was standing next to Colonel Young. “We’re going to help you,” she said slowly, looking him in the eye.


He looked at Young.


“Yup,” Young agreed.


“Hi.”


He flinched at the abrupt presentation of blonde hair, not certain where his gaze should fall or be directed. 


“Dr. Rush, my name is Sam.”


Young was looking at her.


Lam was looking at her.


So he looked at her.


“Hi,” Sam said again, but more slowly.


She didn’t look like Gloria.


Gloria was dead, he was fair sure about that one.


Wasn’t he?


“This is not how I pictured meeting you,” Sam said.


“You pictured meeting him?” Young asked.


“Um, that came out wrong,” Sam said, her smile turning right-handed.


She was holding something.


He recognized the thing that she was holding when she set it on the table and unfolded it against hinged resistance. A computer.


He wanted to touch it.


But he couldn’t move his hands.


“Okay,” Sam said slowly.  “I think we’re ready.”


“You don’t need the physical interface?” Lam asked.


“No,” Sam said, her eyes fixed on him. “I configured it for remote adjustment because I thought it would be less upsetting.”


He didn’t understand what was happening.


“Hey,” Young said, “Nick. This might make your head feel a little—weird.”


“Okay,” Sam said, her eyes intent. “Dialing down. Nice and slow.”


Her eyes darted back and forth between him and her laptop and with the snap of releasing resistance he—


He—


He realized—


He realized he was—


He was undressed on the base in the infirmary on level twenty one and he had been here for a significant amount of time; he remembered coming here and things seemed different from when he had come; he wasn’t entirely sure why but when he thought about it he realized the people around him had been wearing different clothes and the room was mostly empty there were only four other people in it: Colonel Young and Dr. Lam and the medic, Johansen who was blonde, and Sam who was also blonde. How had he gotten here? He had been working on maths; he had put symbols onto walls in semiotic scrawls and there had been piano at some point and Gloria was definitely dead that was true, that was axiom, he knew that, right? Or did he? Because he’d been talking to someone but his index of suspicion that his mind had been partitioned by a boundary condition into a disaster of cognition he found an awful imposition—fuck. Fuck it was high. He was losing his mind. That was what had been and probably also was currently happening, unfortunately.


“Hotshot?” Young asked. “Can you talk?”


“Yes,” he said, as he realized that he could.


“Good,” Young said slowly.


“Tell me your name,” Lam said, and she sat down next to him on the gurney on which he was lying, and he watched her do it, white matching to white as she sat in her coat on the sheets and she looked at him and her eyes were dark and honest so he decided to answer her even though he didn’t understand why she would ask him this question because she should already know the answer.


“Nicholas Rush,” he said.


She nodded because he had gotten it right and then she asked him another question. “Do you know where you are?”


That one was harder because it was vague. In a bed? On level 21? In the infirmary? On the base?  Under a mountain? Up a road? Outside a city? Within a state? A state that had a name and that name was Colorado.


“No,” he said.


Young looked away.


“That’s okay. You’re in the infirmary,” Lam said, slow and careful and unflinching.


Why was the infirmary the correct answer?


“Why?” he asked her.


“Because you’re sick,” she said. “Do you know what month it is?”


That one was less vague. “August.”


“Good,” she said.


“Can I—“ Sam began, completing her thought with a circular gesture.


Lam nodded. “Slowly,” she said. “Very slowly.”


“Do you remember why you’re here?” Lam asked.


“Because I’m sick,” he said, narrowing his eyes at her. He had just asked that without meaning to ask it but that didn’t change the fact that she had answered, did she think he wouldn’t remember? He didn’t like that because it didn’t seem right to him.


“Right, but do you remember what happened?” Young said, his hands tightening around Rush’s wrists briefly. “That’s what she’s asking. That’s all, hotshot. Just talk to us, yeah? You’ve got to talk so we can get the calibration right.” 


“I remember—“ he broke off at the feeling of some resistance unguessed at giving way in his mind and he realized that Young was anxious, that he’d never seen him so anxious, not in the hallway, not in his apartment, not running from the Lucian Alliance oh god the Alliance; had they done something to him? They had wanted to, or at least that was what people were telling him in words and in actions, but they had wanted him not the destruction of his mind and with a jolt of self-insight he realized that he was not thinking correctly that there were things that were happening here that he did not understand such as why everyone was so quiet and so frightened and speaking so slowly and who the fuck was “Sam” and why was she sitting there—


“What is she doing,” he snapped, looking at Sam and realizing that she must be Carter and that there was something attached to his head, and—


“Nick,” Young said, leaning forward and displacing Lam. “Hey. It’s okay. Trust me on this one. Do you trust me?”


