KALEIDOSCOPE

Author says: This is an AU, starting off somewhere after "Faith" and before "Human". It's being written because of Sacredclay, really. Any continuity inconsistencies are due to either a) my memory playing tricks and b) the whole AU thing.


1: Rush

What am

There was a mystery to it. A trick, some would say. But then, some people were remarkably credulous. And credulity was for people who didn't see patterns.

What am I

Credulous was of course being too generous. What he meant, of course, was stupid. Some people were remarkably stupid.

What am I supposed

The console before him is full of patterns. Even the most advanced human computers aren't like this. There was logic to human systems that the ordinary human brain could grasp: windows and clicks and cascading layers of information. You started at the top with nothing but a single button, a menu, then a folder, then a sub-folder. Very boxy. Very limited, in its way.

Ancient computers - Destiny's computers - are as like human computers as a Franz Hals is like a Jackson Pollock. To look into the mind of a human computer, one looks into a warehouse, full of crates, divided by a streetmap of straight lines. To look into Destiny's mind, one looks into a kaleidoscope constantly flexing.

What am I supposed to do

"Rush."

The trick with a kaleidoscope was that although it appeared random, it wasn't. The way the glass beads rise and fall, the way the expanding and contracting patterns emerge to the eye -

"Rush."

- was like the way a trained eye can track the rise and fall of a melody simply by looking at the written score. The pattern exists. The brain interprets it. Because the brain is just an infinitely more complex computer, one with intuitive understanding -

"Goddamnit, Rush."

He looks down at his arm and there's someone else's hand on it. That hadn't been there before and it certainly isn't welcome.

"With a girl," he murmurs under his breath, and immediately wonders why, takes the phrase apart, analyses it. He shakes the unwelcome grip loose with a frown and glare to discourage its return. Young certainly looks as if he's wondering why. No. Maybe not. Young looks as if he's not wondering at all. He looks as if he's finally made up his mind to have his lead scientist locked up in a small padded room for his own safety and the safety of others.

He also looks really tired.

The vindictive part of Rush is immediately glad about this. A somewhat smaller part knows what really tired feels like and wouldn't wish it on anyone.

"Welcome back," says Young, with that slow, understated sarcasm that makes Rush want to deliberately ignore him this time. "Mind telling me what you're doing, here?"

"If I said I minded," says Rush, leaning heavy on the exasperated, "would it make a difference?"

Young pauses a beat. Rush enjoys that moment every time it happens, and has done ever since the man beat him up and left him to die. It's the bit where he can almost see Young counting to five to avoid hitting him again. It's a small triumph, but then every triumph is worth counting when the man you're scoring off tried to kill you and failed. If you can't outweigh a man, out-think him. Rush is smaller than Young by half a head and about sixty pounds. He already knows he can't beat him in a fight. When anger isn't enough…

Watching Young count to five. Watching monkeys try to write Hamlet. Watching the patterns in the computer. No wonder his eyes hurt. Too much watching. He rubs them, not caring what the hell Young thinks anymore.

"Alright," says Young, with studied amiability. "Alright. What are you doing?"

What am I supposed to do -

Rush brings the flat of his hand down on the console with a wordless slap. The sound carries. Brody, who has been pretending not to be there for several minutes, decides now is the perfect opportunity not to be there in actuality, and slips out into the corridor.

The urge to say something facetious is overwhelming. But there's yet another part of Rush - aside from the vindictive part and the really-bloody-tired part - which remembers Young lunging across the space between them with a look in his eyes that spoke of murder. Not that he's afraid. Not exactly. Of course not. And there's after all something more pressing, demanding his attention. Fear would be secondary, should it even exist. There is the pattern -

- with a girl like -

"Hey," says Young, relentlessly bovine in his continued presence. "Hey. I'm over here. Rush. Focus."

It's always been this way, for as long as he can recall now, as much as he can recall anything with so much input coming in and only a limited biological space to keep it in. Young treating him like an idiot child - an idiot savant, perhaps, but an idiot nonetheless. Or a dog. Perhaps a dog, one which won't be trained to shake paws and fetch papers. Rush decides he won't be held responsible for his actions if Young actually goes ahead and -

- Jesamine.

Young actually goes ahead and clicks his fingers, the skin sliding against skin in a dull, peremptory fashion. "Look at me, Rush. Are you feeling alright?"

The sound snaps the fragile pattern. A notation of rest in the wrong place, for several bars. And then nothing. The patterns are just noise again. Just coloured beads sliding idiotically and single-mindedly past one another.

Rush gives him a deep, disgusted stare, and marches out of the room. When Young takes a single step in pursuit, drawing breath, the march turns into a run. The scientist is lost into the dingy corridors within moments.

Brody, upon timidly re-entering, meets Young's eyes with a helpless shrug.

"Hey, look, I didn't say anything."

"Great," says Young, wearily. "Just…great."


2: Young

He'd felt a bit like Lieutenant James must feel. And seeing as this wasn't something that happened often to a man like Everett Young, he'd paused to give it greater consideration. What had the trigger been? Good soldiers are good at seeing the split-second moment before the trigger goes off inside someone's brain, and reacting. Great soldiers are good at knowing what the trigger is so they can get to it before it's pulled.

The look on Rush's face…

The part where he'd had to do the my-eyes-are-up-here thing, that was it. James was probably used to it by now. From almost every man she'd ever met, probably. But Young wasn't, and certainly not from Rush. Oh, sure - Rush regularly ignored him. Deliberately and maliciously and, thought Young with a hint of tired amusement, with plenty of forethought. He was in fact relatively certain that had the opportunity arisen for Rush to ignore him several weeks in advance, the little scientist would have had his calendar marked immediately.

I'm over here, Rush, focus.

Because that had been it, really, hadn't it. A lack of focus, rather than a lack of attention. There was a definite difference. Like the man's brain had gone blurry round the edges and stopped him even performing the most basic levels of social interaction that he ever managed on a daily basis.

And let's face it...that ain't much.

So then. What was it this time? What fresh level of difficult lunacy had Rush managed to attain now? Was it just that they had reached the stage in their relationship (such as it was) where Rush had god-forbid felt comfortable enough to unleash the full force of his evidently dysfunctional personality on everyone?

Or was it something physical again, like the coffee or the cigarettes or the invasive surgery? That tug of unwanted responsibility snagged Young once more. If it had been anyone else probed by aliens, collapsed in exhaustion: if it had been Scott, or Brody, wouldn't he have been insisting upon more attention for them from TJ? But because it had been Rush, he'd let it go. Because it was far easier than trying to deal with it effectively.

It was far too annoyingly complicated, the dynamic. Rush, who wouldn't know how to let someone be concerned about him if he was dying on the floor and Young who didn't know if being concerned about Rush was something he could do without trying to kill him.

Too many questions. Uncertainty wasn't something Young enjoyed giving house room, and his whole damn house seemed to be crammed to the rafters right about now.

Since they'd departed the Eden planet, the whole crew had been a bit edgy, if he was honest with himself. He'd pretended in public not to notice. Wasn't politic, making more a fuss over it than necessary. Especially with TJ -

Young stopped in his tracks, a short distance away from Camile Wray's quarters.

One problem at a time, okay? he told himself. We've got a decrepit ship to manage and the only guy who knows what the hell he's about just took off like a rabbit.

He covered the final few yards, raised his fist, and knocked.