*Disclaimer: I own nothing but my original characters and ideas….and the plot bunnies in the corner. Please don't sue, I'm a poor college student that has no life and way too many video games.*
"I'm a very tolerant man, except when it comes to holding a grudge."
"Yeah," Riley started, arms crossed as he stared at the floor. "I read about these Chinese miners that survived a cave-in for six days by drinking their urine."
Greer sneered at the other Sergeant, disgust twisting his features. "I'm gonna go ahead and pretend I didn't hear that."
"Yeah," Hunter chuckled lightly. "You know what they ate? Coal."
"Coal?!" Greer questioned, head tilting to the side like a bird. Riley was reminded of some type of falcon that enjoyed tormenting its food before it killed and ate it.
"Yep," he shook off the scrutiny. "That's a true story. I mean, don't get me wrong…it was pretty stupid. Almost killed 'em."
"Water level's down again," the Colonel's voice startled the younger Sergeant provoking a smirk from Greer. "You're sure nobody went near that compartment on your watch?"
Riley turned to look at him as Young approached the two. He walked smoothly across the plated metal flooring, only a barely perceptible limp still evident. It had been just over two weeks since they had been stranded here, on this ship, and despite the want to go home, everyone seemed to be falling into a comfortable pattern. The only real problem, aside from having no way of getting back to Earth, low rations, limited supplies, and no control over the ship, was the disappearing water.
"Spencer came by and asked if he could have a look at the tank."
"He's a crazy person...sir," Riley added as if in an afterthought. "Anyway, I said no."
"Nobody goes in there without my authorization," Young made eye contact with both men, lips pulling down into a scowl.
"Sir," Greer replied in confirmation as Everett moved around them. He needed answers.
"Maybe it evaporated when we went through the star," Eli offered as Young paced in front of them, each pivot making his limp more pronounced. He moved like a caged animal, all big, powerful, deadly, and exceedingly agitated.
Charlie turned away from the Colonel and focused on the screen before him instead, the pacing was making him dizzy. He let the numbers come to him as if in a daze, using it as a shield to block out the others. It didn't quite work as well as it used too. Charlie could no longer make everything but the equations disappear with just a thought, he had to work for it now. It made him uneasy.
"It's a closed system," Rush countered, eyes never leaving the screen.
"You know, all that water went somewhere. We're down to half of what we had when we got here," Young didn't quite snap as he turned sharply and made his way to the other side of the room. His knee throbbed with each step and his eyes pinched in pain as he forced down his discomfort.
"I don't understand this," Nicholas flipped through his notebook, biting his pencil in an absent gesture as he tried to reason out the possibilities. Young observed him carefully as the Scotsman scrubbed a hand down his unshaven face. His skin was pale, hair unwashed, and hands shaking just slightly as he pressed a button on the console. He looked dog tired, the kind of tired that happened with days on end of little to no sleep.
"Well, you're the one trying to get the recycling system up and running," Young continued, circling the room behind the group. His eyes darted to the console that the doctor sat behind, but it still made no sense to him. "Maybe there's a leak somewhere."
"No," Eli mumbled as the screen beeped negatively at him. "The ship says it's fine."
Rush sighed softly, right hand curling at the base of his neck in a gesture that Young was beginning to recognize as a combination of fatigue, stress, and anxiety. "If what you're saying is accurate-"
"It is," Young bit out, turning to the Scotsman.
"-then we've got a serious problem."
"Well, we wouldn't," Young began, the corners of his mouth turning down as he advanced on the seated man. "If you did what I asked you to do in the first place." The Colonel wasn't intentionally trying to start a fight, but it always seemed to happen with Rush.
Eli made a hasty retreat behind the young professor as Charlie observed the byplay in equal parts interest and confusion. The dynamics of the two 'leaders', for lack of a better word, fascinated him. In the past sixteen days he had observed their interactions with each other. Half the time they seemed ready to tear out the others' throat, and the other half they seemed to have a somewhat cordial understanding, if not acceptance, and comradeship.
It was the most perplexing bond Charlie had ever had the misfortune to observe. The data he had collected on them was inconclusive; 12.694% of the time they seemed to fall under the almost friend category, while 42.689% they seemed on the verge of killing each other. The other 44.617% they avoided each other like the plague. Their relationship shouldn't work, every scrap of data led to an unsavory conclusion of destruction…and yet it did.
Eli had once described their relationship as frenemies: enemies that were friends. In the end Charlie just found it confusing, if not captivating to watch the outliers in human interaction as they merged like a tornado, tearing apart everything in its path.
He had never seen anything quite like it in all of his years. The numbers made his head spin and fingers itch for chalk and a blank surface. Give him a few days and Charlie believed he would have them figured out and organized to his equations on human interaction and communication.
"Oh, please," Rush snapped at him, Scottish brogue thickening. "Can we stick to one problem at a time?"
Everett shifted so he was standing beside the smaller man, towering over his seated form. This close to Rush he could tell that the man was at his wits end, and Young prayed silently that the other wouldn't have another mental break and collapse. "Running out of water wouldn't matter if we just dial Earth, go home."
"I already explained that to you."
"The ship's recharged, the power reserves are full-"
"That's the point. They're not!" Rush snapped at him.
"Well, where are we at then, Rush?!" Young raised his own voice and the cacophony of sounds intermingled and echoed around the room.
"Probably about less than forty percent of their original design capacity!"
Young chuckled darkly at the man. "Think I can't tell when somebody just pulls a number out of his ass?"
"What?!" Rush seemed to spit the word, face twisting into that of bewilderment as he stared at the Colonel, utterly perplexed.
"Uh," Charlie interrupted, apprehensive about coming between the two. "Actually that number came from me. He's not making it up." His mouth clicked shut as the penetrating gaze of the Colonel turned to him and Charlie hunched his shoulders as he shrunk further into his seat.
"Look," Rush sighed, frustrated and tired. Charlie felt a brief moment of relief as the piercing stare returned to the other man. He wasn't sure how Rush put up with such hostility daily, but little ever seemed to faze him. "If Destiny was ever capable of dialing back to Earth, it was thousands of years ago when the Ancients originally intended to come here, but not now."
"Well, then, you're right. We have a problem."
"Yes," Rush agreed quickly as Young stared at him.
"Again," Everett added pointedly. Charlie saw Eli shift uneasily behind him as the two locked gazes and seemed to be having some sort of standoff. The young professor once heard Eli equate the two older men's bickering like that of a married couple. They always sniped and nagged unnecessarily at the other. It was routine, comfortable, and they seemed to find even ground in the arguments. It was just an added bonus that it kept their ire away from him and the rest of the crew…well, with the exception of Volker. Rush just couldn't stand him for some reason.
"Okay," Nicholas sighed again as he turned back to his screen. "Eli-"
Young cut him off. "Keep Charlie on this and get Brody. He's an engineer. I need to borrow Eli."
The Colonel strode out of the room more discouraged than when he had entered; only glancing once quickly behind him to make sure that Eli was following. Wallace darted across the chamber, giving Rush a wide birth. He trailed after the Colonel as he briefly made eye contact with Charlie. Eli couldn't really explain why, but it felt like Young had just won him in a custody battle as Rush stared frustrated at their retreating forms. He hated it when the parents fought.
The Kino floated just above head level, rotating slowly around the room to take in all of the occupants. The line to the cantina was nearly out of the mess hall, moving slowly towards the food dispenser.
"Forty thousand liters?!" Volker questioned, turning to talk to Franklin who stood just behind him in line. Dale fisted his right hand; wincing slightly as pain shot up to his shoulder and he adjusted the strap to the sling.
"That's what I heard," Franklin confirmed, wearing an off white sling on the same arm as opposed to Volker's black one.
Dale scoffed as he turned and shuffled further up the line. "Well, we didn't drink it."
"Let's just say it wouldn't surprise me if there was more water than they're telling us," The older man stated loudly, making Volker shift uncertainly as his eyes darted around the room to the soldiers seated at the tables and the few armed ones lining the walls.
"So, what? They're hoarding it?" Volker questioned quietly, trying to subtly make Franklin catch on and lower his voice.
"Big ship. You know the military," Franklin continued just as loudly as before. "As long as they control the water supply, they control us." Volker frowned as his eyes latched onto the Kino and his lips pulled down in suspicion. Franklin followed his line of sight, approaching the Kino with raised eyebrows and an almost swagger. "That's right. I'm talking about you."
Eli pudgy fingers snapped to the console, immediately muting the screen as Franklin continued to rant at the Kino. Blushing in embarrassment, Eli turned his gaze to the Colonel as the man smiled slightly at the display.
"Those two are harmless," Young told him, crossing his arms as he turned his attention to the math geek. "Keep it up. I need to know who I can trust."
Eli shifted uncomfortably in his hard metal seat, frown twisting his features as the Colonel started to make his way out of the room. "I feel like a spy," the disappointment clear in his voice. As a child he had always what it would be like to be James Bond, but now he just wanted to be Eli Wallace, twenty-nine year old gamer and math student. He wanted to go home.
"Eli," Young mumbled, turning back to the man-child. The younger male turned to him eagerly, expecting words of wisdom or reassurance. "Clean this room up."
Eli sighed loudly as the Colonel left, feeling like he had just been chastised by his father…and he had never even had a father. It made him feel weird. "Right…"
He turned back to the screen, pressing a few buttons and flipping another switch in order to go through even more footage that had been recorded by his flying camera balls. He propped his head up on his hand and gazed forlornly at the screen.
Behind him, unnoticed, a whirling vortex of tiny particles danced across the hallway, swiftly it made its way in the same direction the Colonel had just taken.
Greer strode down the hall quickly, his footsteps echoing loudly down the long corridor. The Destiny was a huge ship, larger than the Icarus base for sure, and by far the largest posting he had ever been assigned. Not that he had actually been assigned to the Destiny, no one had, but that was a moot point, one that would get him nowhere.
He was just beginning to find his bearings, since the science team had yet to find a working map that could be distributed; everyone else had to find their own way. The corridors all looked the same, the lighting was brighter now that they had adequate power, but it was still just on the slightly too dim side to be comfortable. The lights were all yellows, oranges, reds, and blues…soft colors. Greer was used to the harsh white from the Base, luminescent colors that filled every shadow.
The darkness made him twitchy.
He frowned, a feeling of being watched coming over him. Never before had his senses failed him and he wasn't about to ignore them now. Slowing to a stop, Greer turned around deliberately. Brown, nearly black eyes swept the hall from which he had just come, but he found nothing.
