Author says: Before Destiny, there was the project that got them to Destiny. And every project, no matter how cool and space-faring and being about aliens and everything, is subject to team meetings.


Dr Rush is not, perhaps, a team player.

It's something Camille may later place on her personnel records on Destiny, and indeed it endures as a phrase in the records of faculty staff where Professor Rush used to teach. As a scientist, Rush is famous in his field. As a difficult bastard, he's infamous. It's a quirk in the way that history records itself - genius is memorable, but cantankerousness is legendary.

Arguably a minor coup has been achieved by the very fact of Rush's attendance at this team meeting. He is even early. In many people, arriving early is a sign of their dedication and enthusiasm: in Rush it's a conscious act of defiance, his opening salvo in what's about to become a minor war of attrition. Arriving early, he can pick his chair and fix every new arrival with a fierce glare that dares them to open their mouths when "any other business" hoves into view at the end of the agenda.

Rush does not have a paper copy of the agenda with him, incidentally, and resists any offers to share by looking as if he's about to bite the hand that offers. Having an agenda would be far too much of a concession to taking an interest in proceedings. He also turns down offers of cups of coffee when other people are making them from the ubiquitous machine in the corner of the room, choosing instead to wait until everyone else is seated then standing up and making about six people move so he can get his own.

Rush drinks a lot of coffee. During an hour's team meeting he gives those six people a genuine aerobic workout, jumping out of their chairs or shuffling in to make room for both Rush and the chip on his shoulder to get past. Nobody complains. Nobody wants to be the one who gets between Rush and his caffeine. Despite being at least a head shorter than everyone else in the room, Rush exudes the sense of being constantly ten seconds away from smashing one of the military-issue water glasses on the wall and threatening to slice someone's vulnerables off with the remaining pointy end. A sergeant in fatigues who is built like a tank and wearing a gun is scary: a tiny furious Glaswegian scientist can potentially be scarier, and don't you forget it, says Rush's body language.

It is a known fact, of course, that team meetings are terribly dull and are the best way to stop otherwise massively overloaded and effective members of staff doing actual work. Some people love them for this. Rush is not "some people". It is a point often up for discussion amongst his colleagues as to whether Rush is indeed "people" at all in the traditional sense of the word, but you will not find this particular point on the agenda.

The meeting chair has never met Rush before. This is probably the best thing for the man's nerves. He is a civilian, the military generally proving less susceptible to the lower end of the spectrum of Rush's power games, and as such completely unprepared for open hostilities. He has heard of Rush's reputation - of course he has, news like Rush gets around quickly, if only in the terms of for-god's-sake-don't-open-that-door - but hasn't had the benefit of the full reality.

Rush sits through the previous minutes item with nothing more than a pointed lack of interest in everyone else's task updates and a look on his face that suggests he's thinking of something far more important. Or possibly he's making his laundry list, but something about Rush gives the impression that knowing how many socks he has clean far outweighs team meetings in the grand scheme of things. And Rush isn't that great at domesticity.

He gets out a pen during the first agenda item proper (presented by Dr Burnley about fluctuations in the naquahdria alloy) and twists it back and forth through his fingers as if using it as a meditative focus to avoid simply abandoning the room in a powerful snit. Dr Burnley, who hasn't really been quite the same since Rush tore apart his theory on gate dynamics in two minutes, using less than two hundred words (even fewer if you subtract the multiple uses of the words "fucking" and "stupid"), can't help his eyes darting nervously to that pen as Rush brings it down end first onto the table surface with a deliberate clack.

...the unique properties of the clack can only lead me to believe that under clack temperature conditions clack will allow us to clack clack the clack into a clack

The room hosts an uncomfortable, unplanned silent pause. Rush's face is blandly expressionless as he twists the pen over and under his knuckles once more, then he meets Dr Burnley's eyes with a look of supreme indifference. The chair rapidly moves onto item two while someone kindly gets Burnley a glass of water.

Items two and three pass without incident, except that the two scientists sitting nearest Rush unconsciously shift their chairs further away. Rush is beginning to boil in the manner of a shortcircuiting slow cooker, and it's getting uncomfortable to be close to him. He opens his laptop with a slam and starts typing, fingers flying across the keys in a symphony of frustration. One could almost believe he isn't listening to proceedings at all, except that certain phrases set off spasms of rage. "Blue sky thinking" is one of these. "Thinking outside the box" is another. Rush's hands clench, whitely, at the knuckles as he hears them.

Ten more minutes, and the room begins to relax as Rush seems completely absorbed in something he has on his screen. He blinks less, his dark eyes fixed on a point somewhere deep in the computer's innards, his mind potentially galaxies away. A discussion starts to pick up around the table. Ideas are traded. Possibilities mooted. Rush appears oblivious. The chair, who as previously mentioned doesn't know Rush at all well, starts to feel slighted. He has organised this meeting, set the agenda and is facilitating the free exchange of ideas. And the star player is ignoring it all in favour of giving his laptop the eye as if it contains the secrets of the universe. Perhaps it actually does.

The meeting chair isn't sure whether he'd be more annoyed if it did or if it didn't. He clears his throat. "Dr Rush." No response, unless you count the rest of the meeting attendees drawing a collective breath of alarm. "Ah, Dr Rush? I'm sure we'd all be very interested to hear your views on Dr Epstein's concern that gate travel should not be allowed to become perceived as a politicized weapon against the common, everyday man-in-the-street who likely possesses a limited understanding of the subject." Still nothing. Dr Epstein has started to look vaguely ill. "Dr Rush?"

Rush finally looks up over the tilt of his screen, narrowing his eyes, and the hum of the air conditioning suddenly seems very loud in the silence. The meeting chair tries to remain stalwart in the face of that deep-eyed, disgruntled stare. Oddly, his nerve only fails him when Rush's rather weathered face breaks into a brief, mirthless smile.

"Well, I don't feel qualified, Mister Amherst," he lilts, his accent rendering any sarcasm indefinite. "Tell me, do you feel threatened by this particular weapon?"


It is difficult, afterwards, when the meeting chair attempts to make a formal complaint, for the poor man to quantify what exactly had been so awful about the whole experience.

"Well, Colonel, Dr Rush arrived early for the meeting, made his own coffee, brought his own laptop…"

"Was he disruptive?"

"Er…he didn't really say anything much…"

"Was he offensive?"

"Well, he had this pen, you see…"

"So you're telling me Dr Rush came early to a meeting, fully equipped with a laptop and a pen, made his own coffee, and mostly kept quiet…and you want to complain?" The colonel leans forward a little, wondering slightly at the other man's thousand-yard stare. "Mister Amherst, I am still crippled by my sense of wonder at the fact that you invited Dr Rush to a meeting and he turned up. The fact that the meeting room remains intact and there are no immediate PTSD victims strewn about the corridors of the science block is really stretching my levels of incredulity. Let alone that you managed to get the man to shut up for almost an hour. Incredulity stretched. Well and truly."

The chair gives up at this point, and retreats.

The next team meeting is held without Rush, in the cafeteria where he never goes without dire provocation. Dr Burnley even brings a packet of biscuits. Dr Epstein offers to start the discussion.

In a certain light, Dr Rush may in fact be a team player, but only in the sense of being the player where the others are playees.