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A Conspiracy of Scientists

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"Would you hit on me if I were a woman?"

"Sorry, what?"

"If I were a woman, would you hit on me?"

"What makes you think I wouldn't hit on you as a guy?"

"Well, you're not, are you?"

"Not really, no."

"So?"

"So?"

"That would be a negative, then. You wouldn't hit on me, not even if I were a woman."

"May I ask where all this is coming from? Something wrong?"

"Nothing. Something Rush said."

"Oh. Well, you know, Rush is ... Rush."

"That he is, that he is."

"Yeah."

"So, not even if I had, like, big breasts and stuff?"

 

The whole thing was Rush's fault, of course.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"You said something to him," Brody said. "About how nobody would ever love him."

"He what?" Not a 'could you repeat that one more time?' kind of what, Brody thought. Not even an 'oh my god, I can't believe what I'm hearing' kind of what. Sounded like the Boy Wonder knew his Batman by now.

... Not that Rush was anything like Batman. At all.

"I did nothing of the kind," Rush said, looking faintly annoyed, rather than, say, heartily and justly ashamed of himself as he should be.

"Yeah," Brody said, by which he meant, basically, 'tell us something we might actually believe, maybe?'. "And now Lisa's getting all cozy with Greer - who, don't get me wrong, nice guy - " Rush's face briefly registered an expression of disbelief, which, fine, Brody'd let him have that one, " - but Volker's been pining after her for ages and then he'd finally worked up the nerve to do something about it and then you - "

"Encouraged him," Rush said.

"You are a horrible human being," Brody said. "There, I said it. You can kill me, but at least I'll die an honest man, who finally got the guts to tell you when you've gone too damn far."

"So you did. Could you run these diagnostics, please?"

"Wait," Eli said. "You encouraged him? Seriously?"

Rush's annoyance had gone from faint to vague. "Why are we talking about this?"

"It's uh - " Eli glanced at Brody. Brody shrugged. "It's kind of, you know, a thing. That we'd ... like to know about? Man, you are so not the kind of person I'd expect to, well. You know. Do that sort of thing."

"What? Manipulate people?"

The kid was good, Brody had to give him that. Only blushed a little bit. "Yeah. Well, no, I mean, but this wasn't really like that, was it? I mean, manipulating people - that sounds - and you weren't. You were just ... encouraging. What did you say to him?"

Rush looked thoughtful for a moment, like he was considering not answering the question. Still, it'd been Eli asking. With Rush, that counted for something - like the validity of a question depended on who was asking it, instead of what it was.

"I told him that if he kept acting like a friend, he'd surely forever remain that. Just a friend."

Somehow, Brody doubted that had been all. "I told him that dozens of times."

"Well, and you're our resident Casanova, are you?"

"Hey," Brody said. "I could - " It was kind of creepy, the way the looks they were giving him were pretty damn near identical. "I've been around the block a few times."

"Of course you have," Rush said. "Now, can we get back to work? Please?"

 

So maybe Brody hadn't really been 'around the block a few times'. No shame in that, was there?

"Yeah, and then he said something about how scientists really shouldn't bother with romance anyway," Volker said. Brody'd cornered him in the mess in the hopes of discovering Rush was a liar.

Or rather, in the hopes of discovering proof that Rush was a liar.

"Like he's one to talk," Brody said. He couldn't imagine what kind of woman would want to marry a man like Rush and yet, there you were. Two of them, even.

Of course, seeing as how they'd both died, Rush probably wasn't too keen on embarking on romance number three any time soon. It didn't excuse any of his behavior, but Brody figured that sort of thing might have a certain impact on a man.

"I don't know. I mean, I like being friends. Being friends is good, right?"

"Sure. Like we are."

"Yeah." Volker's expression fell. "Like we are."

"And, I mean, it'd be sort of weird if we started hitting on each or something, right?"

"Right," Volker said. "Sort of weird."

"Bet it'd drive Rush crazy, though."

"You think?"

 

It was revenge. Payback, fair and square.

"You uh mind giving me a hand over here?"

"Not at all."

"Guys. I'm right here, okay?"

And it wasn't working. At all.

"Oh, relax, Eli. They're in love. Sickening displays of affection are all par for the course."

"Yeah, but - "

 

"We're not in love," Volker panted. Brody liked to think it was because of him. "Are we?"

He hadn't really ever kissed a lot of people, and most of them had been, well, relatives at some family function or another. He'd kissed them on the cheek, of course.

