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How To Govern Cities And Principalities That, Prior To Being Occupied, Lived Under Their Own Laws: On Dr. Nicholas Rush: A Discourse

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The end justifies the means?

Yeah, somethin’ like that.

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“Are we done?” Rush asks, pressing the heel of his hand into his right eye.  His fingers curl and dig into his scalp, twisting in his hair.

“No, Dr. Rush, we’re not done,” Young—no, Telford spits out in a quick-fire response. 

Rush focuses his left eye on Colonel Young’s body.  One hand is on the table next to Rush, and the other grips the back of Rush’s chair.  The Colonel looms over him, pushing into his space.

“A full report, Rush,” Telford continues, “how you got back and how you ended up stranded in the first place?”

The Colonel’s mouth is a hard line, and his eyes an even harder glare.  The face looks like Young, but it doesn’t move right.  Telford, definitely Telford, doesn’t hide his anger like Young.  Rush knows Telford wants to hit him right now, smack him in frustration, or just slam his head onto the table, but Young… Young, clear-eyed and misleading, would smile a manic grin that would slide away to blankness just before the strike—like the coil of a snake hidden in the fragrant spring grass.

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When a state accustomed to live in freedom under its own laws is acquired,—

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Rush crawled, hands and knees across the dry earth, quietly to the edge of the outcrop and stared down at the large, snake-like creature sunning itself on a flat expanse of rock below.  The reptile-thing reminded him of a light colored adder with two short legs sprouting out roughly halfway between head and end.  There were two barbed protrusions, Rush had reason to know, that would flare out on either side of the head when the creature was agitated, giving the impression that the legged-adder was smiling.  Rush could still taste bile in the back of his throat and smell sour sweat on his skin from having spent the last two days suffering under the effects of a venomous, but thankfully not deadly, bite.

Rush pulled a good sized rock up next to him.  He looked back over the edge; the legged-adder was still there.

One spring when I was a child, my mother washed me to within an inch of my life and dressed me in short trousers and my Sunday shirt.  We took the train, then a bus, and then up a dirt road in the countryside to a cousin’s wedding.

Rush, with both hands, held the rock out beyond the ledge.  He moved it more to the left and in a bit, eyeballing as best he could.

I wandered away from the reception and out into the green of an empty field.  I could hear the sheep bleating from the nearby hills.  I looked down and saw the black eyes of an adder looking back from within the tall grass.

Holding his breath, Rush looked from rock to legged-adder, from legged-adder to rock.  He let go of the rock.

A noise, a rustle in the weeds caused the snake to turn.  I watched the black zigzag move away from me.  I remember standing still and silent amongst the stalks of grass until my mother came looking for me.

The sound echoed in the silence of the barren and dry planet, rock smashing rock, but Rush imagined he could hear the crunch of small bones.  He scrambled down the side of the outcropping, boots sinking and sliding where the earth gave way to falls of dirt.  Losing all sense of footing, he tumbled down like a dislodged boulder to the ground only to jump to his feet and race back around the earthen tower, leaving a trail of dust from his hair and clothes drifting in the air behind him.

Rush’s rock, cracked and split near in three, lay where the legged-adder’s head had been, while the rest of the body remained stretched out over the flat stone.

“God,” Rush swore to no one, himself, the empty air, to where the legged-adder’s head should have been, “I’m hungry.”

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there are three ways of keeping it:—

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“I’m sure Colonel Young gave his account of what happened,” Rush says, leaning back in his chair and letting his hand drop away from his face to stare blankly at Telford.  “I was lost on one planet and found on another.  Really it’s not a difficult concept.  How many times and versions do you need to understand it?”

“Yours Doctor, the SGC needs your report.”

“I think I’m still far too traumatized and in need of rest as of yet.”

“Lieutenant Johansen has cleared you, Dr. Rush, so you can report now and not when you want.”    

The tone jars Rush, and he jerks in his chair, slightly, but Telford narrows his gaze.  The voice sounds like Young, but not.  Telford phrases differently, paces differently.  The emphasis is in the wrong place, but for a moment he was almost—sounded almost right.

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the first is to destroy it;—

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In the dark, Rush stretched out on the ground, absorbing the lingering heat before the night air leached it away, and stared at the sky, a trail of alien, unfamiliar lights above him.

He thought of worlds seeded with stargates, of the strange glyphs on the Destiny gate, of FTL, and a moving point of origin.  Rush closed his eyes and thought of combinations and (endless) possibilities, of statistics and chance, of math and equations. 

Rush dreamed of numbers and stars.  He woke to the sun on his face, ready to cook and burn his already chapped and peeling skin.  He thought of legged-adders, rocks, and death.

With red stained fingers, Rush picked up the Ancient remote control device that had been left in the shadow of the dead, alien ship ever since Young had cut through the haze of exploration fervor with knowing accusation, and walked through the dry heat to the gate.  Rush stared at the glyphs.  He licked across his bottom lip, tasting the lingering metallic tang of raw legged-adder that stained his mouth and hands.  He thought of combinations and started dialing.

