Chapter 1: Waking up
Her breath dragged into her chest with a rasping gasp. The translucent pod door opened in front of her and she staggered out into the corridor. Apart from the fact she was freezing cold, it seemed only moments since she had stepped in. Around her people were stumbling out of their own pods and she watched Doctor Rush walk unsteadily past her. Matt lurched over to her.
“Where’s Eli?” she asked, turning towards the formerly broken stasis pod.
The machine did not look as if it was in a good condition. The casing had been broken open, and parts were littered around it on the floor. There was a message written on the glass, in front of Eli’s frozen face. It appeared to be written in lipstick.
“HEY U GUYS, WATCH THE KINO B4 U TOUCH THIS POD, LOVE ELI.”
The text was slightly wobbly as if it had been written back to front, Matt rubbed his finger over the H.
“It’s on the inside.” He said. “I thought these things turned on automatically when you closed them.”
“So did I Lieutenant Scott, so did I” said Rush from the console at the other end of the bank of Pods.
The first part of the Kino film was short.
“Hey guys, if you’re watching this then you’re alive, which is like, uh, really cool.”
Eli grinned at them from the small screen.
“It’s been a couple of weeks and well,” he paused to scrub at his hair, “I’ve only got so far with the fixing of the pod.”
Eli sat down on a chair and the Kino followed him.
“I’ve worked out a way of getting it on, which is cool, but it’s a total workaround, guys. These things have a set system for reviving people and the control systems on the pod are still completely busted.” He took a sip from a cup of something. “So I guess what I’m saying is I can turn it on, but there’s currently no way of waking me up again.”
He took a deep breath.
“I’m going in, I mean, if I stay out here either I’m dead or we all are. Look, I’m trusting you all…oh who am I kidding, if you’re seeing this I’m in the pod, Doctor Rush, get me the hell out of here!”
Eli’s face grinned at them and the video cut off to be replaced with a string of ancient text.
“It’s a data location in Destiny’s memory.” Rush told them.
The screen flicked again and Eli reappeared.
“Okay, in case I die, I’ve got a few messages for…”
Young reached out and turned off the video.
They sat in the mess hall. Chloe and Greer had prepared some of the preserved foods into something approaching a meal whilst the others checked the ship then came back to report. Last to arrive were Young and Camille.
“Anything I should know?” Asked Young.
“We’ve got enough rations to last the people awake for a few weeks without hitting the last of the MREs or the dried bulk rations, sir,” said Greer. “Mainly dried vegetables from the hydroponics, and the powdered roots, but also the dried fish and meat still looks good. It’s been pretty much frozen as well as dried.” He gestured at the stew on their plates. “And tastes okay boiled.” He grinned.
Young nodded. “Rush? The ship?”
Rush looked up from his plate, swallowing a mouthful.
“Destiny appears fine. She woke us up immediately after refuelling in the star we are orbiting.” He said. “We’re currently in orbit around a planet which is apparently suitable for our needs. She appears to be waiting for us to stock up.”
“Waiting for us?” asked Camille, paused with a fork half way to her mouth.
“Yes.” Rush shrugged. “Destiny has an AI and the ability to learn, so I’m guessing she is letting us refuel as well. In addition to this planet there are two more gates within range, both of which Destiny has shown as safe.”
“Sounds like she’s trying to get us up and running as soon as possible.” Matt offered.
Rush shrugged. “That was my take on the situation Lieutenant. Although I can override the countdown, it automatically set itself to four days, longer than we’ve ever had before.”
“Our next move then is to wake up enough of the crew for an effective foraging party based on the rations we still have available to us. Lieutentant Scott I’ll leave you to select the military personnel. Rush and Camille if you would select the appropriate scientists and other civilian staff. Ten military, ten civilians and we’ll see how the foraging goes.”
There was a break in the conversation as everyone finished the rest of their meal.
“Did you contact home?” Asked Chloe, finally.
“Camille and I went back and spoke to General O’Neill.” Said Young. “They’re very pleased to hear from us finally. We’ve been out 3 years and fourteen days. General O’Neill has arranged for all our families to be told the good news. There’s a bunch of news from Earth, we’ve got a new president, but I’ll let Camille get everyone up to speed on that and start arranging shore leave as soon as possible.” He tossed back the last of his mug of tea and stood. “Right people, we have work to do.”
With the lack of Eli or any quantity of scientists, Rush himself was piloting the Kino through the gates. The kino floated smoothly through the event horizon and instantly began to transmit footage.
The landscape was bright and sunny, and very very green.
“Jungle.” Said Rush to Young who was looking over his shoulder. “We’ve got a good chance of finding fruit and other edibles.”
They watched as Rush piloted the kino in a brief tour round the area of the gate.
“I can’t see anything that looks like it’s going to eat the foraging party.” He said.
“Fine.” Said Young. He turned to the waiting party. “Go through. Bring back as much as possible. You have six hours. We’ve got at least three more days here. Concentrate on getting as many samples as possible for testing. If you can find a good water source, note it.”
With nods and salutes the party left through the gate. Rush turned the kino on the planet to remote scan to monitor the area of the gate and closed the wormhole.
“Next gate.” Muttered Rush hitting the buttons on the dialling panel.
With a whoosh the wormhole opened. Rush sent the second kino through.
“Is that what I think it is?” asked Young, staring at the screen.
“It’s a room.” Rush said. He grabbed his radio one handed. “Mr Brody, are you on the bridge?”
There was a crackle.”Yes.”
“I need you to check the sensor readings Destiny took of the second planet. The one with less seas.”
There was a pause. “What do you want to know Doctor?”
“Is there anything at all that could indicate people or sentient beings on that planet?”
“Thank you Mr Brody, Rush out.”
Rush set the Kino on roam and sent another through to examine the room in more detail. The walls were bare and appeared to be made, or at least covered with of some sort of pale coloured cement or plaster. There were a few piles of debris on the floor, although whatever it was, was very deteriorated, and three open doorways leading to somewhere else. The doorways in the side walls were rectangular, but the proportions were a little off for what would have been expected from human or ancient architecture. They were proportionately taller so they appeared narrower, probably eight feet high, but only three feet wide.
Opposite the gate in the centre of the wall was a larger doorway with an arched top, mimicking the shape and size of the gate. There was another room on the other side at least as large as the Gate Room they were currently examining. Rush and Young could see the dialling device in the corner near to the large arched door.
“Big enough to get a small fighter through, threading the needle.” Young noted.
Rush nodded. He piloted the kino through the archway and into a massive room, much larger and taller than the gate room which could easily have been a hanger. It was empty and deserted, with just the occasional pile of debris and what appeared to be drifts of dead leaves blown in from an archway to the outside in a wall to the right. The walls were the pale plaster or cement again but the ceiling appeared to be some sort of smoked glass. The floor in here was cracked and near the outside doorway a healthy crop of weeds were colonising the cracks vigorously, including a small tree.
Outside, the ground was paved with some kind of concrete like material, long since cracked and buckled by tree roots.
“Presuming those tree type things grow at the same rate as ours, this place has been deserted for upwards of eighty years.” Rush said as the kino floated over the rotting trunk of a fallen “tree type thing” that was four feet thick. The tree type things were green, but instead of small leaves were covered in a mass of long green ribbons, which drooped to the floor. Among the leaves were long strands, clustered with something yellow.
The second foraging party walked into the room. Chloe, Matt, Varro, Volker, James and Stevens.
“I want to go take a look.” Said Rush. “If there’s any technology left it could be useful.”
“We don’t know why it’s deserted,” countered Young.
“Well the fact they took the time to pack up almost every last shred of their equipment and furniture in the rooms we’ve seen would suggest it wasn’t a sudden catastrophe.” Rush said.
Matt wandered over.
“Rooms?” he queried. “Sir?”
Young looked at him.
“The Stargate appears to be in come sort of complex, Lieutenant.” He said. “Apparently deserted. There’s no one on the kino and sensor readings show no evidence of people.”
He looked at Rush.
“Get your kit.” He said.
Rush handed the kino remote to Volker and disappeared quickly out of the room.
After he had returned, Lieutenants Scott and James led the way through the gate into the deserted Gate Room on the other side. The place was eerily quiet as the party stared at the deserted room. With the torchlight, Rush could see the doorways had lintels of dull metal and the walls and floor were beige. James peered through the side door.
“It’s a corridor.” She said.
“James, you’re with Rush.” Ordered Lieutenant Scott. “Keep in touch, everyone else, you’re with me. Let’s start with those fruit trees.”
Rush let James lead the way into the corridor on the left of the gate. It opened into a series of rooms along the outside wall of the complex, all empty although one did have some graffiti on the wall. Rush summoned the kino to record it and they moved on. At the end of the corridor they came to a dead end and retraced their steps to the gate room to try the other side. The other corridor evidently led further into the complex. The first series of rooms off this corridor were equally as vacant as those off the previous corridor, but the last doorway on the end led to a stairwell, leading up and down.
“Up or down?” asked James, shining the torch attached to her gun both ways.
“Down?” he suggested.
She led the way down. Each step was just slightly too large to be really comfortable to walk down in a single step. They made their way down a flight of stairs to another level, the stairs continued down. A brief investigation of this level indicated it had been cleared like the upper floor, but there were several rooms where there was a significant amount of graffiti on the walls and they found what appeared to be a lift.
“It doesn’t go up to where we came from.” James noted.
The doors to the lift were partly open and the shaft went up to what appeared to be open doors at ground level and dropped down at least another three floors to where they could see what must be the lift itself in the shaft.
“No cables.” Said Rush.
“How does it go up?”
“Your guess is as good as mine Lieutenant.”
They retraced their steps and went down a level, and another, all vacant, and finally to the lowest level, an extra flight of stairs deeper than the other layers.
“Wow!” said James, as the corridor at the bottom of the stairs opened out into a large, cavernous room, full of machinery. She turned to look at Rush, who had a broad and rather covetous grin on his face.
“I’ll do a sweep of the room,” said James, “then if you’re okay I’ll go up, report to the Lieutenant and the Colonel then come back down.”
Rush was already running his hands over a bank of machinery near him.
“Fine Lieutenant,” he said absently, “whatever you think is best.”
The room was as deserted as all the rest, and James ran up to ground level and reported in. By the tie she got back Rush had a panel open and was examining the insides of a machine.
“Do you know what it is?” she asked him.
“The large pipes and the machines at the end appear to be a geothermal power plant. The rest, I have no idea yet. Some of this looks similar to Ancient engineering, maybe derivative.”
James waited as Rush spent the next two hours in the room, examining everything. She was beginning to feel sleepy when Chloe and Lieutenant Scott walked in.
“Wow.” Chloe said.
“Yeah,” said James, “that’s what I said.”
The stared around.
“Rush says the things at the far end are probably a geothermal power plant. There’s an air conditioning system and some other kind of pumping stuff I think. Apparently it’s all kind of like Ancient stuff but not.”
Chloe wandered over to Rush.
“Hello Doctor.” She said.
He looked up from what looked like a control panel.
“Chloe.” He acknowledged her.
“What is it?”
“Main control panel,” he said, “it’s similar to Ancient technology. I can’t read the writing, but the components are similar.”
“Can we use them?”
“Varro thinks the ribbon leaves are fibrous enough to make something like linen and maybe some sort of paper.”
“Paper would be good,” said Rush, removing a component, “very good, we’ve run out.”
Chloe looked at the components.
“I’ll be right back.” She said.
Ten minutes later she reappeared with Dale Volker and a crate full of ribbon leaves and they began rapidly packing the components in layers of ribbon leaf padding. Rush gave them an approving look and continued in his cannibalisation of the machine.
Walking through the puddle into the gateroom on Destiny, Chloe was confronted by stacks of crates and bundles. As the event horizon closed behind them, another foraging party, recently awakened were getting ready to go down to the jungle planet. Young was standing next to the DHD.
“Was it good?” she asked him?
“Very.” He grinned. “We’ve got crates of fruit and veg and masses of a high protein nut that tastes a bit like a pecan.”
She smiled back and as she turned to help Matt, James and Rush with the crates of stolen components, even Rush was smiling.
Chapter 2: Pain and revelations
Four days passed in a flurry of activity. Chloe spent a day on the jungle planet, harvesting fruit and helping check the fish traps Varro and one of the marines had set for a creature that looked halfway between a prawn and a beetle in the river. Boiled like a lobster it had a vaguely fishy taste that wasn’t too unpleasant a way of eating the protein TJ said they all needed.
She had a headache. It was persistent and annoying. She mentioned it to TJ, but there wasn’t much that could be done. Colonel Young had prioritised the jungle planet for food and the nearest planet for some mineral resources, cooking salt for food preservation being one of them.
Chloe however found herself requested by Rush to join the small ongoing party on the deserted world collecting machinery. They had established the purpose of several items and the removal of an air scrubber that could be made portable seemed worth the risk and the time. It seemed quite small, but Rush was certain it had serviced the whole base when the base was sealed.
By the end of the four days she was exhausted and dirt and grease was ingrained into her skin and under her nails. The irritating headache had developed into a thumping headache and a pain behind the eyes. Becker had surpassed himself in the mess hall and after a massive meal that she struggled to enjoy and threats of another week of hard work to process all of the stores, she was glad to retreat to her quarters with Matt and collapse into a largely dreamless sleep.
The next two days she was working with one of the supplies processing parties, peeling fruit to be dried and taking the peel to Brody for the still. This held the promise of a slightly less offensive brew. The second day of fruit peeling she had aching hands, but the pain of the head surpassed this and by the third day it had developed into a full blown migraine complete with flashing lights and weird sounds in her ears. TJ took one look at her and took her to the infirmary. Through two days she was conscious of TJ and Matt coming and going, then things became weird. Her head pounded constantly, everything was too loud. She could hear a constant whine and a low breathy rumble. Every TJ’s footsteps were loud enough to cause her pain and it didn’t matter how dim it was in the room, the light was still bright and painful. She drifted into a haze of pain, and when she was aware it was of loud noises, strange smells and bright lights.
She sat in the little room, rocking. He looked through the small window in the door. The room was dim and she was wrapped in a soft blanket.
“What’s wrong with her?” Matt looked back over his shoulder at the medic.
The medic shrugged, with a resigned expression.
“I have absolutely no idea what has been done to her.” She spoke quietly shaking her head.
He furrowed his brows, and looked back through the window.
“Done to her?”
“I’m assuming something’s been done to her,” said TJ, “none of this is normal.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“I’ve only got an idea,” admitted TJ. “She’s been having headaches since she came back from the planet, and I think something has been ramping up her senses. She’s currently suffering massive sensory overload. The only senses that doesn’t appear to have been increased are taste and touch. But the taste is suffering from the increase to her sense of smell.” TJ shrugged. “The only thing I’m reasonably certain of is that is isn’t contagious. No-one else from that trip has a similar problem, and no one who she has come into contact with since.”
He turned to look at TJ. “Why are you keeping her locked in here then?”
“I’m not,” She said, “I’m keeping everything else locked out.”
He looked confused.
“She can’t stand the noise or the light and colours, and everything smells.” TJ said in the tone of someone talking to an idiot. “She can smell as well as the average dog from what I can tell and her vision apparently now extends into the ultraviolet and infra red spectrums. She can probably hear the conversation we are having. Apart from the fact it’s too loud, the hearing seems to be the easiest to manage, although she can hear ultra and subsonic sounds from the ship.”
The medic rubbed her face.
“When she is coherent, she sometimes talks, however, the vision and smell are causing her significant problems, her brain is having problems managing the new input, particularly the smells. I’m assuming it is things she couldn’t smell before as she has no basis for comparison of the new smells apparently. Also, things don’t smell the same anymore. The additional light in her new visual range means she effectively can’t see anymore, as she can’t process the new additional data.”
He looked confused again.
“Okay, think of looking at a room, then imagine that at the same time everything is glowing brightly showing how hot or cold as it is at that given moment, including some parts of the air which are also moving. Then tell me which items are people, which are chairs, where the floor is...” she let the idea hang in the air and realisation dawned over his face. “She is also still complaining of blinding headaches and keeps passing out with the headaches.”
“Can I see her?”
“Yes, she’s coherent at the moment, but you have to talk quietly so as not to deafen her and she won’t be able to recognise you by sight yet.”
The medic tapped lightly on the door and looking through the window he saw her head snap round. The medic palmed to door release and it slid open.
“Chloe?” Murmured the medic.
“TJ?” she murmured back. “Who is with you?”
“It’s me.” Whispered Matt, “Matt.”
He felt his smile broadening as he realised she actually sounded pleased to see him.
“Come in, I need to see what you look like!” Her voice was very quiet but warm.
He walked in, wincing reactively as she flinched when his foot kicked against the doorstep of the bulk head.
“Sorry,” he murmured.
He walked quietly across the room, feeling a little weird as she stared at him looking him up and down.
“There’s no need to worry that much.” She said
“Liar,” she said smiling, “your heart rate has risen, you’re breathing faster and your palms are sweating.”
“This is almost weirder than.,,” his voice tailed off.
“Than me turning into an alien?”
“I think I have it!” said Rush, walking in waving his notebook.
TJ looked up from the papers in front of her.
“Who visited the planet with the deserted star gate building?” he demanded, although she knew he had been on the mission himself.
“You, Chloe, Matt, Volker, James, Varro, Cho, and Evans.”
“All completely healthy, right?”
“Well, Volker has been complaining of hand pains. But then I think that’s RSI from the work he’s been doing on the....”
“Yes, yes, anything else, I mean any other physical or health defects or issues at all.”
She stopped stirring the beaker of liquid in front of her and turned to face him.
“I checked everyone in light of Chloe’s problem and looked at their records again. Apart from James’ treatment to manage the tightness of the scar tissue on her shoulder and you wearing glasses, no.”
“What glasses.” He said.
“What do you mean?”
“I haven’t worn them since we came back.”
She stood there and looked at him.
“I haven’t needed them since we came back.”
She stood there, considering the ramifications of it all.
“And James hasn’t been back for the emollient and Volker hasn’t mentioned any pain.” She said.
She stared at him, dumbstruck by the ideas forming in her mind.
“It fixed the problems.” She said then paused. “But why Chloe?”
He shrugged. “I’m thinking it put us all back to factory standard, so to speak. We can tell Chloe’s brain is very different since the blue aliens. Maybe there was some confusion,” he waved a hand vaguely in the air, “maybe it put her back to its best guess? Maybe it matched her senses to what her brain was capable of?” He shook his head, in a tight motion, flipping the hair out of his face on each side, then shrugged again. “All I know is I ha’n’t been able to read small print without glasses since I was thirty, and I can read Brody’s handwriting in bad light now.”
They stood there, silently, looking at each other for a moment.
“How?” she asked finally. “When?”
“I have no idea.” He said. “We all walked through the ruins. The ring was in the middle of a building for heavens sake. It could have been anywhere.”
“Well, Chloe’s condition has stabilised, she’s not getting any worse...or I guess better...or....”
“Quite.” He said, ending her search for the words she was failing to find.
He opened the door quietly and stood cautiously in the doorway.
“Dr Rush.” She said without looking at him.
He cocked his head to one side.
“You ken see me?” he was surprised
She shook her head.
“I can smell you. You smell more like me than everyone else.”
He went rigid, startled, then forced himself to relax and stepped in, closing the door quietly behind him.
“What do you mean.” He demanded.
“What I said,” she replied. “You smell more like me.”
“In what way.” His voice was flat and hard.
She looked towards him and he saw her eyes focus on him.
“The way you’re thinking.” She said. “Not entirely human.”
He walked over and sat down on the chair opposite her, elbows on knees, leaning into the conversation intently.
“I’ve been smelling you on people since I started getting visitors. Where you work together.”
“Do I smell that much?” the humour sounded a little forced.
“It’s noticeably different.” She said. She gave him an enquiring look and he tipped his head back a little in curiosity at her scrutiny. “I’m getting the hang of my new sight now.” She said. “I can see you, can see the parts I want to, or at least be aware of them in the rest of the picture. It’s not quite the same, the colours are wrong, I get more colours than you do, but I can differentiate between them now.”
“My vision is fixed.” He stated. “I’ve been wearing glasses since I was about thirty. I can read anything I want now.”
She stared into his eyes and he looked away. She raised a hand and her palm to his cheek turned his head with gentle force to look into them again for a long moment.
“And I expect you can read it when it’s practically dark.”
The moment was cut by a crackle from his radio. Chloe winced and Rush jumped up to move the noise away from her. She shook her head and just covered her ears as Volker’s voice came through the radio.
“Err, Dr Rush, are you there? We’ve got a bit of a problem here...”
He stared at her, then pulled the radio from his belt.
“Yes, Mr Volker, and what would that be?”
“There’s some kind of an overload in the...”
“Don’t touch anything!” He snapped. “I’ll be there momentarily.” He shook his head in irritation turning towards the door.
“Doctor?” said Chloe.
He turned to look over his shoulder.
“The smell is getting stronger.”
She winced as someone slammed their hand into the door release on the outside of her door. It wasn’t secured and opened.
“Dr Rush.” She said without bothering to look up.
“How fast?” He demanded.
She turned to face him.
“How fast is it changing?”
“I have no idea.” She said. “I’ve got no basis for comparison. She put down the sheet of paper. “And even if I did I’d have no idea what that meant.”
He turned and slammed the heel of his hand into the bulkhead.
“I don’t have time for this!”
She looked at him sympathetically, then pushed herself off the edge of the bed and walked over to him. He turned to look at her.
“Am I changing into an alien?” she asked.
He looked at her, eyebrows tightly furrowed.
“It’s what you’re thinking.” She said. “It’s what anyone would be thinking.”
“Fine, yes,” He said, his voice tight, “yes, it’s what I’m thinking.”
“What’s happening?” she asked.
“This morning I could hear the hum, the ships engines.” He said. “Took me a while to work out what it was. And I can hear better, people talking in the corridor. I realised yesterday the thudding noise I could hear was Volker’s heart, standing next to me.”
“Have you had any blackouts?” she asked.
He shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
“Are you becoming scaly?”
“Not that I’ve noticed. Obviously there’s bit’s I can’t see.”
“Well go and ask TJ to take a look.”
He shook his head vehemently.
“Not a chance, no way am I giving Young anymore ammunition against me.”
She sighed deeply and shrugged.
“Strip.” She told him with a resigned tone to her voice.
He looked at her startled.
“Look, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.” She said. “You want to know, I’ll tell you. You don’t want anyone else to know then I’m your only option.”
She walked past him and palmed the door lock.
“Stand beside the door here, then no-one can see.” She said.
He shrugged. “It’s a regular occurrence being naked in front of pretty girls at Icarus Base and the SGC.” he muttered.
He stripped shoes and socks, t-shirts, trousers and underpants and stood there in the chilly air for a moment, looking uncomfortable, before shrugging, lifting his arms and turning slowly on the spot. Chloe took a deep breath, then walked over to give him a full look over, thankfully concentrating mainly on his back, where he couldn’t see himself.
After a moment she stepped back.
“Nothing.” She said. “I know what it looks like and you haven’t got any of it.”
He dragged underpants and trousers on quickly then pulled his t-shirts on over his head.
“Are you certain?” he asked tensely. “Your vision isn’ the same anymore.”
“Absolutely.” She reassured him. “There are no changes in your skin at all. It looks the same all over.”
They stood there looking at each other for a while.
“I’ll have to come back.” He said uncomfortably.
“In case it changes. It seems like we’ll be forced to trust each other again.”
“Well,” he said a little acidly, “we should be used to keeping each other’s secrets by now.”
She reached out and put a hand on his shoulder and he flinched.
“I’ll keep your secret for now,” she said gently, “but you know if you start going scaly or having blackouts I’ll have to tell the Colonel.”
He took a deep breath, not meeting her eyes.
“Aye.” He said finally, “that’d be....sensible.”
“I don’t think you ought to be on your own much.” She said. “You wont’ have anyone to be with you at night, but you probably ought to make sure people are expecting you to be somewhere at a certain time each morning in case you go wandering off.”
He grimaced then nodded, a short, tight movement. He pushed his hair out of his eyes.
“I’d better go.” He said, and reached out, unlocked the door and left.
It took another week and Chloe was beginning to get very stressed by her incarceration, but finally TJ agreed that no changes were taking place as had before and Young allowed her to rejoin the crew provided she was monitored to make sure that she wasn’t having absences. Providing she wasn’t alone, and if she was there was a kino in the room, Chloe was able to return to her own quarters and started to venture out of her room within the next week.
To start with it was hard to manage the noise, but it got easier, and by the end of the week she was able to sit in the mess hall despite the noise and to recognise all the crew members. Just because she could manage it didn’t make her crew mates anymore comfortable around her, and the hearing just made it possible for her to hear their whispered discussions about whether she was turning into an alien again.
Rush was probably the only crew member who wasn’t talking about her. Rush was avoiding her. Whilst she’d expected he would, she was still annoyed, but continued to remain silent on his concerns. It was hard though, that the only other person in her situation was choosing to be absent. She wanted to talk about this, wanted to find out how far along he was but it wasn’t exactly something she could bring up the handful of times they were in the same room due to her constant chaperone, a duty Rush had declined. In some ways she was glad of this, in case he was compromised, but for a private discussion it was not good.
He eventually turned up in her quarters two weeks later. Matt had left for his shift on the bridge and she was sitting in the dim light she preferred going over some calculations. The door pinged at her. She looked up and listened a moment, then walked over to open it.
He was standing on her doorstep with an expression of combined irritation and anxiety, which she knew meant he felt forced into coming here. Wordlessly she stepped aside to let him in. He grabbed the kino floating by the door, threw it out into the hallway then closed the door and locked it as Chloe walked back to sit on the bed again.
He stood for a moment by the door then walked to sit on the counter next to the bed. The light was dim, but he avoided her shoes, book and the mug of water on the side.
She reached out and turned out the light. He flinched and turned to face her completely. With the very dim light from the porthole behind her she lifted her hand in front of her chest and made a rude gesture, watching his face as he raised his eyebrows. She changed gestures and he shook his head with a slightly withering look then stopped and looked at her face.
“How long have you been able to see in the dark?” she asked him.
He looked at her, his expression stiff. She changed her mind.
“You need to be checked.” She said.
“Yes.” He said. Wordlessly, he started stripping methodically. He lifted his arms and turned on the spot. Chloe turned on the light and regarded him critically.
“Nothing.” She said. The relief was evident on his face.
“Thank you.” He said pulling on his clothes. He stood in front of her straightening his top. She noted he looked tired, very tired, his eyes were so sunk in dark rings they looked almost bruised and he looked even more dishevelled than usual.
“Don’t worry about it.” She said and then went on. “You just need to sleep. You aren’t sleeping.”
“It’s none of...”
She interrupted him.
“This is an argument we’ve had before Nicholas.” She said gently. He flinched at the use of his given name. “I’m not looking for a repeat of that night,” she reassured him, “but you need to sleep.”
She stood and pointed at her bed.
“Sleep.” She ordered him. “I’ll keep an eye on you, make sure you don’t do anything strange. When are you expected anywhere?”
He looked at her belligerently. Chloe was impassive. Finally he gave up.
“I’m not expected anywhere till tomorrow morning.” He said.
“I’ll be awake until Matt comes off his duty shift.” She said. “Five hours or so. I’ll finish these calculations and then read. You can sleep in my bed, I’ll sit on the floor. I’ll bring the kino back in.”
His shoulders slumped and he walked over to the bed, Chloe thought as well as resigned he almost looked relieved. He took off his shoes and when she lifted the covers, slid into the bed, scrunching up the pillow under his head, on his side, facing her. Chloe retrieved the kino from the hallway then went back to her calculations. She was vaguely aware of him moving restlessly for a while, and then his breathing softened into sleep and when she looked up his eyes were closed, face softer his arms wrapped around her pillow.
Half an hour or so later and a page of checked data she was disturbed as he started to move restlessly. He continued, muttering in his sleep, and becoming more agitated. Chloe reached up from her seat on the floor to touch his face and as her fingers touched his temple he turned his cheek into her palm in his sleep, his muscles relaxing. She left it there a moment, then pulled away and went back to her book. It only took a minute or two for him to start tossing and turning again, to the point where Chloe thought he must be about to wake himself up with what he was dreaming about. Whatever it was didn’t appear to be pleasant for him.
With a sigh she stood, walked round the bed and sat down on top of the blanket, leaning her back on the wall and stretching her legs out parallel to his back. She put a hand on his shoulder and rubbed gently and his body relaxed. She managed a few more pages before he rolled over, threw an arm over her thighs and buried his face in the side of her hip. Chloe tensed, but Rush just snuffled briefly into her hip then relaxed and drifted into sleep again. She shrugged and went back to the book.
He woke when the sound of the ships engines changed. For a few moments he was confused. Sleeping, and waking, was usually from a few moments caught in a chair, or from where he had collapsed exhausted, sprawled fully dressed across his bed.
He was tucked in and snuggled up and around something warm and yielding that smelled good. His arm was thrown out and across and someone’s fingers were wound into the hair stroking absently across his scalp. Chloe his mind reminded him, he was cuddled up to Chloe’s hip, his arm over her thighs, her book resting against it. He lay motionless for a moment as he registered the sound of a page turning.
“Morning.” She said quietly.
He tilted his head up to look at her. She looked down at him then absently pushed his fringe out of his face, placing the book down on the bed on her other side.
“How long was I asleep?” He asked, rubbing at his forehead and rolling back to lay on his back.
She looked at her watch. “Just over eight hours.”
“I thought Lieutenant Scott shoulda come off duty a couple of hours ago?” He stretched his shoulders, lifting his head up a little from the pillow.
“When I said I was reading Pride and Prejudice again, he decided to go play football in the Gateroom with the guys. It’s good for him, he doesn’t hang out enough.”
“What are you really reading.” He asked with a faintly amused expression.
She lifted the book. It was the primer Eli had begun on basic Ancient. They exchanged a smile.
“You needed the sleep.” She said. “Someone had to bully you.”
He untangled himself from the blanket and stood up, “I’d best go.”
She nodded. He left.
Tamara Johanssen watched the kino footage on fast wind. Her brow furrowed for a moment in thought then with deliberate movements, she deleted it, noting a period of normal behaviour in the logs.
Chapter 3: Pain and revelations
Matt walked into the Core Room.
Chloe was sitting on one of the high stools by the console, knitting and absently watching a screen. He smiled when he spotted her.
“I’ve been searching all over for you.” He said.
“What are you doing in here?”
“Knitting you some new socks,” she waved the knitting at him, “and making sure Doctor Rush gets some sleep.”
She gestured across the room and he could see a pallet bed made up of folded blankets in a corner. Rush was apparently asleep on top, fully dressed with his back to the room.
“He’s been running simulations about thawing Eli out.” Chloe’s eyes flicked down to the screen and back up to Matt. “He won’t leave them alone. I promised I’d keep an eye on it and wake him up when it’s finished or if anything changes, if he’d get some sleep.” She sighed and moved the ball of wool on the console to free the loose end.
“We all miss Eli.” He said gently. “Doctor Rush will get him out.”
“He’s not sleeping properly.” Chloe said.
“He certainly looked like crap when I saw him earlier.” Agreed Matt.
Chloe heard a minute snort from the pallet in the corner, but knew it was beyond Matt’s hearing. Rush’s breathing had quickened to wakefulness the minute the door had opened. Matt came round the console, out his arms around Chloe and kissed her. Chloe melted against him, kissing him back before leaning back to look up at him.
“You’ve been with Volker and Brody.” She said. “Are they still playing with their robot?”
Matt nodded, reaching in to snatch another kiss. “Yes and yes.” He said. “I’ll never be able to get away with anything with your sense of smell.” He laughed. “They wanted someone to help them lift it around so they could get to the undercarriage. It doesn’t balance well. I met them in the corridor outside the mess, and got volunteered. They think if they get it running again, we can use it to repair and repressurise some more areas.” Matt’s stomach rumbled loudly.
“Have you eaten?” she asked him.
He shook his head. “Have you?”
She nodded. “You won’t catch me skipping meals,” she said, there was another tiny snort from the pallet, “however bad they taste. You go get some lunch.”
“Well,” he said, “if you’re stopping here and you aren’t too bored, I might get some lunch and then go see Brody and Volker again.” He looked at her with a slightly embarrassed expression. “I mean, it’s not exactly a Mustang, but it’s the closest thing I’ll get to fixing up an engine in my spare time. Even if I am completely clueless on it and only get to do the grunt work for Brody and Volker.” There was a further snort from the pallet. “It is cool though.” He said.
Chloe smiled at him. “I’m fine here,” she reassured him, “go and eat, play mechanic with the guys.”
With a chuckle and a last peck on the lips he let her go and walked out the door.
Rush rolled over, looking at his watch, then up at her slightly disapproving face. “I’ve been asleep four hours.” He said.
“You could have another four.” She suggested. “Nothing has changed or come up on the simulations.”
Rush propped himself up on his elbow. “What did you make of Brody’s calculations?”
"They seem to be okay. If the engineering is sound"
He nodded. "Accurate enough." He regarded her. “How do you do it?” he asked. “Swap from dutiful girlfriend to mathematical genius in a moment without pause.”
Chloe looked up from her knitting and focussed on his face. “It’s no big thing.” She said.“I don’t really think about it.”
“I wonder if you’ve ever been allowed to just be yourself.” He said. “What do you want to do?”
“I don’t really think about it.” She repeated. “Okay, when you were a child what did you want to be.”
“A princess.” She said glibly.
“Okay, when you were older than six.” He said. “In your teens.”
She sighed. “A train driver, and then later on an architect.” She said.
“And so you went to university to study politics like your father.” He said. “Did you even tell anyone you wanted to be an architect?”
“Stop questioning me.” She said angrily. “You don’t know anything about me.”
“I think I do,” he said, “I think you spend your whole life doing what everyone else thinks you ought to be doing. I think that’s why you cut off your boy when you were turning into an alien, because you couldn’t do what he wanted you to be doing, and I think that’s why you’re so good at changing from being one person for your boy, to another person when he leaves.”
She refused to respond, sitting stiffly in the chair, knitting forgotten. “What do you want then?” she asked eventually. “I want to know what you want to do with your life.” He said. “I want to know what you want to be.” “I certainly don’t want to be an alien.” She snapped.
“Me neither, but I think it’s a bit late for that. Alien DNA aside, what do you want? When you go home?”
She was silent for a while. He stood up and walked over to look at the screen over her shoulder.
“I don’t want to go back to Earth.” She finally said. “I don’t want to be that person anymore. I’ve changed so much I can’t even get myself in the headspace of that person. Destiny feels like home. Earth is somewhere I visit.” She corrected herself. “Visited. No more stones for me. The person who tried threw up.”
“If we went back to Earth then who would you be?”
“I think I’d try and stay in the Stargate Project.” She said slowly. “I’d study more about the math and stuff, learn Ancient.” She fell his hair brush her cheek as he nodded. “I can’t imagine going back to a life that didn’t involve being in space.” She said. “When I go back I don’t see my old friends anymore.” She laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“Last time I went back I spent the whole time in the library.” She said. “Reading about math. My mom thought I was crazy that I wouldn’t want to be outside or at the beach.”
“I could suggest some books.” He offered. “I have a couple, and I think Volker and Brody have a few on their laptops.”
“That would be good.” She said.
Something changed on the screen and he leaned forward to get a better look, arm reaching down to the console to prop himself up, arm touching the outside of her shoulder. Involuntarily Chloe leaned back into the curve of his chest and shoulder, inhaling deeply, then froze.