“No,” Rush breathed, trying to move, but moving too slow, trying to back up, but held by his hands, trying to sit, trying to—


“You have,” Young said, his finger tightening around Rush’s wrists, “a cortical suppressor attached to your head, hotshot. Do you know what that means?”


He should, for fuck’s sake, he should know what that meant.


“No,” he breathed.


“It’s—“ Young seemed to lose his momentum and he glanced at Carter but it was Lam who spoke.


“It’s suppressing abnormal brain waves,” Lam said, “but it’s also suppressing other things. Things it shouldn’t be suppressing. We’re calibrating it right now.”


“But in order to do that, you have to talk to us, hotshot,” Young said.


Rush decided that he was in no way impressed or swayed by Young’s arguments and decided that rather than talking the best use of his time would be ripping off whatever alien thing it was that that was attached to his head for fuck’s sake but Young had a good grip on him, and, as the physical space of the room expanded in a vertiginous spread, he wasn’t sure if he was pulling away or hanging on to the other man.


“Talk,” Young said, quiet and insistent.


He couldn’t fucking talk like this. Who could converse when their sense of self was a platform so plastic that it was entirely impossible to find or maintain a base on the shifting, expanding plane of concept and thought and fuck if something hadn’t been terribly, terribly wrong with him, maybe it still was, one did not fix biological problems with an application of a circuit to the exterior of a human skull


He was going to rip this fucking thing off his fucking head.


“I am going to rip this fucking thing off my fucking head.”


“Don’t do that,” Young said through gritted teeth, partially pulled out of his chair by the determined contraction of Rush’s biceps against the resistance of his countered pressure. “It’s helping you.”


He tried to sit, tried to unite his fingers with his temples.


“It’s a cortical suppressor,” Lam said, her hands on his shoulders then replaced with Johansen’s as Lam shifted her grip to help Young. “It’s a cortical suppressor,” low and calm and very close to him, “and it’s helping you.”


“Nick,” Young said, grimacing as if in pain. “Try to relax.”


“It’s a cortical suppressor and it’s helping you,” Lam said again, low and calm and close.


“This is not better,” Young said, looking over at Carter.


“He’s normalizing,” Carter said, intent on her screen. “You’d want to rip that thing off too, I’m sure, once you realized what it was doing.”


“It’s a cortical suppressor and it’s helping you,” Lam said.


A cortical suppressor—why would a cortical suppressor help him? Why would he need any such thing?


“Deep breaths,” Johansen said slowly, holding him down. “You’re okay. Just ride it out.”


“Can we give him something?” Young said.


“No,” Lam said, before she looked at Rush and said, “It’s a cortical suppressor and it’s helping you.”


With another snap of releasing awareness he realized that the thing on his temples, the thing that was a cortical suppressor, drove these stepwise increases in his cognitive capacity. With that knowledge came the concomitant cognizance that the four people in the room with him were trying to help him because whatever it was that was happening, exactly, had the upward-downward inverse genuflection of traversing a normal distribution.


Right. Normalizing.


Someone had used that word.


Carter had used it.


He knew what that meant.


A Gaussian function.


“It’s a cortical suppressor and it’s helping you,” Lam whispered as though she, she, were the one in agony, her hands cold and now atop the palm-to-palm clasping where Young had interwoven their fingers in a desperate and atypical threading.


“God damn he’s strong,” Young said through gritted teeth.


“It’s a cortical suppressor and it’s helping you,” Lam said again.


A cortical suppressor.


As if they could influence neural electrodynamics through his skull and skin.


Or.


Perhaps they could?


They had, after all, constructed vessels capable of interstellar travel.


He stopped the sustained contraction of his hands toward his head with such abruptness that their forces, unopposed, unbalanced all four of them.


Lam staggered, unsteady on her low heels while Young fell back into the chair that Rush had pulled him out of, their hands a fulcrum for their shifting forces. Johansen steadied herself, her hands pressed to his shoulders.


“God damn,” Young hissed.


“Dr. Rush?” Lam asked.


“Excuse me, but what the fuck are you doing?” he asked, looking at Carter.


“We’re trying to help you, hotshot,” Young said, leaning forward stiffly, his hands still closed with Rush’s, palm-to-palm.


“I meant specifically,” Rush said, overriding another cresting wave of desire to divest himself of his device.


“Specifically,” Carter said, her eyes darting between him and her laptop, “we’re generating an electromagnetic signature with two devices affixed to your temples. That signature destructively interferes with the abnormal brain waves that you’ve been exhibiting for at least the past two days.”


“At least,” Young repeated, looking at him pointedly.


He tried to recall the past few days and came up with a vague recollection of a biological explanation for what he had interpreted at the time as some kind of excursion at the tail end of the Gaussian distribution of sanity.