When a wormhole finally engaged, Rush was surprised and gazed at it in a listless sort of wonderment from where he sat cross-legged on the ground, carving lines into the dirt with a rock.  The notes cataloging combinations he had already tried stretched from the ramp of the stargate to his current position backward and to the left.  Rush stood and watched the shimmering pool.  He curled one hand up to grip his shoulder, while the other wrapped around his waist.  He held on, white-knuckled, to himself as his body shook.  He stared at the blue glow and trembled. 

Anywhere.  Endless possibilities.  Ice.  Wasteland.  Underwater.  Paradise.  Anything.

The wormhole closed.  The sound of dirt and pebbles rolling down the rock face caused Rush to turn.  A legged-adder raised its head into the air, followed by the body supported on the two little legs.  Upright, the creature snapped at something buzzing in the air.

Rush licked and bit at his bottom lip and picked up the remote device.

The stargate spun.

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the second—

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Rush swallows, mouth suddenly dry, and licks his lips.  Telford’s gaze, using Young’s eyes, flicks briefly down.

Rush has always felt a pull toward dangerous things, but usually his sense of self-preservation, and some would say his own ego, keep him from unnecessary risks; however, if it’s something he really wants, well, he might do something like walk through a wormhole to an unknown destination.

“How were you stranded?”  Telford asks and not for the first time.

“There was a landslide,” Rush answers.

“A landslide,” Telford mimics, “and that’s what impeded your return?”

“Yes.”

“What about Colonel Young?”

“I was unconscious for a period of time, but when I awoke, I had to dig myself out from under a good amount of dirt.  I assume,” Rush stresses, “my location was indiscernible to Colonel Young at the time, and considering the limited time remaining to return to the gate, I believe he made the only available choice: to return rather than Destiny lose two people.

“You bear no resentment towards Colonel Young?” Telford asks, eyes fixed on Rush.

“None,” Rush responds flatly.

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is to go to live there in person;—

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The sky on Rush’s new world was a hazy, bruised orange.  The stargate stood in a field of golden reeds that swayed and rippled in the breeze, crashing like waves against the edge of a forest of short, thick trees whose branches intertwined in a web of reddish-brown leaves.

Small, hairless creatures with grey, boneless skin stretched between arm and leg scurried in the underbrush, burrowed in the tree trunks, and glided from treetop to treetop, chasing the tiny buzzing insects that hovered around the fruit weighing down the tree boughs.

The fruit was protected by a hard shell like a nut, but once cracked open, the shell fell away to expose a yellow, spongy flesh that tasted syrupy sweet and dissolved on the tongue like spun sugar, but gave Rush the runs if eaten in large quantities.  The sickly sweet fruit was vastly preferable, however, to raw snake creature, and Rush sat with his back to a tree at the edge of the field, tearing off chunks of the yellow fruit with his fingers.  Thick, sticky juice dribbled down his chin, gumming up his beard.

A whirling, crashing noise startled Rush and sent the tree creatures scattering.  Rush watched, sticky fingers stuck in his mouth, as the stargate came to life and a kino zipped into the field.

Colonel Young followed, and Rush met him in the reeds.

“Rush,” Young greeted.

“Colonel,” Rush answered, tilting his head in acknowledgement, “should I hazard a guess as to what Destiny needs on this planet?”

Young snorted, his mouth twisting upward.  “You were caught in a landslide,” he said.

“Was that it?” Rush asked mockingly. 

“Not as unreachable as I had assumed though,” Young replied.

“Took a while to dig my way out,” Rush said, “but, apparently, you can make a hard decision.”

“Maybe,” Young drawled out and stepped closer to Rush, “it wasn’t that difficult.”

“I could destroy you over this,” Rush hissed.

“I’ll take you with me,” Young said, voice low and rough, “and you want this mission.  You want Destiny.”

Rush took in Young’s dark and even stare and the curve of his set jaw as he leaned into Rush’s space, bringing them nose to nose.  A huff of laughter caught in Rush’s throat as he shook his head.

“Well played, Colonel,” Rush admitted.

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the third is to let it continue to live under its own laws, taking tribute from it,—

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“Really?” Telford demands and pushes further into Rush’s personal space, bringing them nose to nose.

Rush’s nostrils flare.  “Yes.”

Telford watches him, and his breath slides warmly over Rush’s face.  Telford licks his bottom lip, licks Young’s bottom lip, mirroring Rush’s earlier act.  Rush’s eyes are drawn to the movement, his own lips part, and he breathes in through his mouth.

“Why,” Telford asks, his eyes narrowing, “do I think you’re lying?”

“Wouldn’t know,” Rush says, “sounds like a personal problem.”

“Is that what it is,” Telford asks and brings a hand to brush lightly under Rush’s jaw, tilting his head back with a knuckle under his chin, “personal?”