For, as Rush put it, 'sickening displays of affection', it had seemed more appropriate to kiss on the lips.

"Well, we've certainly got him fooled."

"Yeah." Volker nodded. "Uh. I think he's gone now. They both are. So we could probably - "

"Might be a kino nearby," Brody said, quite cleverly if he did say so himself. "To, you know, spy on us. To make sure we're really ... doing what they think we're doing."

"Hadn't thought of that."

 

There were repercussions, of course.

"Yo."

Brody had counted on Rush launching some sort of counter-offensive, to get his working force back under control and free from distractions.

"Uh, yo?"

He hadn't really counted on that counter-offensive taking the shape of Master Sergeant Greer, looming in the door opening of his room, armed and dangerous.

"You're obviously a busy man, so I'll keep this short and sweet," Greer said.

"Please," Brody said. He was pretty sure he'd meant to say 'please don't kill me' but Greer seemed to take it as a 'please go ahead' so that was all right. Hopefully. Brody didn't really think begging for his life would actually work with Greer, anyway.

"You break his heart, I break you. Got it?"

Rush was a manipulative, conniving, son of a bitch bastard who didn't know the meaning of the word 'fair play'. "Got it."

"Good." Greer leaned forward a bit and patted him on the shoulder. Brody winced. "You have a nice day, now."

"Yeah," Brody told his closed door. "You too."

 

"This is bad," Volker said.

"Bad? It's a disaster!"

"Could be worse."

"How could it be worse?"

"One thing I learned aboard this ship. Things can always get worse," Volker said. "And usually do."

 

Say about Rush what you liked - or, to be on the safe side: think what you liked, but the man was a genius. Brody wasn't sure how he'd done it, but all of a sudden, it was as if the entire ship had taken Rush's side against him and Volker.

Greer had been hard to believe, but he'd been only one man. Rush could be a smooth talker when he wanted to, so Brody figured he'd just concocted some sort of semi-plausible story, fed it to Greer, and let temper take its course.

"It's good, you know. To find that special someone," Camile told him. She'd supported Rush through a coup or two, Brody recalled, so maybe he should have expected this, but still.

"We're friends," he said quickly, before remembering The Plan. Which probably required readjusting, seeing as how it had failed completely, but hey. If this was how Rush reacted when he believed Volker and Brody were sleeping together, his reaction to finding out he'd been fooled, tricked and bamboozled would be ten times worse. "With benefits. Friends with benefits. Not soulmates."

"I've seen the way you look at him," Camile said.

'What you see is my mad acting skills,' Brody thought, but didn't dare say out loud. "Oh."

She patted his shoulder. He managed not to wince this time. "All right. But if you ever want someone to talk to, you know where I am."

 

"We could always - "

"No."

"You really think - "

"Yes. It's Rush, for God's sake."

"But maybe - "

"The man has no soul, no mercy and no shred of decency," Brody said. "I was practically undressing you on the comconsole, and did he even so much as bat an eye?"

"He did tell us to power it down and to be careful not to accidentally blow up the ship."

"Exactly. Pure evil."

"All right, what about Eli?"

"What about Eli?"

 

"Wait," Eli said. "You guys aren't happily in love?"

Brody sighed. A genius, sure. "We've been over this. It was all just a ploy to get back at Rush."

"Huh. Good plan."

"We know that now," Brody said, since Volker was only nodding in agreement with Eli. "And we need your help to fix this."

"Me? What can I do about this? Can't you just - oh, I don't know, tell people it was all an act? Crazy idea, I know."

There were moments when Eli sounded disturbingly much like Rush. Well, less cynical and without a Scottish accent, obviously. "We could, but then Rush would find out we fooled him."

"An amiable break-up?"

"Only if you're good with Greer breaking me up."

"Right," Eli said, "So, basically, you're - "

"Screwed," Brody said. Eli's hand twitched a bit, as if he wanted to -

- point at someone behind them. Where for 'someone', substitute 'everyone's favorite mad scientist'.

"Not in the lab, please, Mr Brody."

 

"So I guess we've got no choice."

"None."

"We're just going to have to - "

"Yeah."

"Good thing we're friends, right? I mean, imagine doing this with someone you didn't even like."

"That'd be bad."

"Terrible."

 

"You know, you never really answered the question."

"What question?"

"Whether or not you'd hit on me if I were a woman."

"Absolutely. Hey, I'd even hit on you if you were a guy."

"Thanks."

"You're welcome."