Actions

Work Header

The End Of Silence

Chapter Text

 

1. Awakening

 

After long, quiet months of continuous flying through the void between two galaxies in FTL mode, the main computer aboard Destiny received instructions to call several subroutines to start a sequence for reinstating life support.

 

Switch on console after console. Activate corridor after corridor, and room after room: turn on oxygen supply, gravity, temperature controls and light. Provide proper environmental conditions.

 

The spaceship Destiny equipped with its durable and efficient computers, and an Artificial Intelligence built deeply in the midst of it’s internal systems, was the most progressive and revolutionary piece of technology of it’s time. The builders made tremendous efforts to send her on a journey that they knew would not only outlast themselves, but until the time to end all times. This is how it was planned and how it will continue.

 

Destiny started her journey hundreds of thousands of years ago, or even longer, during a time before anything existed on Earth that could be called a human being. Her programming commands her to stop the automatically set course in a few cases only. This course tells her to fly from one galaxy to the next, collect data, arrange and archive it, then to calculate the jump to the next galaxy and start again.

 

Several hundreds of thousands of years have passed, doing nothing but this, only interrupted by a few turbulent moments. In all this time the ship managed, because of its flexible and adaptive AI, to even rid itself of quite persistent invaders, so that it could continue her flight again, although not without sustaining some minor damages. The whole ship was despite its age, elegant, even if some areas had a fair amount of patina.

 

Destiny’s automatic program to collect data could only be interrupted while dialling the ship’s gate, or if a crewmember manually overrode the command to make an unscheduled stop. In both cases the ship would stop the FTL flight mode and float only with sub light engines through space. Normally the ship must pause and recharge the engines at certain stars, or it must stop near a particular gate and contact one of the seed ships. Seed ships build and set up the gates on selected planets, and are ahead of Destiny by an unspecific amount of time, to correct the future trajectory.

 

The creators of Destiny made sure the survival of a human crew has priority over the accomplishing of the ship’s mission, therefore, all life supporting systems take precedence over collecting data, as long as the mission itself is not at risk. Time is meaningless.

 

Ensure the survival of the crew. Examine the stasis chambers. Dwell with them. See their joy. Feel their mourning. Lament with them about every loss. Waiting for an answer from a seed ship, which will never answer again. Realizing another one is gone. Check the flight path. Watch their curiosity. See them being together. Understand their emotions – but a ship does not know about emotions. Make them understand. Guide them if necessary. Undertake security tests. Learned so much. So many questions left. My crew without an exception. Time is change. Time spent with humans is adaption to change.

 

* * *

 

After three years, nine months, twenty-three days, eight hours and forty-eight seconds, the FTL engine stopped and Destiny slipped slowly, and smoothly, despite her huge form, into an even speed through space. Twelve hours later the ship would recharge her energy reserves on one of the first stars at the rim of a new galaxy. Then Destiny would look for a planet with an intact stargate and the particular environmental conditions that her crew would need to be able to refill their supplies.

 

Now that the life support systems were fully online the computer started to bring stasis chambers with higher priority online. In eight of them temperature, air supply, and a dimmed light inside the stasis chamber was activated. After a while the doors of the chambers, or "pods", slid open towards the ceiling. The humans inside the pods opened their eyes, one after another, and emerged out of the small, high boxes.

 

Colonel Young stabilized himself on the doorframe, seemingly in need of more time to

become accustomed to his surroundings. Dr. Rush, Lieutenant Scott, Sergeant Greer, Lieutenant Johansen, Chloe Armstrong and Camille Wray had the same problems. Rush tumbled awkwardly from the chamber into the corridor, looking first at the broken capsule left for Eli.

Before he reached it, he could see Eli stumbling out of his pod. His eyes met Young’s in that very moment. Young gave him a short nod, which he answered back in relief.

 

Young was the first one who reacted and spoke in his natural and easy way. „I cannot say how happy I am to see you again safe and sound, Eli!“ And without hesitation he cordially hugged the young man.

 

While Eli tried to peel away from his arms, he said, "You have no idea how happy I am to be here, now, and in one piece. For a while it didn’t look good. But in the end I made it, against the odds." At the same time he saw Rush and his gaze darkened for a short moment. But then he saw Chloe and TJ and he started to smile again. "It’s a long story. I’ll tell you later. But now, I need a bit of time to adjust to all of this!"

 

Rush gave him a short nod. "Mr. Wallace, I’m very relieved to see you..." But Eli interrupted him impatiently, "Yeah, I’m fine, nothing happened."

 

Chloe, who had been helping Scott, came over and stood between Eli and Rush. "Hey you two, what’s going on here?" Then she looked confused at Eli. 'What’s that!' she asked herself.

 

But before the situation could become more awkward, TJ got her chance. "Okay, folks, whatever you want to say to each other, I don’t care. I want to see all of you in the infirmary. ASAP!" And with an alarming glance to Rush, Eli, and Young she added: "No Exception. I don’t care who’s first, just one after another. So, who’ll be first?"

 

Scott and Greer answered more or less at the same time, "Me!"

 

"I’ll go with you," said Chloe, and left the room, followed by Scott and Greer.

 

On her way out TJ took one of the radios from a console near the entrance. She stopped, turned and said to those left behind, "Take your radios with you, and switch them on. When I’m finished with them, I’d like to continue with you. Don’t make me wait. Thank you!" TJ sounded tired and on edge.

 

Camille who observed the whole situation without saying anything, suddenly felt very uneasy. "Somebody should get in contact with SGC!" she said to Young, who had stayed behind with Eli and Rush.

 

"Yeah, of course, but we’re not in a big hurry," said Young. "We can do that later. Rush! Eli! First let’s check the systems. Is it possible to use the bridge? What about energy, supplies, water? Is it possible to get more people out of stasis?"

 

Rush, who was already busy on one of the consoles, cleared his throat and answered without looking up from the display. "The ship is approaching a star. We should reach it in about seven hours. Our reserves are close to zero. So, no, we don’t have access to the bridge, not yet, at least. Those systems would require too much energy. Supplies and water?" He looked over to Eli, who didn’t react. "How much was left, before you entered the stasis pod, Eli?"

 

"Um, yes, there’s enough water, but no food, aside from the rest of this quite tasty protein stuff we brought with us from Icarus," Eli said, looking at Young, disregarding Rush.

 

'Since when does Eil not answer someone who’s talking to him?' Young looked irritated at Eli and then Rush, but decided to ignore the tension between the two. "Okay, not great, but better than nothing."

 

Young noticed Rush looking irritated as well, as if he just realized how uncharacteristically cold Eli reacted towards him. But Rush seemed to be tired, or too occupied with other things to care, and went on with what he was doing. Finally he told Young, "Eli and I’ll have a look at the consoles in the control interface room. Then we can check all the other stasis pods. But, it might be wise not to wake all the people at once. After we have recharged the ship in the star, we can go on to another group so we have enough people to get supplies on the next planet, which we’ll reach tomorrow, by the way. And after that, we could go on with the rest."

 

"Yes, good. Do it, Rush!"

 

"Um, sorry Colonel, but do you mind if I delay this for a few minutes? I need to visit the bathroom," said Rush, and was gone without waiting for an answer.

 

Before Young could do anything, Eli was behind Rush, saying "me too!" And only two seconds later, Young realized suddenly that this might actually be a good idea and followed them without waiting. But just before he was out of the room he heard Camille, calling, "How about water for everyone?"

 

"Great idea," Young called back and took one of the radios from the console in front of the door, just as Rush and Eli had.

 

* * *

 

In the meantime TJ, Greer, Scott and Chloe arrived in the infirmary. When they opened the door, the light went on automatically, but stayed dimmed. 'That’s strange', TJ thought, 'I’ve never seen the ship dimming the light in the middle of the day.' But before she could linger on that thought she realized she was horribly thirsty. So she went to the sink, took some cups off a nearby shelf, and filled them with water. Intuitively she smelled the first cup, but after she found nothing suspicious she gave one to everybody. "Drink this. Slowly. All of it!"

 

"Yes ma’am!" answered Greer in his typical manner, while Scott and Chloe took the cups, and drank them empty, without saying anything. After a while Chloe, saying more to herself, than to anybody else, "This is strange, first I had the urge to go to the bathroom, but when I was there, I got the feeling it was much ado about nothing, and now that I’m really thirsty, I’d prefer not to drink."

 

"I felt the same. But maybe this is a natural thing for somebody who has just come out of a stasis pod," said TJ.

 

"Quite possible," Scott agreed, while Greer just nodded his head in approval.

 

* * *

 

Rush sighed faintly and rubbed both hands over his face. 'How daft is that? A moment ago I thought I needed to go, and now. Whatever.' He pressed a button and waited until the mist stopped running into the ancient version of a toilet bowl. Then he stood up, pulled up his blue jeans, tucked in his t-shirts, and buckled the belt. Like everyone, he was used to the fact that everything was cleaned automatically. So, without wasting a thought about it, he opened the door and left the stall. He then went over to a sink to wash his hands under a device that delivered a kind of mist and ultraviolet light.

 

After a moment Eli and Colonel Young came out of their stalls, and also put their hands under the enlightened mist, both of them scowling.

 

With a side glance to Rush Young said, "Didn’t work?"

 

"Not really," Rush answered.

 

Eli’s reaction was more of an agreeing harrumph sound, and then he sighed and said, "I could really drink something. I’ll catch Camille on her way!"

 

"Good, I’ll go to the control interface room, will we see you later, Eli?" Rush asked.

 

"Yes, I’ll be there," he said and went to the mess hall.

 

"Are you going to come with me, Colonel Young? When I’ve finished, I’ll go directly to the stasis pods and check on everybody there."

 

"Yes, as long as TJ doesn’t call me, it makes more sense to see everything first hand."

 

* * *

 

Meanwhile, Camille Wray was in the mess hall arranging a tray with eight cups full of water. Just before she left, she started to drink one, but then she wrinkled her nose and put it back on a corner of the tray. Then she went to the infirmary first since it was closest to her.

When she turned around the corner, she could hear TJ’s soft voice. Then she saw the four cups standing on the nearby side tables and said with a small smile in her face, "Right, I should have thought about that, of course you have water here!"

 

"That’s absolutely okay, Camille! Thank you anyway. But you should really drink some yourself," TJ said friendly while checking Greer’s blood pressure.

 

"I tried, but I think I’m not that thirsty!"

 

"It’s the same for all of us. Do it anyway, your body needs it. But drink it slowly, one sip at a time. And when you’re finished, it would be nice if you’d take the tray to the control interface room, and make sure all three of them empty their cups."

 

"Yes, I’ll do that. And I’ll stand there looking grim until they all drink to the very last drop. And then they’ll hate me. Especially Rush!" She said with a wink, and started to drink as she was told. Then she left.

 

After he realized that he missed Camille in the mess hall, Eli went back to the control interface room, still thirsty, and started to activate the second console next to Rush. Rush was concentrating on the display of his console, unaware of anything around him.

 

When Camille approached the room she could hear, aside from the constant very low hum of the ship, the voices of Eli and Rush, and the gentle clicks and beeps they made by working at the consoles.

 

Camille went into the room and put one of the cups on Eli’s console. Then she went around him to give Rush his cup, who was sitting at the other console. She gave the last cup to Young who was standing next to Rush. Then she said, "Your water, with best regards from TJ. You must drink all of it, slowly!"

 

Camille stood her ground and looked at the two men in front of her. Eli was the only one who didn’t hesitate, and started to drink while she had still been talking, but after a few sips he stopped, and placed the cup back onto the console. A moment later Camille saw a not too avid look on Young’s face, although he drank as ordered. Only Rush stopped drinking after the first sip, wrinkled his nose in disdain, and put the cup onto the console.

"TJ said you must drink all the water, with no exceptions!" Camille slowly articulated, while she looked pointedly at Rush.

"I’ll drink this later!" He said hesitating and reluctant.

 

"Yes, of course, and then you’ll conveniently forget, something you always do when trying to avoid things you don’t want to do. So, do yourself a favour, and drink. Now!" Camille answered quiet, but firm, still focusing on him.

 

Eli and Young drank their water reluctantly, but Rush started to go on with his work, trying to ignore Camille glaring at him. After a few moments he asked Eli to acknowledge something, but when he didn’t hear anything, he looked at Eli, and finally back to Camille, who was still there, continuing to stare at him. When he met her gaze she raised an eyebrow. Rush looked back to Eli, who was now busy at his console. Then back to Young to look for another ally. But when Young just gave a shrug Rush took the cup, and drank, hesitatingly. After he finished he put the cup back and looked at Young, and back to Camille with his best mean-traitor-look.

 

"Well, look, it wasn’t that hard, was it?" Camille said mockingly.

 

"Yes, yes, I get it!" Rush answered quickly. "Would it now be possible to go on with our work? Eli? I’m still waiting for an answer!" He continued impatiently, but then he stopped halfway and said softly, and casually, so that only Camille was able to hear, "Thank you, Camille!"

One second later he was again preoccupied by his Console.

 

* * *

 

Eight hours later the ship was recharged and another group of crewmembers were able to leave their stasis pods. In several habitable parts of the ship, people were doing different kinds of work, which was needed to start life again on Destiny.

 

This is the end of silence. What will come this time?

 

Unfortunately, with the newly awoken group there was a victim to bemoan, Dr. Inman, one of the analytical chemists. She was beloved by everyone for her bright charm and her continually great inventions of new flavouring agents for the sometimes-strange tasting food. She had died during the awakening process.

 

Rush was the first who saw the missing life signs on the small control board next to the door of her pod. He understood immediately what it meant and reacted uncharacteristically emotionally, by ramming his fist into the wall. Not surprisingly, he knew the wall was too hard for doing something like that, which was, of course, anticipated. But, nonetheless this idiotic act helped him by causing him enough pain to overcome his emotions. Before anybody else was able to realise what had happened, he concealed his pain, and went on as if nothing had happened.

 

For a split second he thought he saw Gloria, who stood there, smiling and shaking her head, gently speaking a word he couldn’t understand. But when he focused, the only thing he saw was a rusty metal wall.

 

'Great, since I stopped the ship’s simulation program months ago, this means, I’m hallucinating. Again,' he thought, while his blood pressure went slowly back to normal.

 

"How silly. Did you really think this would get you somewhere?" – She doesn’t always understand the humans.

 

'Somebody there? No? No. Damn now the hand starts to hurt. You idiot. You are a reasonable scientist, not Colonel Young. Don’t act like him,' he thought before he took the radio from his belt to report to Young what he had just found.

 

Colonel Young was, as expected, upset and insisted on checking all the other pods immediately, as if by doing so, it was possible to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again. That’s why he pushed all the scientists to hurry with their work, only to realize, after a few minutes, as he calmed down, that this won’t really save anyone. Finally he apologized to them. Colonel Young recognized that it was not only hard for him to lose one of his crew, but for others as well.

 

The only thing that could be done for Dr. Inman was to put her back into the stasis pod, in order to stop the degeneration of the body until TJ would be able to do a pathological examination. Thankfully no one else was lost.

 

* * *

 

Late in the evening, just before midnight, according to "Destiny standard time" everything was done, and the entire group of 32 people where able to get some rest and sleep. Shortly before that time, while a few people were still working, the computer showed additional information about the planet they would reach a few hours later. The duty for the next morning was to gate to that planet to find fresh water and food.

 

Each team for off world missions were composed of a mixed crew, so that aboard Destiny, and on the planet there were enough specialists for each necessary task. A rotation of an even number of soldiers and scientists where chosen to ensure that everyone could become proficient in different tasks required on missions, and that eventually all the necessary work on the teams could be preformed by anyone. Last but not least, every one of those 32 people should be able to leave the ship for some fresh air, and a little bit of sunshine too.

It had taken Camile a long time, and even more words, to convince Young to involve the scientists in more of the off-world teams, so that in the end, everybody, regardless of his or her profession, felt a part of one united crew.

 

This time everyone needed to go to the planet, even Eli, Rush, TJ and Young, who more often stayed behind for security reasons. Therefore it was planned to divide them into different groups, so that Eli and Young were part of the first group, and TJ and Rush part of the next one. So this was the schedule for the following day.

 

Now, after midnight, nearly everyone was asleep. TJ, who stayed a bit longer working in the infirmary, finally went to the bathroom to take a shower. She was looking forward to enveloping herself in the wonderful warm mist and then going to her bed with a marvellous relaxed and clean feeling.

 

When she opened the door to the bathroom, she realized somebody who looked like a man had the same idea. The room was not locked, assuming whoever was taking a shower didn’t mind sharing the bathroom with anyone who came in. TJ hesitated at first and wondered if whether she should ask whomever it was to hurry up and finish and wait outside. The bathrooms on the other floors were still closed, so she couldn’t go elsewhere. The communal use of bathrooms was forbidden among the soldiers, and, anyway she preferred to take a shower in private, or if necessary with other women. But she decided that she didn’t want to wait, and so she ignored the rules and went in.

 

She could see a person dimly through the milky shower door, who was slightly bent and was running his hands through half long hair. Only then did the head show above the door and she recognized Rush, who stood with his back towards her, unaware that he was not longer alone.

 

When she cleared her throat to draw his attention, he turned to look at her and said shyly: "Oh, I’m sorry! I ... I’ll be finished directly. I didn’t think anyone would come to take a shower this late!"

 

"It’s okay. Take your time. You didn’t lock the door. I’ll take the stall over there, if you don’t mind!"

 

Then he turned around again with his back to her and said, "You know, I always have the showers to myself. I prefer to come here when everyone on my shift is asleep, and the next group is already at work. So, locking the door is not necessary, and since I don’t have problems with breaking any military rules...!"

 

TJ understood the pointed remark as what it was, raised her eyebrow scowling a little bit, but let it be. She just wanted to have some quietness to enjoy her shower.

 

It seems Rush got the message, and continued with his shower and didn’t mention anything more. Then TJ realized that he was just relaxing in the warm mist, happy that he could stay a little longer. She smiled, and went to a bench on the opposite, farthest wall from Rush’s shower stall. Eventually she took off her uniform, shoes and socks, took her towel and went over to the stall closest to her. She closed the door and took off the rest of her clothes, put them over the frame of the door, and finally switched on the shower. After a few seconds the whole stall was filled with fine warm mist, which felt like heaven on earth. She leaned her head back and fully enjoyed the relaxing sensation.

 

'The showers will be one of the things I’d really miss, when and if we are ever able to leave Destiny', she thought sleepy. Then she heard the quiet sound of bare feet on the floor, so she turned instinctively around to the source of the noise. Rush had left his stall and had gone over to the bench where his clothes were piled up. Not extremely orderly, like they’d learned to do in the military, but also not undisciplined or in chaos.

During the brief moment she looked at him, her brain memorized unconsciously everything her eyes noticed. First there was still the scar on his chest, not large, but clearly different in colour from the relatively white, hairless skin in the area around the scar. She had never seen him without any clothes; despite the fact the he’d been in the infirmary for several days on several occasions. Now she could see that he had a very slight build for a man, but at the same time masculine. 'He could use a few pounds more', she thought as she turned her head around to give him a bit of privacy.

 

"You really should go to bed now, we have a hard day in front of us tomorrow." TJ said.

  

"I know. I was there with everybody else during the briefing!" Rush answered her, continuing to dress himself.

  

"Yes, I saw you. But I also know you. You never get enough sleep!"

"Yes, I’ve heard that before. But now, I’m really dog-tired. What about you?" Rush asked, as he put on his shoes. He winced noticeably, his hand reminding him of the abuse he’d done to it a few hours before.

 

TJ who hadn’t noticed, replied, "I needed to do something which couldn’t wait. But after the shower, I’ll go to bed too!"

 

Finally he got up and while leaving the room, he said tiredly, "Good night, Lieutenant Johansen!"

 

"Good night!" she called after him. Now she could indulge in one of the few pleasures the ship was able to offer.

  

* * *

Chapter Text

2. Off-world

Breakfast the next morning was quiet. It was necessary to ration the already small portions they had even more, and a few people were not happy about that. Though everyone understood the reason why.
Colonel Young and Camile Wray contacted SGC together very early in the morning to report that they were out of stasis, and to bring back the latest news from earth. In the following days all of them would be able to contact their relatives and friends on earth as soon as possible.

Young scheduled a briefing during breakfast to group people, and to talk about everything they needed to know. He and Eli where in the first group to find and collect water and food along with 15 others.

After the briefing in the mess hall, everyone went to change into appropriate clothes and prepare all necessary equipment. Eli also got the kino sled ready to transport heavy items.

The newly completed kino analysis of the planet gave them more information about the nearly perfect conditions, and the rich flora directly around the stargate itself.
"I hope we won't find any big, ravenously hungry predators down there!" Scott said playfully. He was with Chloe as part of the first team.
Eli didn't like the remark in the least. He knew the data Destiny had access to and the kino was able to collect wasn't a safe guarantee. Anything could happen down there. Although it showed, most of the time dangerous encounters between the off world teams and alien beasts or flora were rare. But nonetheless the soldiers were always keyed up and everybody was especially watchful. None of the civilians where allowed to be without the protection of at least one soldier.

Rush and Brody stood observing their control consoles in the gate room, while the first off world group disappeared through the shimmering, water-like surface of the event horizon.
One minute later Young informed Destiny that the away team arrived safely on the planet and that everything was fine: "we'll call back in half an hour, Rush!"
"All right, till half an hour then. Rush out!"

Then the event horizon collapsed with its typical fizzling noise and the gate room went into a certain silence.

"All right, Mister Brody, will you stay here to monitor the consoles? I'd like to go to the bridge and check on the systems."
Rush's statement was not meant as a question, it was clear what he wanted to hear from Brody. Brody also realized that Rush had mellowed his harsh behaviour towards him and others of the crew. Now Rush didn't irritate him as much as he did before.
"Yes, I'll do so. I'll pass on the important requests, and inform you and everyone when the first supplies come in so we'll have enough people to bring things in and store them!"
"Good. I'm on the bridge then, until I hear from you." Rush answered briefly, turned and left to go to the elevator.

 

* * *

Arriving on the bridge, Rush started immediately to turn on the consoles and check the data. After a while he got a vague impression somebody was watching him, so he turned around and looked at each station close to the niches of the windows on the bridge. But when he saw nothing unusual, he returned to his work, trying to ignore the slight nagging feeling he had in the back of his mind.

Unseen and mostly unrecognised by everybody, the ship checked on its crew regularly to make sure everything was as it should be. Also, once and a while Destiny lingered with one of the crewmembers. The ship didn't favour anyone in particular. During the first few weeks that the observation system was online, after Rush had found the bridge, but before he cut it off again, it stayed with nearly each person for a while to study them as much as possible. It tried especially to understand the social dynamics existing between individuals.
Destiny knew the man they called Dr. Nicholas Rush better than most of them. He was one of the very few who ever had a direct connection to the ship. As a result, he understood not only its systems better, but also had left a part of himself behind. This gave Destiny more insight into humans in general, but also into the man, and even his deepest hidden thoughts he'd never told to anybody else.
The abilities of the observation system were not completely telepathic in nature. The ship was able to detect even the slightest emotion and in combination with a person’s body language, it could read their intentions, and also, if necessary, manipulate them somewhat. Equipped with such skills it was able to send people complex simulations to guide or simply help them through difficult times. But it was not able to force them into a specific action.
Because Jeremy Franklin had become part of its consciousness, it was also able to understand some of their emotions better than it would have before. During the time it had to study Ginn and Amanda with their respective partners, it learned something about humans it hadn’t known before. Though it was no longer able to connect to those three people, they were now a part of her systems. Aside from that, Destiny was still very far away from understanding everything her human crew did.
No one was aware that Destiny had gone back into its observation status after the first stasis chambers went online in order to protect her crew during this time.

Time is change. Time spent with humans is adaption to change.

 

* * *

After one hour Brody called asking for as many people as possible to come to the gateroom to receive the water jerry cans and the boxes with food that the off world group sent.
Aside from the small bridge crew, who where helping Rush with his work and TJ who was occupied with the post mortem examination of Dr. Inman, everybody else was able to stop what they were doing to go and carry the heavy jerry cans and the boxes to the storage rooms for further inspection.

"That's a lot of stuff you collected down there!" Brody said. Young's reply from the radio didn't take long. "Yes we've been lucky. We found a small lake near the stargate with good access and pure water! And a lot of plants with fruits and eatable roots growing not far from there. We even found something that looks like some kind of nuts. Everything passed the first tests here. But before we store all of it, it must be inspected a second time aboard Destiny."
"Yes, of course. Usual routine. We'll sent back the big cans and the boxes," answered Brody.
"Okay, we'll call back in half an hour, and send more supplies back in about one hour. Young out."

Emptying the jerry cans and boxes took less than ten minutes, but required from those who had to carry them, everything they could give. The big cans and the full boxes were extremely heavy, and the women especially were barely able to handle them. But what must be done, must be done, so all of them felt like they'd done one of Scott's special workouts after the first round.
Barns being a bit out of breath turned to Greer: "Thank goodness, now we've got at least half an hour until the next round!"
Although Greer showed far less sign of effort than his female comrade, even he looked exhausted. Both of them sat on the stairs in the gaterooom, to take a breath.
After a while Greer said, more to himself, than addressing Barns: "Good to have a break. If I'd be one of the scientists, I'd be forced to continue working right now!"
"Yes!" Barnes said, but added after a short time: "In the beginning I really was pissed about those whiny civilians! I couldn’t have cared less about them. But since we really started to work together I’ve totally changed my mind. Actually, they've earned my respect for a lot of different reasons."
"Yep, indeed", answered Greer. "At first I thought, they're nothing but a bunch of nerds, with no idea about surviving out here. They should be happy we're here to rescue their petty arses all the time. But after a while, I realised they're doing this the whole time for us too, without ever getting our approval for their work. Now, I know what they're doing, and I think they've really earned our respect for their work, too."
"Well, that's right!" Barnes said in approval, "they rescue our arses as much as we do!"
"Yeah, but you know", Greer started, and continued after a short pause with a grinning face: "our arses are in much better shape than theirs! And aside from that, we're always nice and friendly to everybody, regardless who it was. Soldier or civilian!"
"You call that nice and friendly!" Barnes replied to him playful. "I don't want to be your enemy in that case!"
But Greer answered to that whimsically: "Ah, I'm sure Lisa won't share that opinion!"
"But Lisa is biased!" Barnes said.
"No, she's not! She's the most impartial person I've ever met."
"If everything is going as scheduled, she'll be out of stasis tomorrow, and you two can be together again, after three long years!" Barns said now quiet and more serious.
"You know, I miss her!" And Greer smiled to himself while saying that. So, Barnes clapped his knee encouraging. "You both really love each other, don't you?"

But Greer knew that her question was only rhetorical, and didn't need an answer.

 

* * *

In the gateroom the drudgery went on several times and every time the jerry cans seemed to become more and more heavy, and the amount of supplies seemed endless.
'If we got for this damn fagging more than enough supplies for the next few months and we don't have to eat every piece of crap we get from most of the planets we stop at normally, making eating nothing but food intake, I'll do this easily for some more hours!' thought Brody, while he brought in all the stuff the away team sent to Destiny.

In time everybody with the exception of TJ, who was still doing the examination of Dr. Inman, helped to carry food, water and other supplies in for second tests that where necessary to make sure everything was safe before they could start to put things in storage. Even the bridge crew paused their work to go help. But after that tour it was finally time for the second party to go off world. During that time TJ finished her work on Dr. Inman and put her body in a large sheet and put her back into one of the stasis pods until they would have time for her funeral. She ran every test she could think of, and also collected samples for possible further investigation in the future, just in case.

Just before the last round came in Young was brought back aboard Destiny supported by two of his soldiers. He was clearly in pain while he angled his right foot and tried not to let it touch the flour. TJ had just arrived in the gate room to help where necessary and met them immediately asking: "What happened?"
"I sprained my ankle. A damned hole in the ground, completely overgrown, so I didn't see it!" Young said as he made a painful grimace.
"Okay bring him to the infirmary. I'll have a look at it immediately!" TJ said with concern.

While TJ took care of Young's foot, she told him about the results of the post mortem examination of Dr. Inman. As far as TJ could say the Doctor died during the awakening process. Most likely she was not aware of what happened to her. "It's not that rare that people die without a concrete reason, even as often as through some kind of trauma." She tried to explain the situation, mindful that this doesn't diminish the loss, and that such a case seems even more difficult to understand.

Young acknowledged her report with a sad face while listening to her. He knew how much weight things like this put on TJ. 'That's her biggest weakness,' he thought. 'But also her greatest strength, and the reason I fell in love with her.'

 

***

Half an hour later the new group met the incoming people in the gate room. Immediately, people started to group together to report and exchange experiences and tips.

Once and a while there was laughter: Volker obviously told something funny to Brody, because he started to bubble over with laughter, and everybody around them too.

Scott who had led the first team went over to Greer and a group mixed of soldiers and civilians, all of them in fatigues for the mission. They all carried a lot of different equipment, backpacks and bags. Not far away he saw Rush standing and talking to Volker and Eli. It appeared that Rush was giving them some instructions for their work on the bridge.

"It would be best if you have a group of five or six people to get the water. You can get more water if you have people for the kino sled and the others for carrying. Everybody else can collect as much as possible. The water here is absolutely clear and of unbelievable remarkable quality. We won't find another source like this for a long time, that's for sure! Aside from the fact that no one saw any creatures or anything dangerous, you should handle the situation as we did: every civilian has to have an armed soldier as companion, and make sure that no one is alone!" At that moment Scott looked especially at Rush, but then addressing everybody added: "is that understood? "

Brody said: "crystal clear!" and nodded as well as some others in confirmation.
With that the second team went through the stargate to the planet, which welcomed the new group with sunshine, fresh air and a warm temperature. Now it was their turn to do their fair share in collecting the needed supplies.

Those who were back aboard, had time enough to take a shower and change their clothes; before they began to do all the work the previous group had done before.

 

* * *

When the team arrived on the planet, a few of them stayed near the gate for a while to enjoy the fresh air and to look at the beautiful environment of the planet. TJ and Greer, who were the highest ranked officers, started to arrange the times in between.

Greer raised a hand. "Okay, all the guys with me. I need at least five people to carry the water, and another one to move the sled." Then he looked over to Rush and Brody who stood a little bit aside of the group. "This includes Dr. Rush and Mr. Brody over there!"
"But we are two of only three people who are able to do the rapid diagnostic tests on all the new plants we might find!" Brody objected.
"But a good area near this place is already cleared as you can surely see yourself, can't you?" Greer gave him as an answer.
"Yes, what you can see here, but not all. Soon we'll have to enlarge our area? We should be able to react quickly..."
But Greer stopped him: "When we do that, we'll change the teams. But first I'd like to have all the men here. The jerry cans are heavy, so I'd prefer not to make the women do this kind of work. The water group will rotate as soon as possible with all the other men and women. How does this sound?"
"Sounds good!" Broody said crisply.

With that the different groups started their work. As expected within one hour Greer's team was exhausted and completely soaked with sweat. After they'd send the first cans to the Destiny, the work was slow going. The untrained men especially had problems keeping up with the soldiers, but everybody tried his best anyway.

 

* * *

A few hours later, when they'd sent cans several times to the ship, Greer decided to change the groups. TJ asked Greer to look for fitting material to build crutches for the Colonel, and then she and Rush went off to look for supplies and plants for the infirmary.
Lieutenant Johansen knew intuitively which plants could be of use for them and which were a waste of time. Of course this didn't work all the time, an alien planet is not like earth, nobody ever knows what she may find, but she was more often right than wrong. She could nearly always bring something back to Destiny that could help them in one way or another. She chose to take Rush with her because he had aside from a deep knowledge of math and related subjects, some basics in chemistry and biology. Sometimes she wondered why he seemed to know everything, but then she reminded herself, that there was a reason he was part of the stargate program, the same as everybody else. Therefore Rush was able to do the first tests directly on location with her.
Actually the two of them were a good team, and she liked his quiet demeanour when he was focused on his work. She noted that he was normally relatively friendly with her and all the other women aboard Destiny. But unfortunately she also knew that he could be very secretive and grumpy.

They worked like this for about one hour: going, looking, squat down to examine new plants, or other material, testing it, collecting everything which passed the test, and continuing further.
Finally TJ said: "I'd like to stop for a short while, Dr. Rush. You really should drink something. I've seen you tripping slightly twice, and you keep rubbing your neck, much more often now. And aside from that, I also could use a short break, so?"
With that Rush stopped, and TJ got the feeling he seemed relieved, but that was gone as quickly as it happened, but then he said: "Yes, all right!"
So they stopped for a short break and sat down to rest on a small hill. Then both of them unpacked their water bottles and drank a few sips.
They sat there for a few moments more, and then Rush finally closed his bottle again and put it back into his backpack. Then he looked over to TJ and asked. "Should we go on?"
"Yes, we should go on!" She just said briefly.

Without wasting any more time they went back to work. After a few minutes they were so preoccupied with what they were doing that both of them failed to notice that an alien being was approaching. It was the size of a calf with scraggy brown-grey-white fur, coming toward them on medium high, thin legs with an out of proportion long, naked tail. Before it was about 20 meters away from them; TJ and Rush both become aware of the bizarre looking alien inhabitant.
TJ swore quiet, took her weapon out of her holster and unlocked it. "Damn Rush move behind me!" She pushed herself in front of him and tried at the same time to move him with her left hand behind her back. He seemed to be non-compliant, and it was not easy to put him in exactly the position she wanted him. All the while TJ was focused on that big mixture of a rat and a lizard, and hoped that the creature was neither hungry nor aggressive, so that she would have to use her weapon.
A short observation of their surroundings showed clearly that it was impossible to escape and she cursed herself that she failed to continuously watch the environment, as it was her job as a soldier. Now she and the person she had to protect were trapped in a situation with no clear escape.
The "lizardrat" came closer and closer. Its’ muzzle was half open and the sounds it made as if it was trying to smell them, but because of its scraggy fur it was not easy to see anything which might be sensory organs. TJ moved slowly backward with Rush behind her, but with each step she made the thing approach closer and closer.
Suddenly TJ felt Rush's hand on her shoulder and he said in a low voice: "It's a vegetarian. Can you see the teeth? No carnassial teeth, but teeth to chew plants. It’s a good chance that it may just disappear as long as we stay calm, and don't move."
TJ was able to see the teeth through the slightly opened muzzle, but she was sceptical and didn't want to take any risks. The closer the alien animal came the less were her chances to kill it with a well aimed single shot, at the same time she hated to kill an alien being she didn't know anything about. But while she still pondered the pros and cons, the animal jumped at them, knocked both of them over and hit Rush with its’ long tail.
TJ wasn't able to react in any way, and while she whirled through the air and fell to the ground she had also lost her weapon, and the only thing she could see was Rush being spun through the air like she had. She heard him scream when he landed hard on the ground.
Then she saw the big mouth of the animal directly above her and all she could think was "that's it!” but the beast only produced a loud growling sound and moved slowly away from them. As both of them didn't move or try to threaten it, it finally decided to toddle off and vanished behind a nearby hill.
TJ slowly got to her knees and hands, picked up her weapon, which laid not far from her, and moved on hands and knees over towards Rush, who was still laying motionless on the ground.

She carefully squeezed his shoulder. "How are you?"
But when he didn't answer directly, she shook him slightly and asked again: "Dr. Rush, can you hear me?"
Eventually he answered her without moving. "Yes, I can hear you. ... I'm fine! ... This damn beast just punched me with his big tail in the gut ... aside from that ... I'm fine I think."
"Okay" TJ said, "Let me check you."
But Rush failed to react, so TJ asked again: "Dr. Rush? You have to turn around, otherwise I won't be able to check you!"
Finally, Rush started to move and to turn slowly, but kept his arms firm around his abdomen, so that TJ had to turn him further to his back and to press down his arms with gentle force. During the whole time she lifted her head occasionally to watch their surroundings. Then she put his jacket aside and lifted his t-shirts to examine the area. She looked carefully at his reactions every time she pressed specific points, but when she found his reactions to be not too dramatic, she finished the examination and pulled his shirts down.
"I can’t find anything alarming. Looks like you've been lucky today. Though a punch in the gut really does hurt, and normally it'll take a few days to fade away. Can you sit up?"
"I'll try" Rush said with effort and began to sit up slowly. He used mostly his arms grimacing with pain. "I think I can get up, too."
"We have time" TJ said quick, "there's no need to hurry!"
"I can do it!" Rush said, still very pale, but nonetheless trying to get up, but TJ stopped him pressing her hands on his shoulders to keep him from doing so.
"Wait just a little bit longer!" And to her surprise he did as he was told. She found this suspicious, so she watched him carefully to see whether he might have other injuries he didn't want to tell her about, or maybe he simply didn't realize as being important. But, eventually she helped him to get up, collected all their things, which were scattered about, and started to go slowly to the stargate. Thankfully they were able to collect plenty of material and so their early retreat didn't hinder them bringing full bags back to Destiny.

TJ felt more tension now then she had in the beginning of their trip and she let Rush go in front of her, so she could keep him in sight all the time and be prepared if they met more alien life forms.

When they reached the stagate after nearly a good hour of walking, they could hear the voices of other members of their team, and the tension TJ had felt the whole time, started to finally wear off.

First they met Greer and Brody, who were cutting large branches with a junction for the armpits out of a shrubby like plant for the colonel.

When TJ and Rush met them, TJ said to Greer: "I see you didn't forget the crutches, Ronald!"
"I'd never forget that, lieutenant" Greer said without missing a beat.
"Of course not!" TJ said smiling.

Brody abraded one of the branches and looked shortly over to Rush who stood aside slightly bent, holding himself with one hand on a nearby shrub, the other hand clenched on his stomach. Then he grimaced, and Brody asked worriedly:" Everything all right?"
"Yes," said Rush shortly, putting on the most neutral and unfriendly face he could muster, to avoid more questions, and said to TJ: "I'll go to the gate."
Just before he was completely gone, TJ called after him: "Okay, but no more work. Just find a nice place in the shade. And in case someone asks you to carry or move anything heavy, say I forbade it. And, Dr. Rush, when we're back on Destiny, I expect you to report to the infirmary."
Rush nodded, turned around and went slowly to the clearance where the gate was.

When Rush was out of earshot, Brody said grumpy: "really, what would he lose by reacting like a normal human being, answering questions people ask him?"
TJ and Greer just looked at each other shrugging and Greer finally said: "He doesn't like to talk. I think that's not a bad thing."
But TJ contradicted him directly. "A silent manner does not equal discourtesy, and his manners are rude. Though, sometimes he can be nice and respectful, but when he realizes what he's doing, he does a 180° turn to avoid talking more than necessary."
After a moment Brody answered: "Yeah, he likes to stay alone."
"Yeah, and that's exactly what he gets."
"Well, yeah, sure!" Brody said and added after a short break: "Did something happen on your trip, Lieutenant Johansen?"
"Yes, it did. We had a close encounter of the third kind," TJ said, raising an eyebrow. "A mixture of a huge lizard and a rat with a long matted fur was suddenly in front of us. It knocked us over and punched Rush with its big, long tail in the guts. But, thankfully, it went away after the attack. I think we were lucky, anything could have happened."
Greer interjected: "That's why I always shoot first and ask questions later!"
"Yes, maybe I would too, but everything happened so fast. I just saw the beast too late!"
Brody asked suddenly while he looked around him nervously: "Did you see more of those things? I mean...where there is one, there might be another!"
"No, we didn't see anything like it on our way back here. Well, of course that's no guarantee, but since the first team didn't see any life forms at all, it may be possible that the animals on this planet stay away from the stargate. Well at least, I hope so!" And with that TJ ended their conversation and left. Then the two men finally continued on with their work.

When the crutches were finished after a short while, Greer and Brody went back to the gate. TJ and Greer started to collect the team, made a headcount, and asked whether there were any incidents. But nobody had anything to report, so TJ and Rush's encounter with the alien animal was the only one that occurred.

Now the second team was able to send several times full storage containers back to the Destiny. And their last round was as successful as the other team before them. They'll have at least a full week of enough food and other supplies, like water and minerals. The first off world mission was a success, even if Colonel Young was injured, which would last for some time.

 

* * *

Chapter Text

3. Routine and an Incident

After everybody was aboard again and all supplies were stored, the members of the second team were about to go to the bathrooms.

 

As promised, Rush first visited the infirmary. There he found TJ doing what she was always doing every time he had to visit her: inspecting medicine utensils, rearranging them, and preparing all the new plant samples for storage. While her hands and eyes did their work, she talked casually with Young, who lay without trousers and with one of his feet wrapped in a wet cloth, not far away on one of the beds. Despite that he seemed to be in a relaxed mood. The way those two reacted to each other was somehow very personal, and Rush’s first thought was to go away, but then both of them saw him.

 

"Oh, good to see you, Dr. Rush!" TJ said, still a smile on her face, lingering there quite likely because of the talk she had had with Young shortly before.

Recognising that, Rush felt a little bit awkward when he answered her: "Yes, I just wanted to follow your kind invitation to … here, … um, before someone got angry" 'and surely not to see you flirting with your superior. Um, not that I'd care in any way', he thought, but before he was able to sort out his thoughts and carry on in his usual snarky tone, Young interrupted him: "Just a few minutes ago we had a conversation about whether I would have to command you to come here, or whether you'd come on your own?"

 

Rush looked at him with mild confusion and started to crinkle his nose, scowling his brow, a clear sign that he was about to say something sarcastic. But Young stopped him, saying: “You never do something without a special invitation, as long as it has nothing to do with your consoles, computers, or something similar.” And after a dramatic pause he continued: “I just hope what brought you here this time is nothing serious!”

“How funny, Colonel, but if I where you, I’d look at my own leg first before I start to make jokes about other people,” was Rush’s brusque answer.

 

Before the two men could start their ‘who would be able to piss off the other one first’ contest, TJ interfered. While she put on her gloves, she pointed towards Rush saying: “Go over there,” while she indicated one of the diagnostic beds in another corner of the infirmary.

She looked at him critically and thought: ‘how do I get him to take off his clothes and do an in-depth medical examination without pissing him off? Maybe, just ask him? Don’t think, just do it, before he has time to think about anything.

So she said when he stood near the bed: “Take off your shirts and unbuckle your belt, … or no, better take off your blue jeans as well and lay down on the bed.” While he did that, without any visible reaction, what she’d asked him to do, she waited patiently by his side.

When he finished, he lifted himself on the relatively high bed without help and lay down. TJ watched every move he made, and when he lay still, she asked him to slide a little bit further to the foot and while he did that, she saw that he winced very slightly. If she hadn’t watched him carefully, she would have missed it. “Everything all right?” she asked.

Immediately he answered: “yeah, I’m fine!”

“Good, then I’ll start. Don’t worry, I’ll be careful. Just tell me when anything hurts, okay?” “Yeah,” he said, but she could feel that he was uncomfortable with her. ‘Did he mistrust her?’ Ignoring that last thought, she started the examination. When she touched his skin, he winced again, and hissed through his teeth.

TJ stopped immediately, taking her hands off him and looking concerned. But when she saw him blushing and looking abashed, her concern went slowly away, then he said very quietly: “Sorry, but, your hands are really cold.”

When she heard that, she relaxed a little bit more, and she answered him: “Oh, I’m sorry, a permanent problem of mine, I always forget that.” And with that she started to rub her hands together to warm them up. After a minute she started her examination again, and this time everything was fine.

 

Now she could clearly see the bruises he had from the impact of the animal tail, and where he hit the ground afterwards. So she knew where to look first. To be sure she didn’t miss anything, the examination was very thorough, and included not only those clear marked spots.

When she had finished, she told him factually but in a friendly manner that she didn’t find anything serious or different from her first examination she did on the planet, which was good. She told him to be careful for a few more days, that he should not carry heavy items, get more sleep than he normally does, eat properly, and should avoid Brody’s special brew. But the last remark especially was not really serious, because TJ knew that Rush drank alcohol from time to time, but never too much, and Rush knew that she knew. So he accepted the little quip and played along.

Finally, he could put his clothes on again, and then go as everybody else had to the bathrooms to take a shower and lay down for a rest afterwards.

 

It was an exhausting day for all of them. In the end TJ stayed, as usual, in her realm and continued on with her work, but also to accompany Colonel Young, who was starting to feel bored, being forced to stay still and do nothing for the rest of the day.

“I’ve told General O’Neill about everything that happened after stasis yesterday,” Young told TJ.

“He was available?” TJ asked.

“Yes, he was, but only for another week or so, he told me.”

TJ wondered: “Is there any progress about dialling Destiny with the help of the Langarians?”

“Unfortunately not.” Young said sighing. “Actually he told me they’ve made zero progress with them. And the problems with the Lucian Alliance in that sector of our galaxy are still virulent, but at least all parties are peaceful at the moment. But, while talking to the General I got the impression Stargate-Command thinks it’s time to make another attempt on that question. Oh, not that O’Neill said anything outright, but still … you know, I think it would be nice to have some kind of direct connection to home, other than the stones.”

“Yeah, there’s no question about that, for sure. I really could use a real doctor here. Do you think, it’s in any way realistic?” TJ asked again.

“Well, who knows? I really don’t know, TJ. But I think if they send all their high ranking officers and IAO diplomats to somewhere, and that’s the information I got, then this would be the right place for such an effort.” Young said, thoughtfully.

“Well, maybe, better some progress than no progress at all, hum?” TJ murmured.

“Yeah, step by step. We’ll see!” Young answered and suddenly fell silent. But after a few more restless seconds, he started talking again, casually:

“Don’t you think Rush is too thin?”

“What?” TJ looked at him and wondered about the sudden chance of topic. “No, he isn’t. Well, not really, I think he always looks like that, though he has lost a little bit more weight in between, but I don’t think it’s affecting his health.”

“He is very thin. Too thin for my taste,” said Young thinking. “I never noticed that before!”

“You have never seen him without clothes,” TJ said.

“Yeah, that’s true, why should I?” was Young’s short answer.

“Yes, why should you? But, really, don’t worry. You know people are made different. Where other people have the tendency to be chubby, he’s one of those who is more, … well, thin. But as long as this is his standard range, there’s nothing to be worried about,” said TJ while still working on her plants.

“Would he benefit from doing more exercise?” Young pondered. “Maybe all the civilians should participate in the training program again. I got the impression most of them have gotton quite lazy lately.”

TJ answered back directly: “No, no, forget about that. First, you won’t get Rush into something like that, and second, he won’t benefit from our usual training, other than to loose more weight. And third, nearly all the civilians are doing something within their capabilities. Some go to Scotts’ workout program, others do sport in small groups of their own.”

“Really?” asked Young surprised. “Even Eli? I always got the impression he tries to avoid any kind of activity. And, he uses the fact that Rush never has time for something like that to do the same!”

“Possible,” TJ said, with a small smile, which indicated something Young seemed not to know. “I think Eli doesn’t often participate in any of the groups, though it wouldn’t hurt him. He’s not as overweight as he was in the beginning, and clearly he would do even better with less, but I don’t see any need to force him into losing more weight quickly.

You know, he’s still healthy, and his weight doesn’t cause him any problems. Additionally, since he doesn’t get junk food anymore, he is losing weight, just slowly. So, I don’t see any reason to force him into something he doesn’t really need.

In general to force everyone into military exercise would be a bad idea. You did this already, don’t you remember? And it didn’t do any good. People are reasonable now; they do what they can, without being forced. That’s much better, and I think it’s okay.”

“You think so?” asked Young, now thinking.

“Yes, I think so!” said TJ bemused. “Sometimes it’s better to be friendly and appeal to people’s common sense to get something back.

Ah, and by the way, it’s not true that Rush doesn’t do any exercise. He does some Yoga together with Chloe. He is, aside from the fact that he’s thin, relatively fit and agile for a guy of his age.”

“But Yoga is not real exercise,” Young chipped indignantly.

TJ didn’t lose any time to answer him back: “Of course it is. You obviously never tried it!”

“No, that’s something for girls, and I’m no girl! TJ, really!” Young said laughing.

“Rush is not the only man who does Yoga. There are more! Even Eli has been seen in the group!” TJ said grinning.

“No, never!” Young answered laughing. And now both of them were laughing. The relaxed atmosphere they shared during their talk stayed and influenced their conversation for a while longer, until TJ finally finished her work, and it was time for both of them to call it a day.

 

* * *

 

Early the next morning the daily routine started again for the whole crew. It took until midday for the last people to be brought back from stasis. One after another they went to TJ for their check-up. It appeared that a lot of them had the same problems with their hydrologic balance that the first group had. TJ had already decided that one of the scientists should check for this problem in Destiny’s database. Nobody knew when they would need to use the pods again, and it’s always better to be prepared.

 

She felt moved when she saw Greer accompanying Lisa Park to her check-up, and the way he took care of her during the whole time she was in the infirmary, until both of them left for their quarters. She realized those two were not the only ones who would celebrate their new life after stasis.

 

She noticed that among the civilians some didn’t care anymore that everybody knew about their current or new partners. She saw several pairs coming together for their medical examination. Even TJ was not ashamed to greet her new partner in an appropriate way. Varro, the only survivor of the Lucian Alliance people was not only interested in her, but also in her work. He was flexible and a quick learner when it came to medical questions. So she had decided to include him in the medical training program, along with Vanessa James and Camile Wray, who both knew the basics of patient care. Aside from that, even before the three years of stasis, she had spent all her free time with him. There was no doubt to whom he belonged.

 

In the evening she sat with Brody and some others of the bridge crew at the same table in the mess hall. During the meal all of them talked excitedly about the events of the last two days. A while after they had finished their meal one after another left. In the end only Brody and TJ still sat at the table.

 

Brody looked uncertainly at TJ, while lifting and dropping his head several times, until he got his courage together and asked her: “Hmm, how’s Rush? I mean, … after the accident with this animal, … um, on the planet yesterday?”