They both spoke at the same time.
“Chloe, don’t, it’s not...”
“I’m sorry I shouldn’t...”
They were motionless for a moment then he wrapped his arms around her shoulders, and hugged her close, his chest leaning against her shoulder blades. Chloe relaxed, releasing tension she didn’t even know she was holding.
“My self centred interest in your mathematical abilities notwithstanding,” he said, “this is not likely to end in a good way.”
He felt the slight shrug against his muscles.
“I feel safe.” She said leaning her head back into his neck.
“You love Lieutenant Scott.” He said.
“I know.” She said, but didn’t move.
They both moved at the same time as footsteps sounded in the corridor a way away and as Camile walked in, Rush was amending a simulation at an adjoining console and they both looked up as she began to talk about what to tell Eli’s mother. The topic was enough to distract anyone.
The pod work was slow. Rush, Chloe, Volker, and Brody spent literally hours working on calculations and tests on the other pods. Greer and Vanessa both volunteered to be repeatedly sent into stasis and thawed out in order to gain as much data as possible. A small mercy was the stability Chloe seemed to have achieved in her senses. TJ’s last round of tests seemed to indicate that nothing had changed, at least in her vision and hearing, for over a week.
“I’m not sure how long I can keep this a secret,” Rush said in exasperation as she walked into the pod banks. He strode out from behind the console, his movements jerky and irritated. “Young is pressuring me to go back to the SGC and consult with Major Carter.”
Chloe dropped to sit cross legged by the pod. “And you don’t dare because whoever you swap with will instant realise you aren’t normal.”
He scowled and slammed the heel of his hand into the wall. “I need to get Eli out. Once he’s out he’ll be able to keep us alive long enough for us to deal with Young.”
Chloe leaned her back against Eli’s pod. “How bad is it now?” she asked.
“I can smell you’ve been working with TJ in the infirmary from here.” He said scowling again, but not looking up.
He worked in silence for a while.
“When did you last sleep?”
“I caught a coupla hours on the bridge earlier while “waiting” for Destiny’s engine diagnostic to complete while Mr Brody and Sergeant Greer were on duty.”
Chloe could hear the inverted commas in the statement. She shrugged. “If you haven’t blacked out by now, I don’t think you will.” She said. “You aren’t turning blue, and I’d started blacking out way before anything this strange happened.”
He shrugged. “That won’t make a whit of difference to Colonel Young.”
She said nothing. There was nothing to say.
Chapter 4: Things begin to get difficult
Chloe was recalculating power curves for the defrosting Eli simulations and watching Rush sleep when she heard the change in the FTL drive, a slight whine, a lurch and then the normal 4.8 seconds of power down that no one else could hear except herself and Rush. The change woke Rush and he sat up, blinking sleepily on the pallet next to her.
“We’ve dropped out of FTL.” Said Rush.
She nodded. The deserted storage room near Eli’s pod was now a regular hideaway, but radios were omnipresent and Rush’s radio crackled into life.
“Rush, this is Greer, we’ve dropped out of FTL.”
Rush picked up the radio. “Greer, this is Rush, on my way to the bridge, you’d better wake the Colonel.”
He stood and offered her a hand to haul her to her feet. She accepted and they left the storage room.
“I’ll go via the canteen and bring tea.” She said. Not good to arrive together.
“Thanks.” He said gratefully.
They split up and she made her way to the mess hall.
“Hi Becker.” She said. “Any tea? I’ve just seen Rush and he’s been dragged out of bed to the bridge. It’s a mercy mission. Actually, make it five, he said they’re waking up Young and Greer and Brody are up there.”
Becker grinned. “You’re too good.” He told her.
He provided her with five tin mugs of tea on a tray. Chloe wandered up to the bridge, tray in front. They were clustered around the display screen.
“You,” said Greer taking a tea, “are officially my favourite girl at the moment.”
“What is it?” she asked him.
“No idea.” He said, nudging Brody to take a tea. “It’s some sort of object ahead of us.”
Brody took the tea.
“Objects.” Said Rush. “It’s a debris field with some large pieces.”
He took a tea from the tray, and put it into the hand of Young whose eyes were glued to the screen, then took his own. Chloe took her own from the tray and slid the tray down the side of a console out of the way. They waited as Destiny brought herself closer to the debris field.
“Whatever it is,” said Brody, “Destiny must think it’s important enough to drop out of FTL.”
“Err Colonel, Doctor, I’m picking up a signal here.” Said Greer, looking at a red box on a console between him and Chloe.
Chloe leaned over to look at it, all attention moved to the box on the screen. They all crowded round the console. Rush moved up behind her, put a hand on the her left shoulder to prop himself and looked over her right shoulder to look at the screen.
“It’s a distress beacon.” Said Rush. “An Ancient distress beacon.”
“From what?” Young demanded.
“I have no idea.”
He reached round her right shoulder and tapped at the screen. Chloe was acutely aware of his arm across her back and his chest pressing into her shoulder. She could hide the blush from the others in the dim light, but he had to see the glow and hear her heartbeat speed up. After a few moments she heard his speed up in response and his muscles tensed very slightly against her shoulder.
“It’s automated, on repeat, a text message.” Rush said.
“But what from.” Repeated Young in frustration.
They waited as Rush tapped at the screen. Chloe moved sideways to let him past and shivered as his fingers slid across the back of her shoulders.
“A ship.” Rush said finally. “An Ancient ship.”
“Wreckage of an Ancient ship.” Brody added.
They all looked at the screen where the debris field was coming within the range of stronger sensors. As they neared it, it was clear that there were several larger chunks of ship almost intact, surrounded by the debris of the rear end of the ship.
“It’s a seed ship, looks like the FTL engines are smashed to pieces, but there’s at least two large parts of the rest of the ship largely intact.” Said Brody.
“If we can find some intact structure,” Rush said without looking up, “we may be able to use the scrubbers from the empty base to repressurise some of the compartments and cannibalise them for parts.” Rush was tapping away at the controls, scrolling through sensor logs.
“Do it.” Said Young. “We need anything we can get.”
By the time Destiny had come to a halt at the edge of the debris field the field had been scanned seven ways from Sunday. There were four massive sections of ship and two appeared to have sections which retained structural integrity. Rush, Brody, Volker and Chloe pored over the data from the scans, identifying which areas to target.
Four sections seemed of most benefit. An area which appeared to have been control rooms and workspace was largely intact and seemed to somehow have retained enough power to send the signal. They would focus on that first, for parts of the ships controls and life support. Another promising section was showing a high concentration of naquidah and mass was probably the engineering section. On the last seed ship that had contained the Stargate factory and other manufacturing facilities. It would be the next to be plundered for raw materials. The other two seemed less important, but if they had time would be investigated.
The shuttle took the first party out. Scott, Rush and Brody in vac suits. Chloe waited, glued to a sensor screen until it, and the radio, indicated that they had successfully installed the temporary life support. As soon as sensors indicated it had filled the fragment with enough air, the first foraging parties went in. Chloe was on parts detail, removing components and any specific discrete objects that could be found. Back pack after backpack of parts were delivered into the shuttle and ferried back to Destiny, where they were stacked in empty compartments for identification and storage.
Shattered after an eight hour shift her party exchanged places with another and she fell into bed with Matt and a deep exhausted sleep, only to wake up at the summons of the radio to repeat the process again. Her shift was interrupted by the crackle of a radio. “Scott, Young, this is Rush.” Rush’s voice was hoarse. Chloe turned to look at Matt, pulling out the radio.
Young was faster than Scott his voice tinny. “Young here.”
“Scott here.” Matt added.
“Lieutenant James and I have made it though to the large void on the scans. The void is a large service bay.”
Chloe’s eyes widened.
James’s voice took over. “Rush is working on opening the doors, but looking through the windows, we think we’ve got glass sheets for the dome, maintenance drones, there's a lot of crates and a complete shuttle and some parts. Rush wants Brody, Volker or Chloe down there to help.”
Scott lifted the radio to his mouth. “We’re closest, Chloe and I will be there shortly.”
“Rush says get Brody to bring the power cell.” James relayed.
“Will do.” Responded Young “See you there shortly Lieutenant.”
Chloe led the way, barely needing the torch Matt was carrying and they made their way as fast as possible to the area of the void. Chloe stopped in a hallway, waving Matt to silence, listening hard before leading them off down two further corridors to where James was watching Rush fiddling with the control panel next to a large hatch, double the width of the bridge hatch on Destiny, the torch attached to her P90 providing the only light.
“Where’s Brody with the power cell?” demanded Rush without looking up.
“On his way.” Said Chloe. “What do you need me to do?”
“Other side.” He replied tersely, still nose deep in the panel, “main power conduit from ships power, you need to disconnect it so Brody can connect the power cell. It’s green and reflects warm.” He added in a quieter tone.
She stepped over to it, pulling open the panel. There were several conduits, but only one that visibly reflected the warmth of her hand back at her and she started to disconnect it at the door end. There were stumbling noises and Brody, Greer, Young and Airman Chu arrived lugging the heavy power cell. Chloe heard Scott rush to help them with it, and James evidently turned away to see, as the torch light disappeared. Chloe looked up.
“Lieutenant,” snapped Rush, “I need that light.”
He looked up to glare at James who swung back round to them then stepped back with a shout. Young and Scott spun to see James pointing her gun at Rush and Chloe looking up from where they were bent over the ancient devices.
“What the hell are you doing James!?” demanded Young.
“Err, sir, I think we’ve got a problem.” James raised the gun and attached torch a little higher.
Two pairs of eyes glowed whitely in the brilliant torchlight, blinking back at them. Young’s snarl of anger was visceral as he strode over and grabbed Rush by the front of his clothes, yanking him away from the Ancient console.
“When the fuck were you going to tell us!” he shouted. “How long have you been like this?”
He shook Rush who thrust his arms up to push the Colonel away. Young slammed him back into the console lifting him off his feet. Chloe stepped forward and slid a hand in between them, putting her palm flat on Young’s chest.
“I knew.” She said, “I knew from the beginning.”
Young dropped Rush and took a step back to look at them both. Chloe could see Matt staring at her in horror over Young’s shoulder.
“You knew,” said Young, “and you didn’t tell anyone.”
Chloe pressed her lips together then took a step forward. Young took a step back reflexively.
“I thought you would quarantine us both and then there would be no-one to get Eli out.” She told him.
“Too damn right I will.” Young said.
“And then you’ll just be without us and Eli.” She said. “All we had to do was get Eli out and then we could tell you and you could quarantine us for as long as you want, you’ll have Eli.”
“Oh for heavens sake!” spat Rush. “I’m not turning into an alien, she’s not turning into an alien. I’ve barely been alone since we realised what was happenin’. I’ve been sleeping on the floor in the core room so Chloe can keep an eye on me in case I have blackouts. I am not turning into an alien!”
“The hell you aren’t!” Greer growled.
“At least part of it’s true,” Matt said, “Every time I come off shift she’s in there doing math or running simulations and he’s sleeping on the floor. And TJ’s been giving Chloe regular check ups.”
“Which is fine as long as we trust Chloe.” Young said.
“Surely you don’t think that Chloe...?” Scott’s voice tailed off.
“My opinion of Chloe is certainly higher than my opinion of Doctor Rush.” Said Young, “I could believe practically anything of Rush.”
Rush and Chloe’s eyes both widened at the statement and Young could see the plea in both of them not to raise old history. He swallowed his anger before he spoke again, the last thing he needed was to completely throw Scott off balance with accusations that were almost completely certainly unfounded. Probably.
“Get the door open and then hand over to Brody.” Young snapped at Rush and Chloe “I want you finished here and off this ship. I’ll sort you both out when we get back on board Destiny. Lieutenant Scott, I’m sorry but I’ll need you to remain on the ship to coordinate the foraging efforts and try and pilot that shuttle.”
“Yes sir,” Scott’s voice was tight with strain.
“What’s going on?” demanded Camile as James and Airman Chu brought Rush and Chloe through the hatch of the shuttle at gunpoint. She was waiting with Volker, who stepped backed off hurriedly at a glare from Rush.
“They’re aliens.” Said James. “Colonel Young's orders are to take them into custody.”
“We’re not aliens,” snapped Rush turning to face James as well as Camile. ”It’s the effects of that ruin planet.”
James scowled at Rush. “Your eyes glow Doctor,” she said flatly, “that’s not right.”
He took a step forward, hands out, palms flat in front of him and she took a step back, hands tensing on her P90. “My eyes don’t glow,” he growled, “they reflect.”
“Mine do too,” added Chloe, “and TJ’s given me a clean bill of health.”
“Just move,” ordered James uncertainly, “you can discuss it with the Colonel later. You’re going straight to lock up,” ordered James, “his quarters or yours, choice is up to you, but with a full foraging party on the ship I’m only posting one set of guards.”
“Mine.” Said Rush.
“Fine. Get moving.”
Rush stalked out, leaving a stunned Camile. Chloe had to trot to catch up, James and Chu marching behind. Rush almost walked into TJ coming out of the infirmary.
“Doctor! Chloe!” she looked startled. “What’s going on?”
Rush didn’t slow. “Ask your fucking boyfriend.” He snarled.
The door to Rush’s quarters closed behind them. Chloe stood by the door as Rush paced over to the chair and threw himself down in it, rubbing his eyes.
“Fucking Young!” he growled, reduced by rage from his usual sarcasm and vitriol into profanity.
He propped his elbow on the arm of the chair resting his forehead in his hand. After almost a whole minute he realised Chloe was still standing by the door and looked up at her. Hot tears were coursing down her face, his new vision showed him this clearly, glowing streams of tears flowing from her eyes, cooling as they ran down her cheeks and dropping as luminescent pearls to the floor. Suddenly very tired, he stood and walked over. Chloe was so tense she was almost rigid, hands balled into fists by her sides, shaking as she cried silently.
“I can’t do it.” She said, her voice small and tight. “I can’t do this again!”
He reached out, putting his arms around her and she practically collapsed, leaning into him, forcing him to hold her up as finally she released control of her emotions and cried great heaving sobs into his chest. He was suddenly unsure what to do with her, still furious with Young for confining them and angry with himself for not managing to release Eli before being found out. He guided her to the bed and with gentle pressure to release her tight hold of him, sat her down on the edge, She wrapped her arms around his waist and continued to sob into his stomach. He rested his arms gently round her shoulders and let her cry for a while to give himself time to calm down. After a while he realised she was still crying though and pulled away slightly, she fell forward to lean on her knees, chest still hitching with hoarse sobs.
“Chloe,” he said. “Look at me.” His words had no effect and her sat down on the bed next to her, pulled her up to sitting again, and grabbed her jaw to look into her face. “Chloe, calm down. There’s nothing you can do yet, you’re just making yourself sick.”
She was hyperventilating, her breathing hitching in her chest, too shallow, too rapid.
“I can’t cope with being a freak again.” The words seemed dragged from her throat, “I can’t stand the way that they look at me. Can’t stand the way people stand away from me.”
She wasn’t looking at him, her eyes were focussed down at his chest, and she was still hyperventilating. He realised she was in the grip of a full blown panic attack.
“You’re not alone.” He snapped. “I’m in this as bad as you if not worse. Now calm down, this is getting nowhere. Breath slowly.”
She made eye contact finally, then took a deep breath and began to try and stop panting, slumped forward slightly. She looked as tired as he felt and he let go of her face.
“Come here.” He said and wrapped his arms around her again. “You foolish girl.”
She buried her face in his shoulder and he stroked her hair.
“Come on,” he said, “they’ll not be doing anything with us until they’ve finished with the ship. You can get some rest at least.”
She didn’t let go and after a moment he lifted his legs up onto the bed and pulled her up around onto the bed with him.
“I’m sure this won’t be the last in a series of bad decisions I’ve made.” He muttered acidly. Laying on his side he pulled her into the curve of his body and dragged a blanket over to cover her. “Try and sleep.”
He wrapped an arm over her and tried to relax, running through the Stasis Pod schematics in his head. Chloe gradually relaxed, and he was vaguely away of her breathing softening into sleep, shortly before his own exhaustion caught up with him and consciousness faded out.
The door opened, startling Rush into wakefulness. He stayed immobile, spooned up against Chloe, arm round her waist, his hair thankfully covering his eyes. Her felt her muscles tense.
“Quiet.” He murmured into the back of her neck.
She had his hand in hers and gave it a minute squeeze. Rush opened his eyes just a crack, peering through the curtain of hair. Young, Camile and TJ stood in the doorway.
“Oh!” Said TJ quietly in a surprised voice looking at them on the bed.
“Quite.” Muttered Young.
Camile frowned. “I don’t think we should be jumping to conclusions. They’ve been in here for nine hours and it’s two in the morning.” She said quietly. “I’d be in bed.”
“Together?” Asked Young.
“Well there isn’t anywhere else to sleep.” She shrugged. “For all of his behaviour, I can’t see him...”
There were footsteps in the corridor.
“Colonel!” Matt’s voice.
Rush felt Chloe tense.
“Is she okay. Can I...” As Matt stepped into the doorway he looked over Young’s shoulder into the room and his voice stopped sharp.
“Matt,” said Camile quietly, “They’re asleep.”
“No they aren’t” he said in a stiff voice. “They were awake the minute the door opened. Footsteps in the corridor will wake her up, even before the door opens.”
Rush gave up the act, reached up and pushed the hair from his face then put his hand back down on Chloe’s shoulder. He regarded the small party in the doorway.
“You can take your dirty minds out of the gutter.” Rush’s tone of voice dripped malice. “If you’d care to notice we’re both fully dressed, and I don’t think either of us is that sort of a person.” He propped himself up on his other elbow. “Won’t you come in?”
Chloe sat up and pulled her legs up to sit cross legged by Rush’s stomach. He was a little surprised she didn’t get up off the bed. Young stepped into the room with Camile, TJ following more cautiously. Matt hovered in the doorway. Young gestured Camile to take the chair as TJ sat herself on the edge of the counter. Young was blatantly furious.
“So,” Young opened, “it would appear you have a lot of explaining to do….both have a lot of explaining to do.” He corrected himself. “Would you care to start with your side of the story?”
Rush rolled on to his back and pushed himself up with both hands to face them. “From the beginning? I realised about a week after Chloe’s symptoms came to a head that I was experiencing improvements to my sight.” He said. “I spoke to TJ”, TJ nodded, “but we were more worried about what was wrong with Chloe and we thought it was probably something from the planet wi the empty base. I didn’t think it was very significant at the time, but Chloe pointed out a couple of days later that she’d noticed I smelled different.”
“So you decided not to say anything.”
“I didn’t think anything of it, I didn’t need my glasses anymore, James didn’t need her shoulder fixed and Volker’s hand was better. It wasn’ a big thing.” Rush said with emphasis. “We were more worried about Chloe and getting Eli out of the pod.” He pushed his hair back off his face. “It wasn’t a quick thing, not like Chloe, it came on slow, and it wasn’t till Chloe noticed the smell was getting stronger I really thought about it.” He shifted his legs. “I thought you’d decide to incarcerate me.” He said. “And I was right. So I left it, Chloe’s been keeping an eye on me, and we always planned to tell you when we’d freed Eli, but you need one of us, Eli or myself.” He made a frustrated gesture. “I haven’t slept unsupervised since the senses began to change for fear of waking up someone else. I’ve been catching sleep in the Core Room while Chloe is there or on the bridge while crew are around, occasionally getting my head down in the mess hall. And I’ve been making sure I’m not turning blue.”
“I’ll need to check you.” Said TJ
“Yes, we’re not exactly going to take your word for it.” Young’s voice was sarcastic, “I know where that gets us.”
“He doesn’t have any skin changes.” Chloe spoke for the first time.
Everyone turned to stare at her. She looked vulnerable and defeated.
“Well someone had to check.” She said. “He’s not going blue.”
Stunned silence overtook the room, people turning the possible implications of her words over in their heads.
“Oh for Christs sake, you have filthy minds.” Rush said derisively.
“What?” she asked. “I know the risks to Destiny, I’ve been the risks to Destiny.”
Young shifted to look at her. “I find it hard to believe that you didn’t tell someone, Lieutenant Scott at least.”
“Matt would have had to tell you, or be disobeying orders.” She said. “Look, I can see what you’re thinking and I’m not turning into an alien and I’m not in a relationship with Doctor Rush.” Her voice had the detached, slightly emotionless quality it had had when her death had been imminent. “Someone had to check, same as we had to get Eli out. You need him. If I’d told you, you’d have locked him up.”
Rush wasn’t sure whether Chloe was talking to Young or Matt, but it was Young who responded
“Too damn right I would have,” snapped Young, “and now I’m locking both of you up until I’m certain neither of you pose a threat to the ship or it’s crew.”
Young’s face was angry, Camile’s curious, TJ’s worried and Matt’s simply betrayed. Chloe looked at him and he looked away.
“Chloe,” Young said to get her attention, “I’ll have you escorted back to your quarters.”
“No,” she said quickly. “I won’t go.”
Matt’s eyes flicked back to her, betrayal written large across his face. Chloe looked away. Young looked shocked and the others surprised.
“I can’t do it again.” She said quietly. “Two months!” she paused to slow her breathing. “Two months of being locked up on my own with every now and again a visit from someone who thought I was going to do something alien. Two months of being alone, losing my mind and waiting to die.”
Her voice raised to a strained note as she spoke, and her look was pleading. In the doorway Matt turned away. Chloe looked at Young and then at Rush.
He shrugged. “I’m sure you can bring a mattress in here on the floor for me for a night or two,” Rush told Young with hard sarcasm. “Maybe you can find us a suite in the long term...”
“I’m sorry.” Chloe said to Matt.
“It’s okay.” He said, no emotions. “I’ll visit.”
She smiled wanly. “I’ll finish your socks.” She offered.
“Fine.” Said Young. “We’re done for the moment then.”
“We’re never done.” Muttered Rush.
Young ignored him. “TJ will be undertaking some tests on you.” He told them. “I expect both of you to comply.”
He walked to the door and left, Matt gave Chloe a searching look then followed.
“I’ll have someone bring some of your things Chloe.” Said Camile not unkindly. She turned to Rush. “While I can see your reasons, Doctor, I have to support the Colonel where the safety of the crew is concerned. You should have said something.”
Rush shrugged and laid back on the bed as Camile and TJ walked out. “Well that coulda gone worse.” He said cynically.
Chloe looked at him then lay down next to him on her back.
“You didn’t have to stand up for me.” He said. “TJ’s going to check me out anyway.”
She shrugged. “I didn’t want them to think I was a complete moron and hadn’t thought about any of this.”
“So now they just think you’re sleeping with me.” He said in frustration. “I coulda protected you from that.”
She was silent. After a while Rush reached out and turned out the light. The conversation wasn’t going to be resolved immediately anyway. Sleep came slowly for both of them.
Chapter 5: Incarceration
Chloe and Rush settle into incarceration, personal issues arise and are addressed.
Rush woke first. Somewhere in the night, Chloe had rolled over onto her stomach and thrown an arm across towards him so her hand rested against his shoulder. He stayed as still as possible, but as soon as he lifted his arm to look at his watch Chloe was awake with a start.
“Half eight.” He murmured. “Longest I’ve slept in in weeks.”
She took her hand from his shoulder and rubbed her eyes, still sleepy.
“Is it…?” she went to say something drowsily and stopped. “When do you think they’ll feed us?” she asked.
“I should imagine breakfast will be late this morning.” He said. “The foraging parties will be working constantly to get as much as possible.”
“Oh.” She said feeling suddenly awkward.
They lay there on their backs, staring at the ceiling for a while until TJ arrived to check Rush with the same battery of sensory tests she had subjected Chloe to. She was subdued but polite and pronounced them similar then left. Half an hour after TJs visit, two airmen arrived with a mattress, a bag of Chloe’s possessions and a kino.
“Surveillance.” Said Rush flatly.
“Colonel Young’s orders.” Replied the airman.
“I’ll take that,” said Rush taking the bag and gesturing for them to leave the mattress on the floor. The Kino floated up to the ceiling. Rush shoved it into a corner where it had a complete view of the room. Chloe sighed and Rush looked over at her.
“They did that last time, and the time before,” she said.
“But this time you’re not an alien.”
She shrugged and sat down on the mattress.
“You can have the bed.” He told her and received a small smile.
“Now what do we do?” She asked.
Leaning on the bridge rail, the Kino remote in his hands, Colonel Young watched the Kino feed. Rush was slowly drawing something on the wall with his finger, Chloe watching intently. There was nothing on the wall. Young turned to TJ and Camile.
“You think he’s doing this to wind us up?” he asked.
“No,” said TJ, “I think he’s writing on the wall.”
As Chloe reached out to write something with her finger, TJ reached down to the Kino and switched it to infrared, dialling up the sensitivity.
The picture flickered and dropped into the black and white grainy image of the IR camera. It was hard to make out detail, but there was writing on the wall, the upper lines fading out, the lower lines more visible in white warmth.
“I told you Chloe can see into the infrared spectrum.” TJ said.
“What does it say?” Young squinted at the screen as Chloe filled in what appeared to be gaps in the text.
“I think it’s Ancient.” said Camile.
Young grabbed his radio. "Doctor Volker can you come to my office."
Volker arrived a couple of minutes later. Young gestured at the footage.
“Dr Volker, can you tell us what this says?”
Volker gulped a little then came over. TJ moved out of the way to let him see the screen.
“It’s um, verb conjugation.” He said.
“It’s what?” Young gave him an irritated look.
“Verb conjugation,” repeated Volker, “you know, amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant?”
You gave him a blank look.
“I love, you love, he loves, she loves…”
Young nodded, realisation dawning. “Is that what it says?”
“No, that says I run, you run, he runs, she runs, it runs, we run, they run, in the informal register, then repeats it in the formal register. It looks like the top line that’s fading is the same for a different verb, um, I think it says, to pick up.”
Rush started to speak and Young dialled up the volume.
“What’s he saying, is it Ancient?” Camile asked.
“What’s he saying?” asked Young.
Volker listened, face tense in concentration.
“Well?” asked Young impatiently.
“I’m listening!” said Volker. “It’s difficult.”
“Are you saying Rush speaks better Ancient than you?”
Volker looked up at Young from the screen, giving him a resigned look.
“Yes, he speaks better Ancient than me,” he admitted, “I learnt the normal way, so I have a wider vocabulary and more accurate grammar in Ancient than he does, I’m a better translator, but he speaks it better than me, he’s more natural at it.”
“Why?” Young asked.
“When they brought him in, he was this genius scientist, but didn’t have any Ancient, so they gave him the accelerated course.”
“Which was?” demanded Young.
“Six weeks with Dr Jackson refusing to speak anything but Ancient and making him translate stuff from English to Ancient starting with Dr Seuss and finishing with most of his first thesis.”
“Harsh.” Muttered TJ. “I bet the Dr Seuss went down well with Dr Rush.”
“Well it worked.” Said Volker. “Although rumour says Rush and Dr Jackson had a few difficulties at times.”
“I can imagine.” Said Young. “Fine, so he’s teaching her Ancient?”
“It looks like it.” Said Volker.
“I guess it passes the time.” Camile said. “We haven’t offered them much in the way of entertainment opportunities.”
They watched the screen for a little longer.
“For what it’s worth,” offered Volker, “He’s teaching her some sort of rhyme that helps her remember the verbs. Can I go now?”
Young nodded and Volker wandered out again.
“I think we ought to separate them.” Said Young. “I don’t think we need her more able to control the systems if she’s compromised.”
“No.” Camile said decisively. “I’d have to speak to General O’Neill and overrule you on that.” She said.
Young spun to look at her.
“I’m seriously concerned about Chloe’s mental health.” She said. “She’s about this far,” she held up her hand, thumb and index finger close, “from a complete breakdown.”
“I think the situation is somewhat more important than the mental health of one compromised crew member.” Young snapped.
“But that’s the point Everett,” said Camile pointedly, “she isn’t a crew member, she’s a civilian, she’s not even a civilian contractor.”
“I don’t think that’s much of an argument several billion light years from Earth.”
Camile put her hands on her hips. “No, Everett. If you do so, I think Chloe is likely to crack. She’s not a soldier, not trained to deal with this and she’s repeatedly been pushed to breaking point. If you put her on her own, I’ll be forced to take it up with General O’Neill. She’s a civilian, and if you care to remember, a senator’s aide. I’ve checked her status. she’s not on our payroll, she’s technically now employed directly by the White House, I’m assuming in order to keep her location on the quiet.”
Young’s face was almost livid with rage.
“Fine.” He grated out. “We leave her.”
Rush was restless, bored and frustrated. She had suggested he teach her Ancient mainly to stop him pacing. It wasn’t hard to pick up the verb structure and she soon knew the word for every object in the room. It had been his idea to use heat to write on the wall, it didn’t last, but was better than nothing. The afternoon passed reasonably quickly, food arrived, and she was tired enough from the stress to sleep early.
Rush woke as soon as Chloe moved. He sat up watching as she tossed and turned. She stood and walked to the porthole. He waited a moment then got up.
“Chloe.” He said calmly. “What’s wrong?”
She placed her hands flat against the wall, either side of the porthole, staring out.
“They’re coming and I can’t get out.” She said.
“They’re not coming Chloe, it’s a nightmare.” His voice remained soft.
“I know they’re out there.” She said quietly. “They’re coming for me.” She stared out of the porthole. “Don’t let them take me!” her voice was suddenly panicky and she began to bang her palms on the wall. “They’re coming!”
Rush put his hands on her shoulders and she spun, screamed and began to hit out at him. She landed a couple of strong blows to his head and he shook her by the shoulders. She woke suddenly, stared into his face and burst into tears. He drew her to him and hugged her.
“I was back there trapped.” She said between sobs.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, I know, it’s okay, I’m here.” He wiped her face with his cuff, still finding the look of the hot tears both beautiful and disturbing. “Come on, come back to bed.”
He led her back to bed and she let him tuck her in. He laid down on the mattress and saw her hand appear over the edge of the bed. He took it and waited for her to sleep.
He was woken again as she stood, walking straight back over to the porthole. This time she panicked and started pushing away from the porthole almost immediately. He strode over to her, took her shoulders and woke her before she could hit him. She turned into his arms herself this time, crying again and he gave her a brief squeeze before drawing her back to the bed again. He pulled the covers up around her and went to step away.
She took his hand. Her hand looked and felt cold.
“I’m scared. I don’t want to sleep.”
He looked down at her.
“You have to sleep. It’s okay. I’m here.”
She gulped, looked nervous.
“Will you…?” she began to ask, then stopped.
She looked at him, he kept his expression guarded, running his hand over his beard and round to rub the back of his neck. She shrugged then scooted over in the bed.
“I don’t want anything.” She said. “Just…don’t leave me alone”
There was an awkward moment, then he lifted the cover and slid into the bed. He settled on his back, putting out an arm towards her. She moved over, rested her head on his shoulder, laying carefully next to him on her side, arm propped on his chest. He wrapped his arm up round her to rest on her shoulder and felt her begin to relax. Rush felt her fingers drum gently against his chest in time with his heartbeat, and then she lost rhythm, and finally slept.
They woke the next morning when the door alarm pinged. Chloe realised she was curled into his chest, his arms wrapped around her. One hand was fisted in his t-shirt, the other on the pillow, fingers against his jawline, beard rough under her finger tips. Her knee was tucked between his. It was not a compromising position, but an intimate one, protective. She felt him tense, then deliberately relax his muscles.
“Are you alright?” he asked, not moving.
“I’m fine. I didn’t wake up again.”
“I think I’d’a noticed if you had.”
He let her go and slid out of bed walking to the door. TJ stood on the other side. Matt was with her.
“Check up.” She said, walking in. “I’ll do one of you, and the other one gets a shower.”
“Oh, a shower!” said Chloe sitting up.
“Matt’s come to keep you company.” Said TJ.
Chloe smiled, looked at Matt in the doorway. He was holding her towel. She walked over and reached out for his hand, with only a slight hesitation he took it and they left.
Rush submitted to TJ’s more intensive scrutiny than that of the previous day, including a full body survey that made both of them uncomfortable. She finished and sat on the chair, writing notes until Chloe returned. Matt left, but two airmen were waiting and they chaperoned him to the shower.
Rush heard the footsteps, but ignored them deliberately as he towelled the water from his hair, standing naked in the bathroom. He took the towel from his head and wrapped it around his waist, looking up. Young was waiting for him.
“You’re needed in the storage.” He said. “There’s some parts from the ship that the scientists think are important and they need you to look them over.”
“I don’t have time for this.” Rush snapped. “You only let me out for a shower.”
Young put his hands on his hips.
“We need you to look at this equipment.” He said. “Brody says you need to do this one. He thinks it’s related to life support and medical equipment.” He paused. “This is a demonstration of trust in you Doctor.”
Rush considered him.
“But you won’t let us out of our cell.”
“Not until I’m certain you don’t pose a threat to the crew.”
When they finally brought Rush back to the room three hours later, Chloe threw herself at him to the shock of the soldiers guarding him.
“It’s fine!” he snapped, putting up a hand as the soldiers stepped forward anticipating violence, and catching her with his other arm.
He let her cling on for a while then said over her shoulder.
“You can tell Young, I won’t leave this room unless she comes with me, or Lieutenant Scott, Camille Wray or Lieutenant Johansson comes to stay with her. You can also tell him,” Rush looked up at the Kino, “that if they want any more equipment identified they can bring it here.”
One of the soldiers looked a little belligerent. Rush ignored them. He led her to the bed and wrapped her in a blanket.
The footage played again in the small room.
They watched Chloe in the room on the bed, frozen, blank and staring, then on Rush’s return throw herself at Rush again.
“It looks awfully like her previous absences.” Said Young.
“My assessment is she has PTSD,” said Camille, “a reaction to trauma. Since she’s been on the ship she’s watched her father die in front of her, lost friends, been abducted by aliens, turned into an alien and have everyone be terrified of her and shun her, now three times, watched Lieutenant Scott almost die, been forced to contaminate him, and spend a long period of time expecting to die.” Camile put her hands on her hips as she finished her recitation of the list.
“When you put it like that...” said Young.
“She’s young, vulnerable and trapped.” Camille said. “I’m surprised she hasn’t had some sort of a breakdown before this. She’s in an inescapable situation that constantly reminds her of traumatic events, her adrenaline levels are running high constantly, she is anxious, depressed and stressed.”
Young sat back.
“What can we do?” he asked.
“Not much while she is stuck here.” admitted Camille. “You can start by not leaving her alone. Every time you leave her alone she flashes back to previous events and starts to panic. Being with Rush is probably actually helpful for what it’s worth. He rescued her, and has been her champion on several occasions. In a normal situation she would probably be treated with some sort of antidepressant accompanied by a talking therapy.”
“What concerns me is the sleep walking,” said TJ. “That’s new.” She changed the Kino footage, then skipped forwards in increments until the room went dark and the kino switched to night vision. They watched Chloe lay down on the bed and Rush on the mattress. Both rolled over and got comfortable a few times as TJ forwarded on the footage, gradually settling into sleep. The counter indicated an hour had passed when Chloe began to toss and turn. TJ slowed the footage to normal speed and they saw Rush wake and sit up to look at Chloe, evidently watching her despite the blackness of the room. She continued to toss and turn and then suddenly sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed.
“That looks like before.” Said Young.
Chloe stood up and walked over to the porthole.
“She’s talking,” pointed out Camille, “what’s she saying?”
“You can’t make it out,” said TJ, “she’s just mumbling.”
They watched as Rush got up and walked over to her.