Brow furrowed in suspicion, Greer nearly started when Young walked around another corner. The Colonel approached him, limping just slightly as he leaned to his left side to get the pressure off of his knee. Slowing to a stop, Young took in Greer's apprehensive appearance.
"What is it?"
"Nothing, sir. Just had a strange feeling," he confided, hands tightening into fists as he tried to push away his suspicion. At least, he hoped it was nothing.
"Well, we just dropped out of F.T.L."
Young frowned slightly, but pressed on despite the strangeness of the situation. "I'm on my way to the Gate Room. There's a planet in range. Come on."
Greer turned his gaze to the floor, unable to shake off the feeling that they were being observed. It put him on edge. Glancing down the corridor once more, the Sergeant turned and followed the Colonel quickly.
Young entered the Gate Room with Greer following just behind. He passed the open Stargate, the horizon making a strange rushing noise that one usually heard under water. "What have we got?" He questioned approaching the two behind the console on the left side of the room. Everett avoided the other as Rush was the one occupying it. He wasn't avoiding the man per se, but he was trying to evade the argument that was imminent when he interacted with said man.
"There's only one planet in range," Wallace answered for him as Eppes was scrolling through the readings. "The ship's already dialed it up."
"We're getting readings now." Rush added as Young moved to look over the young professor's shoulder.
The console beeped and suddenly the screen changed to show the footage from the Kino that had been sent through. "Whoa!" Eli exclaimed as he quickly lost interest in the Kino controls and turned avidly to the display of ice and snow. "Looks like we entered the Hoth system!" Young turned to the man and frowned in confusion as Eppes ignored them. "'Empire Strikes Back.'" The Colonel just blinked at him. "The second 'Star Wars' movie. Okay, I refuse to call it Episode Five."
Rush interrupted his ramblings and Young felt a moment of fondness for the math nerd as Eppes failed to hide his amusement. "Minus forty-seven degrees Celsius."
"Bundle up!" Greer drawled as he gazed at the screen showing a blizzard in full strength.
Charlie frowned at the screen before a thought occurred to him. "Is that water ice?"
"Yes," Rush replied as he read the Ancient words far more quickly than anyone else could. "But the atmosphere's dangerously thin."
"And poisonous," Riley added from his position next to the doctor. "Point one three percent molecular oxygen, ninety-five percent carbon dioxide with a hint of argon."
"Woo! Nasty planet!" Greer commented, the words drawling together as he and the Colonel approached the open gate.
"The only candidate within range," Rush informed Young, tone certain as he gazed at the Colonel.
"We're gonna have to use the spacesuits we found, but if that brings back half a ton of ice, I'll take it," Young mumbled before he turned and addressed Rush for the first time since he entered the room. "Shut it down for now."
Rush shifted slightly, a sigh escaping his chapped lips as he complied. He understood why they needed to prepare, but the scientist in him was causing impatience. It also didn't help that a direct order from the Colonel, no matter how small, always seemed to rub him the wrong way.
"Lieutenant Scott, come in, please," Young spoke into his radio, making a silent observation of the battery life left. It would need to be charged again soon. He waited a moment, but there was no reply. "Scott!?"
The silence from the radio was filled with the loud hydraulics of the Stargate deactivating as the gate fully powered down and cooled.
Chloe moaned softly as she trailed a hand through Matt's short hair, fingernails scratching at his scalp. Their lips came apart for only a moment before they rushed to meet once again.
"There a reason your radio's off?" James questioned sharply.
They broke apart quickly, jumping slightly as they startled, turning to Vanessa who stood in the doorway. Chloe gazed at the military woman in confusion as she took in her tense posture and angry expression.
"Come in," Scott told her sarcastically while Chloe turned away in embarrassment.
"Colonel Young is looking for you."
He turned to Chloe and spoke quietly with her. "Uh, I think I'd better..."
Matt shifted, grabbing his gear as his eyes met those of the Lieutenant. Once everything was in hand, he strode quickly away from them, leaving the tension behind in the room with his current girlfriend, and the girl that he was really never with but had forgotten to tell her it was over.
James followed him with her eyes as he turned down the corridor. "What, you couldn't find a broom closet?" She bit out. Once he was out of sight, Vanessa turned back to Chloe who was shifting uncomfortably in the room. She smiled bitterly at the younger woman before she walked away.
Lisa Park grabbed the Ancient Tablet as she addressed the men in the room. "We're still working on the other suits. We're close to having a third one ready."
"How close?" Young asked as Scott gazed at the third spacesuit in trepidation.
"A day, maybe."
Young didn't turn to look at the woman behind him as he too stared at the Ancient suit. "Well, we'll be back in F.T.L. by then."
Lisa tensed slightly as she became defensive and tried to explain. "Well, they're not in great shape. All these years, there's bound to be degradation."
"Well, keep at it. We're gonna need them," The Colonel told her before he finally shifted so he could speak to Scott. He had hoped for a total of three people but at least there would be two. If there had only been one suit ready, Young wasn't sure what he would have done. He was uncomfortable with the thought of one of his people out their alone on the 'Hoth' planet. "Looks like it's just you and me, then."
Scott sighed quietly as he approached his commanding officer, lowering his voice so he wouldn't be overheard. "I could take Kinnear, sir. She's done E.V.A.s before and you're-"
"I'm fine," Everett interrupted him sharply. His tone of voice quickly ending the discussion.
Scott nodded to him a little doubtfully as he bit his lip to keep his arguments to himself. Young was still recovering from the temporary paralysis, concussion, and twisted knee…but he was also his commanding officer. If he said he was fine, then he was fine.
Brow wrinkled in curiosity, Matt turned to the young woman. "How are we gonna cut the ice?"
Lisa turned to him, a look of consternation crossing her features as an aspect that she had overlooked came to light.
"Plasma cutter," Lisa began, holding up the said device for all to see. It had taken a full hour of searching through crates of materials to find something, anything that would have worked. Luckily, one of the crates had not only a working plasma cutter, but all of its supplies as well, including the portable battery. "Should cut through the ice like butter. Just don't get the business end anywhere near you."
Lisa set the cutter down gently back into its case before she turned to the two men who were adjusting the gloves of the suits. Around them stood several scientists as the took readings and recorded, double and triple checking to make sure that everything was in working order.
"Suit radios are voice-activated between you," Park turned away, grabbing the remote that Eli was holding out to her. "Press here," she pointed to the button. "If you wanna tie into the ship's communication systems."
Charlie watched the preparations with a sense of excitement and trepidation as the last of the arrangements were completed. Greer, the military Sergeant that had taken a strange interest in his habits, stood next to him. Since the incident with the power, the man had made it his personal mission to find Charlie at least twice a day. Either to get him to eat, sleep, or just annoy the hell out of him.
The professor had learned the hard way what would happen if he ignored the much larger man…he still had the bruises. Charlie rubbed his bicep in memory of the painful grip as he peeked through the fringe in his hair in order to observe the man. He had his arms crossed and tension lining his body as he gazed at his two commanding officers.
The young professor could see the frustration in the way that his jaw clenched and his hands fisted. It would be dangerous with three people and absolutely treacherous with two. There should be three people going, and Charlie could tell that Greer was uncomfortable with Young and Scott leaving him behind on the ship.
It was moments like these that the Sergeant reminded Charlie of a Pitbull, a dog loyal to a fault and extremely protective. Everything about him reminded Charlie of an overprotective guard dog. He was tenacious, and the professor had experienced it firsthand. He didn't know what to do with himself when left with no one to safeguard.
He saw Greer shift, lips turning down as he frowned…and then their eyes met. There was a heartbeat of stillness before Charlie flushed in embarrassment at being caught observing the other male. The young man didn't see the ferocious grin that the other gave him as his brown eyes darted around the room to find an escape. They settled on Doctor Rush who stood out of the way, leaning against the open bulkhead door.
Dark chuckling followed him as Charlie made a hasty retreat, tucking himself slightly behind the surly scientist. He was safest behind the Scotsman since most avoided him like the plague.
Rush turned to look at Eppes as the man practically hid behind him. The young professor flushed brightly and turned his gaze to the ground as he shuffled uneasily. Raising an eyebrow in curiosity, Nicholas followed the younger man's line of sight when the brown eyes peered cautiously across the room before returning to stare at the floor.
His gaze fell upon Master Sergeant Greer. The darker skinned man was eyeing Professor Eppes dangerously, the smile that graced his lips reminded the Scotsman much of a shark. Rush frowned slightly, a strange twisting sensation in his chest as he glanced back at boy genius. His arms came up and crossed in front of his chest as he shifted slightly, his wiry frame blocking Eppes from view.
Black eyes snapped to his, and Rush raised an eyebrow challengingly. Greer huffed in amusement, his smile twisting into something far more vicious, promising dark, painful things, before the Sergeant turned back to the two men preparing for the mission.
Hands clenched in not fear, but maybe apprehensiveness, Rush glared at the man and grimaced slightly as his mind tried to rationalize his own reaction. There was just something about not only Eppes, but Wallace as well that demanded they be protected. There was an innocence about them that needed to be preserved. And it was his fault that Charlie was here, the least he could do was keep him out of harms way to the best of his ability. If that meant shielding him from unwanted attention from the military personnel…that was exactly what he was going to do. Though he was curios in what Charlie had done to garner the attention of such an unstable man.
He turned back to the group, keeping his eye on Greer. He didn't trust that man, there was just something about him that set his teeth on edge, something primal and violent that told him to run, keep away. Rush wasn't exactly sure what had just transpired, but he made a mental note to keep a closer eye on Charles.
"TJ," Young's voice drew everyone's attention back to the problem at hand. "You're in command while we're gone," he glanced around the room quickly, making sure his point got across. "Is everybody clear on that?"
"Oh, I'm sure we'll manage," Rush bit out sarcastically as Charlie shifted uncomfortably behind him.
Young chose to ignore him. "Riley, start dialing."
The young man immediately obeyed the orders and activated the Stargate. Behind Young, the gate lit up and began to spin. Park spoke a little louder, trying to be heard over the sound of stone and metal grinding and the chevrons locking into place. "Assuming a fair amount of physical activity, you have just over eight hours of air."
"It's…what," Scott turned to the timer above the door. "Eleven hours until the next jump to FTL, right?"
