Author says: I love Tumblr for giving me IKEA references. Thankyou, dear Yarking and fellow compatriots. Also: editing doesn't like me and wants me to suffer.
Of course, what they didn't have was solid answers, and if Young had to see Brody's lips twisting preparatory to delivering his get-out-of-jail-free card (which was "We really have to get Rush's opinion on that") one more time he was going to throttle the man himself and probably even feel good about it. Brody and Volker: the Bert and Ernie of the Icarus project, and if that didn't make Rush Oscar the Grouch Young didn't know what did.
In one very basic human way he felt for them: they weren't trained for this, any of it, and they'd landed on their asses in the worst situation possible, with the potentially the most difficult Scottish martinet alive calling the shots. But Volker's cowed reaction to Rush when the lights went out at the beginning of all this insanity had left an unfortunate lasting impression Young just couldn't shake. They were soft. They weren't up to the job.
Beggars can't be choosers, Everett: they were all he had. Rush had finally lost his tenuous grip on reality and there was a pair of alien ships out there in the blackness watching, probably with amusement, as Young tried to do the astronavigational equivalent of putting together a flatpack wardrobe without any instructions and half the screws missing.
Try not to think about having screws loose. Or about Rush. Or indeed the combination of the two.
"Carrier wave," said Volker, tapping at something on the screen as Eli frowned and gnawed his lip in the background. "Or at least a transmission wave form of some kind. Our best guess is the smaller ship is transmitting it. Nothing big. In fact it's so low-level we nearly didn't see it."
Eli made a strangled noise.
"OK, fine. We didn't see it. Eli picked it up."
Eli cut in at this point. "But it's not like it's new. That's the problem. The reason it didn't really register as something, y'know, weird and different with us is because the screens have been registering it for ages. Like background radiation."
"So that means," Volker went on, "that these ships may have been around us a while. Just that we…we haven't noticed them."
He sounded as if he fully expected to be verbally beaten down for such an assertion. To be honest, Young couldn't find it in himself to do anything of the kind. Because of course between the lack of breathable air, drinkable water, renewable power and the whole host of attendant issues that came piled upon the heels of trying to run an impromptu, ramshackle space colony peopled by raging egotists and uppity civilians, a few extra ions out of place in a completely unfamiliar and uncharted part of the universe were hardly likely to cause even a paranoid astrophysicist to start twitching.
Not that anyone knew any paranoid scientists, oh no.
"Yeah, like I said when they first showed up," said Brody, reflexively fiddling with a hopefully innocuous bit of the Ancient console, "as soon as we noticed them, it was like they'd always been there."
"OK," said Young, after a beat, not thinking this sounded okay in the least. "So this wave. What's it doing?"
"Waving?" offered Volker, giving his best deadpan. It faltered in the face of Young's genuine stony expression. "Uh, we don't know."
Surprise, thought Young, wryly.
"But," added Brody, with the (probably undeserved) air of someone pulling a rabbit out of their hat, "we do know it isn't affecting the Destiny's systems. At least, not in any way we can see. So it's not a sabotage beam."
Young and Eli both looked at him then, similar expressions flickering in their eyes, Eli's expression tinged with avarice.
"Sabotage beam," Eli repeated. "Oh, I so want one of those."
"Well, I don't," said Young, mildly but firmly. "What I do want is to know whether I can expect to find us being boarded or shot at within the next few hours. And I also want to know when we can get this ship moving again. Away from here."
"W-wait a minute. Colonel?" Eli's eyes were pleading. "What about the stargate?"
Young, already turning on his heel, paused and looked back.
"What about it?"
"Well, aren't you even a tiny bit curious about it? I mean, it's obvious it has to be on one of those ships, right? There are no planets within range and yet we dropped out of FTL anyway."
"And there's no countdown," Brody confirmed what Young had already noticed on the periphery of his awareness: that regular, already-becoming-familiar alien clock was dark and silent. "Not that we've got the timing equations figured out or anything, but theoretically, no countdown means we've got all the time in the world."
"Providing they don't shoot at us," Young prompted, flatly. Brody looked briefly irritated, then chastened. He broke eye contact.
"Yeah. Provided they don't do that."
"And how long until we jump without a countdown?" It was obvious as the words left Young's lips that nobody knew. Nobody had any real way of knowing. Even Rush's infuriating, insensitive arrogance would have been more welcome than this yawning maw of ignorance that was just sucking all the confidence out of the atmosphere.
"So basically we're sitting ducks, waiting to be plucked."
He let the analogy sink in, noticing that Brody looked slightly sick.
"Well, if we're ducks," said Eli, who didn't, "isn't there just a small possibility that those aliens are carrying a bagful of bread? Don't know if you've noticed, but we're kinda running out of supplies."
Young's blank stare still somehow managed to convey that yes, he had indeed noticed. And that possibly he'd had a bellyful of the duck analogy. Eli looked mournfully back at him.