“Chloe.” His voice was quiet and calm. “What’s wrong?”
She put her hands flat against the wall, staring out of the porthole.
“They’re coming and I can’t get out.” She said clearly.
“They’re not coming Chloe, it’s a nightmare.” His voice remained calm.
“I know they’re out there.” She said quietly. “They’re coming for me.” She stared out of the porthole. “Don’t let them take me!” her voice was suddenly panicky and she began to bang her palms on the wall. “They’re coming!”
Rush put his hands on her shoulders and she spun, screamed and began to hit out at him. They all saw him give her a quick shake by the shoulders, saw awareness dawn in her eyes and her burst into tears. He drew her to him and hugged her.
“I was back there trapped.” She said between sobs.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, I know, it’s okay, I’m here.”
Looking a little uncomfortable TJ dropped the volume and fast forwarded and they watched as it scooted through Rush comforting Chloe and then both retreating to the beds. They went back to sleep and half an hour passed before Chloe once again got up and went to the porthole. Once again, Rush got up, woke her took her back to the bed. They saw Rush tuck Chloe into bed, words were said and he slid in next to her, letting her rest her head on his shoulder. TJ sped up the footage again and the rest of the night was uneventful.
There was a pause while the three of them considered the video. Young turned and sat down on the edge of the table, back to the screen.
“It’s almost certainly nightmares.” Camille said seriously.
“But you’re not one hundred percent certain.” Young stated, looking from Camille to TJ and back. There was another long pause. TJ and Camille looked at each other, the medic shifting slightly from one foot to the other.
“No,” said Camille, “I can’t be certain. At least not yet.”
TJ shook her head in tacit agreement with Camille’s statement.
“Then we wait.” Said Young decisively. “We’ll review the situation in a week.”
Things got into a routine. They stayed in bed, dozing until an airman arrived with breakfast. After breakfast, Rush taught Chloe Ancient for a while and physics for a while. Lunch would arrive and after a break, Chloe would cajole Rush into Yoga. Dinner, killing time for the evening, mostly calculations sent them by the scientists, then sleep. Their conversations became more in Ancient, she thought she was doing quite well at learning it. They both tried to remain calm, more successfully on her part than his.
Every other day, TJ came to give them a check up, the other one being taken off to use the shower, then swapping back. Matt visited three times when Rush was taken off to examine equipment or parts from the ship wreckage. However the meetings were stilted and uncomfortable, even more so when Chloe gave Matt the new socks, and he left quickly when Rush returned.
Privacy was going out the window, Chloe reflected. The more she was getting used to the new senses, the more she was realising about the people around her. And at the moment the people around her was Rush.
Chloe wasn’t sure how she felt about being locked in with Doctor Rush. Sometimes she felt there were things waiting to be said that weren’t, and several times they had both started to say something, then looked at the kino and changed topic. She wasn’t sure either how she felt about sharing a bed with Rush on a regular basis. She knew it meant she slept all night. Every night she tried sleeping alone had resulted in night terrors and sleepwalking, and finally he had simply shrugged and slid in with her. In addition, it didn’t matter what positions they went to sleep in, they invariably woke tangled together, either with him spooned up around her or her curled against his chest.
The fact that she felt so good about waking up like that made her feel extremely guilty and aware that they were being constantly monitored by the kino. She wondered whether Matt watched her cuddle up with Rush, a painful thought. Matt was a sprawler, not a snuggler.
She was beginning to realise there were some serious things about the way she felt that she had to face up to. A part of her mind threw out the wondering thought about what she would do or say if the kino wasn’t there. She squashed it ruthlessly.
Everything outside of her incarceration seemed very distant, as if in just over a week her life had shrunk to these four walls.
She wondered how he felt trapped in here with her. There were times he was angry, pacing the room like a caged animal, but he was times he was totally relaxed, sprawling on the bed as he explained something to her, or laughingly attempting to stand on one leg when she bullied him into yoga. There was no way to discuss any of it without sharing her thoughts with whoever was watching the kino.
“Penny for your thoughts?” his voice cut into her reverie, he was watching her through a curtain of hair.
She turned to look at him from where she sat, cross-legged on the bed. He put the pen down, power output calculations for Brody's work on Eli's pod that she would check later.
“I was just wondering how much it bothered you being stuck in here.”
His eyes flicked to the Kino, same as they both did every time the conversation became remotely personal.
“I don’t want to be imprisoned,” he said, pushing the hair out of his face, “but at least the company is good.”
She smiled weakly. He regarded her a moment.
“It’s like my life is just this room.” She said in Ancient. “That everything else outside was a….” she searched for the word, “…a dream.”
His look was sympathetic. Rush stood as if to walk over, then folded one arm across his chest to clasp his other elbow.
“We should be out there working.” He replied in the same language. “You should be with your young man.”
She stared at the bedspread. The things she wanted to say weren’t easy and neither was it easy to express them in Ancient.
“If I was there I would not be with you.” She said quietly. “My young man has little visited and when he does he is not warm.” Her voice was sad. “I cannot have my food and eat it.”
“It cannot be easy for your young man to visit with me here," Rush's eyes flicked to the Kino, "and see pictures of us here even when we are completely right acting. He knows you love him.”
“I do love him.” Chloe stood and walked over to the porthole, staring out. “I do not know if he still loves me now. I am not what I was when we came to Destiny.”
They stood in silence for a while. She turned over the thoughts in her mind, pushing at them like a child with a wobbly tooth, seeing how they felt, how painful it was, whether it would come out. He was still standing there watching her and she turned and spoke in a quiet voice.
“But I love you as well.”
He looked at her surprised, in his sight the warmth of the blush made her cheeks glow. He walked over to her and put his arms round her.
“Oh love, you’re in a mess.” He said in English.
“I’m not translating that.” Said Volker embarrassed. “It’s personal.”
Young took a step back over to him, hands clasped behind his back.
“Need I remind you that this is about the safety of the ship and the crew.”
Volker looked up at him and Young was surprised to see his eyes were flat and unfriendly.
“That wasn’t, that was personal.”
“Can you at least tell us broadly what it was about?” asked Camille.
Volker looked back at the screen his shaggy fringe falling forward, then back to them.
“Her relationship with Lieutenant Scott,” he said shortly, “she’s sad. I’m not telling you any details.”
Volker walked out. TJ went back to the footage.
“She stopped having the nightmares.” She told Young and Camile. “It repeated pretty much the same every night after the first.” TJ stopped the footage. “Four nights in a row until the fifth.”
They both looked at her.
“What happened that night?” asked Young.
TJ shrugged, looking uncomfortable again.
“Rush didn’t sleep on the mattress, they both slept in the bed all night, and every night since.”
Chapter 6: Weird news and erotic memories
TJ comes with unanticipated news and Rush is reminded of the past
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
They had been awake for a few hours when TJ arrived. Chloe was counting backwards from one hundred in Ancient, Rush was listening and making corrections to some calculations sent by the scientists.
“I’ve had a chance to review your medical data from the last two weeks.” She said as soon as the door had closed. “And I’ve been back to review both your medical files at the SGC.”
Her face was serious. Rush looked at her with concern.
“Is it bad news?” Chloe asked.
“No, just very strange.” TJ sat down on the chair. “The results of Chloe’s heart and blood pressure checks are not massively different from before, but are consistently lower overall than they were. Your blood pressure is on the low side of normal for your age and your heart beats a little slow, although it sounds very good.” TJ took a deep breath. “Doctor Rush yours are wildly different from before.”
He sat up straight to look at her. Chloe’s face was anxious.
“I spoke to Dr Lam and it was her considered opinion that you were working yourself into an early grave Doctor. You functioned on about nine pints of coffee a day, you smoked, you put yourself under way too much pressure and you didn’t sleep or eat regularly. You also come from a family with a history of coronary heart disease.”
“Scottish.” Said Rush flatly. “No-one in my family made it past sixty two.”
“Add to that the damage caused by the operation to remove the transmitter in your chest and you were in pretty poor condition. If you weren’t a necessity, you wouldn’t have passed the medical for Icarus Base even before that.” TJ said bluntly. She paused and then continued in her soft voice. “Your results are currently, taking into account variations for age etcetera practically the same as Chloe’s.”
Rush looked staggered.
“I should imagine you’re healthier than you’ve ever been since you started smoking,” she said. “With luck you’ll live about twenty years longer than you would have before if you don’t have any accidents or illnesses. Certainly not the heart attack you should have expected previously.”
Rush looked away, staring at the floor.
“It’s a lot to take in.” He said.
“You both appear very healthy, especially considering the diet on Destiny. The few tests I’ve been able to do, suggest you’re both doing very well. The only thing that concerned me was how slow your heartbeats are, but they’re both the same so I’m assuming it’s something about the way you’ve been changed. Your reflexes are good, coordination is fine. You’ve passed all of the tests I’m currently able to do.”
She stood. “I’ve checked Doctor Volker and all of the other crew who went to the planet with the base. I can only think it’s something that happened there. No-one else was as…” she paused to choose her words, “poor a condition as you Doctor Rush, but I think that Doctor Volker is also showing some improvement. It’s hard to tell though, all the others who went were pretty fit in the first place. No-one else has the slow heartbeat except the two of you though.”
She walked to the door.
“Congratulations.” She said and left.
They sat there in silence as Rush digested all of the information. Chloe stood, walked over to the couch and sat down.
“It’s nice to have good news right?” she asked.
“It’s just a shock.” He said. “I always expected to go the same way as my parents and my grandparents. On that basis I could have expected another ten years or so, fifteen at most.”
Chloe looked shocked.
“I’m not a young man.” He said honestly. “And I come from a family of people who die young.”
“But you do so much.” She said. “You ran across that planet to catch Simeon, you went in the space suit in the heat.”
“I’m a bloody minded man.” He said. “And I’ll be damned if I’ll let anything stop me doing what I want.”
They sat there for some more time, lessons in Ancient forgotten, until lunch came and things felt like they were more normal, but Chloe couldn’t quite let it get back out of her head. When they finally went to bed she turned from her normal position, laying carefully next to him where he lay on his side, to scoot herself into his arms, spooned up against him, needing to go to sleep like that as well as wake there. He said nothing, just held her close.
He’d woken that morning from a dream of passion, of long limbs wrapped around his, breath moving through parted lips and the image of her beneath him, an expression of complete abandonment to pleasure.
Chloe whilst she couldn’t have failed to miss his arousal in either feel or smell, his hormones and therefore his pheromones were riding high from the dream, had politely ignored it.
When Lieutenant Scott had arrived saying he was needed to help Volker and Brody it was a relief from embarrassment and the mental torture his mind was putting him through.
Tweedledum and Tweedledummer were refitting power and life support in a previously unusable area of corridor with a couple of the other scientists. The doors off the corridor opened into larger rooms, as yet unidentified and inaccessible until power could be re-established to the doors.
The pair had quickly come up to a section of power system that was like nothing they had seen before and typically had yelled for Rush. It took Rush about an hour to establish that this was a protective system for providing extremely stable power and life support to whatever was in the room next to it, and almost a further hour and a half of hard work to establish roughly how it worked. By the end he was filthy and greasy.
The airman guarding him politely cleared her throat as he stood back, rubbing his filthy hands together and pushing the hair back from his sweaty forehead. Rush looked over at her throwing his hands up and his face furrowing in irritation.
“Come in number six your time is up.” He quipped in an angry voice.
The airman shifted and looked apologetic.
“Three hours sir,” she said, “Colonel’s orders.”
“We’ll wait for you for the room.” Said Brody with a rueful expression as if the admission was being dragged from him. “We’ll need your input.”
“Keep working on Eli.” He advised them.
As he walked off with the Airman he took a look at his hands.
“Could I at least be permitted a shower?” He asked her.
She looked at him critically then smiled.
“I think a shower would be in order sir. You can’t take over the ship from the shower.”
She stood in the doorway, faced away from him as he entered the shower and stripped. As soon as he’d entered he’d realised that this had been a bad idea as the clear image of Chloe naked had flashed across his mind. His libido seemed embarrassingly inclined to channel his inner teenager today and he was half hard as he stepped into the cubicle. As he began to slough off the dirt from his skin, it wasn’t his hands he was remembering and the clear memory of the drag of her nipples up his back as they sat on the shower room floor brought him fully erect.
He sighed as he took himself in hand. He hadn’t done this in years. Apart from his brief time with Amanda his libido had taken second place to the stress and strain he put himself under to work, to study, to achieve. Evidently two weeks of enforced respite in a room with Chloe had given it some sharp relief.
He fisted his hand around his cock, mind playing out their one and only encounter which in itself was disconcerting as it was in the flat light of his old vision. He rubbed himself with smooth strokes that sped up as the memory began to reach its conclusion and he leaned on the cubicle wall so he could cup his balls with his free hand. His mind finished here with the recitation of memory and began to supply him with new imagined images. When he came it was to the picture of Chloe above him, how she looked now, glowing in his night vision. Her mouth was parted, head thrown back, breasts with hardened nipples as she came around him, crying out in Ancient. As she told him she loved him again.
He came hard, in short jerks, semen hitting the cubicle floor as he milked his orgasm for the last drops of pleasure.
He felt like a fool for wanking over a girl at his age, but what man didn’t masturbate over the idea of a pretty girl he rationalised to himself. He washed himself thoroughly though, twice, before he stepped out of the shower.
Random dedication to the people on the Gateworld Rush Appreciation Thread who have a thing for Rush in the shower!
Chapter 7: Interrogations
Chloe and Rush face questioning.
Camile Wray stood in the doorway. She was flanked by two airmen.
“The colonel wants you to go and help Brody with something to do with Eli’s pod.” She said. “I’ve come to keep Chloe company.”
Rush looked at her.
“It’s okay.” Chloe said. “It’s for Eli.”
“Okay.” He said. He grabbed his waistcoat, shoved his feet into his shoes and left.
Camile sat on the chair.
“How are you?” she asked.
“Okay.” Said Chloe. “It’s a little strange, but I’m fine.”
Camile nodded sympathetically.
“How is Doctor Rush?”
Chloe’s mind skated over the four days since her admission to Rush and answered honestly.
“He’s been very kind.” She said. “Very correct.”
“Do you want to go for a walk?” Camile asked.
The hopeful look on Chloe’s face was it’s own response.
“N…Doctor Rush gets to go out regularly to fix things,” she said, “I’ve only been to the shower.”
“What about the observation deck?” asked Camile.
They walked out, the airman on the door dropping into step behind them. Chloe had to calm her breathing, and Camile patted her shoulder blade. Thy made there way to the observation deck and Chloe stopped. In her new sight the FTL was incredible, though she’d had a chance to see it before it was still amazing.
“It’s beautiful.” She breathed.
Camile looked at her. “What do you see?”
“I can’t explain it.” Chloe said. “It’s in colours you can’t see. We ought to start trying to name them.” She stood there for a while, watching the light pass. “I dream in flat light.” She said. “How things used to look. I don’t know how anything looks anymore. I don’t know what sunshine looks like.”
Camile pressed her lips together in a sympathetic half smile.
“It’s weird. I think it was kind of for the best that I was on Destiny when this happened, because I think on a planet there would have been even more to handle. Here, it’s all the same, same lights, same sounds, same smells.”
“But you’d like to experience a planet now?”
Chloe turned back to her.
“I don’t think it matters what I want.” She said. “I don’t think I’ll be seeing a planet for a long while. Can I see Eli now?”
The area around Eli’s pod was busy. Chloe could see Brody and Volker and a couple of other scientists leaning over the console with Rush. Brody was reading out things to Lisa Park who was sitting on the floor, commenting. As Chloe and Camile walked into the area Volker looked up at her and went beetroot, Chloe looked confused, then as the others looked up smiled weakly.
“I wanted to see Eli.”
They all looked at her uncomfortably.
“Oh for heaven’s sake,” snapped Rush, “she’s got exactly the same problems as me and you’ve been fine with me for the last two weeks. Just get on with it.”
The scientists all looked away, except Volker who frowned slightly then to her surprise gave her a small smile before he went back to work. Chloe sat down in front of Eli’s pod. Last time she had been here she had seen him in flat light. In her current sight he looked less real, like a statue, real people had heat patterns, and breath and heartbeats.
“Hello Eli.” She said quietly in Ancient. “I know you are asleep, I have been there too, but I want to let you know I miss you. I really miss you. I wish you were here to talk to, you always know what to say when things are hard to make me feel better. And things are really hard, really different; I need to tell you so much when you come out of there. We need to tell you so much. Come back Eli.”
She looked over to the console, the scientists were all bent over it talking. Except Rush, who was looking at her. He nodded, just once, and she took a breath, straightened her shoulders and stood.
“I’m ready to go back now.” She told Camile.
Another couple of days followed with no chance of escape. Destiny dropped out of FTL in the middle of the night waking them both and for three days the crew were apparently busy with whatever was on the planet. Food arrived, Rush continued teaching Chloe Ancient and Chloe continued trying to get Rush to do yoga, mainly for the amusement value. Finally, just after lunchtime the ship dropped back into FTL. Chloe saw the look of frustration on Rush’s face as they both looked up at the initialisation of the FTL drives, waiting for the inevitable lurch as the drive kicked in 4 seconds later.
“You miss it so much.” She said.
“I want my ship back.”
“Is she yours?”
“As much as she’s anyone’s.”
Chloe sighed and went back to reading Rush’s only, very mediocre, novel.
“Young sent me to get you both.” Greer said. They followed Greer out of the room the usual escort dropping in behind.
Young was waiting in the stones room pacing.
“General O’Neill wants to talk to you.” He said. “He’s found a couple of volunteers who are willing to risk exchanging with you.”
“Who?” asked Rush.
“He didn’t say. You’ll be restrained at that end.” He stood, hands behind his back. “If you’re willing to go, he’s asked to speak to Rush first.”
“What does he want?” Chloe asked.
“He wants to speak to you for himself. He wants to assess the situation.”
Young looked at them uncomfortably, head tipped forward slightly, waiting for the response.
“Fine.” Said Rush. “I’ll go.”
“Me too.” Added Chloe quickly.
Young gestured to the chair and Rush sat. Chloe took the seat next to him. Rush gave her knee a pat.
“It’ll be fine.”
Chloe sat uncomfortably on the edge of the chair. Rush looked at her with an unreadable expression, then picked up the stone and put it on the plate. She watched the moment of blankness then whoever was in the body went rigid.
Rush blinked, looking around the room. He was securely handcuffed to a chair, that he could feel, but the change in vision was off-putting. He took a moment to get used to the old sight, orientate himself and then he looked in the mirror.
“Daniel.” He said with surprise.
“He volunteered,” said a familiar voice behind him. “I agreed, I thought he’d have a better chance of dealing with the weird eyes and things.”
A hand hauled the chair round by the arm.
O’Neill was sitting in a chair opposite him, a zat on his lap. Rush blinked a few times then focussed on him. Apart from the two of them and the small table with the stones device and a plastic mirror the room was empty, not the usual room.
“Are you alright Doctor?”
“It’s a little disorienting seeing in flat light again.”
“Seeing without the extra light.” Rush said, his voice was peculiarly quiet to O'Neill. “It looks flat because I can’t see the air.”
“See the air?” O’Neill asked in a slow voice.
“We see heat.” Rush explained. “Air is clear to you but it's hot and cold, I can usually see it, like a double exposure on a film. We dream in flat light sometimes, but this is odd.”
O’Neill leaned back in his chair.
“Don’t jerk me around General,” Rush said angrily, “you’ve been thoroughly briefed, no doubt by Young, Camille and Lieutenant Johansen. Doctor Jackson’s eyes don’t show me everything I’m used to, I can’t smell you or hear your heartbeat or breathing, which to be honest I hadn’t realised how much I’d begun to rely on to read people. It’s too quiet here by far. I’m used to constant ship noise in frequencies you can’t even hear.”
They sized each other up for a few seconds.
“Young thinks you and Miss Armstrong are turning into aliens. Apparently Lieutenant Johansen and Camille Wray think you probably won’t turn into an alien now but aren't willing to commit to that. Additionally Camille Wray thinks Miss Armstrong has post traumatic stress disorder, a diagnosis which she is professionally qualified to make.”
“I don’t think either myself or Chloe are turning into aliens.” Rush disagreed. “What Young thinks are Chloe having absences are sleep disturbances and panic attacks. I’ve personally had nothing even remotely resembling an absence.”
“But you’ll admit something’s messing with your body?”
“Well I can’t really deny that can I?”
The general leaned back in his chair. “Young also says you’ve developed quite a relationship with Miss Armstrong.”
Rush snorted. “I’m very fond of Chloe.”
“Not quite what Colonel Young was insinuating.”
“Young has a mind like an open sewer.”
“You are sleeping with her though.”
Rush snorted again. “We’re sleeping in the same bed at the moment yes, fully dressed, sleeping, nothing else. She has night terrors and sleep walks if she’s on her own. She’s lonely and scared.”
“So you sleep with her.”
“I’m very fond of Chloe.” Rush repeated. “And I don’t see what bed I sleep in has to do with whether I’m an alien or not.”
“Young suggested one of the reasons you didn’t tell him about your problem was that you were protecting Chloe, who has a much bigger problem turning into an alien again.”
“Total bollocks.” scoffed Rush. “If either Chloe or myself thought we were putting the ship at risk we’d have come forward immediately. We'd always planned that we would come forward as soon as we had managed to release Eli.”
“But you got found out.” Pointed out O’Neill.
“And three weeks later we’re still locked in a room and Eli is still locked in a broken stasis pod.” Countered Rush.
O'Neill paused to consider him.
“Reports don’t give much credence to your reliability.” The general suggested.
“Reports from Colonel Telford and Colonel Young don’t give much credence to my reliability. I don’t trust them and they don’t trust me. On at least one occasion each they have disregarded my expert opinion to undertake an exercise with the Stargate which has resulted in us almost being killed.” He said flatly.
General O’Neill raised an eyebrow at him.
“You’ve had the reports General.” Rush said. “Colonel Telford’s return to earth was a prime example.”
“Colonel Young agreed to stay with you on that occasion.”
Rush made a vague gesture with his hand, cut short by the handcuff.
“He agreed with me about the value of Destiny’s mission and our mission on Destiny.”
“Would you return if you could?” O’Neill asked.
“No.” Rush said flatly. “If we had a way to visit and go back, I might be interested in that. But no, my place is on Destiny. I also can’t see that given my current condition I would find myself very welcome on Earth anymore and I think the IOA would have concerns even if they were certain I was not compromised. I think they would see Chloe and myself as a nightmare waiting to happen.”
“And Miss Armstrong?”
“Has indicated that she also, does not wish to return to Earth, unless working for the SGC.” Rush said. “But you can ask her yourself.”
“Being realistic, even if you aren’t compromised, neither of you would be allowed to just disappear back into society.”
“Our best case scenario is a continued job at the SGC and worst case scenario is lab rat.” Rush said bluntly.
“Well it’s lucky we’re on Destiny then, isn’t it?” Said Rush.
“My honest opinion? Yeah.”
“Who is it?” Chloe asked quietly.
“Daniel Jackson. Jack and I, General O’Neill, thought I might manage the sensory overload better.”
He looked around the room uncomprehendingly, his gaze taking in Chloe, the two airmen with guns and Young waiting by the door.
“Doctor Jackson.” Murmured Young.
“Everett!” said Daniel with surprise. “I didn’t recognise you. This takes some getting used to.”
“It helps to focus on touch to start with,” Chloe offered, “that doesn’t change much.”
Daniel turned to face her. “You must be Chloe.” He said.
“Mmm hmm.” she said as she nodded, unsure if he could see enough to see the nod.
He looked around again, towards the ceiling and walls.
“What’s the high hum?” he asked.
“FTL engines,” she said instantly, “the low breathy rumble is the air in the ventilation systems. The ticking is heat expansion in the bulkheads and the thudding is heartbeats. I’m the slower one.”
Young looked from one to the other, Daniel Jackson seemed fascinated and he had to admit he hadn’t realised the extent of the pair’s hearing.
“The smells are…?” Daniel’s voice tailed off as he sniffed.
“The really sour one is probably us.” Said Young with a laugh. Daniel flinched at the noise.
“Well,” said Daniel, “yeah, but there’s a lot of metal too, a powdery smell and something else…”
Chloe shifted awkwardly.
“That’s sex Doctor Jackson, someone in here had sex earlier.” There was some awkward shifting. “The odd powdery smell is the root porridge we had for breakfast.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow.
“You’re on SGC time right? Wasn’t that hours ago?”
“Mmm hmm.” She nodded.
“This is really quite weird,” said Daniel, “I can’t really see anything and the air is glowing.”
“That’s heat.” She said. “It takes a while to see what you want to see and not be aware of all of it at the same time. You’ll get a headache after a while trying.”
The stone tablet hummed into life again and Chloe and Daniel both turned away reflexively.
“UV.” Said Chloe nervously. “I guess I’d better go.”
She reached out and placed a second stone on the tablet.
O’Neill stood and walked to the door, opening it and gesturing. He turned back and walked into the room, followed by a woman Rush recognised as the senior doctor at the SGC.
“Doctor Lam has agreed to exchange with Chloe, she’s interested in her...adaptations also.”
“Doctor Rush.” The other Doctor greeted him politely, then sat down in the other chair by the stones and waited as O’Neill handcuffed her into the chair.
After a moment she went blank and then looked scared and startled.
“Chloe.” Said Rush urgently. “It’s me.”
“Nicholas?” she asked, blinking and trying to focus.
“Miss Armstrong.” O’Neill said and pulled her chair round, sitting back down with the zat on his lap again.
“Hello General. This is weird.” Chloe said, looking around. “It’s all flat.”
She focussed on O’Neill.
“Camille Wray suggested you would be more comfortable if I let Doctor Rush be present when I spoke to you.”
Chloe nodded and swallowed. “It’s been difficult.” She said calmly. “I...have problems when I’m alone.”
She tilted her head to either side then looked at Rush with a curious look.
“Are you alright?” O’Neill asked.
“I can’t hear your heartbeat.” She said.
Her voice sounded strained.
“It’s alright Chloe.” Rush reassured her.
She took a few deep breaths.
“I’ll be okay. It’s too quiet here.” She looked back at the General. “Sorry General.”
“We’ve been stuck in a room together for three weeks now.” Rush stated. “You can always hear each other’s heartbeats. It’s a constant.”
“Like a baby.” The General said.
“Exactly like a baby.” Said Chloe. “They sound different too.”
“Yours sound different or everyone’s sound different.”
“Both” Chloe twisted her wrists uncomfortably in the restraints. “Everyone’s is a little different, ours run slower.”
General O’Neill leaned on the arm of the chair. Chloe had the impression that his manner was very deceptive. She watched his expression carefully.
“Okay guys. Tell me all about it, from the beginning.”
Chloe began from the point they stepped out of the pods, and tried to cover as much of the actual facts as possible. O'Neill listened, interjecting the occasional query for clarification, until she came to the end of her recitation.
“Doctor Rush says you don’t want to come back to Earth, but if you do want to come back, you want to be posted to the SGC.” General O’Neill’s statement was accompanied by a tilt of the head.
Chloe looked at Rush and then at O’Neill.
“Yes,” she said, “although I don’t think what I wanted would matter now if I come back.”
“What do you think would matter?” he asked.
“How many tests they could do on me to see what has happened to us.” She said. “I think they would lock us up and experiment on us. I think the IOA would find us very interesting”
O’Neill shifted in his chair.
“You would certainly go through a period of….evaluation.” he hedged. “But I don’t usually let people in my command be locked up for nothing.”
She looked at him a moment weighing her options then decided to go for honesty.
“I can’t imagine ever not being in space, not being involved in this.” She said. “I don't want to go back to my old life. I don’t care about the difficulties, about all the bad things. I want to be on Destiny.”
Rush leaned forward in his chair.
“For what it’s worth General, in my opinion, with Chloe’s brain and abilities if we ever did make it back she’d be wasted anywhere except with the SGC. She’s apparently a genius level intellect now and her abilities with calculations are unmatched, she's calculating FTL and other Ancient technology based calculations quicker than we can program them.”
The general nodded.
“All friendly aliens on Earth work for the SGC.” He said noncommittally. “There’s another problem though.”
“What?” asked Rush.
O’Neill turned to Chloe.
“Colonel Young says that you volunteered to take one of the later slots with the stones to come back and visit your mom but that you weren’t able to return before you got sick.”
“Mrs Armstrong thinks that we’re preventing you from coming back. She’s made some threats that we’d prefer she didn’t carry through.”
“Can I see her?”
“We’re bringing her here.” Said O’Neill. "Before the IOA decide to become involved, screw things up and your Mom causes a major political incident."
"Are you allowed to do that?"
"I'm pre-empting the problem before anyone tells me I'm not." he said blandly.
Chloe's brow furrowed.
“What do I tell her?”
“That I’m an alien?”
“You know her better than I do. Personally I don’t care what you tell her as long as it keeps her happy. Find something that works and we’ll stick to it. I’m sure that the IOA would have an opinion, that’s why I’m doing this now.”
Chloe twisted her wrists in the handcuffs.
“Will we be locked up like this.”
“You aren’t sending Dr Rush back are you?”
“I'll stay.” Rush reassured her.
O’Neill stood and called in a soldier. He handed him the zat
“Don’t try anything.” Warned O’Neill. "I can't leave you handcuffed, but if you try anything I'll have the Sergeant here zat you."
O'Neill unlocked first Chloe then Rush. Rush sat rubbing his wrists, lips pursed as Chloe stretched her arms. O’Neill walked out of the room, leaving the soldier to guard them. Rush reached out and took Chloe’s hand and they waited.
“It will be alright.” He said in Ancient. “It will be fine.”
She gave him a tight lipped smile.
About twenty minutes later the door was opened and her mother walked in.
Chloe stood and they flew into each other’s arms. Mrs Armstrong hugged Chloe for a long time.
“What’s going on Chloe?” Her mom’s voice was strained as she stepped back.
“I’m in quarantine mom.”
“In quarantine. We picked up some sort of bug on a planet and I’m fine now but they’re keeping us in quarantine just in case.”
“Why are they keeping you in quarantine if you’re fine.”
“It’s just a precaution mom, the bug made us pretty crazy for a bit. That’s why I’ve not been back.” Chloe sat down in the chair and her mother followed, sitting in the chair vacated by Colonel O’Neill.
“And who is we?” her mother demanded.
“This is Doctor Rush.” Chloe said gesturing to him. “He’s in quarantine too.”
Mrs Armstrong turned to him with forced politeness.
“Pleased to meet you Doctor Rush. My husband mentioned you a few times, he was a great admirer of your work.”
“Thank you Mrs Armstrong.” Rush acknowledged. “He was a good man, I had a lot of respect for him.”
“Thank you Doctor.”
He changed subject. “I can assure you Chloe’s right, we are fine, it’s just to ensure everyone’s safety. They’ve done it several times with crew members to protect us from potential health problems. While Destiny is travelling between stars it’s very quiet anyway, not a real problem for either of us.”
Her brow furrowed.
“It’s just the two of you then.”
“Fortunately yes,” Said Rush pleasantly, “none of the rest of the crew appear to have succumbed.”
She turned back to Chloe. “So will you be able to come back again?”
“Not for a while Mom,” Chloe apologised. “We’ve been sick and TJ is a little worried that using the stones is a bit of a strain on us, she wants to make sure we’re completely well before we can come back for any length of time. That’s why they won’t let us off the base, why we've got the medic here to keep an eye on us in case we need to go back quickly.”
They could see Mrs Armstrong turn it over in her mind.
“If it’s for your safety then I guess I’ll have to agree. It’s just been so long, and I’ve been so worried and then when they said you were all awake but you didn’t come back, well I thought the worst.”
“It’s fine mom. When we came out of stasis we went straight out to get supplies and that’s where Doctor Rush and I picked up the bug. We were in the infirmary for a bit and now we’re in quarantine.” She repeated. “Anyway, we haven’t got long mom, tell me all the news, how’s everyone doing?”
Chapter 8: Relationships and errors
What seems like a good idea may not be...
Rush had been summoned to review the latest plans for defrosting Eli and the new plans to initialise two of the maintenance drones. He was sat in one of the makeshift labs, explaining to Colonel Young precisely why Brody’s latest plan was doomed to failure.
Lieutenant Scott walked in.
“Brody sent some more notes.”
He walked over and proffered the notes from Brody on a clipboard. Rush took them then stopped and sniffed.
“I know what you’re doing.” He told Scott with cold malice. He turned to Young his face furious. “Get him out of my sight before I do something I’ll regret.”
Young was shocked.
“What has the Lieutenant done?”
Rush shook his head. “I’ll let the Lieutenant explain that. Suffice it to say I have a lot better sense of smell than I did. Chloe’s is better. Don’t let him near her until he’s had a shower.”
Rush stalked out of the room with the clipboard, his guard detail falling in behind at the door. Young turned to Scott. The young lieutenant was looking shocked, but also mortified.
“Lieutenant.” The order was obvious, and Scott followed him out of the room.
Young shut the door of the room that served him as an office and sat down in the chair. Young stood at attention in front of the table.
“What was Rush talking about?” he demanded.
Scott gulped nervously. “I screwed up sir.”
“Would you care to elaborate?”
“I got drunk last night and was...intimate...with a friend. We both realised it was a stupid mistake when we woke up this morning.”
Young’s face was almost as furious as Rush’s had been. “I can’t punish you for this,” he said, “as I’ve suspended all the regulations on fraternisation. However, I ought to censure you for crass stupidity.”
Scott shrugged. “I can’t give any excuse sir except I was lonely and drunk.”
“You’re a fool.” Said Young.
“It’s difficult sir, especially when I know she isn’t alone at night.”
“Fully dressed with a man twice her age and watched 24/7 by a Kino.” Young snapped. “You know as well as I do there is nothing happening there now even if either of them were interested.”
Scott looked shame faced. “The way he treats her, I think...”
“You think what Lieutenant.”
“I think he likes her.”
“I know he likes her,” said Young, “although I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess in what way. I don’t like the man, but I’ll point out for your sake, that his behaviour in so far as it relates to her seems to be the only part of his actions that haven’t seemed entirely questionable.” Young sighed. “Don’t disappoint me again. If you can’t handle this relationship, then you’ll have to deal with that. Dismissed.”
“I’ve reviewed the footage Jack, and I can see why Young’s worried. Her apparent nightmares and absences over the years are all very similar.” Daniel Jackson’s face was concerned although he lounged in a chair. “Camile Wray is verging to the opinion that this time it’s just PTSD, but isn’t certain.”
They both looked at the door as someone tapped on it.
An airman walked in with two coffees on a tray, put them down then left. They waited till the door had closed behind him before restarting the conversation.
“Rush?” asked Jack.
“He’s never had any absences at all according to Colonel Young and Lieutenant Johansen. Although the fact that they keep speaking Ancient is bothering Colonel Young a lot.”
O’Neill said nothing, just raised an eyebrow in query.
“It’s nothing unusual,” said Daniel. “It’s the way I taught Nick. I guess they just want a bit of privacy. What’s really bugging Young is that Doctor Volker has refused to translate a couple of conversations because they’re personal.”
Jack added two sugars to his coffee and stirred.
“Of course. Both Chloe talking about Lieutenant Scott, but at the end of the first she admits she’s in love with Rush as well.”
“Saw that one coming.” Said Jack.
Daniel shrugged. “I’m not sure how much they’d agree with you over there. They’re a little closer to the problem. Unless Dale Volker translates that conversation, they’re unlikely to want to think that in light of her pre-existing relationship with Lieutenant Scott. I get the impression she’s usually pretty conventional.”