“He’s okay,” she said quietly. “He got off fairly easy. There’s nothing serious, only a few bruises. Why do you ask? Didn’t you see him today?”

“Yes, but, … um, … that’s why I ask. He behaved strangely today. He moved quite slowly when getting up or down, and even forgot to use his bad temper on Volker,” he said with a crooked smile. “Well, it felt strange to me. Therefore I thought I’d ask.”

“Why didn’t you ask him yourself?” TJ asked back.

“No, no, never. He’s always grumpy when someone asks him something personal. I don’t want to invite trouble,” Brody said, without hesitating.

“Yeah, it’s always the same with him. He never lets his barriers fall, which makes it also extremely difficult to help him with anything. But he’s not the only one who behaves like this, and he surely won’t be the last. It’s quite a known pattern with everyone who’s married to their job!” TJ said, sighing. “And, as I said, Rush is Rush. No reason to be concerned!” TJ closed the conversation. While looking at Brody and suddenly understanding something she’d missed before, she added conspiratorially: “I won’t tell anybody about our little chat this evening. Promise!” With that she stood up and squeezed Brody’s arm slightly to emphasize her words.

 

Brody blushed in that moment and opened his mouth to answer her, but he wasn’t able to say anything but: “Have a nice evening!” And after a short moment he shook his head, collected his dishes on his tray, stood up slowly and brought the tray to the board near the sink. Going outside he asked himself: ‘what did she mean with ‘I won’t tell anybody about our little chat this evening!’ Did I say something inappropriate, or wrong?‘ During his way back to his quarters he shook his head several more times, realizing he didn’t get it at all.

 

* * *

 

During the following days nothing interesting happened and some would even say it was boring. Everybody was occupied with his or her usual routine. Therefore people had time to do what they wanted. Rush decided to do a bit of extra work to further explore Destiny’s computer, so he asked Young to include Eli in this work. Young agreed, saying he had to ask Eli himself, because only Eli can decide what to do with his off time. And after asking Eli, he agreed willingly.

 

As before, Young pushed the scientists away from everything else to make Destiny’s weapons a priority. And nobody, not even the leading scientist, had a problem with that, because all of them knew how important it was to be able to defend themselves. But the unsolved problem they still had was, they only could use the big weapons when the internal power supply worked efficiently, and more important without any security leaks. And to go there, they had to repair the whole ship as well as possible, to get a grip on the worst energy guzzlers they had.

The huge amount of hull breaches the ship sustained over time, was of course the biggest problem. If they only were able to repair more of them, using less time as they did before, it would help a lot to reach that goal.

Up until now they’d been careful to do more of those repairs than absolutely necessary. To undergo those repairs, the ship had to leave FTL, and therefore was an easy target for everyone with bad intentions out there. Only while drifting in space they were able to use the repair robots they’d found. And additionally those robots had to be monitored using the only shuttle they had. All of that made the ship very vulnerable to any aggressor.

 

Most of the time the discussions the civilian science team had with their commanding officers went in the same direction. It looked like Rush’s priorities were completely different from Young’s. Though in reality, they wanted the same thing: a safe, a working ship, which was able to continue their journey, and able to defend itself, when necessary. Unfortunately none of them wanted to admit any of this. So Young always wanted to resolve military problems with short-term solutions. Of course Rush refused to understand that the only thing he had to do was explain his proposal with the right words to convince Young.

Luckily, Eli was much better at doing this. He was able to explain things in a way Young would listen to. Unfortunately, this always looked like Young preferred everything Eli proposed against Rush’s suggestions. Unluckily this stayed as a permanent impression with the rest of the crew as well as with the three men in question.

 

Some days later, about a week after they’d stopped on another planet, the dispute between Eli and Rush escalated while they spent time together doing some extra work. The accident that happened after they’d had a hot debate about how to do things the right way, would have ended fatally without somebody’s unexpected help. The help they got from someone who was all the time around them, but nobody really was aware of.

After that accident Destiny tried to include more members of the crew in a “dialogue”, aside from TJ, Rush, Young and Eli.

 

On that day Rush was working on one of the consoles in the old control room they’d used before the bridge. From that place they had a better access to sections they wanted to work with. They had been working there for several hours. They’d studied circuit diagrams and compared them with plans of the ship and its database.

 

Rush was looking for a way to modify the shields so that they could repair smaller hull breaches without leaving FTL. But until now nobody had found a solution without using more energy than they were able to spare. Hence, both of them were searching the database to get around this problem.

 

Meanwhile Eli had decided – after he’d talked to Colonel Young and other military personal – that the main weapons were more important than anything else. So he coaxed Rush to take care of this problem first. Anyway, they’d not found anything to help with the hull breaches.

 

“Don’t you see that it is possible to disconnect the energy from Destiny’s main weapon, creating an extra overfill protection?” Eli said shortly.

“Yes Eli,” Rush replied quietly, without lifting his head from his console. “I can see that, and I want to permute your idea. Look!” Rush said, facing Eli now directly: “theoretically I know it is possible to separate the circuits. But my problem is to CREATE this extra circuit. We have to adjust a great deal by building measures on the ship itself, and I don’t see how we could do this without the necessary technical resources.”

“But we already have those repair robots, they can be reprogrammed at will!” Eli dropped.

Rush shook his head, stopped this movement, crinkled his nose and curled the corner of his mouth: “the repair robots we have are unsuitable to do this kind of work. They don’t have the fine motor skills we need for this. They’re made for rough extensive work.” During the whole time he emphasized his words with calculated movements of his hands. These movements underlined on the one hand the urgency of his statements but on the other hand it looked arrogant to Eli, and that was something Eli wasn’t willing to accept any longer. “Okay. So the robots we have cannot do this kind of work. Is there a possibility to do this ourselves?”

Now Rush’s quiet tone changed and he answered a little bit louder: “Aside from the fact that we have to find a way to modify the computer, which, by the way, we’ve tried to do for several hours and I still don’t see a solution, who do you think should do this work?”

“But we have people!” Eli countered, while trying to stay as calm as possible. “There’s Brody, Volker, Park. No Park’s not good, … but what about Morrison? Morrison knows something about Ancient technology, doesn’t he?”

“No, we don’t have enough people!” Rush answered back, starting to get really irritated. “We don’t have enough. We nearly lost all of our experts in computers and technology on that damned planet because our great military leader Colonel Young thought it’s not necessary to order them back. Because they’re less important than his soldiers!”

“And Brody, Volker and Morrison don’t count?” Eli griped, without responding to Rush’s last argument.

Rush snorted and closed his eyes, trying to calm down: “Yes, they count, but they’re not enough to do that damned work. Us included, we’ll need at least five more specialists to start the work. ‘And to call the civilians less important than the soldiers is also not really correct. I do remember that Young decided to not order the civilians, as he did with the soldiers, because of what happened before. But it was wrong, wrong and annoying. And all wrong decisions made will come back to us at one point or another. But then it’s to late,’ he thought bitterly, before Eli answered him. “We could work in our free time, like now!”

“Mr. Wallace,” Rush began, raising his voice again. “Don’t you want to understand this? Why do you behave like a teenager, spending the whole day playing silly games, as if they were the most important things in life? And I thought you were beyond that now.”

“And you are nothing but an arrogant and self-righteous crank, who can’t move beyond his limited horizon. For a lot of the less complicated work it would be possible to teach people how to do it. Everyone here is able to handle basic technology.” Eli shot back, and went around the console. He squat down, took away the cover at the back, put the panel on the floor and looked at what was inside before he continued: “You don’t need trained specialists if you teach the people which part they have to put where.”

Then Rush also moved around the console to look at what Eli was doing.

“Don’t touch anything! You know nothing about this. You may know a lot about computers, but you know a lot less about this kind of work, than Brody and even Volker!” Rush sneered at him.

But now Eli was really pissed, and he grabbed at something that looked like a safety device. He pulled it out – he’d seen Brody or Volker doing this at least a dozen times – and inserted it again, saying: “See, no problem!”

When he tried to insert the device again, he missed the plug-in-position. Then everything happened rapidly. Rush, who’d followed every movement Eli made, realized at once what happened and jumped at Eli. He tried to pull him away to inhibit the safety device going between the plug-in-position, but it was too late. Energy flew sizzling across the device, onto Eli’s hand, across his body and finally to Rush. Then there was a loud noise, more sparks came out, and both men were shot across the room, crashed into the wall, were they lay motionless. Then the lights went out. Deep darkness and silence clasped around the room as if it ceased to exist.

 

Luckily for both of them not only Rush saw what was coming but also the ship. And therefore it reduced the energy in the last moment to prevent a fatal outcome for the two men.

What were they thinking? Can’t they behave like grown-ups? Anyway, better to take care of a bunch of kids than to be alone.

Somehow it was clear that a gorgeous piece of technology should not take care of a crew in that way. It knew it was not right. But it also knew it had exceptional skills, which were beyond its special mission. Destiny was a prototype, a unique specimen. And as it is true with a lot of unique items with such abilities, those abilities went beyond the control of their builders. One was the ability not only to analyse the emotions of a human crew, but also to understand them. And as a result the ship was able to influence them and guide the people through difficult times with it’s emphatic sensors by creating dreams that felt like reality.

 

Alarm the people on the bridge. Inform the medic.

 

In that very moment the main console on the bridge came to life. A plan of the room popped up showing two unsteady dots on its wall. On the bottom it showed the plan of the whole room, marked in red. Even without an audio warning Colonel Young, who was sitting in the captain’s chair, knew something must have happened there.

 

At the same time the display in the infirmary was activated with the same picture on it and TJ stopped her studies to regard the display in question.

 

On the bridge Young picked up his radio to ask Rush what’s going on, because he remembered that he and Eli were working there together.

“Rush, do you read?” Nothing.

“Rush, do you read? Please answer!” Again nothing.

Then he changed the channel. “Eli? Eli, it would be nice if you’d pick up the radio, please!” And again, nothing.

Damn, something must have happened!’ Young thought, and radioed Greer and Scott without trying further.

Next he informed TJ, who was not surprised, and told him she had received the same message on her display. She wasn’t able to decipher it correctly because her knowledge of Ancient was not good.

Young stood up to go to the transporter, realizing that something was strange, so he asked TJ whether something like this had happen before, but she answered to the negative. In the heat of the events nobody really realized how they were informed and both of them forgot about this strange coincident afterwards.

 

Greer and Scott reached the old control room a few minutes later, where it was pitch dark, and spookily quiet. Only seconds later, they could hear a very quiet rustle and the sound of somebody groaning in a low voice.

“Eli? Dr. Rush?” Scott shouted into the darkness. “Anybody there?” Nobody answered back. He tried to reach for his flashlight, but realized that he’d left it with all the rest of his equipment in his quarters, because he and Greer were just off duty.

Before Scott could go in the room without light Greer grabbed his arm, and said: “I’ll go get flashlights!” And with that he was gone.

Not able to do anything else Scott stayed there at the entrance between light and darkness, trying again to get an answer. But all he got was a very low sound of somebody breathing. But this sound was so quiet against the constant sound of Destiny that he was not sure whether he really could hear it or he just wanted to hear it. So he waited tensely for a few more minutes. It felt like an eternity trying to call the two men, who were most likely laying somewhere in the darkness.

 

After three minutes Greer came back, with TJ at his coattail. Finally they were able to go into the room using their flashlights.

Both men were lying near the wall straight across from one of the consoles, wedged into each other in quite a bizarre way. Somebody had obviously removed the inspection panel of the console and its inner parts were blackened.

TJ tried to feel their pulse on the throat and said anxiously after a few seconds: “Take Rush away from Eli and put him over there.”

Scott and Greer lifted him carefully and carried him to safety. While both men carried Rush away, TJ didn’t wait and took care of Eli directly. She turned him on his back, outstretched his arms and legs until he lay straight. Then she pulled his t-shirt up as far as possible and used her stethoscope to hear his heartbeat. But there was nothing, and also no breathing.

“Okay, I have to apply the heart defibrillator.” TJ said to Scott and Greer. I need help to put him on a blanket. His skin should not touch any conducting material.

So Scott and Greer lifted Eli and TJ spread the blanket, which was part of her equipment, under him. While Scott went over to Rush, Greer helped TJ to prepare the heart defibrillator. Then TJ positioned the contactors below the left breast and above the right one, removed herself as far as possible and asked Greer to switch on the power.

It was necessary to repeat the procedure several times before Eli showed any kind of reaction when his heart started to beat and he was breathing again.

 

TJ anxiously waited a few more seconds, then turned to Scott, who was still sitting beside Rush, and asked: “Is his pulse stable?”

“Yes it is, though his breathing is flat but regular.” Scott answered her.

“Good, stay alert. There’s always the possibility for cardiac arrhythmia at some later point after a electric shock occurs.” TJ explained clinically.

 

In the meantime Young, a few other soldiers, Brody and Volker arrived in the control room, to find out first hand about the events there. All of them were worried after they saw what was going on. But after the initial shock, routine followed and Brody was the first one to ask practical questions. “Should I bring the kino-sled, TJ?”

“Yes, that’s a good idea, both of them should be brought to the infirmary as quickly as possible!” TJ told him, still occupied with caring for Eli.

A few minutes later Brody and Volker brought the kino-sled into the room and helped to put the two men on it. They lay them head and feet aside to transport them at the same time.

 

In the following hours TJ applied all the available instruments to control the vital functions, and prepared herself for a long night. Eli especially would need strict medical care. He was by far not out of the woods. Rush did much better, but TJ knew anything was possible, and she had to expect unpredictable events for him as well. It was not really that long ago that he had undergone two surgeries in short order to implant and remove the tracking device of the Nakai. They had been forced not only to improvise but also to act quickly. Secondary damage later on was always possible in such a case.

 

* * *

 

It was in the middle of the night when Eli’s unconsciousness dissolved from its leaden heaviness. First he was able to hear, and then with time he could see more and more light. He moved his head carefully, but found it was a bad decision, because he had an infernal headache and equally irksome nausea. Carefully, very carefully he turned his head back into the position it was in the beginning, to feel better.

After a few minutes that felt like an eternity, he could hear a displeasing high beeping noise whose intervals shortened with the minutes passing. With it came a lot of hustle and bustle. Then he could hear TJ shouting commands at someone. More rattling and clacking followed and Eli discerned that she was taking care of someone else in the infirmary, aside from himself.

Eli blacked out again, and when he was back only a few minutes later, he heard the same displeasing noise as before, but this time it was an uninterrupted all-over sound that hurt in his ears. At the same time he heard someone crying and somebody else murmuring calming words in a low voice.

That’s Vanessa.’ Eli thought. ‘What happened? Is that TJ who’s crying?

Slowly he tried to move one hand, then the next one, a foot, and then the head another time. This time he didn’t feel the nausea, and the light wasn’t that bad anymore. ‘If just that annoying noise would stop’ he thought, and looked in the direction the sound came from.

 

He saw Lieutenant James, who hugged TJ, speaking calming words to her. TJ’s face was covered with her hands and she was sobbing. A human figure masked with a blanket on the bed lay behind the two women. Though the head of the person was also under the blanket, he saw that it was Rush because of one arm, which had dropped out at the side that he could see.

Well, somebody wasn’t lucky, was he?’ Eli thought, and then he asked out loud: “Is he dead?”

“Yes,” was Lieutenant James short answer, “he’s dead. Sudden complications. Cardiac arrest. Just like that, without clear indication.”

“I’m so sorry. It’s my fault, it wasn’t intentional,” Eli said quietly. ‘Are you sure?’ He thought. ‘Of course, I am!‘ He told himself. ‘I’m not a bloody murderer. Not even if it comes to Rush, who really did a lot to earn this!

“It’s my fault. It was a silly accident; it could have been easy avoided! I’m really sorry!” Eli reiterated.

“Nobody’s accusing you. I understand it was an accident”, TJ replied with an unsure voice. “I just have problems with losing people. I always ask myself whether it could have been avoided? If only my medical education was better.”

Vanessa James interrupted her with her quite but firm voice: “To blame yourself is exactly the wrong thing to do. You’re always doing all that’s possible. We all do. Sometimes it’s not enough, but that’s our life here. It’s not always fair and you won’t win all the time!”

“Yes, you’re right. It’s not that I liked him. I’ve never become accustomed to his brusque behaviour. But that doesn’t mean I don’t blame myself. I’m sure I’ll miss him at least in a few days. Who’ll repair my medical equipment now? I know, others are able to do this, but you know, … sometimes, if it was important, and I needed something quickly, I’d ask him to come. And he just came as soon as possible and did what was necessary. I’ll miss that.”

“Yah, strange,” James continued, “he was really unfriendly, most of the time in a bad mood, arrogant, but often also ready to help in some cases. He just did his job, without asking for preferential treatment. I liked that. And I know behind this tough exterior was a man who wanted to do the right things, but wasn’t always able to communicate it in an appropriate way. And, really, who’s perfect, anyway?”

“Nobody is.” Eli said, “but I also know that Rush is one of the least perfect people here. Um, … I mean, … he was one of the least perfect people here.”

“Eli you do understand that this is your own opinion,” James replied, “and that maybe not everybody will share it, though a lot will. But aside from that, you should rest, and sleep for the rest of the night. I’ll keep an eye on you, while TJ gets some sleep as well.” And with that James shoved TJ soft but firmly to the entrance, so she’d get some sleep too.

 

After Lieutenant Johansen left, and Eli lay in his bed again, James radioed two of her colleagues to wrap Rush’s body in a sheet, and to bring him into one of their cold rooms. There the body could stay until they were able to burry him on one of the next planets they visited.

 

* * *

 

Eli had to stay two more days in the infirmary, until he got TJ’s okay to leave. Consequently he missed Rush’s funeral, but he was not terribly unhappy because of it. At least it wasn’t necessary to fake compassion.

 

During the two days he lay in the infirmary he had a lot of time to think about what had happened, and now he was convinced that this little misfortune was for the best for the crew. ‘Didn’t he more than once risk the life of everybody here, without thinking a single moment about consequences? Wasn’t the ship more important to him than anyone on the crew? Didn’t he strand all of us on this ship out of a selfish whim? And I, I helped him! I’ll never forgive myself for that. Of course, in the beginning everything was a great big adventure, but after people started to die, and Rush lied and cheated more and more to Young and everybody else, the adventure stopped.

Rush was a serious danger for the people here. It was simply too convenient for him to risk lives, just to stick to his schedule to fulfil Destiny’s mission. Actually he was just a dangerous and unscrupulous madman. And we will do better without him.

 

While he was still lost in his thoughts, he heard footsteps approaching the door. Then the steps stopped, and he could hear the characteristic hissing sound of an opening door. The footsteps were obviously those of Colonel Young.

“Hello Eli. How are you? TJ told me you’re better. I wish I could give you a few more days to rest, but I really need you. With Rush gone I need someone to replace him.”

Eli observed him without sympathy and answered: “Yes, I understand. Don’t worry, I’m sure with all of us working together, there won’t be a problem replacing Rush. But before I come with you, I’d first like to have a shower, if you don’t mind. After that I’ll go directly to the bridge.”

“That’s okay with me, Eli. See you soon.” Colonel Young answered, looking horribly tired. Then after a few seconds he added: “The whole bridge crew assured me they will back you as much as they can. And I’m sure they’ll stand to that. But, Eli, I hope you’re aware that it won’t be easy for you. You’ll be forced to make decisions others have made before. And you’ll experience that not all of them are right, and regardless of how you feel, you will have to go on afterwards. But I’m sure you’ll do it, though it won’t be easy. Do you understand this, Eli?”

“Yes,” Eli said with a grave voice. “I’m aware that it won’t be easy, but I’m sure I’ll manage will everybody’s help.”

 

Young nodded, smiling weakly and left.

 

* * *

 

Young was right. The following weeks were a severe test for Eli. Though he indeed had everybody’s support, he felt more than once that he could not continue much longer. The more pressure, the more he tried to escape it. Then he started to hang out with Brody and a few others and made a habit of drinking a lot of Brody’s Specials, more than he should, though he nearly never drank alcohol before.

 

With the weeks passing he got more and more nagging doubts whether the mishap in which Rush lost his life was maybe a symptom of his whole existence now. He felt too often the burden of his new responsibility, so he started to pass on difficult decisions that he didn’t feel comfortable with, and afterwards he got drunk. At the end of one of those days, he’d drunk so much that he fell unconscious and had to be taken to the infirmary.

 

* * *

 

Again, it was in the middle of the night. And again Eli’s unconsciousness dissolved slowly from its leaden heaviness, which tried to pull him back over and over again. When he managed to move his head after several attempts, he felt a severe headache and a horrible nausea. Carefully, very carefully he turned his head, trying at the same time to get a grip on this nausea.

 

When he finally was conscious again and he saw TJ standing nearby at a table, he felt the necessity to apologise, but it took a few more attempts until he was able to talk coherently. “I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have done that. All I do is make trouble because I can’t control myself! Oh, god, I feel so sick!”

“Hey, what’s going on?” TJ asked worriedly, looking at him.

“I feel really sick!” Eli hummed low.

“Headache?” TJ asked back.

“Yes, hella!” Eli replied. “But I guess that’s not a surprise, isn’t it?”

“Maybe not a surprise, but not what I expected!” TJ replied still worried, starting to examine him.

A few seconds later Eli said weakly: “How’s this surprising? Doesn’t a hangover always look like this?”

“Um, a hangover, maybe,” TJ said with a small smile, “but an electrical shock does not have the same effects as abuse of alcohol. If that’s what you’re talking about.”

Eli blinked through half open eyes at her: “Aren’t I here because I spent the whole evening drinking with Brody and the others?”

“No, you’re not.” TJ said visibly confused. “You’re here because you and Dr. Rush had an accident in the control room. Both of you were lucky, and aside from a few burns, abrasions and bruises, neither of you suffered serious harm.”

“Rush is alive?” Eli asked back in an irritated tone.

“Yes, he’s alive.” TJ said and turned her head into the direction of Rush’s platform. “To be honest, he came through the accident much better than you did. For some time it didn’t look good for you!”

Eli faced Rush’s bed. He seemed to be asleep and he only saw minor scratches on the back of his hand, and a few reddened spots in his face.

“It was only a dream!” He said to himself. “All of it, nothing but a bad dream”, he replied relieved, and added: “but regardless, I got a hellish headache!”

“I’ll make a tea for you, than you’ll feel much better in half an hour. Anyway, try to sleep now.” TJ answered him and went away to compose the necessary ingredients. Then she mentioned casually: “I thought you would have been back a few hours earlier. It looked like you started to be conscious again, but then you fell asleep again, and I thought it was better to let you sleep.”

 

Eli listened to the low clattering and rustling noises TJ made in preparing his tea, and during that he fell asleep. Somewhere between awake and asleep he wondered if Destiny would send him such a dream again. But at that time the thought was too much a part of his unconsciousness to stay with him.

 

It is not easy to come through to them, and it is still unsure whether the message found a listener.

In such cases it knew, how limited the resources were that it had at hand.

 

Chapter Text

4. To Overshoot The Mark

After both men were released from TJ’s care one day later, they began to re-join the daily routine changes on the bridge without any difficulty.

 

The flight through space went on without remarkable events and aside from a few stops on planets, nothing of importance happened. One of the next planets after Eli’s accident was chosen for the burial of Dr. Inman. For reasons nobody really knew the burial was delayed day after day, but since everybody knew it must be done, they eventually found an appropriate place.

 

The sky and landscape on that planet shimmered in such an unbelievable amount of all the colours of the rainbow, that it seemed more that fitting to make this planet the last resting place for a chemist. The atmosphere was suitable for humans, so it was possible to enter the planet without any protection or breathing devices. Not a single life form was to be seen near the stargate, neither was water. Instead of that the planet offered rocks, stones and a lot of fine sand in as many colours as one could think of.

 

All members of the crew got the opportunity to say their goodbyes to the scientist, after Young had finished the short but beautifully done burial ceremony. Since the chemist was beloved by the whole crew, everyone wanted to have the chance to bid farewell. Young asked Volker and Brody to arrange the shifts on board so everyone was able to visit the planet for a short time to do so. Aside from that Rush also managed to arrange in between the visitations a short expedition in the surroundings of the stargate to examine the coloured rock formations. The task was to collect samples hoping it would contain some necessary minerals.

 

Rush was naturally one member of this small expedition, but before he joined up with the rest to collect the probes, he stood still a moment at Inman’s grave, to say goodbye himself. Brody watched this little scene as unobtrusively as possible and was surprised to notice that Rush really seemed to care about the loss of Dr Inman. ‘Looks like he’s a mere human being like the rest of us’ he thought and watched every small move Rush made. But after a few moments he decided to turn away before anybody noticed him, more importantly, before Rush caught him starring.

 

The samples were done quickly, so there was enough time to admire the rich colours of the rocks, small stones and sand. After the darkish grey and brown colours Destiny offered the crew, it was quite a sight. The members of the expedition group where in agreement that nobody had ever seen anything like this, and most likely would never see such an astonishing landscape again.

 

The chemical analysis the team had collected revealed to the pleasure of the expedition group, that the rock and the sediment contained several important minerals. Therefore the science staff sent another group to the planet to collect as much of those materials as possible. With most of the mineral reserves filled up to the rim, Destiny was on course again one day later to follow the track the seeder-ships set through the new galaxy.

 

* * *

 

After the accident with Eli in the control interface room Rush decided to stay away from Eli for now. It wasn’t his aim to avoid him for a long time, but he could feel the tension build up every time both of them came close to each other, so it felt right for now. Aside from that he was still pissed at him, because in this case it was clear that Eli’s childish behaviour towards him was the cause of the accident. He could have killed himself, and that was not acceptable. But, unfortunately to Rush’s disappointment, Young decided that there was no need to have a paternal chat with Eli, though it would have helped much more than Rush moping around instead and giving everybody a hard time. But more importantly, the actual problem was, nobody understood what really was going on with Eli. He still hadn’t said anything, and nobody saw that there was a serious problem coming.

The fact that Eli was one of the few aboard Destiny Rush accepted in his personal space wasn’t helping either. To rebuke the members of his science team if necessary was no problem for Rush, he was used to that, but in this case he shied away from a confrontation. So he didn’t say anything, as Eli did, and everybody else did too.

 

Two weeks had passed after this accident before Rush and some other crew members got a bit of free time again to attend to more personal matters, like cleaning his quarters, arranging his notebook sheets, which was necessary from time to time, and last but not least, to take care of his laundry.

 

He’d changed from his usual outfit into the fatigues he used for some off-world missions, then went with his shirts, the second white one he had, the blue jeans, his two pairs of socks and all his underwear, including his bed sheets, to the bathrooms where they’d found early on additional rooms with washing machines. When he arrived he found Chloe who apparently had the same idea.

“The big machine is free!” Chloe said in a good mood to a sleepy and therefore a bit confused Rush. “The big one for your sheets,” she said, while pointing her finger at the laundry on his arms, and added finally: “But the small one is in use!”

“Yeah, right. Good, so I’ll do the bedding first,” Rush answered her slowly and little bit abashed while looking at her.

So he tossed the laundry to the ground, left his clothes there, and put only the sheets into the big machine, and switched it on. “I’ll leave the rest here, and come back after taking a shower.”

“Okay,” Chloe said, and added with a grin: “I’ll keep an eye on your socks while you’re away, you know how hard it is to get those in this part of the universe!”

Rush looked at her sheepishly, but didn’t really know what to answer in that moment, so he said: “Uh, yeah … good, so … I’ll go to take a shower then.” And with that he turned quickly and was out of the door, without further comment on Chloe’s quip.

 

When he came back after about 20 minutes, he saw Chloe and Lieutenant Scott taking their clothes out of the washing machine.

“Ah, the machine is free?” Rush asked them.

“Yes,” Chloe answered him, and began to clear the space in front of the machine.

“Matt, could you please help me?” she asked Scott who moved without hesitation to her. “Of course!” and said then to Rush slightly turning to him: “Morning Dr. Rush!”

“Good morning, Lieutenant Scott. Thank you,” was Rush’s short answer. Not wasting any more time than necessary he started to put his clothes into the machine, closed the door and started the program. Destiny’s washing machines were as everything on board this ship, far more advanced than washing machines on Earth. Like the showers and the toilets they worked without any chemical additives. Though the fabrics of the clothes they had were not Ancient textiles, so some clothes didn’t really look clean after washing, though they were, technically.

“The other machine should be ready, soonish!” Chloe said. And in fact at that very moment a small red light beside the door started to blink and a short high-pitched sound announced the end of the program.

“Perfect timing,” Rush grinned towards Chloe, who returned smiling: “I’ve never seen you waiting here, how do you do that?”

“Sometime I have to wait, but most of the time I take a shower while the machine is running, and that fits!” He explained and opened the door to take the bedclothes out. With laundry bundled in one hand he closed the door with the other, put the second hand under the laundry afterwards and went out of the room, after he’d said good-buy to Chloe and Scott.

 

Back in his room he immediately started to make his bed ready so he would be able to just sneak under the sheets and fall into a hopefully dreamless sleep late in the evening. He knew that all human beings dreamed during sleep, and that he was of course no exception to that. But all the dreams he had since his abduction by the Nakai were nightmares, which included in one-way or the other the events which happened during that time. And if his dreams weren’t about them, he dreamt of his encounter with Kiva, the commander of the Lucian Alliance group, who’d entered the ship after they’d captured him.

He would have gladly eliminated both memories, but his subconscious reminded him that he had still failed to make any progress working through any of those events. He knew he should talk to somebody about that. But to do so, he’d be forced to actually trust someone, be it on Destiny or somebody on the other end of the com-stones, and that was simply not possible. He could not trust anyone so far, and even if he could, he’d risk being declared as mentally unstable, which would lead to his deposal as the lead scientist on Destiny at least for some time, if not for longer. Because of his unhappy attraction of bad luck, it was quite possible that the wrong people, those who strongly disliked him, would get wind of it immediately. And this was something he didn’t want to risk. He still couldn’t trust Young or any of his people, and he’d seen signs, that this mistrust was on the other side too.

 

A knock on the door stopped his thoughts abruptly, so he went to the door and pushed the button to open it. In front of him stood Brody. “Mr. Brody, what can I do for you?”

“Hey, um, morning Dr. Rush. I know this is your day off, but, …anyhow, …I’d like to ask you whether you’d have some time to have look at the problems we are trying to figure out for some time now with the weapons system?” Brody asked.

At first Rush looked at him without showing any of his usual bad manners, but when he heard “weapons system” he looked thoroughly aghast and answered brusquely: “Ah, that’s typical. Did Colonel Young ask you to come here? No, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know!”

“No, even if you don’t want to know, I’ll tell you anyway. No, Colonel Young didn’t tell me to come to you.” Brody said a little bit unsurely, but seriously committed to not being intimidated by Rush’s bad manners and therefore added, before Rush could say more: “We, that is the people who work at the bridge, are still discussing the question. And I know Eli tried to get you involved in that project about two weeks ago. But then, …well the result wasn’t good, as we all know. Well, anyway, we thought that now, after a bit of time has passed and the disagreements between you and Eli are more or less resolved, that you would like to have a second look at that problem, maybe?”

 

The whole time Rush did nothing but stand there and look at Brody, expressionless. When Brody had finished, he said in his usual quiet tone, which was worse than getting an angry answer from him: “Since that accident Eli caused, the problem is still the same. But because you seem not to be aware of that, I’ll explain it to you again: the problem that needed to be solved before we’d be able to use the weapons system in an optimal way, is the large amount of energy. Destiny’s heavy weapons need a huge amount of that to work properly. But the ship would only be able to get that energy if it took it away from other places, like shields and life support. As you may know, those systems are essential for the survival of the crew aboard this ship, and therefore the weapon’s system can only be booted by 40%. Destiny’s central computer blocks everything else for that reason.

Eli’s idea to isolate those two circuits is theoretically the best way to solve this problem, but the problem is the process to do that. As things are now, we simply don’t have the necessary resources to do this!”

“What kind of resources do we need?” Brody interrupted, and felt like a freshman at university who just asked his professor an incredibly dull and simpleminded question.

“Very simple,” Rush answered in his usual quiet manner, which always displayed a slight touch of arrogance. “The necessary improvements fail due to a lack of capable people, replacement materials, and suitable tools. But since the Ancients thought quite a lot about less important details, like washing machines, self cleaning sanitary facilities, repair robots, supplies of the most important replacement materials and similar useful items, it seems likely to me that we’ll find a solution for our problem on this ship.

We need to gain more knowledge about the ship and explore its’ until now untouched areas to look for repair robots, and other necessary items. It seems to me a more effective way to solve our problems than to waste our limited resources on projects that will fail with what we presently have. Therefore my approach would be to turn off the biggest energy hogs on the ship, closing up bit-by-bit the large amount of hull leaks, and in this way gain more control and access to those parts of the ship we don’t yet have.

But the damages we suffered from the drones and blue star still consume all of our regular resources. To do more repairs, we need more resources, and to gain more resources we need to look for them on the ship. That’s why I will not waste my time to solve Colonel Young’s problem, with his simple “fix it” approach, because nobody will solve any problems by doing so. Furthermore, I’ll spend my free time as I want to, and that means, by looking for options that seem meaningful to me. Did I explain myself clearly enough, Mr Brody?”

“Yes, you did,” Brody said with a slightly acidified tone and added: “It just would be good to have your input in this discussion along with everybody else’s. Sometimes it is possible to find solutions by looking at them from different perspectives. Well, anyway, thank you …”, and went on in his thoughts: ‘… that you told me so clearly you are not willing to work with anybody else on this ship, and you’re not willing to change that any time, you arrogant son of a bitch!

“Yeah, have a nice day, as well, Mr Brody!” Rush replied, recognising Brody’s upset undertone. Then he closed the door, leaving the bewildered man outside without another word.

Well, that went great! Bastard!’ Brody thought. Then he turned around and went to the bridge to tell the rest of the crew what they’d predicted he’d say. He hated it when they’re proved right.

 

Rush waited a few minutes, then left his room, slightly relieved that Brody was gone. He went directly to the room with the washing machines to get the rest of his laundry. Now he was finally able to change into his freshly cleaned blue jeans, the shirts and the vest, which he had to acknowledge had desperately needed a cleaning. He simply didn’t like the military clothes, though they were comfortable to wear. He thought shuddering back to the moment when he went back to his own body, after he’d changed with Telford, realising he was in the infirmary. He did not only suffer from several bruises and abrasions he clearly didn’t have before the exchange, but also his clothes were uncomfortably wet, after all the muscles in his body gave up their function in one go, when Colonel Young suffocated Telford to cure him from the brain washing he’d gone through by the Lucian Alliance. Though he knew that neither Telford nor he himself would have been able to avoid this mishap, he felt quite embarrassed at the time. So the first thing he did was to go and change his clothes, although he didn’t really have time to do something vain like that.

 

As soon as he’d changed into his own clothes, he went directly to the science lab, where he would be able to work the whole day alone without any distractions. He sat down at one of the consoles and started to rummage through the ship’s huge databases. He loved to get lost in this kind of work, when he was able to completely forget time and space around him.

Suddenly, nearly on his way to jump to the next page, he found a file with information about repair robots. In this file he found one which seemed to be suitable to do difficult fine mechanical work. His heart made a small jump and started to beat wildly in excitement. He just found something new! Now, all he had to do was to find the place where this robot was stored.

He reread the details again and double-checked them with Destiny’s general map. The room was located in a far away section of the ship, which was accessible on two sides surrounded by rooms with several hull breaches.

He studied carefully the place where he’d found the file in the database and made notes about the location. Then he looked for the closest computer console in that room. Finally, he grabbed all his belongings, attached the radio to his belt and started to go to the front part of the ship, a place he’d never been before.

 

On his way he momentarily considered whether it would be better to contact the bridge first, but thought then that he’d only be about two hours looking for the robot and checking out what it may be capable of and decided that it may not be necessary. ‘Maybe it’s exactly that kind of robot which would be able to do the repairs we need to do, to obtain more parts, and we’d finally be able to make some progress with the ship,’ he thought excitedly.

 

To reach the front part of the ship he had to use several transporters that connected the far away sections of the ship. Between these transporters he had to pass through various long corridors, and the last part was a rather long passage, aside from that nothing here looked different from the part where they lived.

 

He marked each door and junction he went through with an “R.” At the end of a long passage was a door he could easily open. And when he opened the door a flush of stale air came towards him.

 

Here in this part of the ship the air was breathable though thin, and the temperature was clearly below the comfort zone they had in the inhabited area, but for the short time he’d be there, it would be sufficient. He crossed the room by passing the bright tube-like lamps connected by a lot of wires to each other, and the blank dark panels between them. At the end of the room he sat down at one of the consoles. ‘Maybe this is some kind of storage room,’ he thought and switched on the computer and began to search through the different file menus until he reached the file where he’d found the information about the robot.

He opened the file and entered the command “activate the unit.” He waited a few seconds and he neither heard anything nor did anything happen. Just when he thought his attempt failed, one of the panels opened and a small robot rolled out, turned itself around and stopped, standing on eight long legs near the wall, dead still.

Startled because of the unexpected motion Rush first starred unsurely at the thing, but then he started to look for possible commands in the database. The file menu offered “diagnosis” and since this seemed the easiest way to see what the robot was able to do, he finally entered the command to start the program.

He observantly followed the growing list of elements that were checked one by one, and also kept an eye on the small robot. The latter didn’t move but on its rounded surface several spots lit-up from time to time, then turned off again.

After a few minutes the program was over and a field displaying the result of the test popped up on the screen. The robot worked perfectly. Rush was delighted by the result and was on his way to pack up his things, when a new field showed up on the display. Now he realised that there was a second program running in the background of the first one. At the same time a hologram displaying a plan of the section appeared in front of the computer console. Now the computer asked him whether a hull breach in a nearby room should be sealed or not. The hull breach was in a room behind a smaller corridor like room that was next to the one he was in.

Rush was surprised and evaluated how long this would need or whether there was any risk for him, but then his curiosity took over and he confirmed the request in the dialog-box. A new window popped up on the display telling him he had to stay in the room he was currently in, and that the whole section would be sealed up for the time the work lasted.

Again he thought about his options: in between he had started to get cold, but the room contained enough breathable air for several hours, and the cold was bearable, so he decided after a few seconds to start the program.

 

Then it becomes quite noisy around him. Doors hissed closed and behind the walls of the room all hell broke loose. He studied the display in front of him to get further information, but the only message he found was that the program couldn’t be stopped now and the repair would not last longer than one hour. First he calmed down and then looked at the robot that was now moving towards a door, where it finally stopped.

With an unpleasant warning sound the door slid open and the robot went through to stop again in front of the following door at the end of the corridor. Then the first door closed. Rush jumped up to open the door again, but it was sealed. ‘Fuck!’ he thought, but remembered then, that he’d seen a menu for a built-in camera on the robot. So he went quickly back to the console and looked for that file.

Now he realised it was not longer possible to go back to files outside of the section he was in. He tried to send a message to the bridge, but the console didn’t allow him to open any file outside of this part of the ship. Anxiously he pulled out the radio from his belt and switched it on.

“Rush here, does anybody read?” Nothing.

He tried again on different channels, but the radio stayed still.

“Shite!” he said loud, rubbed his eyes and brushed some hair out of his face. Then he retried again, and again, but any further attempt failed. The more time passed, the more he got a bad feeling that there was no other way but to wait until everything was finished.

 

At that moment the ship dropped out of FTL.

 

* * *

 

“I got a strange message on my display!” Brody called backwards to Young who sat on the command chair of the bridge, seemingly dozing at that very moment.

Hearing that he come to life and asked: “Would it be possible to provide me with some precise information, Mr Brody?”

But before Brody was able to answer, Eli interrupted him: “The readout on my display says a section in front of the ship is disconnected from the rest.”

Young looked at him questioningly. Now Brody took over again: “I got a confirmation on that now … some kind of repair is going on and that the ship will …”

Just then the ship dropped out of FTL, to slide slowly through space.

“What the hell! …” Young started, but before he was able to end the sentence, Brody finished his report: “… the ship will drop out of FTL!”

Young glanced at Brody and grasped his radio. “Rush, was that you?”

But when he didn’t get an answer he tried again: “Rush, do you read? Where are you?”

But when he didn’t get an answer the second time he looked around and asked: “Does anybody know where Rush is?”

The people around him only shook their heads. “Chloe told me she’d seen him in the laundry room.” Eli answered.

“I asked him some hours ago whether he’d have a second look on the weapons,” Brody threw in sheepishly.

Eli chuckled and said to Brody: “Didn’t I tell you Rush wouldn’t go for this again?”

“Yes, you did,” Brody defended himself, “but I thought after the dust had settled, he’d be more open minded.”

“And what did he say?” Eli taunted.

“He gave me a lecture why this problem couldn’t be solved now!” Brody said and looked down, as if he’d done something wrong.

“Said so!” Volker said. “Rush pursues nothing but is own goals. He never takes interest in other people’s ideas!”

Meanwhile, Young tried again to reach Rush as he was walking toward Eli’s position using the crutches he still needed.

“Eli, would it be possible to send Rush a message through the internal com-system?”

“I can try,” he answered shortly and immediately started to write the message Young asked him to. After less than two minutes he finished and sent the message.

Young turned around and looked into the faces of the people on the bridge. It was not hard to see that all of them where thinking back to the time when Rush was permanently absent, and as they’d learned later, playing with the systems on the new found bridge of the ship.

“Does anybody have an idea on which secret project he’s working right now?” Young asked them with a sarcastic tone.

“No idea” and “he never tells anybody anything!” were the answers from several people.

“Whatever he’s doing right now, I really hope he doesn’t risk anybody’s life with it.” Young said quietly more to himself, than to anybody else. Then he picked up his radio again. “Sergeant Greer and Lieutenant Scott to the bridge, please!” He waited with the radio in his hand until he got answers from both men.

When Brody asked whether this was really necessary Young said: “The last time Dr Rush played on his own with the ship, I lost one of my best men. I just want to make sure something like that will not happen again, Mr Brody!”

“Of course,” Brody said quietly, “but I got the impression he wouldn’t do something like that again.”

“I don’t think so!” Eli snapped before he could go on Volker defended Brody’s words. “Yes, Brody is right. I still think Rush an insufferable and arrogant turd, but I don’t think he’d do something like the stunt with the bridge again.

“He manipulated the stasis pod.” Eli said.

“He did what?” Volker asked Eli not sure he’d heard that right.

“He manipulated the last stasis pod. I have clear evidence of that on a kino.”

Then Greer and Scott entered the bridge. “Sir?” Scott asked without further introduction.

“Put a search party together to find Dr Rush!” Young said.

Scott and Greer gave each other a questioning look.

“Some instructions where we should start, Sir?” Greer asked finally.

“No, not really. Start at the usual places and continue to the front of the ship!”

Again, Scott and Greer had queried looks after Young mentioned the front of the ship.

“The computer display showed activities over there” Young explained and continued: “Be careful, those are unknown parts, and nobody knows what could happen, or what Rush is up to.”

“Yes, Sir!” Scott acknowledged the order and left together with Greer.

 

Now Young turned back to Eli’s accusation. “Since when did you know about that, Eli?”

“Since the time you where all in cryostasis,” Eli started. “I went back to the kino-footage to see what kind of repairs Rush had done. And then I saw it. He behaved very strangely when he examined the last pod.”

“What do you mean with ‘behaved very strangely?” Young wanted to know.

Without losing time Eli answered him: “When he started with the examination he suddenly stopped and went to the door to look whether there was anybody, but when he was sure he was alone, he did something, and then he told us the last one was broken and that he couldn’t repair it.”

“Yes,” Brody threw in, “he first wanted to try himself to do the repairs, taking the risk that he wouldn’t make it in time!”

“Rush, sacrificing himself on behalf of others? Never!” Volker blurted out laughing sarcastically.

“It was me who prevented Rush from doing it, because I didn’t want to take the risk he’d panic if he failed to do the repairs in time, putting everybody on this ship in danger.” Young told him.

“But what if that was his plan from the start?” Volker answered him.

“What plan?” Brody asked.

“A way to get rid of Colonel Young!” Volker said.

“That’s a heavy accusation, Dale!” Brody said furiously.

“An accusation we’ll investigate when we find Rush and he can explain what he did with the ship this time.” And with that Young ended a discussion that would not bring any answers at that point without Rush’s input.

“Eli, it would’ve been better if you’d told me this story in private when we came out of stasis!”

“I wasn’t sure,” Eli argued. “And the whole thing would’ve been such a serious accusation. And in case I was wrong, and now I’m not really sure about that, I’d have whirled up a lot of dust for nothing.”

“Well, that’s exactly the reason to have a talk like this in private. Now, it looks like Rush is guilty, before we have any real proof, or his part of the story!”

With that he turned away from Eli to tell everybody else on the bridge: “The only question I want to have an answer to right now is: Why did the ship stop to undergo repairs nobody on the bridge authorized?”

 

* * *

 

Greer and Scott assembled a group of three people each to find Rush. Greer went with another soldier and Dr. Morrison to Rush’s quarters and the nearby rooms. Scott accompanied by a soldier and a civilian as well, looked in the common rooms, the observation deck, the science lab, the old interface control room and all the rooms next to those.

“He hasn’t been in his quarters, and not in the rooms next to that for several hours!” radioed Greer and added: “At least he’s not been seen for some hours now.”

Copied,” came Scott’s voice over Greer’s radio. “The console in the science lab was used a few hours ago, which means, somebody was here and did something in the morning!

“Ideas about that?” Greer asked.

Um,” was Scott’s initial reaction, then Greer could hear nothing else but a few beeping noises in the background. Scott continued after a moment: “Somebody had a look at the plan of the ship, especially the front part!

“Sounds like Rush. So, at least we got a confirmation that we’ll find him there, as Colonel Young suggested!” Greer spoke into his radio and looked at his watch. “Meet me at 1645 at the transporter near the observation deck!”

Copy that!” Scott confirmed. “1645 at the transporter near the observation deck!

 

Greer went with his team to the meeting point. From there on, they would continue together to the front part of the ship by the only possible way.

At the meeting point both groups stepped into the transporter. After closing the doors the cabin started to move forwards and after one minute the transporter stopped and the doors opened again.

 

The small group went into the corridor and looked around.

“There is a “R” written with chalk!” Morrison called, who walked with Scott’s team the right side of the corridor, while Greer and his party did the same at the left side.

“Looks like he was definitely here. Only question is when?” Scott asked himself, nodding to Morrison.

 

They went on, following Rush’s marks through several corridors and transporters. After 15 minutes they stopped at a door, which couldn’t be opened by pressing at the door control.

“Press again!” Greer said to Scott. But the door stayed closed.

“Okay, looks like we’ve reached the sealed part of the ship.” Scott said.

“Yeah, looks like!” Greer repeated him.

“And what do we do now?” Morrison asked both.

“Call the bridge!” Scott answered shortly and griped for his radio.

“Colonel Young, this is Scott, do you read?”

This is Young, I copy that, Lieutenant Scott.” Young’s voice came over Scott’s radio.

“We’ve reached the sealed part of the ship, Colonel. We can’t go on. Is there a way around this area?” Scott asked Young.

No, you can’t bypass the area!” Eli answered after a few seconds, instead of Young.

“Okay, Understood!” Scott replied. “What should we do now, Colonel?”

Nothing! Right now, you can’t do anything, anyway. Best to stay there and wait until we’re out of this jam. Send part of the group back. Just leave two of you there to wait for Rush. Just in case!” Young told him.

“Copy that!” Scott said.

“So?” Greer meant.

“You heard it. Two people have to wait here and the rest can go back. So, who’ll stay?” Scott asked Greer and the others.

“I can stay here with Dr. Morrison or Corporal Barnes!” Greer proposed looking at those two.

“Are you sure, you want to wait here for Rush?” Scott asked Greer.

“Yes, why not?” Greer asked first irritated, but after he looked at Scott’s sceptical reaction, he understood, what this question meant.

“Oh, no, don’t worry, I won’t do anything to him! My job is only to escort him to Colonel Young, as soon as this door opens again.”

“Okay,” Scott said slowly, “so, who wants to freeze his butt off with Sergeant Greer here, waiting for Rush?”

 

When Barnes and Morrison were both ready to wait with Greer, Scott left it to Greer to choose one of them. After Greer picked Corporal Barnes, Scott went back with the rest of the group.

 

* * *

 

When Rush realised it was a waste of time to try to contact anybody on the bridge, he looked for the data-file to control the camera and switched it on. Now he was able to watch the work the robot did directly on the hologram in front of his console.

 

What he was able to see was more than he’d ever hoped to see. The devise was not only able to do serious repairs but also very fine work in small areas. ‘This is exactly what we need to go forward with all the repairs we have to do, without postponing anything else. Colonel Young will like this. Finally, we’ll be able to repair his beloved weapons’ he thought excitedly.

 

He watched the small eight-legged robot for another one and a half hour. That was half an hour more than the computer originally told him, but who’d complain about something like that when the work was successfully finished? The computer analysed the data from the room, and re-established the environmental conditions. Now that everything was finished, finally both doors opened at once. Rush could now have a closer look at everything.

When he finished his inspection, he went back to the terminal and read the report of the work. The computer confirmed again the successful completion of the work, and closed all files. In the meantime the ship started bit by bit to reopen the closed area. As he picked up his radio to inform the bridge, the ship went back to FTL, and Sergeant Greer and Corporal Barnes entered the room.

 

“Sergeant Greer, Corporal Barnes, what’s going on?” Rush asked, but when he looked in both soldiers’ faces he knew why they were here. “Ah, yes, Colonel Young sent you to bring me back.”

“Whatever you’ve done this time, Colonel Young is really pissed that you forget to inform him!” Greer told him.

“Yeah, I see!” Rush started slowly, but then he went on: “The ship trapped me here, when I tested a robot I found in Destiny’s inventory. The test was to seal a hull-breach. Therefore, for security reasons the ship sealed the whole section. When I realised what had happened, it was too late to inform the bridge via radio or the internal computer system. Believe me, when I tell you, I was more than surprised. I’d never thought about something like that before. But, well, the ship did what it did, most likely for safety.”