With an effort of will, he snapped events into a linear order. Altera with its tones and overtones, his wall and his endless iterations of deface and repaint, the game, the cyphers, meetings with Dr. Perry, not sleeping, the piano, oh god what had he been thinking, the piano, and then the D-minor and its Ancient variant, and—


Gloria.


Gloria who was dead.


She was dead, wasn’t she?


Yes she was.


Right.


He made an effort to snatch a hand away from Young, but Young did not let go.


“How are you feeling?” Carter asked quietly.


“Pure wrecked,” Rush replied.


He felt Johansen’s hands drop away from his shoulders.


“Yeah,” Carter said, sympathetic and competent, her expression tight, as if she had, in some way, failed. “There’s no delicate way to put this, really, so I’m just going to come out and say it explicitly to make sure you realize what’s happening. What I’m doing here?” she waved an open hand at the computer, “is putting a customizable, computational filter on your mental functioning by use of an algorithm that can modify the electrical interference pattern applied via the devices you’re wearing.”


Small wonder he felt sub par.


“Yes,” Rush said, exhaustion precipitating into his mind and voice. “I’m aware.”


He made another halfhearted attempt to free his hands from Young’s grip, but got nowhere.


“We’re going to have to calibrate this over several sessions,” Carter said, “to make sure it’s not compromising your baseline mental functioning or affecting your insight.”


“I’m sure it is,” Rush said, feeling the borders on his cognitive capacity as if they were physical things that contained him. “I feel like I imagine Colonel Young feels on a daily basis.”


Carter tried not to smile, and mostly failed.


“Thanks, jackass,” Young said.  “Thanks a lot.”


Rush made another unsuccessful attempt to reclaim his hands, then said, “I’m unclear as to why such careful calibration is required. Surely this isn’t going to be a permanent arrangement.”


Carter tried to smile, and mostly failed.


“We aren’t sure,” Lam said. “We still haven’t determined what caused your neurological symptoms. Until we can find the root cause and reverse it, we’re going to have to settle for controlling the symptoms.”


“Fantastic,” Rush said, finally managing to snap his right hand out of Young’s grip.


“Do not—“ Young began, as Lam stepped forward, her hands coming up as if to prevent him from touching his head.


Rush opened his hand and they both froze. “I’m not going to remove it,” he said, then slowly reached toward his temple, running his fingers along the device affixed to the right side of his head. It was small and square, with rounded edges, evidently constructed of a light, metallic alloy.


“It’s relatively non-hackable and minimally trackable, as McKay put it,” Carter said, watching Rush’s fingers with anxious attention.


“Relatively non-hackable?” he repeated, with as much skepticism as he could pack into a set of eight syllables. He looked pointedly at her computer, and then back at her.


“Minimally trackable?” Young asked.


“Well,” Carter said, “it will be non-hackable once we disable the built-in wireless receiver, which we’ll do as soon as you’re satisfied with your cognitive baseline.”


Rush shot her a dark look.


She cocked her head in a manner imbued with apology. “It’s not ideal, I admit, but it’s as secure as we can make it. As for the tracking—“ she glanced at Young, “the device is meant to broadcast transdermally, and we’ve tried to minimize its over-the-air transmission with directional shielding. Even so, there’s going to be some leakage of a unique signature. With an extremely sensitive detector, looking for it specifically, in an open environment without interference, I’d imagine that it would be detectable at a range of about ten kilometers.”


Rush shrugged, unimpressed.


“Ten kilometers?” Young growled.


“So, not detectable from orbit,” Carter said, with determined optimism.


Young sighed and looked away.


“What happens if I—“ Rush began, curving his hand, sweeping his fingers around the perimeter of the device, looking for any kind of obvious power source.


“Don’t,” four people said in tandem, hands outstretched but stopping as he stopped.


He looked at them, eyebrows elevated.


“You’ve had a rougher time of it than you remember, I think,” Young said, into the ensuing quiet.


“We can modify the code together,” Carter said, looking at him, absently pressing one hand to her chest, as if it pained her. “Dr. Perry and I have already started tweaking it.”


“I can’t work like this,” Rush said.


“Maybe that’s a good thing,” Young said.


Rush stared at him.


“Or not,” Young said, mildly.


“I’m confident that we can get you back to your baseline,” Carter said. “The last five percent—“


“The last five percent is the most important,” Rush hissed at Carter.


“I know,” she replied. “Believe me. I know it is. We just need a little more time, the appropriate stimuli, and some algorithmic tweaking.”


“We’ll bring this under control,” Lam said quietly, “while we pursue an etiology.”


Johansen nodded, her expression unreadable behind the mask of competence.


Young looked at him, tired and unshaven and strangely incomplete without the orchestral backing that waited in the wings of Rush’s consciousness.


“Right then,” he said, lacking any other options.


 

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