Jack reached into his desk and brought out a paper bag of cookies.
“You think they’re too close to the problem?”
Daniel shrugged. “Probably.”
He took a cookie out of the proffered bag. They drank coffee and munched cookies.
“Dr Lam has now swapped with both.” Jack said. “Says they’re pretty identical in their senses. Chloe’s sense of smell is a little better, Rush’s hearing appears to go a little higher.”
Daniel nodded. “It’s pretty incredible Jack, totally overwhelming. The amount of sound is staggering and I gave up trying to see for a good hour.”
“They said something about constant background noise on the ship. Found it weird here.”
Daniel nodded again.
“You can hear the noise from the engines and life support all the time, and the heartbeats of anyone in the room.”
“Cool.” Said O’Neill laconically.
The door alarm went, then a couple of moments later it opened and admitted Young, Camile and TJ.
“Colonel Young.” Said Rush.
Rush was sat on the sofa reading, Chloe blinked sleepily at them from the bed where she had evidently been dozing. Rush got up and moved over to sit down on the bed next to Chloe. He gestured them to take a seat on the couch.
“We’ve been reviewing your situation with Dr Lam and General O’Neill.” Young said, not taking a seat.
“I gathered that.” Said Rush.
Camile sat on the sofa, TJ stood by Young.
“Dr Lam agrees with TJ and Camile that you present less of a risk to the ship than Chloe.”
Chloe’s breathing stuttered. Rush’s hand automatically reached out behind him to touch her leg.
“And the scientists are campaigning for your release,” Young added, “so I’m going to allow you limited access to the ship.” Young clasped his hands behind his back. “You’ll both be supervised at all times. I’m also going to have the Kino removed in the day time, only have you observed at night when Chloe has had her absences.”
Rush felt Chloe relax a little under his hand.
“You’ll still be reporting to me for weekly medicals,” added TJ, “and Camile is going to do a full psychological assessment on you both.”
Rush scowled and felt Chloe tense again.
“I was asked to by General O’Neill.” Camile shrugged. “Not negotiable.”
The promised freedom took a day to materialise. Matt came the next morning to collect Chloe and tell Rush his presence was required by the scientists. He didn’t say what for. It was close enough to lunchtime that they were able to go to the messhall to eat and Chloe studiously ignored the strange looks and whispered comments which people obviously didn’t realise she could hear.
The conversation was stilted, but she got the impression that Matt was trying very hard. They went to visit Eli, glacial in his pod, and spent a while looking at the FTL light show in the Observation lounge before Chloe asked if they could just walk.
They walked along the corridor in silence. Chloe reached out and took his hand. After a moment he squeezed her hand.
“I know it’s been hard.” She said. “But I do love you, it’s just…”
“Complicated.” He finished.
They walked a little further, before he stopped and turned her to face him.
“I need you to know I love you.” His face was earnest, “I know I’m not dealing with this very well but…”
They looked into each other’s eyes and he bent and pressed his lips to hers. She kissed him back, winding her arms around his neck.
“I’m sorry Chloe.” He said against her lips. “I’m so sorry.”
She silenced him by sucking his bottom lip into her mouth and he gave up trying to talk and kissed her back, re-exploring her with his lips and tongue. They stood there for several minutes, just kissing before a group of military crew members walked past sniggering.
She pulled away, grabbed him by the hand and led him the short distance to his quarters. He hesitated on the doorstep, holding her back. She looked up at him curiously.
“Are you sure we should…?” he asked.
“Totally sure,” she said smiling, “it’s a safe day and I want this, I want you.”
She pulled him into the room and as the door shut, pulled her shirt over her head and shed her bra. He moved over to her and kissed her, running his hands softly over her breasts, dragging his fingertips over her nipples until they were tight and erect, rolling them between his thumb and finger. He broke the kiss to lower his mouth to one of her breasts. He kissed her nipple then ran his tongue over it and around it making her gasp, before taking it in his mouth and sucking gently.
Matt put a hand on each of her hips, supporting her as he lavished attention on one breast then the other. He left them to kiss his way down her belly to the waistband of her yoga pants, sliding them down over her hips to bare her sex. He kissed down over the soft hair until he reached the divide and holding her in place pressed his face into her hair to dive his tongue in and run the tip over her clitoris. She gasped and tried to move but he held her in place, teasing her with just the tip of his tongue until she groaned in frustration.
Finally he let go, sliding her yoga pants down so she could step out of them. Kneeling on the floor, he grabbed her ankle as she stepped out of the pants, and positioned her leg over his shoulder so she could balance and he could fully reach her. He ran his tongue the length of her labia, licked roughly over her clitoris and then back again to push it into her. She was stood naked and gasping as fully dressed he knelt on the floor, bringing her with his tongue.
“So close!” she murmured, “so close!”
He didn’t stop what he was doing but a hand moved away, then he was throwing his belt onto the bed, and sliding his pants down as he slipped out from under her knee. Still holding her leg up he stood and entered her in one move. She hooked the leg around him for balance as he found a rhythm, sliding into her, arms wrapped round her.
“I love you Chloe, I love you.”
She came shuddering against him, and a few strokes later, still riding the aftershocks of her orgasm felt him come inside her with a gasp and a long staccato exhalation.
They stood there swaying.
“Wow.” Said Matt.
“Wow.” She said smiling.
She unhooked her leg from his waist and they parted. She reached over to pick up her clothes and he grinned. She sat on the edge of the bed to pull on her trousers and stopped. As she shifted on the mattress, smell wreathed up.
“Are you okay,” he asked smiling.
She made herself smile.
“I’m fine.” She said, “I think my three hours is up though.”
She walked back into the room. He was sitting on the chair. She knew as soon as he looked up at her he must smell what had happened. If she hadn’t been looking directly at him, she wouldn’t have seen the look that flashed across his face and then was blanked. He nodded at her, face calm. She stood there for a moment before walking over to the bed.
“I’m sorry.” She said.
“There’s nothing to be sorry for.” He said.
His voice was emotionless, but his heartbeat had speeded up and she could hear the tenseness of his shoulders and muscles in the sound of his breathing. His scent had changed and she knew he was annoyed, even if he was not willing to admit to it out loud.
She lay down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. This was a conversation she was not ready to have. After a while the tears came, silently, and she turned her face away so he would not see, rolling over and pulling the blanket over herself.
Rush watched her back, her shoulders moved silently, just the hitch to her breathing giving away her tears. She was not his to own, but whilst he knew he had no right to, he couldn’t feel anything but angry. He had heard the anxiety in her voice and her breathing. The knowledge was inescapable, no lies about feelings possible here. He got up, went to the door and grabbed the kino from outside where it floated by the guard on their door. Letting the kino float up to the ceiling he looked at her on the bed, scowling. She wasn't looking at him.
He gritted his teeth and went to lay on the mattress, too late to find an escort to take the walk out of this room he wanted to take to escape the situation. He turned out the light and listened to her cry herself to sleep, feeling like a bastard but angry enough not to back down, finally finding sleep himself.
Chapter 9: Nightmares, pleasure and embarrassment
Rush cannot resist...
He was woken as she stood up from the bed. His night vision showed the room in warmth and chill, faint light from the FTL drive a mere flicker from the port hole. She walked over to the porthole and looked out, and then put her hands against the wall either side. As soon as she touched it her posture changed, became frantic and she started to bang her flat hands against the wall, making a strange muffled noise. He knew what she was seeing through the port hole, he’d seen it himself. Monsters through thick glass.
Rush stood, walked over and took her by the upper arms, turning her around and pinning her to him as she started to lash out, struggling against invisible enemies. She smelled of sweat, fear and sex.
Deep in the nightmare she struggled still. He let go with a hand, using his weight to pin her against the wall. He grabbed the back of her head and turned it to face him.
“Chloe, wake up!”
He shook her. With a sudden intake of breath that pressed her chest up against him her eyes finally focussed on him from a distance of inches. She was breathing heavily, eyes wet, beads of sweat glistening across her forehead in the faint FTL-light, he could feel her trembling.
It was instinctive, primal, inescapable as his hand fisted in her hair and he kissed her hard, his beard crushing against her face, trapping her between him and the wall. She was startled, body rigid as his tongue pushed its way into her mouth, tasting and pressing. For a moment he really wasn’t sure what she’d do as he shoved his hand down the back of her yoga pants, gripping her buttock and pushing against her. And then she was kissing him back hard, struggling to free her hands, grabbing his head with one hand and his butt with the other.
It was violent and painful and oh so wanted as she grabbed a fistful of his hair to pull him round to a better angle. She moaned into the kiss and her hand slid up to his hip, fingernails digging into his back making him growl. She ground up against him.
He pulled back enough to speak.
“This is a really fucking stupid idea.”
She looked at him, panting slightly, lips red and bruised.
“I think we’ve convicted ourselves enough already anyway.” He said as he clawed his t-shirts over his head in a single mass and threw them at the kino where they hung, like a Halloween ghost in mid air. She yanked him in again by the hair to kiss him, scoring down his back with fingernails.
“Shut up.” She said. “Don’t think.”
They kissed some more before he pulled away, grabbing her by the wrist and pulling her back to the bed. He dragged her shirt off over her head, spun her round off balance and shoved her backwards onto the bed. Spread eagled on the bed in front of him, he reached down and grabbed her yoga pants and underwear at either hip and slid the whole lot off in one go. His trousers joined hers on the floor and he was on top of her, hands sliding possessively over her, rubbing her breasts and pinching a nipple.
She reached for him and he grabbed her wrists pinning them one handed above her head. The shift in his weight pressed his hardness into her groin and she groaned and rocked up into him.
“Do it please.” She said.
Rush slid his hand in between them, fingers rubbing along the crease of her, finding it wet already. He knew what he wanted. He wanted to own her completely, to touch her all over, to drown her in his smell, cover any trace of Scott’s scent on her. He took a deep breath to regain control of himself. They were in an awkward position, legs hanging over the end of the bed and he slid off her, standing between her knees.
She did as he told her, scooting herself up to lay head propped up on the pillows, lips slightly apart, knees parted. Her sex was a beacon of glowing warmth in his night vision, face flushed and luminous, nipples cooler peaks to her torso.
He moved up onto the bed between her knees, pinned her wrists again and pushed himself into her with a long exhalation of sound. She pressed up against him with a moan and he stopped still. It would be so easy to lose himself in her, just thrust until he came, but he needed her to submit, to come, be his.
“Nicholas.” Her voice was a plea.
He began to push into her again, using his free hand to hold her hip down, long deep strokes pressing up against her pelvis. She was trying to push up against him, make him go faster, and he leaned into her, hair brushing her face, had her pinned to the bed, pushing himself into her again and again. And then suddenly she yanked her hands free, one sinking nails into his shoulder blade, the other skimming up his beard, his cheek, to grab him painfully by the hair and force his head down into her neck, to pull him closer to her.
All semblance of control evaporated. He bit down hard where his head was pressed against her, on the muscle between her neck and shoulder, and thrust into her hard. With a cry her orgasm hit her, yoga trained core muscles bucking her up into him, clenching and releasing around him letting him in deeper. With a cry of his own he poured his release into her in a series of ecstatic, shuddering, incoherent strokes deep into her core.
They collapsed together, panting. Once he got his wind back he pushed himself up on his elbows to look at her.
“Maybe I’m the most foolish man in the universe, but I’d do that again in heartbeat.” He said, kissing her lips gently. His own lips felt bruised. She ran her fingers through his hair and smiled at him. He rolled sideways, pulling her with him, tight against him.
“Where do we go from here?” he murmured into her hair.
“We go to sleep.” She said. “Let’s worry about what happens in the morning. I don’t want to worry now.”
He kissed her again, they wrapped themselves around each other and sleep came quickly.
They were both awakened by footsteps in the hall. The door alert pinged. Chloe looked at him in concern.
“It’s okay. I’ll go.”
He sat up, the cover falling away, partly uncovering her and she shivered. He reached out a smoothed a hand over her naked hip.
“It’s probably Young anyway.” He grimaced.
He stood, pulling the cover back over her, then snagged his boxers from the floor and pulled them on before walking to the door. Camile Wray stood there with a tray with three mugs on.
“Tea?” she asked.
Rush tilted his head back slightly to look at her, furrows appearing round his eyes as he gave her a slightly disbelieving look. He stepped aside to let her in. Camile walked in and put the tea down on the table.
Rush retrieved his t-shirts from the Kino and threw it out into the hall, then taking two of the mugs of tea sat down on the bed next to Chloe on the bed. Camile raised an eyebrow at the state of his back as he pulled his t-shirts on. He handed Chloe her top and she pulled it on under the covers.
“Young sent you.” He said angrily to Camile once they were decent.
“There was a discussion after TJ reviewed the kino from last night.”
Chloe could feel the blush heating her cheeks.
“You’ll no doubt be pleased to know that TJ refused to let anyone else view the footage, although she explained the salient points.”
“And Colonel Young is pissed off with me.” Said Rush.
He could hear Chloe’s heart pounding and the stress in her breathing pattern. Rush moved up the bed towards her a little and put an arm round Chloe. She tensed, looking at Camile then relaxed into him, resting her head on his cheek.”
“He’s concerned,” Said Camile, “mainly about the fact that Chloe has slept with both you and Lieutenant Scott which may cause problems in the functioning of the crew. At least in that I had to agree. It could cause problems considering your senior roles.”
“As usual there’s no secrets on Destiny is there now?”
“Keeping interpersonal relationships stable in small isolated communities is vital.”
Chloe reached out for the tea and Rush passed it to her automatically. She took a sip.
“I was going to ask you what your long term intentions were,” said Camile, “but your body language is giving that away.”
“To be honest I hadn’t thought that far yet.” Rush said.
“Matt’s sleeping with Vanessa James as well anyway.” Said Chloe.
Camile looked shocked and Rush craned his head to look at her in surprise. She looked up at him, then at Camile.
“Her sweat is ingrained into his bed.” Said Chloe calmly. “She’s spent at least a couple of nights in there.”
“Weren’t you angry.” Asked Camile.
Chloe shrugged again, looking down.
“For a while,” she said, “then I realised I don’t have any moral high ground. He still loves me. I still love him.” She looked up at Camile intently. “I just love Nicholas as well.” She looked away again. “I have no idea what he feels for Vanessa.”
There was quiet. Camile turned her tea mug in her hand.
“Relationship counselling for the deranged.” Muttered Rush pinching the bridge of his nose with his free hand.
“You’d be surprised how much I’ve done,” Camile sighed, “there’s a very unequal gender balance on this ship and some people are entering into the sort of relationships they’d never have considered on Earth.”
She sipped her tea deliberately and they got the message not to ask any further.
“So what are you suggesting we do now Camile?” asked Rush. “I’m sure you have an opinion.”
“I won’t tell you what to do.” She said. “You got yourselves here, you can make up your own minds. I think you need to tell Lieutenant Scott about this and that you are aware of his arrangement with Lieutenant James. How he’ll take it…?” She gave an uncertain hand gesture.
“I don’t think you’ll have any option but tell him,” warned Camile, “unless the teeth marks in Chloe’s neck are his?” she asked a little mockingly.
Chloe didn’t meet Camile’s eyes and Rush scowled.
“I’ll leave you both.” Camile drained her mug and stood. “Probably best to uncover the kino before you go to sleep next time though. I’ll see you both for your evaluations.”
They sat there for a while after Camile had left. Finally Chloe spoke.
“That was probably the most horrific experience of my life.”
“Oh it wasn’t so bad love. It could have been Young.” He said lightly.
“I’m going to have to tell him.” She didn’t need to explain who. “Everyone is going to find out what’s going on.”
Rush took a breath in, held it for a second meditatively, then let it out nodding.
“I think they’re going to get the idea anyway.”
Chloe cringed. “Maybe I’ll just stay here forever.”
Rush gave a dirty laugh. He pulled her gently round onto his lap and kissed her, pushing the hair back off her face, seeing tears course down her cheeks.
“I’ll not let anyone hurt you.” He said roughly.
He tucked her head into his neck, wrapping his arms round her and holding her to his chest.
“Can you deal with this?” she asked. “You, me, Matt, Vanessa.”
“I’ll just have to.”
Chapter 10: Anger and the taste of blood
Chloe goes to speak to Matt
The airman left Chloe at the door. She walked in nervously. Matt was reading from a laptop which looked like the one Lisa Park had previously been using. He looked up and smiled as she came in.
“We need to talk.” She said quietly.
His face became concerned and he put the laptop aside. Chloe swallowed.
“I love you and you love me.” She said.
“Of course,” he said, “you know I do.”
He gestured, inviting her to sit but she shook her head. She swallowed again.
“But you’re sleeping with Lieutenant James and I slept with Nicholas last night.”
Matt stood, mouth open.
“You can’t deny it,” she said, “I could smell it in your bed, you, her and sex, and not a faint smell.”
She put a hand out.
“Stop Matt, I’m sorry, this is…”
Matt’s face registered pain, then anger.
“So you fucked Rush to get me back?”
Chloe’s hands tightened into fists.
“I slept with Nicholas because I wanted to.” She said angrily. “I love you Matt, but I love him too.”
Matt’s eyes ran up and down her.
“I can’t believe you let him touch you like that.” Matt’s voice was disbelieving. “He’s….” he broke off searching for words.
“Old?” she asked.
“Old enough to be your father, deceitful, untrustworthy, he’s the one that stranded us out here in the first place!”
Chloe stepped forward angrily, taking a deep breath to speak again, stepping into the lamp light. Matt looked at her, his eyes focussed on something and his face creased in rage. He shoved past her and stormed out through the open door. The airman – airwoman – stood just outside the doorway.
“That was painful.” Noted Deacon. “You didn’t close the door.” She apologised.
“What just happened?” Chloe asked a little bemused.
“I think your collar came open.” She pointed out.
Chloe’s eyes widened.
“Mess hall.” Said Deacon. “Come on.”
“It’s where Doctor Rush is, I checked already, we’d better go.”
They ran, drawing surprised looks as they barrelled past crew members on their way to eat. As they skidded to a halt in the doorway, Matt strode up to Rush who was sitting, discussing something on a laptop with Brody.
“You bastard!” he said and hit Rush.
Rush rocked backwards under the blow and grabbed at the table to stop himself falling. The mess was silent as Rush brought his fingertips to his lip and they came away bloody. He looked up at the Lieutenant in front of him.
“Thank you Lieutenant Scott for airing our dirty laundry in public.” Rush said with icy sarcasm. Scott hit him again, opening a second cut on his eyebrow.
“How could you take advantage of her?!”
Greer stood from his table and grabbed Scott’s arm from behind.
“Not again Lieutenant.” He said mildly, but all Scott’s attention was focussed forward.
Rush’s laugh was a harsh bark as he wiped blood from his mouth.
“I took advantage of her?” he demanded. He spat blood on the floor. “I wasn’t the one who told her I loved her whilst screwing someone else Lieutenant.”
Scott surged forward, Greer grabbed his other shoulder, holding him back.
“I’m not stupid enough to make her choose between us Lieutenant and if you bother to listen to her, she’s too kind to make you choose between her and...your other friend.” Rush spat more blood on the floor. “Grow up Lieutenant. Stop acting like a teenager.”
Scott struggled against Greer’s grip.
“That would be a really bad idea.” Greer warned him.
Scott stopped pulling against Greer, then wrenching himself round and out of Greer’s hold stormed out of the mess hall. As Chloe turned to watch him stride past, she realised Colonel Young had been standing behind her, watching the proceedings. To Chloe’s surprise he gave her a sympathetic look, eyes looking tired or maybe a little haunted, and reached out and squeezed her shoulder, before walking off after Scott. She turned back. In the mess hall, Rush turned to Brody.
“Well after that little piece of impromptu soap opera, I think I’ll go and wash my face.” He said sardonically, his voice pitched to carry.
A few uncomfortable laughs broke the silence, Rush turned to leave. Chloe walked into the room, which dropped back into silence instantly. She walked up to him, put her arms round his neck and kissed him, plastering her body to his. He tasted of blood and flinched in pain as she kissed him, but responded in kind, wrapping his arms round her. For five long seconds they kissed deeply in the centre of the mess hall before Chloe pulled back and wiped his blood from her mouth. She took him by the arm and walked out.
“And if that ain’t nailing your colours to the mast, I don’t know what is.” Said Greer to a stunned room.
Young found Scott in the Observation lounge, leaning on his hands on the railing, staring out at the FTL. He leaned on the rail beside him, catching wet glints from his face. Scott said nothing for several minutes and Young watched the light show offering silent support.
“I don’t understand how she can love two people.” He said finally.
“You’re asking the wrong man about that.” Young said ruefully.
Scott fell silent again.
“Did you really love both of them?” he finally asked.
“Yes,” Said Young, “yes I did. I do.”
“But you’re divorced from your wife.”
They fell silent again.
“How do you feel about Lieutenant James?” Asked Young.
Scott turned to look at him briefly in surprise before turning back to the window.
“I don’t know.” He said. “Did Chloe tell you?”
“No, I already knew. I’m your CO, it’s my business to know what’s going on.”
Scott shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other.
“I don’t know.” He said. “James and I...”
“Had a thing going at Icarus Base.” Said Young.
Scott gave him another surprised look.
“I’m not an idiot Lieutenant.” Young said. “But you didn’t get caught.”
“Yeah.” Scott paused. “And then we were drunk and I was telling her all about it and then we were in bed. It just happened, and then it happened again.”
They stared out of the window a while longer.
“I shouldn’t have hit Rush.” Said Scott.
“I thought it would make me feel better.”
“No, makes me feel like an ass.”
“Good. It was an inexcusable loss of control and a dumb thing to do, 'cause now I’m going to have to make you apologise to him publicly and to find some way to discipline you, to prove that people can't get away with that kind of stupid behaviour. You're a Lieutenant, act like it.”
Scott ducked his head, stared at the rail.
“What do I do sir?” He asked.
“I don’t know son,” Young replied, turning to lean his hip on the rail and look at Scott. ”Only you can answer that. I think you need to think about where we’ll all be in the future though. You, Chloe, Rush, and for that matter me and TJ all committed to staying on Destiny when we thought we had the chance of going home. I’m pretty damn certain Chloe will never leave Destiny voluntarily. But it’s a whole different place out here and it’s becoming very obvious the normal rules don’t apply.”
“This is a military operation.” Said Scott.
“I’m not fool enough to think that anymore, whatever General O’Neill says.” Admitted Young. “We’ve been out here over a year, four years in reality, with no real hope of return, and people are beginning to make long terms life plans out here. I’m not going to break anyone’s illusion, but this is a community, and I’m only in charge as there’s more military than scientists or civilians, the SGC have control of the stones at the other end and because so far I’ve managed to make just enough right decisions to keep us alive.” Young stood up. “Take some time out Lieutenant." he advised. "Think things through calmly, speak to TJ or Camile Wray if you have to. You’ll be making a public apology to Rush within the next three days. I’ll get back to you about your discipline detail.”
He clapped Scott on the shoulder and walked out, leaving him to his thoughts.
TJ was in the infirmary as Chloe led a glowering Rush in. She stood immediately and came over looking concerned. Blood from his mouth was smeared across his chin and from the small cut on his eyebrow had by now run down his face.
“Matt hit him.” Said Chloe.
TJ raised an eyebrow.
“Does the Colonel know?”
“Most of the crew know,” said Rush irritated, “it was in the mess hall.”
“Oh.” Said TJ.
She gestured to a bed and Rush sat down on the edge. She took him by the chin and examined his face and lip before cleaning it with alcohol, making him wince. After the cleaning she took a small piece of tape and taped his eyebrow closed.
“You’ll probably have a black eye.” She told him. “Your lip will heal fine on its own.”
She regarded his face reflectively as she used a damp cloth to clean the last of the half congealed blood from his face checking for any missed damage.
“He hit you twice on the same side, which means he stopped and hit you again.” She said.
“Once for sleeping with Chloe, the second after I thanked him for airing our dirty laundry in public.”
“Greer stopped him before he could do it again.” Said Chloe.
“Good for him,” said TJ, putting the bloody rags in a bucket for boiling. “Why was he going to hit you a third time?”
“Because I told the entire mess he was screwing someone behind Chloe’s back.” Rush’s tone held palpable disgust.
TJ stopped clearing up and turned to look at them in surprise. The question was unspoken.
“Vanessa James.” Said Chloe. “At least twice.”
She turned to Chloe holding a clean damp cloth, scrutinising her face.
“Okay, now where’s the blood on you from.”
“Chloe was making a statement.” Rush growled.
TJ looked confused. Chloe raised an eyebrow.
“She kissed me.” He said. “It’s my blood round her mouth.”
“Oh.” Said TJ, then “Eww.” She handed Chloe the damp cloth. “Is Lieutenant Scott hurt?”
“Only if he cut his knuckles on my teeth.” snapped Rush.
Chapter 11: On the couch and speaking Ancient
Rush undertakes his mandatory interview with Camile Wray and Chloe has a conversation with Daniel.
Embarrassment kept Chloe in their room the next day. She was more than worried about bumping into Scott which would be painful, Vanessa which would be uncomfortable or to be honest any of the crew which would be embarrassing. One of the science staff had downloaded another large quantity of text from the medical database to a laptop for Rush to translate for TJ and Chloe had offered to help. They spent most of the day heads together over the table reading and transcribing the translation. Rush had a black eye developing nicely and his lip was swollen, and he wasn’t too unhappy with staying with her, but she could see by the end of the day he was restless. Finally she pulled up her courage, spoke to their guard for the day and suggested they went to the mess to eat dinner.
When they got there Brody and Volker were arguing at a table.
“What’s wrong?” She asked as she slid in next to Volker. Rush slid in on her other side and Brody and Volker both flushed. Airman Dunning their chaperone made eye contact with Greer who nodded and the airman went off to get his own meal.
“The robot won’t work.” Said Lisa, who was sitting between Brody and Greer.
“You okay?” Greer asked Rush, looking at the black eye and the split lip.
Rush gave him a considering look, then nodded. “Yes Sergeant, I’m fine. Thank you for intervening yesterday.”
Greer looked a little surprised, but nodded back. Chloe smiled at him and turned to smile at Rush.
“Why won’t the robot work?” Chloe asked the scientists.
“They don’t know,” said Lisa, “that’s why they’re arguing.”
“In theory it should be working.” Said Brody with frustration. “It’s structurally intact, it’s got power.”
“But it don’t do anything.” Added Greer helpfully. “I said they ought to turn it off and on again after ten seconds.”
Brody and Volker glowered at Greer.
“Have you plugged it into Destiny yet?” Chloe asked.
They stared at her.
“It probably doesn’t know what it needs to fix. That’s if it even knows it’s on Destiny.” She offered reasonably, poking at the food.
Brody and Volker blinked at her, then both got up and walked out.
“What did I say?” Chloe asked the others.
“I think you just made them both feel incredibly stupid.” Said Lisa.
“Not hard.” Muttered Rush. “Made perfect sense to me.”
Camile Wray walked up to the table.
“Doctor Rush, just the person I was looking for. I’ll see you tomorrow for our meeting. Ten a m.”
Rush gave her a death glare. “Tomorrow morning it is.”
“Do you want me to sit on your couch.” Rush asked sarcastically as he walked into Camille’s room answering the summons the next morning. The black eye and swollen lip alongside the scruffy hair and scraggly beard made him look a far cry from the career academic she had originally met.
“If it makes you feel any better.”
“So, Doctor Wray, you kept that a secret.”
“How do you know?” she asked.
“General O’Neill said you were qualified to diagnose Chloe. Couple of other things that people let slip.”
She smiled. “True. Not as overqualified as you though. I only have two doctorates in clinical and social psychology.”
“Psychiatric treatment of victims of trauma and veterans, and military and institutional interpersonal relationships.”
Rush sat himself on the edge of the bed.
“Just perfect for the IOA and a big expensive project like Icarus.” He said.
“Why don’t you use your title?”
“I didn’t want Young or anyone else to lump me in with the scientists, either by design or blind habit at my title. As the IOA civilian representative I kept a real voice in policy, viewed as a member of the science staff I would have been considered subordinate to you.” She said frankly.
Rush gave her a considering look.
“Clever move. Your secret's safe with me.”
“Thank you.” She said. “You look a mess Doctor.”
“You’ll have heard about the disagreement Lieutenant Scott and I had the day before yesterday.” He said. “Makes me look like my Uncle Andrew.”
She gave up and began asking him questions and he began trying to dodge them, mainly on principle she imagined. She pressed on, watching him get more annoyed by the questions. He stood and walked to stare out of the porthole.
“We’re almost done.” She said. “Why don’t you take a seat again.”
He looked at her then stared out of the porthole again.
“Chloe loves you. Do you love Chloe.”
He stared at her.
“Why is this relevant?” he demanded.
“It’s a simple question, although you may not have admitted your feelings to yourself.” She said. “I need to know how it’s going to impact on your functioning. If it makes you feel better I don’t have to explain any of the detail of this conversation outside this room, just my professional views.” She took a sip from the mug of water at her side and waited. “Are you going to answer?”
He walked back and sat down on the couch, resting his elbows on his knees, staring at his hands which hung loosely. She waited.
“Aye, I do.” He said unwillingly, tilting his head up slightly to look at her. “It may be the most foolish thing I’ve ever done, but I do.”
“She’s almost half my age and in a relationship with another man, so yes, foolish.” The bite had come back into his voice. Camile watched as his hands came together automatically, and his fingers moved to twist a ring that was no longer there around his finger then fall away again.
“But you still miss your wedding ring.” Said Camile.
His eyes clouded as he looked up through his hair at her.
“I still love Gloria,” he said roughly, “I just love Chloe too.”
“How do you feel about sharing Chloe?”
“I knew what I was letting myself in for.”
She paused but he refused to answer the question any further.
“So you wouldn’t want Chloe just to be in a relationship with you.”
“I’m forty eight years old with a good track history of failure in interpersonal relationships Doctor Wray.” He said with emphasis. “I’m not the person to ask what’s right or wrong in this, and I’m certainly in no position to make demands.”
“Nice non-answer.” She said sitting back. “So you’ll take what you can get?” she asked calmly.
“I’ll take whatever Chloe will give me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a stasis pod to work on.” He stood and walked out.
Chloe was sitting in the observation lounge, watching the FTL, Airman Deacon standing unobtrusively but reassuringly just in her line of sight. Footsteps sounded in the corridor and walking into the room, a waft of scent told her it was Becker, but when she turned round to look at him, the posture was entirely wrong.
“It’s Daniel Jackson.” He said.
“Doctor Jackson.” She said surprised.
“You must be Miss Armstrong.”
“Then I’m Daniel.” He said. “I’ve been put on light duties due to injury for four weeks.” He told her. “Broken wrist. I volunteered to swap with anyone who doesn’t mind having a wrist in a cast so I can come here and study the Ancient language used on Destiny.”
He stepped fully into the room.
“May I sit?” he asked.
She nodded and shifted along the bench making space. Chloe noticed someone had made him a pin badge in Red biro on a piece of plastic, mimicking a sales assistant’s badge that said “Hello my name is Dr Daniel Jackson”
“Colonel Young says that you speak quite a bit of Ancient now and have been working on Destiny’s archives. I'm interested in what you've been learning from them. Languages can change quite a lot over just a few centuries let alone millennia, although what we have from texts and data suggests Ancient has been quite consistent. The Ancient I speak dates from right at the end of when they were still around. Destiny has probably the oldest Ancient texts we have access to. It's an amazing opportunity.”
“Ancient Ancient.” She said smiling. “I’ve been reading some downloaded texts, helping translate a little. Nicholas says the language here is quite archaic.”
“He’s been teaching you.” It wasn’t quite a question.
She smiled and nodded responding in Ancient.
“Of course. It seems very straightforward. I did a little Latin at school.”
“You’re very fluent.” He said. “How long have you been learning?”
“About four weeks or so, it’d be easier if we had paper and books.”
“You are very good then.” He complimented.
“There’s not much else to do,” she admitted. “And we’ve gradually ended up speaking more and more.”
“You’re using a few contractions I’m not familiar with,” Daniel queried, “and you have a strange accent.”
Chloe looked at him. “I guess it’s learning from Nicholas, he’s Scottish.”
Daniel shook his head. “His accent is like mine in Ancient, I taught him, I’ve still got recordings of him speaking somewhere.”
Chloe shook her head. “It isn’t. He pronounces the ai sound differently and his r sounds are....” she thought and then made an r sound “that’s what you sound like, when you said ‘how long have you been learning’ earlier, he sounds like this.” She repeated the sound, more throaty.
Daniel looked surprised.
“I think I’d to hear you both speak.” He said.
Chloe looked at her watch. “Three hours…” she mused, then looked back up at Daniel and said in Ancient. “He’ll be free in about 10 minutes. We can go meet him if you like? He’ll be back in our quarters in a bit.”
Daniel noted the plural possessive pronoun. Their quarters.
“That would be fine. Is it alright if you just talk to me for a bit while we wait?” He asked. “Just anything you can think of from the archives, or anything else on Destiny?”
“No, I’m happy to help.”
He listened to her speak, concentrating, forehead furrowed. Several times he asked her to repeat herself or explain something. She was speaking Ancient, but it was a significantly different variation to what he was used to and she was speaking it consistently and pretty fluently.
Chloe checked her watch after about fifteen minutes.
“He should be back in our quarters by now. Would you like to go?”
Daniel nodded and Chloe stood up, looking over at Airman Deacon who smiled and walked over. They walked out of the lounge and towards Rush’s quarters.
“I'm still not remembering where everything is on Destiny.” Said Daniel. “It’s only the third time I’ve been here.”
“It’s pretty confusing, a lot of the corridors look similar and no-one's bothered to label them as we all live here all the time and know our way round.”
Chloe noticed Airman Deacon frowning at the continued conversation in Ancient.
“It doesn’t help that our quarters are a long way from everything.” She added.
“He still likes to be around people then?” Daniel queried with a smile.
Chloe grinned back.
“Here we are. Thanks Becky.” She said to Airman Deacon as Deacon went to leave her to Airman Garcia who was already waiting outside the door.
Deacon smiled at her and left.
They walked in. Rush was sitting on the bed, legs stretched out with his laptop on his lap.
“Doctor Rush. I was talking to Chloe about the Ancient language you’re speaking.” Daniel said in Ancient
Rush’s quick glance took in the badge and he met Daniel’s gaze with some surprise.
“Daniel wants to hear us speak, he thinks we’ve picked up some older words on Destiny.” Chloe said.
“I didn’t realise you were here.” Rush said to Daniel.
“I only just arrived. Broken wrist, I offered to swap with anyone who wasn’t bothered about having an arm in plaster so I could come here to study the language on Destiny instead of being stuck in an office.”
“You’ll have plenty of opportunities, certainly better than The Cat in the Hat.” Rush said, closing the laptop. “Sit down.”
Daniel sat on the couch and Chloe sat herself cross legged by Rush’s feet.
“Chloe says you have been teaching her for about a month.” Daniel said swapping back into Ancient. “I was wondering where she had learned her accent from, but it appears it is you. Not what I expected.”
“You do sound different.” Chloe said to Daniel. “It’s different sounds in some places and you don’t use all the word endings.”
“What ones am I missing?” Daniel queried.
Chloe swapped back into English. “Well, you said not familiar earlier but didn’t use the negative ending on the word am as well, you should have said I not am-negative familiar. Or I not like-negative purple sweet potatoes.”