“Hum, I get that!” was Greer’s reaction. “But you’ll understand, that nobody is pleased with you right now. You should really stop doing things like this, Doc. You need to find a reasonable way to explain that to Colonel Young, and then everything will be fine again!”

 

“Yeah, alright, I just want to put everything back to the place where it belongs, get my things, and then we can go,” Rush explained Greer and Barnes. And when he’d finished everything, all of them headed back.

 

On the way back Rush explained to Greer and Barnes what the robot was able to do, and infected both of them with his enthusiasm. They started to ask for more details, which he was more than eager to give.

 

It took them about 20 minutes to reach the corridor to the bridge, and at that point Barnes said good bye to both men, and Greer went back to his usual stiff soldier habit. “Remember what I told you. Colonel Young is totally not amused with your stunt today. So, you need to keep the ball as flat as possible.”

When they neared the bridge, Rush answered him casually: “I don’t see a problem if I explain everything as I’ve done with both of you.”

“Just stay calm!” Greer called while Rush went through the door to enter the bridge. Then Greer took his post in front of the door as he had been ordered.

 

“Rush, what the hell have you done?” Young angrily greeted him, sitting on the captain’s chair.

“Colonel, there’s no need to be angry. I can explain everything,” Rush began as quietly as he was able to, while stepping down the stairs. But before he was able to finish, Young interrupted him.

“No reason to be angry? The ship jumped out of FTL, sealed a whole section, the consoles went crazy, you sneaked away, as you’ve done before, not answering your radio, again, exactly the same way you did before, and you dare to ask me not to get angry?” Young roared at Rush, standing up from his chair.

“Colonel, please, let me explain the situation!” Rush pleaded, closing the distance to Young slowly, holding up his hands in a placating manor.

“You know what, Rush? You’re under arrest!” But when he screamed those words at Rush, he saw Rush’s gestures and facial expressions, and remembered their clash on the alien ship, when they’d learned Rush had found the bridge. He’d made the same movement with his hands, had the same fearful expression in his face, while telling him lies, over and over again. The only thing he was able to think about was a pair of two blue eyes, looking at him in desperation, trying to keep calm, so he, Young, would be able to suffocate that boy with his bare hands. Riley had tried so hard to make this easy for Young, so that he would be able to live on knowing he had killed one of his best men out of mercy. And when he’d died after the longest minutes he was ever forced to live through, something in Young had died too. And though he knew Riley’s death was an unintentional accident, he’d never forgive Rush. In the end it was Rush who was responsible for what had happened.

And now, after everything, he’d done it again. He’d lied again. Endangered all of them for no good reason. Everything that Rush, here in front of him, did, was so telling about this latest betrayal, which broke all the dams. Everything came back in that moment: his desperation, the guilt he felt, and the fact that he could never forgive himself for what he was forced to do. As if remote-controlled Young grabbed one of his crutches, closing with two long steps the distance between them. He stopped in front of him, and started to roar at Rush again, more intensely than before. “It’s always the same with you!”

Then he struck out and punched him hard across the face.

“You simply never learn from your mistakes, do you?”

Meeting the blow Rush crumpled down, bouncing back from the chair that stood in one of the niches in front of a window in which a deeply terrified and speechless Brody was sitting in. Rush fell down but was able to catch himself with his hands and was now on all fours. The encounter with the chair injured the right part of his face, and he could feel warm blood running down from his nose and his cheek.

Young was more and more enraged and continued screaming: “When will you stop endangering everybody’s life with your selfish behaviour?”

Rush looked up to meet his eyes, wiping away the blood from his face, trying to calm Young down somehow. “Please, Colonel,” he started, but was stopped midway, when Young started to smash the crutch on him.

One stroke after another went down on him, and the only thing Rush was able to do was to try and avoid the worst impacts by protecting his head with his arms. And when the crutch cracked, because of the force of the blows, Young went on, kicking him.

 

Then Young stopped suddenly. Rush’s befuddled conscious could hear a far away voice, trying to calm someone down. After moments that seemed an eternity, he realised it was Lieutenant Scott who was talking: “Colonel Young, stop it. You don’t want to kill him, do you? If you don’t stop now, you’ll kill him. Please, Colonel!”

 

When Rush realized that Young had stopped, he rolled to his side and tightened his legs carefully. His face was smeared with blood and tears and he was no longer able to suppress the quiet groans and whimpers he made. He was long beyond the means to keep the last shred of dignity he had left.

 

He heard Young now out of breathe, saying: “Okay, fine, I’ll stop.” Then he continued after a short pause: “Let me go Greer, and remove this bastard from my sight, before I forget myself, again! And Sergeant Greer, take him to his quarters. He’s under arrest. And, …thank you Lieutenant Scott, I don’t need you any longer.”

 

“Yes, Sir” Rush heard Scott answering. Then he felt somebody bending down to him. It was Greer, who tried to bring him back up to his feet.

 

Greer shoved his hands under Rush’s arms to lift him carefully. Scott was on his way to help his comrade, but Greer played down the issue. When Rush cried out loud, he nearly dropped him out of his hands, but then he managed to bring him to his feet. Then Greer put Rush’s arm around his shoulder, brought his own arm around Rush’s waist, and pushed his hand under Rush’s belt. This way he got a better grip on him to climb up the stairs to leave the bridge. While he climbed one step after the next with Rush in his arms, he constantly talked quietly to him, with Scott still at his tail.

 

Outside of the hearing range of the bridge, Greer send Scott away. Finally he said to Rush: “That didn’t go well, Doc? Didn’t I tell you to keep the ball flat, and stay calm?”

“But I did” Rush groaned weakly, “Colonel Young didn’t listen …” Suddenly he slumped down, but got back to his feet again. “He hit me, before …” But this time he never ended the sentence. Without hesitating Greer pushed his arms under the body to carry him. He considered shortly – despite Young’s order – which was closer, the infirmary or Rush’s quarters, but decided Rush’s room was by far closer, and so he went there.

 

In front of the door, he pushed the button carefully, while keeping Rush in his arms, and the door slid open. He crossed the short distance to Rush’s bed, and lay him down. Then he took the radio from its retaining ring and switched it on. “TJ, this is Greer, do you read?”

After a few seconds TJ’s voice came over the radio: “TJ here! What’s going on Ron?”

 

* * *

Chapter Text

5. Recovering

 

Brody stayed dead still during those five minutes when everything happened between Rush and Young on the bridge. After Greer had taken Rush out of the room, he slowly came out of shock and peeked over to Volker, who looked back at him uncertainly, as shocked and stunned as he felt then. His sight wandered to Eli, who stared very intensely at the lights on his console. A few seconds later, when he realized somebody was observing him, he faced Brody, but when their eyes met, he ashamedly changed his view back to his console.

 

Then Brody glanced over to the central command-chair, where Young had settled back again. He couldn’t understand why Young’s mood had changed seemingly from nowhere into something like that. Just a few minutes before, he was a model of a rational thinking and quiet Commander, who gave sound advice and a split second later his mood changed completely for no reason. He looked at Young, whose face was still drenched in sweat, looking like he’d worn himself out, thoroughly. His eyes were empty, and he seemed to be a thousand miles away. Nauseated, Brody’s eyes shifted from him to the floor, to the wall and back to the floor. On the floor where Rush had been a short time ago, he could see smeared blood and where he was still able to see it, nearly under the chair he sat on, a few completely circular drops of blood still wet, that stood out from the darkish brown floor.

 

Then Brody’s stomach started to revolt and the only thing he wanted right now was to go away as far as possible from Young. There seemed to be situations where he was still unpredictable and dangerous. Everybody aboard knew it was not the first time he got rough with Rush. But also they all knew, even if Rush was the preferred goal of his aggression – eventually he would provoke Young’s bad mood once too often – Young had attacked others as well who came into his field of fire. Telford for example, or one of the LA folks, that he’d killed with his bare fists.

 

The mixture of blood and sweat that was lingering in the air caused more nausea in his already stirred up stomach and was no longer endurable for him.

 

“I need to go to the bathroom. Would it be possible for someone to watch the monitors at my station?” Brody said and left his chair without waiting for Young’s agreement.

“I’ll watch your monitors, Adam!” Volker said eventually, but Brody was already out the door. While leaving the bridge he saw Young still sitting on the command chair, where he’d plumed himself in, after Greer had taken Rush out of the room.

 

When he got outside the bridge he went slowly to the transporter lift, but stopped halfway to lean on the wall. A new wave of nausea came, and he had to press his hand on his mouth, standing there motionless, waiting for it to pass. After a few moments it was better and he could think again. ‘I had better at least inform TJ!’ He thought, and stepped into the transporter to go to the deck were the infirmary was located.

 

Arriving there he found TJ packing her emergency kit in hurry. “TJ, I think you need to take a look at Rush!”

“I’m on my way now to pay him a visit.” TJ said closing her emergency kit. “What the hell happened? Greer radioed me and told me he and Young had a violent dispute on the bridge. He took Rush to his quarters, but then Rush lost consciousness.”

“Yes,” Brody answered her silently without looking at her. He stared for a moment at the floor, but then he composed himself. “Can I help you?” Brody said finally, pointing at TJ’s equipment.TJ nodded to one of the bags.

 

“Young beat up Rush on the bridge, after they had a short but intense clash,” Brody told her as casually as possible and took the heavy backpack TJ had just pointed out for him. On the way to Rush’s quarters, Brody told her everything in outline.

 

The door to Rush’s room was open, Greer was sitting on the bed, and Rush lay behind him. Greer had turned him skilfully on his side into a recovery position. When TJ and Brody entered the room Greer stood up to meet them.

 

TJ went to the bed, after first laying her equipment down. Then she knelt on the bed and made a first check on the lifeless body in front of her. “How long since he lost consciousness, Sergeant Greer?”

“About ten minutes.” Greer said.

“Who witnessed the incident?” TJ asked the two men.

“I was in the room when it happened,” Brody said, indicating to Rush. “Otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible to tell you about it, would it?”

When TJ looked at Greer, without commenting on Brody’s remark, he answered her: “I stood outside of the room and came in when it was nearly over.”

“Okay, then, you tell me what happened again, Mr Brody. I’m interested primarily in his injuries, but not so much in other details!”

So, Brody told her everything he could see from his position in as much detail as possible, while TJ interrupted him from time to time to ask questions before she checked what Brody had told her directly on the body. When Brody had finished she suddenly asked in a distressed tone: “Why the hell did no one stop this?”

“You had to be there”, was all Brody offered, but TJ was not satisfied and looked from Brody to Greer to maybe get a better answer from him.

“I’ve never seen Colonel Young in such a rage. He was completely beside himself. I was afraid he would kill Rush if Lieutenant Scott and I hadn’t stopped him.”

 

“Okay. Good.” TJ answered resigned. “You both could help me to bring him into a better exam position.” When they were done, she asked them: “I need one of you to unclothe him.”

 

Brody and Greer looked at each other, but before Brody was able to protest Greer said: “Mr Brody will help you …” and he thought further: ‘if it wasn’t possible for him to stop Young, he’ll see what he didn’t do.’

“I’ll stay outside. Call me if you need me, Lieutenant Johansen!” He said with a last glance to Brody and went out.

 

TJ first ignored Brody who stood behind her, embarrassed, and took off her patient’s shoes. Then she beckoned Brody and elucidated everything he had to do to avoid harm to the unconscious person. When they’d finally removed all the clothes, TJ started another thorough examination from head to foot and to Brody’s displeasure she took her time with it.

 

Brody who had stepped aside in the meantime, waited in front of the bed and watched her. It was impossible to miss that he felt not only bad, but guilty too, though considering a closer look at his situation, he wasn’t really guilty, regardless what Greer or TJ, who were trained for these kind of situations, may have insinuated.

After some minutes TJ was finished, and started to take disinfectants and bandages out of her first aid kit. After she’d treated the abrasions and lacerations on the face and the hands, she took towels out of her bag, went to the door, opened it, and asked Greer to bring a bucket of water.

 

“I don’t have gel packs, wet towels will have to do the job. My options for treating him are unfortunately quite limited. The only thing I can do is to cool down the bruises. But aside from the fingers of his right hand, I didn’t find any obvious fractures, which is at least something,” TJ explained to Brody, who looked at her with eyes wide open, asking himself how it would be possible to treat a completely bruised person. Would she wrap him wholly in wet cloth? Greer’s calculation worked. Brody felt horrible.

 

“Brody, would it be possible to bring me a stack of cushions from the infirmary?” TJ asked him.

“Of course,” he answered her quietly and was on his way, happy to be able to leave, but also to actually do something aside from standing around.

 

After a short time Greer came back with the water bucket, and a little bit later Brody as well, with the stack of pillows he’d collected in the infirmary. Whilst Greer went back to his guard duty at the door, TJ took care of Rush by applying the wet cloths only at the worst affected body parts. And when she also applied a towel at the groin region, Brody had to flinch in spite of himself. Within the first two hours TJ changed the cloths every 20 minutes, but after two hours it was possible to do it less often. Brody agreed to help her and informed the people on the bridge. That was also when TJ needed some rest, so she instructed Brody how to do the changes until he got a replacement, three hours later.

 

To watch the patient and to change the wet cloths was not really difficult and it was not required to have a degree in nursing, but it needed alertness during long hours of watching, without sleep, and doing nothing but waiting. But TJ wanted to be sure that somebody took care of the patient full time, as long as Rush was unconscious, so she would be able to get her necessary rest. Eventually after a few hours she came back to relieve Brody, so he could get some sleep, too.

 

It was a long night for everybody involved. Even Greer, who stayed at the door half of the night – actually because Rush was officially under arrest by order of Young – went to sleep at some time.

 

* * *

 

Early the next morning TJ rose from the chair where she had watched Rush for the last few hours and went over to his bed. With a few practiced movements of her hands she checked him over and changed the cloths again. Then she radioed Vanessa James, who knew enough about nursing to take care of the patient, so that TJ, finally, could take a shower and go to the mess hall to have breakfast.

 

“Call me immediately the moment he awakes,” TJ told Lieutenant James in a low voice, and before she left the room, she slightly squeezed Vanessa’s shoulder to encourage her.

 

Now James stood in front of the bed and looked down at the unconscious man. She recognised the cushions from the infirmary, draped around his frame to stabilise him. His right arm and hand were wrapped in wet towels resting on one of the pillows. His slender fingers, which were visible under the towel, were black and looked somehow misshapen, and his face didn’t look good either. It was completely swollen on the right side.

 

Vanessa was aware of what had happened, because everybody talked about nothing else. When she heard about the incident on the bridge, her first thought was that Rush surely deserved the beating Young gave him for what he did – whatever it was this time. What they’d witnessed frightened them all out of their wits, because nobody understood why it happened. But when she saw him lying there, she asked herself whether this kind of punishment was really deserved. Especially with further thought about it, aside from him, nobody else was harmed.

 

She then thought back to the last time she had sat at his sickbed, and when she had assisted during a surgery to remove the alien transmitter from his chest. Then, he’d awakened much quicker, though he looked absolutely lousy. He had released himself from the infirmary, against TJ’s advice and went strait back to work. Though, she didn’t expect that to happen this time in the next few days.

 

With those thoughts and pictures in her head James watched Rush for a while, until she decided to sit down in the nearby chair TJ had used before, and started to read the book she had brought with her.

 

* * *

 

After TJ had freshened up and had a breakfast, she went straight to the infirmary to pick up bandages and mix a disinfect ointment. When she put the first ingredients in a small pot somebody knocked at the door. Hearing the noise she looked up and saw Young standing in the doorframe.

 

“I heard Greer asked you to go to Rush’s quarters?” Young asked. He looked much more relaxed then he felt at that moment. “You may know, I put him under arrest, after what he did yesterday.” But when he saw TJ’s judgemental glance, he continued more hesitantly: “I think, the moment he’s up again, I should put him under surveillance 24/7! Such a situation …”

“Yes, IF he’s up again!” TJ berated. She’d waited up to his last sentence, until she couldn’t keep her mouth shut any longer. “You know, it will be a long time before he’ll be able to go back to duty, certainly not in the foreseeable future, so any kind of surveillance will not be necessary!”

 

Not until now had Young noticed her atypical angry and defiant attitude and hesitated again before he answered her in a loud voice: “This is completely his fault! We still don’t know what he did yesterday, or what kind of consequences this may have for all of us. I cannot and will not tolerate this any longer. And aside from the arrest, there will be clear consequences for him as much as for all the other civilians.”

 

TJ was not really convinced, but calmed down a little bit. In her opinion, Young’s actions against Rush were not as justified as he claimed, so she tried something else to prove her point.

 

“It was not necessary to beat him half to death regardless of what he did! If you think that’s the way to control Rush, I’m sure you’ll get the opposite! If he ever trusted you, he won’t anylonger, and aside from that, I’ve never heard that good people are made by beating them up!”

To that Young replied: “He needs to adapt otherwise …”

“Otherwise, what?” TJ interrupted. “You will beat him to death for real?”

“You’re overacting. I’m sure it wasn’t that bad. You’ll see in a few days he’ll be up and thinking up something new to mock us all! But this time he won’t get the chance,” Young answered with contempt.

“You don’t understand what you’ve done, Everett? You’ve hurt him really badly this time!”

“How do you know that? You never checked him that thoroughly those two times before, did you?” Young answered angrily but in a low voice.

“Two times?” She asked questioning after a short pause. But when he didn’t answer and didn’t make eye contact with her she decided to dig deeper. “So, you don’t even try to deny it. You beat him not only on that … Ursini-ship, but also before? When was it? The time you left him behind, maybe?” She’d hit a nerve. His guilty look gave him away. Just then the scales fell from her eyes, and she knew what truly had happened on the desert-planet with the broken Nakai ship. And when it finally came to her she was deeply disappointed. Of course she knew somehow, deep down there was more to the story than what he’d told her, and that he had lied not only to everybody else, but to her as well. This hurt her more than she wanted to admit. And that concerned her even more than the fact that Young got away with an attempted murder. ‘I’m sure Rush did something grave, otherwise he would have compromised Young as soon as he came back.’ TJ thought.

She also had to admit though, that she never felt the need to examine Rush further during the first year. She had thought that if he had some kind of injury, he would come by. If there had been anything else it would heal by itself, so no need to waste resources that were needed for more serious injuries. But it also struck her that if she had done her job more earnestly with Rush, she would have found the surgery scar where the Nakai planted the transmitter, before Rush could instigate the mutiny with Camile Wray’s help. The whole difficulty with the mutiny maybe would never have happened. Anyway, in hindsight thoughts like this never come to anything helpful.

 

She watched him for a few moments more without getting an answer, so she finally decided to change her tactics: “I don’t understand you, Everett. You are a good commander. You’ve proved that more than once. Your soldiers blindly trust you. But then there are also those moments when you just lose control and lash out. What is it about Rush that enrages you like this? That you behave like a jealous husband who beats up his wife every time he thinks she betrayed him? What is it?”

“That’s absurd, TJ. I’ve never beaten up a woman!” He answered irritably.

“I didn’t say that, Everett,” TJ said in a conciliatory tone turning half way away from him.

Then why do you make such a ridiculous comparison?” Young asked her, following her movement trying to look into her eyes.

“Because it is to a certain degree, similar,” she said. “There are a whole lot of reasons for violence in relationships, whatever kind of relationship. For example, the inability to win out by talking over someone, or to think of violence as a justified means to control someone.”

TJ was able to see Young’s growing discomfort in the matter since he didn’t answer, so she went on. “Why do I get the impression the problem between you and him is about control? Or to be more precise, that you constantly try to control him more and more, and the more you do, the more he drifts away from you?”

She again changed her position without losing eye contact with Young. “I’m aware that he is not willing to obey, and that is a problem which has to be solved. But I also think the way you do this, and did from the start, is as wrong.”

 

Of course Young knew he’d made a mistake. He was not an idiot. He realised that as soon as he had seen the shamefaced people on the bridge, after Greer had left with Rush and he’d calmed down. Also, he didn’t miss the fact that people like Volker, Brody or any of the civilians behaved differently when he was around, as if they were afraid of him. The mixture of disgust and fear was omnipresent and peeved him, too.

Nevertheless, he had the feeling that he was absolutely right in what he did. He had to force Rush to behave like any other crewmember. If that means he must bear the consequences, so be it. But then he remembered what Eli had said about the pods. ‘Is it possible that Eli was right?’ He asked himself. The day before he had rejected the thought without considering it again, but today, he was not so sure about it.

“No member of my crew is allowed to follow their own selfish interests disregarding the safety of anybody else, especially not Rush, after everything he’s already done!” He declared to TJ, who didn’t exactly disagree with what he had just said, but still felt the need to explain her concern about the matter.

“Of course, you’re right about that. The problem this time wasn’t about one of your command decisions as the leader of this crew, but about the fact that you had made it a personal war between you and Rush.

You don’t punish him by following the rules, but in a very personal way. You claim the right to beat him up so badly that he’ll need weeks to recover fully, if he recovers fully!”

“Why the hell do you defend him?” Young asked offended.

But TJ’s reply didn’t take long: “I don’t defend him, I just criticise the way you deal with this problem. What you did was wrong, Everett. If you think you have to punish him for something he did, punish him, but do it by the rules!”

“Rush has to stop his solo efforts!” Young emphasised.

“There you’re a hundred per cent right. I see it the same way, but beating him up regularly won’t change anything. How often do I need to repeat that to you, so you’ll finally understand?

And Rush was not the only one you’ve gotten rough with, right? You’ve lost your composure in other cases too. And that is something you need to change. You need to talk to someone about it!”

When Young looked at her sheepishly, she added quickly: “No, not me. I’m talking about more professional help. Miss Wray for example, is a qualified psychologist. She must adhere to professional confidentiality, and I know she sticks to those rules.”

“Yes, I know that I can trust her,” Young answered, beginning to understand what TJ was trying to tell him, bit by bit, though it needed time to settle within him.

When TJ felt he was hesitating, she added: “Maybe, if you’d prefer to talk to someone who’s less involved with everything here, there’s always the possibility of using the stones …”

“I’ll think about it!” Young interrupted her, but when he saw TJ’s sceptical face, he hurried to add: “Really, I’ll do that. I want to sleep on it. I guess it won’t hurt. I’m just not sure who I’ll contact.”

“Of course,” she said and went back to the table where she sat down and started working again. Young observed her and now thought quietly about all the things they had just talked about.

After a while he said: “Would it be possible to go with you, when you visit Rush?” Young asked eventually when he’d realised what she was doing.

“Yes,” she hesitated, “if you promise to not be in my way and keep a good distance from him!”

“Of course!” Young said and looked for anything suitable to use as a chair for sitting down to relieve his hurting foot. From his new place he watched her calmly without starting to chat with her again.

 

* * *

 

Brody went straight back to his quarters, after he’d changed with TJ in the middle of the night, or to be more precise, in the very early hours of the morning. He flopped onto his bed and tried to arrange all the thoughts in his head. What he’d seen that day was simply too much for him to bear. First the scene on the bridge, and after that, the hours he’d spend in Rush’s room, as he took care of him.

He was completely unbalanced right now, and didn’t know what to do with himself. Out of necessity he had to take a close look at all the injuries while changing the wet cloths several times during his watch, which was something hard to bear. But what he was by far more concerned about was his reaction to the naked body of the man. Rush was for sure not the first or only human being he had asked himself how he’d look without clothes. Actually that was a question he’d asked himself more often with women than men, though he remembered he’d had those thoughts about men before, rarely, but he had. But, all of that was not really the problem he faced those last hours. The problem for him was, he couldn’t deny that he thought, despite the horrible circumstances, that Rush was astonishingly attractive. And now, he felt guilty for it, guilty for having clear and undeniable feelings for the man, while his job was to do nothing but to take care of him.

Greer, that son of a bitch, he did this on purpose!’ He thought suddenly. ‘He tried to teach me something! That’s so military! First being kind, but then, when you least expect it, turn the knife with pleasure!

He desperately needed a gulp of his moonshine, so he eventually decided to get up. He went over to the small table by the wall, where he always kept a stock for rainy days, and opened the bottle. He poured a healthy gulp of the drink into his tin mug and drank everything at once. Then he put down the metal cup and thought about drinking another one but decided not to do it. The alcohol was still burning in his throat and didn’t fail him. Therefore he felt quite better and made himself ready for the rest of the night.

 

The next morning he overslept, but since he got to bed quite late it was not unexpected to sleep longer than usual. His first thoughts were the same as those he had before he fell asleep. And those were pictures of a badly beaten up and naked man which engraved themselves into his memories and wouldn’t let him go.

 

He felt horrible, but decided finally to dress and went on to the mess hall in a bad mood. ‘There are always people in the mess, and maybe that’s not a bad idea right now. Not that I’m in the mood to for small talk, but being with people is also not that bad either,’ he thought.

 

When he arrived in the hall he saw Volker sitting and talking with other colleagues. TJ was seated at another table, likewise surrounded by her comrades, but unlike Volker, she wasn’t babbling while eating.

Brody went over to Becker to get his breakfast: some kind of green vegetable combined with a lighter green porridge-like substance, as a source of carbohydrate. Didn’t look good, but it was acceptable.

 

He thanked Becker and passed TJ with his tray, greeted her on the way, and she answered with a short nod of her head.

She looks tired,’ he thought, and went to an empty table. But before he was able to sit down, Volker called to him: “Hey Adam, why don’t you come and sit with us?”

Damned, what should I tell them now?’ Brody asked himself, and said casually when he sat down at the table: “Morning everyone! I had a long night, and I’m still quite tired!”

“Where have you been? We missed you on the bridge!” Volker said curiously.

“Um… I’ve… I’ve been in my quarters!” was his hesitant answer.

“If you’ve been in your quarters, why are you so tired and… late?” Volker went on, suspicious. He knew his friend well enough to know he was hiding something.

Brody felt panicked as he searched for a good answer, and found something just in time: “You know, I felt sick yesterday. Must have been something bad I ate, I guess. Anyway I had to go to bed early, but unfortunately I needed to visit the bathroom quite often in the night, so I didn’t get a lot of sleep.”

“Well, then, it looks like you feel much better today, at least you’re eating as if nothing happened!”

Dale is sometimes really annoying! I hope he didn’t sense anything. Oh, shit, I’m sure he did’ Brody thought, worried, while watching Volker and the other people on the table one after the next.

But when Volker didn’t get an answer from Brody, he eventually asked: “I guess what happened on the bridge yesterday upset your stomach, didn’t it?”

“No,” Brody said without thinking, but then he corrected himself: “I mean, yes, who wouldn’t!”

“It wasn’t nice!” was the entire comment Volker gave, which was answered by Brody with a crisp: “No!”

Finally they were back to their usual tone, but Brody was happy that his friend didn’t continue further, and that nobody at the table was too interested in his views. Anyway, nobody asked, though they went on talking.

 

* * *

 

While TJ was still mixing up the ointment, Lieutenant James radioed her. “TJ? Do you read?

“Yes, Vanessa, what’s is it?”

You asked me to tell you when Dr. Rush wakes up! I think this is happening now.”

“Okay, thank you, Vanessa, I’m on my way! Lieutenant Johansen, over.”

 

A few minutes later TJ finished the ointment and bundled her equipment to go to Rush. Young followed slowly and hobbling. He had to go with only one crutch, which was far less easy than with two of them. When both of them finally arrived at Rush’s quarters, TJ pressed the door opener. The door slipped sideways with the usual sizzling sound, and she entered and went over to Lieutenant James, who got up directly, and saluted TJ and Young, briefly.

“And?” TJ asked.

“Well, not that much, after the first sign! And he stirred shortly. But unfortunately, nothing more,” Vanessa answered.

“Okay, that’s not a lot, but at least a beginning. I hope he’ll come back soon.” TJ muttered and passed Vanessa to go over to Rush’s bed. She put her equipment on the bedside locker. Colonel Young was still standing at the open door, and was not sure to stay, go in, or to go away, but then he decided to go in and finally sat down at Rush’s desk, where he was out of TJ’s way.

 

He looked around the room and finally glanced at the desk where he was sitting. Scattered on the surface lay an awful lot of small notes, all completely filled with Rush’s typical strong and plain script. In the midst of one pile of notes, was a pencil, which was only the length of a thumb from sharpening too often. Aside from that, there was a self-manufactured knife that he most likely used to sharpen the pencil. At the front end of the desk, were the extracted round plate was he saw the chess set, directly aside the closed computer. Young remembered seeing him use the knife to carve the chess pieces, and that they actually never had a match later. ‘Well, I guess, it would’ve been disastrous for me.’ He thought, and as far as he remembered, the only one who had a chance to win against Rush was Eli, and even he had to concentrate.

 

He looked up, when he heard TJ’s soft voice. “Dr. Rush, can you hear me?” TJ asked, half kneeling on the bed and half bent over the man.

She pushed a few wisps of hair out of his face, which regardless found its way back to their old place. Then she put a hand on his forehead.

The body under the quilt moved a little bit and he made sounds, but didn’t really say anything.

“Dr. Rush? Can you hear me? Would you please open your eyes a little bit?”

TJ removed her hand from his forehead, but her coaxing seemed not to work.

“Hey, Dr. Rush. I know you’re able to hear me, please try!” This time it was better, and he stirred, but the result was no more than a low whimper and groaning, since he was obviously in pain. TJ tried not to get distracted, but talked instead in a low voice to him.

“Okay, that wasn’t bad!” She commented on one of Rush’s movements that Young was not able to see from his place.

“How about talking to me, Dr. Rush?” TJ now sat on the bed and concentrated her eyes on her patient.

“Where…?” Rush suddenly talked so quietly to TJ that Young was nearly not able to hear any of it.

“In your quarters. Greer brought you here, after you lost consciousness.”

“What…?” he started a little bit louder but still very weak. “What happened? How long…?”

“Since yesterday evening.” TJ declared. “It’s noon now. And I’ll tell you later what happened. But first I have to check you over.” And with that TJ stood up and looked to Young, who understood immediately and got up slowly to leave the room, without Rush taking notice.

 

When he was at the door, he looked back, and saw TJ taking away the large quilt from the unclothed body, while asking questions in her usual quiet voice. He stopped momentarily in reflection then he eventually turned and went down the corridor.

It was time to go back to his duties, aside from that he now needed something else to attend to.

 

* * *

 

Several hours’ later Colonel Young’s duty was over. On his way back to his quarters he remembered to his displeasure that there was a big pile of paperwork waiting on his desk. Strictly speaking there shouldn’t be enough paper on board Destiny, but for some reason nobody understood there was always enough paper for this kind of bureaucratic nonsense. It somehow had the ability to generate itself in spite of his annoyance, and simply never ended. The whole time he was thinking of how he could bring Rush to cooperate better than he had before, … or to force him to do so, if necessary.

There was one thing that Young had learned in the military during his recruit service: a strict drill routine in time is able to break down a rebellious spirit. It is able to change recruits into exemplary members of the military system, a system in which comradeship was a basic virtue. He had learned then what it meant to obey orders, to honour his superiors, to trust them unconditionally, and to save the life of a comrade at any cost.

He didn’t know whether it would be possible to try anything like that with Rush, since he was more than double the age of a normal recruit, but maybe it would be worth the effort.

 

Maybe there would also be a way to show him to never leave a crewmember behind becauseit’s easier? I should pay a visit to TJ to ask how Rush is doing, maybe she knows by now when he’ll be back on duty?’ Young thought and went straight to the infirmary.

Arriving there he found her standing with Varro, who was helping her to disinfect a big pile of cloth for bandaging.

 

“Am I disturbing you?” Young asked TJ, who looked up and stopped her work.

“No. What’s the matter, Colonel Young?”

Young didn’t miss her reserved tone. “I just wanted to ask if you know when Rush will be able to go back to work?”

“Can’t say yet, exactly. But it will take several weeks. He’s got a concussion, contusion of the ribs, more massive contusions on the torso and legs. Further, broken fingers, and… right; you managed a full hit between his legs, too, Everett!”

 

Again it was not possible to miss TJ’s snappish answer. He absolutely disliked her addressing him personally with Varro standing by, (but he didn’t want the other man to know that), so he tried to ignore the situation and asked: “Several weeks? Is it possible to get a more specific period? Two weeks, three, six, more?”

“It will take at least four weeks until everything is healed properly, until he’ll be able to do his duty without problems.” TJ considered, “but maybe also a little bit longer, depends on possible complications.”

“Thank you for the answer, TJ!” Young finished, and nodded towards her and Varro. But before he was able to leave the room, she called him: “Everett?”

“Yes!” He answered, stopped and turned to her.

“You should apologise to him!”

“Yes, maybe I should!” was his crisp answer and with that he left.

 

Varro gave TJ a questioning look. “There’s something personal between those two!” TJ just said.

“Yes, I got that, but what Young did reminds me more of what I was used to from my… well, last superior, but not from you folks.

It is usual for a leader in my society to punish subordinates, to not do so would mean the leader is weak, and that would mean somebody else will get a better job, soon.”

“Yes I do remember your leader, Kiva. A hard woman.”

“Hard, yes, but also correct in her way!” Varro said. “Someone like Rush, who openly disrespected her and demonstrated that he didn’t accept her authority would’ve been punished much harder than Colonel Young has done. Even if he’d managed to impress her in his quite non military and defiant ways on our ship, it wouldn’t have stopped her killing him, if he’d done things like what he’s done here!”

“Does this mean you agree with methods like that?” TJ asked him, horrified.

“No!” Varro quickly replied, “absolutely not! Quite the opposite: Kiva’s methods were disgusting. I do remember her torturing him to find out who swapped with Telford. She was completely without any compassion, calculating, methodical and cruel. And… I also know about other cases. You know, the screams… the screams will haunt me for the rest of my days. Anyway, I’m glad this is no longer part of my life now.” Varro said to her thoughtfully and looked at her. TJ had stopped her work, and listened to him carefully.

“But?” She asked finally.

“I can understand Young’s position too,” he started. “Somebody who despises the military in such a blatant way, like Dr. Rush does, is clearly provocative. And at some point it is necessary to act, even if it’s not pleasant!”

“Yes, sure. But we have rules. Rules that an officer as Colonel Young must abide.”

“Sure. But this is also your strength, TJ!” He said. “Just a few minutes before, he said he would apologise. And I think he will.”

“I just hope he means it, too.” TJ said more to herself, than to Varro, and went on with her work.

 

* * *

 

It took indeed more than one week before Rush was even able to visit the bathroom on his own, and another one to be stable. The whole situation was more than unpleasant for everyone. They had nearly used all the pain-killing drugs they’d managed to store during their arrival in this new galaxy, and therefore TJ had to be closefisted with its use. This was a circumstance in which Rush, who normally had a good tolerance to pain, was clearly not happy with.

It was as if bewitched, with every stop they made, they were able to fill the storage areas with water and food, but none of the planets had anything other to offer, nothing was found to produce necessary drugs for TJ’s pharmacy, or analgesics.

Rush grew grumpier with every day, so that even TJ, who was exemplarily patient, had to scream at him several times. But Rush was neither impressed, nor offended, nor did he change his behaviour because of that. To her advantage TJ understood why he behaved this way, and knew it wasn’t meant personally. Though that knowledge didn’t help either when the situation was critical.

The number of people dealing with him was limited to those who were on duty as orderlies, since he was not able, nor was he allowed to leave his room. The arrest he was under by Young’s order still stood, and made it, aside from his medical condition, impossible to connect to the board net that they had built to communicate with each other, or to any of Destiny’s computers, which was more than frustrating for him.

So he spend his days working on a few theories left on his PC, and a few new ones he had come up with, while he coded with the data base of Destiny.

 

Young didn’t bother to visit him until now, but Rush had guessed it was only a matter of time until he’d come. He also guessed that Young was as less bent on that idea as he was. But it was also clear that the visit was inevitable.

 

One morning, Lieutenant James had just helped him to dress when somebody knocked on the door.

“Moment!” Vanessa called and helped Rush to pull on a pair of by far too big sweat pants, procured by TJ, so Rush had something more comfortable to wear while limited to his room.

“Why do I have to get up and dress if I can’t leave my room?” Rush asked reluctantly.

“Because I was ordered to make sure you’ll exercise and do the training TJ set up for you, and… and because it is better you’re dressed, just in case Miss Wray comes again, unexpectedly.” James stoically answered.

It seemed they had had this discussion before. Surprisingly, James didn’t gave a shit about Rush’s grumpy behaviour, nor did she shy away from him, but commented when she needed to, always in her quiet manner, and more and more typically often garnished with pointed remarks from her.

When Rush was fully dressed, James went to the door and opened it. At the door stood Colonel Young, patiently waiting, with a tray in one hand, leaning on his remaining crutch with the other hand.

“Good morning Colonel. May I take this?” James asked when she realised that Young must have carried the breakfast tray the whole way from the mess hall up to this room.

“With pleasure!” Young answered shortly, and limped far less heavy than nearly three weeks ago into Rush’s quarters.

James put down the tray on the round table in the corner, and made herself ready to leave: “I think it’s better if I wait outside. Sir! Dr. Rush!” And while she said so, she nodded to both men, left the room and closed the door behind her.

 

After Lieutenant James left, a short pause arouse with nobody saying anything, until Rush finally said: “So?”

“Looks like we’re in the same place we’ve been before,” Young answered without moving.

“Looks like!” replied Rush. When his gaze wandered over to the tray with the breakfast, he asked: “May I?”

“Of course!” Young said surprised. “That’s why I brought it here.”

 

Rush didn’t hesitate to limp over to the chair and the small table and sat down carefully. Young watched him and noticed a very short moment where Rush cringed and hissed. ‘That must have hurt!’ he thought unmoving, while observing him carefully. A moment later Rush was completely occupied with his breakfast and started to eat with a spoon in his left hand, since his right one was bandaged and hung in an arm sling.

Jesus, why is he eating as if he hasn’t had anything in days?’ he mused, while still watching him.

 

A few more hastily finished off spoonful’s later Rush seemed to remember that he was not alone in the room and looked up at Young, who now decided that he should look for a second chair. The only other seat in the small room was the chair in front of the desk, so he pulled that one over to sit astride close to the small table, where Rush was seated, and leaned his crutch against that chair. He looked back to Rush and saw him still watching him.

“Keep eating, I’ve got time.” Young said casually, while pointing to the tray.

Rush hesitated at first, but finally decided to go on. Though Young didn’t miss him looking up from time to time to keep an eye on him, as if he expected Young to attack him at some unwary moment. Actually, this hurt Young more than he wanted to admit to himself.

“Don’t they give you enough to eat?” Young asked eventually, after Rush had finished.

“Of course, they do!” Rush answered astonished, “it’s just… I think I didn’t eat enough yesterday. Wasn’t hungry.”

“Hmm!” was Young’s quite short answer to that.

“Why are you here?” Rush asked, without wanting to talk around the big white elephant in the room.

“Why, to talk to you, Rush. And… to apologise to you!”

Young’s last sentence did surprise him so much that he asked himself whether he had possibly misheard. He tried to find in Young’s facial expressions a hint that might give him away, but he stayed as calm as he was since he arrived.

“Apologise. Ah.” Rush said in a low voice without looking at Young.

“I understand now I overreacted, and Camile, with whom I had, um…” Young was searching for the right word, “… some counselling interviews, said I should not try to blame you for me going berserk a few weeks ago.” While he said that he tried to make eye contact with Rush, but he still kept his head down, so that his long hair mostly covered his face. So he lingered on his bare arms – he was wearing a black t-shirt with short sleeves – where he could see the before bluish-black bruises, which had changed since to green and yellow.

“She said it’s called victim-blaming. And that is something I should not do. Did you know that Wray is a trained psychologist?” Young asked in passing.

“Yes,” answered Rush directly and in the same passing by way. “That’s why she was the best qualified for the Icarus human resources department. She was more than just a representative of the IOA on the base, she had an important function, Colonel Young.”

Finally Rush looked up to Young and directly in his eyes. He estimated him with narrowed eyes, as if he’d be able to “read” him easier that way. But his opponent seemed to defy that attempt and so he went on: “Yes, you may think most of the civilians are generally useless, without a meaningful education. That some dumb politician just sent them to your great military base on Icarus to derange your most important, well arranged soldiers’ world.”

“Come on, Rush, you know that’s not how it is!” Young replied, and thought ‘This man is a lot of work, and he’ll never stop being so!

“I really tried to show consideration to the needs of all the civilians, YOU included! But especially YOU oppose all my efforts. YOU didn’t even try to adhere with the command structure. That’s why I have thought about ways to change that in the future. Damn it Rush, to adhere to command structures is not rocket science! Why can’t you do this?”

“Ah, now you do blame me,” Rush returned indignantly.

“No, I don’t. I just ask for the nth time, for you to adhere to the rules on this ship, as everyone of your colleagues do!” Young said in a much louder voice than before.

“I don’t know what you want, I abide by the rules,” he said reluctantly, “and what do you mean you’d thought about something?”

But thenRush stopped and looked with big eyes at Young. Eventually he lowered his head after a few seconds to the floor.

“I know you won’t believe me, but I didn’t have any intention to do anything secretly behind your back, nor was anyone in danger when I investigated the ship, three weeks ago.” Rush said in a very low voice, his head still down. “I lost control over what was happening, and when I realised that, it was too late.”

“If you’d informed me, or at least someone on the science team about what you planned to do – whatever that was – nothing would have happened, but as you’ve done …” Young started, but was interrupted by Rush.

“That’s the problem. It was bad timing. I just wanted to confirm data I found in Destiny’s database. Go to the storeroom, have a look, close everything again; come back. But then I saw something, and decided to have another look. One thing after the next happened and before I realised what I’d done, I was trapped, cut off from communications and everything else. I had to wait until the repair I carelessly initiated was finished. When Sergeant Greer and Corporal Baines came to escort me back a few hours later, I explained everything to them. And, well, if I may be allowed to mention, until I arrived at the bridge, there was no problem at all!”

“Yes, I understand, what happened on the bridge was my fault. I misinterpreted your intentions. I should have listened to you, before …” Young stopped in midst, and it looked like he didn’t plan to finish the sentence.

“Look, I’m sorry for what happened, and I want to make sure that something like that won’t happen again. But you have to make a contribution. When you’re able to go back on duty, I want you to undergo basic military training.”

“You’re not serious, are you?” Rush answered without hesitating.

“Oh yes, I am.” Young answered unimpressed. Then Rush looked at him with a mixture of disgust and disbelief. But after a few seconds he shook his head in resignation and said: “That’s our problem, we are from different worlds. We see things differently. We don’t have a common ground to talk together without mistrust and misunderstandings.”

Young looked at him and let him do the talking now.

“From the moment we both came aboard this ship, each of us has done things that forced the other into actions with bad results. What we’ve done accelerated each other. And in one case I survived this purely out of accident, otherwise… Whatever.” Rush sighed and blew air slowly out of his lungs. “Anyway, it’s not the first time I drew the short straw and just got away with my life.”

“Now you’re being melodramatic!” Young quoted a phrase Rush once said to him.

“Really?” Rush asked back.

“I never tried deliberately to murder you, Rush!” Young replied.

“Yes, you did. Maybe it was not planned from the start.” Rush said quietly. “At the time on that planet, when you knocked me out and left me there to die, you knew exactly what you had done. It was a convenient way to get rid of me. No witnesses, no questions, and just in case someone where to ask, you easily could tell them a story. That was exactly, by the way, what you did.”

“You framed me for the murder of one of my soldiers. A homicide, by the way, that never happened. What did you expect?”

“Oh, obviously not that you’d murder me.” Rush answered sarcastically. “As I explained to you, the only consequences you had to face, was what happened. After a short time, Miss Wray would have no other choice than to give you your command back. End of story.”

“After you risked the life of one of YOUR people, Rush!” Young yelled, angry.

“Without a volunteer, we would never have learned if it was possible to use that chair. Could I have prevented that? Yes, maybe.

Should I have waited, and just studied the chair theoretically without doing anything? Yes, I could have done that.

But what would we have gained from that, other than lost time? Nothing. But aside from thatI didn’t force, nor did I order anyone to sit in the chair! Franklin did what he did, with his own free will. And as much as I regret losing him that way, his sacrifice brought us important information. The data I got from Destiny made it possible to build a buffer, and that finally gave us what we were looking for.”

“Damn it Rush, you practically killed him!”

“No, I didn’t!” Rush said angrily. “If I’d forced him to sit in that chair, than you’d be right. But I didn’t do that. He sat in the chair by tricking Eli so he wouldn’t be able to stop him. Franklin made that decision completely on his own!”

“Yeah, after you manipulated him massively! Making excuses. That’s what you’re good at.” Young resignedly answered.

“You simply don’t understand what this is about, Colonel Young, do you?”

“There is nothing to understand!”

“Oh, but I think, there is.” Rush replied. “For example, it is part of your job as an officer to except that sometimes one person may die to the benefit of all the other people under your command, even if you don’t want that to happen. If you were willing to sacrifice yourself, in the moment one of your people has to risk their life, or even has to die, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now.

This now, this discussion we’re having, is not about whether I send people to die for no reason, as you seem to think, but about YOU, whether YOU are willing to do what has to be done, if there is NO OTHER OPTION.

The only exception you made from the start was me. You risked my life more than once, pretending to have good reasons. Why are you able to risk my life, but nobody else’s?”

Young looked at Rush in utter dismay. He tried to calm down his dammed up anger and not to beat Rush up. But Camile Wray’s training had made an impact on him. He breathed several times in and out, concentrating on what he wanted to say. “I never had the intention to kill you. The situation on that damned planet happened after you provoked me. You know that as much as I do!”

“Well, and with that we’re back were we started. You didn’t have a choice. All of this is my fault.” Rush crisply replied.

Young looked at him with aghast. “Yes, it was your fault. What did you expect? I told you long ago that I regretted what I did. Not so much because of what happened to you, but because of what I did was wrong.”

“Yes, you said that,” Rush quietly answered, “and I got it. But unfortunately, the next chance you got, you opposed me. When you had to choose whom you trust, your old buddy Telford or me, you choose him. You risked my life, recklessly, to save his. And all of that, just because you were sure that the traitor had to be me, who else could it be?”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about. You volunteered, and you agreed, that I would do what was necessary to solve the problem. And that’s what I did.

First, I had to eliminate the danger Telford caused, but I also wanted to give him the chance to correct the damage he caused, and more importantly I did what I did to protect everybody on board Destiny as much as possible. Why can’t you understand that?” Young asked, still angry.

“There is nothing to understand, Colonel Young.” Rush said and looked coldly at Young.

“It was necessary for tactical reasons to keep all options open. You could have been the mole as much as anybody else, or Telford,” Young tried to remember the situation correctly.

Rush chuckled bitterly. “Yes of course! This explains the first part of what happened, but not why you refused to cut the stones after you got him back, as Telford asked you to do. You know there was a good chance that the whole invasion would never have happened, don’t you?”

Young looked at the floor, then Rush continued: “the moment you saw Telford coming through the gate, you changed the plan to vent the air from the gateroom because you couldn’t risk the life of your old buddy. Without him, you would have done it.”

“No, that’s not true. I wanted to save two lives, his and yours!” Young negated without hesitating.

“Oh, come on, Colonel, you know that’s not true, and you know that I know, or at least you should. I can handle it. Anyway, regardless whether you admit it or not, I’m convinced it’s what you did. So?”

Then Young finally concluded that Rush was indeed not able to understand what he’d done, that he wanted to protect both men, didn’t he? Or was it possible that he just wanted to protect his old friend Telford? Could he afford to lose Telford again after he’d fought so hard to get him back? Shouldn’t he make sure he wouldn’t?

“Let’s assume it happened that way, though I don’t say it did. Can you understand that I choose one of my people? People I know I can relay on, other than you?”

“No, I can understand that. I should have known. You know why?” But when Young only looked questionably at him, Rush continued. “You never talked to me after the Lucien Alliance invasion, never even tried to explain anything to me when everything was over. In the beginning I was just disappointed. As always, somehow, something must have been wrong with what I did, I thought. And I regretted trusting you from the start. And after the new nightmares wouldn’t stop, because of what they’ve done to me, I had vowed to myself, I’d never trust you again.”

“Okay, let’s assume that’s what happened, and it’s not one of your stories you always tell to save your sorry ass. How can I know you’re not lying and you don’t have completely different motives?”

“You can’t.” Rush quietly said. “Regardless of what I add to explain my point of view, it won’t change the fact that you have to decide for yourself, here and now, that what I said was the truth. You have to decide for yourself.

If my behaviour after Dr. Perry’s death didn’t tell you you could trust me, what else should? I thought that after the long talk we had because of that, you did. So, what changed since?”

“Nothing, really,” Young admitted. “Regardless of what happened, I actually never trusted you fully. And when I came through that door, I intended to keep you under surveillance, the moment you’re back on duty. But today, right now, for the first time I really gained the impression that I can trust you, and that you told me the truth for the first time. I don’t know why, maybe because you told me everything from your point of view. Though, I still don’t agree with a lot of what you’ve done. Anyway, what you told me today made me understand why you did it at least. Maybe, that’s why.

But that does not mean you don’t have to undergo basic training, Rush. From my point of view, this is the only option I’ve got left to make you adhere to regulations on this ship.”

Rush looked at him, waiting for a few last words before he leaves, so Young continued eventually: “I suspend the arrest order that you’ve been under, and apologise for everything that happened on the bridge. I’m really sorry, Rush! When TJ decides you’re ready to go back on duty, I want you to take your position on the bridge again. This time, I really want to make this work. The basic training will start when you’re physically able.”