"Back to work, gentlemen," Young said, eventually, when it was evident no further comments were forthcoming.
Being unconscious is the best thing to have happened to him for ages.
The venom floods his system, forcing all those taut, uncompromising muscles in his neck and shoulders to relax. It's funny he's never truly appreciated the pain those cause. They hurt so much more in their release than in their everyday, relentless torsion. But now they're slipping behind him, a fading memory, as the music finally stops being a repetitive jumble and starts being a melody of understanding.
No pain. No demands on his body or his mind.
None of that ridiculously cluttering low-level coping mechanism he has to keep in place to stop people thinking him certifiably crazy and treating him accordingly. While he couldn't give a single solitary fuck what people think of him, being treated like a dangerous lunatic has a certain limiting quality when you're trying to get work done. Or indeed trying to get other people to get work done. The mechanism that does its best to cover up the essential Nicholas Rush-ness of his personality and convince co-workers that here stands a kindred spirit human being, hail-fellow-well-met (or as close an approximation as it can manage, given the raw materials it has to work with) is remarkably draining on his thought processes.
So - that's gone. He almost consciously lets the mechanism go as he drifts under the sluggish, insidious influence of the venom, his fingers flexing in the body that feels millions of miles away. Dangerous lunatic it is, then.
But a dangerous lunatic with a real feeling for Boccharini's cello concertos, that's for certain.
He feels his way now with the intangible fingertips inside his head, the physical ones actually attached to his body leaden and only twitching now on the couch. Everyone who thinks for a living knows these phantom hands. They pick at and unpick the strands of problems, run along the threads of theories to feel for inconsistencies in the weave. Thinkers are the pianists of the brain, and their mental hands should be a pianist's hands - sure, swift.
He raises those hands inside his head now to keep time. A conductor with his baton. The cello concerto andante is lovely, if you like that sort of thing. While he's not sorry at all about the loss of Rolf Harris, he's feeling more in the mood for something with a bit of bounce to it. Something to match his slight, sedative-induced euphoria.
Something with a bit less of a classical strings bent, at least.
Something that reminds him less of Gloria.
Thinking of her is a mistake, he knows it as soon as it happens.
Luigi Boccherini is gone, and in his place is Laura Branigan. Luigi Boccherini, Laura Branigan. Another L, another B, is there a connection there? A pattern? Rush grabs for it and gets hold of the lyrics instead.
Something snaps. The volume increases until it's almost painful, the female vocal accusatory.
I think you've got to slow down
Before you start to blow it
I think you're headin' for a breakdown
So be careful not to show it -
And he sees something, but he's not at all certain it's the right thing. A ship. Not Destiny, but a different ship. No, two ships. A beam of light, a pyramid flare. Again? The face of that religious fanatic who stayed behind on Paradise, what was his name, doctor -
With all the voices in your head calling Gloria….
And he sees it.
TJ had thought she'd seen him move. And he was twitching now, in his drugged sleep, but his body was otherwise as limp and inert as he'd been when she'd carried him back from the gate room not long ago.
Such an idiot. He is such -
In the privacy of her own head she'd nicknamed him Doctor Dropdown, as she expected him to do that very thing on a semi-regular basis. Rush's fingers twitched, then tightened on the cloth of the couch. He was still clearly out for the count, but the effects of the alien venom were too unpredictable for TJ's liking. He could wake up anytime. The gold wedding ring on his finger gleamed in the light as his hands flicked reflexively.
Briefly TJ wondered what Mrs Rush had been like. Had she been a match for her husband's almost rabid enthusiasms? Had she burnt out trying to keep up with him? Or had she been the foil, the calm one when he was raging and the artistic one where he was science?
One thing was for sure, she'd had to have been one hell of a woman to put up with him, either way.
TJ ran her own hand over her stomach, in the manner she'd found herself doing lately without thinking. She still found herself surprised when she caught herself doing it. Surely that was something other women did. The sort of women who weren't soldiers, who had time for flowers and kittens and all that fairytale crap. Whose prince had not only come, he'd stayed. And hadn't gone back to his wife. Her lip curled slightly. These women, they caressed their growing bumps and talked about the miracle of life and the inevitability of love.
Out here, new life was still a miracle, but an unwelcome one, and love was a rare commodity. The only thing TJ currently felt as she passed her hands over her stomach was regret, anger, and not a little fear.
"Chalk one up to any other unmarried mom, Tamara," she said, out loud to the room. "That's all normal."
Back to work. She automatically checked Rush's vitals, passing a hand over his pulse, and satisfied he wasn't about to flake out any more seriously on her, turned to go back to taking inventory of stocks.
She looked up to see Park being half-dragged in by Greer, and her worries over the unborn baby dropped to the background.
Two collapses, even if one of them was Doctor Dropdown, were too much of a coincidence.