“I’ve never heard that structure in my life.” Daniel said mystified.
Chloe looked at Nick in confusion.
“But that’s right isn’t it?” she said. “That’s how you taught me.”
“Slow down,” said Daniel in English, “now I’m having trouble following you again. You said something about being correct and teaching, but you used different endings again, and a prefix I didn’t know.”
“It’s familial register.” Said Chloe absently still looking at Rush.
“Familial register?” asked Daniel. “Rush, I have no idea where you learnt this, and I’m not doubting it’s correct, but that’s nothing I taught you. Ancient as I speak it and I taught you doesn’t have a familial register.” He sat back in the chair. “You’re speaking something significantly different to what you were taught and you’re speaking it consistently and fluently. I think we need to work out where you learned this from.”
Chapter 12: Deception and the unknown
Daniel left leaving Chloe and Rush sitting on the bed.
“Do you think we need to worry?” she asked him.
“I don’t think worrying would do us any good. I think Young’ll make up his own mind.” He stood. “Come on, we should have another look at those pod calculations.”
They left for the chalk board corridor, their guard dropping in behind them as they left the room.
The corridor was almost entirely covered, even round the far corner.
“We ought to make some space.” Chloe said. “We could copy it down or record it with a kino and then wash it down.”
Rush looked around. “We could find a new corridor, it’s not as if we’re short of them.”
“I like this one.” She said. “It’s familiar.”
He shrugged and they walked to the last remaining area of space, next to the previous power calculations.
“Okay,” He said, powering up the laptop sitting on a crate. “Here’s the last set of test readings.”
Chloe took the chalk and transcribed the readings onto the wall, then started the calculations for the control systems. For a while she zoned out into the simpler realms of complex maths. It was a while before she realised Rush was tapping away quickly at the laptop.
“What are you doing?” She asked inquisitively.
“Writing a computer virus.” He said without looking up.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because I don’t trust Young to let me know everything they’re doing to the ship.”
She walked over to look on his shoulder.
“Won’t they find it if it’s in the ship’s systems with everyone working on it.””
“It’s not in the ship’s systems, I’m not allowed in the ship’s systems anymore am I. It’s a Trojan Horse programme in the messaging system,” he said. “it’ll record a copy of all Brody’s messages, so I’ll know what work is being allocated and see all of the repair reports.”
“Where’s it copying them to?”
“Eli’s laptop.” Rush said. “No one’s using much it at the moment, but it’s still plugged in to the system to back up the kino footage.”
“You can get into Eli’s laptop?”
“I’ve had a backdoor into Eli’s laptop since we tried to take over the ship.” His tone was a little condescending.
“Do you go through his stuff?” she asked.
“Most of it’s not worth looking at.” Rush said noncommittally. “But it’s been useful sometimes.” His voice and face showed no remorse. “If you can think of a better way I’m open to suggestions?” There was a hint of challenge in his voice.
Chloe sighed and went back to the wall and continued with the calculations, keeping her face turned away from him, unable to keep the tension out of her face. She heard his footsteps and his hand rested on her shoulder.
“I’m sorry Chloe.” He said, turning her towards him. “It’s for the best though. We need to know what’s happening.”
She looked into his eyes, her expression serious.
“Trust me.” He said. “They have no real clue about this ship, I need to keep an eye on them, make sure they don’t do anything that could jeopardise Destiny or us.”
“I trust you.” She said. “It’s just…deception.”
“Expedience.” He said. “It’s what I should be being told anyway, I’m still the lead scientist here.”
His gaze searched her face, looking for her response. She gave him a small tight lipped smile and a clear eyed gaze.
“I trust you.”
His shoulders relaxed and he embraced her thankfully.
Brody was under pressure. With Rush’s incarceration, Young had forced him in to the active position of second in command of the scientists, acting up to “being in charge”. He was not enjoying it. Prior to Rush being locked up, Rush’s obsessive, control freak nature had ensured that Brody didn’t have to take any personal responsibility for any work apart from his own. Additionally, as long as he was willing to put up with the regular abuse and tirades from Rush, he was still at the centre of things.
Rush’s current unavailability meant that Brody was now “managing”. This meant less time with his hands on Destiny’s systems or the still and having to make decisions about what other people did and how well they had done it. It meant a considerable amount of time sitting in here, the cubbyhole off the main corridor by the core room which served as some sort of management office for the science staff. Rush had selected it for some reason, probably just to have somewhere to dump stuff, he’d never spent any time in here. It was annoyingly now unchangeable due to everyone knowing where it was.
It also meant that all of the discussions with Young and with the scientists about priorities and effectiveness had to be had by him. He hadn’t realised the benefits of having such as asshole for a manager. Rush’s confrontational nature and general unpleasantness had made a lot of the discussions moot points, Rush’s position was often unassailable by the fact he was mostly smarter than them and he was completely more bloody minded. He frequently wouldn’t budge from a position just on principle, and usually just did what he wanted. Additionally the regular rows and yelling just seemed to feed his ego, not make him massively stressed like it did Brody.
He realised he had been staring at the ceiling for at least five minutes. He sighed, and drew himself away from his wool-gathering to return to the repair reports from the latest work done to fix the hull breaches closest to the inhabited areas. Whilst technically complex issues he could choose to ignore and forward onto Rush, he couldn’t avoid these. Young had specifically asked that Rush's access only be to things he was actually needed on to minimise any risks. He compared the completed work to a schematic on the laptop, silently thanking the scientist who’d had a copy of the 3D modelling software loaded onto their laptop when they came through. One more compartment was complete, an area which appeared to be a large vacant storage compartment and was scheduled to become a gymnasium. Scott had told him that one of the soldiers had already made the basketball nets for the end walls. Not his cup of tea, but the breaches needed securing anyway and there was no point in wasting the space when people could be using it.
He looked at the remaining breaches on the list and prioritised two more that would allow re-pressurisation of a further compartment, then checked the updates on the refit of two of the shield emitters. Increased power flow which was good news. He opened up the messaging system, text only, very basic, and sent the work plans as messages to the team leaders of the working parties and sat back. He heard footsteps and looked up as Young walked in.
“How’s the project to defrost Eli?”
Brody sighed again. “I don’t know, I haven’t had a chance to look at it today.”
“I thought that was the priority project?” Young asked.
“It is, but I had to look at all the other projects and reassign new work so that things got done and people weren’t sitting around doing nothing.” Brody said. “I can’t do everything at the same time.”
Young went to say something.
“Don’t say it!” snapped out Brody before he could open his mouth. “I’m not Rush, I didn’t ask for this, and I’m doing my best. I personally need sleep and don’t manage by ripping people’s egos to pieces on a regular basis. You want it to go back to how it was before, you can let Rush out. He can have all this and welcome.”
Young gave him a long look.
“I was going to say one of the marines has just confessed to knowing how to use a welder, his father being a mechanic. Apparently he got his father to give him a refresher course on his last trip back.”
Brody closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Fine.” He said. “Tell him to report to Dr Hayman first shift tomorrow, he’s short on staff since Jones cut his hand open.”
Young looked at him.
“Get some sleep Brody.” He advised. “Or go do something relaxing. I know you’re not Rush and I’m glad you aren’t.”
Young gave him a long look then left.
Brody continued to work and finally finished the scheduling of the other tasks. He closed the messaging system and brought up the latest power flow results from the stasis pod.
It was all in managing the power flows without the systems in place that automatically sensed and reacted to balance out the shifting requirements as the stasis field dropped over 0.8 seconds. If the field dropped unevenly and half of Eli came out of stasis before the rest the discontinuity could be fatal. Probably extremely messy too. It gave Brody cold chills just thinking about it.
Movement in the corner of his eye made him look up and he saw Rush standing in the doorway, an airman hovering behind him. Rush proffered a sheaf of paper.
“We agree,” he said, “this will cut Eli in half.”
Brody shook his head.
“It’s the two sets of emitters.” He said. “We can’t get an external system fast enough to make them work in tandem accurately enough. And we can’t get the Ancient parts from another pod into it without disrupting the power flows.”
Rush considered the data on the screen.
“Find a way to power up one to cover all of him then you only have to turn one off.” Rush said.
Brody rocked his head from side to side with a frustrated expression. “We had thought of that.”
“I thought you would.”
Brody looked curiously at Rush. He seemed a little distracted, not his usual focussed and slightly aggressive self.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“Fine,” snapped Rush. “Do you have the data from the new corridor’s power up?”
“Do you have your stick drive?”
“Chloe has it, she’s working on something.”
Brody realised Rush must have left Chloe alone, which, Brody thought, explained why he was restless. Her issues were general knowledge. Brody sighed and downloaded the data onto his own stick. He handed it to Rush.
“I need it back soon.” He said. “Volker’s got my spare.”
Rush nodded and walked out.
Brody found Rush in the mess hall sitting eating his ration with Chloe. The pair were practically glued together these days and were sitting, heads together, looking at a sheet of paper that was set between their bowls. He grabbed his own ration and walked over.
“Hey, have you downloaded those figures? Can I have my flash drive back?”
Rush looked up from the sheet which was covered in Chloe’s handwriting in Ancient.
“Oh, yes.” He ferreted around in his jeans pocket, checked another pocket and then finally handed it over.
“What is it?” Brody asked, taking a spoonful of stew and nodding at the paper.
“Physics,” Said Chloe, “I’m learning.” She smiled. “Social sciences major with a brain full of math, I’m missing some stuff.”
“If you can call them sciences.” Muttered Rush.
Chloe elbowed him and he glowered, going back to eating his stew. God he was an antisocial bastard, thought Brody, even to her.
"I’ve got some books on my hard drive you might find interesting.” Brody offered. “I could copy them?”
Chloe gave him a broad smile.
“That would be cool.” She said. “How’s the repairs going?”
Brody finished his mouthful.
“We've managed to refit some more of the shield emitters. We’ve also finished the storage room that’s going to be the gym,” He said. “and we’re working on some more breaches that will let us access a section of corridor and connect up with an already pressurised section we haven’t been able to access before.”
“That’s great.” She said. “What’s in it?”
“We don’t know,” he admitted, “hopefully something useful, probably more quarters.”
They finished their meal in reasonably companionable silence and he watched the pair walk out, Rush's loose stride curtailed to maintain his position at Chloe's shoulder. He swiped the last of the stew out of the bowl with the last piece of flatbread, grabbed his laptop and left for the control interface room and the core.
Rush sat down on the bed, Chloe kneeling behind him, she tucked his hair back for a better view. With Chloe watching over his shoulder Rush booted up his laptop, and entered a few commands. A window popped up.
“And we’re in.” He said.
Young stood in the infirmary, thankfully deserted but for himself, TJ and Daniel Jackson.
“I’m thinking that we’ve got the wrong end of the stick here.” Daniel said earnestly to Young. “We’ve been assuming that they changed because they were affected by the blue aliens.”
“And you think they weren’t?” Young asked.
“I’ll agree it’s very coincidental that Chloe was with the blue aliens for hours and came back compromised and Doctor Rush was with them for days and came back with nothing.” He tipped his head sideways and went to push glasses up his nose, realising they weren’t there and putting his hand back. “To be honest I find it unbelievable. It doesn’t fit the evidence though.” Daniel said. “How would blue aliens result in them knowing Ancient they haven’t been taught? If it is that then it can’t be only that.”
“It’s true that Rush has shown none of the effects that Chloe did previously, but the effects now are identical.” Frustration was evident in Young’s tone.
“They’re the only members of the crew who used the chair and survived.” said TJ.
Daniel turned to look at TJ.
“Three people have used the chair.” She said. “One went catatonic the first time and disappeared the second, the other two are Chloe and Doctor Rush, both of whom have been in twice and survived.”
“Disappeared?” queried Daniel.
“The door closed, the room went cold and when it was reopened, he was gone.” Young said.
Daniel looked at him.
“You’re not kidding are you?” He said.
“No,” said Young sincerely, “we have no idea where Doctor Franklin went. Rush thought his consciousness had been downloaded into the ship.”
”But Chloe and Rush came out with no ill effects?” asked Daniel
“I understand that Rush and Brody did something to it before Rush tried it.” Young said. “Brody could probably explain.”
“Rush suffered nosebleeds and cardiac problems the first time.” TJ said “Nothing happened to Chloe I could tell, except she stopped having the absences after the first one, and Rush wasn’t damaged the second time like he was the first time. And Franklin disappeared after Rush went into the chair the first time.”
“The only thing is,” said Daniel, “I’ve reviewed texts from the database that your scientists have been working with and while a lot of what they have been saying is in there, there’s no mention of the familial register they’re using constantly between themselves, at least not in the written texts.”
“So what are you saying, they’re possessed?” asked Young irritably.
“Well we haven’t come up with any better suggestions have we?” Daniel said a little curtly. “I have no idea. It’s a messy history since you’ve been here and they’ve been in the front of most of it from what you’ve told me. I could review your mission records, but you haven’t had the medical facilities you’d have at the SGC.” He looked at them. “Every time we came back from a mission we had a full work up in medical. You just come back through the gate with whatever you’ve got.”
“That still doesn’t explain the physiological changes.” Said TJ.
“As far as I know, no-one involved with the SGC has had any physical changes from being in a chair.” Daniel said. “Not that I’m saying it couldn’t happen, but everything that’s been done to people by these devices so far seems to work on the brain.”
Young took a deep breath then huffed it out.
“So what we’re saying is that we can find no one reason for all of the weird things going on with either Rush or Chloe.”
TJ shook her head and Daniel gave a slight shrug.
“So now we’re looking at a combination of effects?” Young queried.
“Possibly.” Said TJ.
“Which still leaves me with the only two people who really have a handle on the ship in an emergency unavailable. One in stasis the other compromised.” Young’s tone was exasperated but brooked no response.
Chapter 13: Clean clothes and paranoia
O'Neill visits, Chloe's actions result in further restrictions and Rush reassures Chloe
Chloe looked up as Matt walked over to them in the messhall. She shot a nervous look at Greer who was standing nearby, but Greer gave her a nod and an approving look.
“Doctor Rush.” Said Matt. “I want to apologise for hitting you.”
Rush looked up at Matt from where he sat hunched over his bowl next to Chloe, and for a split second Chloe thought he was going to make some sort of sarcastic remark. She realised she was holding her breath while Rush blinked at Matt.
“Apology accepted Lieutenant.” He said finally.
He nodded, face impassive and Matt nodded back, face equally blank. Chloe released the breath she had been holding as Matt walked off. Rush went back to his meal as if nothing had happened. She leaned into him just a little, and felt his leg press against hers under the table.
“Did y’ think I’d embarrass you in public?” He murmured.
“I didn’t know.” She said quietly. “He did hit you.”
“Don’t you trust me?”
She turned her head to look at him but he was still looking down, stirring the contents of his bowl with his fork.
“Of course, but…” she hesitated “it’s different out here to in there.”
Her implication hung unsaid between them, as heavy as the invisible press of the crowd around them.
“Trust me,” he said, finally looking sideways at her through the curtain of hair, “please.”
His face was serious, concerned. She looked at him, then her face relaxed and she nodded. He reached out and put an arm round her shoulders, hugging her into his side and pressing a kiss onto the top of her head. Chloe heard conversations faltering around them. She relaxed deliberately into him, tucking her head in to rest on his cheek, it felt good. After a moment conversations restarted awkwardly.
She looked down and saw his dinner, only faintly showing warmth.
“Your dinner is getting cold.” She said.
“It can’t taste any worse than it does hot.”
A further few days passed uneventfully with the sole occurrence of any importance being the final release of the fabric made from the paper trees, a cause for significant excitement, despite the announcement of uniform. Chloe took the ration of fabric for herself, Rush and Eli to make the permitted shirts and underwear and then arranged a trade with Barnes to make her clothes if Barnes would knit all the socks from the wool from the almost-moose on the last planet visited.
She sewed constantly for four days, following Rush wherever he was working and sitting nearby on the floor, fabric bunched in her lap, sewing and embroidering. She had an airman leave Eli’s clothes on his bunk ready for when he woke up. As expected Rush scowled at his uniform shirt, but it didn’t take him long to change into the clean shirt and underpants. He seemed as pleased as her in her identical new clothes. He was even willing to be persuaded into tolerating the laundry party in the messhall, as a good third of the crew sat there in new shirts and underpants, taking turns to wash and wring clothing in hot water in Ancient crates. Becker and his assistant boiled kettle after kettle of water, and she and he scrubbed out t-shirts, underwear, jeans and yoga pants, among excited chatter and clouds of steam. It was loud and smelly to her senses, but it was amazing what difference clean clothes had made to everyone.
“You look like a pirate.” Said O’Neill, taking in the simple off white linen-ish shirt that had replaced his Icarus issue black shirt.
It was a good fit, evidently pulled on over the head with bone buttons at the collarless neck and cuffs. Someone had considerately embroidered YOUNG on the right breast in black military capitals, his rank insignia on the left breast, and what O’Neill assumed was an outline of the Destiny with a Tauri logo inside on each bicep, all in black.
“New uniform.” Said Young shortly. “Don’t knock it sir, it’s the first new shirt I’ve had in four years. We’re making enough from the whole crew from the fabric we’ve managed to make, we’ve gone uniform for all crew members military or otherwise to make it absolutely fair, one new shirt, two new pairs of under pants and two pairs of almost-moose-wool socks for each crew member.”
O’Neill looked him up and down, then checked his own borrowed body, luckily still in uniform.
“We’re several billion light years from the nearest supply station. I have very creative and resourceful crew.” Young said with apparent pride, or at least a completely straight face. “And a knitting circle. Shall we, sir?” He gestured to the door.
A crew member with stepped forward, wearing a similar shirt with Dawson on the breast and a Pi symbol instead of military insignia holding out a badge. It appeared to be homemade from a safety pin and waste plastic, drawn in red biro.
“Hello my name is General Jack O’Neill.” O’Neill read disbelievingly.
“Scientists sir,” apologised Young, “but it reduces confusion.”
O’Neill pinned it over the name of the airman whose body he was inhabiting.
“What’s going on back home?” asked Young.
“We’re still having issues with the Lucian Alliance.” O’Neill said. “They’ve taken another two of the independent planets, Esdrin and Tanara. There’s some murmurings of some sort of trouble on Langara, but they broke off diplomatic contact after the Gate incident so we’ve only got second hand information. What’s the news here?”
Young nodded. “Things have been pretty quiet here. We’ve been in FTL for a little over three weeks now. It’s mainly been minor repairs and processing supplies. Brody thinks he’s got the salvaged repair drone working, but I’ve seen no evidence of it doing anything yet. No progress on defrosting Eli. No real crew problems, Airman Hansen and Doctor Roy had bronchitis, they’re recovering, Doctor Rush and Chloe haven’t shown any more changes, but there was a bit of trouble between Rush and Lieutenant Scott.”
“Trouble?” O’Neill gave him a look.
“Scott hit him.” Said Young. “Fraternisation issues.”
“That was to be expected.” O’Neill said blandly. “You dealt with it?”
Young nodded and was pleased when O’Neill changed the subject.
”Quite the handicrafts boom here.” He noted as they walked through corridors and he saw another couple of pirate uniform shirts, all similarly embroidered with name, Destiny logo and rank or Pi symbol some with more complex designs.
“What’s with the Pi symbols?”
“Scientist insignia. Camile Wray suggested I made the scientists organise a chain of command, with equivalence with the military personnel. They weren’t very happy about it, but in an emergency they’ll know who’s in charge. The scientists decided on nominal rank symbols with lines below the symbol for senior staff and arcs above for doctorates. They’re very proud of those, I’m humouring them.”
O’Neill gave a short laugh. “Yeah, you have to humour your geeks. Okay, show me the stuff.”
They walked into the chair room where a dark haired man with two lines under his Pi was waiting by a console with a woman with a broken line under her symbol.
“Doctor Brody I presume.” Said O’Neill reading his chest.
"Just Brody." said the man "Engineer."
“This is the chair.” Said Young.
“Hi Jack.” Said a tallish black airman.
O’Neill read the badge on his chest out loud. “Hello my name is Dr Daniel Jackson”. He looked back up at the man’s face. “Daniel, this is weird.”
Daniel nodded grinning.
“So this is the chair.” O’Neill said. “It doesn’t look like our one.”
“It’s much older than the one in Antarctica.” Said Brody. “This one has electrodes to contact the brain.”
“Eww.” O’Neill said. “I just got weird lights or face suckers.”
Brody goggled at him.
“Well,” said Young, “this one seems to make considerably more of a meal of people. We’ve lost one crew member completely and as I said we’re still having issues with whether or not it affected Chloe and Doctor Rush.”
Chloe was sitting on the bed sewing something in the off white fabric. As the door opened she was already looking at it. She was wearing a uniform shirt with “CHLOE” on the right breast and scientist symbols on the other although it was belted round the waist with what appeared to be a wide sash made from a strip of the shiny bedding material. There was a radio on the bed next to her.
“Miss Armstrong.” Said O’Neill.
“Hello General.” She said with some surprise as she read the badge.
“Scientist?” he asked her.
“They scientists decided Eli and I are part of the science team.”
“Not your surname though.” He noted.
She smiled. “Eli and I both appear to have lost our surnames somewhere along the way. I’m not even sure that some people here know what my surname is.” She said jokingly. “What are you doing on Destiny?”
“Reviewing the troops.” He said vaguely.
“Checking up on what’s happening with Nicholas and I.”
He looked at her with a slightly amused expression. “That as well. You’re a senator’s daughter, he’s the head of the scientists on one of my commands.”
She put the sewing down next to her.
“What did you want to know?” she asked.
“How you are.” He said. “Generally speaking.”
“I’m fine.” She replied. “I’m pretty used to the new senses now.” She wriggled in her seat a little “Things have blown over a little with Matt,” she admitted, “I guess you know about that.”
“Yeah.” Said O’Neill. “I guess that sucked.”
She looked at him. “You’re not like most of the Generals I’ve met.”
“I guess you’ve met a few as a senator’s aide.” He shrugged. “Save the planet a few times, they’re willing to overlook some of my more charming personality traits and promote me up with the assholes anyway.” He said a little self mockingly.
“So do you get to decide what they do with us?”
“I’ll be giving Colonel Young my opinion.”
“And he’ll do it.”
“Maybe.” Said O’Neill noncommittally.
“I’m fine General.” She repeated. “Really, I’m happy like this. I don’t want to be locked up but I wouldn’t want to go back to being normal now.”
He nodded, and smiled.
“Well, if you don’t mind, I’ve got some other parts of the ship to tour.”
“Thank you for coming by.” She said politely.
The airman in the stones room chair flinched and looked around.
“It’s Telford.” He stood up. “I need to see Colonel Young now.”
He walked out of the room without waiting. ”On the bridge!” the Airman on guard called after him going for his radio to notify the bridge.
“Everett.” said Telford walking onto the bridge. “Good news!”
Young looked at him.
“David.” He said. “Long time no see.”
“I’ve been off world.”
Telford looked almost excited.
“What brings you here?”
Telford looked at the staff on the bridge with Young, Scott and Brody.
“Can we talk somewhere private?”
They walked out and into a nearby room. Telford sat on the edge of a table.
“We’ve been in negotiations with the Langarans again.” He said. “They aren’t willing to let any of our military personnel back on their planet, but in return for some concessions, have agreed to allow some of our scientists to try to open a wormhole to Destiny for a brief period in order to test the capabilities. It’ll be one way, it may be the only opportunity we get for some time. We aren’t going to be sending any personnel through, there are serious concerns about the stability of any wormhole at the moment, and frankly the Langarans won’t let us. But we think we’ll be able to send some supplies through, focussing on medication and basics. The Langaran’s have prohibited the idea of any weaponry or any non-medical equipment. Frankly they don’t trust us. But they’re willing to trade this for some concessions in the interests of alleviating suffering.”
“But we’ll get medication? Supplies? Food? Clothes?”
“You have four days to let me know what you need. Assume you’ll get six crates of goods through, and tell me what you need as a priority. Then give me a further list of up to thirty more crates in priority order.”
Young leaned against a bulkhead regarding Telford with barely concealed distaste.
“What were the concessions?”
“Help to make a vaccine.” Said Telford grimly. “They have an epidemic. Things are pretty desperate there.”
“You’ve been there?”
Telford nodded. “They’re suffering badly, people are dying. They’re very scared this will blow up their planet and they don’t trust our military but they were willing to let our scientists do this and take readings. McKay says even this will be helpful for getting you back in the future.”
Young leaned on the back of a chair, rubbing the stubble at his jawline
“When will we get this?”
“That’s down to the politicians and scientists.” He said. “I think you’ll be waiting a month at least. The Langarans won’t permit us access until we’ve come up with the vaccine. We need time to get the crates and supplies organised though.”
The pair looked at each other, in uneasy truce.
“I’ll have the list for you within the next few hours.” Young said. “Was there anything else you wanted?”
“I’ll just have a walk around while you get the list together.” Said Telford.
Young gave him a short nod and palmed the door release.
“Be my guest.”
Young sat up straight as he opened someone else’s eyes on Earth. Telford was standing by the door.
“Paper.” He demanded.
He began to write out the carefully memorised list, specific medications and medical equipment from TJ, food, lists of particular seeds and supplies from the hydroponics specialists, clothes, tools and spare parts, raw materials and cables, and a list of films, study materials, books, technical texts, entertainment and craft manuals to be put on DVD-Roms or flash memory and packed in any empty spaces. Finally a list of food stuffs. The airman sitting next to him suddenly spun to look at him.
The airman nodded.
“Check the list.”
Brody checked the list correcting names of seeds and technical documents.
“That’s mine done.” He said and disconnected.
The airman blinked hard then reconnected the stones. Thirty seconds later he blinked and changed posture again.
“Colonel.” She scanned the list, added, corrected then disconnected.
Telford watched the proceedings as several crew members checked the list.
“We’re done.” Said Young finally. “The medicines, seeds and tools come first. Then all the raw materials, equipment and spare parts, clothes and documents and files next. Food if you can send it comes last, that we can provide for ourselves.”
Another set of simulations had finally been finished on Eli’s defrosting, and Chloe and Rush were spending most of their time in the lab, arguing the figures with each other and with Brody, Park and Volker. While they calculated, Brody and Volker were still battling with the control systems for the drone. It booted up now, and they could get it to perform single actions with the control interface mapped across from the laptop, but they had failed to find any control systems in Destiny’s memory or systems which was causing them some problems.
Chloe tried to concentrate as the debate got louder. It was pretty loud for normal ears by the look on Lisa’s face, but it was beginning to cause her a real headache and Rush had taken his chaperone off to try a couple of alterations to the external pod controls to get away from it.
She stood up.
“It has to be something simple.” Shouted Volker. “If there isn’t a complex system it has to be something simple. Maybe Destiny controls it herself.”
“We’ve tried that.” responded Brody. “We haven’t found any way of getting Destiny to control the drone!”
“Maintenance drone,” said Chloe quietly, “Go ring the door chime.”
The pair spun as the maintenance drone stalked out from between them, rose on it’s legs and hit the door chime.
“Maintenance drone,” repeated Chloe “Go fix the broken air conduit on the corridor outside the infirmary.”
They spun to look at her. The drone walked out of the door, to the surprise of Airman Dunning. Brody looked from Chloe to the drone stalking off down the corridor and back again a couple of times.
“That’s weird.” Said Volker.
“Chloe,” said Brody in a cautious voice, “tell the door to close.”
“Destiny, close the door.”
The door hissed shut. He turned to Dunning.
“Dunning, I think you need to escort Chloe back to her quarters.” Brody said nervously.
Chloe was not surprised when Colonel Young turned up at the door.
“How are you Chloe?”
She suddenly stopped and looked at the door, putting the fabric down and standing up.
“What’s wrong with Nicholas?” she demanded.
“I suspect he’s unhappy with my decision.”
She rounded on him. “What decision.”
The door opened and Rush stormed in, flanked by two armed guards.
“I hope you have a good explanation for this!” he shouted at Young. “We were just about to start the first alterations to the system for defrosting Eli.”
“Sit down Doctor.” Ordered Young.
“What the hell is going on?”
“Sit down Doctor.” Young’s tone brooked no challenge and he took a step forward. “Shut up and listen.”
“I’ve just been marched away from my project at gunpoint.” Rush was furious. “Do you want Eli out or not?”
The door opened and Camile, TJ and Daniel Jackson walked in.
“Sit down Rush.” Young’s voice was icy.
“Sit down Nick.” Said Daniel.
Rush turned away swearing in Ancient.
“Sit down Nick. This is important.”
Rush turned, looked at Daniel and walked to stand next to where Chloe sat.
“Chloe has now started to be able to tell Destiny’s systems what to do verbally.” Young said.
Rush looked at Chloe.
“I just told a maintenance drone what to fix," she said, looking nervous, “and closed a door.”
“Obviously this new development is a cause for concern.” Said Young.
“Concern!” Rush’s voice was incredulous.
Chloe looked from one to the other, before turning back to Rush. She took Rush’s arm. Automatically he patted her shoulder.
“Our best guess is that Destiny did something to you. Probably when you used the chair.” Said TJ. “We don’t know what but I think it must have done something to your mind, apparently something physical and possibly something that affected your DNA.”
“I’m absolutely certain it’s the only place where you could have obtained the knowledge of Ancient you’ve got." added Daniel "The fact that you’ve almost entirely quit speaking your first language between yourselves is a concern.” Seeing Becker's face with the serious concerned look so typical of Daniel was odd.
“I’m also worried about your behaviour, your interdependence and emotional attachment to the ship. Both of you.” Camile added.
“It’s my life’s work.” Snapped Rush.
“But not Chloe’s and you’ve said on several occasions that your relationship with Chloe is against your better judgement.”
“The good news,” said TJ, “is that we’re pretty certain that you don’t have any remaining mental effects from the blue aliens.”
“Finally!” snapped Rush.
Chloe looked hopeful.
“But I don’t have the equipment I need to check what has changed,” TJ admitted, “but now we have the medical bay you and Brody opened on the new corridor, I’m hoping that something there will be of use.”
Rush threw his hands into the air. “If you can even identify what the equipment is.”
Chloe shuddered and leaned into Rush’s hip and he put his arm round her.
“I’m staying to do some translation.” Said Daniel. “And I’ve requested one of the medical staff from Atlantis swap with someone here. They spent a long time using Ancient medical equipment. I’m hoping some of what is here will be familiar.”
“You’re locking us up again?” asked Chloe.
“Until we have a better idea of what has happened we can’t let either of you near any of Destiny’s systems. We don’t know what you can do to Destiny or what Destiny will do to you.” Said Young. “We have to assume there is some sort of agenda or programme running here.”
“So what areas of the ship am I allowed in?” demanded Rush.
“Mess hall, Observation Lounge, Showers, quarters, your chalk board corridor.” Said Young. “You can consult with your scientists and assign work but until we’ve got to the bottom of this you touch none of Destiny’s systems. You’ll also continue to have your guard duty. The same applies to Chloe.”
“And I suppose if I don’t agree, you’ll simply lock us both in here.” Rush said,
Young gave a short laugh.
“You suppose right.” He said. “Although I’d prefer not to.”
Rush spun angrily on his heel, dipping his head and pressing the heels of his hands into his forehead. He took a deep breath, dropped his hands and stared out of the porthole.
“Agreed.” He said “Now get out of our quarters.”
He turned back toward them and took two steps back to Chloe reaching out his hand. She took his finger tips with hers. They looked at each other.
“I said get out.” Said Rush without looking away from Chloe’s face.
“Do you think they’re right?” Chloe asked him.” Do you think its Destiny making us…like this?”
“It wasn’t Destiny made you drag me from a shower and into bed.” He said in English.
She stood up.
“Does it matter?” he asked, pressing her finger tips between his thumb and fingers.
“I guess not.” She replied. “Destiny, lights off.”
The lights went out and he raised an eyebrow. She took a step towards him.
“Love me?” she asked.
He stopped and searched her face, lips slightly parted, trying to read her. She began to strip and stood there once again, naked and beautiful in front of him in heat and FTL-light. Only this time he had time and permission to look. Rush smiled at her and it was broad and clear and a little sad, a smile that went all the way up to his eyes and lightly set the crinkles around them.
“Maybe I’m a consolation prize?” she offered quietly.
He walked over to her, placed a hand on her shoulder and gently pushed the hair back from her face, letting it run through his fingers like water. She smiled again and Rush leaned in to kiss her. He felt her slide his waistcoat off his shoulders and shifted one hand then the other so it fell to the floor behind him, replacing his hands on her shoulders, still kissing her softly.
Her hands slid round his waist untucking his shirt and stepped back to allow her to draw them over his head. She stepped forward to him, before he could move, leaning in for a kiss that pressed her breasts against his bare chest. One of her hands was undoing his belt and the other sliding up and down his back.
She skated his pants down off his hips and pushed them down with the instep of her foot, so he could step out of them. He wrapped his arms around her and they stood naked, pressed together, cheek to cheek, listening to each others heartbeats, just breathing.
Her hands slid up to run through his hair and she turned her head, began pressing kisses to his cheek. He turned his face towards her to catch her lips and they kissed.
She drew him back to the bed and sat, drawing him down with her as she lay back in the FTL-light. Rush moved onto the bed, lowering himself to his elbow alongside her. He watched her for a moment, then ran his fingers over her stomach. She shivered and looked at him with a smile as he reached up to cup a breast and kiss her again. A thumb skated across her nipple, already taut and made her sigh into the kiss and he repeated it. Her hand came up to touch his arm and she made as if to roll towards him, but he pressed her gently back.
“No. I want to see you.”
She sighed as he kissed her again and stroked down her torso to massage the upthrust of her hip bone with his fingers and run his thumb down the crease of her thigh along the edge of the soft hair. He gasped as she twisted her fingers, trapped down by her side, to slide up the length of him.
“Unfair.” He said.
He slid his fingers down between her legs to skim gently over her labia, slide up and begin to rub her. She took a deep breath in and closed her eyes as he stroked her, watching her melt as he caressed her. It was intoxicating and he almost didn’t notice how close he had brought her as she started to rock into his fingers. He slowed down, drawing a sound that was more than a whimper than a moan from her lips.
He kissed her then, and she responded, rolling over to wrap her arms round him and deepen the kiss. Mid kiss she hooked her leg up over him and slid herself onto him. He broke away from the kiss with a gasp as she rolled him onto his back, pressing herself down his full length.
“Watch me.” She said.
Chloe stroked his cheek, and ran her finger tips over his lips where he kissed them, stroking the short tuft of his beard that stuck out just a little just below the centre of his bottom lip. Kneeling either side of his hips, with him pressed deep into her, she began to rock gently. He rested his hands lightly on her hips, not holding, just touching, watching her. It was excruciatingly slow but exquisite as she rocked above him, breasts moving gently, skin luminous and perfect, hair framing her face. He watched her face as she watched him back intently, slowly beginning to increase the movement. This time he saw the point she began to lose her control and he raised his hands to draw her down to him, change the angle and increase the pressure where it would cause her the most pleasure.
She shifted slightly as he wrapped her in his arms, her legs stretching out along his, as he took the lead, not increasing the pace, just loving her with long deliberate strokes. She finally reached her end. The feel of her contracting around him brought him to his own shuddering climax, wrapped around her, buried deep within her.