“Might be,” Rush whispers.

The lips are Young’s, but the smirk is all Telford, and the press of that mouth against Rush’s own is a heady mix of right and wrong.  The taste and flesh belong to Young, but Telford pulls the strings.

Telford’s lips move in a slick glide, opening, enticing, and Rush meets him open-mouth and wanting, licks that bottom lip, pulls it between his teeth.  Telford slides his tongue along Rush’s gums, his teeth and in.  The hand on Rush’s jaw slips into his hair, gripping, pulling him out of the chair.  Rush’s fingers find the zipper on Young’s jacket.  Rush looks up into Telford’s eyes and pulls at the zipper tab.

The jacket is pushed off, and Telford pulls Rush back in, licking his way into Rush’s mouth again.  They are moving, Rush realizes, when his back hits the wall.  He has lost his belt somewhere in the journey.

A callused hand grips Rush inside his open pants, and he knocks his head against the wall.  Telford squeezes his (Young’s) hand, and Rush gasps in a sharp breath.  Telford lifts one of Rush’s legs to wrap around his hip, and Rush hooks his ankle behind Telford’s knee and hauls him in closer.  Their erections are trapped between them with Telford’s hand holding them together.

Rush moves his hips to meet Telford’s thrusts.  The friction is too dry to be sweet, but too good to be painful.  Telford kisses him wetly.  His eyes (Young’s eyes) are open, dilated, black.  Rush leans his head back against the wall and closes his eyes, his stomach tightening, his vision greying.  He thinks of dry desert, spring grass, and then he doesn’t think at all.

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and setting up a government composed of a few men who will keep it friendly to you.

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“You need plenty of fluids and rest,” Johansen said, looking Rush over again.  “I’ve already authorized a medical increase of your water ration.  Eat regular meals, no skipping,” she continued with a pointed look, “but nothing too heavy and no sampling of the off-world supplies until your digestive system has a chance normalize.”

“So I’m going to live,” Rush pushed, ready to escape.

“You’re malnourished and have lost too much weight for your height.  Physically, that appears to be the worst of it, but I’m still running your blood work.  Otherwise,” she paused, looking him in the eye, “you tell me.”

“Like I said,” Rush replied, “I’m going to live.”

Johansen frowned at him, but Rush remained silent.  “Very well,” she said, “I’m keeping you here in the medical bay overnight for observation.  Barring any problems with your blood work, I will release you to your quarters tomorrow.”

“What about my work?” Rush asked quickly.

“You’ll live,” Johansen said dryly.  “Now, I believe I ordered rest,” she finished with a smile and moved away to her lab space.

Eli, who had been hovering around the door, scooted over in Johansen’s absence.  “Hey,” he said, voice a hollow sounding imitation of his usual enthusiasm.  “I just wanted to see how you were doing.”  Rush watched as Eli fidgeted, standing beside his bed and avoiding direct eye contact.  He poked at a remote control device, but no kino hovered in the room.

“What is it, Eli?” Rush finally demanded.

“You are alright, right?  I mean you were, that is, you and Colonel Young—” Eli paled under Rush’s gaze and shut his mouth.

“Eli—” Rush began.

“I just…”

“Colonel Young,” Rush continued, “isn’t the most kino adept person on board, so I somehow doubt he would be good at accessing specific footage on his own.”

Eli swallowed audibly, “Did he… the landslide…?”

“You can keep secrets, can’t you, Eli?” Rush asked, voice calm and a smile tugging at his lips.

“I, yes,” Eli responded, nodding swiftly.  “Secrets, right.  I can keep secrets, but…”  Eli chewed on his lip, and his gaze swept across the rest of the still empty room.  “You and Young, you’re not going to… more landslides?”

“Do you know what an adder is, Eli?” Rush asked. 

Eli blinked rapidly, “Um, a snake?”

“It’s Scotland’s only poisonous snake,” Rush answered and turned away from Eli, resting back against the bed.  “They have a distinctive, dark zigzag pattern on their backs.  One spring when I was a child, my mother washed me to within an inch of my life and dressed me in short trousers and my Sunday shirt.  We took the train, then a bus, and then up a dirt road in the countryside to a cousin’s wedding.

“I wandered away from the reception and out into the green of an empty field.  I could hear the sheep bleating from the nearby hills.  I looked down and saw the black eyes of an adder looking back from within the tall grass.

“A noise, a rustle in the weeds caused the snake to turn.  I watched the black zigzag move away from me.  I remember standing still and silent amongst the stalks of grass until my mother came looking for me.”

Eli stayed quiet, and Rush turned his head to face Eli again.

“Facing danger is one thing, Eli,” Rush continued, “but it’s always a relief when it turns away.”

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Anyone who becomes master of a city accustomed to freedom and does not destroy it may expect to be destroyed by it; for such a city may always justify rebellion in the name of liberty and its ancient institutions.

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