"Don't worry," Eli began, smiling sardonically. "You'll run out of air long before we leave you behind!"
Scott regarded him, slightly apprehensive but mostly amused at the younger man. "Thanks," he mumbled sarcastically. Eli just laughed brightly at him.
The planet was dark, grey, and cold. Scott could feel the cold even through the suit. Walking in the space suit was a hassle, the bulky frame meant for zero gravity. He gazed around in wonder, watching the snowflakes drift in the high winds. He couldn't see very far, but what he could see was breath taking. "Beautiful, huh?!"
Young turned to him; the lights in helmet making him appear older and tired. "One deep breath and you're dead."
Matt looked at him, stunned by the pacifism. He stood there for a moment before blinking, resisting the eye roll that wanted to follow. Setting the cases down, Scott trudged over to the Kino before storing it away. Beside him, the Colonel kneeled on the icy ground while he took a sample of the snow that was drifting from the sky. Capping the clear tube, he activated the heating mechanism and they watched as it melted. The liquid turned dark.
Activating the remote attached to the arm of his suit, he contacted the ship. "Destiny, this is Young, come in."
"Yes, sir, we hear you five by five," Johansen's voice replied immediately.
"I just tested the ice by the Stargate. I read concentrations of ammonia and several other toxic chemicals."
"How high are the readings?" Rush asked quietly. Everett would never admit it, but his Scottish lilt was comforting in the barren landscape.
Consulting the laminated paper that he had taken from the case, Young took a moment to read the diagram. It didn't look promising. "Off the charts."
"Well, you could try looking further afield," Rush sounded only slightly annoyed and Young took that as progress. It was a good day when Rush didn't immediately jump into insults and harsh criticism.
He looked up, across the vast flat terrain, about a mile out, there was many jagged rock formations. "Maybe on the other side of that lake."
"Is that really a good idea, sir?" Scott questioned, shifting uncomfortably behind him. "The further away from the Gate we go, the less ice we can bring back."
"Oh! I've got just the thing!" Eli's voice was heard over the communication system. It was slightly muffled though, as if he wasn't talking directly into it. "Give me two minutes," he didn't quite sound exasperated.
"Colonel, give us five. Eli has an idea." TJ replied and Young let his head drop. He was apprehensive about any of Eli's ideas.
"Uh, maybe there's fresh water in the lake under the ice," Scott commented, trying to find an ulterior plan.
"Minus forty-seven. The ice'll be ten feet deep," Young calculated. "We're better off finding a pressure ridge…something we can mine."
Matt turned back to the man who was still kneeling in the snow. "Sounds like you've done something like this before."
"Oh yeah…" the Colonel replied, smiling ruefully. "A million times!"
The ground quaked beneath them, the air rumbling around them. Young could hear the sound of a glacier cracking in the distance. "Woah! Did you feel that?"
"It's just a tremor. You know, the last planet I was on exploded!" He commented off handedly. "Destiny, this is Young. We're burning through suit air. What's going on with this bright idea?"
Greer and Eli stood side by side as the pushed the Kino sled down the corridor. They had extra supplies lying on the top, mostly consisting of some rope and a net. Greer would never have admitted it to the boy, but he was mildly impressed. He had even tested its weight capacity by sitting on it. It hadn't budged.
"Here we come, people!" Greer shouted to get the men to move out of the way. "Here we come!"
"Sorry," Eli mumbled as they guided it into the room. "It's impossible to steer by remote."
Rush walked around the odd creation. The surface looked like some sort of table or night stand top. Underneath, pressed up against the bottom and keeping it floating in the air was nearly two dozen Kino's. "It's fantastic, Eli. What made you come up with that?"
Eli blushed hotly in embarrassment. "A-actually it represents my most recent attempt to fly...but it should carry a ton of ice." Behind him TJ tried to stifle her laughter.
"Colonel," TJ spoke into the radio, failing to keep the amusement out of her tone. "We're sending through Eli's latest invention."
Greer walked it up to the Gate before gently propelling it through the event horizon. Seconds later, Young's laughter could be heard through the comms system. "I love it! The man gets a gold star!"
"How much will it hold?" Scott questioned as TJ gave Eli an approving smile.
Smiling back bashfully, the younger man answered. "Definitely more than you can carry by yourself."
"We're heading out," Young told them as TJ kept monitoring the situation from the console. "Keep the Gate active. We'll radio back when we find something." There was a long moment where they could hear them breathing heavily as they shuffled around. "TJ?"
"Listen, if we don't make it back-"
"You will," she cut him off quickly.
"Well, two guys in million year old spacesuits walking around alone on an ice planet..." he trailed off, argument made. "If we don't make it back...you're gonna do fine."
Swallowing past the lump in her throat, TJ tried to keep the apprehension out of her tone. "Yes, sir. Good luck."
The radio disconnected and everyone in the room shifted uncomfortably before hastily finding something to do. TJ kept her eyes on the screen, before Rush came over and gently moved her aside. She couldn't really see what he was doing, but she doubted she could understand it if she could. The medic stood listlessly before someone caught her eye.
Charlie stood at the threshold of the room, looking like he was about to leave or about to enter. He was gazing at her, fidgeting awkwardly as if he was trying to decide to talk to her or not. She made the decision for him.
Approaching him slowly, she gently grabbed his elbow and steered him down the corridor. She saw Greer fall in step about ten paces behind her and felt Charlie tense as his eyes darted back to the intimidating man. Squeezing his arm gently to grab his attention, she smiled softly and released him when the younger man focused on her.
"Something bothering you, Professor Eppes?" She asked quietly, trying to put the nervous man at ease. She had noticed that he didn't seem to do well around soldiers, well…he didn't seem to do well around people in general. Not unless he was working on some sort of equation that is.
"Well, it…maybe it's nothing, Lieutenant. But…" he trailed off and her attention was caught by his fingers twisting around themselves before he ran a nervous hand through his curly hair. He had showered recently, but he still looked like death warmed over. His skin was pale and gaunt, hands trembling just slightly, and there was bruising under his eyes. TJ had to fight the sudden urge to take his temperature, check his blood pressure, and shove food down his throat. She wondered when the last time he had eaten…or slept.
"TJ," she replied. When his eyes darted up to her, startled, she gave him a gentle smile before continuing. "You can call me TJ." She had noticed that he also responded better without the subtext of titles and authority.
"Oh, okay. You can call me Charlie…I guess." The Lieutenant observed him as they continued down the corridor, Greer a comforting presence behind them. Charlie was cute in a boyish sort of way. He had the youthful appearance of one who seemed younger than they really were. But if she remembered Eli's off handed comment from last week, the professor was four years younger than she…and two inches shorter.
"What did you want to talk about, Charlie?" She hadn't had the chance to talk to him before now, and she was slightly regretting it. Charlie was polite and kind, if a little awkward. TJ remembered Greer commenting on the young man's terrible habits and lack of self-preservation. She made a mental note to request his presence in medical next time she got the chance. He looked way too thin and could probably due with a checkup.
"Well, I was wondering…that is, I was down in the…" he trailed off, gesturing slightly to the right of himself as he tried to find the words. "Engineering Department?" It came off as a question. It was understandable though, everyone was still getting used the situation and designated areas for departments kept changing as more rooms were discovered on the ship. "The room with the evac suits…"
"I think, well hope, that I might be able to help get it fixed. With Dr. Park's help that is," he added hastily. He spoke as if he was only half there, his mind already somewhere else.
TJ stopped walking and Charlie came to a stop just slightly in front of her. "How long do you think it would take?" To be able to have another suit would be a blessing. She liked it even less than Greer did when she found out it would just be the Colonel and Scott going planet side.
"Maybe six hours…" he trailed off, uncertain.
"Do it." Her answer was quick. Charlie's eyes darted hesitantly to the man who had been following them before coming to rest uncertainly back on her. "I want another suit ready to go just in case."
Nodding his head to her, Charlie turned to leave down another junction as he grabbed his radio. "Charlie?" TJ called after him. When she had the other man's attention she smiled brightly at him. "Thank you!" It was the best news that she had had all day.
"The level's dropped," TJ proclaimed loudly and not without annoyance. Corporal Gorman shifted uncomfortably as Greer gave her an incredulous look.
"Again?" Disbelief colored the Sergeant's tone.
"No-one's been in or out."
Her eyes darted to the two men, just as confused as they were. "Well, Brody said there's no leak in the system, so that leaves one alternative."
Gorman shook his head, "Who could steal that much?"
"That's a lot of water!" Greer exclaimed, trying to wrap his mind around it.
"Yeah, I know," TJ argued back. "But I don't know what else to do. Besides, it wouldn't hurt to know where we stand. Start a search."
Silence stretched around them before quickly Johansen left, returning to the Gate Room. The implications and consequences about what they were about to do wasn't lost on them. "Let's go, Gorman." Greer tone was sullen.
Eli sat broodingly on the stairs leading up to the gantry. He fiddled with the Kino remote, pressing buttons and reading the information provided as he sent two more out on patrol, hoping he didn't find anything worth reporting to the Colonel when he came back. Glancing up briefly, he wondered where Professor Eppes was and where that pretty Doctor Lisa Park had disappeared too.
He was startled out of his musings as the Gate deactivated and Rush strode in like a man with a purpose. "Dial it up again, Mr. Riley. We must maintain communications."
The Gate hummed as it powered back up and Eli couldn't help but stare at the man in surprise. "It just went off a second ago! Your timing is perfect!"
Rush looked up at him from his position behind the console. Glancing briefly at his wrist watch, he answered the curious student. "Because it's been thirty-eight minutes, the maximum time a Stargate can remain open."
"Well, see, I didn't know that," Eli commented as he fiddled with the remote some more.
The event horizon formed in a whoosh and Rush flipped quickly through his notebook before activating the comms. "Colonel Young, it's Doctor Rush. What's your status?"
"We found an exposed area of ice that looks promising," Young's voice came over the system, sounding winded. "Testing now."
"We're pretty far out," Scott told them as Rush jotted down some notes. "Can't see the Gate any more."
There was silence as the ice was tested, and then a loud sigh. "Still worthless."
Rush sighed softly, rubbing a hand down his face as his gaze fixed on the countdown. "Keep looking."
They could only hope that they found what they needed before they ran out of air.