Chapter 14: Frustration and planetside
Destiny arrives at another planet and Camile intercedes on Rush and Chloe's behalf
Nicholas had woken annoyed and restless. From her vantage point of the bed Chloe watched him dress with quick angry movements, jeans, new shirt, waistcoat, then sit on the couch opening his laptop. He tapped a few keys, the familiar rhythm of his password, then sat there scowling at it. She knew what he was doing, he was checking the data on his back door into the messaging system. After a minute or two, the messaging system only ever had a few messages about repairs and investigations, he shut the laptop and stood, walking over to the window.
She slid out of bed, pulled on her own clothes and padded over to him.
“I can’t do anything.” He said. “I have nothing to do. This is some kind of hell,” he said rubbing a palm on the thigh of his trousers then flexing his fingers, “stuck in the most interesting object known to man and not allowed to touch it.”
She put her hand on his shoulder.
“Let’s get some breakfast.” She said. “It has to be better than staying in here.”
She grabbed her shoes and put them on.
“Destiny, open the door.” He said.
The door opened.
“I’m surprised you didn’t try that earlier.” She said. “To see if it worked for you.”
He looked at her. “Point of fact, it never even occurred to me that it wouldn’t.” He said, his face registering slight surprise.
The airman on the door looked at them with only vague curiosity.
“We’re going to breakfast.” Rush told him sharply. “Then to the chalkboard corridor.”
Two days dragged. Rush checked the messaging system several times a day and by the end of two days, his irritation and restlessness was trying even Chloe’s patience. In the end she went to the Observation lounge without him. She sat staring at the FTL. She looked up as Camile sat down next to her.
“How are you feeling Chloe?”
Chloe blinked at her.
“Bored.” She said. “And stressed, and Nicholas is worse.”
“Drive even you out of the room did he?” asked Camile with a smile.
Chloe searched Camile’s face for any hint of malice, but found none, and finally gave Camile a rueful smile in return.
“Even me.” She said. “He doesn’t do doing nothing.”
Camile nodded. “There’s not much I can offer you now though.” She apologised.
“I know.” Said Chloe sadly. “I can’t think of any way round it either.”
Young was woken by the ping of the door alert. He rolled out of bed, clumsy with sleep and grabbing his pants dragged them on, hopping on one foot to get the second leg in as he made it to the door. Behind him TJ grumbled and rolled over, pulling the covers over her head. He opened the door on Airman Baras looking uncomfortable.
“What is it?” asked Young, rubbing sleep out of his eyes.
“Colonel, we’ve dropped out of FTL and the scientists on the gate say there’s an available planet.”
He handed Young the radio.
“Gateroom, Young here.”
“Colonel Young this is Brody, you’d better come to the Gate Room now.” Brody’s voice was excited.
“On my way.” He handed Baras the radio back. “I’ll see you there.” He told him.
Young paused long enough to dress and kiss a sleepy TJ before setting a quick pace to the gate room.
“What’s the new planet like?” he asked as he walked into the gateroom.
Brody was standing by the dialling device staring at the screen of the kino remote.
“It’s another base like the one on the planet that the paper trees came from.” He said.
Young hurried over and stared at the screen. The kino was floating round a darkened gate room almost identical to the one on the deserted planet. The only difference was the two pieces of equipment sitting on the floor directly in front of the gate. One was on wheels and the other on a stand, and were to Young’s eyes, pointed away at an angle from the gate. Opposite the gate was the large circular archway and as the kino panned round the doors with their grey lintels on either side of the gate room set into the familiar pale walls.
There were footsteps and Camile and Scott walked in.
“It’s another deserted base.” Said Young, but this one has stuff in it.”
They all looked as the kino began to explore further. The hangar room was through the archway, but this one did not open onto the open air, but had a wide chimney going up into darkness. It also had several more pieces of equipment in it and doors off of it.
“Do we risk it?” asked Camile. “We still haven’t ruled it out as to what happened to Chloe and Doctor Rush.”
“We also got the portable life support system and the paper trees from the last planet.” Said Young, shrugging his shoulders further into the arms of his shirt.
They watched a bit more, this base seemed to have been left in more of a hurry than the previous one.
“That’s a lot of portable stuff there sir.” Said Scott.
Young realised Brody was practically salivating as he piloted the kino around what appeared to be some kind of wheeled vehicle.
“We’ll send the same party as previously.” He said. “Limit exposure.”
“Including Chloe and Rush?” asked Camile.
Young weighed it up in his head.
“No.” He said. “Not unless we have to.”
The party walked through the gate, Volker looking distinctly nervous. TJ watched them go noting the time on the record of baseline test results she’d taken from them.
On the other side they flashed torches around the room. The walls were the beige cement of the previous base, the doorways and floors identical.
“The best in institutional home decor.” Mumbled Volker, standing next to the second kino.
“It’s pretty similar to the last base, sir.” Scott said on the radio. “We’ll split up and search. James, Varro, Volker check out the equipment here. Evans, Cho you’re with me, we’ll take a look around, try and find the surface.”
Young, Camile and Brody watched the kino following Volker around as he looked at the equipment. It all seemed to be similar in style if not purpose to the portable life support, and there were at least two wheeled vehicles, the purpose of which was evidently similar to a forklift truck.
They heard Scott’s voice as a double echo on the kino and the radio as he walked back into the hangar.
“Ground level is three floors up.” He said. “There’s a whole bunch more paper trees out there and what looks like an abandoned airfield and a road. Nothing on it though.”
“I’m going to need some help with these machines.” Said Volker, walking up to squint into the Kino. “I can see what a couple are but realistically…” his voice tailed off.
“You need Rush.” Said Young, rolling his eyes.
Camile looked at him.
“It’s not Destiny.” She said. “The systems are isolated from here”
“Look,” said Camile, “Rush is bored out of his mind, even Chloe has admitted it. This gets him off the ship, away from Destiny in an environment where he’s useful and can’t do any damage.”
“I don’t know Camile,” he said.
“What damage can he do.” She said. “. They don’t even have any power at the moment. I don’t think even Rush is able to take over the ship with un-powered equipment he’s never seen before, in a crowd of other people.”
Young picked up his radio.
“Lee this is Young come in.” He ordered the Corporal on duty outside Rush’s quarters.
“Colonel, this is Lee.”
“Could you please wake Doctor Rush and Chloe and let them know we’re sending them down to the planet. Young out.”
“Both of them?” asked Camile curiously.
Young scowled. “Do you really think he’ll go without her?”
Twenty minutes later Rush walked in, his loose stride carrying him up to Young, his face intent. Chloe followed him, not as quick but looking excited. They were both in dressed in borrowed fatigues, too large, with a pack each. Young had no idea who the fatigues were borrowed from but both were rolled up at the cuffs and ankles. Evidently borrowed in a hurry.
“You’re letting us off the ship?” Demanded Rush in slight disbelief.
“Volker says he needs help.” Young said. “And I’m not willing to risk anyone to these planets who hasn’t already been exposed. Being on the planet negates any concerns about you interacting with Destiny.”
Rush turned to look at Chloe.
“You don’t have to go.” Said Young.
Rush spun back to him.
“Of course we’re going.” He bit the words off like an insult.
Scott stood just inside the darkness of the hanger gateway and watched Chloe and Rush step through the gate, Chloe reaching out to put her hand on his arm, Rush slightly ahead. They both inhaled deeply. Rush spun around slowly to look about the room and in the light from the gate Scott could just see that the black eye had faded to green and yellow smudges. Chloe looked around at Volker, Evans, and then him, all the people in sight, and Scott had to remind himself that the torches were pretty much irrelevant to the pair on the ramp.
“This is incredible.” Said Rush.
“I know.” Breathed Chloe.
Volker sniffed. “The machines, Doctor Rush?”
“Oh, right.” said Rush walking down the ramp looking about him.
“Sorry?” asked Scott.
“It’s incredible here.” Chloe called. “Totally different to anything we’re used to. It’s quiet and smells kind of like rocks and dust.”
“Cool. I’m going up to the surface to see how the others are doing with the paper trees.” He turned and left quickly.
Rush bent over the machine. It looked vaguely like a flatter MALP. Rush and Volker got to work, Chloe stood by passing tools and helping where she could, listening to their explanations. Over an hour in Rush and Volker stepped back.
“So you think we can send this one back through the gate?” Volker asked, realising only after he did it, he’d dropped into Ancient like the pair of them had been speaking without realising for the last half an hour. They didn’t even seem to notice. His was certainly improving with practice.
“I think it will make transporting supplies back onto Destiny a lot quicker, and the systems here still look derivative of Ancient technology. I think we’ll be able to set it up with a power source same as we did the air system.”
Volker stepped back and regarded it.
“And you think a modified kino remote will work?”
“I think we can do it.”
Volker stepped away from the not-MALP.
“Okay, next object. There’s a piece of equipment in here that looks kind of like a satellite dish on a refrigerator.”
“Okay Doctor Volker, lead on.”
He walked away from them and through the archway, it was only when he was five paces into the hangar that he realised they had stopped and were looking at him.
“Come back in here Volker.” Rush ordered.
Volker came back in. They watched him then looked at each other, then back at him.
“What is it?” he asked getting paranoid.
“Every time you walk through that archway, there’s a hum and a glow.” Said Chloe.
“I can’t see it.” Volker said in a rather panicky voice.
“And nor could any of us last time.” Said Rush.
He walked forward and looked at the archway, the dull metal band around it, then across at the dull metal lintels on the side doors. He tapped the metal arch, then stepped through.
“Did it again.” He said.
“Are you sure that’s safe.” Volker asked in a worried voice.
“Probably not.” Said Rush, but at least in our case it’s unlikely to make things any worse for us.”
Chloe walked over to the side door and stepped through.
“It’s on this one too.” She said.
Rush stepped back and looked at them all.
“If you were a gate travelling race, and you had something similar to a hand device or Ancient medical technology, wouldn’t it make sense to have something on the doors going out of the gate room?” he said.
“You can’t leave the gate room without walking through it.” Said Volker. “Stop you bringing back any pathogens.”
“And it’s automatic,” added Rush, “takes a reading, tries to resolve the problem.”
“Except our readings were mixed up.” Said Chloe. “The blue aliens had already done something to us, so it got confused and tried to fix it, put it back the best it could?”
Rush looked around. “Whoever these people were they can’t have been far different from us, otherwise the technology would never have worked on us.”
Volker stood in the hangar. “I’m not sure if I want to walk back through.” He admitted, grimacing.
“You’ve been through repeatedly here and on the last planet and you aren’t an alien yet.” Rush advised him.
“So what do we do now?” asked Chloe.
“Tell Young.” Said Rush. “We should put Doctor Park and Lieutenant Johansen through it. If it fixed me, there’s a chance it’ll fix them. I personally think it’s a risk worth taking.”
“They’re saying what?” asked Young.
“They want Doctor Park and TJ to come down to the planet. Rush, Chloe and Volker have discovered some alien medical device thing in the gateroom doors which they think is what did something to them.” Said Scott. “We’ve all been walking through it all day with no obvious effects. They want to put Doctor Park and TJ through it in case it fixes Doctor Park’s eyes and TJ’s problem.”
After examining the lintels it had become evident that without breaking into them they were not going to see the inner workings, and they searched the rest of the base. It was similar to the previous planet in layout, but unlike that one had not been completely stripped of equipment or furniture, and was further underground.
Whoever had lived here was taller than humans, and preferred a strange, slightly slanted, kidney shaped stool to sit on. The stools were about three feet off the ground and the tables a foot higher. Despite checking all the other rooms, they found no further rooms with any sort of active technology in and finally returned to the gate area.
The science party moved onto the next piece of equipment. An hour or so of work established it was for welding, it was duly tagged for return to Destiny. Scott and Varro returned from the surface, four floors up, but as they were in debate on which item to review next there was the familiar whine and grate as the star gate came to life. Rush, Chloe and Brody ducked behind the welder as Scott and Varro dropped to one knee behind other cover, guns trained on the gate. There was a moment where they all held their breath, then familiar looking crates and nets began to bounce down the ramp, and the radio crackled into life.
“Scott this is Young.”
“After some debate, TJ and Doctor Park will be joining you, with a small foraging party to harvest the paper trees.” His voice sounded resigned. “We’re also sending through overnight gear, if there’s as much equipment there as you say there is then I want as much identified as possible, and I’d like another shirt and the scientists want paper, so we need a good paper tree harvest.”
TJ walked through the event horizon, followed by half a dozen others and finally Airman Baras leading Doctor Park.
“TJ.” Said Scott standing up.
Lisa Park stepped forward.
“Where do I go.” She asked.
“I was going to ask the same question.” Said TJ.
Rush stood up.
“It’s over here,” he said. “It seems to happen with all of these doorways with the metal frames, the arch and the two side doorways.”
Baras led Lisa over to the arch and she stood in it. Chloe and Rush watched the arch hum and glow briefly for maybe four seconds.
“What’s it doing?” Asked Lisa.
“It glowed and hummed for a short period and now it’s stopped.” Said Chloe.
Lisa took a step forwards out of the arch and stepped back through. It hummed momentarily like it had for Volker and then stopped.
“That time it just hummed for a moment.” Chloe relayed. “Like it does for all of us.”
TJ walked forward the stepped into the archway. It glowed, hummed, kept humming. Everyone held their breath.
“Is it doing anything?” TJ asked. “I can’t feel anything.”
“It’s still going.” Said Rush.
The machine stopped.
“Now it’s stopped.” Chloe said. “Twelve seconds.”
TJ stepped forward and then back through the doorway. It hummed briefly then stopped.
“Now it’s just treating you like everyone else.” Chloe said.
TJ took a deep breath. Chloe walked forward and patted her on the shoulder.
“I don’t feel any different.” Said Lisa.
“The effects took a couple of days to work on Chloe.” TJ said. “And about a week to work on Doctor Rush. We’ll be long gone from here before we know if it’s had any effect.”
Scott rapidly detailed the foraging party to start collecting paper tree leaves and fruit and to set up a camp of sorts in one of the ground level rooms, TJ went up to search for medicinals and Lisa sat with the science party, knitting whilst listening to descriptions and making suggestions.
They left the machines some two hours later to join the camp. It was in a room which had a wide open doorway onto the outside and someone had lit a fire just inside. Chloe and Rush both stopped as soon as they entered the room, staring at the doorway. Outside it was raining heavily and was dark.
“Can we go outside?” Chloe asked Scott.
He nodded and they both walked out into the rainy night.
“Don’t go out of sight of the doorway.” Scott shouted after them.
There was no indication they had heard him and TJ moved up beside him to watch them. The pair stood, apparently transfixed, staring out into the darkness in the pouring rain, hair gradually plastering down to their skulls. After a while Rush put his arm around Chloe’s shoulders and she leaned into him.
“Are you okay?” TJ asked Scott quietly, then added, “I don’t think they can hear us over the rain.”
“I have no idea what she’s going through.” He admitted. “I can see her out there, but I have no idea what she’s seeing.”
TJ put a hand on his shoulder.
“The only person who knows what she’s seeing is out there with her.” Scott said bitterly.
“Have you spoken again?” TJ asked.
Scott shook his head. “Not since I apologised.”
“Are you giving up on your relationship?” TJ asked.
“It’s slipping away from me. I’m not dealing with this.”
TJ squeezed his shoulder.
“The thing I find hardest of all is the smell.” He said. “The sight you can almost not notice unless it’s dark, the hearing is something you can kinda ignore, but she’s always sniffing the air, without even realising, whenever someone comes in the room, when there’s food. It weirds me out.”
“I don’t want it to weird me out.” Said Scott, “I want to be there. But I’m screwing it up. I don’t even know how to start the conversation. And she’s with him. All the time and he knows what’s happening to her, they’re just aware of each other the whole time.”
“Lets get a cup of tea and some food,” She said gently, “and you can organise a watch for when they come back in. I don’t think anything will get past them.”
The rain washed over her face, the sound was incredible, a vast wash of noise as raindrops hit stones, puddles and paper trees. A huge melange of smells drifted past through the wet air, stone and plants and animals. They were in the centre of a reasonable sized clearing caused by the concrete surface outside the deserted base. She could see the vague heat outlines of animals in the stands of paper trees, mostly small, but she watched as a predator the size of a cat took a smaller rodent sized creature with a small squeak.
Rush was next to her, uncharacteristically silent and still and she realised he was as transfixed as she was, staring out at the dark landscape.
“Are you okay?” she asked him.
“I’ll admit I’ve never been so content to be on a planet since we found Destiny.” He said as the rain began to slow.
“It’s incredible.” She agreed. “Do you think all planets are this beautiful?”
“I have no idea.” He said. “I hope so.”
He put an arm round her shoulders and she moved up next to him.
“We’re wet.” She said.
“Maybe we ought to go inside.”
He turned her round towards him. “I don’t really think we’re going to get any wetter are we?”
She smiled. “No.”
He kissed her, with rain and wet hair running down their faces and clothes plastered to their backs.
It took a while for them to notice that the sounds of animals had died down, and Chloe finally looked out to see what had changed.
“I can’t hear any movement.” She said.
They turned to look out at the forest. It seemed quiet and deserted. Chloe couldn’t see any heat outlines now, not on the ground although there were a few in the trees. More than before.
There was heavy movement in the undergrowth some way away. They both turned to look out into the dark in that direction. A pair of large shapes were watching them from the treeline, clearly outlined in their body heat. They both caught the smell on the wind, just a faint trace of something vaguely meat like, not from the same direction but certainly not far away.
“We ought to go back in.” He said, stepping slightly in front of her.
The creatures did not move as they walked carefully backwards back to the doorway. James was in the doorway and had evidently spotted them backing away from something as her gun was raised and she was pointing it out into the night.
“What’s wrong?” asked James.
“There’s two large creatures out there.”
“Where.” She squinted out into the darkness.
“Just in the treeline.” Rush gestured.
James shook her head. “Too dark for me to see.” She said. “What’s it like? Is it moving?”
“They’re watching us.” Said Rush quietly. “Not doing anything.”
“It looks like an angry looking armadillo with long legs.” Whispered Chloe.
James snorted. “Fair enough.”
Scott walked over seeing James with her gun trained on the darkness. He had a sudden moment of discomfort at the three of them standing together, but their faces were intent on the blackness outside.
“What is it?” he asked.
“There’s some kind of large predators out there, Lieutenant.” Rush said.
“Where.” The darkness was impenetrable.
“We’re watching them right now.” Rush said “They’re in the treeline.” Rush said. “Not doing anything. Just watching us.”
Matt looked in the direction that they were looking in, but it was just blackness.
“What are they, how big are they?”
“It looks like a long legged armadillo with a snout like a hyena, but its shoulder is probably the height of my waist.”
“Big then.” he asked Rush. “How good a shot are you?”
Rush actually turned to look at Scott in surprise.
“You’d trust me with a gun?”
“Well I can’t see it can I? How well can you shoot.”
“Adequate.” Said Rush. “The minimum required before they let you off Earth.”
“Think you can put a shot in it or close to it?” Scott asked.
“Possibly. Probably close enough to scare them off.”
Scott realised the rest of the party were clustered around behind them.
“One’s moving!” said Chloe. “Following the trees round to our right where the trees meet the building.”
She had an arm out pointing as it moved and Matt could see James and Varro tracking the direction with their guns as she gestured.
“Back off!” he said to the scientists. “This is going to be loud and possibly dangerous.”
He grabbed out earplugs from a pocket, a radio wire attached on one side.
“You’re going to need these, they won’t be a good fit but better than nothing.” He said to Rush. “My gun, short burst, try and get a shot in it.” He jammed the plugs in Rush’s ears. “TJ give Chloe yours.”
He handed his weapon to Rush. Rush hefted it, settled it against his shoulder and aimed out into the darkness. There was a long pause and then Rush squeezed the trigger. The noise was loud in the room, bouncing echoes off the wall and even through the ear plugs it hurt their ears.
There was a scream from the darkness, a sound of movement, crashing and Rush fired again in a longer burst.
Chloe jumped back as the gun fired again. Silence, just the noise of light rain and wind.
“It’s down on the ground.” She said. “Not moving. It went to attack us when Nicholas shot it.”
“Nasty.” Said Rush, looking around the clearing warily. “Where’s the other gone?”
James shone her torch out into the darkness. They could just catch the outline of something armoured looking on the floor.
With a roar something else charged out of the darkness, Varro, James and Rush all fired at it and it went down, skidding to a halt well within the torch light. It was the size of a large dog and armoured like an armadillo with the sort of pointed teeth that suggested its diet was usually caught on the hoof.
“Just one question.” Asked Varro. “If that is a predator and it needs armour, what does it need armouring against?”
“Shit.” Said Scott.
“Do we go back to Destiny?” asked James.
Chloe pulled out the ear plugs and listened. Everyone waited.
“The animals have started moving again. I guess there aren’t anymore of them at the moment. Everything went quiet when they turned up.”
Rush flipped the gun and handed it back to Scott.
“They’ve got to be night creatures.” Said Varro, “We’ve seen nothing like that all day.”
“So are we going back?”
“No,” said Scott, “We’re in cover and we’re posting a sentry anyway, we’ll be fine. Just keep alert. Watch will be in pairs, one armed, one watching kino on nightvision for more monsters.”
Varro and Evans dragged the dead creatures to the other side of the clearing and left them for the scavengers. Scott posted Volker with James for the rest of her watch and the rest retreated to the fire to finish eating. Rush and Chloe wrung out their wet outer clothes and hung them by the fire on sticks to dry, sitting wrapped in blankets in their underwear.
“Not the smartest move.” TJ looked at them. “Getting wet.”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Chloe said.
TJ finished scraping the last of the stew out of the bowl with the flatbread.
“You can thank Camile.” She said. “She suggested it would be better if you two stayed on the planet. Give you a bit of relief from Destiny. Made a case to the Colonel that you couldn’t get into anything down here that was likely to be a problem we hadn’t already got.”
Rush finished his mouthful. “Remind me to thank her.” He said. “It’s been pleasant not to be watched like a potential terrorist.”
“Allowed you two to let of a little steam.” She said. “Or create it.” She said, looking at the steaming clothes. “Although I didn’t expect you to go playing in the rain like a couple of kids.” She smiled to soften the statement.
“First planet,” said Rush cynically, “seen with the eyes of a child and all that.”
Chloe hit him on the shoulder. “Own up!” she said. “It was pretty amazing.”
Rush glowered at her but the expression didn’t really make it across his whole face.
“Until the people eating aliens showed up.”
“And you shot them.”
“Tomorrow we’ll see daylight for the first time.” Chloe said. “And you can be unimpressed by that too.”
TJ watched them bicker, Chloe pleasant and Rush sarcastic but evidently amused. She realised it was the first time she had seen Chloe relaxed in weeks. Two sentences in they dropped into Ancient, mid sentence, probably without realising and she began to appreciate Scott’s dilemma further, and the comprehension gap between them all. She wasn’t the only one who noticed the change of language. Evans and Cho were obviously uncomfortable about it, though when Volker threw across a comment in Ancient, obviously on Chloe’s side of the argument as it got a sharp response from Rush, it seemed to defuse the tension a little.
She rolled herself into her blanket, she had an earlier watch duty to wake for, and with the practical experience of a medic regularly on call, went to sleep.
James woke her with a shake and a hand lightly over her mouth to stop her speaking.
“You’re up.” She said. “Nothing so far.”
TJ stood. On James far side Volker was yawning by the door and she watched James walk quietly towards Chloe and Rush. Each was wrapped separately in a blanket, but she could see Rush’s outstretched hand on Chloe’s stomach. James leaned to wake Chloe. Two sets of eyes opened, shining white in the torchlight and Chloe stood, wide awake, nodding to James.
“You are uncanny!” TJ heard James whisper to Chloe, and though she couldn’t see James’ expression she saw Chloe smile back.
TJ picked up her gun and walked over to the doorway.
“Get some sleep Dale.” She murmured. “Grab my blankets, they’re still warm, no point in wasting it. I’ll steal Varro’s when I wake him up.”
Volker gratefully wandered off and took TJ’s blankets by the fire. TJ stared out into the darkness. Behind her she heard someone add some more fuel to the fire and then footsteps as Chloe joined her sitting by the edge of the doorway. TJ realised James was still hovering by the fire when Chloe spoke quietly.
“Come over Vanessa. He’s asleep, no-one snores like that if they’re faking.”
Vanessa came over.
“I’m not angry with you.” Said Chloe. “I kind of mind and kind of don’t mind.” Chloe didn’t turn away from staring out of the doorway but kept speaking. “It’s not working out at the moment anyway. I don’t think either of us are brave enough to start that conversation yet.” She laughed quietly and a little cynically. “And look where I am, if that didn’t precipitate it already I don’t know what will.” She turned away from the doorway to look at James. “We need to make this work.” She said firmly. “I won’t ask you to stop seeing him.”
James was silent.
“I wasn’t angry with you.” She said. “Not even at the beginning, even once you knew.” There was a long silence before she spoke again. “I can share, looks like we’ll all take what we can get.”
“Amen.” Muttered Rush from by the fire.
The three women turned to look at him.
“You could have waited till I went to sleep.” He said. “But I applaud your sentiment.”
“Maybe someone needs to have this conversation with Matt.” Said TJ seriously.
“I think sleeping beauty can wait till tomorrow,” said Rush glancing over at the snoring younger man, “if I’m going to get any sleep.” And he rolled over and pulled the blanket over his head.
James followed his lead and made for her blankets leaving TJ and Chloe to take their watch. They sat on the crates by the door in silence staring out into the darkness. TJ rested the gun across her knees. The rain had stopped and it looked as if the cloud was thinning. Certainly there were a couple of faint glows in the cloud cover that were probably the two moons. Finally TJ broke the silence.
“Could you teach me some Ancient?” she asked Chloe.
“Sure,” said Chloe. “Why not.”
Chapter 15: Information and chocolate
The promised supplies arrive - as does the post.
TJ woke Varro, Rush was already awake, had woken as soon as she and Chloe had stood. She stole Varro’s blankets, still warm and laid down. Chloe walked up behind her, standing behind her back looking down at her, blankets in hand.
“Can I sleep with you?” she asked, embarrassed. “I don’t sleep well on my own.”
TJ looked at her.
“I just need to be touching someone.” Chloe said hurriedly.
“It’s fine.” She said to Chloe. “Lie down.”
She saw Chloe sit down behind her and felt her slide backwards so they were back to back, touching through the blankets.
“Thank you.” Whispered Chloe.
TJ looked over and saw Rush looking at her. He gave her a single nod. She nodded back.
Rush and Varro sat on the crates in the doorway. Varro had made efforts to talk, quietly without asking personal questions or any pointed remarks, and in the interests of staying awake, Rush had reluctantly responded.
“I find it hard to believe sometimes,” said Varro, “that we are so far away from home.”
“What I find incredible,” said Rush, “is the narrowness of our horizons.”
Varro looked at him with a querying look.
“We spend our time on a tiny part of Destiny, with these occasional windows into a tiny part of a planet that we’ll never see again.”
Varro nodded thoughtfully. “I see what you mean.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” said Rush, “I wouldn’t trade Destiny for all the tea in China, but it’s a bit of a dichotomy considering our mission.”
“Our mission.” Repeated Varro thoughtfully.
“Well, not your mission.” Rush said. “You didn’t choose it.”
Varro watched the darkness.
“I think I did.” Varro said. “I have been speaking to Camile Wray and I’ve asked Young to start the process for me to claim asylum in the United States. In return I’ll be telling them everything I can remember about the Lucian Alliance. If I ever get back there. I’ll be American.” He said. ” I understand your law does not differentiate between people from other Tauri nations and other planets.” He added with a slightly wolfish grin.
Rush nodded. “Not my law.” He said. “I’m officially British. But still…”
They watched the trees some more. The rain had stopped and the clouds broken and they could see stars appearing in the gaps as the clouds scudded across the sky.
“I’m assuming China is somewhere on Earth they grow tea?” Varro asked.
Rush chuckled. “Yes. China is famous for tea. Tea, rice and communism.”
“Communism is a political structure, yes?”
“Yes.” Said Rush. “Chloe would be the one to talk to about that. Politics is her area of expertise.”
“She’s very clever.” Varro commented. “You go well together.”
“I think we’re stuck with each other now, whatever happens.”
“She’s very pretty too.” Varro said with a smile, but as Rush gave him a long look it was mild, no implications.
“Sadly, every concept I had of human beauty disappeared out of the window with my ability to see the world the same way as you.” Rush said, with a slightly sharp edge. “I physically can’t see it anymore, it all looks too different.” His tone gentled, “But she’s rather extraordinary.”
Varro laughed quietly.
Rush woke Chloe before dawn, and they stood in the doorway watching the sun come up. Varro kept silent as the pair stared out at the coming morning, trees appearing in the gloom, a glow behind them, and then the sun rose behind the last of the clouds, the light warming the landscape in apricot tones. Finally they turned back.
“Was it worth it?” Varro asked.
Chloe nodded, smiling. “It’s very different to artificial light, very beautiful.” She said. “I’m glad I’ve seen it.”
Varro woke Scott and as people started moving around the rest of the party gradually woke. Powdered root porridge was cooked and consumed and the party dispersed to their various tasks.
The day passed too quickly for Chloe, even buried in the depths of the base as she was. Varro had snared some small animals which TJ pronounced safe to eat and dinner was a thick stew of the meat with roots, paper tree nuts, and some sort of sliced plant stems. The room was beginning to look like an encampment with stacked bales of paper tree leaves, crates and nets of vegetables and dressed out carcasses hanging from a makeshift rack.
Varro and James announced that they had only found the trail of the two predators from the previous night and no other animals of a similar size at all, and the party relaxed somewhat.
“Only one more day.” Chloe said to Rush quietly as she rinsed her bowl in a crate full of water.
Rush said nothing but his face was gentle and he drew her outside to watch the sun go down.
It was an anticlimax walking back onto the ship and Chloe blinked back tears, not for the return to the ship, but the loss of freedom. By mutual agreement, after a quick shower to get rid of the muck of three days camping on an alien planet, they both went to the observation lounge, and as the bench was already tenanted, sat at the rail with their feet dangling over the edge, wasting the time they had too much of watching the stars go past in FTL.
A further four days of unwelcome confinement was broken by the announcement that the planned resupply was on for two days time. The entire ship was in a state of suppressed excitement, and the tension was contagious, putting both Chloe and Rush even further on edge.
“Is there any risk to us?” Chloe asked Rush as they stood in the chalkboard corridor.
“All the risk is at the other end.” Rush said.
With an old piece of rag he scrubbed away old calculations and started to write as he explained. Chloe watched intently, asking occasional questions and on a couple of occasions adding to the calculations as he showed her the basic premises of the wormhole generation. It wasn’t until Chloe’s stomach complained with an audible growl that she realised they’d been discussing the subject for over four hours. Reluctantly they joined the crowds eating in the mess as everyone waited nervously for the incoming wormhole.
Destiny dropped out of FTL the next day.
The mood in the gateroom was high. Young stood by the dialling device watching the gate. Crew members waited in a line, ready to pass the crates hand over hand back to be stacked at the back of the room.
The gate groaned into life. There was a whoop from somewhere in the room as the event horizon billowed out with a whoosh.
“Stand back!” yelled Scott from the side. “Remember people, they’ll be coming in hard.”
They waited. Chloe and Rush stood on the balcony, away from the proceedings with other crew not required for lifting duty. Chloe’s fingers dug into his arm as he leaned on the railing.
Finally a crate bounced through skidding twenty feet down the room. The first pair of retrievers dashed in a dragged it back and it was shifted to the sides. Ten seconds later the next crate came through. Every ten seconds a crate bounced through. Two of the lifters weren’t fast enough and were knocked down by crate number eight and dragged away by colleagues as crate number nine bounced down the room.
Ten crates, twenty crates, thirty crates, thirty six.
“That’s the full complement.” Shouted Young.
The gate remained open, the assembled crew staring at it. Finally a further crate bounced through and as soon as it hit the deck the puddle disappeared, before it had even completed its first bounce. It had something written on the side in spray paint.
Young walked over to it.
“To Destiny, with love from Earth.” He read.
He unlatched the top and looked in. It was filled with parcels, all addressed to various crew members.
“Post.” He said.
There was a cheer.
“Unloading first!” he ordered. “Post handout will be after dinner in the mess. We’ll make an event of this.”
There were as many cheers as there were groans, but crates started to be moved.
“I’m pleased to report that everything went well on Langara, and the planet is still there.” Said Young.
There was a cheer.
The post crate was brought into the mess hall by Greer and another Marine Rush had never bothered to get to know, pushed on Eli’s kino sled. Young opened the list and the excited chatter in the crowded room dropped to a rapt silence. Young took the first parcel out.
The parcel, the size of a small shoebox, was passed from hand to hand till it reached Barnes. She opened it.
“It’s from my Mom.” She said.
There were more cheers. More boxes were handed out one by one, all identically sized and shaped, some decorated by whoever had sent them. Each recipient copied Barnes in announcing who had sent them.
Rush tuned out, just waiting for Chloe to receive the box that would inevitably arrive from her mother. He had no one on Earth and was expecting nothing. Chloe nudged him and he looked up from the sheet of calculations in front of him. She was holding a plain box.
“It’s for you.” She said.
He gave her a surprised look. People were looking at him, some also looking surprised. He scowled at them and opened the box. It was crammed full, not an inch of free space. He could see, among other things at least four flash drives, a couple of notebooks and smell coffee. There was a note on top.
“Rush, you’re still a complete egotistical asshole, but we’ve been stuck out there, so Zelenka and I thought we’d fill your post box as everyone else here hates you. McKay.”
In the margin next to “egotistical asshole” was the annotation “Pot? Kettle? Few extras from me, Jackson.” and next to “Hates you” “Not all true, enjoy this, Zelenka.”
Everyone was watching him and waiting for him to say who the box was from.
“McKay, Zelenka and Jackson.” He snapped.
Rush looked around and realised that every member of Destiny’s crew was receiving a box, even those he knew didn’t have family or many friends were receiving boxes from former colleagues. Some were going through them immediately, but more than a few were taking theirs away. He looked and saw Chloe had her box, put his hand on her shoulder and stood. She followed him as he pushed his way out.
Chloe’s shoebox was as packed as his. The first thing she pulled out was a small bottle. He waited as she stared at it with what looked like trepidation.
“What is it?”
“It’s my favourite perfume.” She said.
She opened the bottle and they both reeled back with the power of the smell.
“I’ll give it to TJ.” She said, putting it down and digging in the box. “Oh my god!”
He looked at her as she waved something in the air.
“American chocolate?” he asked dubiously, inserting a flash drive into his laptop.
She shook her head. “Belgian.”
“This one is for you.” He said, disconnecting it.
“What is it?” she asked, unwrapping the chocolate bar.
He held out the stick drive to her. It had ”4 CA” written on the side in sharpie marker.
“Apparently sixty-four gigabytes of science and maths curriculum, physics, astrophysics, calculus, engineering and the like. Up to graduate and postgraduate level.”
“Wow.” She said, looking at it. “That’s actually pretty cool.”
She snapped a small piece off the end of the chocolate bar and popped it in her mouth. Rush put the stick drive down on the bedside table. When he looked up her eyes were closed and her face was a picture of bliss.
“Good then is it?” he asked.
“It’s almost better than sex.” She said.
“Almost?” He queried.
“Very very close.” She said.
She leaned forward and kissed him. Her mouth tasted of warm chocolate and he had to admit it was very good. She pulled back, popped a piece in his mouth and kissed him again.
“You’re right.” He said, licking along her top lip. “It is almost, but not quite better than sex.”
She tugged his beard, making him scowl.
“I’ll have to conduct some tests on that.” She said.