As he said the last words he stretched his right hand out to Rush to make this agreement valid by handshake. But when Rush looked at him questioningly, and hesitantly stretched out his left hand, he realised Rush wasn’t able to use his right hand, so he lifted one corner of his mouth awkwardly to “say” sorry, and finally reached out with his left hand to take Rush’s. He still hesitated, but finally Young started to shake it. And with that, Rush said: “I’d appreciate it if we could keep this arrangement for a while longer. You’ll understand that I’m still a little bit sceptical of you, after what you recently did. I also want to object to your basic training. Ireally don’t see how it would change our situation for the better if you force me to play soldier?”

Young was not really surprised with Rush’s reaction, and actually expected it, especially his last answer, but thought anyway that it may be worth it, and therefore he just said: “Yes, I think I understand! And I’m not angry about it. Well, at least not too much.”

 

Young was still smiling, when he took his hand back, stood up, and reached for his crutch. Then he took the chair back to the desk and went to the door. He pressed the door opener and let in Lieutenant James, who had stood the whole time in front of the door. Before he left, he turned a last time to Rush, and nodded at him. Then he left.

 

* * *

 

Young was relived as he walked through the corridors to go to his own quarters. Then he remembered abruptly what Eli had told him on the bridge: ‘He manipulated the last stasis pod. I got clear evidence of that on a kino. … He behaved very strangely when he examined the last pod. … When he started the examination he suddenly stopped and went to the door to see if there was anybody around, but when he was sure he was alone, he did something, and then he told us the last one was broken and that he wasn’t able to repair it. … It was me who prevented Rush from doing this, because I didn’t want to take the risk he’d panic, if he failed to do the repairs in time, and put anyone on this ship in danger. … That’s a heavy accusation, Eli… an accusation we’ll investigate when we find Rush and he explains what he did to the ship this time.

Young stopped in the midst of his thoughts, pondering whether to go back and ask Rush about it, but then he realised how very tired he was and how exhausting the discussion with Rush had been. He decided to delay the question until the next day, since he still didn’t believe that Rush would do something like that. With this as an afterimage in his head, he continued on to his room.

 

* * *

 

A few days after the memorable discussion with Young, Rush was able to leave his room for the first time, other than to visit a bathroom. His legs were still not very stable, so he went slowly to the mess hall, to eat something before he went to the bridge.

 

To his luck Becker was on duty and prepared a tray for him. When Rush stopped in front of the counter to take it, Becker refused to give it to him, saying: “Sit down over there, I’ll bring the tray to your table.”

Rush was too perplexed to do anything else but to obey Becker’s friendly and smiling command.

After he’d put it down in front of him he said still smiling: “I hope it’s eatable!”

“Surely, Airman Becker. Thank you!” Rush replied.

“You’re welcome!” Becker answered shortly.

 

Rush’s first day on the bridge was fair to middling. There was no debacle. That was not bad. But the crew of the bridge was like a wall. Nobody was unfriendly, but the accentuated polite tone felt forced. He could literally smell how happy every woman and man would be when he finally left.

Nobody realised Rush had the same feelings as they did. Although he was used to rejection, but after everything that happened, he was simply not able to let it drip away like raindrops, going on pretending it has never rained.

All of a sudden he realised how vulnerable he really was. And that frightened him more than anything he’d faced before.

 

* * *

 

Chapter Text

6. Another Incident

 

A week later nearly all-visible traces of Rush’s injuries were healed. It was early evening and Young surprised him at the end of his shift by inviting him to his quarters. Rush wasn’t sure whether he’d accept the invitation or go back to his old known patterns to not bond too much with anyone and look for an excuse to spend the evening alone. But Young seemed partly to anticipate his thoughts and tried to appease him: “Don’t worry! I don’t want to tackle you about anything. I’d just like to follow up our discussion we had about a week ago.”

When Rush looked at him questioningly he added: “When I visited you to apologise. Actually we didn’t have a good opportunity to do so, and there’s still a lot I want to talk about.”

“Alright, why not?” Rush replied shrugging but still suspicious and followed Young to his quarters.

Young’s room was by far bigger than his own, but status symbols like this were irrelevant to him. The military assigned all quarters relatively early in the beginning of their arrival on Destiny. So, all leading officers and other people in leading positions got rooms on the main deck not too far away from each other. After they’d assigned the larger rooms to the military personal, Camile Wray, Rush and the other scientists of Rush’s team, as well as Chloe, had to share what was left. Unsurprisingly, Rush chose a small room as far as possible at the edge of the deck. Everybody else could chose as they liked and were they felt comfortable.

 

When they arrived Young opened the door, let Rush in, stepped inside as well and closed the door again. He directed him to a place on the sofa corner and put two mugs, and two different metal bottles on the table.

“Brody’s moonshine or water?” Young asked Rush.

“Both,” Rush answered to Young’s surprise. But when Rush saw he was puzzled he added: “From both, but not at the same time. First Brody’s moonshine and then the water.”

“Okay,” Young replied, nodding and poured a bit of the liquid in both mugs after he’d sat down. Then he raised his mug to Rush, who did the same. Rush emptied the mug in one draft. After shaking he took the water bottle and poured the water into his mug. Before he put the bottle back on the table he looked over at Young to see whether he also wanted some. But when he shook his head, he nodded shortly and put it back on the table, and took a big sip from the water.

“Alright, why do you want to talk to me?” Rush asked eventually.

“Eli told me some time ago that he presumed you manipulated the last stasis-pod. He showed me a video in which you actually acted a little bit suspicious,” Young said without beating about the bush.

“What?” Rush replied directly as if he’d misheard Young.

“Well, strangely, I still have my doubts about that, but you indeed acted suspicious in that video. And then I remembered when we had our small discussion about whether you would do the repair yourself, and I thought you may have done that deliberately to get rid of me” Young said.

“What? Ah, of course, I understand. It’s not that we never had a history together. But, you know, I only killed a man once in my life, deliberately and out of vengeance, and that was Simeon. I’m still not sorry about it, though, and this may surprise you, but I don’t want to do that ever again. Unlike you, I’m not trained to kill people. Anyway, may I see the video?” Rush asked.

“Yes, of course. I’ll get my computer. Eli made me a copy.” With that Young went over to the desk without commenting further on Rush’s remarks, took his computer, brought it to the table, started it, looked for the file and opened it. Then he turned the computer so that Rush was able to see the screen and pushed “play.”

 

After they watched the video together, Rush sat back and said, stalling a bit while thinking for a few seconds: “You’re talking about the part where I went out and looked around to see if someone was there?”

“Yes, exactly that part.”

“Did Eli really think I manipulated the pod? Because of this?” Rush asked unbelievingly.

“If I got it right, yes,” Young argued.

“He’s paranoid,” Rush said laconically and added after a short break: “If I remember correctly, I thought I heard somebody talking. That’s why I stopped and wanted to have a look.”

“And was somebody there?” Young asked.

“No, the corridor was empty,” Rush replied.

“Then who’s paranoid?” Young had qualms.

“Very funny, Colonel. No, really. I really heard somebody talking and I had the same feeling as I had the first time on the bridge. I told you about that. But when I was working on the pod, I must have hallucinated, because I had previously deactivated the program to end the simulation which initiated your nightmares. There’s nothing to this but me sometimes having hallucinations.”

“Sounds plausible to me. Well, I was never really positive you did. Anyway, good to get a confirmation from you,” Young said not as convincingly as he wanted it to sound. And after a pause he continued: “What does TJ have to say about your injuries?”

“Surprisingly well healed, just my hand is not good. I’ve still got problems,” Rush answered, still with his thoughts on Eli, asking himself why Eli is still monitoring him.

Young nodded. “However, when you’re fully recovered I want you to start basic training with Sergeant Greer.”

“I did mention I won’t do that, didn’t I, Colonel?” Rush replied calmly, enunciating each word.

“Yes, you mentioned that, but I insist anyway.” Young said.

“What are you hoping for? To change me into one of your… your soldiers? Obeying any order whatever it may be? Regardless of how wrong I think it may be?” Rush asked sarcastically. A way Rush sometimes talked, which Young truly despised.

“No, not exactly,” Young answered. “I know that would be fruitless. But I hope to gain something otherwise I wouldn’t take it into consideration. I already mentioned it the last time: I want you to adhere to the chain of command on this ship. And I think a basic training could be helpful. Furthermore, I hope it may be possible to teach you what it means to depend on others so you finally become a part of this crew. To work with them, with us, and not against anybody here!”

“You can ask me to do whatever you want, but not this!” Rush spat out.

Young replied still quietly, though louder than before. “Actually, I don’t ask you to do anything that anybody on this ship is not able to give, Rush. The problem is you are the only one who refused to cooperate from the start, and that’s why I want to try it one last time!”

“You want me to be more respectful to others? Fine, I can try that. I’d even try to obey your orders! But not by following a detour doing this… this ridiculous drill!” Rush cried. “If I ever wanted to be a soldier, I’d have been one decades ago. You know, because where I’m from, there’s a strong tradition for serving, especially if you’re born poor. But I didn’t want it then, and I don’t want it now, either!”

“I want you to remember it was you who brought all of us into this situation! You did this, against a direct military order! You have been the one who always disobeyed me, and you know what happened? People died because of that!” Young replied finally angry.

“Dialling earth could have not only killed us all, but could have destroyed Stargate command as well. The process had to be stopped!” Rush shouted.

“But you could have dialled any planet without a population,” Young determinedly answered.

“Dialling the furthermost place I could find was most likely our best option to survive, and it was the only and last chance for a long time, maybe forever, to dial the ninth chevron.” Rush replied directly, but added after a short break, more quietly: “Yes, surely, I should have found some other place as far away as possible from the exploding planet, but unfortunately after the process was initiated, there was no going back. We had to go to the unknown address. It’s not that I haven’t thought about that the last year, though I still think it was the right decision.”

“Sounds at least like you’ve got some kind of an conscious, I doubted that until now, though I hoped for more remorse.” Young said laconically.

“Now, listen,” Rush replied urgently, “there must be another way… without all this daft military nonsense.”

“First, basic training is not nonsense.” Young explained calmly. “For hundreds of years men in all civilised countries have gone through service. The method used by the military was and is officially recognised to turn manner less and untrained men into excellent soldiers, soldiers who gained a sense of camaraderie and honour. And secondly, it will make you fit. Did you ever notice how hard it is for you to keep up with everybody?”

“Did you ever ask this of Mr Wallace, Dr. Volker or Mr Brody?” Rush said sarcastically. “You know, as far as I remember, I’m not the only one who lacks military training and conditioning. And aside from that, when do you think I should do this silly training, during the night, maybe?”

“No, in the morning. Then you’ve got the rest of the day, enough time to do what you need to do. Though you’ll have to quit long hours, you surely won’t have time for that,” Young said in a deadpan manner.

“No, no, no! I won’t do that!” Rush replied almost desperately. He just sat there, nearly panicking, tense, with arms folded in front of the upper part of the body, torso bent far, so that his arms were clamped between body and legs.

“Why is that such a problem for you, Rush? I’ve really tried everything with you. I tried to convince you, more than once. Even a beating doesn’t help, nothing does! What do you expect me to do?” Young asked calmer than before when he realised that Rush had backed away like a cornered animal.

“You just weren’t convincing enough, Colonel Young,” Rush said, lacking his normally acute sarcasm. Nonetheless he went on: “And by the way, I bet outside of the military everybody knows you won’t get better people by using corporal punishment. What you get are moral cowards, who only obey because they’re afraid and not because they choose to do the right thing. My father was like you,” he said bitterly. “Every time I didn’t met his expectations, he beat me up. What do you think it got him, Colonel?”

“What?” Young curiously asked waiting for what Rush would tell him next. Actually, he just realised he knew practically nothing about the man who sat across from him, caught between panic and defiant resistance.

“I always did the opposite from what he wanted me to do. I finished school and didn’t spend my life as a dockworker as he did. I also didn’t go into the military, as he wanted me to. From his point of view only workers or maybe soldiers are real men. Men he didn’t despise, as he did me… And when I finally was old enough, I went away, burned all bridges, and eked out a living, all by myself. Against all odds I started university and earned a degree.”

“Well, okay. I can understand why you refused to follow in your father’s footsteps, but why would it be so unthinkable for you to become a soldier?” Young asked, as his interest in the story grew with every bit Rush told him, because this was something he indeed could not understand. For Young it was clear, quite early, that he would be a soldier, serve his country as his father and grandfather, and more generations before them had. Somehow he felt that there was more, that Rush hadn’t told him the whole story. But he was also sure he’d told him likely more than he’d told anybody else before.

“Well, maybe I wasn’t big and daft enough to do so?” Rush answered truculently. “I never really had a chance against the bullies in my street, or at school, what do you think they would have done to me in the military?”

“The military doesn’t accept gangsters and bullies, Rush, and I’m sure this goes for the British army, as it does in the US army.” Young declared firmly.

“I had the… honour to meet some of those soldiers, who visited my city regularly. They were exactly the same bullies as those I knew from my streets. Some of them were even worse. I’ve met those honourable soldiers with what you call sense for comradeship,” Rush whispered bitterly. “Yeah, they indeed stick together, that’s true. Especially if they take someone to task, someone who allegedly didn’t show them the respect they demanded.

I… I jostled one of them, accidentally. Those four blokes were drunk. So they decided to bear me down, eager to show me what respect means …” Rush was visibly shaken, kept his eyes closed, and stopped talking. He’d propped up his elbows on his knees and held his folded hands between mouth and nose. A gesture Young had seen him do before.

“And when I finally somehow managed to come home, after what those shitheads did to me, my father insulted me in disdain, and forbid me to go to the police to spare HIM the shame.

He didn’t even have the grace to ask himself just for a second who may have been disgraceful.”

“I’m sorry, Rush. I really am!” Young said, understanding slowly, bit by bit what Rush just told him, without saying it directly. Somehow, now everything made sense. Rush’s emphasised non military hair cut, which couldn’t be called a hair cut at all, his aggressive attitude, especially towards the soldiers, his aversion to adhere to any, but especially his authority. Nevertheless, and maybe exactly therefore, he had to learn soldiers aren’t like those who had done that to him. And in any case he had to learn to adhere to orders, otherwise it would only be a question of time until the next incident.

“Okay, I’ll think it over for another night, maybe I can find something in the mean time, something which fits you better than what I thought.”

“I’d be grateful for that,” Rush said quietly. “And I’d also appreciate if you’d keep to yourself what I told you.”

“Of course,” Young relayed.

 

Both men sat there for a while, not saying anything. Young could see how Rush slowly resolved himself a little bit out of his defensive manner. At some point he brushed his hands through his hair. Another gesture Young had seen him do often when he didn’t know what to do next, or before he wanted to carry a discussion into another direction.

Just then his thoughts were interrupted abruptly, because the ship jumped suddenly out of FTL. Young and Rush were both thrown out of their seats and skidded across the floor.

A few seconds later, the radio crackled from the other side of the room. Young jumped quickly to his feet to look for it and found it finally. “Colonel Young here, do you read?”

It took only two seconds until somebody answered. “Colonel Young, Lieutenant Scott here. I guess you got that we had an incident just now?

“Yeah, I got it, I’m on my way!”

Would you bring Dr Rush with you, if you know where he is?

“He’s with me. We’ll come ASAP, Young out.”

“Roger that, Scott out!”

 

Young turned to look for Rush, who was just getting up.

“Wait, I’ll help you!”

“No, thanks, I’ll manage!“ Rush replied and got slowly, but finally up.

Why is he always like this, never asking or taking help if offered’ Young asked himself, saying: “Okay, to the bridge!”

“After you, Colonel!” Rush answered.

 

They went quickly to the bridge, finding the crew hovering over their consoles.

“We already checked the propulsion and it’s been hit. One of the pipes, which distributes energy to the whole ship is damaged, that induced a feedback, which then led to an emergency shutdown.” Volker reported.

“Where?” Rush asked outright.

Volker indicated the area with the damaged pipeline on the console he was sitting at.

“Here in the front part of the ship, where we haven’t been yet.”

“I’ve been there. Rooms and corridors are partly damaged. Most rooms are for storage. They are connected to each other through long corridors and air locks.” Rush told them factually. “Some of the storerooms are quite large and are situated directly at the hull. That could be a problem, since, well, hull breaches are naturally exactly there to be found.”

“However, I guess, we don’t have a choice, and have to assemble a repair team, anyway,” Young said.

“Yes, of course.” Rush answered shortly.

“Since you’ve been there before, and therefore know the localities, you should be part of the team. Who else do you need, Rush?”

“Technicians, mostly. Mr Brody, Mr Walters, Dr Morrison and maybe Dr Volker,” was Rush’s immediate answer.

“Okay, I’ll accompany you as well!” With that Young released his radio from its mounting and spoke into it: “Airman Dunning, do you read?”

After a few seconds he got an answer: “Airman Dunning here!

“Please come directly to the elevator in front of the observation deck, and bring one of the soldiers who are at duty as reinforcement with you!”

Copy that, Colonel Young. Dunning over.

“Brody, inform Mr Walters and Dr Morrison and meet us then at the elevator. Rush, Volker and me go to pick up tool bags and flashlights,” Young called Brody, but asked before he turned away to Rush: “What about the temperature there?”

“A jacket won’t hurt,” Rush said.

“Tell that to your team too, Mr Brody,” Young added.

“I will, see you!” Brody replied and went around the corner.

 

* * *

 

After Young, Rush and Volker collected all necessary tools, other important items and their jackets, they met the rest of the small expedition at the meeting point to go to the section in the front of the ship.

Elevator was not really the right word for the transporter. Though it was able to go up and down, most distances were done through big horizontal tubes, which were located all over the ship. Depending on the target area, it was necessary to leave the transporter, use a corridor, or just change the transport cabin to go on.

The small group went practically the same route Rush used a few weeks ago, that meant, they had to change the transporter several times to pass different corridors on their way. At the end of their way they left the transporter a last time to walk the rest of the way. While passing different corridors the marks Rush had left to tag the route when he was there, were still visible.

They’d just passed the third sign, when Morrison suddenly said to Rush: “I do remember your R’s, we followed them the last time we were here.”

But Rush only gave him a dirty look as if he’d said something he wasn’t allowed to say in his presence. Morrison, who normally never avoided a conflict fell directly silent and went on the rest of the way without saying anything more.

For Brody, Volker, Walters, Dunning and Atienza this was their first time in this part of the ship, so all of them watched the new environment with interest, though with different aims. Volker, Brody and Walters were more interested in technical questions, while the soldiers focused on their safety.

 

A few minutes later they reached the end of the corridor, where for Morrison the trip weeks ago ended, because the compartment was closed. But this time it was easy to open with the typical Destiny door opener.

 

As it had been the first time Rush was here the air smelled stale and the temperature in the following rooms was clearly lower than in the corridors they’d passed before. Aside from Rush all the men observed with curiosity the tube like lamps, which changed with the smooth wall segments.

 

Rush led the way and switched on the console at the end of the room he’d used the first time he’s been in that room. In the meantime, the others caught up to him and Young and the three technicians watched the display of the console with interest. The display pictured a plan of the section in which they were situated currently, which Rush cross checked with the damage report the bridge crew has made.

“Is the damaged area far away from here?” Young asked finally, unable to follow the too rapid changing views of the display in front of him.

“No, it’s relatively close,” Rush answered him. “The only problem we have to face is that beyond the door behind us the area with a lot of more or less big hull breaches will start, which also means we have to move from this point on more carefully.”

“Which means we should take security precautions,” Young considered.

“That would be advisable,” Rush said, still studying the screen. Eventually he turned to the technicians, who stood around him, and explained on the basis of the plan on the console, where the damaged area was located.

 

“Didn’t you mention you’d found a new repair robot, Rush?” Young asked suddenly.

“Yes, I didn’t forget that,” Rush replied. “The robot could make the work more easy by far, but there are a few unpredictable things too. First, I don’t know for sure that I’d be able to coordinate that from here or whether we need to go further in, and the second problem is that the ship will close the whole section for security reasons the moment the robot starts work. Should we be in the wrong section at that very moment the outcome could be fatal for all of us.”

 

“Would it be possible to get all necessary information and instructions from any console?” Brody asked surprised to hear about a new robot.

“The subroutines which include diagnostic analysis and the start-up program for the robot haven’t been visible from the console at the science work station where I’d started. This means either the conductors, which normally send information from here to other parts of the ship were damaged, or the robot can only be used from this section.”

“But then it should be possible to pilot the repairs from this place, since you stayed in this room on your last visit until the work was done. Why should this be a problem now?” Volker asked, who was, as Brody, not less surprised about the news, but didn’t wonder for a second about the secretiveness around this new devise. After all, it was Rush, who behaved like Rush as always.

“Yes that’s right. The problem still is that I can’t say how serious the damage is or how long the repairs will take. What if the work needs far more than just a few hours?” Rush replied with a counter question.

“That could cause trouble for all of us and I’m not willing to take that risk!” Young ended the discussion.

“Why don’t we have a closer look at he damages, and then decide what to do?” Rush asked finally.

“Sounds reasonable,” Brody inserted.

“I’ll agree with you here, Mr Brody,” Young said and nodded to Rush, who was about to shut down the console.

 

When Rush finally packed up everything the group started to move forward. Young, who went ahead, pressed the release mechanism so that the door opened with the familiar hiss and the seven men could go through the door one after the other.

After they had passed the door there was a long corridor, divided by a compartment. Just as before, one of the soldiers went ahead to open the compartment, while everybody else was waiting at a safe distance. After determining it was safe, the whole group started to move again.

Now they passed the section of the passage that had been repaired the last time Rush was there. Rush inspected the repair again, and realised only now that it was indeed only a very small area.

“The robot repaired that hull breach over there, when I was here,” he said finally, indicating the mended area.

“Doesn’t look big!” Brody said.

“Right, it’s rather small,” was Volker’s unimpressed answer to that.

“Yeah, but at least we can walk here safely,” Morrison voiced, getting an approving nod from Walters, who was usually quite reserved.

“It’s certainly an advantage, when it comes to safety,” Young said eventually. “You just should’ve informed me before you made your secret expedition a few weeks before. It would’ve saved us all a lot of trouble, Rush.”

“I thought I already explained everything to you, Colonel Young?” Rush replied peeved, and thought further: ‘Why does he have to pick on that damned story again and again, even after I explained everything down to the last detail to him and apologised on top of it?

 

After that the group went on in silence while passing a few corridors with rooms on both sides, until they arrived at the damaged location. Here another passage crossed the long corridor from which they came, forming a large room-like space with compartments at two ends.

The corridor itself didn’t show any damage, as it was the part behind the compartment door.

“If I remember correctly the damaged section should be behind the door to the right,” Brody said to Rush.

“Yes, I think so.” Rush answered.

“Okay, Airman Dunning,” Young ordered the soldier, indicating to the closed bulkhead and instructing everybody else to stay back.

A heavy bulkhead, not just a simple door, was blocking the entrance to the room. The difference between a bulkhead and a door was, aside from opening vertically instead of horizontal, that there was often a small peephole in the panel of the doors leading into corridors so it was possible to look inside storerooms or passages behind. But bulkheads had no peepholes, so it was not possible to look beyond.

Dunning had to try a second time until the bulkhead opened, which was generally not a good sign. When the room was opened, the air from the corridor was sucked in causing wind and a clear audible hissing. Behind the opening was a rather big storeroom filled with containers only on the corridor side. The opposite side, where the ships’ hull was, was empty so it was possible to see the hole in the wall. The hull breach had damaged not only the outer wall, but also several pipes, situated on the bottom of the wall. To the left of the entrance was a console.

Young immediately realised the shields that closed the breach provisionally couldn’t prevent the air leaking slowly but steadily into space. However, it was not enough air escaping through the hole that the emergency mechanism would keep the bulkhead closed. But that didn’t mean the bulkhead or the door next to the junction wouldn’t close the moment the oxygen loss reached a critical level.

After it was clear and everything was safe, Young allowed the civilians to come close to the entrance, to let them inspect the situation inside, but he still kept them from entering the room.

 

“Would it be possible to do anything here?” Brody worriedly asked Rush.

“It won’t be easy, but we may be able to accomplish a temporary repair.” Rush evaluated and added a moment later: “We have to be careful that the bulkhead and the door won’t close if the oxygen-loss increases, when we are inside here.”

 

“Okay, Dunning take your post at the door of the corridor, and Atienza stay in front of the compartment!” Young told the men, who immediately followed Young’s order. “How many men you need to do the repair, Rush?”

“Two, I’m still too clumsy with my right hand,” Rush answered.

“Okay, Brody and Walters?” Young asked.

“Yes, that’ll work,” Rush replied.

“Good, that means, Dr Morrison and Dr Volker, go to Dunning and Atienza, to make sure the doors stay open”, Young told them. Both acknowledged the order with a nod, and went to their advised places in the corridor.

 

“Wouldn’t it be possible to do the repair here with the new robot from the console of the first room?” Brody asked Rush from outside again.

“Later, but first I need to figure out how to handle it, so far I’ve only switched it on once, and that’s not safe enough.” Rush said making eye contact with Young at the same time to get permission to use the console. After he got it he switched it on. “In any case, we’ll do an emergency repair first and then we’ll see better what we can do later.”

 

Brody and Walters went into the room, to get a closer look at the damaged pipes, still at a safe position.

“The torn off pipes are open and may still be electrified,” Walters said.

“I’m on my way to disconnect the electricity” Rush answered them, while scrolling quickly from one page to the next. After a few seconds he reported: “The energy is off!”

 

When the two men still hesitated, Rush rolled his eyes, sighing, murmured something, went over to the pipes, took one of them in his hand to show them it was safe. When Young realised what Rush was doing he tried to stop him, but Rush was too fast. “Are you crazy, Rush?”

“I’ve said it’s safe, why don’t you trust me?” he replied slightly pissed.

“Well that’s a really good question!” Brody muttered.

“So,” Rush asked, with a dirty look at Brody, “how long do you expect me to stay like this?”

Young only looked at the three men motionless without saying anything, thinking: ‘That man is a lot of work!

 

Rush went back to the console, while Brody and Walters started to patch up the cables and put it back into its original position. Young stood behind Rush, looking over his shoulder to see what he was doing, when suddenly an alarm sound started in an unpleasant tone.

 

From outside the corridor Volker called to the repair team: “You really should come out of that room as soon as possible, before the corridor door closes. At least that’s what the small screen next to the door seems to imply!”

 

“Atienza, what about the compartment door?” Young asked concerned. “Doesn’t look as if it’ll close soon. The display is dead!” Atienza replied.

“Okay you heard what your colleague said, leave everything as it is and clear out! You too, Rush!”

“We’re nearly finished, only a few seconds!” Walters called without turning to Young.

Rush shut down the console in the meantime and went over to Brody and Walters. “Come on, the ship does not have special sensors for life. The doors will just shut. Remember what happened to Dr Park!”

 

Brody jumped up and went out, but Walters still tried to finish the repair and hoped for a few seconds more, so Rush had to push him to leave by taking hold on his arm and pulling him up. But then he cried out, took his right hand in his left one and went down on his knees. But he had caused Walters to get out in time, leaving only Young and Rush there.

“Come on, Rush!” Young yelled, who closed the distance to him with a few long strides. He then tried to bring him up to his feet, but unfortunately just then the bulkhead to the corridor closed, keeping the shouts of the men in front of the door outside and Young and Rush inside.

 

“Damned!” Rush grouched, still holding his hand.

“That’s not a reason to panic, right?” Young asked astonishingly quiet.

“I hope not,” Rush replied, going over into the corridor to have a closer look at their situation.

“Come over here, Colonel Young. We need to close the bulkhead to not loose too much oxygen.” Rush said.

Young did as told, and followed Rush into the corridor. When he was beside him, Rush made an attempt to close the doors, but they stopped halfway.

“What do we do now?” Young asked.

“I’m thinking,” was Rush’s crisp answer.

Young went over to the door to look through the small peephole to see what the five people outside were doing. He could see the three civilians, who argued wildly. Now he saw Dunning besetting the three and especially Morrison. He could see that somebody – most likely Atienza, because he only saw an arm – pulled his comrade away from Morrison, then he turned towards Rush and said vexed: “Those idiots are quarrelling.”

“Yeah, that may indeed help,” Rush said sarcastically. He’d started to dismantle the display beside the compartment door and looked with interest at its inner parts.

Young switched on his radio and said: “Airman Dunning, do you read?”

Airman Dunning here, I do read, Colonel.

“Would you please be so kind to tell me what you’re doing over there?”

Mr Brody is trying to open the door, but it doesn’t work.

“Then he should go on with what he’s doing,” Young said eventually, after he’d watched through the small window to see what was happening now on the other side of the door. Brody worked from his angle in the blind spot, so he wasn’t able to see him.

“Any progress here?” Young asked Rush.

“Looks like a short circuit,” came from Rush tersely.

“Will we have a problem here with oxygen?” Young asked after a short pause.

“Sure,” Rush said directly, “quite soon.”

“How soon?” Young asked back.

“Very soon,” Rush replied irritated without looking up.

“Damn, Rush, how about more precise?” Young said now, a little bit peeved.

“Half an hour, maybe more, maybe less. Can’t be more precise yet.”

“Sounds not too bad, doesn’t it? Is it possible to see on the console in the storeroom what exactly is going on?” Young asked.

“I can try,” Rush said factually and asked further: “Are you able to see what they are doing outside?”

“No, not really. Mr Brody is doing something with the door. The rest are standing by.”

 

Now Rush took his radio. “Dr Volker, do you read?”

Yes, Volker here!

“It would be more helpful actually if you’d look for another console, trying to get access to the safety mechanism from there, instead of standing around and watching Brody and Walters working!”

After Volker didn’t answer a few seconds later, Rush asked again: “Dr Volker, do you read?”

Yes, I read!” Volker finally said peevishly. “I’m looking for a console then!

“He’s gonna go!” Young told from his observation point at the door.

“About time,” Rush said. Then he pushed the bulkhead mechanism to open it fully or to try it to see if whether something else would happen, but it still didn’t work. So he climbed over the half closed bulkhead, went over to the console, switched it on again and scrolled through the menu to find the information he was looking for.

“What is it you have against Volker?” Young asked all of a sudden through the half open compartment doors.

“What?” Rush asked bewildered, without stopping his work. “Volker, um… nothing… well, not really, anyway. It just fails me why a grown up man in his mid thirties, with a brilliant PhD in Astrophysics, which certifies that he is clearly intelligent, is not able to make elementary considerations. It wouldn’t be necessary to tell Eli what I’ve just told Volker. Eli would have thought of this on his own.”

“This annoys you, doesn’t it?” Young said, laughing quietly.

“If my life depends on it? Sure,” Rush told him, still scrolling continuously through the files. “But what is so funny about that?”

“Just, well,” Young started still bemused: “maybe you should try being more friendly?”

“Will he then start to use his brain to think properly?” Rush replied not amused.

“Well, maybe not, but you’d make his life easier, eventually?”

“And what do I get out of that?” Rush asked again.

“Happy collaborations?” Young said smiling. But Rush just gave him a dirty look through the half open compartment, which made Young smirk even more.

“This doesn’t look good,” Young then heard Rush murmuring a moment later.

“What is it?” Young became serious again.

“I don’t get access to the program to open and close the doors!” Rush replied.

“Try again,” Young said.

“What do you think I’m doing?” Rush cursed, “Regardless which back door I try, I can’t get through!”

Finally he went over to the entrance and pressed the door mechanism from his side. Then the compartment doors closed directly with a hissing noise. Young didn’t hesitate but hammered directly at the metal and yelled: “Damn, Rush, what are you doing! Open the fucking door!”

And after a while the door opened again and Rush came back into the corridor.

“You won’t like this,” he said to Young.

“Let me guess, the bloody door can only be closed from inside.”

“Yep,” Rush said crisply. “And I think it might be possible that that door over there will open again a few minutes after that.”

“Okay, that means one of us will make it in any case, do you have any other ideas to override the mechanism?” Young asked.

Rush shortly considered the possibilities and radioed Volker then: “Dr Volker, do you read?”

After a few seconds Volker answered: “Volker here!

“Have you found a way to open the outer door yet?”

Not yet, but I think I’m on the right track now. I just need more time.

“Will he make it?” Young asked in a low voice bent half over Rush’s shoulder.

“Possible, but I can’t say for sure. We have to wait,” Rush answered him, and then talked again into his radio. “Did you contact Eli, Dr Volker?”

Yes, I did. He’s working parallel to me to get access to any of the doors!

“Good, thank you. I did what I could and all we can do from this side is wait. Rush over.”

Copy that, Volker over and out!” came back shortly.

 

“All right, so let’s wait, then,” Rush said to Young.

 

Going back to the window, Young could see Dunning’s face popping up on the other side from time to time. He’d started to observe what was happening on the other side of the corridor through the window.

 

After ten minutes more, when still nothing had changed and the air in the corridor started to get thin, Young decided finally: “Okay, time for plan B.”

“Plan B, what plan B?” Rush asked.

“That plan where I’m going to close that bloody compartment from the other side, trusting in you to get me out in time, Rush!”

“Oh, no, no, that’s not a good idea.” he relayed, not hiding his foreboding.

“I can count on you, can’t I?”

“Yes, of course, but I still have a bad feeling about it!” Rush said eventually.

“Since when do you have feelings?” Young asked back, half laughing, and turned to go over to the compartment doors. But Rush stopped him midway, strangely anxious by holding his arm. “No, we’ll find another solution!”

“The air is starting to run out, Rush!” Young said, vividly.

“No, don’t do this, it’s a bad idea!” Rush said uncharacteristically pleading. But he couldn’t go on, since Young gripped his arms to force him to let him go. For a short moment both men skirmished into a hand to hand fight, in which Young was finally able to force Rush back through the bulkhead and shouted to Rush from the other side: “You’ll save me in time, Rush. I’m counting on you!” And then the doors closed.

 

Rush, who came back to his feet quickly, ran over to the bulkhead, started to hammer against the doors, yelling and pleading. After a while he gave up, still cursing under his breath. Eventually he went over to the other door, where he could see Airman Dunning’s face, filled with hate.

 

* * *

 

On the other side of the door, Brody and Walters had attempted the entire time to manipulate the control panel, while trying to ignore Airman Dunning’s persistent urgent and annoying talking. He was clearly worried that Young was of all things locked with Rush in that corridor. His comrade Atienza did his best to calm him down, but Dunning was not really open to coaxing.

 

When Dunning started to observe what was happening on the other side of the door, commenting every move the two men made to who wanted, or not wanted to know about it, he had something to do other than to disturb Brody and Walters.

 

Meanwhile Volker found a console a few rooms away, reporting to them in short intervals, to let them know what he was doing. He also got help from Eli, who was on the bridge. Strictly speaking, they should be able to solve the problem soon. It was only a matter of a few minutes more or less by now.

 

After about 25 minutes Dunning cried out all of a sudden: “what is he doing?”

“Why, what’s going on?” Atienza asked his comrade.

“Rush is fighting with Young… what the hell!” Dunning ranted.

“What the hell is happening?” Atienza asked again.

“Rush just pushed Colonel Young into the storeroom and I think the doors closed behind him!” Dunning answered furiously.

“What?” Brody asked bewildered, interrupting his work the moment he’d heard Dunning’s words.

“I can’t believe it. Rush just saved his wretched life by sacrificing Colonel Young!” Dunning explained angrily.

“Are you sure that’s what you saw?” Atienza asked uncertainly.

“Don’t you think I know what I’ve seen?” a distressed Dunning replied.

 

Brody now exchanged several gazes with Walters until he stopped what he was doing abruptly to comment on Dunning’s words: “Do you really believe Rush just got some kind of superpowers to be able to defeat Young of all people?”

“Of course you civilians stick together!” Dunning cried.

“Just a moment, I think I got some say in this too,” Walters fearlessly defended Brody.

“Thank you, David, but I’m still trying to solve a problem here. So, please, shut up! Both of you! Please!” Brody stopped the useless chitchat.

 

But Dunning wasn’t in the mood to calm down. Instead he continued to emit hateful comments, while sticking at his watch place at the door, never losing sight of the peephole.

 

After another five minutes had passed, the door opened abruptly, and before anybody was able to stop Dunning he ran inside and clubbed Rush with his rifle butt.

 

“What’s with the bulkhead?” Walters immediately asked, trying to ignore the scene playing out between Rush and Dunning.

“It’s still closed!” Atienza called back, angry with himself for being a moment too late to stop Dunning from what he did to Rush, who went down right away.

 

“Okay, then, everybody out of the corridor. We still have to save Colonel Young! We have to open that damn door over there too!” Brody yelled into the corridor. Without hesitating Atienza yanked the unconscious Rush out of the corridor while ordering Dunning to come with him.

 

After another two minutes they heard the compartment doors open with a clear audible hiss. The air that was sucked away from the corridor indicated that there was nearly no oxygen left in the storeroom before it opened, and that meant most likely, bad news for Colonel Young.

 

“I’ll get the Colonel out of that room. All of you stay here until I’m back, understood?” Atienza ordered his comrade and the civilians.

“We’ll wait here!” Brody just answered back.

 

Then Atienza threw on everything bulky he had with him, including his weapons and went ahead. Less than a minute later he came back with an unconscious Colonel heaved over his shoulder. Then Brody could finally close the doors so that the leak in the storeroom could no longer suck air from the surrounding area.

 

Atienza put Young down carefully and looked worriedly at Brody and Walters. “He isn’t breathing anymore.”

 

* * *

 

Half an hour later the whole group was back in the inhabited part of the ship and Young was brought to the infirmary. It was possible to bring him back through extensive first aid, but he remained unconscious.

Rush was laid on a platform in a room they used as a detention cell and left on his own. Dunning’s testimony that he’d forced Young to sacrifice his life, stirred up a lot of people, civilians and soldiers likewise. After what happened within the last few weeks, some people decided that it was about time for some action. Rush crossed lines too often since he’d stranded all of them on that ship. Now time has come to do something drastic.

 

A new temporarily council, and a new line of command was established as long as Young remained in the infirmary. Its members were Camile Wray, Dale Volker and Matthew Scott as the highest-ranking officer.

 

TJ took care of Young as well as it was possible under the circumstances she had at hand, after she got help from Stargate command via the com-stones. Now that she couldn’t do anything more than wait, she asked about Rush, and was surprised that he was under arrest, again. She was told that he was in one of those small detention cells, in which they’d held Chloe for observation long ago. When she learned that Rush was just put in there, after Dunning had clubbed him with his rifle butt, completely left on his own, she was really annoyed. She now stood in front of the room, carrying a tray with food and water.

 

“Airman O’Hara, good morning. Please open the door. I’d like to see Dr. Rush,” TJ directly ordered.

“I’m under orders not to let anybody in!” the female soldier answered her.

“I’m not anybody, I’m the one and only medical officer on board this ship. I’m telling you to let me in.” TJ replied sternly.

 

The soldier looked at her unsure at first, but decided then TJ must be right, and opened the door letting her in, without arguing further.

 

TJ found Rush huddled up in a corner in front of the small platform, which was the only furniture in the room. When she came in he just gave her an apathetic look.

“I brought you something to eat and drink,” she said and put the tray on the platform. Looking closer, she saw he had a black eye on the left side, which caused her to mentally wince.

“May I have a look at that?” she asked squatting down on the floor in front of him. But Rush just shoved her hand aside when she tried to turn his head to get a better look at the injury.

“No, go!” He said to her a little bit hoarse.

“Dr Rush, please don’t act as if you’re a sullen child, I just want to help you!” TJ replied. Rush still watched her warily, but then allowed her to take care of him.

 

When she checked him he asked all of a sudden: “How’s Colonel Young?”

TJ stopped shortly in her movements and looked at him. “I was able to revive him, but he’s in a coma. At this time it’s impossible for me to tell when or whether he’ll be back again.

“Did you ask for help via the communication stones?”

“Yes, I asked for help, and I got a doctor, who’ll come back regularly.” TJ told him.

“Good,” he answered in only one word.

 

TJ removed the blood from his face with a cloth she had with her. Afterwards she pulled a small flask filled with a liquid out of her pocket. She let a few drops fall at a clean corner of the cloth and started to swab the lesion carefully. Rush winced briefly, but didn’t show any other reaction.

 

“That’s not so bad. It will be healed in a few days, but the bruise will stay longer,” TJ said.

“I think that’s the least of my problems right now,” Rush replied to her in low spirits.

“Try to eat something, or at least drink the water,” TJ ignored his answer.

“Don’t make an effort. Who would give water at dawn to a goose that will be slaughtered in the morning?” he resigned.

“Why do you assume the worst?” TJ asked him, wondering about the strange flowery saying.

“Don’t you think all of this is reason enough to be worried?” Rush asked TJ, while making a circle-like movement in the air with his hand to emphasise his statement.

“Well, I don’t know the exact circumstances of why you’re here, since no one has informed me about it yet, but I do know it has something to do with Colonel Young’s condition,” TJ replied.

“No one has talked to me so far, but I’m sure, it can’t mean anything good,” Rush then said.

TJ looked at him understandingly. “When I know more about Colonel Young’s condition, I’ll let you know.” Then she got up and packed up her belongings. “I’ll leave the tray so you have something to eat and drink if you get hungry or thirsty later.”

“Thank you for everything, Lieutenant Johansen!” Rush said, and while she left the room, she turned around again to give him a last nod. Then she was gone.

 

* * *

 

From Rush’s cell TJ went straight to Camile Wray to ask why exactly Rush was put under arrest. She didn’t have time for anything else but caring for Colonel Young together with the doctor they’d brought in via the communication stones after he was brought to her in the late evening the day before. Then, in the morning, after a very long night, she went directly to the mess to have breakfast.

 

She overheard people talking about what had happened, and then asked Darren Becker, whether anybody had taken Rush something from the mess. When he negated that, she decided quickly to look after him and to take him something to eat and drink.

 

Later she stood in front of Camile’s door and knocked. It took a few seconds, but then the door opened with the usual hiss and Wray stood before her.

“Good morning! May I come in?” TJ asked.

“Yes, of course,” Wray answered, “how’s Colonel Young?”

“He’s alive and stable at the moment, but he’s in a coma, and we’re not able to prognosticate when or whether he’ll be back. Right now, we can’t do anything but wait. But I’m actually not here for Colonel Young, though I understand that you’re as worried as everybody about him, but for Dr Rush.”

“Yes, I understand,” Camile said a little bit hesitating, while going with TJ to the sofa corner and offered her a seat, then she sat down herself. “You know, I’m not really happy about what Lieutenant Scott, Dr Volker and Eli Wallace decided after they’d spend the whole night together not consulting anybody else. They only informed me when they’d come to the decision how to proceed further.”

“But shouldn’t you have a word in this too?” TJ asked irritated.

“Strictly speaking, yes. Well, at least Colonel Young used to do this, lately. But Scott seems to see that differently. Or at least he sees it different now, after he’d talked to Dr Volker and Eli Wallace.”

“What actually occurred? Is Dr Rush blamed for what happened to Colonel Young?” TJ asked.

“Yes, exactly that seems to be the case, or at least that’s what they told me. Airman Dunning accused Rush of forcing Colonel Young to sacrifice himself to save his own life,” Wray explained.

“Hum, I understand.” TJ said. “It won’t be the first time Rush would have done something like that, but what I don’t understand is, how would he force Colonel Young to do that?”

“That’s what I’ve asked the three as well,” Wray told her. “If one of those two is able to force the other physically it would be the other way around.”

“Don’t they see that something is wrong here? But anyway, do you know what will happen to Dr Rush, now?” TJ asked finally.

“No, I have no idea. But I absolutely don’t like the whole situation. This morning Lieutenant Scott get in touch with Stargate Command via the com-stones, which means clearly, something is planned, though I have no clue what it is,” Wray said.

“Okay,” TJ said in the end. “I have to go back to the infirmary to take care of my patient. The moment I know more, I’ll inform you, Camile!”

“Thank you, TJ. If you like, I’ll keep you informed of everything.”

“Yeah, that would be nice!” TJ said as she got up, saying good-bye to her.

 

* * *

 

Three hours later Camile Wray stormed into the infirmary and said outraged: “Scott is now behaving the same way as Colonel Young did in the beginning. He only tells me about his decisions and orders me to deliver them to all the civilians here.”

TJ looked at her bewildered. She was absolutely not used to seeing her that angry. “That doesn’t sound like Lieutenant Scott at all, if you ask me! But maybe you should share some details with me, so I can understand what is going on here.”

“I told you this morning that Lieutenant Scott had just used the com-stones to talk to Stargate Command, perhaps getting some advise how to proceed in the case of Dr Rush.”

“Yes, I do remember you said that.” TJ said.

“Well, he didn’t go alone there, he took Eli with him.”

“Okay,” TJ said slowly and slightly irritated, “but since when is he questioned in matters like this?”

“He was there as a witness. Apparently the accident yesterday was just a trigger to accuse Dr Rush of trying to murder Young a second time yesterday, actually.” Wray told TJ.

“How’s that possible?”

“Yeah. Eli told me a story this morning that seems to have been known by everybody but me here …” Wray started.

“What story?” TJ interrupted her.

“Eli said he has a piece of evidence, which shows Dr Rush manipulating the stasis pod to get rid of Colonel Young.”

“What?” TJ asked unbelieving. “How did that happen? I mean, Colonel Young told me Rush wanted to use the pod himself first, but then Young didn’t want that because he didn’t trust Rush far enough to handle such a situation, without risking anyone else’s life.”

“That’s right, I know about that too, and Eli says now he orchestrated all of this to kill Colonel Young,” Wray explained.

“Great! And now Colonel Young is the only one who’s able to give testimony in both cases. Possibly.”

“Yes, I fear,” Wray answered her.

“Well, I didn’t know about the story as well,” TJ threw in and added further: “Oh, I believe Rush is able to do many things, but I’ve actually never pictured him to be a ice cold calculating killer.”

“Hum, but that’s not the whole story. The three also decided further what to do with him. I was told Chloe stood up for Dr Rush and asked our self-declared triumvirate to give him a chance to be heard at least,” Wray said disheartened.

“They hadn’t talked to him about this until now? TJ asked in astonishment.

“No, the total count of indictments seems to be so clear, that Scott got a green light to do what he thinks is necessary.”

“That’s clearly not good.” TJ said. “Rush’s list of offences is quite long, and it surely doesn’t cast a good light on him, we both know that. But in combination with an attempted first degree murder charge against an United States officer, it’s a death sentence.”

“Unless Colonel Young would speak on his behalf.” Wray said finally in a voice that showed clearly her desperation.

“But I fear that’s not possible. I doubt he’ll awake from the coma within the next few days. Isn’t it possible for you to do something? I mean you are the representative of the IOA, why don’t you ask them to do something, Camile?”

“Again, I fear, in this case my hands are tied. When the prosecution has enough damaging evidence against a defendant to prove his guilt, I’m not able to do anything. And you might not really be surprised to hear that my superiors won’t stand up for Dr Rush.”

 

The whole situation was completely dead-ended. Camile Wray was not really able to understand how it was even possible that they come to this point, which appeared to come in addition to her and a lot of other people, out of nowhere.

However, TJ also didn’t like what she’d heard, and death sentences were for her too final, especially, in a case with reasonable doubt, which could possibly prove Rush’s innocence. After all, it was impossible to bring a dead person back, who was eventually proven innocent, and to say sorry wouldn’t do the trick as well.

 

* * *

 

At the instigation of Chloe a public hearing was scheduled with Lieutenant Scott acting as chairman and Chloe as Rush’s defence.

In addition to that, a council was established with the chairman Lieutenant Scott, and members Eli Wallace, Dr Volker and Camile Wray. In the end those four people would pass the final judgment.

 

Unsurprisingly, Rush was charged with attempted murder against Colonel Young, and Airman Dunning’s witness statement gave evidence that he’d done it not only once, but a second time, and this time with more success.

 

Rush denied all accusations, and made a statement that he never has tried to kill Colonel Young. Also not surprisingly, his prosecutors did disagree in their statement.

 

Chloe defended Rush as well as it was possible for her. She presented all discrepancies she could find, and in the end she was at least able, with Camile Wray’s support, to weaken all points so far that they had to agree not to have absolute evidence to confirm his guilt in any of the accusations. But in the end all presented indications showed a clear pattern: Rush had tried from the start to undermine Young’s leading position with criminal acts, and these latest events were his last attempt to gain the control he wished for. So it was most likely he’d proceed with his wrongdoings in the future, and therefore it would be necessary to eliminate him from the ship by marooning him on the next inhabitable planet to avert any possible danger to all of them.

 

* * *

 

Three days later, Rush was brought into the gate room with tied hands and in company of several soldiers. In the room people were gathered to watch the event. Some of these people like Chloe came to say good-bye, while others came to witness how the man who’d brought all of them into this miserable situation would finally face a suitable punishment.

 

Volker dialled the address, and the iris of the gate opened after a few seconds with its usual hiss. Rush looked a last time around the room, before the soldiers emphatically moved him to go through the event horizon.

 

Arriving on the other side the small group came through the gate one after the next. Lieutenant James and Sergeant Greer led Rush finally away from the gate, while the others stayed there waiting.

 

The landscape they found was astonishingly beautiful. It was warm. The sky was blue as it was on Earth and the vegetation around the gate was a deep green. Aside from a grove with larger plants in a not too far distance the overgrowth was short like grass. If the visitors would have taken a closer look at the ground, they’d most likely have seen the furrows where the plants grew in that area. On Earth it would be fair to assume that the ground must have been cultivated at some point in the past, since such a design couldn’t be the possible result of natural formation.

 

After about 50 meters Greer stopped. James and Rush went a few meters more until Rush sank down to his knees. Lieutenant James bent down to him, took his tied hands and cut the cable tie at his wrists. Then he looked up to Greer and to the other soldiers at the gate. Eventually she opened one of the big pockets on her uniform and pulled out a bottle and a small bundle. In the meantime, Greer went back a few meters, and screened James and Rush from the other soldiers, so they weren’t able to see them properly. Finally James spoke in a low voice: “This is something to drink and to eat. Try to survive. If you’re innocent, and I still believe you are, Colonel Young will give testimony for you when he’s able to do so. Then we’ll come back for you. So, please do Chloe, me and some of the others a favour and don’t give up!”