Johansen strolled casually down the corridor as she made her way yet again back to the Gate Room. She seemed to be doing a lot of back and forth and wondered briefly how the Colonel put up with it. Her mode was lifted slightly as she had just come from the hold where the space suits were stored. Four hours in and it looked promising. Charlie and Park were only slightly behind schedule, but the suit would hopefully be done before The Colonel and Scott reached their eight hour time limit.
The rustling, shifting sound pulled her from her thoughts and she slowed to a stop as she tried to find the source. TJ turned slowly, surprise and apprehension coloring her features as she took in the spinning vortex in front of her. It seemed to move lazily as it approached her. Taking a few hesitant steps, it stopped just shy of reaching distance and swirled idly about.
It seemed to pulsate and move with purpose and for a brief moment the tiny particles took shape. She could see her face in the floating vortex, and the breath left her lungs as a form of intelligence was confirmed. She was stunned.
Face twisting in surprise, the form breaks and the swarm twirled sluggishly before her face appeared again, this time with her expression. The radio clicks and the swarm breaks, disappearing as it retreated down the corridor.
"Lieutenant Johansen?" Greer's voice barely pulled her from her thoughts.
"I found something."
"So did I," she commented distractedly. "Can it wait?"
"It's Spencer," he replied. "I can deal with him myself if you'd like, but-"
"No," she interrupted. "It's fine. I'll be on my way."
TJ gazed down the corridor for a while longer before she turned and left.
Greer grabbed one of the two large water containers at the foot of the bed when she entered the room. He shook it so the water swished around. It was nearly full. TJ's eyes latched onto the container, before sweeping across the room to the man being held in place by two Marines.
Spencer was a large man, nearly dwarfing the two holding him. And though he struggled, the two Marines kept him in place. "I didn't steal anything!"
"Oh yeah?" Greer questioned before he picked up the backpack from the bed, upending it and all of its contents onto the sheets. Nearly three dozen energy bars poured out of the bag. "What's this, huh?"
"Those are mine!" Spencer yelled, voice breaking. "I brought them through with me when we evacuated!" TJ stared at the stolen food in surprise and disbelief. To think a soldier did this.
Greer approached the struggling man. "You brought them through with you, huh?" He demanded, threateningly.
Greer grabbed him, slamming him roughly against the wall as the two Marines retreated. Though shorter by nearly half a foot, the Master Sergeant easily over powered him. Pressing his lower arm against the culprit's throat, Spencer immediately stilled as the threat of strangulation became apparent.
"Give me a reason." Greer begged; voice quiet and deadly.
"Hey, hey, hey!" TJ shouted as she grabbed the back of Greer's tack vest, yanking him off the other man. "Back off!" Immediately Corporals Gorman and Brenner moved to subdue the thief. "I don't have time for this. Lock him up somewhere. The Colonel can deal with him when he gets back."
Greer followed them to the door as the two men dragged the struggling Spencer out of the room. He turned back to TJ who sat heavily down on the bed and breathed a loud sigh. "You said you found something."
There was a long pause as she tried to find the words to explain what she had seen. "To be honest, I don't know what I saw. I have to talk to Rush. You keep searching."
Greer approached her slowly. "Nothing we find is gonna add up to what's missing."
"I know," she replied quietly. "But we have to know what we've got. No-one's gone near the tank and it keeps going down."
Colonel Young snapped off an icicle from the frozen waterfall that Scott was pacing around. Placing it in the flask, he activated the heating system before consulting the chart. "Come on, come on," he pleaded under his breath. They were nearly five hours into their search and they desperately needed some luck at this point.
Seconds pass, and then joy crosses his face as he laughed. "Destiny," Everett nearly shouted into the comms. "This is Young. We've got pure ice."
"That's excellent news," Rush's reply was lost in Young's enthusiasm.
"It's a frozen waterfall. We should be able to break it up into manageable pieces and haul it back."
"We'll be ready for you."
Charlie shifted nervously and glanced at his wrist watch as Greer lifted his mattress to look underneath. He was confused at his need to be present…he should be working on the suit with Lisa, they were almost finished. But TJ told him that everyone needed to be present when their rooms were searched to minimize conflict. Charlie didn't care either way.
"Busy day on Destiny," Greer commented amicably.
Crossing his arms, Charlie tried not to sound nervous. "I haven't taken anything."
Setting the mattress down, Greer grinned at him. Charlie couldn't be sure, but the smile may have seemed less hostile then the others he was always receiving from the man. "I don't think you have."
"What are you doing?" Franklin demanded from the open doorway. Charlie startled briefly, wondering what the man was doing so far away from his own chambers.
"Checking for stolen rations," Greer's tone went from being cordial to sending shivers down the young man's spine. He shifted uncomfortably as the tension rose.
"It's alright, I don't mind," Charlie argued, eyes darting to the chalk numbers on the walls as a distraction. That was one thing that always got on Don's nerves, his inability to stay focused during conflict. He retreated to his numbers like they were his safety blanket.
"Confess, Professor Eppes! You drank forty thousand liters of water!"
Charlie blinked in confusion. "How much water?" Greer turned to him, blinking slowly in a way that seemed to answer his question. "But that's impossible. The human body can only sustain 0.21468 to 0.26917 gallons of water per hour. That's less than 800 milliliters. You would die from H2O intoxication from only 1.58503 gallons if consumed in that time period. Which you would have to do if-"
"I know," Greer cut him off. The Sergeant gazed at him in amusement and what could be construed as fondness. When Charlie talked numbers he didn't stutter or fidget. He was passionate and avid with his words.
"I'm just saying: we have rights." Franklin argued, gazing at the soldier in what could have been hate, or at least extreme dislike. Charlie couldn't tell which.
Locking his gaze onto the combative scientist, Greer approached him slowly. "I'm done here, Professor Eppes. I hope I haven't inconvenienced you."
"I understand," Charlie told him, surprised at the honesty in his own words.
Greer stopped and turned back to him, not quite leering as he nodded in appreciation. "I knew that you would." Charlie didn't know if he felt comforted at the familiar expression, or uneasy with the way that that the nearly black eyes gave him a quick once over.
"I'll see you later in the Mess Hall," Greer told him, threat clear in his voice. The implication of what wasn't being said was plain to hear. If Charlie wasn't in the canteen during meal time, Greer would come looking for him.
The Sergeant gave him a shark's grin full of teeth and menace before returning his focus back to Franklin, his expression turning sinister. "You," he tilted his head, sneering at the squat man. "Next."
Scott struggled with breathing as he helped Colonel Young heave a large and extremely heavy chunk of ice onto the Kino sled. The hover board wobbled before steadying, only dipping a fraction as the ice was piled on top. Breathing heavily, Scott straightened as they examined their haul. Everett sighed.
"This is never gonna be enough," turning, the Colonel grabbed the rifle and made his way back towards the waterfall. "Stand back."
Matt gazed at him in confusion before clarity struck him. "You've done this before, too, have you?!"
"At least five times!" Young laughed. Scott couldn't tell if he was being serious or sarcastic.
"D'you mind if I give it a shot?" Scott tried to keep the childish glee out of his voice.
Turning to him, Young gazed at his subordinate before seeming to come to a decision. "Remember, all we have are the bullets we brought with us," he said as he handed the younger man the rifle.
Muzzle aimed at the waterfall, Scott took care to only fire a small cluster of bullets at a time. He couldn't keep the grin off his face if he had tried.
"So what are we looking at? Is it one little cloud of bugs, or are they all over the ship?" Charlie questioned as TJ paced back and forth in front of them. He tried to keep the apprehension out of his voice but he had difficult time of it.
Brow scrunched in thought, the medic eyes darted from Charlie to the stoic Rush who was standing in the corner, frown ever present on his stubbled face. "I'm not even sure that 'bugs' is the right word for them."
"Huh!" Eli exclaimed, nearly jumping from his seat. "What about 'cloud'?"
TJ sighed before she turned to the young math student. "Except the cloud was alive. It was almost like thousands of tiny..." she trailed off as she tried to search for the right word. "...alien creatures." She shrugged, looking at Rush uncertainly. He nodded solemnly at her in understanding. Some things were just unknown and equally hard to explain.
"Yeah," Eli scoffed; face twisting into what Charlie thought could be classified as disgust. "I have a problem with everything you just said!"
Silence filled the small room and the math professor tried hard to not fidget. He didn't even really understand why he was here. Rush was understandable, he was the head of the science department. Eli could also be easily explained, seeing as he was the one who best knew how to control the Kino's and could send them out in a search grid. But…what use was he.
Rush's lilt broke the awkward silence that had filled the group. "What you've just described is, uh...well, it's-it's the same as Lieutenant Scott claimed he saw on the desert planet."
"That's what I was thinking," TJ jumped in, a little more enthusiastic since nobody thought her crazy. "And maybe some of them followed him back here."
"We'd have noticed them," Eli scoffed.
"No, not if only a few came through the Gate," TJ argued back. "They're like tiny grains of sand."
"And then what?" Wallace shrugged, hands clenching in his lap as he tried to reason out of her logic, desperately wanting to find some flaw so it couldn't be true. "Started reproducing?"
"Well, if it's a living organism, then yeah, they would."
"Worse case scenario, with optimal conditions bacteria can double in as quickly as ten minutes. It's been fifteen days since we came back from the desert planet…that's what…" he trailed off, glancing at his watch. "Four hundred twenty-seven hours, twenty-eight to a day here so sixteen hundred eighty minutes, that's…three point seven four one four four four one nine times ten to the power of fifty. And that is only within a twenty-eight hour period. If they are anything similar to an asexual reproducing single cell organism, then what TJ described," Charlie paused, waiting for the confirmation nod from the medic. "They could overrun the ship in less than week."
Rush blinked at him, slightly astounded at the speed in which the mathematics was calculated. Tamara just gazed at him in amazement. When she looked at him she mostly saw a young man, she sometimes forgot the younger man had multiple PhD's and taught at a university. Hell, he probably graduated high school the same year she did.
"Okay," Eli broke the silence that had filled the small interface room. He wasn't as stunned by his teacher's mathematical abilities, not after learning under him for nearly two years. Though sometimes Professor Eppes still amazed him. "So now we've got aliens. What if they start bursting out of our stomachs?" He gesticulated the bursting motion with his hands as he started to pace around the room.
Tamara rolled her eyes at Eli's dramatic, if not overly emotional response. "I don't think they're dangerous. It almost felt like they were trying to communicate."
Rush nodded his head slowly, seeing the connection. "Lieutenant Scott used the same word."
"Yeah," Eli argued back. "At the time, you said he was delirious."