He let her pull him down to the bed, kissing him all the way down till he was resting on the pillow under her, her hair a curtain round his face. For a few long minutes they kissed till she pulled back, sliding down his body, and opening his fly. He groaned as she took him in her mouth and sucked gently, running her tongue over him. He felt her giggle round him, then she went back to attending to him in earnest and rational thought went out of his mind. She had her fingers round him, as her mouth and tongue played over the end of him and the sensations had him gasping.
“Chloe, if you don’t stop, I’m going to…”
He felt her giggle again and then she sat up and looked at him. He groaned.
“Going to what?” she asked.
He reached up, and grabbed her, flipping her over and sliding up her shirt.
“Lose all rational control.” He said, pulling down her bra and sucking on a nipple.
She arched into him.
He slid down her body, kissing his way down her belly, till he reached her pants, pulling them part way down below her knees and parting her legs. She moaned as he ran his tongue over her.
“Be forced to return the favour.” He said.
She moaned as he returned the favour, leaving her only when she was so wet with his saliva and her own arousal it was making a damp patch on the bed sheet. He propped himself up on his hands to look at her.
“Chocolate is so not better than this.” She said.
He slid two fingers into her making her moan again. She struggled a leg partly out of one side of her pants, opening herself to him and pulling his pants just far enough down to get them out of the way, he slid himself into her.
The clothes restricted their movement, but he rocked into her, setting a quick rhythm, and she pressed up into him with every thrust, meeting him, wrapping her arms round him neck and pulling him down for more still faintly chocolate tasting kisses.
She could feel him beginning to lose control and slid a hand in between them to play over her clitoris, and he managed to hold himself back long enough to feel her orgasm crash through her before he joined her seconds later.
“Definitely better than chocolate.” She said. “But not by much.”
Chapter 16: Battle
Destiny comes under attack.
Destiny had dropped back into FTL as soon as the resupply wormhole was closed. Whilst the wormhole from Langara held no hope of returning them to Earth, the resupply had raised morale immeasurably. Simple things like the large quantity of new books and a plethora of new seeds for the hydroponics were making life more interesting already with bean sprouts on the menu within a couple of days of the resupply.
Life had even become more interesting for them in their incarceration as Chloe began to work her way through the study materials McKay and Zelenka had sent her finally putting names and descriptions to her intuitive understanding of mathematics and Rush caught up with four years worth of professional journals and SGC research.
It was also gratifying that Lisa Park had started to complain her eyes were itching and TJ had bandaged them over again to stop her rubbing them or straining them trying to see.
They spent a further week in FTL before Destiny dropped out into real space mid morning. Rush and Chloe had decamped to the mess hall for a change of scenery. Chloe looked up from the laptop which she had been loaned as their current escort Becky Deacon’s radio crackled into life.
“Bridge this is Young where are we?”
There was a brief pause.
“This is Scott, we’re in range of three gates all locked out, but there’s a planet within shuttle distance with no stargate, and Brody thinks Destiny is indicating an asteroid belt is interesting.”
“On my way, Young out.”
Rush’s brow furrowed and they waited, finally giving up and going back to their reading, although with considerably less focus. An hour or so passed before Rush finally gave up and turned to Becky.
“Becky, may I borrow your radio? I want to talk to the Colonel.”
Becky shrugged and handed it over.
“Young this is Rush.”
“Rush?” the Colonel seemed surprised.
“Yes, Rush.” Rush’s voice was tight with irritation. “What’s going on Colonel?”
There was a pause, and Chloe wasn’t sure if the Colonel would actually reply.
“Destiny has indicated a body in the planetary system. According to Volker it looks like some kind of small planetoid, and is largely made of water ice. Volker thinks it may be a good answer to finally resolve our water rationing issues if it’s made of enough water, we can access the water frozen in it and if we can purify it.”
Chloe saw Rush nodding as Young spoke.
“A centaur,” he said, he clicked the button on the radio. “Of course, that will be why Destiny dropped us out of FTL here then.” Rush said. “What’s your course of action?“
“Lieutenant Scott is taking a small party in the shuttle to examine the asteroid and try and get samples.” Said Young.
“Fine.” Said Rush. He paused. “Thank you. Rush out.”
He handed the radio back to Becky. Chloe closed the laptop and stood.
“What’s a centaur?” asked Chloe.
“A kind of minor planetoid.” He said. “Icy and comet like, but not orbiting like a comet.”
“Observation deck?” She asked.
He stood. Becky followed them out of the room.
They tried to go back to work, but failed and sat on the bench in the empty observation lounge watching the blackness, the faint twinkling of stars. They heard the sublight engines kick in before Destiny started to move, and watched as Destiny began to pull closer to the star system.
They saw the docking clamps release and the flare as the shuttle departed. They couldn’t hear the ship to ship communication between Destiny and the shuttle, but Becky’s radio crackled occasionally with communication between Young and Brody who was working on a potential purification system. Rush tried to read, but Chloe could see the frustration was wearing on him, the need to go and take control.
Time dragged. Becky’s shift ended and Dunning arrived to take over.
“If I hear anything, I’ll tell you okay?” she said before she left.
Time dragged. Moment by moment, the tension ebbed. Nothing untoward happened and gradually Chloe began to focus on the science in front of her. Next to her she felt Rush begin to relax into the chair as he read, the feel of his shoulder softening against her arm.
She finished the chapter and put the laptop down a moment staring vaguely out the window as she tried to assimilate all of the new information. She almost didn’t see the slight flare of light, a pinprick blink in the blackness. She looked at the area where it had happened, wondering if her eyes had played tricks on her, or if it was the shuttle on its way back, reflecting sunlight. The tiny flare hadn’t seemed right for sunlight though and she leaned forward squinting into the blackness.
There was another minute flash, a momentary bright spark against the night.
“Nicholas,” she took his arm and he looked up, “there’s something out there.”
Rush looked up sharply, staring out, his attention following her gesturing hand.
“I’ve seen something flash twice, in the same place.”
The flash came again, a little stronger. They watched and waited and a fourth time the speck of light showed.
“Is it the shuttle?” she asked.”
“Your guess is as good as mine on that one.”
“Airman Dunning,” said Rush, “could you please ask Colonel Young if the shuttle is on its way back.”
Dunning gave them a suspicious look.
“It’s a simple request.” Said Rush sharply.
Dunning raised and eyebrow and complied.
“Colonel Young, this is Dunning, I’m in the observation lounge with Doctor Rush.”
There was a moment’s pause.
“Dunning, this is Young. Is there a problem?”
“No sir, but Doctor Rush has asked me to ask you if the shuttle is on it’s way back?”
Rush looked at Chloe and they both looked out at space.
“Is there a problem?” Young repeated.
Rush reached for the radio.
“May I?” he asked Dunning.
Dunning handed him the radio.
“Young this is Rush.”
“What is it?”
“Chloe and I can see something out there. It’s a flash of light that appears to be repeating on a regular basis. From out point of view, at about eleven o’clock and about ten degrees above Destiny’s horizontal plane.”
There was another pause.
“Has Dunning seen it?”
Dunning shrugged and shook his head. He leaned forward to the radio.
“I wasn’t really looking sir.” He admitted.
“I’m not sure if he even can see it Young,” added Rush, “or if it’s out of his wavelength.”
“Okay, I’ll have a sensor sweep run.”
Rush handed Dunning back his radio. They watched the window, the flash appeared again. Minutes dragged, into half an hour with no response. The flash appearing again and again.
“It’s getting brighter.” Said Chloe.
They waited in tense silence, all pretence of study gone. Waiting for the shuttle to return.
Without warning there was a brighter flash and seconds later a large ship appeared ahead of them.
“Fuck!” said Dunning.
Rush and Chloe both stood going to the rail, a list of expletives in mixed Ancient, English and something Chloe didn’t recognise tumbling out of Rush’s mouth.
“Where’s the shuttle?” asked Chloe, she repeated it in English to Dunning. “Where’s the shuttle.”
Dunning shook his head.
His radio crackled into life. “All crew to assigned stations!”
Dunning shifted restlessly on his feet as if he wanted to be elsewhere.
The ship was only really apparent as a ship due to the evident propulsion systems on the back of it. Apart from that it appeared an aggregation of rocky and metallic matter, broadly symmetrical, but looking more like a large chunk of some metallic ore than a ship of any kind.
It hung there in space, directly ahead of them. Chloe realised she was holding her breath and let it out trying to breathe normally. Suddenly, with small flashes of light, smaller lumps popped off the accretions, a sudden explosive movement from the main ship, before they took control of themselves and began to swarm towards Destiny. They were uniform in shape, but bulging and globulous like grey popcorn.
They could hear Destiny’s power grid charging up, the hum deepening and the high pitched whine right at the top of their hearing as the shields and weapons were powered up.
There was a glow appearing on the alien ship, a vague diaphanous mist of blue into UV coloured energy which then coalesced and focussed into a series of bolts of energy shooting out towards Destiny. Impacts rocked the ship.
Rush’s knuckles were white on the railing and Chloe resisted the urge to grab for him. Dunning was at the rail with them, as transfixed as they.
The smaller ships began to close in, smaller bursts of light playing across the shields and making occasional hits. They saw a sharp blaze of light ahead of them as a hit from the main ship broke through the shields and a breach vented atmosphere to space.
Hits rocked the ship again and they watched the smaller guns trying to take out the little ships, further flares breaking across the prow of the ship.
“No no no!” said Rush, “not like that you idiots! Go for the main ship. You need to focus on the power build up at the front of the ship.”
Seconds passed, Destiny taking further hits. Rush turned Chloe, face furious.
“They’re going to kill us!”
She shook her head, fear playing across her face.
“There’s nothing we can do, the only place we can override bridge control is the chair room.”
They stared at each other.
“Are you really sure we can do a better job?” She demanded.
“Who is on the bridge?” Rush demanded of Dunning.
He looked at Rush, startled.
“Uh…the Colonel, Doctor Volker, Lieutenant James and Marsden.”
Rush shook his head in disbelief.
“And on the shuttle?”
“Lieutenant Scott, Sergeant Greer, Brody, Evans…”
“Yes, yes…” Rush’s tone was dismissive and as there was another heavy impact to the ship Dunning turned away. “Useless!” he said to Chloe.
There was a moment of understanding between them, a look of agreement and Rush reached out quickly, grabbed Dunning’s hair and slammed his head into the railing. Dunning folded and they were running, racing for the chair room.
Chloe arrived first, metres ahead of Rush and slapped the door control, which opened as he raced past her into the room, making straight for a console. She followed him in, looking around before he said “Just take a console!”
She looked down, expecting it to make no sense as they had previously, but the language was clear and unequivocal and the controls for pulling up systems appeared clearer and more intuitive than she had expected.
“What do we do?” she asked him.
“Firstly we get control of some of the guns, and then we need to target the power accumulator on the front of that ship with enough firepower to get through their shields and overload it.”
“Will it be that easy?”
Rush laughed, still tapping away at the console.
“Unlikely. They’ll be shielding particularly for that, but Destiny is four times their size and probably considerably more powerful than anything they’ve met before.”
Chloe glanced across at him.
“Just get on with the calculations, I’ll get us control of the guns.”
She pulled up Destiny’s sensor arrays and started calculating the power requirements needed to do what he had indicated sending the data across to him.
“A single shot of the power we’d need would cook the main gun.” She said.
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
Chloe started to run the other options. There were very few.
“We can do it with a focussed burst from the smaller guns.” She said.
Rush shook his head.
“You’d still need the main weapon and there’s no time to program them to fire in concert, they’re on independent targeting systems.”
“Can it be done from the chair?” Chloe said.
“I have control of the guns.” Said Rush, “and I’ve tied them into a firing programme for dealing with asteroid fields. I’ll use the chair, take control of all of them. I’ll tell you what to do with the console”
“No.” Chloe’s voice wasfirm. “I’m no good with the consoles and systems, you can do that, I can’t. I’ll take the chair.”
Rush spun to glare at Chloe.
“It’s too dangerous and you’ve never actively used it.”
“But what if I can’t get you out, and if you need anything from out here I’m practically useless.”
Rush turned back to the console. Chloe toggled through screens, searching for something she knew must be there, clutching at the console edge as another impact rocked the ship.
“Which is completely why I need you out here, I can do it from in there, I need you out here to bring me back.”
“I’m transferring control of the weapons to your console, the controls for the systems lock are the blue box.”
The information she needed appeared on the screen in front of her next to the data he had sent. She ran some rapid calculations, it was possible, but only with the control she’d obtain from the chair. She realised she was talking to herself.
She walked over to the chair and sat down.
“Nicholas I’m so sorry, it’s the only way. Destiny, activate chair interface.’
Rush whirled to stare at her as the chair hummed into life, electrodes closing on her head. His feet were moving before he even realised it, his hands closed over hers and their eyes met for a single moment before the electrodes touched and her eyes closed.
Frantically he checked the chair, knowing that it was futile, running back to the console, taking back control of the weapons systems. He had them for a second before they greyed out on the screen and started spooling over in a stream of commands too fast for him to read.
“Nicholas.” Her voice came from the walls.
Rush stared at the chair reflexively but her eyes were still closed, body motionless.
“I need more power.”
“Chloe?” He stared around the room for a second.
“I need you to find me more power.”
The greyed out console in front of him flashed up again and three more screens appeared. He braced himself against the console as further impacts shook the room.
“I can divert some power from the aft shields and life support and if your solution will work from the FTL capacity, but that'll slow us leaving.”
She started asking him for things in quick succession and he was forced to work fast to keep up with her demands, asking her to slow to repeat as he tried to keep up.
“Nicholas, I’m going to use fourteen of the small guns. I’m going to run them up to 240% with the power you’ve sequestered.”
Rush looked at the chair in shock.
“Are you insane? That’ll blow them all to pieces at the same time, fourteen holes in the ship at the same time. You’ll kill us all.”
“I can use the shields to channel the subsequent blasts away from the ship, stop it blowing out the hull. The guns will be completely destroyed afterwards, but we’ll be alive and will still have most of our weapons left. I need you to reduce power to the other guns so when I draw on it, it will prioritise the ones I have direct control of.”
Rush began to work, shutting down weapons, channelling the flow of power to the guns. She fired more instructions to him, quick modification to the shield emitters, specifics on areas of control, focussed and detailed knowledge and suddenly, the realisation hit him that she had tied herself directly into the firing systems of the guns she was about to fire.
“Fuck!” shouted James, “Fuck, fuck, fuck!”
“What?” demanded Young.
“Something’s just shut me out of all the systems.”
The ship shook again from another impact.
“Get it working again, before that ship blows us out of the galaxy!”
“Someone’s shuttling power between systems faster than I can track it.” Said Volker. “I can’t get control of it either, they’ve drained power from almost every system.”
Young looked out of the window as the firing pattern changed. The shots were more infrequent, none of the previous arcs of fire and all was concentrated on the small ships.
“Where’s it going.”
“There’s more power being diverted into the shields and the weapons systems.” Said Volker.
“The hit rate is up on the drones.” James called. “They’re beginning to thin out. We might be able to get the shuttle back in if Lieutenant Scott is quick.”
The ship rocked with another large impact to the shields.
“Holy cow!” said Volker.
“I’ve traced the systems override.” He said turning. “It’s coming from the chair room. Someone’s in the chair.”
The flash of a drone exploding close to the shields brightened the room momentarily, Young blinked to restore his vision.
“I’m still locked out.” Said James, “but whoever it is, is doing a better job than I was. I personally don’t give a shit who it is, I want to live.”
“Rush!” Snapped Young. He grabbed his radio. “Dunning this is Young, come in.” He waited. “Dunning, report.”
“Colonel this is Deacon. Dunning is out cold on the floor in the Observation Lounge.”
“Meet me at the Chair Room. Young out.”
Young hit the corridor at a dead run, trying not to be knocked over by the repeated impacts on the shields. Part way there he almost collided with Deacon coming out of a side corridor and they raced to the room with the chair. Young hit the door release, which pinged but refused to open. They looked through the window. Chloe sat in the chair, Rush working some controls behind her, his back to the door.
“Volker this is Young, I need you to override the door controls to the Chair Room.”
“I can try…”
“Just do it.”
They watched helplessly as Rush worked the controls, looking like he was talking to someone. His movements were quick and urgent, he turned and shouted something at the chair then ran to another console.
“Volker?” growled Young into the radio.
“I’m trying, as fast as I get a way in I’m being shut down...”
There was a sudden shudder through the ship and Young heard Volker yell
“Fuck NO!” through the radio.
Young shook his head against a vibration that made his ears ring, and saw Deacon doing the same. He put a hand to the door to hold him up against the shuddering that threatened to knock him down and through the glass, saw Rush spin and shout a silent “NO!” at Chloe, face twisted in horror. There was a shock that rocked him almost off his feet, and then moments later a further shock in the opposite direction that knocked Deacon down.
Silence. No impacts.
Young looked back through the door window. Rush was standing in front of Chloe. He said something that looked like an order, then rushed to the console and started working frantically.
“Volker what’s happened?”
“Someone put a massive burst through some of our guns, way more than they should be able to take, it looks like they somehow used the shields to contain the blasts as they exploded.”
“And the enemy ship?”
There was a long pause.
“It’s not there any more.”
“Volker get this damn door open. James tap into the kino in there. I want a defence team up here now.”
He could still see Rush at the controls, looking panicked, shooting anxious looks back to Chloe, talking constantly. Whatever he was doing it looked like he was repeating the same two phrases again and again.
“I have the kino footage.” Volker’s voice came through the radio.
“What’s he doing?”
“I don’t know.”
“What’s he saying?”
There was a pause, Young heard the team arrive behind him.
“Uh, he’s just saying the same things over and over again in Ancient, sounds like, “Don’t go, not now”, “you can’t leave”.”
The door hissed open.
Young stepped in, weapon drawn. The soldiers fanned out behind him. Rush looked at them, but continued to work frantically at the controls.
“Step away from the controls Doctor or I will shoot you.”
“No!” Rush shot another glance over his shoulder. “She’s still in there.”
“Doctor, I won’t warn you again. Step away.” Young’s face was set in stone.
Rush ignored him.
“This is your last warning.” Said Young.
“I’m not letting her go.” Rush shouted, not turning round.
Young saw Deacon step past him, walk up behind Rush and hit him across the back of head with the butt of her pistol. He went down in a heap.
“Nice move.” He said to her.
Young grabbed the radio. “Volker, get your ass down here.”
Chapter 17: Frozen
Young is forced to act and take risks he would prefer not to.
Rush came round in the infirmary. His head hurt and as he went to raise his hand to his head he realised he was restrained to the bed somehow. Although the curtain was drawn around his bed, he could hear quiet voices and multiple heartbeats around him. He sniffed automatically, but the room smelled overwhelmingly of blood and alcohol TJ used as a first line antiseptic.
“Chloe.” He said.
Footsteps. TJ walked into his field of vision. She had dark circles under her eyes and her hair was falling down out of it's pins.
“Where’s Chloe?” he demanded.
“She’s fine.” Said TJ. “Relax, calm down, you’ll hurt yourself.”
He tried to pull his legs up but his feet were confined also.
“Where is she?” He demanded again, wrenching at the restraints.
“She’s fine.” Repeated TJ, putting her hands on his shoulders. “You’re going to hurt yourself.”
He looked at her with a look of pure fury.
“If she was fine, you would tell me where she is.”
TJ turned to someone out of his vision.
“Get Colonel Young.”
“I don’t want Young, I want to know where Chloe is. Did you get her out of the chair?” He demanded.
TJ looked at him sternly. “Calm down Doctor or I will sedate you.”
“I want to know where Chloe is.” He repeated.
“And I’ve told you, she’s fine.”
“Tell me where Chloe is.” He said again. He began to yank at the restraints again.
“She’s in the chair,” said Young, walking up to the bed, “where you left her.”
“You didn’t let me get her out!” shouted Rush.
“I didn’t put her in there!”
“No, she did!”
“That’s not possible.” Young said with narrowed eyes. “You have to activate it from the console. You said that.”
Rush looked at him. “Not if you set it to voice commands.” He said furiously. “If you set it to voice commands you can turn it on from the chair.”
“And just when did you find that out?” Young asked sarcastically.
“About half a second after Chloe sat in it and turned it on.” Rush snapped and then slumped. “You have to let me get her out of there.” He pleaded. “The backlash from the weapon’s surge was dangerous. She was holding too many systems at a time, and too tied to the weapons' system balancing all of the power flows and variables as they blew.”
His face was a mask of pain, involuntary tears forming in the corners of his eyes.
“You are going nowhere.” Said Young categorically. “I have no idea what to do with you, but I can tell you now, you are going nowhere for the foreseeable future. Destiny is running on the last dregs of power according to Brody and we’re hoping that there’s enough left for her to get us to a suitable star to refuel. I don’t trust you and I’m taking no risks while we’re in this state.”
The kino footage was clear. The kino had been positioned and left in the room to prevent people messing with the chair and was left with a clear view of the whole room. Young, Camile, Scott and Dale Volker stood around the small screen.
They watched Chloe then Rush run into the room, Rush making straight for a console, Chloe looking around then making for another. Rush said something to Chloe in Ancient and it was evident that she disagreed as they both worked at the screens. There was a section of them working over solutions and Rush talking about the power accumulator on the front of the other ship.
“I think this is the point that Brody and I lost control, he’s just told her he’s locked us out of the firing system and tied it into some sort of control programme.”
They watched as Rush stepped back from the console, looked at the chair then went back to the console, hands moving fast, pulling up more menus.
“He said he’s going into the chair, he’ll show her what to do. She’s disagreed because he can use the consoles to help and she can’t.” Translated Volker. “She says she’s going to use the chair.”
Rush turned round and said something angrily at her. Chloe shook her head and was insistent. In the video an impact shook the ship. Volker reached out and ran the footage back and listened to it again.
“He’s told her it’s too dangerous. Pretty much she said if it’s dangerous she needs him out here, she can do it from in there, she knows what to do.”
They watched as both worked at the controls.
“He’s telling her what to do with the console, and telling her how to lock the systems down. I think she’s saying something about knowing how it works.”
Volker ran the footage again.
“She’s just said, I’ve got it, it’s that obvious, I can do it, something like that.”
They watched as Chloe turned from the console and walked to the chair, sitting in it. She spoke two phrases and even Young picked out the word Nicholas in the first. The chair glowed and hummed, Rush turned and they saw his look of shock as the electrodes closed on her head.
“Uh, ’Sorry Nicholas, it has to be this. Destiny, activate chair interface.’”
They stood there in silence, watching as Rush ran to the chair, looking frantic, checked Chloe then ran back to the console and start activating systems, as more impacts rocked the room.
The voice was clear and evidently Chloe’s. Rush looked up, staring at the chair, but Chloe was still immobile. It spoke again.
“I need more power.” Volker translated.
Her voice came again.
“I need you to give me more power.” Repeated Volker.
The console in front of him flashed and he began to start flicking through screens.
Rush started speaking again as he worked, fast and strained and Volker was forced to run the footage a couple of times as further impacts drowned out the audio.
“I think he’s just said he’ll do it, and he’s asking her why she’s doing this to him.” Said Volker.
The footage continued with Rush working hastily at the console and Chloe’s voice intermittently appearing from nowhere telling him things or asking for things.
Chloe’s voice sounded again and Rush looked at the chair in shock, almost yelling something then moved to another console.
“I didn’t get what she said first, but he’s just said, she can’t do that, it’s insane, she’ll get everyone killed, and I think she said she’s run the numbers, and she can bend the shields to stop it blowing out the hull.”
Young’s eyes opened wide.
“She’s just told him to do something to the ship but I don’t understand the words she’s using, but he’s done it whatever it was.”
The footage began to vibrate and Young recognised the actions he had seen through the window as Rush spun to shout at Chloe.
The first shock knocked Rush sideways off balance and the second knocked him to his knees. He got up in the subsequent silence and they could hear him call out.
No response. Young knew how the rest played out, and Rush worked frantically at the controls, evidently trying to get Chloe out, his voice pleading with her not to go.
Young watched himself walk into the room, threaten Rush and Deacon cold cock him from behind. Volker stopped the recording.
“Looks like he was telling the truth.” Said Camile. “She did get in the chair herself.”
“At the moment, I’m not sure which of them is more dangerous.” Said Young. “Rush with his understanding of the systems or Chloe being able to tell the ship what to do.”
“They did save our lives.” Said Camile. “By all accounts we were losing the fight and Scott and Greer and the science party were stranded on the shuttle, we’d have been toast or without them.”
Young looked at her.
“But they also almost blew up the ship by overloading the weapons array.” He said. “And took practically every system down to nothing including life support.”
“I can’t say I’m sorry they did it.” He said. “We’d have been pretty screwed without what they did. It was bad luck that you came across the alien ship anyway.”
Young shot a look at his face. It was pale and strained and his eyes were on the still paused shot of Chloe in the chair.
Volker nodded. “We’ve found no other evidence of aliens in this system.” He said. “Except the asteroid it looks like they were mining.”
“We’ve got some pretty large chunks of ice ourselves.” Said Scott. “We blew some large chunks off that rock and got samples from under the surface. Brody thinks that when we melt those, most of the impurities will be gone.”
Volker nodded. “Most of the impurities like carbon monoxide, dioxide and methane will be gas at room temperature, we can vent those. The particulate we can filter out. We can distil if necessary. It’s looking good for increasing our water supplies.”
“At least something good’s come out of this fiasco. How long till we can leave?”
Volker’s face fell and he ducked his head.
“There’s some serious work needed to check the shield integrity.”
Young rubbed his forehead and the back of his fingers in resignation.
“Best and worst case?” He asked.
“If everything looks okay, maybe ten hours.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
It took twenty six tense hours before the scientists were ready to pronounce the shields safe. The melting of the ice was being undertaken in crates in an area of the ship that the science staff were confident they could vent, under the supervision of crew in the space suits, protection against the carbon monoxide. TJ had divided her time between the infirmary and checking on Chloe, still in the chair. Young had had to order her to get a couple of hours sleep, finally physically dragging her into bed and holding her as she cried out the stress, but she had still looked drained and worn on awaking. At least the injured crew looked like they were out of the danger zone now, no further casualties. When the ship finally dropped back into FTL Young breathed a deep sigh of relief.
The scientists and TJ were standing around Chloe as Young walked in.
“Can you get her out?”
“With or without killing her?” asked Volker morosely.
“Without.” Young’s voice was firm.
The scientist’s looked at each other.
“Realistically?” said Park. “No. We need either Rush or Eli. We’re hoping that one of them can replicate what they did to separate Ginn and Amanda Perry from her mind to separate her from Destiny or what Eli did to separate Rush from the simulation. Maybe with enough time and the computer records we could duplicate it.”
Young looked at them, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“The problem is,” said TJ, “that we only have about another four days at most before she dies of dehydration, she’ll start taking damage sooner. The chair isn’t damaging her like it did Doctor Franklin or Doctor Rush the first time round, but she will die from lack of fluids. I can hook her up to IV fluids, but we don’t have a large quantity even after the resupply.”
They all waited for him, looking for his answer.
“You need to wake up Eli.” He said. “Can you do that?”
Brody nodded. He spun his laptop round, and brought up some data, somewhat unnecessarily Young thought as it all looked like gobbledegook to him.
“We think so.” He said. “Doctor Rush and Chloe’s last set of power flow figures on my single emitter option look like our best shot so far. We don’t think we’re going to get a better option.”
Young looked at the gibberish on the screen.
“What do you think your chances of success are?”
They all took a deep breath in at the same time and he looked from one face to the next.
“About eighty percent.” Said Park uncomfortably. “But we don’t think we’re going to be able to improve on that.” She squinted down at the console.
Young took a step back, rubbing his neck.
Chapter 18: Eli
The science team open Eli's pod
The crowd in the pod corridor were silent. Park, Brody and Volker moved between console and pod, adding parts and cables to the broken pod and talking quietly between themselves. The pod looked even more broken now, the top had been cracked open as well as the base.
Young, Camille, TJ and Scott stood a little way off, watching.
“How long will it take?” asked Young curiously.
“Once we actually start the process it will be pretty quick.” Said Brody.
“Once we start it, that’s it,” added Park, “it’ll just happen.”
They went back to work. TJ left to check on Chloe, despite the fact that she had a constant watch on her, then returned. The time moved painfully slowly and Young found himself pacing. He could see Camile watching him out of the corner of his eye and he stopped and looked at her.
“Nothing.” She said. “Just thinking.”
TJ looked through her medical kit, laid out on a crate in case of emergency, for the umpteenth time. Young watched her turn over every item again, before deliberately putting the last one down and turning away to look at the pod.
He walked over to look at Eli though the glass. The boy (man?) was immobile, his eyes closed as if he was asleep. Young wondered how his mother was coping. Camile had said someone had been visiting her. Finally the scientists appeared to come to an agreement.
“We’re ready.” Said Brody, looking at Young in enquiry.
Young nodded. “Do it.”
Brody reached out with finger and hit a single button.
With a hiss the pod opened, followed by a crack and a shower of sparks from the base. Smoke wreathed up.
“Shit!” said Volker.
The scientists and TJ rushed forwards as Eli stepped out of the pod.
“Hi guys.” He said, shivering, “it’s really cold coming out of there.”
He looked around. “Where’s Doctor Rush?”
The scientists all looked at each other.
“You did it without him?” Eli’s voice was surprised. “Cool!”
“Not exactly.” Said Brody.
“It’s a long story.” Said Young.
TJ stepped forward to check him over.
“Hey, I’m fine.” Eli raised his hands up to ward her off.
“I’ll be the judge of that.” She said.
He submitted to a cursory check up, talking all the way through.
“So how long have I been in there, you all look the same, so it’s can’t have been years. Nice shirts by the way.”
“I understand Chloe made you one ready for when you came out.” Said Young.
“Cool! So how long have you guys been out, did we make it to the next galaxy? What have I missed, nothing cool I hope.” He was fidgeting as TJ finally stepped back.
“Yes, and we’ve been out five months longer than you have.” Young stepped back towards the corridor. “I’m sorry to throw you in the deep end, but we have a problem we need you to look at.”
They walked out and Young led the way through the ship. Eli talked all the way, filling in the silence.
“Hey Lisa, you can see that’s cool, how did that happen?”
“Alien technology on a planet a few weeks back.”
Eli paused in his tumbling flow of speech and questions.
“You guys are all way depressed, is there something going on?”
“We had to take quite a risk getting you out.” Young told him.
“How big a risk?”
Park looked apologetic. “About an eighty percent survival rate.” She offered.
“You thawed me out with a twenty percent chance of cooking me?!” Eli’s voice was incredulous. “You had a one in five chance of me being dead? What was so important that I could have died two times out of ten.”
“You’ll see.” Said Young grimly.
Two more corridors and they turned into the Control Interface corridor.
“Oh no,” said Eli looking at the familiar corridor, “you’re not telling me that Doctor Rush is…”
“No.” Young cut him off.
Young opened the door and Eli took in Chloe in the chair.
“Oh no, oh my god.” He said. “Where’s Doctor Rush, why aren’t you trying to get her out of there.”
He rushed over to a console.
“Doctor Rush is part of the reason she’s in there.” Said Young. “We need you to get her out.”
The airman on duty in the room nodded to Young and left.
“How did she get in there, what was she doing?”
Young walked in and stood looking at Chloe. TJ had hooked her up to a bag of their precious supply of IV fluids.
“She was taking control of the ship to defend it against an alien attack.” He said.
“She was what!?”
“According to the kino and what Rush says she voluntarily put herself in the chair and turned it on in order to take control of the firing controls and the shield controls and blow a large enemy ship into tiny pieces.” Said Young.
Eli goggled at Young.
“Rush says her mind is tied up with Destiny’s systems, that she was manipulating too many things at the same time the power surged to the weapons systems.”
“Why isn’t he here?” said Eli, tapping away at the controls.
“He’s confined; we have some concerns that he’s been compromised.” Young walked over to Eli and put a hand on his shoulder. “We need you to get Chloe out of there in one piece. The longer she’s in there the worse it gets. She’s been in there two days already.”
“No pressure!” Eli squawked. “Show me the kino and maybe I can work out what they were doing.”
Volker walked over and pulled up the footage.
“No. I’m no good with the consoles and systems, you can do that, I can’t. I’ll take the chair.”
“It’s too dangerous and you’ve never actively used it.”
“But what if I can’t get you out, and if you need anything from out here I’m practically useless.”
“Since when did Chloe learn fluent Ancient?” said Eli stopping the footage.
“It’s a long story.” Said Volker.
“Why does everyone keep telling me that?” demanded Eli.
Young shook his head in resignation.
“Because it is a long story, Eli.” He said. “We need you to help Chloe and she doesn’t have the time it would take to explain it all. Look, can you get her out of the chair?”
Eli looked at the screen, and then at another console.
“Probably. But it’s going to take some time.”
Young stepped back towards the door.
“I’ll have someone bring up some food. I’m sorry we’re leaving you in the dark, but Chloe is your first priority. She doesn’t have that much time. We’ve just come out of a battle and we need to do repairs and fix people up, and you’re the only one who can do this, so…”
“I’m on my own.” Eli cut in. He turned around fully to look at them. Young handed him a radio.
“Fine, I’ll call TJ when I get close. Leave me to it.”
They left. He pulled up the kino footage to watch it all the way through.
“What is going on here?” he asked himself.
He watched Chloe and Rush, watched her enter the chair. Watched the battle end.
“Deactivate chair interface! Oh, no no no, don’t do this to me love!”
He stared at the screen. Pulling up the control panels on the systems Rush had been using, he set to work.
The program they had used to get Ginn and Amanda from Chloe’s head took several hours to rewrite. Part way through, a female airman he thought was called Deacon brought him food and he ate it, only half paying attention to the fact the woman was waiting for him to finish and watching Chloe.
“Are you and Chloe friends?” he asked her.
“Yeah, I think we are.” She said. Deacon tucked an errant strand of hair back around the bun at the back of her head.
“What’s been happening?” he asked. “Why isn’t anyone telling me anything.”
“You’re meant to get a full briefing from Young and TJ, but we’ve got a lot of damaged systems and wounded. It took a day to get the ship to go back into FTL after the battle. I heard they’re worried about whether we’ll make our next refuelling stop.” Said Deacon. “But…look there’s a whole bunch of kino footage on there, okay?”
Eli thought she looked like she had said something she thought she ought not to have, and she took his plate and walked out before he could ask any questions. He went back to the program, writing and rewriting, until he was convinced if he changed it anymore he would start screwing it up.
“Here goes nothing.”
He hit the activation and watched as the screen told him that the program was disentangling Chloe’s mind from the ship bit by bit.
“I so should have made a progress counter.” He muttered.
He sat back and pulled up the kino footage. It looked like no-one had taken much since he was gone, certainly the first bunch of Kinos he checked had nothing in their folders. He found the first footage after they woke of two planets, one with a building.
And then the subsequent footage records for the next Kino showed as extensive. He pulled up an early section at random. Chloe and Rush in Rush’s quarters with Chloe looking distressed and Rush looking angry, fast wound through, saw Chloe’s nightmare, Rush take her back to bed. Chloe and Rush in his quarters, talking, in his quarters sleeping, wrapped together. He skipped through. All the footage of them, days of it, all in the one room. He stopped the footage, a still image, Chloe and Rush stood in the centre of his room, wrapped in each other’s arms pressed together cheek to cheek, eyes closed.