 

Then she stood up and went over to Greer, who affirmed: “You heard what the Lieutenant said. Do that!”

 

With that they went back to the gate to leave Rush behind. Before all of them disappeared through the event horizon, James risked a last glance back. He still sat there, motionless. She’d never seen in someone’s body language such hopelessness and desperation, as she saw in that very moment, and she wished she’d not looked back.

 

* * *

 

Chapter Text

7. Marooned

 

Far away and dampened through the barriers of his own cognition Rush was able to hear the voices of the soldiers, who had just disappeared through the stargate to leave him behind. Then the characteristic hiss gave him notice that the gate had closed behind them.

 

For a while he starred at the landscape in front of him without focussing on anything in particular in his view. His thoughts were completely in denial about what had happen in the last three days. After all he’d gone through with the crew of Destiny, after he’d finally found a way to deal with them, and it seems they with him, at least a few of them. He’d even found some common ground with Young in the end. But now, all of this has crumbled down into small pieces of nothingness, as if none of it ever existed, just a random note in the vast expanse of the universe.

 

This must have been the feeling his double had when he’d lost his crew, slowly realizing what had happened to them while sitting in front of the gate, as he’d told him. And he had been so glad that he was not forced to go through this experience. Strangely, it now hit him that he cared about his shipmates more than he’d ever thought he would. What a bitter irony that he had to learn it wasn’t the same the other way around.

 

Slowly he could feel tears building up in his eyes, blurring his sight. His first reaction was to suppress them, but then the realisation hit him again: he was alone and there was nobody aside from himself on this damn planet. Nobody would see it. It didn’t have meaning. Not anymore. So, he let the tears fall. But after a while they just stopped, it was simply too exhausting to go on and his face was completely swollen from all this crying and felt as if it must be purple now. Therefore he tried to calm down and for the first time he really noticed his surroundings.

 

He looked ahead and found himself in a landscape that reminded him of Earth. The planet had an impeccable blue sky with green plants everywhere around him and a humidity and temperature, which could only be called perfect.

The ground he sat on was covered with low grass-like plants. This green steppe reached up to the visible horizon and was only interrupted by some kind of a grove, about 150 meters away with bushes and larger tree-like plants. As far as he was able to see, the ends of their thick fleshy leaves, which looked a little bit like huge agaves, were in all colours, from yellow to red and everything in between one could think of. Under different circumstances he’d call this sight spectacular.

It reminded him of another planet they had visited some weeks ago, where they had buried Elsa, or Dr Inman as most people called her. Not before he recalled the scene in his thoughts while lying in his bed trying to rest late in the night, did he realise how incredibly beautiful those colourful stone formations were. And he thanked fortune that let them find this particular place. It was somehow comforting then, regardless of the sad occasion. But now, he didn’t feel anything. His thoughts were plainly empty.

 

Eventually his sight went back to the ground he sat on, and then he saw it: the grass-like plants on the ground grew in straight, and clear furrows.

In that very moment his heart skipped a beat and he stopped breathing unconsciously. Alarmed, he looked around. But aside from a warm, light wind and the green landscape, with only the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, there was nothing else or suspicious to be seen or heard. So he calmed down a little bit again. But although he seemed to be calm, his mind was racing. They had marooned him on a planet with some kind of an intelligent life, one that was able to cultivate plants. Sooner or later he would met them that much was clear. But it was also clear that it was better to be prepared and to stay away from them as long as possible.

Then he hesitated again, and reconsidered his thoughts ‘Why care? Does it matter anymore? How could I be in any worse trouble than this?’ Reconsidering everything again he imagined the possibility of becoming some beings dinner, and suddenly this possibility seemed worse than what had already happened. So he looked at the water bottle and the small parcel, which were still lying on the ground. “Where the hell did Lieutenant James get this wrapping paper and the cord?’ He asked himself wondering shortly, and then he took both and got up.

His limbs, stiff from sitting motionless on the ground for too long, protested with his first movement and he needed a few steps until the stiffness dissipated and he was able to walk on steady legs to the grove.

 

* * *

 

Lieutenant James and Sergeant Greer arrived last in the gate room on Destiny. The gate closed behind them with the typical hiss, and a few seconds later the ship went into FTL mode. As always the whole crew stayed in the last movement they’d made, until this phase was over and everybody felt a little bit dizzy but when that feeling was over, they went back to their work as usual.

 

Routinely Destiny’s sensors checked all incoming people, after the stargate was closed again.

A person is missing. They must have left one man behind. Unfortunately there’s nothing that can be done about it. A ship is not supposed to interfere in the affairs of humans. And the man who usually decides everything is lying unconscious in the infirmary. Completely out of range.

It knew there was an accident in a damaged area, where its sensors weren’t fully working. It was practically blind there. The result was one man being in a coma and another one missing now.

Sometimes it regretted the limits its builders had placed upon it. It was able to see things humans were not able to see. It could hear things they couldn’t hear. It could feel things they were not able to feel, because only it knew all their feelings. Still it was condemned to be a silent watcher. A ship is a machine, and a machine does not have the right to interfere in human affairs.

 

Vanessa James looked at her comrade Ronald Greer questioningly, but he just lowered his head and shook it, hardly noticeable, and then he started to move on. Now she understood without words that both of them just had to fulfil a job neither of them was eager to do. In resignation she closed her eyes shortly and started to head towards her quarters.

On her way out of the gate room she saw Chloe still standing in the same place she’d been when they had escorted Rush through the gate. Her face was red and her eyes swollen from crying, but regardless, she looked angry and defiant.

When their eyes met, Chloe asked: “Why? Why now?”

“I don’t know, Chloe, but I hope Colonel Young will awake as soon as possible to fix all this.” Lieutenant James answered in a low voice and started to leave when Chloe stopped her by taking her arm.

“Lieutenant James, would it be possible for you to do me a favour and help me to move my belongings back to my old quarters?” Chloe asked her.

“Yes,” James said to her hesitantly, going on: “Yes, I’ll help you, but give me a few minutes so I can change my clothes.”

“Of course,” Chloe replied, “I’ll start packing up my things.”

“Okay,” James said, I’ll come as soon as I’m finished.”

With that both woman started to go and split into different directions at the end of the corridor.

 

* * *

 

While Chloe passed several corridors on her way to the quarters she shared with Matthew Scott, she thought about that weird feeling she had, when she talked with Lieutenant James. She thought she heard her father talking and at the same time she had the unpleasant feeling of being watched. But when both woman went into different corridors the strange sensation was gone, and in the end she considered it to be her torn up senses that made her see or hear things that couldn’t possibly be there. So she went on and finally she stood in front of their quarters. When she opened the door she found the room empty. ‘He’s probably on the bridge to act for Colonel Young,’ she thought. And then without further thought she prepared to leave their shared chamber by starting to pack.

 

Strictly speaking, there weren’t too many private items Chloe had in Scott’s room, but her computer and documents made the chore of packing more extensive than she’d thought. But regardless of that, she didn’t really need James’ help. Right now, she was looking for moral support from someone she knew would share her opinion, and Chloe knew Vanessa did. The tension both women had in the past, because of Lieutenant Scott, had since vanished and they’d found a common understanding.

 

In this very moment she was angry with Scott. He had decided Rush’s fate over the heads of other people. And all of this because he thought he had to protect Colonel Young from ill advised decisions Rush had made a long time ago, which were now of no importance anymore for anyone.

She still had a hard time understanding why he and Eli weren’t able to postpone their decision in this case. Why couldn’t they have waited for Young to come out of his coma and provide them with better information about Rush’s guilt or innocence? Regardless of how she turned the question over and over again, she didn’t get it. Therefore she didn’t see any other possibility than to put their relationship on the back burner. She also thought it would be better to avoid Eli for a while, too.

At some time, of that she was sure, she would talk with him about the whole mess, because she was sure Eli was the key to all of this. Even when Rush told them during the interrogation why he behaved so strange on that video, Eli insisted that he was lying with an obsession she didn’t get. She found his explanation absolutely believable, and didn’t understand why he should have lied about it.

No, there’s more of this than Eli is willing to tell. Those two weeks he spent alone on the ship to repair the broken pod left him deeply traumatized and he isn’t willing to tell anybody about it. And on top of that he denied any kind of help. He needs as much psychological care as Rush and I had needed when we came back from the aliens, and anybody else after such experiences, but hasn’t really had,’ she thought disappointedly.

 

Lost in her thoughts, she suddenly heard Vanessa clear her throat, standing at the doorframe. Only when she realised that she was there, she looked at her and then she asked her kindly to come in.

“Thank you very much for taking the time to help me, I really need a little bit of support at the moment,” Chloe said.

“Don’t worry, I don’t have anything else of importance to do and aside from that I understand you very well,” James explained. “Your situation is not easy. You defended Rush and at the same time you’re the partner of his prosecutor and judge. I wouldn’t like to be you at the moment,” saying as she looked around and asked Chloe finally: “So, do you have something to carry now?”

“Yes, there is, and from the bottom of my heart again, thank you for your help, Lieutenant James,” Chloe said.

“Vanessa,” she corrected her. “No reason to be formal anymore. Just call me Vanessa.”

“Okay, then thank you … Vanessa,” Chloe said, testing the soldiers first name to hear how it sounded to herself. It was good, and came naturally over her lips. “Especially because I know that our relationship was not always easy in the past, more for you than for me, I guess.”

“Well, yeah, that’s right, but really Chloe I finished that chapter and take the situation as it is. Actually, at the moment I’m glad not to be in a relationship with him with what he did, together with Eli and Volker.”

Chloe nodded comprehendingly towards her, and finally gave her a box with paper and her laptop. James took it, and balanced it in her arms so that she was able to carry it safely and as easily as possible. Then Chloe took her bags, hung two over her shoulder and the other one in her free hand. Both women left the room, closed the door and went on to Chloe’s old quarters.

 

* * *

 

TJ was despondent as she looked at her patient, who lay still unconscious in front of her. During midday she got help from a doctor from SGC, through the communication stones, who was specialised in the treatment of coma patients.

Aside from all the complications they had with the lack of proper instruments, he had shown them what were the necessary items in the infirmary to deal with this. With Franklin it was much easier, he was catatonic but also in a vegetative state, so they could relatively easy provide him with food and water. And when Rush, months later, lay here too, she’d started to organise something, but then after three days he came back and so it wasn’t necessary anymore. Even Riley, whom she had to treat over several weeks, was awake most of the time.

But with Young it was different. He was in a deep coma, and nobody knew when or whether he’d come back again.

 

What happened to Rush mattered to her, and she’d tried to appeal to Scott, Eli and Volker to re-evaluate their decision. But right now she had other problems. She tried not to think about what could be. She knew better than anyone else on Destiny that the chances of survival on an alien planet for weeks or even months are not good, especially if the person is alone, has no equipment and as far as she’d heard, no food or even water. “Why should he get any supplies we might need later for ourselves?” she’d heard one of her comrades saying in a corridor not too long ago.

 

She had learned a lot about alien fauna or flora to evaluate possible complications that could come with both. Their off-world missions had shown them too often, that neither of them was edible. Sometimes they would need to extract important nutrients from plants, or even animals by using the equipment they had on board, but that would be, most likely, impossible on the planet. The luck they had by visiting the very first planet in the new galaxy was a rare event and that not often happened. It was nearly impossible for Rush to figure out what could be edible without risking health problems, nor did he have enough time. She knew that nobody had made any effort to test any of the plants that surrounded the gate, though she’d heard there were at least plants around it. Pulling this all together meant they have sent him blind into a situation, where surviving would be a game of luck, and most likely he won’t survive.

No,’ she said to herself, ‘stop thinking about something you can’t change.’ But as much as she tried to avoid those questions, they always came back after a few moments.

 

She looked again at Young’s lifeless form, saying to herself: What the hell happened in that bloody corridor between you and Rush? And why is Dunning so desperately insisting that Rush had tried to kill you? You would never allow him to do that, would you?

 

* * *

 

Meanwhile Brody sat at his console on the bridge, trying to focus on his work. He deliberately avoided the gate room in the early morning, and felt relieved that Volker was chosen to operate the console for the gate to take Rush to a planet with an acceptable environment. Were there not those damn gnawing qualms, which sat in some interior part of his mind, always lurking to come back into his consciousness. He doubted he’d done enough. ‘Shouldn’t he at least try to convince his friend of a better way? Make him understand that Dunning’s story had discrepancies? Did it really show discrepancies?

 

“Brody, I’m still waiting for your data,” he finally heard Scott saying.

“Um, yes, of course!” Brody said hesitantly. “Everything is in the green area. The ship shows no evince of problems up to the next possible stop.”

“Why did it take so long to answer?” Scott asked impatiently.

“It’s because, um, I mistook the category, so first I had the wrong data,” and thought further: ‘I hope he doesn’t realise that’s a lie.”

But Scott seems to accept what he got. “It’s not a drama, but why does it take so long? Anyhow, never mind.”

 

Still looking at Scott, he finally turned back to his display and tried again to concentrate on the screen in front of him. The duty for the day was to sort out and evaluate all planets within gate range for the next days, to decide where they would stop to supply their storerooms. Rush had done this before, and he’d been incredibly fast with it. Brody always admired that, but at the same time he asked how that was even possible. Of course he knew Rush played, not unlike Eli, in a different division than he did, but that didn’t prevent him from asking this question sometimes. And without realizing, his thoughts went astray again.

For Dale all of this was so easy, the moment he heard Dunning’s version, he was eager to believe him. And more so after they’d heard Eli’s story. Now, Dale was absolutely sure it had to be right. During the hearing he was not even interested in Rush’s statement about the events. He ‘knew’ Rush was lying.

And while he was still lost in his thoughts, he noticed, somewhere far away, Volker’s voice, saying something. Obviously he was back on the bridge.

“If you’ve got any extra calculations, send them over to me! Adam? Hello, anybody home?”

Brody understood, finally. “Yeah, of course,” Brody answered, angrily. “I’m not deaf, just because I don’t jump up immediately!”

“I didn’t expect you to jump, Adam, I’m not Rush,” Volker replied offended.

“No, of course not,” Brody muttered quietly, trying to cover up the sting he felt with this remark.

“You’re normally never this lost in your thoughts. If you can’t do your work properly, why don’t you switch duty with somebody else?” Volker said, trying to mollify his last remark.

“No, it’s … it’s really okay, just do me a favour, will you? Don’t mention Rush anymore, please,” Brody answered fretfully.

“As you like, Adam. I don’t understand why you mourn that bastard – hell, he’s not even gone for two hours – but if you wish to, here you go!” Volker said, looking closer at his friend now.

The moment Brody realised this, he starred forcefully with displeasure back to him, and to his astonishment Volker backed down directly, lowering his head to study his control panel intensively.

 

A little bit later Brody’s thoughts drifted away for another time. It wasn’t a surprise to him that Lieutenant Scott would rather believe one of his comrades than anybody else, but what he wondered about was the change in course he’d made. As far as he could remember, Scott was always more understanding towards Rush than for example Young, and he even defended him several times. But after he’d listen to Eli’s story, and the whole story around Spencer’s death came to light, which was a surprise for a lot of other people too, he just changed his approach with Rush completely. Now Scott questioned even Spencer’s suicide, and thought Rush could have killed Spencer by himself just to frame Young for murder. But Chloe with Camlie Wray’s help was able to explain that Spencer indeed killed himself. As a result of that discussion Eli admitted hesitantly that he still had the evidence about Spencer’s suicide on video, and he also admitted that he kept it in spite of the fact that Young asked him to delete it.

As a result of everything that was said on that day, it was inevitable that aside from Rush’s past, also Young’s involvement in those events were completely revealed. But since he was not accused of having committed a crime and furthermore wasn’t able to give evidence, it was decided that this part was put down as irrelevant for further decisions.

However, this didn’t prevent the few people who were on Rush’s side from listening, and to memorise all of this very well. It cast a shadow on Young’s rulings towards Rush too. Some would go so far to say that the military had special rights in comparison to the civilians.

Strictly speaking’ Brody thought, ‘Young has on his side a conducted and proven attempted murder, or at least a negligent homicide, aside from assaults and aggravated assaults, and Rush on the other side has done a lot of missteps of varying degrees up to real crimes, and at least one of them cost Riley his life, but none of them was a clearly proved, intentional attempt to get rid of or kill someone.

Regardless of how problematic all of Rush’s acts have been, and how unforgivable his guilt regarding Riley’s death was, for Brody this realization was enough to think about the juridical principle in dubio pro reo, in the doubt for the accused. And therefore, what Scott and Eli did with Volker’s help, was at best a perversion of justice, and at worst an intended negligent homicide.

And as Brody accidentally learned from Volker casually during a conversation in the mess hall, all of this was possible because the whole management level from Stargate Command was on some hyper secret mission outside of range, and Eli and Scott had to talk to representatives, who namely had all the authority but didn’t know anything about the persons involved.

He’d bet his life that they would not have gone that far if they had to deal with General O’Neill. But to their luck they dealt with somebody who didn’t have any doubts at all.

How was it even possible that all of this could go so bad?’ Brody asked himself more than once, but was never able to find a justifiable answer.

 

* * *

 

After Rush had decided to live a few days more, he went over to the grove, which was not too far away from the stargate. When he’d found clear traces of cultivation on the ground, he was aware that he had to proceed more carefully to not be taken by surprise.

I hope I’ll find water over there, otherwise I’ll be in trouble earlier than I’d like to,’ he thought while walking.

 

The closer he came to the array of plants, the bigger they looked to him, and he realised now that he’d misjudged the distance to the grove. In fact the grove was further away than he’d thought, probably because he had underestimated the size of the trees and the other plants. They were by far bigger and lusher than they had looked like from the gate. When he stood at the rim of the grove of plants he was overwhelmed by the colours. Each kind of them looked so different, had different colours and was shining in a way, which could only be described as mesmerising. ‘The flora of this planet is an eye-catcher for sure,’ he thought, “had I only not be forced to be here.

Bethought he entered the blaze of colour, being especially careful where he put his feet.

How similar life can be,’ he mused, when he observed the distinctively formed branches and smaller twigs of those different trees and bush like plants around him. Chlorophyll seems to be the basic nutrition of the plants on this planet; that’s why all the leaves, which didn’t look like typical Earth leaves at all, were green. But branches and tree trunks on the contrary were wrapped with a brownish bark, not unlike what he’d seen on a lot of other planets with an Earth like environment. It might be possible that trunks, braches and their bark have some kind of transport system to bring water and minerals into the green parts, where only the green leaves and the colourful blossoms build an entity, so that only the top parts, which were sometimes more rounded, sometimes more pointed, showed colours. The leaves were arranged funnel-shaped and in their midst he could see longish strings which had where of a different colour. Maybe those are part of their reproduction strategy, which could mean he should attune to insect-like life forms.

 

Systematically he explored the whole area and found to his relief a small water pond. As he had learned during his survival training he approached the place carefully, scanning the ground around the pool attentively. When nothing moved after five minutes he put aside his small provision, knelt fully down on the slightly muddy bank and slowly put the tip of his finger in the liquid, then he waited a little bit and pulled it out again. He looked at the fingertip. When nothing happened after a while, he sniffed it. He found that the liquid seemed to have no specific smell, so he put the rest of it on his lower lip, and waited again. When still nothing happened, he put his finger in the water again and tipped his tongue on it. Normally this was the more critical moment. A lot of toxic substances were not necessary primary contact agents, but reacted the moment they affected mucous membranes.

A few minutes later, still nothing had happened, so he took a small sip and swallowed it. The water tasted as he expected pure water would taste. Nonetheless he waited another 20 minutes, but when no problems became apparent after that time he decided, as his taste had indicated, that the water was drinkable. So he bent slightly down, formed a funnel with his hands, drawing the water up and drank from them. It tasted actually much better than the water he had in the can James had given him. And after he had enough, he dried his hands on his jeans, then moved in a squat over to a big tree-trunk, and sat down to collect his thoughts for a little while.

His mind wandered again to Destiny. The thought that he would never see the ship again made his stomach tense up, and a few minutes later he felt tears running down his face, until a voice in his head told him: ‘Get a grip on yourself! It doesn’t help to mourn things that are impossible to bring back. Think about what is ahead!

Only now he realised how horribly tired he was, and he remembered that he’d slept only a few hours in the last days. He must have been on the planet for several hours now. So, he got up to scout for a place where he could hide to sleep untroubled for a few hours.

After some searching not far away from the pond he found a suitable place, half high, in a huge opening in a big tree-trunk, which appeared unoccupied. He climbed inside, examined the small cave like place, put the water bottle and the parcel at the side, pulled his vest out and made a small pillow out of it. Then he finally coiled up in the back part with his face to the opening and fell asleep more or less instantly.

 

A little bit later he awakened suddenly, terrified. He had heard something, a noise that was clearly different from the low rustling of leaves of the trees and bushes around him. ‘This sounds like the flap of an, … well what exactly? Dragonfly wings? Really huge dragonfly wings?’ He sat slowly and cautiously upright and looked outside. In front of his cave hovered a delicate being, about half a meter in height. It hung like a dragonfly in the air and glared at him with his huge black eyes.

Ignoring his inherent instinct to flee, although he was afraid, he stayed quiet and glared back at the being. It indeed had a pair of wings on both sides of the body, not unlike those of a dragonfly, but much larger. The width of the span must be more than one meter. The entity between the wings looked astonishingly human-like. The bottom part of the torso showed two long legs with two joints, and on the upper, lateral part two shorter arms, also with two joints. Legs and arms ended in hands with six or seven fingers, including a thumb, but he couldn’t see that properly. On a very long throat sat the head, which was dominated by two quite large black eyes, peeking out from under a thick bush of hair. Aside from the face, hands and feet, the alien was covered with a fine, short, shimmering bluish coat. The bare parts and the hair on top of the head was between white and a light blue, shimmering in the same way as the rest of the being. ‘Marvellous, I found space elves,’ he thought amazed, totally forgetting and unaware that aliens could potentially be unpredictable and dangerous.

Of course he knew that this life form was not one of those mythical creatures of his childhood, but its physical appearance reminded him clearly of depictions he had seen in his fairy tale books.

The being didn’t appear as dangerous, but curious. The moment it realized he was doing nothing but glaring back at it motionless, it moved gracefully and came a little bit closer. It produced strange sounding high noise, like those cicadas back on Earth made. Rush couldn’t think other than notice that this noise was quite soothing and it took away any fear he’d felt when he saw the alien for the first time.

After a few moments it stopped, blinked, turned, went shortly back. Then hesitating a little bit longer and finally flew away.

Rush followed it for a while with his eyes, and saw it visit the big blossoms of the trees, where it sat down at the rim, and put its head in the calyx. After a few moments it raised its head again, and flew to the next one. He could hear more than see the creature repeating the procedure until it was out of range. An hour later the noise vanished completely.

Then he observed the surroundings of his tree again carefully. Now the short sunset had been replaced by full night and he couldn’t hear or see anything worrying, so he decided to sleep again. Lying down he became aware of the fact that he was still very tired, and it didn’t take long until he was fully asleep.

 

Feeling stiff from sleeping curled up in his tree for a whole night straight till morning, he awoke from a bright light cleaving its way through his eyelids to announce the new day. He must have slept relatively long since the sun stood a good part above the horizon, and now he had an urgent need too pee. He sat up and hobbled over to the opening to carefully inspect his surroundings. Finally he jumped out and relieved himself a short distance away from his tree, went back to the small pool to wash his hands and face and to drink a few sips of the clear water. Then he went back to his shelter and crawled inside again.

 

His vest still lay on the floor in the corner, where he’d slept. He had used it as a pillow. Without further thinking he put it on automatically and unwrapped the small parcel he had been given by Lieutenant James and opened the water bottle. The parcel contained some kind of a pasty, which was solid on the outside and had a nice salty-aromatic core inside. It was in any case nourishing, and would, if he rationed it, keep him afloat for some days. To his surprise the bottle didn’t contained water but some kind of sweetened tea. ‘James really put some thought into putting this together,’ he thought bitterly. ‘I never knew she was this forseeing. I could have, if I’d paid attention, but I never did. And now, it’s too bloody late! Anyway, Lieutenant James, wherever you are now, thank you.

After breakfast he made another survey around, and asked himself if he might see one of those elves again, and found himself surprised when he realised that he was actually quite disappointed in not seeing one now. Somehow the presence of this little thing had something soothing and comfortable, and he’d enjoyed the feeling he had in that short moment when it was close to him.

After he had found drinkable water he needed to look for food as well. He knew it would be much trickier to test plants, or rather parts of them. It’s impossible to say whether the root, the leaves or the colourful blossoms might be toxic, or all of it. He will clearly need more time to test them properly.

 

During the day he also walked around the area near his grove. But aside from those notable furrows, where the small grass-like plants grew, he didn’t find anything else that indicated proof of other living beings, of any kind. ‘If there are more creatures on this planet, they’re not in the region of the stargate,” he thought.

 

As the sun went down and darkness descended he went back to his tree cave and tried to go to sleep. At first hunger kept him from doing so, but he knew he had to ration the little food he had to have at least something to eat for one more day.

 

The following day, he repeated all the ablutions he’d done the morning before and finally ate a small peace of the pasty and drank some water and also a few sips of the sweet tea. He needed to find food soon, and therefore he looked around in his small forest to find something that might be edible. He had decided to collect roots of some smaller plants, a few of those fleshy leaves, and inflorescences. At the end of the day he put everything down at the bottom of his tree trunk, not bothering to hide any of it. When it was dark he lay down again, and while slipping more and more into sleep he asked himself where the Destiny would be now.

 

* * *

 

At the end of the day they had left Rush on that planet, Scott went back to his quarters. When he entered, he realised immediately that Chloe had left him, and his first instinct was to look for her, but when he got to the door he stopped himself and went slowly back to his bed. First he brushed through his military short hair and then let his hands run over his face. Then he let his hands down to finally shake off his uniform jacket and let it drop to the floor.

What had he thought his girlfriend would do? Especially after she’d verbally fought tooth and nail to defend Rush in the last two days. But he wasn’t willing to listen of any of her arguments. He tried to convince her that what Eli, Volker and he himself had decided was for the good of everyone on the ship. He was absolutely sure he was right with what they did, ‘I’d never condemn an innocent man, wasn’t that obvious?’ Scott thought a little bit angrily and felt betrayed that his girl friend seemed to think something like that of him. ‘Surely Chloe will understand that in time.’ Of that he was sure.

Walking the last two steps to his bed and letting himself fall down on it, desperately, he felt low and tired, and drifted a few moments later into a dreamless sleep.

 

Abruptly, something awoke him up in the middle of the night and he had to try hard to recover his orientation, coming so unexpectedly out of sleep. Finally, he recognized the alarm. Without hesitating any further, he sprang out of his bed to grasp his radio: “Scott here, what the hell is going on? Lieutenant James, do you read?”

 

Eventually James switched on her radio to answer him a little bit out off breath. “James here! Sir, … um, I think we have a problem here, please come to the bridge. It’s urgent.”

Without asking, what kind of problem they had, he just answered shortly: “I’m on my way!” And with that he ran without his jacket, which still lay unnoticed on the floor, in the direction of the bridge.

When he arrived there after less than five minutes out of breath, he saw the mess. Young sat in the chair, fresh blood dripping from his temples, where the bolts pierced the skin. James stood in front of Scott, screaming: “Why don’t you do something? I’ve always said this would happen one day. He’ll sit in that damned chair to save the ship! Why don’t you do something? Go look for Rush so he can get him out!”

Only now Scott realised that he wasn’t on the bridge but in the room where the command chair of Destiny stood. The same room, from where Franklin, back then, vanished without a trace. But at the same time when his own panic threatened to explode in him, seeing his lifeless commander, he woke up, drenched in sweat, his mouth still open from screaming. Irritated and disorientated he looked around and understood slowly that he had a bad dream. However he couldn’t remember when he ever had such a vivid dream before, furthermore in colour, normally, his dreams where always in black and white. ‘When did that change?’ he asked himself, astonished, trying to calm himself down by bringing his breathing back into normal patterns.

 

Then he stood up to check the time. Less than half an hour since he’d arrived in his quarters. He must have fallen directly into sleep, after he’d let himself fall down on his bed, still clothed with his heavy uniform trousers on. ‘No wonder you’ve got nightmares!’ He thought and poured water from his canteen into his mug, emptying it all at once. Then he thought about his dream again, and finally he took off the rest of his uniform before going back to bed, hoping for some real sleep this time.

 

* * *

 

Eli was on the bridge this evening studying without any real interest in the consoles in front of him. Since Rush was no longer on board, he had to do his work besides his own. And that meant long hours every day from now on. He didn’t mind working hard, but what bothered him was that he no longer had time to do the ships documentary he had been working on for quite a long time. A work he considered as important and quite useful. After all, it was with this documentation that he was able to convict Rush twice of manipulating events in criminal intent to fulfil his own agenda.

Suddenly he saw out of the corner of his eye a movement on one of the consoles, which should be dead. But at the very moment he looked at the screen, all activity stopped as if there was never anything there. Since he had been absent for some minutes daydreaming, he thought it must have been his imagination. From that moment on he applied himself to his work with full attention to make sure he won’t make any mistakes.

 

* * *

 

Rush awoke the following morning relatively harshly when something pulled him by his wrists out of his hidden sleeping place. He bumped the floor of the tree quite ungracefully and was completely irritated and didn’t understand what was happening to him. Then he saw two men standing in front of him, screaming, gesticulating, and in turn pointing to the plants he’d collected the day before and deposited at the base of his tree. Rush couldn’t understand a single word of what they said and it took him nearly a minute before he finally realised that these men were human.

And then everything happened quite quickly. ‘Run, run as fast as you can!’ He commanded himself, and before he even ended that thought, his legs started to move. But his attempt was immediately stopped when one of the men grasped him by one leg, and the second one hit him hard with a stick, until he stopped fighting back.

When he lay on the ground, defeated and huddled up in pain, the two men talked to each other in a low voice and eventually one of them pulled him up, and started to take off his shirts, and since both of them were by far stronger than he was, he had no other choice but to let them do what he couldn’t prevent. Still disorientated and in despair he hoped to awake from this nightmare, but he didn’t. Even when his mind told him that this couldn’t be true, by any means, because the last human beings which existed in this part of the universe were far away in the last galaxy. But the nightmare didn’t stop.

Both men were for whatever reasons interested in his upper arms, on which he himself couldn’t find anything of importance. Alternately they kicked, hit, and screamed at him while pointing continually at his arms. But when they finally realised that he wasn’t able to understand a word of what they asked him, they exchanged some meaningful looks with each other, which they seemed to affirm with a bunch of words he wasn’t able to understand.

Finally one of them tossed down his shirts at him and commanded him to put them on again. When he was finished doing that, they put him roughly back on his feet, and drove him in front of them out of the small forest to a resting place on the edge of the woods.

There, he saw five more humans sitting on the ground, hands bound in front of them. All of them looked exactly the same as those two men who just had captured him. Even the white, wide clothes were the same. All of them were men and had their dark, long hair bound in a ponytail or a braid.

Great’, he thought, ‘the residents of this planet are not only human beings – how the hell is that even possible –, but they also trade them! Why must everything get worse anyhow? And when the fucking hell will I finally awake from this damned nightmare?’ He asked further, while one of the traders bound him on a rope, which kept their captives in a row together. Then they packed up their baggage, rolled blankets together and put other things in bags, to finally threw those bags in front of each captive. One of the traders shouted a few words at the men, and all of them started to get up, each shouldering one of those bags and formed a line. Eventually Rush saw that one of the bags was also lying in front of him, so he picked it up onto his shoulder in the same way he’d seen the other captives do. A loud crack of a whip made the men start to move with Rush bringing up the rear.

How the fuck can I move on like this?’ He asked himself anew, until he broke into an even stride with everybody else in the line, to keep up with the other men.

 

* * *

 

Chapter Text

What Lies Ahead

 

They’ve been going for more than two hours and that damn bag that Rush had to carry is getting heavier by the minute. Despite the two T-shirts it has rubbed and lead to soreness, especially where the blows hit him. ‘How long do I have to go on like this? I need a break. I’m thirsty. I’m hungry. I can’t go on anymore. Damn this whole bloody situation,’ he thought. He remembered remorsefully that he still had something to eat and drink inside his hiding place, where he had carefully rationed everything so it would last as long as possible. Now it will rot for nothing. Usually he was able to ignore his bodily needs to a certain degree, but now he couldn’t any longer, especially the thirst as it began to agonize him.

The longer they walked, the more he started to trip, until he finally fell over his own feet. That nearly carried the man in front of him along with him, who immediately made an angry sounding torrent of words towards Rush. The event made the group stop and everybody in the line seemed to wait for their guards to solve the problem. However it didn’t take long for the gross, loud fellow behind Rush to grab him by his hair without any prior warning and lift him abruptly to his feet. Without hesitation he then re-loaded Rush with the bag anew and kicked him slightly on his shin, a fierce indication for him to start walking again.

 

How great to at least have a multitude of choices,’ Rush thought exhausted. Fortunately aside from his pride, nothing else was hurt, and so he and everybody went on. Then the man he accidentally dragged down darted an angry glance at him. He didn’t expect any kind of reaction or answer as it seems everybody already understood that talking to ‘that very strange man’ was impossible. So he just turned around and moved on.

 

Returning to thoughtless automatic movements, his mind drifted off. ‘There’s no question that these folks are humans. Though the real question is not so easy to answer: How the hell is that even possible? The last humans we met, a whole galaxy away and on the opposite side of that galaxy, had no ability for intergalactic travel, so how for fucks sake are they here?

There was another thing that was strange, or maybe it wasn’t strange, but different from those humans they had already met in the last galaxy. The descendants from Novus, or to be more precise, those from Tenara, retained all the different features from the exceptionally mixed Destiny crew, however that was possible. The Tenarans were made up of Asian, American, European, African, dark and fair skinned people, and aside from those, he remembered also quite mixed folks. The men here, as far as it is possible to generalise from only the seven men that he’d seen so far, were all homogeneous. All of them had dark, long hair; much, much longer than any men he’d ever met before. All of them had brown eyes, and clearly a darker skin than he himself.

Even their clothing was identical. Since the climate in this part of the planet was mild, they only needed light and bright clothing. The fabric was coarsely woven, and most likely made from plants. The top was a T-shaped hip-length shirt with long, wide arms and the trousers where a comfortable looking ankle-length. Additionally, long loincloths hung down from the front and back part of the waistband. All of them wore shoes with thick soles made of plant fibre, which were fastened with strings to the feet.

The broad straps of the backpacks looked as if they were more likely made of leather, or something similar. So also where the straps their guards used to keep their “merchandise” at bay.

The language they spoke was also notable. It sounded melodic and had characteristically short syllables. Judging by what Rush had heard so far, it was possible to distinguish between three different tones. He tried to remember what he knew about tonal languages. Much to his regret it was not a lot. He remembered that Chinese with its many sub-languages and dialects was one of the largest tonal languages on Earth. Aside from that, these kinds of languages actually were the most spoken languages on all five continents on Earth, with the exception of Europe, and no language of this type was of importance for the dominating western world. Unfortunately, that was nearly all he could remember. That and that tonal languages were not easy to learn for western ears and tongues. From what he’d heard so far, he surely was not able to understand a single word. However what he also was sure of: the Chinese Camile taught him when they had better times, was nothing similar to what those fellows spoke.

 

While walking Rush tried to distract himself by playing thought games, but after another hour, he couldn’t go on with it. The distraction didn’t work anymore. His thoughts circled around nothing but how thirsty he was. Suddenly at the moment he expected the least, their leader made the group stop.

All the men stopped directly without delay, let their backpacks glide to the ground, and sat down one after the next. Some massaged their shoulders, and some turned their heads to relax the sore muscles. Rush did the same without thinking or watching them, but that attempt only led to more soreness and a stabbing pain in the neck. Therefore, the only thing he could do was to loosen his muscles by concentrating on it, but that didn’t really do the job. Then the guards gave them water. When he got his ration, he drank as if he would never again get anymore and to his surprise nobody constrained him, instead they gave him as much as he wanted. After that everyone received something to eat. One of their guards, who was very athletic, but also much less crude than the other one, despite his powerful build, took out a large bowl from one of the bags and put some kind of a white powder in it. Then he added water and mixed the mass until it was a sticky, chewy pulp. He took from another bag a large cloth that he unrolled. In that cloth was a bunch of large green leaves, thick and leathery, like large seaweed. He put a part of the pulp on the first leaf and rolled it. Now he continued to do this with more leaves and after he’d finished, he gave the rolls to the men, one for each of them.

The two guards sat down a short distance away from their captives. This way they were by themselves but were still able to watch everybody.

 

Before Rush started to eat one of those rolls, he first watched how the others ate them, and then started to eat his too. It was not bad and seemed to be nutritious. It was surprisingly filling, but while eating he also hoped that his anatomy was similar enough with these men, otherwise this could have disastrous consequences for him.

About one hour later the temporary camp was packed up again. One of their guards said something and everybody just stepped aside, as far as the rope the men were strung to made it possible and relieved themselves. Giving a faint internal groan, Rush thought: ‘Well, false modesty has no place here, so it seems.’ So he tried to handle this problem as well as his bound hands allowed him, without noting the others. When everybody was finished and all things were stowed, the group set off again.

 

Gradually the landscape started to change. Until now they went miles and miles through a flat green steppe, identical to what could be seen around the stargate. Now the land was hilly and the grass like plants vanished. The ground was sandy, blended with small stones, and with shrubby, dry growth once and a while. This area seemed to be much drier than what they’d gone through before.

 

As dusk came on, they found a campground on a sandy hollow on a small hill. Perfect to stay the night.

The wards carried out the same ritual as they did at midday. They prepared the food and distributed it along with water. When everybody was finished, every man received a blanket, and prepared himself for the night.

About one hour later, while everybody slept, Rush was still wide-awake racking his brain. He wondered if whether it would be a good idea to try to run for it before they reached a more populated area. It may be more difficult to escape his captors under such conditions, and here out in the wilderness there were only two guards, and they had to sleep some time just like everyone else. Rush listened to the conversation those two had. The silence of the surroundings carried their words to him, though they only talked in a low voice. He didn’t understand anything that they were saying, but could at least isolate their names. The crude, loud one’s name was Kēl, and the other’s name was Pīt.

 

In the following hours Rush started carefully, without making noise, to untangle the knots of his ties. When he was finished, he felt a slight touch on his arm. Concerned, he turned and realised it was only the man who was in front of him all day. The bright shining moon made it possible to see his face clearly. The man looked at him somehow anxiously, put his index finger on his mouth, and indicated with his sight over to their guards, which lay still there, sleeping soundly. Rush followed his movements and when he saw the other man was not about to betray him, he was relieved. But when he looked at him again, he silently and slowly shook his head. Rush wondered whether this meant what he thought it did, if so, this mate was about to tell him to stop what he was doing. But Rush was determined and not willing to quit this attempt. Aside from that, it was no longer possible to cover up his escape plan since he was not able to bind the rope as it had been before. So he brought his index finger to his mouth to tell the man to stay quiet, and he seemed to understand, but not without giving him another concerned look. Then he turned around to sleep again.

 

Rush waited about 20 minutes, and when he finally thought everything was okay again, he moved silently away from his place. He crawled towards the rim of the hole. ‘If I’m able to make it to the lower edge of the hill, my chances aren’t too bad, and when I’m out of earshot it will be even better,’ he thought, moving slowly and feline-like.

 

The escape was nearly perfect, and he was already quite far away, when he suddenly heard a voice from their night camp. ‘Damned, not yet!’ he thought desperately. Now he had no other choice but to run as fast as possible. So he ran and could maintain the speed for a few minutes. During that time it seemed as if his follower – it was only one, because he could only hear one man calling after him – fell behind.

But after some minutes of the most effort he could muster, he began to slow down and his lungs burned like hell. Then he started to stumble over stones and other irregularities on the ground. This cost him even more time, while the distance between him and his pursuer reduced more and more. Now it was no longer possible for him to increase the gap again.

With the courage of desperation he ran, further and further, not intending to give in. ‘They simply must not catch me again,’ he thought out of sheer desperation.

Then he fell again and acquired several bruises and abrasions, but still didn’t want to give in, so he stood up trying to ignore the pain. Meanwhile his pursuer was already very close, and Rush knew he’d be caught soon, but he ran anyway, until the inescapable could no longer be avoided.

Eventually the man caught him and slammed him to the ground. Though he fought tooth and nails, it was in vain. The man was so much heavier and stronger than himself, and this made it easy for him to restrain the smaller man in an iron grip, which made it impossible for Rush to move even an inch.

Both of them lay on the ground for a while, breathing heavily. Rush had problems bringing his respiration back to a normal level and the only thing he could think about was how much his lungs burned. Before he was halfway back to normal he was brought to his knees, and his captor, who was the more athletic man Pīt, tied him up. This time he made the bindings especially tight and added an extra loop to it. Then he said something that sounded quite hostile, and pulled Rush along with him, back to the resting place.

 

It took more than half an hour to reach the night camp again. Back there, Rush was forced to the ground a short distance away from the rest of the captives. Kēl the loud and heavily built man who had stayed behind, had made a fire while they where gone that illuminated the whole place. Rush had little hope of anything good happening to him, and therefore observed what the two men were doing with an uneasy feeling in his stomach and still a burning sensation in his chest.

 

In the meantime all the men were now wide-awake and sat on their blankets, waiting for what would come. Pīt the man who’d caught Rush addressed them, while Kēl rummaged around in his bags. When Pīt had finished his speech, he went over to Rush and tugged him towards the fire where everybody was able to see him. He forced him to kneel down and pulled his T-shirts over his head and arms, and let them hang down above his tied hands. Then Pīt pulled his hands forward into the sand and put a foot on his wrists, which was more than uncomfortable for Rush. When he heard a whip cracking through the air, he started to fight his growing panic and waited anxiously for the moment the whip would hit him. But Kēl cracked the lash pleasurably several times through the air, until it hit his back the first time. The pain it caused was so intense that the air left his lungs and he let out a loud scream against his will. More blows followed in short intervals, leaving him unable to fight against the increasing pain, or to prepare in any way for the next blow. So he cried out with each lash until the torture stopped abruptly after 20 strokes.

Pīt, who kept his hands to the ground, took his foot away and pulled Rush by the hair so he was forced to look him in the eyes. Even without understanding a single word Rush understood clearly that this was a serious threat to never do something like that again.

Then he was brought to his feet and dragged to his old place at the end of the line of men and tossed to the ground, where his blanket still laid the way he’d left it. Then he was bound directly to the rope that held all of the men together.

 

Unaware of anything else, he curled up on the blanket, trying to ignore his aching back, and tried to do nothing but lie still for a while without thinking.

Now that the adrenaline slowly started to dissipate, he figuratively felt the gruesome situation he was actually in. The emotions he was usually able to discount with seemingly no effort came back to him all at once. He was no longer able to control his feelings and it didn’t take long until he finally started to cry. He sobbed silently for quite a while, until he realised that his face was completely swollen from all the tears that didn’t want to stop running down his face, soaking the blanket below his head. And though other things tormented him at the moment so much more than his wet face, it was somehow disturbing, so he wiped the tears away with his hands. Regardless how often he’d wipe them away, they always came back.

 

Suddenly he felt a very soft touch on the back of his head, and somebody’s hand caressed his hair. First he jerked away because of the unexpected and unwelcomed touch, but for an unknown reason he was not able to fight it and instead calmed down in a few minutes. Under normal circumstances with something like this he’d go for their throat, but the only thing he was able to feel then was a strange calming sensation in his head that told him to let it go. It was as if someone whispered soft words into his ears which where the most convincing thing he’d ever heard and then, they made him very sleepy, and it didn’t take long and he was indeed sleeping.

 

* * *

 

Early the next morning one of his mates woke him with a gentle pressure on his shoulder. Rush felt horrible. His back still burned like fire and he had a terrible headache, mostly because he slept the whole night cramped up in the same position to avoid the raw blanket rubbing on his sore skin. Carefully he sat up and looked around.

Suddenly a dirty hand held a rough mug under his nose. Then another hand, no less dirty, passed him one of those leaf-rolls. When he looked up to see to whom those hands belonged, Pīt, one of their guards, was directly in front of him. Involuntary he winced, but the man just grinned broadly and pushed the mug and the hand with the roll slightly into his breast to emphasise that he should take both. So Rush took it, still uneasy, and followed the man suspiciously with his gaze. But when he saw that Pīt provided everybody with food, he realised it was nothing but the usual morning routine. So he hurried to eat and drink his rations without wasting another thought on anything else.

When he’d finished his breakfast he pulled his T-shirts over his head and shoulders, slowly and carefully not to rub the fabric over his sore skin, which was with his still firm bound hands, not an easy task. He hissed quietly while doing that, and silently cursed the futile attempt, which brought him nothing but an aching back, a horrible headache and a feeling of misery in general.

 

Half an hour later they were forced to get up. Meanwhile both wardens packed all of the equipment from their night camp back into the bags. To Rush’s astonishment and relief he didn’t get a backpack this time. Instead one of the guards, Kēl, who the day before had been behind him, took his and nudged him to move on.

 

They continued like this until midday when they took a break and went on again until late afternoon. The landscape had changed again and the stony and hilly ground with a few dry shrubs turned into a green and futile lowland, with huge fields on both sides of a wide trail.

The broad land they went through was framed on both sides by a mountain range, far away on the horizon.

In front of them, barely visible, he could see regular structures, which turned out to be houses. The buildings were only open on one side, not unlike an abris in a mountain. The three other sides of the houses came down gradually from the roof, and gave the houses the look of hills. Without the open front on some houses that were decorated with plants, they indeed looked like hills. ‘Somehow,’ Rush thought instinctively, ‘this looks like it might be possible to hide those houses quickly in case it might be necessary. Maybe that’s the original idea of this quite unusual architecture.’

 

The nearer they came to the houses, and with more houses on both sides of the road as they passed, the more people he saw.

Rush’s first impression was confirmed. The people he saw were indeed identical with those seven men in his small group, and it took a bit of time until he realised that men and women wore identical clothes and the same hairstyle. Once and a while he saw children playing, sometimes without any clothes regardless of their gender, or he saw men and women alike doing work topless. Thereby something caught his eyes right off. First he thought it was an random appearance, but the closer he came to the inhabitants, the better he was able to spot a white, long, and irregular looking scar on the left upper arm on all women, men and older children. Focussing on those scars he nearly stumbled over his heals the moment he recognised the symbols: those were identical with one of the glyphs of Destiny’s stargate.

 

* * *

Then the small caravan arrived at their destination: a large house build around a broad courtyard. All the men were supplied and afterwards crammed into a small room, behind a massive wooden door, firmly closed from the outside. Here they could lie down on large straw mattresses with their blankets. Aside from the fact that the straw mattresses were not really clean, they were at least halfway comfortable. Away from the sleeping area, hidden around a corner, was a spot where they could go to answer the call of nature, so that nobody needed to leave the room during the night.

 

Rush like everyone else lay down on his bed, but he was not able to sleep. Too much ran through his thoughts after that long and exhausting day. On the one hand he was indeed very exhausted, but on the other, he was also completely turned up all the way. All of his muscles ached after the unaccustomed physical effort of the long walk of the last few days, and also of course, as a result of the blows he suffered the night before. Rush swore to make sure that wouldn’t happen again anytime soon, as long as he was able to avoid it. Unfortunately, he had learned this lesson during his early and later teenage years, when he had taken by far more beatings than anyone should ever get. Somehow he learned to mostly avoid the abuse of his father, who had become during his early teenage years more and more angry toward his son. He also found ways to avoid the beatings of some the bloody buggers on the streets around his home. But too often it was not possible to get away, so he had also learned to cope with and ignore as far as possible, the aftermath of everything. He especially learned to weather his father’s educational measures that were usually fruitless and dripped off him as drops of water on hot stones. Young’s attempts to make him cooperate and make him feel what he’d done wrong by beating him up, were not any different from all of that. Although there were some years since the time he had left Glasgow and his father and the beatings stopped, but it was astonishingly easy to go back to known behaviour patterns for him, and to despise the colonel as much as he despised his father in the end.

 

Though the pain he felt was still there, it was not the main reason he couldn’t sleep. The scars he had seen on the arms of the people kept him awake. ‘Were they burn scars?’ He asked himself with an uneasy feeling.

That must have been what those two blokes were looking for when they had found him in his secret place in the tree, and looked at his arms. They wanted to know which sign he had and when they didn’t find one, they smelled a profitable by-catch.

Of course now he was sure where these people came from, but it was still a mystery how these humans reached the planet. Somehow they managed to be here, across the void between this galaxy and the last, but so far as he knew, they should not be able to do something like this. Not the Tenaranian descendants, nor the other group, who seceded from them, early on Novus.

 

Rush could remember having overheard the strangers whispering about that matter when they had to evacuate those descendents of the other Destiny crew, but since he couldn’t really understand the immense interest the whole crew had for their successors, he didn’t care about their gossip. But now he wished he knew more about what had happened during their 2000 year long history.

 

He tried a while without success to get some sleep and in the end he lay awake for some more hours. Alas, sleep didn’t come before he banned all the thoughts about those silly descendants and solved tricky math problems in his head instead.

 

* * *

 

The next morning someone came in, shouting loudly to force all of them out into the courtyard, where they had to sit down in a corner on the ground. They gave them water to drink, but instead of the usual rolls, they got fruit today, which looked similar to pumpkins. Again, Rush first observed what the others did before he started to eat. The fruit had red pulp inside, were juicy and relatively sweet. After the monotonous food they had for days and more so on board Destiny the weeks before, this fruit was a welcomed change for sure.