"Well, I was wrong," he snapped at the younger man before returning his attention to the Lieutenant. Eli shuffled away uncertainly at the outburst and Charlie winced internally. He understood Rush's annoyance, Eli was being very unhelpful and dramatic, but he didn't like the way that the Scotsman handled it. "What do you intend to do?"
"Well, I guess we should stop everyone from wandering around the ship," she gazed around uncertainly before Rush moved away from the console and gestured to it.
Stepping up to the console anxiously, she looked at it in confusion before glancing up at Eli. "Um, here?" She asked, pointing to a button.
"Yeah, yeah," Eli replied, bouncing forward and fiddling with the console to activate the ship-wide communicator.
"This is Lieutenant Johansen," Tamara started after receiving the go-ahead from Eli. "We have a situation. It's under control but, as a precaution, I ask everyone to return to their quarters and remain there until further notice. Thank you."
Charlie watched curiously, a frown twisting his features as TJ deactivated the comms and stepped away from the console. "You're, uh...you're not going to tell them?"
"That we've got aliens?!" Eli butted in, looking at him like he was crazy.
"No," she agreed, glancing between the three men. "We'll keep it on a need-to-know basis. What else?" TJ asked. The question was asked to the room in general, but Charlie got the feeling like it was meant for Rush.
Nicholas shrugged at her, honestly surprised that she was consulting him. He thought that he was getting too used to Young's way of doing things, where he was only consulted long after the fact. He kind of liked the change in procedure.
"You're in charge." Rush felt the need to remind her, asking silently if she was sure she wanted to go down this road. Charlie could barely even understand the intricacies of human interactions when people were being blunt, so of course, the whole situation flew completely over his head.
"And I'm asking your advice," TJ challenged him. "What else?"
Rush sighed, gazing at the bolted metal ceiling. "Always consider the greater good. That's it."
TJ gave him a look before she shook her head exasperated. Charlie was just left confused. "The greater good!" Eli scoffed as they all started to disperse. "Isn't that what Dumbledore said right before he condemned Harry to a childhood of a cupboard and slavery," his outburst was only met with three blank stares. "Oh come on! I refuse to believe that none of you has heard of Harry Potter…the books…watched any of the movies! Professor, help me out…nobody…seriously!"
The canvas net was difficult to untangle on a good day. With minimal visibility and giant evac gloves, the dexterity was lacking for the intricate process of unknotting the damned thing. Scott tried not to let the frustration take over before he just called it quits and tied it as is to secure the ice. It was good enough for him.
As he was securing the last corner, the ground rumbled and shook. He could hear a cracking noise further off, but not nearly far enough away. "That's enough ice for now," Young told him, and Mathew couldn't have agreed more. "Let's get out of here."
"Gorman," the radio crackled as Greer's commanding voice came through the speaker, echoing eerily down the hallways. "Meet me in the Gateroom. We have ice on the way."
"Copy," he replied, hurrying his pace. The Ancient ship gave him the creeps. Turning the corner, he came to sudden halt as something caught his eye. There was a vortex of what looked like sand particles dancing in strange patterns through the air. Gorman gazed at it uncertainly, reaching for his pistol slowly.
The twister approached him quickly and the Corporal drew his weapon, firing three shots. The particles seemed to whirl around the bullets before swarming him in a flurry. He screamed in agony as a million paper-cut like wounds tore open his skin. Bloody hands tried to swat them away, flailing in vain. And then they were in him. They swarmed in his mouth, down his windpipe and inside.
His screams echoed down the corridor as he withered on the floor in agony. They went unheard except by the Ancient ship itself.
Greer rushed forth as the Kino sled drifted through the event horizon. Quickly, he and some other Marines pulled it across the room as the Gate shut down. The twisted net was pulled away and the soldiers gathered the ice with gloved hands. The ice was shifted from one pair of hands to the next, down a long line before reaching an empty water tank where it was dropped right in.
Looking at Riley, Rush nodded his head slowly. "Dial back, please."
Seconds later the event horizon flooded the room before settling. "Destiny, this is Young," the comms crackled. "How's it going up there?"
"Offloading the sled now."
"Well, hurry it up," Young didn't quite snap at the Scotsman. "We wanna do one more run."
There was silence for several seconds as Rush debated internally with himself. He knew that TJ wanted the situation kept in-house, but his growing respect, and used that term very, very loosely, for Young prompted him to speak. "Just so you know, uh, another matter has come up. We-we have it under control."
Eli scoffed at him, speaking quickly as he decided to not beat around the bush like everyone else was. "We have aliens on the ship."
"What?!" Young didn't quite shout as he hoped he heard the math student wrong.
Rush gazed at Eli in disbelief. He had only intended to tell the Colonel that there was a problem, not what the problem actually entailed. "They just shredded Gorman." And the madness continued.
There was a long pause as Young tried to get his thoughts together. "What the hell does that mean?"
"Millions of tiny flying razor blades floating around the ship like piranha," Eli continued and Rush was astounded by the man-child's lack of tact.
"Corporal Gorman is alive," Rush spoke sharply through the intercom, trying to cut Eli off to keep the idiot from saying anything more. "Lieutenant Johansen is attending to him now."
"He's probably not gonna make it."
"Eli!" Rush snapped.
"That's it," Young interjected. "We're coming back."
"No-no-no, that's not necessary, Colonel. Eli is over-reacting," Rush exclaimed. Eli gazed at him in incredulity. "We believe the creatures are the same as those Lieutenant Scott encountered on the desert planet. They must have followed us back through the Gate."
"No," Scott argued, shaking his head in doubt. "I doubt those things I saw were dangerous, sir. They...they helped me."
"Corporal Gorman may have provoked them," Rush supplied. "We'll know more once he comes to."
"If he comes to!"
"In the meantime," Rush continued louder to drown out anything else that may spew out of Eli's wagging mouth. "Lieutenant Johansen has ordered everyone to remain in their quarters. They're nothing more than a nuisance at this point, Colonel, but we desperately need more ice," he pleaded, hoping that Young would see his reason.
"All right," Rush sighed in relief as Young spoke. "We'll figure out what to do with them when we get back."
Greer handed over the last piece of ice, shaking his cold hands to get the blood to flow. Exhausted, he sent Rush a sloppy salute to signal to him. "Okay. Sending the sled back through now. Rush out." Seconds later the Kino sled was propelled back through the puddle and the Gate deactivated. Rush tried to control his temper as he turned to Eli angrily. "You're gonna have to learn when to shut up."
"You can't just-" he broke off when a burst of steam noisily exhausted from either side of the Gate as it cooled. When he continued, his tone was louder. "You can't just lie to the guy and expect me to-"
"Once back into FTL," Rush interrupted, matching his level of hostility and raising it. "It could be days before we find another planet capable of replenishing our water supplies. This ice represents a fraction of what we need to stay alive. We need more!"
"Yeah, I know!" Eli argued back, enunciating each word as he gestured wildly with his hands. He crossed his arms as he tried to stare down the slightly short man. Though smaller in both stature and build, Rush was an intimidating figure. "But that doesn't mean that you can-"
"Yes, it does!" Rush yelled at him, accent thickening.
"You're making it sound like we're-"
"Just," Rush talked over him. "Stop acting like a child, please!" He nearly spit the last word as he glared at Eli. The younger man stared at him, too stunned and hurt to reply. Seconds later, Rush the clear victor in the argument, turned and headed for the doorway. Releasing the breath he had been holding, Eli slumped over the console as he fought down his conflicting emotions. The others in the room tried to appear like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Knowing Rush's temper on Icarus, it wasn't a long stretch.
"We have to figure this out." When Eli didn't respond, Rush turned to him, voice stern. "I said 'we'!"
Eli turned to glare at the man over his shoulder before he straightened. Rush quickly left, clearly expecting Eli to follow…and he did, if not unhappily.
Greer held the flamethrower up, waving the lit end around as the others gazed at the brutally cobbled together weapon. "I say we torch 'em. You know, put some teams together, hunt them down."
"Where'd you get that?" Eli asked in admiration.
"I can invent things too," Greer almost sounded insulted.
Charlie watched as Eli's expression morphed from awe to hero worship. The kid bounced in his seat in excitement. "Hey, we've really gotta work together on this project-"
"You know," TJ talked right over him. "Maybe the bugs are just responding out of self-defense."
"Self-defense?!" The Sergeant sounded outraged. "Did you see what they did to Gorman's face?"
"Yeah, I'm the one treating him, Sergeant. I saw exactly what they did to his face," the words were grounded out as Tamara tried to keep herself from shouting at the man.
"Look," Charlie interrupted before another argument could get out. It seemed like that was all anybody was doing nowadays: arguing. "We don't know what it is we're dealing with, and torching them may only serve to antagonize them further."
"Well, we hit them with something else," Greer turned towards him and Charlie had to fight his natural reaction to cower at the glare the other man gave him.
"For revenge," Rush interjected, drawing the ire man's attention away from the young professor. "That's great!"
"Well, we've gotta do something," Eli told the Scotsman softly, earlier hostility momentarily forgotten in light of the current problem. "If we just sit around 'til they drink all our water, then we're gonna…" he trailed off as TJ rose her eyebrow at him. "Alien bugs show up and half our water disappears. Don't tell me I'm the only one who made this connection."
Irritated, Rush scoffed at him. "Well, obviously not. The question is, what are we gonna do about it?"
"Okay, Charlie, what are we looking at for water?"
Charlie turned his gaze to her, curly hair shading his eyes as he rubbed the back of his neck. He felt anxious when everyone's attention was on him. Normally he was fine with it, he taught at a university, after all…but this was a different kind of attention, a different kind of problem, and definitely a different kind of audience. "Well…" he trailed off, calculating silently to himself. "If the…entity? Well, if it keeps reproducing at an exponential rate, then their water intake will increase on the same level. That would give us…" he glanced at his watch quickly while he mumbled quietly. "Roughly thirteen hours and twenty-two minutes before the level hits zero."
"Roughly?" Greer commented, leering at him as he teased the smaller man. Charlie could feel the heat rising to his cheeks and he ducked his head before anybody could see him blush. By the Sergeants chuckle, he didn't think he was very successful.
"Alright," TJ continued, confused at the byplay between the sweet professor and somewhat crazy soldier. "Sergeant, you and your team go search for this...alien, entity, cloud, bugs, whatever it is we're calling them, and report back, okay?"