“Wow.” he said uncertainly. He sat back, propped his elbow on the console, rested his chin in his hand and watched his program unpick Chloe’s mind from the chair.
Her voice woke him up. He turned to the chair, sliding off the stool.
“Eli!” Her voice was weak but she sounded surprised.
She fell forward in the chair as the head interface retracted. Eli grabbed the radio.
“Colonel Young, TJ, Chloe’s awake.”
He put it down and rushed over to support her. Behind him, the radio squawked into life.
“On our way, don’t let her go anywhere.”
Chloe was leaning weakly over the arm of the chair and Eli hurried over to help her, taking her shoulders and holding her upright against the chair’s back. She smiled at him.
“They got you out.” Her voice was almost a whisper.
“Yeah, a few hours ago. Brought me straight here to rescue you.” He said smiling reassuringly.
He eyes drooped closed then opened again with a start.
“Where’s Nicholas?” She saw his expression, “Doctor Rush.”
“I don’t know, I’ve not been told anything.” He said, “They woke me up and brought me straight here to get you out of the chair.” He looked at her anxious expression. “So, you and Rush huh?”
She gave him a small, tight lipped smile.
“Weird.” He said. There was an uncomfortable silence. “So,” he said, “Colonel Young mentioned you made me one of those cool uniform shirts.”
She smiled again. “It’s on your bed in your quarters.” She said. He had to lean in to hear her. “Ready for when you woke up. There’s some new underpants as well and some socks.”
“New underpants sound like heaven.” He said grinning. “Are you okay?”
“I killed people Eli.” She said. ”There were people on the ship, hundreds of people. I could feel them through the sensors…”
The door opened.
“Eli, step away from Chloe.” Young said.
Eli looked at the party in the doorway, pointing guns at Chloe.
“Whoa!” he said incredulously. “What?”
“Step away from Chloe.”
Eli looked from Young to Chloe.
“It’s okay Eli.” She said.
She pushed him away weakly, and he took a step back as she swayed, trying to sit forward in the chair. She looked at him, then her eyes closed and she collapsed sliding from the chair to the floor unconscious. The drip, on it’s stand, pulled from her arm and the stand clattered to the floor. TJ rushed forward pushing Eli back but no-one put away the guns trained on Chloe.
“I need that trolley.” Said TJ, lifting Chloe up bodily as the trolley was brought in.
Eli followed them to the infirmary and watched as TJ strapped Chloe to the bed and put another drip in her arm. He looked around. Six of the other beds were inhabited.
“What is going on?” He asked. “Where is Doctor Rush.”
“He’s sedated.” Said TJ. “He’s over there.”
“He was injuring himself trying to get back to the chair. He should come round soon.”
She continued working on Chloe. Eli walked over to the bay indicated, Rush was asleep, strapped down like Chloe. His wrists were bandaged under the restraints but Eli could see the skin was raw around the edges of the bandages. He sat down on the chair next to the bed and waited.
Rush shifted restlessly and opened his eyes. He looked at Eli but didn’t appear to recognise him.
“In the bed over there. TJ says she’s fine.”
“Eli!” Rush’s voice was surprised and he lifted his head and scrutinised Eli’s face.
“Well, yeah, I haven’t changed face while I’ve been asleep.”
“Depends whose eyes you’re looking with.” Rush’s voice was tired. “They woke you up.”
“They woke me up early, at a massive risk I’ll add, to get Chloe out of the chair.”
Eli stopped a moment and looked at Rush, a little surprised. Rush looked away, towards Chloe.
“What’s going on?” Eli asked.
“It’s a long story.” Said Rush.
Eli groaned in frustration.
“If I hear anyone tell me that again, I’m going to do something serious.”
“Chloe and I seem to be suffering some effects from either the blue aliens, the chair, a medical system on the first planet we went to after stasis or possibly a combination of any of the above. Young thinks we’re dangerous.”
Eli rocked back in his chair and looked at Rush thoughtfully.
“Like what effects?”
“We can see in the dark, hear and smell like a dog and we can speak fluent Ancient from Destiny’s time.” He said. “There’s some other issues but they're not as relevant.”
Eli raised both eyebrows and looked down at Rush wide-eyed. “You’re not kidding me either are you?”
“That's like totally superhero." Eli said. Rush glared at him. "So, you and Chloe.”
“Chloe and I.” Rush answered.
Eli waited. Rush said nothing, just gave him a hard look.
“So why are you tied to a bed?”
“We hit our assigned guard over the head, did a runner and took over the ship to save everyone’s lives.” Rush said.
“I can see that the taking over the ship thing would piss off Colonel Young.”
“Of course it did.”
Chapter 19: Caring about Chloe
Rush cares for Chloe
“You can’t stay in here, Rush.” Said Young.
“Chloe’s in here.” Said Rush.
Young rubbed his face. He looked very tired.
“Rush, there are a whole bunch of wounded in here. There are a whole bunch of Destiny’s systems in here. You are well enough to leave. There is no way you can stay in here.” Said Young.
Rush looked at him with loathing.
“There is no way you will let me stay in here, you mean.” He said flatly. “I am not leaving Chloe.”
“I will have you removed.” Young warned him.
“You can try.”
Young shook his head and sighed.
“How did I know it would come to this?” he said. “Rush this is non-negotiable. I’m giving you a last chance to reconsider.”
Rush did not move. Young gestured to the two Airmen by the door, who walked over and took hold of Rush. He kicked and fought every step of the way. Young watched, a little surprised that Rush had made such a scene.
He looked up and saw Camile and TJ watching him.
“Don’t you think that’s a bit cruel?” Camile asked.
“I didn’t enjoy it if that’s what you mean,” said Young a little acerbically, “but there is no way that anyone can watch him all the time in here. Not with the number of wounded in here.”
“It’s true Camile,” she said, “We’ve got six injured in here overnight at least not including Chloe. There’s no way we can manage him being in here.”
Camile pursed her lips, then shrugged acquiescence.
“Fair enough.” She said. “What’s wrong with Chloe?”
TJ shook her head.
“As far as I can see, absolutely nothing.” She looked over at Chloe, sitting on a bed by the far wall. “She’s just not responding. She’s not like Franklin, he exhibited waxy flexibility, she’s cataleptic, just unresponsive.”
Young had no idea what TJ was talking about but it appeared to be perfectly clear to Camile.
“Eli said the last thing she was talking about before she collapsed was the fact she had killed hundreds on people on the alien ship.” TJ said. “Then we turned up and pulled guns on her and she collapsed. I’m pretty certain the original collapse was as a result of her physical state, but this, how she is now, is different.”
“It’s entirely possible it’s a symptom of her underlying PTSD and depression.” Camile said. “We can’t treat her with medication here, but if it is that, she may come out of it naturally as the stressors pass.”
TJ gave a small and hopeful smile. “We can hope.”
Rush sat in the centre of the bench in the observation lounge staring out at the FTL. TJ acknowledged Greer, who had taken over as his current guard, and was sitting on the bar fiddling with something in his hands.
“He hasn’t moved for two days and hasn’t eaten.” Said TJ. “He slept there. I don’t know what to do with him. He won’t talk to anyone, even Eli.”
Camile looked at the back of Rush’s head.
“He’s facing the loss of another woman he loves with nothing he can do about it yet again.” She said. “And his normal coping strategies, trying to kill himself with overwork or vengeance aren’t available to him.”
TJ looked a little frustrated.
“But Chloe isn’t dying. She’s healthy enough.”
Camile shrugged. “She might as well be dead. He’s running away from it, rather than dealing with it. To be honest, I’m not sure how he could deal with it given the situation.”
“Well I can’t make him face up to it.” TJ said.
“You said Chloe’s fine, just not doing anything?” asked Greer hopping down from the bar.
TJ nodded. “Now she’s rehydrated and slept, yeah.”
“Keep an eye on him.”
Greer walked out, leaving TJ and Camile startled. They were even more startled when he walked back in a couple of minutes later with a catatonic Chloe cradled like a baby in his arms. He walked up to Rush and literally dumped Chloe in his lap. Rush flailed to catch her before she slid onto the floor.
“Man up Doctor and take care of your girlfriend.” He advised a shocked Rush.
Airman Cole came up behind TJ “Master Sergeant Greer just took Chloe.”
“I can see.” Said TJ.
Rush looked up at Greer with a stunned and furious look.
“You do not get to walk out on this. Try it and I will kick your ass from here to the Bridge and back.” Greer said.
It looked to TJ as if Rush wanted to scream at him or hit Greer, but he had his arms full of Chloe and kept looking down at her before looking back to Greer.
“You want to hit me man,” said Greer, “you can do it when you’ve taken care of her. I will make myself available for you to try and have a go at me. Till then, you take care of your responsibilities. You have nothing better to do with your time.”
Rush finally looked back down at Chloe and pulled her up to him, struggling to shift her from the half off, half on his lap position so she was cradled against his chest, legs up on the bench, head resting on his shoulder and went to staring back out at the FTL.
“Better.” Said Greer, and walked back to sit on the bar.
Camile and TJ stared at Greer, who shrugged. On the bench Rush was cradling Chloe, looking down at her.
“I’ll check back later.” TJ mouthed at Greer, who nodded.
“Do you think he’ll be alright with her?” Camile said to TJ quietly. “With... caring for her?”
She kicked herself mentally as Rush responded, not loudly but his voice sharp and pitched to carry.
“I was married for 12 years,” he said pointedly, not looking up from Chloe, “and Chloe and I have been living together for almost six months. I was with my wife through two sets of chemo and her palliative care. I’m completely familiar with women’s care and personal hygiene needs, even here. Chloe and I will be fine.”
TJ raised her eyebrows at Camile and they left.
“I’ll keep an eye on them.” TJ said when they were safely out and on the other side of the door. “But I think they’ll be okay. To be honest there’s nothing I can do for her here that he can’t anyway.”
TJ walked back in, two hours later to check up and bring dinner. Rush was still sitting on the bench, but he had moved Chloe so she was lying on the bench with her head in his lap, able to see the FTL. He was talking to her in Ancient, a long monologue with the sounds of unanswered questions in it.
“It’s dinner time” She told him. She proffered a tray with two bowls and spoons.
“Who has been feeding Chloe.” He asked.
“Airman Deacon mostly.” Said TJ “Chloe will eat dinner if you feed her.”
He lifted Chloe up to sitting. She sat there staring out at the FTL lights.
“Becky is a friend of Chloe.” Rush said.
He took the tray, TJ watched as Rush began to feed Chloe and himself, one spoon, alternating bites between him and her.
It took some time but they finished, and Rush looked at TJ.
“We are going to our quarters.” He said.
TJ looked at him. There was no reason why Chloe had to be here as long as she was supervised. She nodded.
Rush lifted Chloe with some difficulty, and left. TJ picked up the abandoned tray and went back to the mess to find her own dinner.
The man in Dunning’s body turned round. His pin badge said “Hello my name is Doctor Carson Beckett”.
“Good,” said Eli reading the badge. “Err, I’m Eli.”
“Pleased to meet you Eli, you’re one of the scientists aren’t you.”
Eli looked embarrassed.
“Well, kinda.” He hedged. “I was recruited like a week before we ended up here. I guess I’m the resident geek, I don’t really have a doctorate or anything like the others…” He realised he was babbling and stopped.
“General O’Neill mentioned you.” Said Beckett.
“He did?” Eli was surprised. “Cool.”
“How can I help you lad?”
“You’re here to look at the infirmary equipment right, to see what we can use to help TJ and maybe look at Doctor Rush and Chloe?”
“Well, I’ve got this other room full of stuff that I think is more like, testing kinda stuff.” Eli shifted from foot to foot. “It’s a few corridors away, they only just found it a couple weeks ago, but I think it’s going to be important for Chloe and Doctor Rush than what’s in here. Like in here’s the emergency room right.”
“Close, I think.”
“Well the stuff in there looks a lot more like a lab.”
“And you want me to take a look.”
“I want to help Chloe.”
Beckett considered him.
“Please Doctor Beckett, can you at least take a look?”
“If you’re Eli, I’m Carson.” He said. “Lead on Eli.”
Eli led him out of the infirmary.
“Like I said, this isn’t the infirmary, we’re not sure what it is, some kind of lab, but Brody said the stuff in here is medical and I’ve worked out how to power it up.” Explained Eli. “Some of the conduits were blown, but we’re back in business now.”
Eli pressed a few buttons and the consoles came to light.
“Well you’ve got it working lad.”
“Can you understand it though, ah, Carson? Does anything in here look at all familiar? Are the systems in here any use at all?”
Carson looked at the consoles, moving from one to the next. Eli sat restlessly on a bench kicking his heels and waited for over twenty minutes while the doctor worked.
“It’s close enough.” He said finally. “It doesn’t read everything quite like the ones in Atlantis would, but it’s similar. I think this is a machine for testing blood samples, and I think I can get a DNA test out of this thing here. The rest of it, I’m not sure about. That thing,” he gestured “might produce something like an X-ray or MRI scan.”
“Yes!” Said Eli, punching the air. “Can it do DNA tests from samples?”
“Of course. It’d be pretty hard to get a whole body in the little tray.” He gestured and continued to fiddle with the controls.
“How much does it need? How much of something with DNA in? How old?”
“If it works like I expect, not much at all and pretty old I imagine.”
Eli reached in a pocket and drew out a piece of paper, folded into an envelope; it looked like a page torn from a book.
“This is from Chloe when we were first on the ship.” He said then looked away in embarrassment.
Carson opened the folded paper carefully. Inside were three long brown hairs.
“Holding a bit of a candle?” He asked gently.
Eli flushed. “We all thought she was going to die.” He said. “She’s my best friend.”
Carson nodded sympathetically and began to bring up screens on the console.
“Okay,” he said, as a small tray slid out of a different console.
He carried the paper carefully to the tray and examining all three hairs, put one of the hairs in.
“Now we wait, lad.” He said. “I’ll need current samples and also an old sample of Doctor Rush’s DNA.”
Eli stared at him. “I don’t think, I don’t know…” he stuttered. “I’ll find something.” He said, and left. Carson was still poking at consoles when Eli returned.
He held out a twist of paper and a folded piece and had what appeared to be a small cloth bag under his arm.
“I knew this was here.” He said. “The fold is Chloe and the twist is Doctor Rush. Hair from their hair brushes.”
He took the bag out from under his arm, untied the four knots holding it closed and it unrolled into a set of chess pieces on a chess board drawn in Sharpie marker on an old handkerchief. Eli started sorting through the pieces.
“There’s got to be one here.” He muttered. “He was making these things with a knife.”
He worked his way through the wooden pieces one by one, examining them carefully, holding them up to the light and then putting them back in a second pile.
“Got it!” he walked over to Carson and held out a white Knight. “He cut himself doing this one, there’s blood on it.”
The doctor took it, took out a scalpel from the kit he had borrowed from TJ and shaved a few pieces onto a small tray.
“Give it an hour and we’ll have some results I think.” Said Carson.
“I thought DNA tests took ages, I mean, it’s not like in CSI or anything, you have to wait for ages.”
“This is Ancient technology.”
Eli looked at him.
They played chess with Rush’s chess set while waiting. Eli wasn’t particularly good, but he didn’t care, it was better than having to worry about everything else.
Finally the fourth sample was tested several games later.
Carson looked at the data on the screen.
“What is it?” asked Eli hurriedly. “What does it say.”
“Both of them have entirely human DNA in the first set.”
“What does the second set say.”
The doctor flicked through screens, and appeared to be puzzling out text.
“Mostly human.” He said in the end.
“Mostly?” Eli asked, voice a little high pitched.
“Yes, mostly human.”
Eli came round to look at the screens over his shoulder but it made little sense.
“Well what’s the bit that isn’t mostly human.”
“Mostly Ancient.” Said Carson.
“Okay and the bit that isn’t the big mostly human bit, or little mostly Ancient bit is what?”
Carson flipped through a few screens.
“I think this is telling me it’s artificial.”
Carson rounded on him in exasperation. “Look, I don’t read Ancient that well at the best of times and this is only about a million years older than what I’m used to.”
“Okay, okay,” Eli held his hands up in a pacifying manner. “How do you get artificial DNA?”
“I don’t know. But the computer seems to think it’s been created to fix something.”
“So how much Ancient DNA have they got?”
“A bit more than most people, maybe one percent of their DNA is non-human, maybe a little more.”
Eli looked confused.
“But that’s not much is it?”
Carson blinked at him.
“Lad, the person with the strongest Ancient DNA we’ve found is Colonel Sheppard.”
“How much has he got.”
“One really good gene.”
Eli paused, realising he was getting into areas his knowledge was very sketchy about.
“And there’s a lot of genes, right?” he hazarded.
“About twenty to twenty five thousand is the current estimate.”
Eli was staggered.
“So they’ve got like two hundred ancient genes.”
“Something like that, Ancient and synthetic anyway” Carson said “It’s a big step up from mouse viruses.”
“But it’s not from little blue aliens.”
“No, the computer is not saying it’s from any other species.” He read it again. “It seems to think it’s synthesised from their existing human and Ancient DNA.”
Eli sat down and thought.
“So that means that they had human DNA, and they got Ancient DNA from somewhere, and at some point something went wrong and then later on something fixed it.”
“It’s as good a hypothesis as any.”
Carson read through the screens again.
“Have they both got the same Ancient genes?”
“Good question lad.”
Carson began poking at the console and finally managed to make it show a comparison.
“They both have exactly the same non-Human DNA.”
“The Ancient or the synthetic?”
It took Rush a day to realise that Chloe would walk, slowly, if he held her hand and led her. He took her to the showers and back to the observation lounge. He found himself talking to her constantly, telling her things he felt he should have told her before, about himself, about Destiny, about anything. He flatly ignored all the looks they got. It was no-one else’s business.
He mostly ignored everyone but Chloe, scowled at Greer and Eli was nowhere to be scene. With the exception of TJ and Becky Deacon, the only person he responded to was Lieutenant Scott who walked into the observation lounge. Rush was back on the bench watching the FTL, Chloe’s head in his lap, as he stroked her hair and told her about wormhole theory. He smelled him before he saw him and could feel Scott watching him.
“What do you want Lieutenant?” he asked, not raising his voice.
“How is Chloe?”
Rush looked up face hardening.
“Catatonic.” He said harshly.
“If there is any…”
Rush cut him off dead.
Scott looked at him, shocked.
“Lieutenant Scott,” Rush said, in a resigned voice. “I’m ending this now. Chloe is mine, better or worse, catatonic or otherwise. To be honest I don’t give a shit about your guilt or any other feelings about this. Just fuck off and leave us alone.”
He turned back to Chloe, ignoring Scott. Becky Deacon waited till Scott left.
“That was a little harsh.”
“Well, now I’m the asshole not him.” Said Rush. “He’s only here ‘cause he’s guilty now.”
“Lieutenant Scott really loves Chloe.”
“Loved,” Rush corrected, “he loved her, how she was, and he’s guilty because he doesn’t like how she is, can’t handle it.” His tone was cold.
“So you’re letting him blame you.”
“It’s the most obvious answer to the problem.”
Chapter 20: We'll find out soon enough
Eli finds proof.
Eli brought up the kino footage again. There had to be more clues in there about what Chloe and Rush were doing. It took a while of scanning through footage but he finally isolated four chunks of footage where Chloe or Rush were instructing Destiny to either turn the lights off or on, or open a door.
He watched. He watched the footage over and over again. He turned away, closed his eyes and listened to the footage repeatedly. Finally he went back and identified footage where the pair were just talking about Destiny.
He cut the relevant sections into a single video and folding up his laptop went off to find Doctor Jackson.
He finally found him sitting at a secondary console in the core room. He looked up as Eli walked in.
“Oh hey,” said Eli nervously.
“You’re Eli aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” Eli walked over, “um, can I show you something?”
Daniel turned on the stool to face Eli.
“Of course, what is it?”
Eli put the laptop on the console and opened it up, bringing up the footage.
“I’ve been listening to this for two hours, does this sound the same to you?” he asked.
He clicked the play button on the video. Chloe’s face appeared.
“Destiny...” the video switched “Destiny...”
The footage repeated but with Doctor Rush. Doctor Jackson reached for the laptop and Eli stepped back. He replayed the video a couple of times, then looked up at Eli.
“No.” He said, “the stress is different. In the first the stress is on the first and last syllable of the four, in the second it’s on the second, which is where I’d expect it to be.”
He repeated them, Dah de-de Dah, de Dah de-de
“Yes!” said Eli. “That’s it!”
“Destiny, turn out the lights.”
The lights went out.
“Destiny, turn on the lights.”
The lights went on. Eli grinned at Doctor Jackson.
“It’s how they’re telling Destiny to do things, or at least how Destiny knows they’re telling it to do things. Destiny, close the door.”
The door slid closed.
“Destiny open the door.” Said Daniel.
The door slid open.
“All you need to know is how to talk to Destiny and what the things are actually called in Ancient.” He said. “Though I don’t think everything works like that, just some stuff.”
Daniel gave him an approving look.
“I’ve done it!” Eli said excitedly, and turned to leave.
“Where are you going?” Daniel asked.
“I’ve proved it’s safe for them to be let out! It isn’t anything about them that makes Destiny do things, we all can, all I need is TJ’s DNA results.” said Eli. “Then I need to see Colonel Young,”
Jackson got up to follow him out.
“Why TJ’s results?”
“To prove the synthetic DNA is the fix from the planet.” Eli said over his shoulder.
Jackson followed him along the corridor.
“Okay, slow down Eli, and explain.”
Eli kept walking but began speaking slower.
“Okay, well TJ is going to get ALS, which is this weird degenerative disorder. We know from this thing with our descendants from two thousand years ago.” he trailed off.
Daniel nodded. “I read the reports.”
“Well you know Chloe had some weird DNA from the blue aliens and we didn’t think Doctor Rush did, as he didn’t change.” He explained. Daniel nodded. “Okay, so then Rush and Chloe both go in the chair, and when that doesn’t work the aliens put Chloe back to normal, except for her brain and everyone thought she was fixed, and after that they both go in the chair again for different reasons.”
They turned into a corridor Daniel didn’t know.
“Anyway,” continued Eli, “then we go into stasis for three years and wake up in the planet, well I don’t but everyone else does. Chloe and Rush and the others go to the empty base planet and walk through the arches, but they don’t know anything is happening. Then Chloe begins to change and after her, Doctor Rush begins to change.”
“Destiny, open lab door.” The door opened and Eli turned to Daniel in the doorway and grinned. “That is so cool. Okay, the door frames on the planet gateroom check all the people and find that Chloe and Doctor Rush’s DNA isn’t the same all the way through and both of them have got things done to them that haven’t been completely finished.” Eli’s words continued to pour out in a long stream, tumbling over each other, “I don’t know which bits are which but they’ve got DNA from the blue aliens which is too different to be theirs properly and DNA from the Ancients from the chair which is quite close. So it tries to fix them, replacing the blue alien DNA with synthetic DNA to fix it and to make the Ancient DNA work.”
Daniel gave him a long look.
“It’s a theory.” He acknowledged.
“It’s my theory, Daniel.” Said a Scottish accent from the laboratory.
“Carson.” Daniel greeted him.
Eli and Daniel walked into the room.
“I’ve got the results of Lieutenant Johansen’s DNA test and on the specific place I’d expect to see the indicators for ALS I’ve found synthetic alterations to her genome, and a couple of other places too, which will be useful for ALS research in the future I’m betting. I’m going to check every member of the crew who has been down to those planets.”
Daniel looked thoughtful.
“How would they even recognise the DNA?”
Eli grinned again.
“I think they found a seedship.” He said. “Doctor Rush, Brody and Volker all thought that the technology from the planet was derivative of Ancient technology, and if they had it long enough to copy it’s technology then they probably had access to it’s systems.”
“Colonel Young this is Eli.”
“Eli, this is Young. What’s up?”
Eli looked at Beckett and Jackson who nodded.
“Can you come to the new lab on the corridor below the messhall? I need to show you something.”
“Is it important?”
“Yes it’s important!” Eli’s voice held a hint of outrage.
“Okay Eli, I’m coming.”
Young walked in a couple of minutes later and his gaze took in Eli, Daniel and Beckett.
“I’ve worked out what’s happening with Doctor Rush and Chloe.” He said to Young. “With help from Doctor Beckett and Doctor Jackson.” He added quickly.
Young looked at the two doctors who nodded.
“Well go on then lad, tell him,” said Beckett, “it’s your research.”
Eli tugged his t-shirt down.
“We managed to get the DNA machine in here working so we can see their DNA. They, I mean Doctor Rush and Chloe. We did tests on old DNA before they were changed, and new DNA from now, so we can see the difference.”
Young actually looked interested.
“They used to be just human and now they’ve got Ancient genes and some that Doctor Beckett thinks are synthetic, made to fix them. Like two hundred or more new genes. And TJ’s got synthetic genes too.”
Young looked at Beckett.
“One hundred and ninety eight Ancient genes and forty nine synthetic genes, if I’m reading this right.” Beckett added. “There isn’t anything else. And comparing a DNA test from Lieutenant Johansen who had no contact with the blue aliens, the system here is saying that the eight synthetic genes she has are similar, so we can expect that they are from the same source.”
“The machines on the base planets.” Said Eli.
“Okay, I’ll buy that.” Said Young. “And the rest of it.”
“I think they got the language from the chair.” Eli said. “But…Destiny, open the door.”
The door opened.
“It’s not hard.” He said. “It’s just a matter of asking the right way, I don’t know how they knew it, but if you can say the words right, Destiny can understand you.”
He turned back.
“Destiny, close the door.”
The door closed.
“It has a problem with some new Ancient words, and you have to be able to say Destiny right, and she doesn’t recognise it in English.”
Young looked at him.
“So we can all do this?” he said.
“I don’t know how much Destiny will let you do, but if you say it right you’ll be able to open doors, turn the lights on and off, turn the showers on and off.” Eli shrugged. “I can, and I’ve never been in the chair.”
Young walked into the Observation Lounge. Rush was sitting on the bench with Chloe, reading to her apparently. He noted that Airman Deacon was sitting on the floor nearby listening in and Lisa Park and Greer were listening also from a table.
“Miss Bennett would not play at all amiss if she practiced more and had...”
“Rush.” He said.
Rush stopped and turned in his seat, putting the battered paperback down.
“You’re free.” Said Young. “No restrictions.”
Rush stared at him, then slid round to face Young better.
“None at all?”
“None.” Said Young.
There was a pause as a series of thoughts evidently passed through Rush’s head. Young watched the look on his face.
“And what’s brought on this little change of heart?” Rush demanded.
Young relaxed and smiled a little ironically.
“Once again you have Eli to thank.” He said, enjoying Rush’s reaction to that little titbit. “He’s managed to prove that anyone can control the ship verbally, and provide believable evidence that your DNA has been altered but not in a way that’s liable to result in you turning into a blue alien.”
“And you agree?” Rush snapped. “You actually understand Eli’s explanation and agree that we aren’t a danger.”
Young scowled. “It doesn’t matter whether I understand Eli’s explanation or not, he has Doctor Beckett and Doctor Jackson agreeing with him. Anyway,” he spoke slowly and carefully, “Destiny, turn off the lights.”
The lights went out. Rush began to laugh.
“Destiny, turn on the lights.” He said finally. The lights went back on. “So you admit you were wrong?” he asked Young.
Young laughed. “No,” he said, “I was completely right. I managed a potential risk to the ship and crew until it was proved safe.”
“You locked Chloe and myself up needlessly for five months.”
They stared at each other. Finally, to Young’s surprise, Rush folded first.
“So I have access to Destiny’s systems again. I can go back to work.”
Young nodded. “No doubt TJ will be able to arrange someone to look after Chloe.”
“She comes with me.” Rush snapped instantly.
Young considered this. Chloe was still staring out of the observation window.
“Fine,” he said, “but I expect you to ask TJ if you are working in any area that might be hazardous to her.”
Young looked at Rush.
“For what it’s worth I’m glad the two of you aren’t turning into blue aliens.” He said. Rush didn’t look convinced. “You need to speak to Eli and Doctor Beckett though. It’s an interesting set of DNA results.”
He walked off before Rush could quiz him further. He’d let Eli have the pleasure of that conversation. He had a meeting scheduled with General O’Neill that Doctor Jackson had already preceded him to.
Rush found Eli with Beckett and TJ in the lab. He’d left Becky looking after Chloe, reading.
“What did y’ find?” he demanded.
Eli gulped and began the recitation again, to far and away the toughest audience.
Eli walked into the Core Room. He smiled when he saw Doctor Rush at the console and stopped in surprise when he saw Chloe perched on a stool next to him, staring vaguely at the console. Rush looked up at him briefly then went back to the console.
“Uh, hi Doctor Rush,” he faltered, “hi Chloe.”
“Is everything okay Eli?” Rush asked him, still tapping away at the console.
“I uh, wasn’t expecting to see Chloe.”
Rush looked up through a curtain of hair.
“Where else would she be?”
Eli could see he was digging himself into a hole here.
“Uh, in the infirmary with TJ?”
Rush glanced at Chloe.
“Lieutenant Johansen is quite busy enough already. And Chloe is perfectly fine here.” His tone brooked no argument.
Eli wisely shut up and got to work. After a while he realised Rush was mumbling, or at least talking quietly. He stopped a moment and listened. He could pick out most of what Rush was saying, although his Ancient wasn’t really up to scratch and listened to Rush describing the work he was doing to Chloe. Rush stopped.
“Get back to work.”
Rush pulled Chloe’s yoga pants down round her ankles then stood. He applied gentle pressure to her shoulders until she sat on the edge of the bed. Kneeling down he slid her pants off over her feet, slipped off her socks then put them all on the chair. He kissed her forehead, swung her legs up, laid her back and pulled up the covers.
As always, as he had every night for the last three weeks, he walked round the other side of the bed and slid in next to her. Laying on his side, he threw an arm over her and waited for her to fall asleep. He tried to relax, waiting for it to happen, dreading the night it didn’t.
He heard her breathing slow, felt her muscles relax and knew she was asleep. He lay there listening to her heartbeat, waiting. Finally, she rolled over, curling into his body, hand seeking his chest, snuggling sleepily into him. With a sigh of relief he wrapped his arms around her and she murmured and slid her fingers into his hair.
Camile and TJ said it was a good sign, that if she seemed normal in her sleep, it was more likely the problem was psychological rather than brain damage. Rush refused to think about it, he would take what he could get, whatever she gave him.
TJ had had an exhausting week. The last of the patients from the battle had finally been signed off as healthy enough to return to at least light duties, but she’d had a series of minor injuries to manage, mainly from work on clearing what looked like a small cargo hold. Finally, and she’d been expecting it, two crew members had turned up pregnant. She’d prepared herself for it, and truly the crew were in a much better situation now than before, but it had brought up old and painful memories. She stirred the soup around in her bowl. What she needed was for Destiny to drop out of FTL near a nice safe planet, she wanted to feel ground under her feet and wind in her hair, something that wasn’t metal walls and artificial yellow light, something different.
Movement caught her eye and TJ watched Rush lead Chloe out of the messhall. He had sat there, once again, with two bowls and one spoon, feeding the both of them. He had fed Chloe first and his food must have been stone cold by the time he got to eat it, but he had shovelled it into his mouth in his usual hasty fashion, in stark contrast to the patience he had displayed feeding Chloe.
TJ could hear someone behind her making a comment.
“I can’t believe he brings her in here like that.” Said one of the civilians.
“He probably likes her like that,” said another, “she does what he wants and doesn’t answer back.”
TJ whirled to give them a piece of her mind, but Vanessa James was sitting across the aisle from the speaker and was faster. A swift step and a lightning fast fist and the man was laying on his back on the floor, shaking his head muzzily. TJ watched as a furious Vanessa stood there, almost shaking in fury, too angry to even shout at the man. Finally Vanessa strode out. TJ stood and walked over to the table.
“For your information,” TJ said to the man on the floor, “you just had a very lucky escape. I suggest you keep your stupid opinions to yourself. Doctor Rush may not have many friends here, but Chloe does and none of them have any concerns about him caring for her, nor do I as her medical practitioner. Chloe is a member of this crew and entitled to respect, whatever her condition.” She paused and fixed the second speaker with a glare. “And making accusations of sexual abuse against your senior is also likely to get you in serious trouble.”
The two offenders looked terrified, not meeting her gaze. The rest of the table stared at her in stunned silence.
“Maybe you should think about what he’s giving up to care for her?” she asked. “He finally does something human and you run him down on that too? You’re a waste of good air.”
At least half the table had the good sense to look shamefaced.
She walked off, fuming.
Another night, another wait for her to sleep and turn to him. This last week she had seemed more relaxed in the day time but her nights had been disturbed. The preceding two nights she’d woken him with nightmares, waking to her crying out and sitting bolt upright, frozen in panic but with silent tears rolling down her cheeks. It had left him tired and irritable with everyone as he tried to get the internal sensors working in the Garden Dome, although he suspected they were fried beyond repair. Chloe had seemed to find the garden relaxing though, at least her heartbeat and breathing had seemed calm, and he’d persisted with the sensors beyond what was really realistic. It was not like anyone else was going to argue with him. Not successfully anyway.
She fell asleep and finally rolled into him, fisting her fingers into the fabric of his t-shirt, but it took him a while to relax, waiting to see if her nightmares would reoccur. Eventually he fell into a restless sleep himself.
The nightmare was one of those incoherent dreamscapes that played out his worst memories and most nightmare imaginings alike. He watched Gloria die, saw Destiny exploding, blue aliens through thick glass, Ginn’s (Mandy’s) body on the corridor floor, Mandy fading before his eyes, night time on a desert planet. Finally he stood, in the control interface room, watching Chloe in the chair, and saw and felt the room grow cold.
That hadn’t happened, not to her. A part of his mind was shouting at him not to believe it as in a growing glow of light across spectra and plummeting temperature, he was unable to see her.
“Don’t leave me!”
He could hear himself repeating it over and over again, but he couldn’t reach the console.
“Don’t leave me!”
His eyes flew open, and he realised he had been shouting and his face was wet with tears. He wiped at his eyes with his hand but tears still rolled down his cheeks.
Movement startled him. Sleep heavy eyes were blinking drowsily at him, furrowed with concern as her fingers came up to touch the tears on his face.
She gave him a small smile.
“Where’ve you been?” He asked.
There was a long pause.
“I think…” she seemed to be looking for the words. “It was so hard to think, and it hurt so much.”
Her eyes welled and he drew her to him.
“It’s okay,” he said. “It’s okay.”
He held her as she cried and cried until finally she slowed, sobs coming infrequently until she rubbed at her eyes with her hand and looked up at him.
“I remember you reading,” she said, ”and being in the control room. Were we on the bridge?”
Rush pulled back and smiled.
“We’re free.” He said.
“Eli fixed it.”
She laughed at him.
They walked through the ships corridors, until they reached the Bridge, Chloe was subdued, tucked herself under his arm into his side, but managed to ask some questions as they walked. As he’d got used to doing, he talked, to the only person he talked to. Lisa Park and Varro were the night watch and looked up in surprise as they walked in. Chloe smiled nervously at them and looked around.
“We’re part Ancient?” she asked.
“Approximately one percent. And synthetic, as is Lieutenant Johansen. Two hundred and forty seven genes.”
As they stood on the balcony, she pulled his arm tighter around her, but her tenseness began to relax as they watched Destiny fly through the void.
“What do they all do?”
Rush shrugged then smiled fondly at her.
“I have no idea.” he said, “but I‘ve no doubt we’ll find out soon enough.”