When Rush caught himself thinking about something so banal as the taste of food, he felt as if he stabbed himself through his own heart, asking himself how deep could he fall in this new life his comrades assigned to him. He asked whether he would ever see the ship again, and all of a sudden he stopped right in the middle and was not hungry anymore, but fed up with an overwhelming feeling of despair and loneliness.

 

Their two guards gave them time for their breakfast, which seemed a little bit out of the ordinary. After a while the buggers showed up and shouted something in their direction. Now his new comrades got up, slowly and reluctantly, and shuffled over to another corner of the courtyard with several large vats, water jugs, towels and thick coarse lumps, which emerged as soap.

 

Rush looked around, unsure of what to do, but the man who was in front of him the whole time and who had calmed him down after the punishment the last night, tugged slightly at his sleeve and dragged him along. When both of them stood by one of the vats, the man smiled at him and said, while pointing at himself “Ādí.”

“Adí” Rush repeated slowly, but the man shook his head and said his name again, this time more slowly and pronounced: “Ādí.”

Rush tried to remember the sound of the name better and repeated it again: “Ādí,” which the other man rewarded with a friendly grin. Then Ādí said something and pointed at Rush, who concluded he now wanted to have his name too. First he hesitated what to say but finally he decided to give him the short from of his given name, so he said: “Nick,” pointing at himself in the same way Ādí did before.

“Nick,” Ādí repeated joyfully. Then he indicated to Rush’s and his clothes, and started to take them off. Since there was obviously no other choice, Rush finally did what could not be avoided, took off his clothes and continued with washing himself.

 

When all of them were finished, the men started to help each other to comb their long, freshly washed hair. Ādí who never left Rush’s side during the whole time, looked at him questioningly, and finally Rush realised that it was his task to help him. So he sat down on a small stool behind him to comb the man’s hair with a wide-tooth comb. He sighed inwardly and felt quite uncomfortable, but tried his best to not let the man know that. It was not his fault, anyway. He certainly would have preferred not to do what he was doing, but he also guessed that he had better become familiar with these people’s customs as soon as possible to not get punished again. The job was not an easy task, since the man’s hair was quite knotty and brittle despite the washing. After a while he finished. Then he braided the long hair and bound the plait at the end with a string, as he’d seen the other men doing.

When he was finished Ādí made clear that it was now on him to return the favour, and even when Rush pulled his own hair to show it was quite short and he didn’t need help, the guy didn’t leave, so he had no other choice but to reluctantly consent to it. All of this was so annoying and the only thing he wanted was to go as far away as possible from these folks. To be so close all the time to people that he didn’t know was simply inacceptable and he had difficulty getting accustomed to it. But he had to, that much was clear.

 

As he somehow expected the man dragged on the whole bloody combing job much longer than necessary, most likely out of pure curiosity. But then at some point, Rush felt again this strange feeling, which made him stay calm, even if he was more than pissed at the guy.

 

This pointless activity now gave him time to think about everything he’d seen so far. During the washing he saw how different he looked in comparison to all the other men. He was small, scrawny, much older than any of them, white as a maggot, and that on top of everything was emphasised by a lot of bruises, blue spots and most likely – he wasn’t able to see them – ugly looking welts on his back, from top to bottom. In comparison to him any of the men were clearly younger, well nourished, athletic and well proportioned, and with a very healthy looking dark skin colour. Actually all of them would count as quite handsome back on Earth, very unlike himself.

Also, all of them had those scars, which were clearly burn marks, on their left upper arm. They showed different glyphs from Destiny’s stargate. Rush asked himself again what the hell they thought to gain, when those dealers took him, since it was so obvious, that he clearly didn’t fit their usual standard.

 

Finally his fellow prisoner was finished. Most likely his hair had not been combed that well in many years. No, actually, Rush was sure it was definitely never combed that thoroughly, aside maybe from Gloria, who sometimes did strange things, like caring about his hair. Rush never understood that, since her hair was wonderfully rich.

Her hair was so beautiful,’ he thought wistfully, but immediately stopped the moment he realised what he was thinking about. ‘Thinking about things long gone never helps with the problems at hand,‘ he thought bitterly.

 

In that moment Kēl, the crude and loud guard, came to him, pulled Rush’s arm to bring him to his feet and dragged him, naked as he was, across the courtyard until they stood in front of a large, sturdy and resolute looking woman. Kēl forced him roughly onto a small stool, while shouting and moaning the whole time toward the woman. Then he walked away and sat down on a bench in the shadows not too far away.

The woman looked critically at Rush from head to foot, and said something to him he didn’t understand. After she realised that he obviously didn’t get what she had said, she made a noise of disapproval and started to examine him, without speaking further.

 

She started with the head, and went on to the arms and hands, then going on to the chest and felt along his ribs. She was more thorough where he still had visible bruised spots. When she pressed slightly on a larger spot he winced and tried unconsciously to dodge away from her, but she grasped and held him firm in her grip, and said something calming. Whatever it was, it worked. She’d finally finished the upper front and went around him to look at his back. When she saw all the still visible welts and bruise marks, she shouted something harsh towards Kēl, who continued to observe suspiciously what she was doing with his ‘merchandise.’

Eventually she asked Rush to stand up, and looked also at his legs and feet, before she went on to the rest. And to make it genuinely embarrassing for him, she made him bend over on a hip-high table, and poked with her finger on parts, strictly speaking, nobody’s finger belonged. And in despite of himself, Rush wasn’t able to suppress a low sound of discomfort the moment she started her examination. Luckily she made it short. When she finished, she talked in an abrasive and agitated way to Kēl, while washing her hands. Less than a minute later she also freed Rush from his embarrassing position. Seeing how uncomfortable he was, she stroked along his arms. His first reaction was nonetheless, to evade from the touch, though Rush could actually feel it was meant as an apology and to calm him.

The treatment wasn’t over for him though, and he was directed to the stool again. The woman took a small pot out of a leather bag, unwound a cloth strap from the closure, opened the lid and put the pot on the table. Then she moved Rush into a position in which she was able to take care of his back. She applied some kind of balm, which at first started to burn like crazy, but a few moments later the pain was gone to be replaced by a welcomed damp feeling. After she’d finished his back, she also took care of the wrists, which were chafed from being bound tightly by the ties. The whole time she attended to her patient, she continued to insult the man who had brought Rush to her, though it left him completely unimpressed.

 

Rush compared her in some way to TJ, and whereas these two women looked very different, the woman’s calm and level-headed attitude reminded him very much of Lieutenant Johansen. It was obvious that this woman was a medic of some kind too.

 

Not far away from the building where the group had spent the night, was a large market, which was seemingly the destination for the day. The captives were driven there without clothes and bound in a line, as they had been before. After they arrived at their destination, they were bound to medium high poles on a platform built of wood planks, where they had to stay for hours exposed to public view. Some interested people inspected the men in person to decide if the ‘product’ fit their needs.

In the evening two of the five men changed hands and the dealers went satisfied back to the hostel.

 

The day was good for those two dealers, but not for Rush. Because of his strange appearance, he had caused a kind of stir among the passers-by. As far as he was able to follow the remarks, the laughter, and the behaviour of the people, it was more of the unflattering kind.

When he became ill in the early afternoon and threw up the whole breakfast, the people mocked him even more for his pitiful appearance. Their guards Kēl and Pīt were in no way disturbed by anything that happened, and so the all men were unbound in the late afternoon, bound in a line again, and taken back to their sleeping place.

 

Again, they had only fruit in the evening, the same they had for breakfast and midday. He had eaten them at midday again ignoring a slight feeling of sickness, because he was more hungry than careful and the fruit actually tasted good. Later during the afternoon it became clear they were incompatible for him and his stomach was very upset, until he threw up all of it. The best he could do was to not eat or drink, hoping that would stay his stomach.

 

Though it was in vain, in the night he needed to get up several times, and he had the feeling it was getting worse with every hour. Very late in the night he surprisingly fall asleep however, just to be awoken shortly since it was already early in the morning. He was so sick that he ignored everything around him and when he didn’t leave the room after everybody had gone, Kēl came in to see why. When he saw Rush paler than ever and really bad looking, he said something, sighed and went out again.

 

A few minutes later he came back with the woman who had examined him the day before. She inspected him thoroughly and talked the whole time to Kēl, who answered her in his usual grumpy voice.

 

Eventually the woman left the small chamber and then returned after ten minutes with a large wooden mug. Inside was an awful tea Rush was forced to drink, worried whether it would make him even sicker.

Only a few minutes later the brew worked, and he felt better, and to his surprise he was on his feet again after only one hour. Satisfied with the result, the guards packed their belongings and bound the remaining prisoners in a line. By now it was midday. Rush didn’t have to carry one of the backpacks. The contents of the sixth pack was divided to fit into the remaining five, so that aside Rush’s three fellows and the two dealers, each took one without any sign of complaint.

 

After a log and exhausting walk, they arrived late in the evening at the next village. At this place they didn’t slept in a building but at an open resting place, along with a lot of other people. Each group of people was assigned to a separate place in a fenced in area. The fences were erected from wooden rods with coarse fabric webs, most likely, more to be some kind of a private screen, than to prevent anyone from escaping. Within the fenced places were shelters, and as it turned out one of those shelters were their sleeping place for the night.

 

The evening has changed into the night and everybody was already sleeping. Only Rush wasn’t able to rest since his head was too filled up with questions. The more he saw from those humans, the more he thought that their sheer existence should be impossible. But they existed. From what he’d seen so far their technological level was not far above humans during the Neolithic area on earth. They had villages with architecture, pottery, agriculture and as far as Rush was able to see, also domesticated animals, though he had no idea why, since what he’d got to eat so far was exclusively made of plants. Well, mostly likely, because he had no idea what the powder stuff was made off, they got to eat during the walk. But regardless, he’d seen quite strange looking animals, which means the people in this area of the planet had agriculture and some kind of stockbreeding. And at least they make leather products of their skin.

Quite unusual for humans on this technical level was the way they handled questions of hygienic. They paid attention to cleanliness and knew obviously that it was very important for sick people and their treatment. They owned for the circumstances they lived in exemplary sanitary facilities and where able to use them adequate.

But there was also another strangeness: until this evening he’d never seen a single piece of metal. They didn’t use weapons or tools, nor any kind of objects, not even jewellery, made of any kind of metal.

Where does then those burn scars came from? Wouldn’t they need metal to burn those scars? If those people are direct descendants of the Destiny, why are they so underdeveloped? They should be by far more advanced, but those people, clearly are not.

He asked more and more questions, and the more questions he could made up, the more it bothered him that it was less and less possible to find a single satisfying answer to any of them.

But, actually questioning what he’d seen, made him think about something else, than his still hurting and weakening body. After the horrible night he had the day before, this day has been surprisingly good, despite the long and exhausting walk. Aside from the fact that he was quite tired, and the not too bad but persistent pain his back showed, he was permanently hungry, but was afraid to eat anything else but the salad rolls, they got during their walks. He avoided the fresh fruits, they got when they’d arrived at the camps, because he didn’t want to go through another night like the last one, again.

He wasn’t able to think about an effective escape plan in his condition. So the only thing he could do was to give in, even if it was difficult. He also hoped that he didn’t have to spend another time at one of those public displays on the market place.

 

* * *

 

But as bad luck would have it, he had to go through several of those market days, until he was finally and quite unexpected saved from it. After they’d left the second market, where the dealers were able to sell another one of the men, they’d attend to several other markets, where the remaining two men were bound on the wooden posts, spending the whole day on the gawping onlookers and the blazing sun.

At least after the third market day he had a sunburn on his whole body, not bad, but irritating. And there was another increasing problem. He couldn’t eat any of the raw fruits they always got to eat in the villages, which the dealers obviously missed to understand. He’d tried to eat them several times, because he knew he had to eat. The food they got during their day marches were too much to die, but also not enough to live from. All the times he tried the result was the same: after a few hours he fall ill and vomited.

 

Fourteen days had passed and he’d lost all his will to go any further. He wasn’t even able to think about ending actively all of this. He’d lost a lot of weight and he knew his condition was bad. It was only a question of days until he’d lose it completely. Under other circumstances he’d fight his fate, had tried to survive against all odds, but not now, nothing matters anymore. The only hope he had was that this will end eventually.

 

As the days before he cowered leaned on his pole, together with the last remaining comrade on one of those pedestals, he hated so much. He had no power anymore, so he just crouched on the flour, leaned against the pole, and laid his head onto the round surface of the wood. It was not comfortable, and his wrists suffered more than necessary, since the fetters didn’t left him a lot of leeway, and scrubbed much more on the skin than otherwise. But at least this way he’d not fall down, which had happened before. And because this was much more damaging for the business than to let him crouch on the flour, the slave traders granted him the small benefit.

 

When the day on the pedestal had started, Rush asked himself how long it would last, when he suddenly had a strange sensation of someone watching and talking to him. So he lifted the head to look at an old man with long white hair, standing in front of him, accompanied by a young girl. The girl, who was about 12 years old, talked vividly to the older man, pointing several times to Rush. When the white haired man prepared to walk on, the girl tired determined from his hands, climbed up the pedestal and went over to Rush. She brushed his hair aside to be able to see his face, and stroked with her hand along his unscarred left upper arm.

Even in the bad condition Rush was in, his first reaction was to flinch away from the contact, but the way the girl behaved, told him to let it happen, as he’d done it before in other cases.

Now, the old man was all of a sudden interested again, and he had a much closer look at the quite strange man second time. He closed the space to him and touched slightly his relatively light, fine, and short hair, and contemplated over his skin, which was, despite the slight sunburn, uncharacteristic white. He exchanged a few words with the girl, and then tried to talk directly at Rush. When he realised the stranger wasn’t able to understand anything, he seemed to be troubled and went over to the two traders and talked at them.

While dealing with them he looked several times over at Rush, fixing him strongly. Now Rush had again this strange feeling that he talked to him without moving his mouth.

 

The deal took a while, and both sides had a fierce debate. But finally they came to an agreement and the dealers got their payment in form of some small objects Rush was not able to see. Then Kēl, the bulky man vanished and came back after ten minutes carrying Rush’s clothes. He was freed of his bonds, was allowed to put on his clothes again, but when he was finished, his hands were bound again in front of him and connected with a long string, the old man took from Pīt.

 

The girl seemed to be pleased with the result of the unusual and as it looked unexpected deal, talked the whole time at Rush and the old man, being all of a dither and laughing. She run the whole time along the two mean, laughing and babbling until they reached a large house at the end of the street, where Rush, crouched on the flour, and her waited outside while the man went in.

As long as he stayed in the house the girl, who’d crouched beside Rush, talked non-stop, although she must have known he wasn’t able to understand anything.

Eventually she pointed at herself and said: “Tēmá”

Rush, who already knew what he had to do to avoid anger, answered her shortly with “Nick”. He was simply too tiered to effort more, or for even being annoyed.

The name seems to please the girl and so she enjoyed herself by saying it again and again, while Rush only tried to shut out the world around him by closing his eyes and concentrating to even breath in and out.

 

A few minutes later Tēmá’s companion came out, accompanied by a big fellow, carrying a large bundle on his back. The old man introduced the carrier’s name as Jìk and Rush learned now that the old man’s name was Dāíl, and of course Tēmá didn’t wait long to tell them Rush’s name, before he was able to do it himself.

 

After they walked less than one hour, Rush got not only more and more tired but also really thirsty. Since his new “owners” seemed to be more attentive than the two dealers before, it didn’t take long until Dāíl realised Rush didn’t feel well and made the small group stop. He first gave him water from a leathery bag, and passed it then to Jìk and Tēmá before he drunk himself. After everybody was finished, Dāíl closed the bag with the attached string, put it back into the large bag of the carrier and then they went on.

 

It took another two hours until they reached their destination. Meanwhile they’d stopped several times to let Rush rest for a short time, so he would make it a little bit further. Now, at the end of the valley another small village came into sight. Before that, they’d passed an agriculture landscape. On both sides of the way were large fields well levelled and laid-out. Once and a while he could see smaller or bigger spots with larger trees and bush-like plants around them, which looked as colourful as those near the stargate. A large sea possessed the complete left side of the valley, framed by surrounding fields, which were partly under water.

 

When they came closer, Rush saw that there were no stores or inn’s, as he’s seen in the villages they’d passed before. Instead there were only quite long houses, build around a bigger central building.

This is not a village but some kind of a farm,’ he thought, mostly happy that the journey had found its end, and he’d be able to rest soon.

 

The small group entered the big building in the centre, passed a hallway of a really huge hall with pillars on both sides of the way. Behind the first row of pillars were two more lines of similar stilts.

For a Neolithic culture this building is more than a little bit oversized,’ he thought too tired to waste a more elaborated thought to it, when they reached a double-winged door at the end of the hallway, giving sight into a very large square court. In the middle of the court was a big well, surrounded by a low stony water basin. Rush was lead into one of the furthest corners of the court, where he was ordered to sit down on a flat stone bank, warmed up pleasantly by the nearly set down afternoon sun. The sun had vanished behind the roof of the building not more than a few minutes before, and he expected it would take not more than one hour, maybe a little bit more, until the day would be over. After the three hours walk, which seemed endless for Rush, the comfortable warmed up bank, was a welcomed change and even a little bit relaxing. His three travelling companions had left in the meantime into the rear part of the building.

 

Rush sat completely alone on the bank, waiting indifferent for what would come. After a while he saw men and women, building up a pile of different sized wood on a round surface, build of stones, with a slightly increased edging to keep the blaze and ashes safely inside. After 20 minutes they lit a fire, which started to burn quite strong after only another few minutes. In the meantime Dāíl, Jìk and Tēmá have come back, accompanied by another woman, who carried a longish wooden box, which she brought over to the fire. Then she took a long object out of the box to bring it to Dāíl, who seemed to murmur some kind of a blessing over it. Dāíl then, gave the pole to Jìk, who put it finally into the now red glowing remains of the former wood.

 

Rush observed the occurrences first calmly, but in the moment he realised that this object was an iron pole, or something similar, he started to get nervous. The more he looked at what was happening in front of him the more he got anxious. After another 20 minutes Jìk checked the temperature of the metal pole and said something to Dāíl. He then summoned two giant and very strong looking men and directed them to Rush.

That was the moment when the anxious feeling in his stomach increased into a full-grown panic, and he tried, regardless of his bad condition to fight those two men like a frightened cat with tooth and nails. But his little show left them completely unimpressed and they packed him in the end unperturbed by his arms to drag him to the fire, where they forced him to crouch down. One of them pulled his tee shirts over his head and wrapped them around his still bound wrists. Then he went to his back and sat down behind him, enclosing the small trembling man nearly completely with his huge body, while holding his hands tight from behind, to keep him immobile. Then he put his left arm under Rush’s to push up his upper arm.

Now, Rush knew exactly what was coming, so he screamed frantically at the men: “no, no, no please, don’t,” without thinking for a moment that they were not able to understand a single word he said.

 

The second man came over, holding the hot iron pole in his hands protecting them with large leathery gloves, which were additionally wrapped in a thick layer of textile. Then he brought himself into a steady position, to put the branding iron on Rush’s arm without slipping off. Forearming himself for what would come now, he said something to his comrade, who now held Rush extra tight, while continuously murmuring something soothing in his ear. But regardless of the efforts the man put into that, it didn’t really help, and when Rush felt the hot iron scorching through his skin, burning layer after layer, his pleading begging just turned into an agonised loud scream. Luckily, the agony nearly immobilised him, so the man who hold him, was able to keep him steady, and after only a few moments Rush’s sight blackened and he finally lost consciousness.

 

* * *

 

Only a few days after the stop at the planet, nearly everybody went back to the usual routine on board Destiny. First, the day-to-day monotony proceeded as if nothing had happen. But then, bit-by-bit, people suffered to a certain degree some kind of a “hangover,” as would be expected. Though Eli and the whole science team were more than capable of handling the big ship on their own, at some point all of them recognised the small disruptions of the action processes that none of them had cared about before. Previously, nobody wasted a thought on how much time Rush had really spent keeping the ship running. He had worked a lot of time alone, somewhere late in the night up into the early morning hours. In the end much of the work he actually did was more for everyone, actually not just for his own benefit. Meanwhile he ran his small and more private side projects somehow along the way.

 

Another less positive development, which they considered to be solved long ago, reappeared between the different fractions of the crew. As it has been the last time, Rush was again the reason for the separation. This time those who wanted to bring him back had been the smaller group. Despite the fact that they were quite vocal, and therefore a constant source of irritation between the sides, they never found a sympathetic ear among those who were responsible for real and effective decisions. This was the military, represented by Lieutenant Scott as the highest-ranking officer on board Destiny as long as Colonel Young was unable to be on duty.

 

Brody became grumpier from day to day and avoided not only Eli, but also Volker, his friend the longest in the crew, during their shift, in the mess hall or at places where all of the crew spent their free time.

 

During the last two weeks Eli thought back to the strange dream he had when he was confined to the infirmary when he had the accident with Rush. He was able to do his job as well as anyone and he himself expected and was happy that none of the things he’d dreamed about came true. The only difference from the time before was that he took over the role of the permanently annoyed team leader of the science team, without losing time to get accustomed to his new role. To some people’s astonishment, Volker of all people was mostly his prime target. Somehow that guy had a talent of rubbing the wrong people just the right way to gain a considerable amount of attention from them. That’s why Volker himself felt more and more disgruntled. He had hoped for better working conditions and the chance to show everybody his abilities and his worth to the group, but instead he’d just changed one tyrant for another.

 

Even Camile Wray was not idle during those two weeks. She tried several times to negotiate with her superiors to stand up for Rush, but they had only consoled her until the leaders of Stargate Command were back from their off-world mission, which took several weeks and meanwhile was still going on. Aside from that they clearly alluded that they actually welcomed the unexpected new development on board Destiny. They considered Rush to be an intolerable troublemaker, without whom the crew was better off. The true reason for this blunt assessment, she had shared not too long ago too, was of course that it would now be much easier for them to pull strings in the background without further hindering from anyone. Of that she had no illusions.

Therefore Camile spent several hours every day in the infirmary so she would know first-hand if there where new developments with Colonel Young. During that time talking with TJ, both of them built up a closer relationship after they realised they had more in common than they thought before.

TJ was astonished that Camile, as a civilian, was now much more insightful when itcame to military routine. Routine was for TJ as natural as breathing, something she never thought about anymore. Camile was more than pleased to learn that as a soldier, TJ was absolutely open when it came to private life decisions, like gay relationships, or relationships among soldiers, where the military folks traditionally were more conservative. But TJ actually believed firmly that questions like that should stay a private decision that each person should be able to decide for themselves, since what kind of sexual partner he or she chooses doesn’t say anything about a soldiers abilities or qualities.

Anyway, while Camile was in the infirmary, she had a lot of time to talk to TJ and with time their chats became more and more personal and comfortable.

 

* * *

 

When Volker was sure that his friend Brody had been deliberately avoiding him the last two weeks since Rush was marooned on an alien planet, he decided to trap him after their common shift. Both of them were on their way to visit the mess hall, so Volker wanted to make sure he himself would arrive after his friend to prevent him from choosing a table as far away from him as physically possible, as he’d done during the previous two weeks. Of course, Brody spotted Volker’s intention directly, and now saw that his friend had outwitted him in his own game. To avoid an unpleasant confrontation, he had no other choice but to play along. So he watched as his old buddy Dale sat down at his table and started with small talk.

“Hey, are we good?” He asked Brody as randomly as possible.

“We’re good, why shouldn’t we be?” Brody asked back sullenly and started to eat wearily.

Volker watched him, but when he realised Brody refused to look at him, he also started to eat, but after a few spoonfuls he stopped to point out: “If you ask me, we’ve gotten along quite well without Rush. Who the hell said we wouldn’t make it without him?”

“Don’t know.” Brody said wearily as he shovelled in the food and added finally: “I actually don’t know who ever said something like that. Was it you?” He asked Volker and continued without waiting for an answer: “But, if I remember correctly, he always had better control over the ship than any of our glorious military friends here, and that even without having the genius math boy by his side. Rush even managed to crack the master code completely on his own, and occasionally saved all of our asses along with his own, like apropos of nothing.”

“Oh, Jeez! You know damn well that it’s also due to Eli’s merit that all of us are still living on this rust bucket.” Volker interjected, but before he was able to say more, Brody interrupted him again. “There’s no question that our “genius” has a part in our survival, but as far as I remember he also made at least one big mistake, and back then he had our all undivided trust, despite Rush’s explicit warning. All of us, me included, were so convinced Rush’s only interest would be to keep us on the ship for no reason, that we didn’t even listen to him …”

“You know very well that Eli always acted with the best intentions, and I may add, that cannot be said about Rush, ever.” Volker angrily interrupted him.

“Oh, really?” Brody asked, now more agitated than before. “How can you be so sure about that? How do you know for sure? Just maybe Eli put all of our lives in danger to distinguish himself against Rush.”

“That’s absurd Adam, and you know it!” Volker angrily replied.

“So, you think that is absurd – that it may be, possibly – but at the same time you think it is absolutely believable that Rush of all people here, would be able to push Colonel Young into a room with brutal force and against his will?” Brody countered.

“What? What are you talking about?” Volker asked insulted by Brody’s last remarks. “First you blather something about horrible things you claimed Eli having done, and now all of a sudden, you changed the issue to Rush? What’s wrong with you?”

Now people around them started to whisper and to stare at them, until Brody and then Volker realised it, and after looking at each other, continued their debate in a much lower voice.

“Nothing is wrong with me, but as far as I remember you started this conversation,” Brody meant, after both of them kept quiet for a short moment to lessen the attention they’d drawn.

“Yes, right.” Volker said, raising his eyebrow. “I started this, because I thought I finally needed to talk to you again.”

At that moment Brody dropped his spoon and said: “Yes. We should do this! But not here, let’s go to my room, where nobody will disturb us.”

“Okay,” Volker answered and stopped eating as well. Then both of them stood up, took their trays back and walked silently and in no hurry to Brody’s room.

 

A few minutes later they arrived at Brody’s quarters and made themselves comfortable at the corner seat unit, which could be found in all of Destiny’s private quarters.

“Would you like something to drink?” Brody asked.

“Yes, why not. It’s the only fun we have, actually.” Volker answered, whereupon Brody took two mugs and a flask from a nearby shelf, put them on the table, sat down again and filled both mugs with a clear liquid from the flask.

“Cheers!” Brody said, while raising the mug towards Volker.

“So. Here we are.” Volker said, after a while.

“Yes. Here we are.” Brody answered, slowly breathing out. “Okay. Let’s talk!”

“You deliberately avoided me the last two weeks,” Volker started finally.

“Yes, I did.” Brody gave a curt reply.

“Why?” Volker asked. “I mean Rush didn’t treat you especially good, I’d say, did he? So, why have you been against the decision?”

“He behaved towards me … um, let’s say …” Brody started, but then stopped shortly to find a fitting word. “… Let’s say, correct. The only thing he never tolerated was sloppy work. In such cases he always has been impatient. He never behaved differently than he behaved towards other people in the team. But as far as I remember, he sometimes mistreated you.”

“Yes, he did.” Volker acknowledged.

“And then, when you finally had the opportunity for a payback, you took it, right?” Brody threw in directly.

“What?” Volker began surprised and sourly. “No, of course not! I just agreed with the general opinion. All of us decided to put a stop to Rush’s game.”

“No, actually, you three decided to do as you pleased,” Brody replied, “by excluding most of us, even Miss Wray. And your so-called trial was a farce. You three, Lieutenant Scott, Eli and you yourself had already decided what you wanted to do with Rush, didn’t you?

“No, we didn’t!” Volker replied directly, not about to take this accusation lying down.

“Are you sure?” Brody asked back.

“Yes, I am.” Volker said sternly. “I’d never carelessly decide something like that about a man just because that man mistreated me blatantly. The decision we made was on the behalf of everyone. Rush constantly played carelessly with all of our lives. He made self-centred decisions and sacrificed random people for his so-called greater good.”

“And when did Rush sacrifice people?” Brody dug deeper.

“Do I really have to list them for you?” Volker answered in disbelief, but when Brody just nodded his head, he started.

“Senator Armstrong, Lieutenant Scott, nearly, Franklin, Lieutenant Scott, nearly again along with Colonel Young, TJ and Camile back then, when the Lucian Alliance entered the ship, Riley, Telford, and in the end, nearly Lisa.”

“Okay, Let me think about that list.” Brody said thoughtfully. “Senator Armstrong forced Greer at point gun to make him close the shuttle door so that his daughter and everybody else on this ship could live another day. And while Rush is indirectly responsible for his death, because he dialled the ninth chevron address instead of any safe address somewhere in the Milky Way, it was still the Senator’s decision and not Rush’s!”

“Yeah, but in the end it’s still Rush who’s accountable for this, isn’t he?” Volker asked irritated.

“As I said indirectly, yes, but his influence on Senator Armstrong’s decision was non-existent.” Brody explained. “Who was next? Right, Lieutenant Scott, on the ice planet. As far as I understood, Scott was just more than lucky that there was a small earthquake, which freed him just in time. Otherwise he’d be stranded alongside with Colonel Young on that planet, and would have died there. Rush’s objections were not wrong, and actually, I think, our good colonel should have made that decision on his own instead of starting a private war between him and Rush. Ever thought about that?”

“No, but you can’t be serious, agreeing with Rush to leave somebody behind just like that?” Volker indignantly replied.

“Of course not! But it wouldn’t have been ‘just like that’. Rush told Young back then to weigh up the options, and make sure he wouldn’t stay behind trying to save Lieutenant Scott. I clearly see a difference there, but since both of them were lucky and survived it doesn’t matter so much. Oh, and the next time with the shuttle, well you know as much as I that Rush didn’t plan to kill those two. It was a bad coincidence that the docking clamps didn’t engage during the data transfer process. If you ask me, it was a tough decision, and Rush did the best he could do under that circumstances. I’m not sure what I’d have done.”

“You just wipe away everything as if Rush never did anything wrong. What about Franklin?” Volker asked Brody getting more and more upset.

“Jeremy tricked Eli so he could sit in the chair, did you forget that? Rush never forced him to do it.”

“But he’s responsible for what happened, it would have been his responsibility to avoid something like that.” Volker countered Brody’s argument.

“Indirectly, sure, but he didn’t force Jeremy’s into that decision, which of course doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be responsible for what happened.” Brody brought into consideration and added: “Aside from that, Jeremy would never have done that if he’d not been so desperate to end those stupid military exercises that Young forced everybody to do. The poor guy was, along with a few others, completely overstrained with the training. And the damned soldiers just made fun of him because he couldn’t keep up with them. They bullied him and everybody else any time possible.”

“Yeah, I remember that, you may be right about that,” Volker mused, “but Rush is still responsible for his accident.”

“Well, I did say that.” Brody relented. “He was responsible. But I still see a difference if somebody was harmed because of a direct order or of someone makes a decision on his own which leads to an accident. And in this case Jeremy made his own decision. If he’d not done that, he’d not get a volunteer, and he would have been forced to find another solution.”

“You’ll never convince me that Rush did everything just for all of our benefit. He always played with people’s lives, regardless of the circumstances.” Volker mocked.

“I don’t know for sure, whether he always played with people’s lives, as you claim, but his strategies often included risks for members of the crew. With that you’re right, Dale. And it was also one of the reasons why I followed Colonel Young’s order to vent the atmosphere in Colonel Telford’s chamber. And may I add against your will!” When Volker looked at him with wide eyes Brody added slowly: “Well that and actually more importantly for me was I wanted the horrible mess between Telford and Rush to stop. I just hoped whatever Young would do would disconnect the stones and set everything right again.”

“Well, that didn’t happen.” Volker said with a false laugh. “But I still don’t understand why you risked that the first place? What Young did was extremely risky. He could have killed both Telford and Rush, as we know for sure since then. Didn’t you think about that?”

“Of course, I thought about that,” Brody grinned, “but I really hoped Young knew for once what he was doing, but I also thought it fitting that Rush was now in a situation where he had to risk his life, for the benefit of all, you know!”

“I don’t think it was for the benefit of all, and you frightened the hell out of us. Do you know that?” Volker said, rolling his eyes. “Rush was lucky then, and Telford too!”

“Yes, Telford and Rush, and everybody else!” Brody exclaimed. “During that time Colonel Young made one wrong decision after the next, and in the end we lost people because of that, not because of Rush. Rush saved all of us by risking, yet again, people’s lives, and I hated it then, but at the end of the day, we survived, all of us. That was more than what Young could offer. And when we all came back, it was the soldiers who got the recognition. Rush, or any of us were ignored as usual. Without Rush, we two won’t sit here now.”

“Yeah, well, you’re right, I’m afraid,” Volker said tiredly, but before he could add anything Brody continued further.

“Although Rush made a lot of mistakes and is accountable for a lot of things, I don’t believe he did anything deliberately to kill anyone. But Young, … Colonel Young on the other hand, left him behind on a bloody dry planet without water, to die. Then he came back and lied to everyone about it. That looks pretty much like attempted murder to me. Now that we know the complete background story, I know definitively it was an attempted murder.”

“Hmm, well, in legal terms it was not an attempted murder, you know? Though, well, I have to admit, you’re not completely wrong.” Volker mused. “But you also have to take into consideration, that framing Young for murder was a bit much, don’t you think?”

“And that makes it alright to kill someone? Did it ever cross your mind that the way all of that was handled then, was more than a little bit biased?” Brody asked agitated.

“Maybe, but … I don’t know,” Volker meant indecisively.

“Do you understand now, maybe, why I didn’t believe Dunning’s testimony directly and unconditionally?” Brody asked again. “I mean, nobody but him saw what happened in that corridor. Why did anybody never ask whether he might have seen what he wanted to see?”

“You think Dunning lied?” Volker replied questioning.

“No, I don’t think he lied. I think he saw what he wanted to see, and since he thinks Rush is some kind of an unscrupulous psycho, which he never made a secret of, he interpreted the situation that way.”

“I didn’t think about that,” Volker sighed, while starting to question his former decision. ‘What if I made a mistake then?’ He thought with remorse.

“Why have you all been so adamant that Rush lied when he explained what had happen in that corridor, or with that last pod?” Brody asked his friend.

“Because Rush lied before. Everybody knows it. A liar is not believed even when he speaks the truth.” Volker pointed out.

“But we all heard during the trial that Colonel Young obviously lied too, and even Eli did as well to cover what he’d done. But you still believe them, don’t you?”

“Because they didn’t lie that often!”

“And how do you know that?” Brody insisted further.

“Because I suppose so!”

“Because you suppose so, Dale, but you don’t know for sure, do you?”

“Right, I don’t know for sure.” Volker said slowly, looking critically at Brody. “Okay, I got it. I should have been more critical two weeks ago, but I wasn’t, because I was biased.”

“Well, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear.” Brody said finally. “And that is also the reason why I’m still angry with all of you. You may have sentenced a man to death due to dubious evidence and none of you has a bad conscience about it. I’m bloody disappointed with all of you, but especially with you. Do you understand that, Dale?”

“Yes.” He answered bitterly. “I understand that. Why … why didn’t you come to talk to me earlier?”

“You won’t have listened,” Brody interrupted him. “During the trial all you were talking about was nothing but Rush’s mistakes and bad deeds. Nobody looked at anything that went wrong on the other side. If you’d seen what a mess Young made of Rush when he lost it on the bridge, you may have seen Young in a different light than all of you did.”

“But we all saw it! Wait, but that’s not what you’re talking about, right? By the way, where were you that evening, and why didn’t you show up until noon the next day?”

“I helped Lieutenant Johansen.” Brody said briefly.

“You helped Lieutenant Johansen. With Rush?” Volker replied unbelieving.

“I spend a part of that night watching over him, to relive Lieutenant Johansen,” Brody added quickly.

“You mean you spent half of the night in Rush’s quarters to…? Right, to do what actually?” Volker now asked suspiciously.

“Yeah, you know,” Brody started abashed. “I was asked to change the cloths to cool down the bruises. Well, you know, everything you do in such a case.”

“Aha!” Volker exclaimed, knowingly. “And did you look at Rush, umm … like that before, or did you only start then?” But when Brody cast down his gaze, becoming red as a beet at the same time, Volker knew what happened with his friend.

“Ah, I see. Since when did you know?”

“Well, to be honest, it hit me that very night.” Brody answered, still a little bit embarrassed. “Something like that never happened to me before and I thought, well … umm … that I’m not really interested in anybody, but then, well, then I knew.” Brody felt relieved now that he’d said it. After passing endless long weeks he could finally tell someone, not just anyone, a friend, even if the friendship had suffered some serious cracks that he would not easily forget or ignore.

“I guess you know he’s out of reach for you, don’t you?” Volker asked. “Yeah, well, if he was still here, I mean.”

“I’m not stupid, Dale!” Brody replied, miffed. “But as you pointed out, he’s not here, and you had a not insignificant part in it. I mean, just in case you forgot about that.”

“No, of course not, what do you think I am?” Volker said. “And if you need consolation, I’m really sorry. But he is still a fucking bastard for me.

Do you think he’s still alive?”

“Not really likely, but how can we know.” Brody resumed, resigning.

“No, we can’t know. Isn’t it time for bed already? We won’t solve this problem tonight, will we?” Volker asked finally.

“No, we cannot.” Brody said in a sad tone. “Do you mind staying here over night? I mean the bed is large enough for both of us and to be honest, I don’t want to stay alone this evening.”

“I’m good. To be honest, I don’t mind either.” Volker quietly replied.

“Okay, do you prefer a particular side of the bed?” Brody tiredly asked.

“Left side. Now that you ask, I always sleep on the left side of my bed.” Volker answered again with a sleepy voice.

 

Finally both of them prepared for the night, their first and completely uneventful and peaceful night together, and the best night each of them had in a while.

 

* * *

 

It took about two weeks until everybody finally realised that Volker had changed sides, mainly because he stopped talking to most of the soldiers and especially to Eli. Like Brody before, he only talked to any of them if it was strictly work related. Also people saw them together more often than before, and as was observed by some people, they usually spent the nights together in one of their rooms.

Surprisingly to some folks, Brody, and Volker as well, talked much more with TJ, who told them on a regular basis about Young’s state of health. But they also spent more time with James, Greer and Becker. Everyone liked Becker the cook and he had always been friendly to every crewmember without exception.

 

One morning TJ came to the mess hall in quite a better mood than the weeks before and told Brody and Volker that she thought she’d seen a change in Colonel Young’s condition. Some days later when TJ missed breakfast, James told them that Young was finally awake, and that he’d come out of his coma, early in the morning.

 

Of course the news spread like wildfire among the crew, and everybody wanted to know everything firsthand, but TJ ordered Vanessa to make sure nobody entered the infirmary without specific permission. So everybody, from important down to the least, had to wait patiently until TJ granted access.

 

When a person awakes after four weeks in a coma, a lot of things need to be addressed. Therefore, TJ asked Camile to use the communication stones immediately to call the doctor who had spent the last weeks with her at Young’s side. For all the medical procedures, or better, the follow-up procession, they needed the whole morning. About noon Young was finally stabile and responsive enough, that the emergency doctor could leave Destiny again. It was an exhausting morning, but TJ – aside from being horribly tired – was also happy beyond all measure to see her former partner in surprisingly good condition.

 

“Hey, how are you?” She asked in her usual quiet tone.

“I feel small!” Young answered after a few moments in a weak voice. But after he grimaced in an odd way, which might have been an attempt to smile, he added: “Can you even see me, or am I shrunk to pea-size?”

That’s good, he hasn’t lost his humour.’ TJ thought relieved and worried at the same time, since he sounded alarmingly weak. “No, don’t worry, you look quite normal. You lost weight and we have to do a lot of muscle training before you’ll be able to get up again. But aside from that, everything looks good.”

“How long have I been here?” Young asked, after he looked around as well as it was possible for him and realised he was in the infirmary.

“A little bit more than four weeks, or to be precise 30 days.” TJ told him, matter of fact.

“Couldn’t Rush get me out sooner? He asked.

“Eli was able to open the door in the end from the bridge, but that took more time than planned.”

“And Rush?” He continued asking, “was everything alright with him?”

“Yes, in a way.” TJ said avoiding the issue.

“What does that mean and where is he, by the way?” Young finally became urgent.

“I’ll explain that to you later, Everett. You should rest now!” TJ tried to calm him.

“I am rested, as you said, I slept the last four weeks. So where is he?” Young dug deeper. Even if he was still weak, TJ understood immediately that he would not give in until she told him what he wanted to know, so she decided to tell him to tell him as much as necessary.

“Dunning accused Rush of pushing you deliberately into the damaged store room, and in combination with Eli’s additional allegation that Rush had manipulated the last stasis-pod, it was decided to pursue a lawsuit against him.

“What?” Young asked now in disbelief and worry at the same time. “What the hell did they do?”

Now that he knew TJ continued with her report about the messy and unlucky event. “Camile was able, with Chloe’s help, I may add, to weaken the first accusation, which was an attempted murder charge, against you. But because of the not completely clear evidence it was decided not to execute him, but to leave him back on a habitable planet.

“What’s this crap about a ridiculous double murder accusation? Who the hell was murdered?” Young looked at TJ with eyes wide open, seemingly not absolutely understanding what she’d just told him.

“Eli and Dunning accused him of attempting to murder you!” TJ finally summed the issue up.

“What?” Young asked again, looking disparately around the whole room, as if he though he might find his so much needed answers somewhere there.

“But that’s idiotic, Rush didn’t do anything. I had to forcefully stop him from obstructing me. He didn’t want me to close the door from the other side! It never crossed my mind that anybody would see it like that. Damn it TJ, how could this happen? Who the hell made that decision?”

“Lieutenant Scott as your deputy,” she explained quietly, “together with Eli and Dr Volker, after they talked to a representative of Stargate Command.”

“General O’Neill agreed to that?” Young dubiously asked.

“No, not General O’Neill, but one of his deputies. Eli and Scott were obviously very convincing, because they were completely free in all of their decisions to do what they thought was appropriate.”

“I can’t believe that,” Young replied in a mixture of despair and anger. “Bring Lieutenant Scott to me! Immediately! Regardless of anybody’s decision, we go back for Rush!” he told her. TJ didn’t miss a beat in radioing Scott and ordering him to come directly to the infirmary.

 

First, Matthew Scott was more than a little bit relieved to see his superior in good shape, but he wasn’t prepared for the thunderstorm that rained upon him when he arrived. TJ was quite worried Young’s anger could harm himself. But in the end, Scott left the infirmary, head dropped, and embarrassed as never before, went straight to the bridge to order the ship to stop and fly the whole way back to the planet where they had left Rush behind 27 days before.

 

Aside from Brody and Volker, who directly looked at each other with relief, the order was for everybody else a surprise. But after Scott made clear that this was Young’s direct order, the crew followed without hesitation.

 

* * *

Chapter Text

9. A New Home

 

Day 14 on the planet. The morning after Rush arrived at the farm.

 

Time stands still. The headache finally has stopped and he can’t feel his body anymore, as if it had dissipated somehow. He’s hovering in the nothingness. It’s nearly good, if only there wasn’t this irritating feeling of distant pain, coming closer in waves. He’s floating, that he can feel. When he slowly opens his eyes, everything around him is blue. He sees tubes, valves and wires, but around him is water. Then the pain starts again. Just as it starts in his head the memory is back, too.

They start again. He must have lost consciousness, so they were forced to interrupt their “interrogation”, but now they will continue. As it had been the times before, it is unbearable. He has gone through this several times before, but now he can’t go on any further.

Then, in a moment of complete clarity he made the decision. During the short rests they granted him, he had began to sort out his limbs, each one at a time. He sensed the breathing mask, which covered his face and tried to imagine how to disconnect it. It took time until he knew what to do, but the whole attempt was interrupted by their attacks several times.

Then, finally, he is ready. When they give him another short rest, he seizes the opportunity. He rips the mask from his face and loosens as many wires as possible. Now he concentrated with all his will to inhale as much water as possible, against his natural instinct. The struggle that follows is desperate, but fortunately short. Despite his intention, his body fights with all it has against the incoming water. He doesn’t want to die. He wants to breathe. He wants to breathe air as it’s supposed to be, but if he gives in, they will continue to hurt him, and he can’t endure that anymore. He cannot, so he has to die to stop the pain. Finally the fight stops and he can feel the water running through his throat and filling his lungs.

And then it is over. Finally.

 

 

Time stands still. The headache has stopped and his body feels light as if he’s hovering in the nothingness. From far away the pain comes back. This time it is located in his left arm. Initially it’s very far away, but with time it comes closer in waves until he forces himself to open his eyes.

 

He can feel his heart racing in his chest and his breath going in and out in short intervals. A woman is bent over him, worriedly looking at him. Then he remembers the nightmare he had had so often.

Did he scream? He is still looking panic-stricken and confused but he recognises her from before. It was she who brought the box that held the branding iron, the branding iron with which they had marked and claimed him. He belongs to them now, whoever these people are. He is their property.

How the hell did I end up here? Would Colonel Young prefer it this way? I being his property? Being forced to obey all his commands and to wag my tail as a good dog would do?

He closed his eyes again, while he reviewed everything that happened when he and Eli brought back the shuttle after they’d realised the ship would not be destroyed in the sun it was flying into.

How ridiculous Young had behaved then, did he really expect a full grown man would behave like his personal pet, who just got an extra bone for being a nice boy?

Doesn’t matter anymore, does it?’ He thought bitterly. ‘Regardless, had I just swallowed my damned pride then and reacted in a less provocative manner, I could have avoided a lot of anger. From that moment on, Colonel Young in his paranoid mind never stopped chasing me with his suspicion, trying to intervene as much as possible in everything I did, always believing I’d harm people for no reason. As if I had been a mad scientist without any conscious. But yeah, I may have given him that impression, didn’t I?

 

Realising that his thoughts had drifted away, he finally reopened his eyes and looked away from the woman to the surroundings. He was in a large hall-like room with many pillars. The walls and pillars were white and the ceiling was built of bright coloured wooden planks. He’d noticed before that the wood was very uniform and nearly without grain. It lacked the typical wood rings, which would make up wood grain on Earth.

On the upper part of the walls were openings, which were covered with a light fabric. The lower part of the pillars had niches, and most of them held objects of different kinds. Below those niches on the ground lay mattresses with pillows and light blankets. Aside from the furniture, the woman and he himself, the room was empty.

He lay on his side and was covered with a light bed sheet. His arm, the one with the burn wound, was carefully placed over the sheet. The mattress was surprisingly comfortable, compared to everything he had been forced to use before, but his arm still hurt like hell. Piece by piece he regained the feeling in his body and realised he was completely naked under the bed sheet. So with his other arm he pulled the sheet a little bit aside so he could take a peek down, which clearly confirmed that impression. He looked up, closed his eyes for a moment and gave a faint internal groan. Even though he’d already learned that these people have different body awareness than what he was used to, he felt uncomfortable. Nobody can be rid of 50 years of trained and accepted behaviour in 14 days. That’s out of the question.

 

Then he saw the woman grinning for a moment and looking quite bemused. But before he could think further, she leaned toward him to touch his forehead. Since he had experienced this previously he didn’t withdraw, and also didn’t try to push away her hand. Her presence was as calming as he had felt with the other people touching him.

How do these folks do this?’ He asked himself, shifting to make himself comfortable on his mattress again. Despite the fact that he’d slept at least a whole night, he still felt horribly tired.

 

Suddenly the woman started to talk and Rush jerked back to reality, looking at her again. When he could hear her talking to him he realised he must have given in to the fatigue, and had closed his eyes for a moment. It appeared she was trying to explain something to him as she picked up his arm to carefully unwrap the bandage. Unfortunately his ability to talk to these people was still very limited, which meant his options for asking her for answers to some of his questions were naturally nonexistent.

First he winced when she started to treat him, but after a moment he lifted his head slowly to watch what she was doing. She had added some kind of awful smelling ointment on the burn. And the moment she saw his reaction, she grinned again and pushed his head back onto the pillow, then she continued to treat the wound as carefully as possible.

When she had finished everything, she wiped her hands on a cloth and started to talk to him again. As far as Rush was able to understand, her name was Lísā and she seemed to know his name, since she used it when addressing him. Aside from that he understood nothing of what she was talking about. Even with his clearly above average intelligence, it was impossible to learn a language in two weeks without any kind of a dictionary or a grammar.

When her hands were clean enough, she took a ceramic bowl with a coarse wooden spoon inside and a ceramic mug from a tray behind her, and offered both to him.

 

He still felt too tired, too weak, too manipulated, too hopeless, to give her and her people, the same who treated him as if he was a thing and not a human being, any sign of discontent. So he automatically did nothing but react to the needs of his body, and now he needed to eat and to drink. He needed to sit up to be able to do this, so he turned on his back and sat up slowly. She waited patiently until he was in the right position and finally gave him the bowl and mug.

Rush first had a look at the contents of both, thinking: ‘white mush with cut leaves in it, looks like a variant of the salad rolls, and, of course, water.’ Then he tasted from each to confirm his prediction, and then he started pitching into the meal, without even trying to keep up any elegance or manners.

 

When he’d eaten the last of it, and drunk the final sip, Lísā took the dishes out of his hands and put them back on the tray. While Rush wondered what would come next, she came close to him, turned up her nose with his strong smell, and ordered him to follow her. He understood what she said, but didn’t like the sound of how she said it. It sounded very much like the orders that Colonel Young loved to bark around. But along with his hope, he had also lost his will to rebel, as he’d done before, back then in his other life. So he moved slowly and with much effort, got to his knees and finally up. He had to stabilise himself on the pillar behind his bed, but after a few moments he was able to stand without help and follow her.

 

At the end of the sleeping hall was a wooden door, which led into a rectangular room. Rush looked around curiously and quickly took in the surroundings. On the opposite long wall were 10 niches build out of clay with small holes on the ground. The smaller wall to the left of the door was lined with five large basins, close to the ground. Above the basins he saw wooden constructions, which could be some kind of water taps, he guessed. On the side of the door were another ten smaller sinks with small drains leading to bigger clay pipes, which vanished into the ground. Above the sinks were the same constructions, but those were smaller.