"And, Sergeant?" TJ added in afterthought. "No torching!"
"Yes, ma'am!" Greer replied without breaking his stride.
"Ooh!" Eli exclaimed, launching himself from the bench. "I have an idea!" Seconds later he was gone.
Young stumbled under the weight of a large chunk of ice as Scott sat nearby, kneeling in the snow. The plasma cutter hissed in his hands as he attempted to cut through a huge piece, too large for either of them to lift, even together. Placing the ice on top of the pile, he turned to gather another piece.
"It's gonna be dark soon."
Scott stopped cutting for a moment to look up at the sky. Seconds later he was back to cutting, if he was moving a little faster than before, Young didn't comment.
Greer carefully swept the corridors, the flame thrower preceding him despite Lieutenant Johansen's instructions. It certainly made himself feel more comfortable, and if the side long glances the other Marines were giving him, it made them feel more at ease as well.
He held up a hand signaling the others to stop. Gazing down the junction, he decided to turn, torch sweeping the area just in front. Moments later they were moving again, so quiet that if Greer didn't know Hanes and Markent were behind him, he would have thought himself alone.
Charlie input the finished algorithm in the console before he plugged it into the evac suit. Park kneeled next to him, welding a torn piece together. Hopefully the suits personal computer would sync with the algorithm and give them a more definitive answer on the suits status.
Hours they had been in that room, repairing the last suit. That is when Charlie wasn't being called away to help deal with the alien, swarm…thing. They were further behind than he had anticipated, but barring any other interruptions, they were on the last leg of repairs and would be done within the next quarter hour. Charlie hoped it would work…he would rather have the evac suit ready and not need it then need it, and not have it.
Eli sat at the console as he watched footage from a Kino. Rush stood behind Eli, eyes on the screen as he crossed his arms. It was cold on the Destiny, the kind of cold that seeped into your bones and stayed there until you didn't even know what warm was anymore. He loved the ship, but Nicholas wanted to remember what heat felt like.
TJ stood just to the left of him, peering over Eli's shoulder as they watched Sergeant Riley on the screen. Hunter had just opened the hatch to the water tank and was gazing about the room in worry. "Okay," Eli spoke through the Kino. "Stand back."
Riley steps back a few paces, eyes around but seeing nothing. "Nothing's happening."
Frowning at the screen, Eli's brow scrunched in concentration before an idea struck him. Reaching up, he flipped a switch and the image became inverted, all whites, greys, and blacks. Instantly, the swarm became visible, passing by the unsuspecting Riley as they left the tank.
"Ohh! Yes, there is."
Nicholas took several shuffling steps closer until he was practically hovering over the younger man. "It's like vapor! We just can't see them," his tone was sullen. How could they fight something they couldn't even see?
"That's what they did when I first saw them. It's like they just disappear…" TJ trailed off, eyes riveted to the much larger swarm on the screen.
"It's exactly like Professor Eppes said. They're growing in numbers exponentially and consuming our resources without us even knowing it," he gave TJ an expectant look, not quite grimacing as he addressed her. "You have to get them off the ship."
Greer swept around the corner, flamethrower in the lead as the dark corridors surrounded them. Two steps into the turn he paused uncertainly as his eyes took in what looked like a slow moving sand tornado. He placed one booted foot in front of the other as he slowly and quietly stalked the alien swarm.
"Sergeant Greer, come in," the Lieutenant's voice over his radio didn't make him jump, but it did startle him. Grabbing the radio, he pushed the talk button and spoke quietly into it. "I'm a little busy right now."
"The bugs are getting into the water tank every time we open the hatch," TJ continued, seemingly oblivious to Greer's silent warning. "Once we locate the main swarm, we're gonna have to find-"
"They're in front of me right now," he interrupted, still being as silent as possible while he crept closer to the hopefully unaware swarm.
Rush grabbed his radio quickly. "Don't antagonize them."
"I won't...unless they antagonize me first."
"Do they move when you do?" TJ questioned. Greer signals to his men and they halted all movement. Cocking his head to the side, he observed the swarm before sending out a short burst of flames at them. There was an immediate reaction as the creatures made a shifting buzzing like noise and retreated further down the corridor.
"They do now."
"What we need is an airlock," Eli mumbled aloud as he tried to work out the best way to get them off the ship without anyone else getting hurt. He wished his teacher was here, Professor Eppes always seemed to have an answer for everything. But the Lieutenant, and also the current highest ranking officer on the Destiny, had him working with Dr. Park on repairing the last space suit. They were close to finishing it, but Eli wanted him done now.
"Unfortunately, there are none in the habitable compartments of the ship," Rush informed him and Eli slumped over the console, out of ideas.
Tamara glanced back and forth between the two men when suddenly a thought came to her. "I know what to do."
"This isn't gonna keep us going for very long," Colonel Young told his Second in Command while they fastened down the now completely untangled netting over the large chunks of ice.
"Maybe Destiny'll figure out we're getting short on water and find us a planet with nice fresh water right next to the Stargate," Scott's voice sounded wistful as Young started to tug the sled away. Matt followed behind as they began to trudge back to the Gate. "I mean, come on. We deserve a break."
It was Scott's scream that made him turn back, and Young could only watch in horror as the Lieutenant plummeted beneath the ice. "Scott!" He screamed, scrambling to the hole, stamping his foot on the ground to check for stability. "Scott! Can you hear me?"
"Yeah," he replied, wedged tightly in the crevasse about ten feet below the surface. "I'm sorry, sir, the ice just gave way."
"Are you hurt?" Young asked him, taking careful steps as he approached the hole.
"Negative. I'm OK, but I'm wedged in pretty good," Matt wiggled around a little bit before he gazed downwards. Swallowing passed the lump in his throat, the young Lieutenant couldn't decide if he was terribly unlucky or extremely lucky. He couldn't see the bottom of the crevasse. "Good thing, too. Looks like a long way down."
"All right, just hold on," the Colonel told him, moving back to the sled. "I'm gonna...I'm gonna throw a line down." Once he had retrieved the cable, he carefully unwound it. "Here it comes," he tossed the carabineer end down the hole, staying a good five feet back so there was minimal pressure on the ice. "I need you to tell me when you've got it."
It took several long seconds before Scott was able to reach the cable that was dangling over him. "Got it."
"Now, if you can manage it, run it under both your arms and fasten it across your chest."
"Done this before too, have you?!" Scott jokingly asked him as he struggled to do as instructed.
"Oh yeah! At least a dozen times!" Young tried to sound more confident than he really felt as he tied the other end around his waist.
It took a few minutes for Scott to get the rope attached to himself, and he was panting heavily once he was finished. There was an uncomfortable tightness in his chest from where the ice was wedged in around him, and he couldn't really feel his feet anymore. "Okay, I've got it around me."
"Now, I want you to pull yourself up. I'm gonna pull from this end. You ready?"
"Okay. One, two, three," Young heaved, groaning with the effort as he tried to haul the cable back, throwing his entire body weight into it. "Argh! Pull! Pull, Scott! Come on! Pull! Pull!"
With only one hand able to reach the cable, Scott tried to propel himself up with the other, but he didn't even budge an inch. Above him, Young screamed with the effort before he dropped to the ground in exhaustion. "How stuck are you?" He asked between his gasps for breath.
"Pretty damned stuck," he tried to wiggle around more but there was no room.
Young dragged himself back to his feet, tugging a little on the rope. "Is there any way you can dig yourself out?"
"I'm not sure," but before he could even try the ground trembled and creaked around him. The ice shifted and Scott gasped in pain as the pressure on his chest tightened. Seconds later the rumbling stopped and the ground was once again still.
"It's okay. That's passed," Young assured them, but he became worried when there was no response. "Scott?"
Grimacing at the tightness on his chest, Scott pushed down the feeling of lightheadedness caused by the inability to take deep breaths. "Still here, sir."
"All right, let's just, uh...let's think about this for a second," moments later he reached for the comms and activated the link between himself and the ship. "Destiny, this is Young."
"Go ahead," TJ replied immediately.
"We've got a situation here. There was a tremor and Scott fell through the snow into a crevasse. He's fine, but he's just out of reach. I tried to pull him up but that's not gonna happen any time soon. How's that other spacesuit coming?"
"Uh, Charlie and Park are still working on it; everyone else is confined to quarters."
"All right," Young sighed. "Keep me posted. In the mean time we'll try to figure something else out. How's your bug situation."
TJ glanced over at Rush, silently asking for his input. His lips thinned as he grimaced, but he shook his head at her to keep her quiet. The last thing Colonel Young needed was another problem. "Same as before," she told him, ignoring Eli's wide eyed look of disbelief. "Don't worry about it."
"And don't you worry either, TJ," Scott told her, trying to sound optimistic but his voice came out strained instead. "I'll be out of here in no time."
"Good luck. Johansen out."
Eli glares at her as she deactivated the comms. TJ tried not to flinch at his accusing stare. "Everyone is lying."
"Yeah. The grown-ups do that sometimes," Rush told him, just blinking softly as the glare was leveled his way.
A short burst of fire puffed out of the flamethrower as Greer herded the swarm further down the corridor. The swarm branched to the left and he followed it as it flew up the ladder, heading for a higher level on the ship and away from him.
"This is Greer. It's working. They're moving away from us as we move forward."
"Good job," TJ sighed in relief over the radio. "Keep it up."
Nodding to his team, Greer turned off the flame and swung the hodgepodge weapon across his back before climbing the ladder. The two Marines followed quickly after.
Everett's knee throbbed as he kneeled on the cold ice, inches away from the hole. The ground was stable…for now. Shining the light down, he could see Scott a dozen feet in the crevasse, below him, the light faded out before ever reaching the bottom. Young estimated at least several hundred feet.
"How 'bout you lower the gun down and I shoot myself free?"
"Yeah, that's good thinking," Young scoffed. "There's no way the bullets'll ricochet into your ass!"
"Well, maybe I could cut my way out with the plasma cutter." Scott's voice sounded strained.
"You get one hole in that suit and you're dead. Maybe there's a way for me to get down there."
"That's just as stupid," Matt told him as Young shot down another idea. It seemed they only had failing ideas.
'"That's just as stupid, sir'!"
Scott chuckled lightly as he examined the ice that surrounded him. "The last thing we need is for both of us to be stuck down here."
Young heard the tremor before he felt it. Falling to his stomach, head just barely hanging over the hole, he rode the shaking out. It wasn't as bad as last time, thankfully, but he could hear Scott bite back a groan. Seconds later, the quake died out and there was silence aside from their breathing. "You OK?" Everett grunted as he pulled himself back up to a kneeling position. His knee throbbed painfully, but he ignored it.
"Uh, closed in a little tighter, but...I think..." Scott trailed off as he heard a hissing noise from around his waist.
He closed his eyes, just listening for a moment, but the hissing didn't stop. Dread filled him as he fought to speak, words thick on his tongue as he choked around them. "I…I think I'm losing suit pressure."
The loud rock song made her fingers twitch in annoyance, and Chloe snatched the iPod up quickly. Her thumb darted around the wheel until a soft country sound filled the headphones. Knee bouncing to the rhythm, she lost herself for a moment and could almost pretend she was back in her room, at home, her mom in the kitchen making tea and her dad in the office. The vision was broken as a hand touched her shoulder and she found herself once again surrounded by cold metal and dark, dark space.
Turning her music player off, she pulled the ear buds out and turned to face Vanessa. Trying to hide the surprise and the automatic blush, Chloe smiled up at her. "I thought we were supposed to be confined to quarters," Chloe hesitantly looked up at her.
"Yeah. Well, I heard over the radio…" James trailed off, her voice thick and breaking. Chloe's blue eyes darted around the older woman's face, taking in the twitchy posture and puffy eyes. She looked as if she had been crying. "There was a tremor. Lieutenant Scott fell into a crevasse."
"Oh my God," she breathed, heartbeat pounding in her ears.
"He's okay," Vanessa assured her. "Just stuck."
Chloe stood slowly, legs slightly shaking but they held her up. "Do they have enough air?"
"Colonel Young says he's got it under control. I just, um...thought you would wanna know."
Their eyes meet, and suddenly Chloe understood. Vanessa loved Matt, like she did, but she was also releasing him. Chloe admired her for that, knowing that if she was in the same position, she didn't think she ever could give him up. "Thanks," she said, nodding her head slowly. She said it for the information, and for the honesty. But mostly, she thanked Vanessa for being the stronger woman.
"Yeah," Lieutenant James replied, voice laced in sadness.
"I think the ice tore a hole in his suit," Colonel Young's panting voice filled the Interface Room and shocked Chloe to the core. She crept closer on quiet feet as the others had eyes only for the console.
"How big a tear is it?" Eli asked and Chloe bit her thumb in apprehension.
"I can't...I can't see it but I can hear it. It's-it's hissing out pretty good." Scott told them.
Rush shook his head slowly, fingers pinching the bridge of his nose as he calculated their options. "An hour at most."
"Plenty of time to make it back," Young countered.
"Yeah, if I wasn't stuck!" Scott yelled in frustration.
There was a moment of silence before the communications kicked in and Young's voice filled the small room. "What about the other suit?"
"Charlie is still working on it," TJ told him, shifting from one foot to the other. "Honestly, sir, I think I only understood every ten words that came out of his mouth." Amusement colored her tone, and fondness. Young chuckled quietly. He could relate, he had barely even knew the man, but the young professor had a way of getting under everybody's skin…Rush included if the rumors were true. "Shouldn't be too much longer, though…only a matter of time."
"Time which we are sorely lacking," Rush added with a sigh, words breaking strangely in the Scottish lilt. "Colonel, you have to consider the amount of time you have left now-"
Young interrupted him. "I'm aware of the damned time, Rush!"
Nicholas bit his tongue hard, forcing back words that would not help the situation. They were all tired and stressed. The days on the ship were too long, the nights even longer and no slumber could be found in the restless minds of the survivors. Rush hadn't slept in two days, their dwindling resources occupying most of his time as he tried to find out about as much of the ship as quickly as possible. Rush rubbed tiredly at his temple, pressing his fingers to the point of almost painful. "All I'm saying is: if you delay much longer-"
"Listen to me!" Young snapped at him, nearly yelling the words across the intercom. "I know exactly what you're saying; all you care about is the damned ice! I'm not going anywhere without Lieutenant Scott, and that's the way it's gon-"
"Would ye shut the fuck up fer one secon', ye dobber!" Nicholas shouted at him, patience truly snapped. Silence surrounded them as Doctor Rush's accent thickened and broke. Eli stared at him shocked, having never heard the man spout profanity before and Young was reminded that though Rush had gone to college, he grew up near the seaport in Glasgow. He definitely had the mouth of a sailor.
Nicholas cut him off, hands clenching around the console as he continued to curse at the man. "Ye didnae even listen, I didnae say anything aboot the damned ice! If we cannae get the other suit working and ye stay there, ye'll suffocate ye dumb wop!" His hands slammed on the console as he propelled himself out of the chair. Seconds later he was stomping out of the room, shoving past Chloe as if he didn't even see her.
"Where are you going?" TJ called after him as he trudged down the hall.
"Tae fix the fucken' suit before that knobdobber tops himself!" Rush shouted back, not even slowing his pace.
The three in the room stared at his retreating form until he turned a corner. The silence was broken by the crackling of the intercom and Young's voice came over. "What the hell did he just call me?"
Greer leaned around the corner cautiously, jerry-rigged flamethrower at the ready. The swarm swirled further down the hall and stalked it silently. He turned another corner, the two Marines just behind. The hive flowed effortlessly into the opened storage room. Greer waited a heartbeat before rushing forward to activate the door controls.
With a quiet whirr the door sealed, and the Sergeant peeked through the small window as the swarm danced around the room. "This is Greer," he spoke into the radio. "I locked 'em up."
"Closing off the ventilation in that room," Eli replied. "Okay, vents are closed. It should be airtight."
"What are they doing now?" Lieutenant Johansen asked.
Peering back into the room, he watched as the swarm darted from one end of the room to the other. "Looking for a way out."
"Let's hope they don't find one," Eli mumbled, worried.
Planting his feet, Everett dug his heels into the small niche he made and pulled hard on the cable. Screaming in both exertion and pain, he yanked the rope side to side, adjusted his grip and tried again. It wouldn't budge. He collapsed, panting into the ice as the line became slack in his hands.
"Come on!" Colonel Young growled at both Scott and himself. He tried propping himself up, but his tired muscles protested and his knee flared in agony. Rolling over onto his front, he peered down at the man who was so close and yet so far. Grunting in frustration and anger, he rolled onto his back again and stared up at the sky. The falling snow hitting his visor and melting as he took in the white planet with the asteroid belt hanging in the sky, roughly where the moon would be if they had been on Earth.
"Sir. Colonel?" Matt called when he got no reply.
"Go. It's okay."
"No it's not," Young argued back, eyes still riveted on the sky.
"Come on, sir," Scott smiled briefly as the hissing from his suit filled the silence. "We both know you've done this before, too."
Young blinked, fighting past the warring emotions in his mind. "I've done what?"
There was a long stretch of silence before Young replied. "Too many times. I'm not...I'm not doing it again."
"I-I can't let you do it."
Sighing, Young tapped his head back into the ice. "You don't have a choice."
"Not that I'm counting, but this is the third time in almost as many weeks that you've been willing to kill yourself and there's...there's a pretty good chance at this point I won't be around to talk you out of it again."
He sighed harshly, trying to find the words past his trembling throat. "You're a fine young officer. You've got a heart as big as a house. I'm not here 'cause I wanna die. I'm here because I haven't given up on saving your ass, so just shut up and think."
Greer watched worriedly as the swarm became more erratic, turning from a lazy twister to a full blown tornado. "They're getting pissed off," he mumbled into the radio. The hive swarmed the door in a rush and despite himself, Greer couldn't help but flinch. He stepped back a few feet as he continued to watch. "Really pissed off."
Dark eyes riveted on the seam of the door, he stared in shock as a bit of the swarm worked its way through the crack. Greer sent a burst of flame at the door and sighed in relief when the swarm seemed to retreat for the moment. Grabbing his radio, he informed the rest of the situation. "A few of them got out!" He sent another burst of flame.
"What?! How?!" Eli asked in shock.
Greer and his team slowly backed away as he continued to send small surges of fire at them to keep them away. "We need a plan, Lieutenant!"
"I'm coming down there. Greer, switch out with Hanes. I need you up here."
"What?!" Greer didn't quite shout as his team pushed further back.
"This is beautiful out here," Young commented as the clouds parted further and he could see the bright stars as they lit up the sky. His eyes darted around the clusters before he remembered that this wasn't his sky, and he would find none of the constellations he knew. "Scott?" There was no answer.
"Lieutenant. Lieutenant?!" He called, propping himself up to peer down into the crevasse. The Lieutenant wasn't moving. "Scott. Scott. Scott!"
He surged to his feet, ignoring the way his knee almost buckled. Frustrated, he turned away and walked a few paces before turning back, helpless. His eyes turned to the sled, trying to think of a way to use it but no idea came to him, though another did. The ice was piled high, and the Destiny's crew needed the water. Young hated that he was even considering it.
Before any plan could solidify in his mind, he nearly collapsed into the snow as another tremor shook the ground. He took a few unsteady steps, eyes darting down so he wouldn't fall and he gasped in surprise as the rope was pulled into the crevasse. Young dived for it, grabbing at the end before it disappeared into the hole. He moaned in pain as his shoulders were wrenched, but he stopped to rope from sliding any further. Taking Scott's full weight, he immediately started to haul the cable back to him.
Struggling to his feet, he wrapped it around his waist and started to walk backwards. "Scott! Wake up! Scott! Goddamn it! Wake up!" The Lieutenants eyes flicker but he didn't wake. "Scott! I need you to wake up, Scott! Scott, come on!" Young shouted, hauling Scott's limp body up another two feet. "Wake up! Come on! Come on! Lieutenant!"
He grunted with the effort, booted feet digging into the snow but finding little purchase. Young took another half step back before his knee gave out and he slipped. The line started to go slack, Scott's weight pulling it further into the hole and Young made another grab for it but he missed. Just as the cable was feet from ending, another gloved hand grabbed hold and the Colonel stared in shock as another suited figure began to pull.
"Took you long enough!" Everett yelled as he got up once more and helped to pull the rope. There was no reply. Together they were able haul Scott's unresponsive body out of the crevasse. "All right, I got you," Young told the unconscious man. Turning to the other, the Colonel was able to get his first real look at their rescuer. "Greer, you're a sight for sore eyes!"