The right wall had mostly shelves, six vertical to eight horizontal rows. In the middle of the wall the shelves where interrupted with another door. In the middle part of the room stood one, no, two long wooden tables with benches on both sides. All the walls held additional small niches, in which he could see different pots, closed with lids, and lined with fabric that was covered with a glossy white layer of some kind of plaster. The floor of the niches and under the sinks were also covered with the same whitish material, whereas the rest of the floor was covered with long wooden planks, which felt quite smooth under his bare feet. All in all, the bathroom looked astonishingly clean. ‘So much for Neolithic peasants,’ he thought and said aloud: “Nice bathroom, do you have toilets, too?”

Somehow Lísā anticipated his question and led him to the door on the right side, opened it and followed him in. She explained and demonstrated to him how the facilities worked, but when she realised his awkwardness, she shook her head laughing, said something Rush couldn’t understand and left finally with a small grin on her face.

 

After he left the room again, he took a long shower, where he needed Lísā’s help. One reason was to prevent the bandage from becoming wet, the other one was that it was not possible to operate the showers alone, it needed another person to pour out the water into the big sieve-like clay object, which served as a shower head.

The whole procedure took more time than he saw as necessary, at some point his thoughts went astray until he realised that he just re-lived moments he had with Gloria a life time ago. They had this ritual, sometimes on weekends when both could take their time in the morning to share a shower. At that time showering was never too long, the intimacy never annoying, or too close.

Both of them enjoyed these sensual moments. It was perfect harmony, and much more important and meaningful for him than the occasional sex they had. Not that sex with her was imperfect or less sensual, but he felt it as less unifying or interesting. He knew this was different for his wife. Sex was important for her, but she also understood he was different, and that this difference never meant that he loved her less. She took it as it was and never tried to question or change him …

Eventually Lísā pulled him out of his wistful thoughts, by giving him new clothes: white trousers with the usual long loincloth. The fabric felt very soft and was comfortable to wear, but of a very fine and thin quality and the trousers were open at the crotch, which finally explained the true reason for the long loincloth. Until that moment he thought it was just some kind of a strange decoration, since he never noticed this detail before.

 

Freshly cleaned and with proper clothes they finally went outside.

 

* * *

 

Destiny. Day 33 after marooning Rush.

 

It was now three days since Colonel Young ordered the ship to fly back to where they had left Rush 33 days before. Given the circumstances his recovery was quite good, but he was of course not able to get up to give his orders the right emphasis, which would mean in this case, being on the bridge to make sure everything went the way he wanted.

Instead, he lay in the infirmary where TJ cared for him in her usual self-sacrificing way. But even if he enjoyed her taking caring of him, somewhere deep in his brain, he didn’t like it. He despised this kind of dependence on others, but he also knew he could not change it, though he hoped to shorten it.

 

“How do you feel?” TJ asked quietly.

“How should I feel? Could always be worse”, Young answered her in a rough voice, which still didn’t sound like him.

“Hmm,” she murmured. “Of course, but you seem to be so, … so down.”

“Yes,” Young answered her, “I wake up out of a deep coma after four long weeks and learn, … hmm, learn that, that after I decided I can finally trust Rush, he was marooned by my own people. He even, so I was told, had tried to kill me. … That, after everything I can remember, cannot be true. I nearly started to believe that I always bring him trouble, regardless of what I’m doing. Or is it just him who has the bloody talent of finding trouble regardless of what he does?”

“There’s no reason to blame yourself,” TJ answered. “Look, you may have done a lot of things wrong, but this was not your mistake, Everett. Well, but, this time even Rush did nothing wrong, after he began to do his work again, when his injuries were mostly healed. Nobody, not even Chloe, anticipated what was going on with Eli, or that something like this could happen.”

“Yeah, at least we’ll have a chance of finding him again, won’t we?”

 

But before TJ was able to answer him, the door opened and Camile Wray came in. She greeted TJ shortly with a smile then went over to Young without wasting any time.

 

“How are you today?”

“I’d prefer to get up and run around.” He quipped.

“Yeah, I can imagine that, Colonel!” Camile answered him after thinking for a moment. “Did Lieutenant Johansen tell you that I would like to have a consultation meeting with you?”

“No, she didn’t. What do you want to talk about? I thought after those long consultations we had because of Dr Rush, everything that needed to be said was said?” He remarked surprised.

“No, this time it’s not about him. Well, at least not directly.” Camile continued quietly after a short break. “I heard you have been very upset and have been quite unfriendly to some people.”

“Well, upset is not the right word for it. I’m furious.” He said bringing up his voice.

“Right, that’s what I meant!” Camile replied. “You’re following old habits again. You become aggressive the moment things don’t pan out as you want.”

“Now do you really want to tell me that you’re okay with what Lieutenant Scott did along with Mr Wallace and Dr Volker? What you failed to stop in time, by the way!” Young nearly screamed at her.

“Of course not.” Camile sternly replied. “But well, welcome to my life aboard Destiny!”

Young looked curiously at her, unsure of what she wanted to say, but after her retort he listened more carefully to her.

“Maybe you remember, when I made the shift plans with you in the beginning here on Destiny, I asked you to not treat the civilians as if they were in a boot-camp. You didn’t listen to me, but told me instead that it would be the only way to deal with them and protect them. A short time later, you tried to get rid of one of those civilians you are obligated to protect. Regardless of how pissed I may have been after what happened to Dr Franklin, a death sentence, or what Rush had to go through, was not what he deserved. But you have claimed the right to judge at will, an authorisation even you don’t have. And by the way, this even after he tried to frame you so you would step away from your post so he could study that damned chair again.”

Young looked at her in bewilderment, but before he could say anything, Camile continued her lecture. “Then later after Rush was back, you continued to keep all of your decisions to yourself, which I was not pleased with to say the least, especially during that bloody situation with Telford and the Lucian Alliance.

You used me for nearly half a year only to transmit your orders to the civilians. You’ve never been interested in my opinion, or in that of any of the non-military personal on board. So now that Lieutenant Scott has done exactly the same thing, you have the fucking nerve to ask me why I did nothing to prevent what happened? Do you really ask that, Colonel?”

Young looked still perplexed at her. He felt like a schoolboy who was caught trying to steal the contents of an already empty cookie jar and got punished without committing the crime.

“And why do you accuse me for something Lieutenant Scott did?” Young asked in disbelief.

“I didn’t accuse you!” Camile responded indignantly.

“You totally did!”

“No, I didn’t and before you start to scream, try at least to listen to me.” She told him angrily.

“Hey, hey! Stop! Both of you!” intervened TJ finally. “We agreed to not aggravate him in the condition he’s in, Camile.”

“You’re right. My bad, I’m sorry, TJ” She said now quiet again. “That was not planed. But our good Colonel does not make things easy either.”

“Yeah, that’s true.” TJ replied, looking at Young with a raised eyebrow.

“Did you just fraternise against me?” Young threw in, not believing what he had just witnessed a moment ago. “I can’t believe that,” he continued to himself in a low voice. Then he looked at both women, first TJ, then Camile.

“I see you seem to be quite friendly with each other, more than you’ve been before, aren’t you? What else did I miss during my vacation?”

“Oh, yes, you missed a lot, actually. Did you think time stood still while you’ve been sleeping?” TJ asked now, half amused, while looking at him with her trademark smile.

“Of course not,” He answered her, suddenly unsure and slightly guilty, which showed TJ that he had calmed down again.

“Good,” she said. “You know, I’ll leave you both alone now and do my work over at my station. I don’t hear, nor do I see anything, as the statues of doctor-patient-confidentially requires. But, the moment either of you start to get loud, I’m right back here, okay?”

“Of course,” Camile answered without hesitation.

Young only nodded in outlines and finally started, after TJ was at her station. “Okay, Miss Wray, where did we leave off?”

“I told you that I couldn’t change what happened then, though I tried.”

“Yeah, that point. By the way, how do you know that Rush tried to frame me for murdering Spencer?”

“It came up during the so called hearing.” Camile explained. “If you want to, we could talk about this later again, but at the moment I have more pressuring issues to talk about, if you don’t mind.”

“Good,” Young started. “So, back to where we began. You, … um, you said you couldn’t prevent it. Do you have any idea why this whole mess happened? I mean, is it possible that nobody realised Eli’s condition?”

“Unfortunately, yes. Neither you nor anybody else who saw had a clue.” Camile explained. “I tried, without results, again and again to talk to him during the last weeks. And of course, I tried to make him rethink his decision, but he always brushed me off. One time he was close to completely freaking out over my attempt. After about two weeks Dr Volker changed his opinion and joined Brody. Then he stopped talking to any of us at all. He and Lieutenant Scott downright lined up against us.”

“How did Miss Armstrong react to that?” Young asked uneasily after Camile’s last remark.

“I thought she was going to visit you yesterday?” Camile asked back, surprised.

“Oh, yes, she did. She was friendly as she always is, wished me a speedy recovery and promised to come again today. You know, I appreciate visitors!” He replied with an adorable lopsided grin, which was acknowledged by Camile with a warm smile.

“I guess she’ll explain everything herself, but I don’t think I’d give away too much by telling you that they split up.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I always though they fit so well together, don’t they?”

“They did, and most likely, they still do. But Chloe took what Lieutenant Scott did badly, what he and Eli did to Dr Rush.”

“Hmm, I understand that.” Young said thoughtfully. “Anyway I hope those two will find each other again.”

“Don’t tell me you’re a romantic?” Camile said amused.

“Romantic? Me? Of course not.” Young answered and rolled his eyes. “Well, maybe, but only a little bit. But, please, don’t tell anyone. I’d lose my reputation.” He ended conspiratorially.

“Of course! You know you can trust me. The doctor-patient-confidentially applies to me as much as to TJ.” Camile answered him.

“Yes, I know that.” Young said. “You told me during our sessions.”

“It hasn’t changed!” Camile said and switched back to a more serious tone. “The reason for me coming here today was to remind you of our last sessions.”

“Okay. I’m listening, Miss Wray.” Young said.

“The problem is still your aggressiveness. You have problems keeping your temper if opposed.”

Young was calm and attentive as he looked at her and after Camile was sure he was fully with her, she went on: “Usually you start to get loud and invaded people’s space to intimidate them.”

“I don’t intimidate people, how can you say that?” Young said, upset.

“That’s exactly what you’re doing now.” Camile told him. “And usually this is only the first step. It works for most people, though. They just step back.”

“That’s not true!” Young said quietly.

“Oh, it’s true.” Camile answered not less quietly. “I’ve often watched you in situations like that. Lieutenant Scott for example, almost immediately gives in, and even Rush doesn’t try any longer to convince you with arguments. Well, he did, anyway. Nobody does, because everybody knows what could follow.”

“And what?” Young stopped her.

“Then you move on to step two. You get rough. And nobody wants to risk that. Not even Rush, well, at least not consciously.”

“But I cannot discuss every order with you and my soldiers first. The military doesn’t work that way.” Young explained sternly.

“Yes, that’s right. The military doesn’t work that way, I got that.” Camile answered him not less sternly. “But we’re not at a military base, or on some alien outpost, where we have to protect Earth against an enemy, but on an ancient and alien ship with only 59 people on board. Of those 25 are soldiers, 33 are civilians, and one was a member of the Lucian Alliance. Of the 33 civilians, two never had a contract with the military. So, why do you treat these people as if they are your soldiers or your enemies?”

“Because, … because that’s how it works. Soldiers follow rules and everybody has to do that as well, otherwise next time whoever decides to attack the ship for whatever reason, chaos will take over and we’ll lose everything, our lives, the ship, everything. Do you want this, Miss Wray?”

“Of course not.” Camile answered sourly with a glance towards TJ, who just interrupted her work to look at them. “You should really calm down again. Don’t you realise you’re doing it again?”

“What am I doing again?” Young asked still angry.

“You’re loud, aggressive, and trying to intimidate me. But I won’t let you intimidate me. And you’ll let me say what I want to say.”

“Be my guest.” Young said, giving up.

“So,” Camile started, “why don’t you see this bloody situation as a chance to start fresh with everything?”

“Why should I?” Young asked directly.

“Because we are at a point where it is necessary.” Camile replied.

“How’s that?”

“Lieutenant Scott lined up with Mr Wallace and Dr Volker because each of them thought they had enough reasons to retaliate on Rush for the benefit of everybody.” Camile started to explain. “Lieutenant Scott, when Mr Wallace convinced him Rush had tried to kill you, Mr Wallace because he’s convinced you had survived Rush’s attempt to kill you out of a mere accident, and Dr Volker … well, mostly because he thinks Rush mistreated and insulted him one time too often. But regardless of why those three did what they did, they used the methods they learned from you.”

“Now, I feel really taken down. I fear you need to explain that to me, Miss Wray.” Young commented slightly angry.

“Each of them decided to push their decision through against a lot of people here on board, believing they spoke for all, ignoring that they didn’t. None of them discussed their decision with anybody else here, or tried to listen to those who spoke openly against it. They were absolutely convinced that they where right.

There was no dangerous situation from outside that forced them to decide quickly. There was time to discuss the matter. They wouldn’t have lost anything by waiting a few weeks until you came out of your coma, and then come to a conclusion, after interviewing you. Rush wouldn’t have required too much of our resources that it was necessary to act immediately, and under arrest he would have been of no danger to anybody.”

“I don’t understand the problem, Miss Wray,” Young said impatiently. “I see everything as you just explained to me.”

“Yes in this case. Now it wasn’t you who made that decision. But how was it the last time you decided to take revenge against Rush, in private, without anybody as a witness, hmm?”

“That was a completely different situation.” Young replied abruptly.

“Well, I think, it’s quite similar.” Camile objected. “When you learned that Rush framed you to make you step away from your post, you should have informed us since at that time there was no acute dangerous situation. We could have very well discussed that. Rush would have been punished according to the law, but that was not what you wanted, Colonel, right?

“That’s not correct. It was never my aim to kill him!” he answered sharply.

“But when it happened, it was convenient?” Camile sarcastically said.

“Well, I guess you already know everything about this damned affair and have made your own assumptions, haven’t you?” Young quietly replied.

“Look, it’s not my aim to dwell on that story forever, what has happened, happened. We can’t change it anyway,” Camile explained. “But what I still want you to realise is that most of the time we’re not in a state of emergency. Military guidance is something we need in an emergency situation, but it is not necessary to keep all of us permanently under martial law!”

“She’s right, about that, Everett.” TJ interrupted them, before Young was able to answer to what Camile said. “But I think your discussion was tiring enough. I want you to stop now and get some rest.”

“Yes, you’re right,” Camile said and to the Colonel she said quietly: “Keep in mind what we talked about. I’ll leave now, Colonel, TJ, good night.”

“Good night.” TJ calmly answered her.

“I’ll think about everything, Miss Wray.” And after those last words Camile Wray left the infirmary.

 

“Okay,” TJ said. “I think that was enough for today. Try to sleep. Tomorrow is another day. I’ll be over there continuing my work. In about an hour Lieutenant James will come take over. I’ll see you tomorrow. Good night, Everett.”

 

“Good night.” Young mumbled, while turning around to lie more comfortably. He was able to do that, and this being considerable progress for his third day out of a coma.

 

After that TJ went over to her desktop to continue studying the material Brody gave her this morning with a translation of some medical terms from Destiny’s database. ‘Some time

I need to learn more Ancient’ she thought. ‘But I really need more time to do everything that is necessary to do in a day.’

 

* * *

 

Day 33 on the planet.

 

Rush watched the children. They were playing, being happy and having fun. Exactly the way it should be. Carefree, unaware of any danger life would bring, with loving parents and a caring society. The obvious differences in his own childhood made him cringe, although he should be used to things like that since then. He didn’t grow up in a caring society, nor did he have loving parents.

 

He had been here for two weeks and had learned some interesting things about these people. Compared to his former life he now had an unbelievable amount of free time. The daily routine had no need for nightshifts. As soon as daylight vanished people met to sit together around different fireplaces, not too far away from the buildings. There, they usually talked a while and went to bed a short time later.

 

Any kind of work had to be done during the day. This society had a lot of work to share, mostly craftsmanship of different kinds, such as stone-, wood-, horn-, or bone manufacturing to produce tools, but also, spinning, weaving and sewing to make new clothes, or to repair the old. They worked at all kinds of ceramic production, be it for daily use or finer ware for special occasions. And of course, anything that involved food, which actually took up most of their time.

 

He remembered the embarrassing situation he found himself in about a week ago. It happened during his first day at his new work. He had an awful panic attack in one of those big ponds, which belonged to a huge and quite efficient irrigation system, fed through a natural lake at the foot of the big hills. These ponds were used to grow plants with big tubers from which a white powder was made. The people seemed to use them as one of their most important ingredients for food, as far as he knew. The tubers were harvested by cutting away a part of said bulbs. To do that it was necessary to dive and cut that part away with a flint knife. This work was neither especially hard, nor exhausting. But when he saw the clear water with no visible ground in deeper parts, he remembered first unconsciously backing away, but then he forced himself to go further. At the moment the tried to dive, a panic attack seized him and he nearly drowned in the pond, though it was not really that deep. He simply was not able to control his actions, and if some of the other men had not pulled him out, he would have died there.

After this accident Lísā, who was obviously the medic in this community, came by and somehow calmed him down. She looked for possible injuries, and then decided to let him rest for several hours. Then later she took him to another group. Here he had to cut the big tubers into smaller pieces and then crush and smash them to a pulp, and that work was really back breaking. In a third step a liquid was pressed out of the pulp with the help of large, heavy, shaggy animals. The liquid was collected and filled in large basins, where it stayed until the water was completely evaporated. The result of all that hard work was a whitish powder that could be easily transported and stored. Mixed with water and green leaves the result was a solid food resource for humans and this seemed to be the most important commodity of the farm.

 

He also learned that none of the animals were used for meat, since every food he’d seen so far on this planet was made from plants. But they kept animals nonetheless for extremely heavy work or different smaller ones as pets.

During the time he was on this farm, he had seen what happened when one of those large animals died. They skinned the body and kept everything usable, fur, hair, leather, bones, a horn like material and sinews. Nothing was wasted. What could not be used was burned, and the ash was spread over the fields.

Not too far away he’d seen a cemetery, so he knew humans were buried, and on one day he had seen a small child crying his eyes out and bringing his dead pet there, too.

 

The humans on this planet must have been here for a long time otherwise their perfect adjustment to the special environmental conditions would be unthinkable. Everything he had seen so far made it clear that an individual, independent from other people, would not be able to survive on this planet. The rigorous hard work to produce some types of food, or any kind of farming, needs a lot of people to work together. For a single person, or even a small group of people, it would not be doable. Back then would he have really been able to escape the two men? He would have simply died. It would never have been possible to find edible food in time. It would also be impossible to avoid the villages and their fields. Sooner or later somebody would’ve caught him. Regardless of any angle he looked at his current situation, his capture most likely saved his life.

Unfortunately, this also reminded him of the Nakai, who captured him on that dust-dry planet where Young had left him to die after he’d beat him up. Every time he thought about that, he thought about Destiny and everything he had to leave behind. ‘Will I ever stop thinking about that ship? Will I get over never being able to learn more of its secrets?

 

Now that he felt better and was not sick, miserable and weak anymore, he felt so much like a fish out of water among all these strangers, living a life he never asked for. Despite the fact that the people seemed not to care very much about his different appearance, he did not feel comfortable being among them.

In such moments he had to admit having thoughts of ending all of this. ‘Would not a quick death be better than spending the rest of my life like this? Because, let’s face it, I am a slave now. A slave, depending on the goodwill of his owners.

Sometimes he thought about giving in, but then he thought about his new home and asked himself wondering: ‘why the hell do these people even care about me?’ But then he thought about how they treated him, and realised he was actually treated like everybody else, doing what he was able to do, according to his abilities.

 

Compared to the communities he had known, this one was also special because the really hard work was done by men only. Maybe that had been the reason the slavers only traded men, but not women. As far as he could remember, he’d never seen a single woman at the markets.

Maybe the women here are bound to their families? They are doing the less heavy work, such as weaving, tailoring, making pottery; and they were aside from that, doctors and teachers. It also seemed as if a woman’s status was higher than that of the men, although he had no real proof of that.

 

It was a few days after his breakdown at the ponds that Lísā found he had indications of overexertion since he wasn’t able to adjust to the hard physical work quickly enough. This work was much harder than anything he’d ever done before. Severe bone, joint and muscle pain was the not too surprising result. If the work is hard but possible, something like a training effect occurs. After some time it may be fine, but the moment the load it too heavy, rapid wear can follow and cannot be compensated for after a certain point.

Since he was not able to do the diving in the ponds to balance out the heavy work at the post-production of the tubers, after talking to the team leaders Lísā decided to let him work there one day after the next for a few hours only and not the whole day. The result was he now had even more time to observe people in different places. The extra time was also used to teach him necessary new skills, like making tools out of a stone, or other things imperative in this society.

 

Although he never expected that his former life as a mathematician would be seen as a useful skill in this society, surprisingly it was. People learned about his skill when he sat near a school class. The children were doing advanced math, learning of all things one could do with numbers, with a young female teacher. He only understood a very small part of what the teacher told the children, who were all girls. The boys sat in another corner of the big courtyard learning how to work stones for knives and other tools that required a sharp cutting edge.

He had been with them the day before to learn the most important basics, but after he’d finished the afternoon and nearly injured himself, the teacher, surprisingly also a woman, decided that he must be the most stupid adult on the planet to not know how to make a proper tool out of stone. Every kid could do that. Therefore he was scheduled for the following days as well.

However, at the moment he was free to watch the group of girls, who were being very much young girls, giggling a lot, practicing math and enjoying doing it. Among the girls he spotted Tēmá, the girl who had found him in the marketplace. Although he could not understand what the task was that the teacher asked them to solve, he could read the numbers and the mathematical formulae.

When the group failed at one point to solve the calculation, he went to the board to write the solution, very much to the surprise of the teacher and the pupils. First slowly, but after a moment of hesitation, fluently, step after step. A few minutes later Tēmá, who carefully watched what he wrote the entire time, went to the board and corrected a minor mistake he had made in the calculation out of negligence. Thus he realised that she must obviously not only have a natural talent for math, which made him look at her in a different way, but also realised that for some reason these people choose their way of living deliberately.

 

The news of this unusual event got around in no time and he watched Tēmá talking and explaining what happened to Lísā and to Dāíl, who was Lísā’s father and Tēmás grandfather, as he had learned. While talking they looked at him again and again, and then it was back, the same strange feeling he had before, there was something about him that seemed to be odd to these people. If he only knew what it was.

However, the result was that for the last two days he was now a math teacher, teaching higher math to Neolithic farmers, who actually should not be able to know anything about this, considering their low level of technically advanced tools. Because of his new work he was not only strange in appearance, different from everybody he’d seen so far on this planet, but also different from all the native men. A rare bird surely wouldn’t stick out that much in this society.

 

With each passing day he learned more about the language, and so it was possible to talk to them about basics. He also had learned as many words as possible and while doing that he put together a mental list of words, which could be considered as the basic vocabulary of their spoken language. He did that not only to learn the words, but for a special purpose. To start with was that the people must have spoken English at some time in their history. The question now was: How much time has passed since then and how many words were still present in the spoken language?

 

During the late 1950s a linguistic method was established called glottochronology or lexicostatistics. Originally it was built following the formula for radioactive decay. Although it was never really an accurate and accepted method in linguistics, it’s been in use since then by linguists to estimate the time of language separation for those languages without written material. To get a rough idea of the separation of two languages it is necessary to count what is still present of the original vocabulary.

The result of the count was as much sobering as it was surprising: following this statistical method the date of separation was at least 2000 years, most likely longer. Although Rush knew how inaccurate this method is, it gave him what he wanted to know, a rough guide of when this group was separated from the other one on Novus, language-wise.

Bearing in mind that the Tenarans in comparison to this society more or less froze their original language during those 2000 years, this was indeed unexpected. Furthermore, it made it likely that these people here were not from Tenara, but from those who seceded from them quite early in their history.

 

Rush also became sure that these people are able to communicate somehow telepathically with those huge, shaggy animals which were used for all the really heavy work. Without commands being called, or being ordered by touching them, the beasts followed in what they were meant to do.

He asked himself how did this come about? No human beings he knew of where able to do this. Was it possible that these people gained this ability genetically somehow during their history? If so, they must have lived here for quite a long time, because otherwise it wouldn’t be possible. Of course there were always other possibilities. It could be possible that all humans have this ability, and this planet has some kind of a trigger to activate this ability. Then, if this is so, it should be possible for him to gain the ability too after some time. But then he thought that this might not be too realistic.

 

Yet another remarkable aspect was their freedom and tolerance when it comes to relationships. It was impossible to overlook that these people visited each other in the huge sleeping rooms they all stayed in. A few also shared a bed together by putting their mattresses close to each other, making one large bed out of them. Their openness compared to what he was used to, was on one side pleasant and easy, but on the other side also exhausting and often intrusive. Listening to strangers groaning out load with sexual pleasure was vastly irritating and it took much effort from him to ignore it, but as long as nobody bothered him, he did his best to ignore it.

During the time he had been here, first a woman and some days later, a man visited him, trying openly to involve him in sexual activities. Both withdrew politely the moment they realised he was not interested. As for any other kind of activity around him, he hoped they stayed as quiet as possible and made it as quick as possible. Fundamentally, it was hard for him to cope with being without any kind of privacy. There seemed to be no option of a single room here, though he wished to have one on some evenings more than on others.

 

This afternoon he sat in the big courtyard of the main building, where the school was. Class was over and they would have a few hours of daylight left. He also didn’t need to work in the kitchen, as everybody had to do from time to time, so this was his free evening and he had time to rethink everything that had happened in the last weeks since he’d been here.

Even if he wanted, it would be impossible to go back to Destiny. Either he would finally cope with this situation and just take what this life gave him, or he would end it. It was one way or the other, with nothing in between. At least he had his numbers back and could do something that always had comforted him through many bad situations in his life. The girls he gave lessons to were talented and incredibly eager to learn. So as long as he could do this, his life seemed not that bad, at least not at the moment.

I will always be the odd one here, but things could’ve been far worse, so, what does it matter?’ He thought and closed his eyes to concentrate on the noises of his surroundings, when he heard Lísā coming close. He had extremely good hearing and has always been able to tell people apart by the way they were moving. When she was very close he opened his eyes and saw she was carrying two wooden mugs in her hands. She sat down next to him and offered one to him.

 

She was very serious and explained to him that this would be a special evening, because he would now be officially initiated into their community. He wondered about these wooden mugs he had never seen before, usually any crockery was made out of pottery. He looked inside the mug. The content of it was a lightly viscous, dark red and opaque liquid, which was in his opinion suspect, particularly because it smelled strangely sweet.

But Lísā assured him that the drink was non poisonous and asked him to drink. When he hesitated, she started drinking and it was not long that he followed in drinking too. His first impression had been correct, the juice was nearly unbearably sweet, and he didn’t have the slightest idea from what it was made. He couldn’t remember any fruit he’d seen so far that it could be from, though he hadn’t actually been here that long. As she, he empted the mug and put it down eventually, but his first reaction now was to shake because the liquid was simply horrible.

I hope I don’t have to drink this more often from now on.’ He thought and looked at her hesitatingly and unsure what to do now.

 

After a few moments he felt dizzy and his sight started to become blurry around the edges, turning completely foggy a short time later. Now he heard a low mumble, which started to grow louder and louder, only to become a loud roar after a while. His heart started to race and sweat ran uncontrollably down his whole body. He was close to panicking when everything in him seemed to be ready to explode.

In his panic-stricken mind, he could hear Lísā talking to him, trying desperately to calm him down. But her voice was overlapped by uncountable others, all of them indistinguishably muddled together. This feeling grew more and more and was unbearable now, so that he let the mug fall down, falling on his knees at the same time. He closed his eyes firmly and tried to shut his ears by pressing his hands on them as much as possible. But regardless how much he pressed, the voices didn’t soften. Once and a while he could hear Lísā’s voice among all of them.

After what felt like an eternity he opened his eyes to look at her. Now she was visible again, though still not clear. He realised eventually that she was speaking to him the whole time, without moving her lips in any way. Her mouth remained shut the entire time. After a few moments she took his hands in hers with a gentle power and loosened them from his head. But surprisingly the voices didn’t change. The voices were still audible, and still louder than he was able to cope with, and Lísā’s voice popped up from time to time as before.

Finally he realised what must have happened. The liquid was a trigger. Whatever it had been, he was now able to hear all the thoughts of all the people surrounding him, whether he wanted to or not. He looked at Lísā questioning and feeling that she was able to understand his quiet question and at the same time the question he asked mirrored in his mind. It was a feeling that was more overwhelming than anything he’d felt before, not because of the fact itself, but because of the feeling of complete trust that came with it. It was the first time he could know the real feelings of another person without an underlying need to question them; knowing they were true. This gave him a feeling of security more than anything, something he usually never had. All of his previous life experiences had told him not to trust anyone.

 

Unaware of what was happening to him, tears began to run down his cheeks. Being this close to someone was more than he could have imagined, ever. Even with Gloria, he’d never felt that, no matter how very close he was to her. He now understood it was only he himself who had to cope with this situation, so he tried to concentrate on Lísā’s voice. She asked him to isolate every single person he could hear, consciously switch each off, one at a time.

It took a lot of effort to do that, but after a while he was able to start to switch off the voice of a woman, that of a man, another man, that of an old woman, a girl, a boy, another boy, the one of an old man, and going on and on, one after the next, until there was nothing left but the voice of the woman sitting right in front of him.

 

It took some time until he calmed down enough to be able to relax. Now he could feel how fragile this calm was, and how allowing himself to go back to comfortable patterns that his mind was used to, would bring the voices back. Lísā took his hands, slowly rising from her crouching position she had fallen into, to help and calm him. She explained in her mind to follow him to an isolated building at the edge of the houses, where they would be able to be alone. She told him by using words and pictures it was a special house, where their society kept their memories. There he would be able to cope with anything he was going through now.

 

Thus they went off together. Lísā took his hand in hers and escorted him across the courtyard, through the big hall and the portal outside of the house. First he took her hand hesitatingly, but then with more ease and he really needed that support because he felt as if he were completely drunk. To really be able to trust someone made all the difference, and made it also easier to accept her touching him, something he usually despises.

 

On the perimeter of the row of large houses was a building that looked much older than any of the others. The plants on the roof of the house were thicker and the huge entrance door was not only massive, but also as old as the whole edifice. Rush had never been really close to that building, but he’d seen Lísā, Dāíl and other people enter it, wondering about its function. Strangely, something in him had told him he would not be tolerated there, and regardless of his usual curiosity, he didn’t feed the scientist in him, but stayed away from it. Being a stranger and subjugated by these people, after everything he’d gone through so far, had finally taught him to stay away from potentially conflicting situations. His life required him to adjust and be defensive and so he did what was necessary to stay out of trouble.

 

While they were going he asked himself what kind of a place that would be, where people kept their “memories.” ‘Will this house be perhaps some kind of an archive?

 

* * *

 

Day 34 on the Destiny

 

Young woke up the next morning surprisingly well rested. He’d been able to sleep through the whole night without trouble. It was still early and therefore it was Lieutenant James who sat at the table where TJ usually sits, studying Ancient texts trying to get a better grip on the language. As TJ and a few other soldiers had done, she asked Brody or one of the other scientific team to give her teaching material that would make it possible to study the foreign language. A night watch at the infirmary was the perfect opportunity to make some needed progress.

When she realised her commanding officer was finally awake, she put the laptop aside, got up and went to him.

“Good morning, Colonel, how are you?”

“Not so bad, I think, and you?” Young answered.

“Lieutenant Johansen will be pleased to hear about that, and thank you, I’m fine. A little bit tired, but well. Would you like to have something to drink? Water or tea?”

“Tea would be great,” Young told her smiling.

“Good, I’ll order one in the mess hall.” And with that she released her radio from the belt, switched it on and said: “Lieutenant James here. Becker, are you already in the mess hall?”

After a few moments Becker’s voice came back through the radio: “Airman Becker here. Morning Vanessa, how can I help you?

“The Colonel would like to have tea, would it be possible to pick it up, say in about five minutes?”

Of course, no problem, I’ll just need a few minutes longer until the water is hot, it’s quite early, and I just arrived here. I’ll bring it to the infirmary, if you don’t mind.”

“That would be great, Darren. Thank you!” Lieutenant James answered turning around to Colonel Young and said: “As you may have heard, it will take a few minutes!”

“I did hear that. No reason to hurry up. I got time,” Young told her in a quiet voice smiling at her.

“Good,” Lieutenant James said as a response. “Lieutenant Johansen will be here in about one hour.”

“It’s really not a problem,” Young ensured her in a relaxed tone, “As I said, I have time!”

 

After a short break he eventually asked her: “I’d like to ask you something, Lieutenant James.”

“Yeah,” James answered shortly more out of reflex than anything else.

So Young took it as she said and asked: “What do you think about what happened to Rush?”

“Permission to speak freely, Sir?”

“Granted, of course. That’s why I asked.”

“Hmm, and would you like to have the diplomatic or the honest answer?” James said slowly, feeling unsure.

“Well, I appreciate honest, if you don’t mind, unless you prefer diplomatic. But in case you go for honest I promise you to not get angry, regardless of your answer.” Young replied.

“Okay, I prefer honest. The advantage of honest is I don’t have to think, or have to evaluate what I say.”

“Good, then honest is it!” Young said.

“Okay,” James answered still a little bit hesitant. “I have been quite surprised about what Scott, Eli and Dr. Volker did. I’m not one to make snap judgements, but nobody foresaw what those three did. All of them ran us completely over, after Airman Dunning’s testimony, and then it was somehow a self propelling point of no return!”

“And what did you think?” Young asked with interest. “I mean did you believe what Airman Dunning said?”

“Actually, that is hard to say. I don’t think he lied, but the whole thing seemed odd, somehow.” She explained. “You know, I just couldn’t believe that Rush would be able to force you into doing something like that. But Eli was so confident in what he told us. Then after he added that he might have manipulated the pod too, it seemed not completely out of question, though I personally have the tendency to think he didn’t do any of it. But on the other side, well, you know Rush’s reputation. Nobody can be sure with him, I guess.”

“Yeah, I understand.” Young said thinking. “Most likely I’d thought the same a few weeks ago, but after that unfortunate event on the bridge I had the opportunity to talk to him. That changed my mind in the meantime. And regardless of everything he did before, I know he’s not a cold-blooded murderer. I simply don’t think he manipulated the pod. No, actually, I know he didn’t, because he explained it to me convincingly. I also know for sure he didn’t push me so that I was trapped unwillingly in that room. I was there, so I know, whatever Dunning thought he saw, it was not what I experienced.”

“This is good to know, Colonel, but unfortunately it won’t change what happened.” James gave rise to concern. “The chances of finding Rush after … how long is it now, about four weeks? So, it will take us another four weeks to get back there, right? Okay, so it will be all in all eight weeks until we’re back to that planet, and being able to start a search. Even if he’s still alive, which we don’t know, the chances that we will be able to find him are not good.”

“I know all of that, but I will try anyway,” Young said. “It’s the least I can do for him. I’m aware that we may fail, but I have to try.”

 

But before James was able to answer him, the door opened and Becker and TJ entered the room at the same time.

 

“Good morning!” TJ called to Young and James, while Becker went directly over to Young and put down the tea on the bedside table, greeting Young and James with a short but friendly nod just to turn around saying good-bye. “I have to go back to the mess, people want to have their breakfast.”

After he was gone TJ said: “Looks like you feel better, Everett!”

“In principle yes, but it would be much better if I was able to get up.”

“Impatient as always.” TJ remarked, grinning at James, but continued then in a more serious tone. “You need to be patient for a few more days and until then we’ll continue with our training. The better you cooperate, the earlier you’ll be able to leave this room.” And then she turned around again to face James. “Vanessa, you can go now. Becker is going to make something to eat for everyone on the night watch. It’s still too early for the real meal, but I think you’ll get something from him, anyway.”

That sounds good, I’m actually tired and hungry and an early meal would be appreciated. It was a long night.”

 

And with that she said good-bye using the formal soldiers salute and left the infirmary to get her well-earned break.

 

Two hours later, TJ had just finished the other patients with minor injuries. Young was becoming edgy, losing the patience to stay idle any longer.

 

“TJ, would it be possible to ask Mr Wallace to come to the infirmary?” Young finally asked.

It appeared to TJ as if he had been thinking the whole time about what he wanted to say to Eli. However, the way he asked – no he didn’t ask, he ordered her – made her obey his request without thinking about what she did. So she took the radio from her belt, switched it on, looked for the right channel and finally spoke into it. “Lieutenant Johansen here, Mister Wallace do you read?”

And after only about one minute she could hear Eli’s dozy voice answering. “Eli here, morning. What’s going on TJ?

“Morning, Colonel Young wants to talk to you and is asking you to come to the infirmary.”

Directly?” He asked irritated.

TJ looked at Young questioningly, and when he acknowledged the question with a short nod, she said: “As soon as you’re ready, Lieutenant Johansen, over.”

Kay,” was Eli’s slow response and at that moment he’d already switched of the radio.

 

Half an hour later he shuffled into the infirmary, hands buried in the pockets of his worn-out hooded jacket, still looking sleepy.

“Morning TJ, morning Colonel, what is it you want to talk about? I don’t have a lot of time. There’s a lot of work to do despite the fact that I’ve worked until three o clock in the morning, and that’s just three hours ago.”

TJ nodded only very shortly to Eli’s returned greeting then left the infirmary to go to the mess hall. After she’d gone Young said abruptly: “A lot of work, such a position, isn’t it?”

“Um, yes, actually I’ve problems to stay focused on.” He answered slightly baffled.

Why didn’t you think about that before you got rid of Rush?” Young asked without amusement.

“Says who?” Eli asked back with the same not amused tone. “The man who did the same at one time? Just with the difference that he did it in secret and lied about it.”

“That was a different situation!” Young answered angrily.

“Was it?” Eli snapped back.

“He lied and a member of the crew nearly died, and to do so he tried to frame me for a homicide that never happened, just to make me step aside.”

“And how is that any different from his last actions?” Eli said, still angry, but unlike Colonel Young, he looked completely calm on the surface. “I’m still convinced he tried to fool you with the pod, even if he’s not accountable for the accident that brought you here.”

“He didn’t do it!” Young called now furious. “He never tried to kill me. Eli, do you have any idea what you’ve done?”

“Yes, I know exactly what I’ve done. I decided in consultation with your deputy, Lieutenant Scott and Dr Volker – who by the way were more than willing to listen to me – to remove a permanent source of danger. And we did this to make sure nobody on this ship has to fear for their life anymore, just because Rush is playing one of his ridiculous games again, or to try to sabotage yet another attempt to go home!”

“Okay,” Young said calmer, without saying anything about what Eli just told him. “Let’s start again. What happened during the time that you were alone on the ship, trying to repair the broken pod? How did you come to the conclusion that Rush sabotaged the last pod?”

“I’ve already told you that, you and everybody else. Why do I have to repeat the same story over and over again?” Eli replied in an acidic tone.

“Because you never told the whole story, Eli.” Young said in a quiet voice. “What you told us on the bridge that day, you never said before, why not?”

“I told everything!” Eli said slowly, emphasizing every word in the same way, starting to get impatient and unwilling. “Why do you want me to repeat that again?”

“Because I believe there’s more to it than you want to admit, and I also have the impression that this has now turned out to be a real problem.” Young assured him understandingly but firm.

“Not your business,” Eli called, rising his voice more than before. “Really, why are you starting this now? Now that everything is beginning to go back to normal!”

“Maybe because I was tied up with other business in the last four weeks?” Young pointed out rhetorically.

“I told you, and everybody else, everything you need to know.” Eli countered.

“No, you didn’t, and we both know that, don’t we?” Young asked again.

“Do we?” Eli said even more acidly than before.

“Damn it, Eli!” Young snapped, knowing he’s by far less threatening while lying on his back, but still hoping Eli might finally start to listen to him. “Get a grip on yourself and answer my question. What happened?”

“I told you everything. I went through the data nearly up to the end of the time limit, but never found the needed information. Only when …” Eli swallowed, bit his lower lip and looked at his hands, desperately trying to find words, then going on after a short pause in a shaky voice: “Only when Ginn appeared and started to engage me in a conversation did I find the needed part hidden in an inventory list to repair the pod. It was not stored but build into another device, so I needed to dismantle that device to be able to install it into the pod. I would have never been able to find that on my own. Without her guiding me, I would never have survived. It was so fucking close. But the worst was, I knew, whatever it was, it was not Ginn. It was this idiotic ship’s program that tried to help me. I felt so betrayed by what happened, I still have nightmares about it, and I doubt that you can understand that, Colonel.”

Young watched him and realised how upset Eli looked, physically but also emotionally, causing him to change his approach and use a calm and friendly tone.

“Look, I understand,” he started and continued after a short break. “But I don’t understand why you kept Destiny as Ginn helping you a secret. I don’t see why something like that would be questionable or weird. We already know that the ship has some kind of a program to interact with some people here.”

“It’s private, that’s why!” Eli answered in a low voice. “Isn’t it bad enough that I had to quarantine Ginn, because of Rush’s reckless and idiotic behaviour? And then he made a joke of me by using the ship’s programs …”

“Why do you think Rush or the ship made a joke of you?” Young interrupted him, but Eli answered quickly, raising his voice again.

“Because the program was down, Colonel! Don’t you remember! Rush switched it off to stop the simulation that had entrapped you in that sick war scenario, as you explained to us, later. If it was switched on again, how could that possibly be? And the only plausible explanation is Rush switched it on to solve a problem he put himself in by his own machinations.”

Young watched the young man carefully and said finally calm: “Eli, Rush didn’t do what you thought he did. Do you remember the video you showed me? The one where you pointed out that Rush behaved weird?”

“Yes, of course I remember. It’s the reason I came to that conclusion.”

“I showed it to Rush.”

“Ah, yes, let me guess, he made up a fitting story? Don’t tell me you believed a word he said? You know as well as everybody here, he’s a liar.” Eli said calm but audibly angry.

“I know he’d lied before, but I also caught him more than once and therefore I know he is a bad liar. He’s clearly able to make up a believable story if necessary, but his acting abilities are lousy at best.

Anyway, he told me at that time he’d seen his wife and explained to me, the same way you just did, by the way, that this couldn’t be possible, because the program was switched off. So he’d decided he just imagined it.”

Eli looked at him, sceptically, but Young wouldn’t allow Eli’s words to distract him, and continued talking.

“I don’t think he lied. I had two deep face-to-face discussions with him and… and with Miss Wray about him and my relationship to him. After I changed my position regarding him I saw that he changed, or maybe adjusted just so far to me that we both had finally found some kind of common ground.”

Eli still watched him, unbelieving. “Why didn’t you tell us earlier that you reconciled with him? Did you think it was unimportant?”

“I never got around it. We talked about the video evidence shortly before the accident.”

“So, you say this was nothing but bad timing? I don’t believe that.” Eli said mockingly.

“In this case, yes.” Young answered.

“So, what you’re saying is I just imagined all of that and overreacted?” Eli replied incredulously. “What about Matt and Volker, did they also just imagine everything?”

“All of you somehow overreacted, I think.” Young meant. “Did you ever hear about the so called post traumatic stress disorder, also known under its acronym PTSD?”

“Only vaguely,” Eli said. “It’s something soldiers often bring back home from battlefields.”

“Yes, in such cases it’s particularly striking. But actually this can happen to anybody, even to someone who used to be solid as a rock. It happens when a human being is faced with a life-threatening situation, or is overwhelmed by a very traumatic event, as for example the loss of a loved and very close person.”

“I don’t understand what this has to do with me?” Eli asked still wondering.

I think, what happened with you during those 14 days, when you were alone on the ship, messed more with you than you want to admit. Therefore I’d like you to talk to Miss Wray.”

“But I’m not psychologically damaged!” Elis said indignantly.

“I didn’t say that!” Young answered determined. “But I want you to talk to her, anyway. She’s a trained psychologist, and is a good listener. Whatever happens, you’ll profit from it. She helped me too.”

“Is this an order?” Eli asked.

“Do I have to make it an order?” Young asked back.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, nor do I think it will help me in any way, but if you want it that way, be my guest.” Elis said eventually.

“Yes, I want it that way. This is not a punishment, Eli. I want you to do this to become yourself again. I want you to be as you were before, Eli.”

 

Just then the door opened with the usual loud hiss, to announce someone entering the infirmary. It was TJ, who had finished her break and was now coming back to work.

When she saw the two men, she said: “You look at me as if I’m disturbing something important!”

“No, you didn’t. Mr Wallace here,” Young pointed at Eli, “was just leaving anyway.”

“Yes, right,” Eli said a little bit abashed, and hurried to add: “I think we’re finished for today. So I’d like to go back to work, and visit Miss Wray on the way.”

“Good.” Young replied shortly. And with that Eli left the infirmary, while TJ gave a questioning look at Young.

Only when Eli was finally gone he explained what they’d talk about. Surprisingly TJ agreed fully with Young, saying it was about time someone dealt with this very problem.

 

* * *

 

Lísā opened the door and both of them entered a large room. Five doors went off lined up in a semicircle opposite the entrance. A large table with ten chairs around it took up the middle of the room. The table and its surroundings was lit with oil lamps, and between them sat tableware and bowls filled with different kinds of food and pitchers for beverages.

Lísā suggested Rush sit down and he did so without hesitating. He was hungry after the evening meal had been delayed by two hours since, and here was something to eat, so it didn’t need a special invitation. This was something that had surly changed about him since he was thrown into this life. Lísā and some other folks made it a habit to make sure he got enough to eat, and not only enough, but plenty. They also made sure it was food that he could tolerate, which excluded some of the fruits that the people ate here. In this way he gained back a lot of the weight he’d lost in the beginning of his stay on the planet. Though there were moments where everything was just too much, and he declined with thanks what they gave him. It was one of the things his late wife also did from time to time in a quite careful way to not antagonise him, so he was at least partially used to people doing something like this.

When he and Gloria had first met, she realised quickly that he was fairly malnourished. So she made it her short-term goal to feed him properly by simply ignoring his initial bashful caution. She explained to him that she had enough money to make sure he got healthy food, and that it was the least she could do, even if it was not possible for her to solve all the problems he struggled with because of his poor background. She was in love and did everything she was able to do to make him happy, and he did not less for her. In the end, he let her devotion happen against his own pride. One of the reasons he tolerated her behaviour was that she had been the first human being that he felt more than some kind of a superficial friendship towards. Back then he couldn’t believe it was possible that he was so lucky. He was expecting to awake at any time out of this dream, but it didn’t happen until many years later. But when it happened, it happened with so much more impact than he would have imagined in those early years.

 

The voices in his head faded more and more, and then became not more than a constant background noise with Lísā’s thoughts making up most of it.

While they ate she glanced more than once at him and it didn’t take too long until he realised that. The moment he saw her thoughts his face turned to red. He’d never thought anyone would think about him in that way. He had seen all the men here, with and without clothes, and knew he was in no way attractive compared to them, but here was Lísā looking at him and having these thoughts. She was attracted to him, of this he was sure, but he also didn’t understand it completely.

Feeling his reaction and understanding what was going on in his mind, she started to giggle, mimicking what he thought. And though he felt embarrassed, he also saw in her reaction that she didn’t mean to make him so, and therefore it was not long until he also started to laugh sheepishly.

After a few moments both of them started to relax and just enjoyed each other. All those awkward feelings vanished with every minute passing, leaving them with nothing else but joy.

It was so strange to watch oneself with somebody else’s eyes, seeing and feeling something in the way she looked at him, something he wasn’t able to label. All he got was her feeling, with no counterpart on his side.

Despite the unusual circumstances that brought both of them to this place, they continued eating and taking their time. The aftermath of the potion and the rich food left both of them in a strange euphoric mood and eventually he took himself by surprise, that not only she but also he himself was quite aroused now. It was not that he hasn’t been able to be turned on, it just happened very rarely, but the few occasions when it did happen he was absolutely willing to ignore his head and give his body the lead.

After a few more moments she finally took the initiative and pulled him closer. First she very tentatively touched his nose with hers and kissed him hardly noticeably on the mouth, until he started to mirror her attempts. The feeling of her soft skin beneath his lips was a strange contrast to what she felt when her skin stroked along his beard. Because of the length it had grown, it was not scratchy anymore. Both of them tried to keep this sensation as long as possible, by taking their time.

A while later both wanted more than just kissing and eventually Lísā took his hands to pull him towards one of the rooms. While she opened the door impatiently, he didn’t stop kissing her and dug his hands into her marvellous long and thick hair. When they were finally in the room and stumbled down on a large bed that nearly filled the whole room, neither of them stopped what they were doing. Somehow they managed to undress each other without ruining their clothes. Then Rush saw for the first time that she was more attractive than he’d realised before, because he’d never seen her without clothes before.

Carefully and nearly shy, both of them tried to savour the feeling of the other one as long as possible. To feel the other’s hands striking tentatively across their own skin, mixed with what it felt to them, was more intense than anything he could think off. He’d never thought it would made such a difference to be able to truly know what it felt to enjoy sex the way she did, although he had never really worried about sex that much before.

While they became more and more agitated making love, he finally stopped wondering deep down in a very hidden corner of his thoughts why he behaved in a way he never behaved before, but gave in to their mating ritual, until both of them lay down on the bed with wild throbbing hearts and gasping for air, after they experienced a long wavelike increasing climax.

 

They stayed this way for some time, just panting and looking at each other, exhausted for good reason. After some time Rush started to play with her hair and it was not long until she began to do the same with his. After a while Lísā became tired and started to feel chilly. So she decided to pull a thin bed sheet over both of them from the end of the bed and it didn’t take long until both of them slept soundly.

 

This night was the first in a long time that Rush didn’t awake from one of his usual nightmares, but slept deeply and quietly until the next morning.

 

* * *

Chapter Text

10. Things That Never Change

 

Back on Destiny everything was going well and nearly normal again. After Young stayed two more weeks in the infirmary he was able to go back to his quarters, although he was still not completely recovered. TJ checked on him twice a day to make sure everything was fine.

 

On one of those evenings, after TJ had just left his quarters, somebody knocked on the door. He went over to open it and found Camile Wray accompanied by Matthew Scott.

“Good evening Everett, or is it morning here?” Scott asked straight forward and extended his hand towards the astonished man.

“David?” he asked slowly back.

“You got me! How did you know it was me?”

“Should I tell him?” he smiled at Camile, who gave him a mischievous look. “No, don’t, better keep your little secret, it’s more mysterious like that, and good evening Colonel Young,” she replied. “Can we come in?”

“Of course”, Young beckoned both in with a waving movement of his hand into his quarters that was followed by a “please sit down,” as he directed them to the sitting area of his room.

“So, that means you won’t tell me?” Telford asked again while laughing, which made Young smile, so he looked over to Camile as he revealed his secret.

“Well it wasn’t that hard to guess. The number of people who would call me by my given name is small and since it’s been a while since you’ve been here, the assumption suggested itself. Aside from that you have a special way of moving, regardless of which body you visit.”

“I should have known that.” Telford said. “But when did you start to observe people’s behaviour? Ah, forget it, you’re right. The last time I was here was about four years ago. The last two months I’ve been on a diplomatic mission for Stargate Command, and that took more time than I thought it would.”

“Yeah, that was the reason why General O’Neill was not present when I needed him.” Young replied. “Permissible to say where you’ve been?”

“Yes and no,” Telford said, asking himself why his friend would have needed General O’Neill that much. “It was a secret mission, therefore no. But, the mission was related directly to Destiny, and therefore I’m allowed to share some of the intel.”

“I’m anxious to hear about that.” Camile was delighted to learn the military was willing to share information with the agent of the IOA and the non-military personal on Destiny, and earned an agreeing nod from Young for it.

“We’ve been six long weeks on Langara negotiating from one round table talk to the next.”

“Is there good news?” Young wanted to know, not completely sure he’d like the result, after he saw Camile’s facial expression.

“Yes, I think so. In general I bring good news, though there are limitations.”

“And they are?” Young asked.

“It will take more time.” Telford commented outright. “At the end of the longest proceedings I’ve ever taken part in, the Langarians agreed to let us use their Stargate. We are allowed to send personal reinforcements and any needed supplies. In exchange we are to protect them from the Lucian Alliance and give them technical support, as well as full disclosure on all new results your Ancient ship will yield. But before any of that they want to verify the calculations Dr McKay has provided, and it is unknown how long that will take in the end.”

“Well, that’s more than understandable, I’d say.” Camile threw in. “The last two planets from where Destiny was dialled exploded. The population of Langara is huge and therefore they bare a great responsibility. But how does Stargate Command evaluate what to disclose to the Langarians from the secret information Destiny provides in return for their support?”

Telford’s expression turned serious. “That is exactly the problem why the negotiations took so long, and frankly I’m still not sure whether the intel about Destiny will end up with the Lucian Alliance and could be held against us in a critical moment.”

“But actually, I really don’t know what kind of information from this old vessel could be used against us.” Young countered.

“It’s a matter of principle. Maybe your intel doesn’t sound that exciting now, though I have to say your news about the cosmic background radiation caused some excitement. However, nobody knows what kind of scientific results it may contain, but that may change when I’m able to bring onboard some real ancient technology specialists.”

“Stargate Command will send their own people here?” Young asked suspiciously, looking at Camile again as he had several times during the whole conversation, noticing that she was becoming more and more uneasy.

“Yes David, you should indeed explain that to us!” She stated sharper than she had intended.

“Why are you so surprised by that?” Telford replied. “Didn’t you just get rid of your only real Ancient technology specialist and are you not in urgent need of a replacement? Even if he sabotaged your attempts to leave this rust bucket for a decent existence several times, to get rid of him was maybe too drastic and illegal as well.

Well actually,” he then continued, “it was also your own mistake. You’ve always been too careless and naïve. You let him walk around the ship without a ward, doing whatever he wanted to do.”

“I was neither careless nor was I naïve, David.” Young objected. “I had everything double checked more than once by my people to find out if it was really possible that Rush had prevented us from going back home!”

“And?” Telford interrupted him curiously.

“We never found anything, and we were never able to prove he ever sabotaged any of those attempts.” Young explained calmly. “Furthermore, I’d like to add it wasn’t we who got rid of him. There was a dubious charge he was accused of that I could have nullified, but unfortunately I was in a coma at the time. So some of my people overreacted and marooned him on a planet mostly because of his earlier actions. But since then I was able to set the matter right and now we are on our way to that planet to bring him back.” Young finished his statement with an uncertain look at Camile.

“Provided that we’ll be able to find him to bring him back.” Camile completed in a low voice with a side look to Young meeting his eyes shortly.

“Exactly, provided he is still alive and we find him.” Young hurried to add.

“Aside from the fact that your crew’s actions are questionable, are you yourself that gullible? Everybody knows Rush lied to you from the start and covered his true intentions. The bastard is clever — that’s why you were never able to prove his guilt.” Telford said shaking his head in disbelief.

“Of course he’s clever, and I’d even go so far as to not always trust him without precaution, but what kind of true intentions are you talking about?” Young asked irritated.

“Wasn’t it his aim to take over command here? Therefore wasn’t it you who tried to get rid of him?” Telford countered, shaking his head again, which looked from Young’s point of view surreal, since it didn’t fit Scott’s natural movements. He ignored that to not make things more complicated than they were already and continued: “it may be possible Rush sometimes caused more trouble than he was worth. And yes, since you seem to know, I tried to get rid of him, hoping Eli Wallace would be able to substitute without a problem. But since then I’ve changed my opinion. I now indeed believe that we reached a point where we are able to work together, a point where he is just doing his job without other motives. Aside from that I strongly believe we would be fortunate to have more than one technology specialist on board.”

“You don’t say, Everett.” Telford remarked smugly. “But wait, didn’t I hear something completely different? Didn’t you beat him up so badly that he needed several weeks to recover? And all of that because he was doing – what did you call it? – Other motives?” Telford asked directly.

“That was a misunderstanding.” Young calmly replied. “He made a mistake and I overreacted. That was all, and it won’t happen again.”

“And that’s all you have to say about it?” Telford asked.

“Yes, that’s all.” Camile solemnly spoke instead of Young.

“Very well,” Telford answered with a side look to Camile, “anyway that’s no concern of mine at the moment, and most likely the problem will nullify itself, regardless.”

“That’s right David.” Young closed that part of the conversation, visibly annoyed by the last part of his friend’s remark, but dismissed it. “Okay, so what about the people who will be sent here?”

“We thought a small group: hand-picked technical specialists, and for the military, soldiers and a trained medical officer with experience. Furthermore, supplies to do the needed repairs and as many of the things that you need aside from that. As far as we know, it may be a one way ticket, since I guess you haven’t found a way to dial Stargate Command on your own, right?”

“No, we haven’t. But to be honest, it doesn’t sound that bad, I’d say.” Young gave rise to a concern. “Soldiers, technicians, a trained doctor, medical and other equipment, new shoes and clothes and other urgently needed things for daily life would be really useful.”

“Of course that’s a given,” Camile said without hesitation, but added then suspiciously: “Why not more scientific personal instead of more soldiers? We have soldiers, what we really need would be engineers, ancient technology specialists, technology specialists in general and more people to run the infirmary, not only a medical officer but also a medic to support Lieutenant Johansen, and maybe new computers and technical equipment.”

“Reliable soldiers are more important than a few more scientists, computer and some technical playthings. Safety is important, don’t you think?” Telford meant mockingly towards Camile.

“I doubt that,” Camile replied sharply, “but I guess all of this is already determined and you are here to tell us how Stargate Command has decided to help us this time, right?”

“Exactly, that’s what I’ve done. Oh, and before I forget, General O’Neill wants to talk to you personally, Everett. I think it’s about Rush,” Telford said to Young. Then turning to Wray he said: “I’m sure the IOA wishes to talk to you as their representative in the same matter.” He closed the conversation with both of them with a faked kindness, gave them his good bye and left.

 

After he’d left Young’s quarters Camile stayed a while longer to review what they’d talk about.

 

“To sum up, as far as I see, our situation is as follows,” Camile stated. “Stargate Command knows not only about everything Rush did, but also about everything you did as well, Colonel.”

“Yes, it looks like.” Young commented on her remark. “And to be honest, I wish they didn’t know any of it.”

“With good reason, I’d say. It is certainly illegal to frame someone for a crime that never happened by military and civilian law, but it is also illegal to maroon that person on a dust-dry planet. Since it could not be predicted that he would survive that out of a pure accident, it is at least a negligent manslaughter, and at worst an attempted murder to get rid of an inconvenient crew-member. Regardless of how you want to see it, it is a crime. And additionally, to beat up a person several times to make him cooperate is as well neither permitted by military nor by civil law, even if he provoked you.” Camile declared.

“Do you think I don’t know that?” Young scolded.

“Fine. It’s good that you are finally willing to accept your mistakes, because regardless of how justified you and some of the others here thought it was, you caused a lot of problems for everybody on this ship by doing that, yourself included.

“You should have restricted Rush from the start, according to the law, but why no, you wanted so desperately to solve this little problem by yourself.” Camile ranted herself into rage.

“I got it!” Young griped looking so angry toward her that she calmed down again.

“What a mess!” She said after a while more to herself than to Young and passed her hand over her forehead. “You are aware that Stargate Command will bring Telford and his hand-picked people to replace you as well, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I’m aware. And the question is what can we possibly do about it?” Young said quietly, feeling depressed now.

“We cannot forego the help from home, that’s clear.” Camile said in resignation. “The good thing is, we still have time as far as I understood, several weeks, at least.

“That’s enough time, so it doesn’t need to end badly,” he tried to reassure her.

“I hope so.” Camile replied, nodded at him and ended the meeting by getting up to leave Colonel Young’s quarters.

 

* * *

 

The last two weeks went well for Rush. He grew accustomed to “hear” people’s thoughts around him, and was much better with excluding them and consciously controlling his new ability.

Early in the morning after he’d shared the night with Lísā in the “house of memories,” he woke up astonishingly relaxed and felt for the first time since ever, really well rested. Lying on his side he watched Lísā, whilst she slept. As all the people he had met on this planet so far, her skin was much darker than his. Her long black hair framed her face and upper body. It was surely appealing. She was not young anymore, but also not quite his age, he guessed. He couldn’t remember the last time when he’d lay in bed, simply enjoying a quiet moment, observing somebody’s quiet form in the pale light of the early morning. The way she looked in that moment made him realise that she was striking, and as different from Gloria as he could imagine.

 

It took nearly another hour until she started to wake up, directly searching for the warm body she’d spend the night with. Despite the fact that he was still lying by her side, he made himself comfortable at the edge of the bed. Displaying this reaction was not a new experience for him. There were times when Gloria expressed her regret that he was often so distant, but this was something he’d always done, since in spite of all the love, affection and familiarity he felt for her he could rarely bare physical closeness for long.

Many people he’d met saw that as a bad habit, a way to avoid people and being a prick in general. They weren’t able or willing to understand that to not show feelings openly, not having the constant urge to touch and be touched and therefore always keeping a safe distance, was not the same as not caring or being unable to love. This behaviour has been one of the constants in his life as long as he could remember. It was one of those things no one can change, other than to tone down a thick Glaswegian accent to be better understood by those who are not Scottish. For a long time Gloria was the only one who was able to understand that unconditionally and he hoped Lísā would understand too.

 

All of a sudden he remembered the moment when Amanda caught him in her simulation, having determined that they love each other as a “simple” parameter. He still didn’t understand why the ship’s computer would not accept his definition of love in opposition to hers, or why a computer would accept at all such a rigid definition of something so immense as human emotions. But a computer can only work with what it is fed, and in that case the definitions obviously didn’t fit.

If he’d been more careful, nothing of what happened would have taken place. But no, he was so focussed on making up for a mistake he had to answer for that he thought this was the one possibility to finally give her what she had been looking for, for so long. Therefore he ignored all precautions, with the result of losing her for good in the end. What was more, he had also sealed the fate of another, Eli’s girlfriend. It was clear Eli never forgave him for this stupid mistake, and in hindsight he knew Eli was rightfully angry.

 

But putting aside those tragic events, he had been aware since he was a teenager that he was different in many ways. While all of the lads his age drooled over girls, thinking about nothing but sex, he was completely uninterested by any of that. And that was even before that horrible encounter with those bloody soldiers at the docks in Glasgow. His father, of all people, feared early on he might be queer for not being interested in girls, which was just more proof for him that he had the most inept son a father could imagine. But he’d also stopped caring for his son at that time, and the only attention he showed his son was the frequent beatings, so his father’s interpretation of Rush’s behaviour was no surprise, but it hurt strangely, anyway.

At that time for a little bit of peace, he had started to alter his behaviour to please those he was dependent upon, by pretending to care for matters they though were appropriate. It helped for a while, up until the day on the docks, when he came back home badly beaten and bleeding. All his father did was order him to get cleaned up and shut his mouth about what had happen. He even straight out forbade him to go to the police or to visit a doctor despite his condition to spare him the shame. The next day he would scream into his face what a disgrace he was and how much he’d fooled him and that he had finally shown his true face. And so he obeyed. He didn’t even say a word when he went back to school a few days later and collapsed, and was taken to a hospital. He could understand the concern of the doctors and hospital staff when they tried to get out of him who assaulted him, but he also knew they didn’t have to live with his father afterwards. So he kept his word and endured his father a little while longer, even though he thought his son to be nothing but a creepy nut.

Things never change,’ he thought and even after all this long time, he was still bitter about his father.

And now, he lay beside this woman and stopped thinking about ‘how do you change what you are’ because it was not possible to fake feelings or behaviours in front of someone who’s able to read your every thought, and feel what you feel. He was what he was, and even when he strongly suspected that his inability to have the same romantic feelings and sexual longing other people call love, resulted in the failing of Amanda’s simulation. It was neither possible nor preferable to fool the woman in front of him. ‘She will understand,‘ he thought regretfully.

 

Lísā must have been able to feel what he felt during the past moments, because she first looked at him questioning but then she took his hand tentatively and pressed it gently to show him her approval, though, he could feel she was a little bit disappointed too.

 

After they’d breakfasted together, they left the mysterious house. And he realised only later he still didn’t know its purpose.

 

* * *

 

Now Rush had been on the farm about a month. His ability to talk to its inhabitants had increased daily, and though these abilities were still limited, his knowledge was now beyond the most basic vocabulary. He sat with a group of girls and a few boys, who had started to sneak in for his lessons at the corner of the big courtyard of the central building that served as a place for teaching. This morning the theme was geometry.

Suddenly he saw a group of men entering the courtyard. He’d never seen them before, but they brought a man along with them that he immediately recognised. It was Ādí, one of his fellows in misery, when he was caught about six weeks ago close to the Stargate. He apologised to the school students, and stood up to greet him. But Tēmá, who’d seen the group as well instantly realised what he was about to do. So she got up too and stopped him by urgently asking him not to approach those men. He couldn’t understand why she reacted the way she did and therefore looked at her questioningly first, and then to his former comrade, who’d seen him in that very moment too. Ādí seemed to be pleased and grinned broadly, which could be seen despite the distance. But the moment he started to come over, he was rudely held back by his escort. When Rush saw that, he stopped himself, looking alternately to Tēmá and to Ādí, until she repeated her plea to not call attention to himself, but it was now too late. All three men had seen him already.

So Rush made a few hesitant steps toward the direction of the group while Tēmá kept staying close to his side. He was alarmed as he observed one of the three men pressing Ādí into a crouch, to make sure he was not able to get up again, while the other two began to meet him halfway.

 

One of the men greeted the girl friendly and asked how she was doing. Tēmá answered with some unease. After they’d exchanged a few words Rush understood he was a close relative. The second man just stood by the first one watching closely. Rush was not able to understand everything but he was able to pick up a few things. The first man’s name seems to be Bān, and he was Tēmá’s uncle and Lísā’s brother.

After they finished the phrases of civility, Bān asked for her strange companion’s name, and Tēmá told him his name was Nick, and that he had only been on the farm for a few weeks. She told them that he was their new teacher exclusively for numbers. But Bān’s only reaction was a bold smirk and then he started to mock Rush with a torrent of words that didn’t sound flattering at all. Then Tēmá said a few more sentences, whose meaning Rush didn’t get completely, because they both spoke too quickly, too loudly and overall extremely heatedly, but what he understood was that she tried to defend him.

 

During the whole dispute Rush looked several times over to Ādí, switching back to Tēmá and Bān and again to Ādí, who could do nothing but watch without being able to help. At some point he started to shake his head as if he tried to make Rush understand not to do something he was about to do soon, something Rush remembered him having done before.

Out of nowhere he was suddenly hit by a huge wave of unfamiliar thoughts, trying to penetrate his brain. This brought back an unpleasant issue of his past that felt like a painful dégà-vu experience, but he was quickly able to find the intruder. It was Bān’s silent companion. Rush tried directly to stop him from going further, but the brutal and cold man seemed to catch on to what he was trying to do, according to his broad grin after their eyes met. His thoughts made Rush shiver and made him move back instinctively. At that time Tēmá had stopped the dispute with her uncle, when he pushed her out of the way to step up in front of Rush and bump him provoking with both hands so that he met the ground unskilfully with his bum.

 

Then everything happened fast. The girl angrily screamed at her uncle so that he gripped her arms to shake her. By then Rush was on his feet again in time to jump at them to make him stop. Without hesitation the big strong fellow let her go to concentrate on Rush again. First he was able to trick him with abilities he’d learned as a boy on the streets of Glasgow. But the benefit of Rush’s surprise attack didn’t last long. Whilst they rolled on the dusty ground someone took him abruptly by his arms to tear him off the man who already lay under him ready to be finished.

Regardless how much he tried to kick and fight back, it was impossible to get out of the man’s iron grip. Breathing heavily and with plentiful rage in his stomach it took a while until he was able to fully recognise his surroundings again. Tēmá stood close by trying again to argue with both men to lay off Rush, which seemed not to be what both were about to do.

 

Rush, who was still held by the man behind him, with no chance of moving, could do nothing but watch helplessly to what happened in front of him. His eyes followed Tēmá still arguing heatedly with her uncle and walking along side him to the place where their belongings lay on the ground and where the third man waited with Ādí, who patiently sat unmoving on the ground. When Bān arrived by his things he emptied one of the bags, so that a pile of clothes and other indefinable things fell out on the ground. Then he rummaged through the items with Tēmá tailing and talking to him the whole time until he’d found what he was looking for. With a tangled piece of leather in his hand he went straight back to the man who was holding Rush.

 

As before, Tēmá didn’t leave his side, but continued to argue with him desperately to hinder him from going back to Rush. But Tēmá was no obstacle for the strong man, so he simply pushed her out of the way, followed by a bunch of angry words by him. Then he started to unravel the stringed leather strips and only now Rush saw what it really was and for a second he thought somebody had pulled the ground from under him. He remembered it quite well, what was coming now would hurt badly. But before he was able to think further the man behind him had turned him around, removed his shirt, took him by his wrists, and made him kneel down. In his panic he tried fiercely to struggle against the man, but a sudden pain in his wrist made him stop. He was facing the man so that all that he could do now was to shout angry curses and demands to release him. But the only response be got was a series of blows that felt as if they would tear the skin off his back. It was even worse than what he’d experienced before. And a few blows later he was in so much pain and hoarse from screaming that he completely lapsed into agony, unable to realise what was happening around him.

 

Suddenly the blows stopped and his wrists were released so that he fell to the ground like a wet bag. From a distance he could hear Lísā speaking in a quiet but determined voice to her brother, who opposed her constantly with angry sounding words. Then everything was quiet again and he could feel her crouching on the ground and talking to him softly. Before unconsciousness overcame him, his last thought was only: ‘why?

 

* * *

 

When Rush came slowly back to his senses, he lay on his bed in the big dormitory. It was hard for him to orientate himself and it took several attempts until he was able to keep his eyes open for more than a short time.

His back burned more than he remembered from the first whipping and he felt something heavy and wet laying on him. The pain was clearly more intense than before and his abused wrist throbbed badly. He felt incredibly thirsty and before he was able to finish the thought somebody put a bowl with water up to his face. When he looked close he saw Tēmá and Lísā sitting on the floor next to his bed, but it was Lísā who gave him the water. He drank uncontrollably and spilled a good part of the liquid so that Lísā took the bowl away with gentle force. His movements were abnormally dreadful and he needed several hours until it was better. During that time he was given a lot to drink and he could feel the terribly warm cloth on his back was being changed with a cool one. Half conscious, he saw that the light coloured cloth changed into some kind of pinkish colour and he realised only after several changes that it was blood.

 

It must have been late afternoon before he was able to think coherently again. The first thing he asked was why this man had beaten him. All he could remember was that he wanted to stop the guy from further mistreating Tēmá. So Lísā explained to him that one of the men was her brother and that he with his comrades are responsible for bringing in new workmen. As far as he was able to understand, an extensive description of how this part of the society worked followed her short introduction of her brother. As it sounds, it was usual to exchange some of the men on a steady basis between the big farms. He had suspected something like this from his observations, but it was nonetheless good to know for sure. Further she explained that this was done to give the men the opportunity to change the kind of work and the place, as far as they wanted to. But another reason was to make sure the gene pool stayed diverse and prevent any too close blood relationships, especially on far distant and insular farms. Her remarks seemed without question rational, but he wondered not for the first time why people with this kind of society would care about something like that.

This is actually genetic population policy. Is it possible that this is some kind of a relict from other times?’ However, it remained strange.

Eventually she told him that he was quite famous among all traders around their district, though not in a flattering way, and that most of them mocked Dāíl and his young granddaughter Tēmá for buying a bizarre stranger, who not only looked quite alien, but was also weak and didn’t appear as if he would be able to do the normal hard work. Therefore the two men who had been able to sell him to those fools, made the deal of their lifetime.

 

So when her brother and his friends came back home with a new worker, they found exactly that stranger in the courtyard doing women’s work, instead of being in the fields where men belong. Her brother was especially angry about such a waste of resources and asked Tēmá, urgently, what the hell she and her grandfather were thinking by doing something that stupid. But then that stranger attacked Bān, so he had to teach him a lesson.

As it looked to Rush it was not common to teach workmen a lesson because as far as he could remember, he hadn’t seen traces of mistreatment on anyone. So, it may be just some kind of bad luck, or his usual talent for getting in trouble, which lead to his second punishment. To be honest with himself he had to admit that it was clear the first time he was punished. He’d also been aware that those dealers were by far more careful to not damage their merchandise too much. He was not able to understand this new situation, it just seemed totally unfair to him. Furthermore, he will not be able to do any kind of work for several days, so why would a reasonable person do something that harmful to a man who was supposed to be able to work?

But Lísā had stated further that the men acted in accordance with their legislation, and regardless of how unfair she herself, her daughter or father thought his punishment was, they were not able to do anything about it. They wanted him to know the moment he was able to get up so they could tell him why everything was the way it was.

 

Rush didn’t know what to think about everything he’d just heard and cursed, not for the first time, the circumstances that brought him into this mess. ‘I need to change before it is too late!’ He thought in dire.

 

* * *

 

A few days later Rush learned the circumstances of how it happened that Dāíl and his granddaughter Tēmá bought him some weeks ago. All he could think about afterwards was that it must’ve been a giant cosmic joke. Somehow he anticipated from where these people came from, but he had never foreseen the possibility that his own fate would be entwined in any of what he was told. Under normal conditions he would learn about everything at some time later, but the insults Dāíl’s son made against his own father, and towards his niece and punishing Rush that badly, made it now necessary to explain what it was all about.

 

Therefore Lísā and Dāíl asked Rush to go to the ‘House of Memories’ in the late afternoon because, as they told him, they owed him an explanation for everything that had happened to him. So he went that afternoon despite his still hurting back to the ‘House of Memories.’ He immediately recognised the large hall in the centre of the house, but this time no food or beverages where offered. Instead of that the table was filled with slate like tablets, which were used to archive information, and some wooden boxes. Lísā and Dāíl invited him to sit down at the large table to wait for Tēmá, who should appear soon. To Rush’s relief, Bān, Lísā’s brother, was not part of the meeting.

 

When Tēmá finally arrived, Dāíl began. He cumbersomely opened one of the boxes to unveil a thin metal-palette that was wrapped in old yellowish, fragile looking tissues. Dāíl handed Rush the object. The material seemed to be copper. The surface had formed verdigris in a few spots and was covered with carved lines, showing a portrait. When Rush looked closely, he stopped a moment and looked at the three people opposite him with large eyes full of astonishment, helplessness and embarrassment all at the same time. It was his face and rendered astonishingly well. When he looked more carefully, he could see the initials A and B in the right corner of the plate. At first he didn’t know who that could be, but he guessed it must have been someone from the original Destiny crew, since none of the later people would have known what he looked like. But who would get the preposterous idea to make a portrait of him, of all people? The descendants of the second Destiny worshipped Young and Eli, and founded the country and culture of Tenara, but those people thought of him more like some kind of a demon. Then he remembered something he had thought about a few weeks ago. There was a group that separated themselves from Young and his followers quite early, and as far as he could remember this was instigated by Adam Brody.

Of course A B is Adam Brody,’ he thought. A group of people accompanied Brody and later they built a state of their own. So these people here were indeed the descendants of that group. Vaguely he could recollect that those folks worshipped him and were waiting for him to come back and save them all, though that never happened. It was strange enough that they continued to keep that belief, while he was considered a villain and demonized on the other side of the fence.

 

Damn,’ he thought looking into the hopeful faces as they watched him the whole time from the other side of the table. ‘What am I supposed to say now? It’s obvious they know who I am. Tēmá must have recognised me after she’d seen that portrait on this copperplate. That’s why she’d asked Dāíl to take me with them. No reason to deny anything, so it seems.‘ So he affirmed that he was who they thought he was. To his surprise all of them took that quite unperturbed and told him that there was some old prophecy concerning his person that said, one day he would come back to this planet where they were now, and that his fate would be joined with theirs from that moment on.

The prophesy doesn’t originate from Novus, it came into being only here. Would that be possible? Is that even thinkable?

Brody’s idea that he would come back to save them all with Destiny again, was reasonable, since no one knew they went back 2000 years in time, but why would such a prediction be revived after such a long time in this place? More importantly, how was it possible that it came true?

With this last thought he froze: ‘can it be possible that some kind of higher power was involved in everything? A higher power that could construct such an outcome? No, that would be impossible. Too many uncertainties, and for what reason? No, that doesn’t make sense.

These thoughts made him uncomfortable, so he let Dāíl, Lísā and Tēmá continue their story. What they reported to him inflamed a spark of hope. Perhaps it would not be completely impossible that there was a way to leave this planet and go back to his old life if at least partly. Lísā, who witnessed the pictures that formed in his head showed sympathy for those thoughts, but she also assured him that such an attempt was out of question because of the lack of technology, so he listened now with growing interest to what they had to tell him.

 

Many hundreds of years ago, as the ancestors of these people started their journey, a cosmic disaster began to emerge. The Futuran scientists acknowledged the situation decades before the Tenarans. Since the only known Stargate was located in Tenara, it excluded use as an emergency door for the Futurans, they had to think of something else. Promptly it was decided that they would build a giant spaceship that could host enough people so that their civilisation would survive. It took a whole generation of combined research and craftsmanship to build the ship that was baptized: “New Hope.” It was populated with the most promising families for rebuilding their society on a safe and distant planet far away from their solar system. It was the first of it’s kind and meant to be a ship for many generations.

 

Rush listened with interest to the narrative, but the more he heard the more he thought something was odd.

 

The ship travelled many years through space until a giant spaceship that produced many small ships out of nothing attacked her. At the end of a dreadful chase the New Hope fell into a huge wormhole. At the other end they were forced to make an emergency landing far away from their original coordinates. The attack and the following forced landing caused the survivors to take precautions to make sure they would never be attacked again. After they had discovered that the planet they were on had its own Stargate, they started to explore other planets in range. That’s how they found this planet where they live now.

 

Their data revealed that it would not be easy to live here, but it had perfect climatic conditions, a rich fauna and flora, though not always edible. More importantly, they found no signs of conscious life. The planet the ship had landed on had an unstable and hostile environment, lacked water and those beings they met there were as hostile as the planet itself.

 

They had brought with them a database with all the knowledge from both nations of Novus. One day, one of the leaders of the New Hope found hidden deep in this database an old text with the prophesy that they had previously told Rush. This Prophesy did not only announce the return of one Nicholas Rush, it also made these people take on the lifestyle they now kept. To be safe from their persecutors, who were understood to be soulless machines, they choose a simple life without any technology built on metals. This is how a Neolithic culture evolved that also kept the knowledge of an advanced civilisation. The knowledge was passed on from one generation to the next, but it was not used, only preserved.

 

Rush observed the different objects, which were spread out in front of him, with a mixture of curiosity and astonishment while he summed up what he’d just heard. It was evident the timelines didn’t fit with what Rush remembered. As they were: it was not possible the ship was launched too long before the second one, that one that left with the last survivors of the planet. It couldn’t be much earlier and for sure not several hundreds of years earlier, since the technology on Novus was not that far advanced to build a spaceship at that time. But the civilisation he met on this planet was certainly older than a few decades. Most likely several hundreds of years, given the enormous adaptation to this planet. Another aspect was the mentioning of those soulless machines, it seemed very likely that these were the same ships they knew as drones that attacked Destiny in the last galaxy. Somehow the New Hope must have incurred into a time shift between entering and coming out of the wormhole. There was no other explanation.

But then there was something more personal he questioned and he wasn’t sure how to classify it now that he’d heard the story. So he asked Lísā directly whether she seduced him on purpose, to fulfil an old prophecy, or whether there were any feelings aside from that. She was visibly embarrassed when she heard his accusation and assured him that it was not only because she must fulfil a duty, but also she truly was attracted to him and it was a mixture of both. Although he could understand her explanation and knew she was honest, a rest of doubt was left behind.

 

When his sight wandered again over the various objects, he recognised the box that contained the branding iron and thought back to the moment they branded him. He got an encouraging look from Lísā when she felt him reliving the pain, then he unconsciously ran his fingers over the nearly healed scar on his arm. Aside from the portrait with his face there were a lot of slates with impressions of different landscapes, people and finally also the outlines of the giant ship that must still exist somewhere on the other planet not too far away from here. In another box he found more copper slates that pictured Destiny, other portraits, from which one looked a little bit like Brody, but it didn’t look like the Brody he remembered. Finally a modern looking huge building with a text underlying that said it was the library of Futura.

 

Then he asked another question he considered of importance for his future: who aside from these people in the room was aware of this story? Why this story is obviously hidden from everybody else, and why nobody will most likely know about it anytime soon?

 

The explanation they gave said that the leaders of all families on the planet, or their representatives, like Dāíl, who was the replacement for his late partner Āná, knew about their history. They said that all of them own a box with the same objects. All were asked to keep this knowledge hidden and to share it only with the inner circle of each family. The reason why it should be kept a secret was explained with the circumstance that their society doesn’t support superstition, prophesies and other occult nonsense. They believe these ideas were only used to keep people small and stupid, and to make them fearful, so to be manipulated more easily.

Rush acknowledged especially the last sentence wholeheartedly, but something about the story made him uneasy. He knew too well that keeping secrets also creates chiasms that would never have existed without them.

 

Overwhelmed and pensive at the same time by all this unexpected information he acquired on this day, he went back to his bed. He lay down unusually tired and dreamt that night about bewildering stories of strange people and spaceships, and also for the first time since he was on this planet, about the ship he felt in a strange way at home on and at the end of all of his efforts.

 

* * *

 

Not long after Telford’s visit Young took the opportunity to inform the crew that they will be provided with replenishments in the form of people and needed supplies in several weeks or months. As was expected the people reacted to the news in a positive way. But he shared other details about the meeting only with Destiny’s inner circle.

 

Young and Wray met with their respective supervisors after Telford’s visit, and both were encouraged to bring back Rush, though for slightly different reasons.

 

At the end of the meeting with General O’Neill, Young had asked for a scientist to be assigned to study Rush’s unauthorized actions of dialling the ninth chevron. He wanted to know whether the data he had provided was made of thin air or whether it contained a kernel of truth. To Young’s surprise, this investigation had already been made. It was decided to investigate in that direction after certain aspects of Rush’s and Young’s history on Destiny was officially known.

Also to Young’s surprise, it turned out that Rush’s arbitrary act saved all of their lives, and did not just condemn them to a senseless and bleak life on an old rust bucket. The results showed that the Stargate at Stargate Command would have most likely exploded and would have not only killed the people on Icarus, but also every living being at the Earth base too, if Riley had dialled Earth, as he was ordered. Rush’s explanation that the energy of the explosion would have been more catastrophic the closer they were to Icarus was correct. But it could not be proved whether it would have been possible to dial any gate in a neighbouring galaxy, because for that they would need all the data. Since the planet exploded it was not possible to investigate further, which left that part open to interpretation. However, the result in the end was to Young’s taste too Rush-like, as it seemed he was not guilty and was guilty, though less guilty than he’d thought before. But what counted most was that what he did absolutely saved their lives, and that was something he could use for those left on Destiny who still thought only bad about Rush. He knew there were still a few left.

 

Spending many hours with Camile’s counselling, Young was not very surprised to hear General O’Neill’s accusations about his joint guilt for the unlucky incidents that caused him to bump heads with his leading scientist more than once, and also that after he’d demonstrated how to deal with such an inconvenient person, he should not be surprised that his crew did the same when he was absent. Young was also relieved that it looked as if Stargate Command was seemingly willing to “ignore” what they had heard, as long as they were able to fix everything that had happened, which was anyway a complete violation of military and civil law on both sides. Aside from that, the meeting went on with more pleasant matters and General O’Neill confirmed that they moved forward with the negotiations on Langara to establish a supply line for Destiny, but it will still take more weeks or maybe even months.

 

Wray and Young informed each other and their crew of the meetings. It turned out that not only did they both fear that a part of Destiny’s crew could be replaced with people more obedient to Stargate Command and the IOA, but also so did Eli and Scott. Neither of them expected that all of the crew were willing to do whatever was necessary to make sure that nobody but the existing crew would be able to make any decisions regarding Destiny. Though at the same time they agreed that help and new supplies were wanted and that they were willing to share whatever they knew about Destiny.

 

Scott, who Young reprimanded directly after he awoke form his coma for his premature actions, concluded after he’d talked with all parties, including his former and now again girlfriend, that he need to make up for his mistake. Therefore he was first in line for the coming rescue mission. Eli took his part in everything that had lead to the screwed up situation to heart as well, since if he had decided to talk to somebody in time, everything might have come to a different outcome, so he was involved as well.

 

Three days before Destiny returned to the position from which it was possible to dial the gate again where Rush was marooned two months ago, Young assembled the whole crew for a general meeting.

 

As everybody else on this day, Brody and Volker accepted Young’s invitation and came from a newly opened section of the ship to the gateroom. On their way, all of a sudden Volker dragged Brody aside by his arms and pinned him to the wall to give him an impassioned kiss. For a split second Brody answered the kiss, but the moment Brody realised where they were he withdrew and pushed his friend nonplussed to the side.

 

“Are you crazy doing this in the middle of a public hallway? Any moment somebody could come around the corner!”

Volker was disappointed and didn’t care what anybody might think about them and simply answered: “Does it matter? We aren’t soldiers. We can choose any partner we want to, so why should I care?”

“Yes,” Brody said embarrassed. “That’s right of course, but I don’t think we should make our relationship public.”

“Everybody knows about you two already!” James called as she came along unnoticed by both, passing them with a twinkle in her eye. Brody was startled by the sudden pop up from the woman and turned beet-red, dissolving completely from the grip of his partner. But the moment he composed himself he commented when James was out of sight: “So much for privacy on this rust bucket!”

“Yeah, looks like we don’t need to waste more time thinking about that problem!” Volker replied dryly. “But to be honest, I thought most people knew anyway.”

“I still don’t want you to be that intimate in public. I don’t like it!” Brody said in a huff.

“You weren’t that shy this morning in our room!” Volker whispered gazing tellingly at Brody.

“That was behind closed doors.” Brody growled still grumpy.

“Never mind, let’s go before we get more complements from passer-bys.” Volker meant to his lovely but inhibited buddy. Brody’s answer to his last comment was a shrug and another low growl, which he took as general approval.

 

When both of them arrived at the gateroom they found nearly everybody already assembled there. It was rare that Young summoned a full meeting for the crew, but when he did it was always of importance. As usual people grouped together to chat while they were waiting for the meeting to begin. A few minutes later, after the usual latecomers arrived, Young stepped out of the circle of his soldiers and up to the curved staircase that opposed the gate, so that everybody could see him.

 

“Two months ago,” he started, “a crewmember was marooned on a planet not far away from here.” Young let his words settle down until he went on with what he wanted to say. “As everybody here knows, Doctor Nicholas Rush has been accused twice of trying to get rid of me. But since your representatives were not able to completely prove his guilt, it was decided to abstain from executing him and instead he was marooned on the next planet to avoid a possible danger for the crew.” While he was speaking his view shifted over the attendees to linger on one person once and a while.

“Eventually, when I awoke after a month in a coma I was able to right the matter. Doctor Rush never actually tried to kill me. Some of you may know that he has done questionable things, but you also know he’s not a killer, nor has he deliberately harmed anybody here with criminal intent or malicious motives.”

He glanced at Eli when he continued: “even if the loss of one of our comrades let us believe this.” At the thought of Riley, Young stopped for a short moment, because he’d never got over the loss of this fine young man. He thought back to the moment when he nearly killed Rush for his involvement in that tragedy, and then to the moment he’d nearly done it again.

“I don’t want to deny that I first and foremost had massive problems with him. I had seen in him a man who stranded and risked all of our lives here only for some selfish reasons. But, since then I know he – knowingly or not – actually saved us all when he decided to dial the ninth chevron address. I also know that at least a part of the problems we all had with him, could be directly related to my own actions. What I don’t want to say with this is that my distrust in him was always without reason, or that he is not to blame at all. I don’t ask you to love him,” he said with a sign of a smile in his face. “That would be immoderate and the last thing he would want. I’d rather ask you to rethink your own biases and to look at everything with clearness and sobriety.” In that moment Young’s eyes met shortly to Dunnings’, who just looked ashamed at the floor.

“Doctor Nicholas Rush is still a profound expert in the technology of this ship. Even if Mister Wallace here is able to replace him in many aspects, and we – as it looks now – will get personal reinforcement, I’m convinced it is not possible to have too many specialists who are able to handle the ship.

This and the fact that we all know now that he was accused of a crime he never committed, has convinced me to do everything possible to bring him back and to welcome him to this crew again. I am in agreement with Lieutenant Scott, Camile Wray, as a speaker for all non-military personal here and Eli Wallace as the speaker for those who wholeheartedly voted for the former verdict.”

 

After another break Young continued his speech in the same calm manner as before. “I guess everybody here knows that the possibility of finding someone left on an alien planet two months ago alive and well is not very high.” Young’s gaze stopped at Greer, who happened to look at the ground just then. “But I know, as others of you know too, that he is a fighter, and that he’s been able to survive situations with very low odds before.” He explained, while meeting eyes with Chloe, who looked right back open and attentive as she often does. “I hope nonetheless that we will be successful. So, lets hope for the best outcome.” He closed this part of the speech to talk about more technical details. “At this point I’d like to give all of you the opportunity to take part in the technical aspects of this rescue mission.”

 

That was finally the moment people could join the discussion and the first to take the initiative was Lieutenant Scott. “I have already started talking to several people here last week and we came to a first agreement. For searching we’ll put together five groups of four persons. Each team should have two soldiers for protection, one team member should be a specialist for technical questions, and another one should have basic knowledge in the medical sector or related fields or at least a good knowledge of first aid.”

“Why only five teams?” Kathleen Miller a white haired microorganisms specialist wanted to know. “Wouldn’t it be better to have more groups to cover a larger area?”

“Yes,” Scott said. “More groups would be better, but we don’t have enough people and more importantly, not enough equipment for more groups. With everything we have, five groups are what we can do.”

“Let’s talk about radio distances!” Brody threw in, “the radios can do less than 8 miles in open terrain. Do we know how to solve this?”

“Yes, we know,” Eli spoke out. “We’ll use kinos as bridges. Each group will take four or five kinos and a remote with them. They not only can be used to search the surroundings, but also to enhance the signal. We’ll establish a base station at the Stargate that I will operate along with Dr. Morrison.”

“Do we know that this will work?” Lisa Park reflected, who stood at Greer’s side.

“As far as we know it should work, even though we have never used it at really far distances.” Eli assured her.

“I’ve set up the five groups in consultation with Eli Wallace, Camile Wray and Colonel Young. This means those who are assigned to a group are already informed. Are there any more questions?” Scott asked with a glance to Colonel Young. But since nobody piped up, Colonel Young rose to speak.

“Everybody knows what he or she has to do. In case anyone wants to add anything constructive, don’t hesitate to contact me, Lieutenant Scott or Eli Wallace. At the moment I think everything necessary has been said, so you all can go back to whatever you were doing. Don’t forget to get some rest within the next three days, because when we arrive at our destination, all of us will have a lot of additional work to do, and I want everybody be as focussed as possible. See you back here in three days! Dismissed.”

 

And with that the crowd started to dissipate in the same groups they assembled before, while still talking about the meeting.

 

* * *

 

The last visit in the ‘House of Memories’ was several days ago, and since then Rush, Dāíl, Lísā and Tēmá endeavoured to conceal what they’d shared, so nobody would become suspicious because of their behaviour being in anyway different. From the moment Rush’s health made it possible for him to go back to his usual work, he would work one day in the postproduction of the tubers and the next giving lessons to the children. Dāíl and Lísā explained to Bān that this was the most effective way to use this new worker having him work as much as possible and then he could share his special knowledge with the community. On first impression it looked as if he and his comrades accepted the situation as it was, but somehow Rush didn’t trust them. He had the feeling that they were not really satisfied and still saw him as some kind of a public nuisance.

 

Rush was able to handle the first day on the tuber postproduction, but it was not good, but worked out somehow. The next day was good because he could teach. But the day after, he had to stop smashing the tubers around midday, because of circulatory problems, and was sent back to the house. As all people did when working in the fields, he didn’t wear clothes since they were too valuable to wear out by doing this kind of work, and because of the warm weather it was not really necessary either. After arriving at the farm six weeks ago, he had began to get used to everything and it didn’t bother him anymore. He was terribly tired and his back was still sour from the abuse he had to endure only a week ago. He’d planed to wash himself, put on his clothes, get something to eat and then go to sleep.

 

Without caring about his surroundings he went straight to the lavatory in the dormitory, crossed it to reach the door on the other side, went in and closed it from the inside. After a few minutes he opened the door again to go back to the washroom, when he suddenly realised that he was not alone anymore. He searched the room carefully with his eyes but couldn’t see anybody, though he was sure he felt somebody’s presence. So he went to the entrance of the lavatory and opened the door leading into the dormitory.

There they were.

Silent and motionless they lined up in front of the door, obstructing his way, grinning maliciously, all three guys from the courtyard, Bān, Lísā’s brother and his friends Hān and Jūn.

He looked at them and wasn’t able to ignore the ill will in their thoughts. A dark foreboding made its path into his brain and in a panic he tired to come up with an opportunity to escape. The problem was: there was no opportunity. The washrooms didn’t offer another exit and the only way was directly through those three musclemen.

The windows,’ he thought, while his heart started to race.

Before the three were able to move, Rush turned around and slammed the door into their faces. The door would not stop them for too long, that he knew, but it would give him precious seconds to maybe climb up to one of the windows. As fast as he could he assessed the window recesses, but all of them were too high for him to reach. In a wave of panic he ran to the next room, but the situation was not better there. When he turned around again to run back into the first room the three men were already there. They’d also closed the door from the inside. Now he realised he was trapped without any possibility of getting away. All he could do was look at them and think: ‘Is this it? Is this the end, just like this?’ But he was not willing to give in, not yet, so he tried to calm down and persuade himself. ‘Talk to them, appease them, and make clear you’re not a danger.’

So he started to talk, trying to be as defensive as he was able to, but his strategy caused the exact opposite of his plan. Instead they urged him from three sides into the corner behind him. Still talking he moved back, step by step, until there was only space for two or three steps left. The moment he realised that he would be cornered within seconds he stopped to think and to talk and then tried to make a run right through them.

He nearly made it but in a fraction of a second one of the men reacted and gripped his wrist to turn him around. To his own horror he could hear the bone of his right arm gave in and break, but he didn’t hear his own scream anymore.

It took a few seconds until he revived and was aware of his surroundings again. One of the men, it must be Hān, because Bān and Jūn were standing in front of him, held his arms up so he was dangling like a jointed doll. The two men before him were now suggesting to the man behind him to shake him because they realised that he was conscious again. The moment he started to do so, Rush screamed out loud because the broken forearm shot unbearable pain through him, but when he stopped Bān took his chin and told him that they were now going to drown him. The broken bone made it impossible for him to turn, so the only chance he had was to scream as loudly as possible hoping someone would hear him. This attempt was also thwarted when one of them slapped his bare hand heavy across his mouth. The man succeeded so far and Rush stopped abruptly. Then they dragged him towards the large, angular basins, which were sunken into the floor and filled up to the rim with water. They pressed his head under water until he stopped moving.

With cruel meticulousness they waited until the moment before he was drown and pulled him up by his hair and slammed him to the ground, to recover coughing and spitting water.

But after that they continued again and again, making fun of how he became more and more unstable, evident by the strange pictures he was sending of translucent blue aliens coming out of the darkness to put him in and out of a tank filled with a cold watery liquid.

When he reached a point where he thought about killing himself the next time, they stopped all of a sudden and let go of him gasping and crying on the floor. In the meantime they circled him, nudged him with their feet, called him names and talked about how they would further torture him.

 

When Rush recovered enough and was able to breathe normally again, the one who was called Jūn took his good arm, pulled him up and dragged him over to the end of the large table in the middle of the room. He lifted him up, pushed him face down on the table. Then he eventually went around the small side of the table to draw both of Rush’s arms to the other side.

 

Just a second later Rush felt one of the other men step behind him to spread his legs, causing the edge of the table to pinch sharply into his thighs. All he wanted to do right now was to get away, to make everything un-happen, and frantically prevent that guy from doing what he was doing. So he tried to struggle against the iron grip on his arms, but that hurt so much that he had to stop the efforts and whined miserably instead. All he could do was to witness the man behind him finishing adjusting his position on the table and lay open his most private parts not only to be seen by those sick bastards, but also to give them access in any way they wanted. The feeling of vulnerability was too strong; the knowledge of being completely at their mercy was too inacceptable that his mind finally was completely overwhelmed by what was about to happen. Eventually he was no longer able to keep a straight thought, and the only word his mind came up to repeat over and over again was: ‘No.’

 

When he heard the familiar sound of someone spitting into their hand and the ugly slimy tone of flesh rubbing over flesh, he lost it irrevocably. He remembered this terrible sickening sound, and even after so many years he couldn’t get it out of his head. He knew too well what was to follow. And only a week ago he’d thought things couldn’t get worse. How wrong he’d been.

 

After the first man penetrated him, he couldn’t stop himself crying out loud in pain and despair, so that the man stopped midway to ask one of the others to put a gag in Rush’s mouth to silence him. Only then he started to push relentlessly and violently into him. To feel this utterly disgusting, foreign body inside him, causing fierce pain through the friction it induced every time the bloody thug pushed in and out was so vastly inconceivable to Rush that he couldn’t think about anything else other than going away and leaving this place for good. He wanted the unbearable to stop at any cost, but it didn’t stop. Instead he heard the disturbing sound of thighs slapping against his backsides. He felt his hipbones rubbing against the surface of the table, his head moving up and down with the rhythm they forced on him, and how his own cries softened more and more, finally getting lost completely through the gag in his mouth.

 

It took an eternity until each of them finished their ghastly business and dragged him off the table, to let him drop to the ground like useless litter. While he lay down there, battered and unable to move a single limb, they circled around him as they’d done before, to applaud each other for the good job they’d done, and how Bān’s sister will now lose interest in her new plaything, now that she could see how useless he was after their treatment. Finally Bān knelt down beside him and pulled Rush’s hair to lift his head, so that he was forced to look in the other man’s face and see the disgust and hate while he had to listen to his hostile last words. When he was finished he let his head abruptly drop, so that it struck the ground because of the loss of support. Eventually the three men left, leaving him badly injured and utterly humiliated.

 

A period of time passed until Rush realised that he must have lost consciousness at some point after his torturers went away. When he opened his eyes to see the beautiful light and grain-less wood of the floor, he could feel his arm throbbing horribly and how beneath his lower body and legs blood spread further and further with each beat of his heart. He noticed how it started to get uncomfortably cold after a while. His whole lower body felt dump and full of pain at the same time and he could observe in a strange out of body experience how his brain was no longer able to manage all the unbearable sensory impressions. It was so full and blatantly obvious that everything became blurred and nothing made any sense anymore.

 

When he thought he would finally drown in a whirl of pain and memories, he saw something: a being wrapped in the most brilliant blue light he could think of. It was so beautiful that he was completely overwhelmed by its sight. First, it hovered a little while in the air, but then it came down and fanned with its dragon-like wings cool and fresh air on him so he was able to breathe calmly again and without feeling the pain anymore. It touched his maltreated mind with gentle sensations and finally gave him the peace he needed to close his eyes redeemed from everything.

 

* * *