Greer smiled at him, but made a few gesturing motions. There was no verbal reply. Understanding dawned on him, the Sergeant had no communications. Gesturing to Scott, they each grabbed one end and hauled him up onto the sled, over the ice. It couldn't have been comfortable, but they neither had the time to unload it, nor the need to do so. They needed that ice.
"Hang on, kid."
Hanes glanced anxiously over his shoulder as the Lieutenant approached him. He held the flamethrower awkwardly in one hand as he attempted to salute. "What's the plan?"
TJ walked quickly past him, two crewmembers followed behind with a large drum of water. "We open the door, they go for the water, we close the lid."
"All right. Who's gonna do that?"
Hanes gave her a startled look. "Ma'am? I can do that."
"I'm not the one with the torch," she told him and he looked down at the flamethrower guiltily.
"I'll stand back; torch them if they get out," he told her, hefting the macgyvered weapon higher.
"No. I want you out of sight," their eyes met and Hanes fought down the anger that welled up in him. She didn't trust him.
"All right," he replied. With a signal to the others, they all retreated quickly down the corridor, leaving TJ alone.
Removing her tac-vest she glanced through the window before activating her radio. "Eli, I'm ready. Make us a clear path to the Gateroom. Seal off everything else."
There was a moment of silence over the radio before Eli replied. "You're good."
TJ sighed softly, squaring her shoulders back as she geared herself up for what was to come. "If this doesn't work, lock this compartment off from the rest of the ship."
Young walked slightly behind Greer as they marched towards the Gate. Greer was pushing the sled as Young tried to catch his breath. Scott laid still and unconscious, unchanged from when they last checked. "Destiny, this is Young. I'm on my way back with Scott. Come in."
Nervously, TJ moved away from the door as the swarm buzzed erratically around the room. "Okay," she spoke calmly into the radio. "Let 'em out."
The lock spun and the door slid open with a whirr. TJ gasped softly as the swarm surged out of the room, towards her. She lifted the lid of the drum higher, taking a half step back. The hive whirled over the top of it, as if debating whether it wanted to attack her or drink the water. An eternity seemed to pass before the swarm dived into the drum.
Johansen only waited a heartbeat after they were all in before she slammed the lid down and locked it. "Okay, I've got 'em!"
The others ran from around the corner, they grabbed the drum and lifted it. "All right," she spoke into the radio as they all ran down the corridor. "Dial the Gate. We're on our way."
Greer paused as Young began to dial the Gate, but the action was cut short as an incoming wormhole tore into existence. Exhausted, the Colonel spoke into the radio. "This is Young. We're almost at the Stargate with Scott. Shut it down so I can dial in."
"Colonel," Rush answered him, sounding much calmer than the last time they had talked. "We're about to send these alien bugs through to the planet. We've no other choice."
"What?" Young questioned looking to Greer but he could receive no answer.
Rush continued giving instructions. "I need you to step away from the Gate and remain as still as possible. They're coming through now."
Seconds later, the metal barrel soared out of the Gate and crashed several feet away from them. Greer took a few steps back as the lid buckled. The sides of the drum started to press outwards as if something was beating on it before the lid burst open and the swarm raced out, swirling angrily around the Gate. They held their breath, praying that it would just move on and both men had to fight not to flinch when it came at them.
It hovered over Scott's body, condensing into a tight ball above his visor. Scott blinked opened his blurry eyes and looked up at the strange creatures as they shifted to form his face. Young and Greer stared in amazement as the face nodded at Scott before it broke formation and swirled away. Seconds later the Gate shut down and Young quickly grabbed his remote and started to dial.
The Kino sled was propelled through the Gate and everyone rushed forward to pull it further into the room. Moments later Greer and Young stepped through, the Gate shutting down as they yanked their helmets off. "Get his helmet off!"
Riley tugged at the front of Scott's helmet until he could pull it up and off while others began to shift the chunks of ice off the sled. TJ rushed forward, pressing her fingers into his pale neck. "His pulse is thready but he's breathing. Let's get him out of here."
Chloe moved forwards just as the small convoy started to make its way to the infirmary. She grabbed one of his hands, smiling softly down at him as he gazed up at her. Eli trailed after like a lost puppy. The others in the room quickly dispersed as they carried the chunks of ice to the water tank, leaving Colonel Young alone with the one man he really didn't want to see.
Rush stepped towards him, opened water bottle in one hand. He stopped several feet away, and they just stared at each other, sizing each other up before Rush made the first move. The doctor handed the exhausted man the water and Young grabbed it awkwardly with his suit glove. Drinking deeply, he nearly gagged as he took too much. They stood silently together for a moment, an awkward peace descending on them.
"I feel I must apologize, Colonel," Rush began and Young couldn't help the shocked look that came across his face. "What I said was uncalled for and out of line."
Everett tried hard, but he couldn't stop the chuckle that left him. "Rush…" he sighed the word in exasperation. "I have no fricken' clue what you said."
The embarrassed flush that crossed his face was almost endearing and Young nearly forgot that he disliked this man passionately. Another time, another place, Everett thought that they could almost be friends…almost. "Yes, well," Rush cleared his throat. "Let's leave it at that, then."
Everett watched in amusement as Rush made a quick retreat. "Doctor Rush!" Nicholas turned to him hesitantly. "What did you call me?" When the smaller man raised a single eyebrow in the way that Everett had never been able to get the hang of, he clarified. "When you were shouting at me, you called me something. What was it?"
Rush smirked at him, embarrassment seeming to have left him. "I called you many things, Colonel." Seconds later he was gone.
Greer trudged down the hallway, making his way to the room where the suits were stored. He wanted out of that damned thing, and quickly. After he would go check on his idiot Lieutenant before grabbing some grub and hitting the sack. The boots clomped heavily on the metal floor, echoing loudly down the corridor,
The Sergeant paused at the threshold to the room. It looked as if a storm had ripped through it, tools were scattered everywhere, papers and tablets strewn about the floor, chunks of metal propped precariously along the wall. And in the center of it sat the baby genius himself. Charlie Eppes sat at the only desk, curls covering his face as his head rested on the metal. Kid looked exhausted, and Greer hated to wake him, but it was a two man job to get out of the suit.
Chuckling deviously, Greer stomped loudly into the room, purposefully kicking some of the equipment to add to the noise level. Charlie shot up like he had been shocked, eyes darting around as tools clattered around on the floor. It took a moment, but eventually clarity seemed to come over him as he gazed at the soldier.
"Oh, good, you're up," Greer smirked at him, grinning when Charlie seemed to glare at him. "You can help me get out of this thing." The professor seemed to be debating with himself, and Greer could see his brown eyes dart to the door. The Sergeant couldn't hide his amusement. "I ain't askin'."
It took them nearly an hour to get him out of the suit and put it back on the table. By the time they were finished, Greer was starving and Charlie looked like he was about to keel over. Eppes gazed around the room in a daze before he started to make his way to the door, nearly tripping over every item in his way and stumbling into the empty table meant for another suit.
Shaking his head in exasperation, Greer caught up to him quickly. "Come on, little genius," Greer smirked viciously, his large hand wrapping completely around the smaller man's bicep. Charlie's doe eyes darted up to him in confusion and fear, but Greer just led him carefully out of the room. "Let's get you to bed."
Once he got the professor back to his quarters, Greer had to meet with the Colonel. After that he was going to get two helpings of rations and eat all of it, and then he was going to sleep for eight full hours. When he awoke, he was going to track Eppes' far too skinny ass down and drag him to the mess hall. Kid didn't eat nearly enough.
Hesitant at first, fatigue eventually won out and Charlie followed obediently as Greer kept a tight grip on him. The man could barely hold himself up as it was, and he was all skin and bones. It took them nearly fifteen minutes before they reached the professor's quarters. Pressing the controls, the doors slid open and Greer led Charlie to the bed.
The younger man sat down heavily, leaning forward to kick off his boots before he flopped backwards, legs dangling off the bed, fast asleep. Greer chuckled softly, shaking his head in exasperation. Leaning down, he hauled the much too light man further up on the bed and pulled the sheet over him. Hopefully he would sleep for at least an entire night shift.
Greer left quickly, radio crackling as Young called him. Charlie was left sleeping soundly.
Spencer's leg bounced agitatedly as he sat on the uncomfortable bench. Just when the boredom and enclosed space seemed to be getting to him, the doors unlocked and slid open. Jumping to his feet, he came to attention as Colonel Young and Master Sergeant Greer came into view.
"Sergeant Spencer," Young began, staring up at the taller man. "You step out of line again and I will deal with you personally. Understand?"
Spencer walked forward, almost passing the Colonel before he deigned to answer. "Yes, sir."
Greer turned his head, watching the other man walk off down the hall. There was an uneasy feeling in his gut. He shifted slightly, speaking thoughtfully over his shoulder to Young. "I don't think he does."
Colonel Young sighed softly before he trudged out of his office, looking for Eli. He maneuvered quickly around the small group that had been hovering by his door for the past several minutes. "Colonel," Franklin began, "I need to talk to you about the behavior of one of your men."
"No, that can wait," Park spoke over him. "We need to go over the new rationing amounts before the next-"
"Colonel," Volker cut her off. "I was scheduled to use the communication stones this morning."
Young continued down the hall, ignoring them as they continued to holler out their problems. "Colonel?"
Everett shifted uncomfortably before his eyes darted around the room, resting everywhere but the Kino. "At approximately zero three hundred hours ship time, Corporal Gorman succumbed to injuries sustained in an encounter with an alien entity. Lieutenant Johansen did everything that she could. I intend to hold appropriate services tomorrow at sixteen hundred hours."
Glancing at the remote in his hand, he turned and called over his shoulder as the button he needed eluded him. "How do I turn it off?"
Holy crap, this took forever! I tried to push it out sooner, but I lost my muse about half way through. I went back like ten times to add Charlie's scenes, and he still isn't in it as much as I want. And in other news, this is officially the longest chapter I have ever written, topping off at 69 pages and 17,299 words.
Fun Fact Time: I wanted to try a Scottish accent, thought it would be interesting, and then thought that you would appreciate a translation so here goes. Dobber: a dick, a tosser, an idiot. Didnae: didn't, did not. Aboot: about. Cannae: can't, cannot. Knobdobber: a tosser of the highest order, the king dick. Tops: to kill.
Helpful translation: "Tae fix the fucken' suit before that knobdobber tops himself!" = "To fix the fucking suit before that dick kills himself!"
Hope that helps.