PHD 272: The Boots of Chronos
The Boots of Chronos
Summary: The Geek Squad adopts an unconventional problem-solving technique — one that involves the temporary disabling of a smoke detector.
Date: PHD 272
Related Logs: Wingmen, Greenlight, Working Lunch, Apologies and Ascots

Storeroom — Deck 10

One of the smaller storage units, this one is more like just a glorified closet compared to the hundreds of others throughout the ship. Servicing the berthing areas of Deck 10, the shelves are stocked with the spare linens that get rotated out when the others are in the laundry. Blankets, sheets and pillows are all stacked neatly in their labeled slots, the air in here fragranted with the standard military issue detergent used to wash them. Shelves line the perimeter of the room, and there's a center bank of them which creates two aisles to either side. In the back corner, a few crates are stacked which someone has assembled to be a crude table and stools that's out of direct eyeline from the door.

The middle bank of cabinets in this claustrophobic room has been hastily shoved aside, pushed to the starboard wall to clear out as much space as possible. In their place are four chairs set up in a ragged semicircle: simple plastic affairs taken from a nearby storage locker, their seats covered in oil and burn marks from whatever nefarious purpose they previously served. At the center of it all is a medium-sized whiteboard with a staggering array of felt markers arranged on the silver shelf at its base, on which has been scrawled a list of all systems aboard a standard Colonial Fleet Raptor: FTL, life support, artificial gravity, sublight, chaff pods, EW — and that's just the first six. Engineering blueprints dangle from shelves, walls, and even a particularly low part of the ceiling; taken together, they describe the location, power consumption, and function of each scrap of wire in said ship's spaceframe. The setup should be familiar to everybody who's worked on this project, for indeed, the so-called Geek Squad has made its home in this makeshift war room for the past several days.

Less familiar, unfortunately, is the defeated look on Ivory's face. Sitting underneath a single halogen light, he's staring at the whiteboard as if sheer force of will alone will summon up some magical insight with which he can declare this problem solved. Four thermoses of tea give off welcome heat beside him, though none of them have been touched. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the rubbish bin nearby, overflowing as it is with crumpled up paper — into which the pilot now aims still another worthless collection of calculations, his expression grim.

And just think - they get to do this all over again with Vipers, once Raptor work. If Raptors work. Roubani's spent every last squeezed minute of the past two hours up in the simulator room, checking and re-checking the latest batch of figures they'd pumped out. By all guesses, by all faith in things mathematical, they should work. But something cruel is in the works, for:

"They don't work." Roubani's voice barrels into the storeroom ahead of his tall body still clad in flightsuit from a CAP ages ago, a set of folded papers in hand. "Something is still off."

The pulverized yellow ball falls atop a mountain of its similarly mangled peers, slipping down the slope of the paper pyramid before rolling back — slowly, ever so slowly — until it taps the toe of Timon's left boot. It's a sight that causes Ivory to break out in strangled laughter, a decidedly unpleasant sound that the room makes sure to suffocate before it can get too loud. "I shouldn't have kidnapped Death that one time, Poet," he mutters, arms crossed limply over his chest. "I'd have stopped right at the gates of Tartarus and turned back if I'd known this would be the Gods' retribution."

Time and fortune have allowed this little group to converge once again. Along with no small amount of planning. Willem cradles a quite-reused bottle of water in his hand, the crinkling sound of popping plastic echoing through the room in what stems from a nervous habit. "Sometimes you just get lucky though." He murmurs after taking a sip, his blue eyes darting from side to side as he flashes a slightly tense, nervous smile. He brings a freckled hand upwards to smooth his unruly hair and sighs.

"Don't be a drama queen, Stathis." Roubani sends the sheaf of papers sailing, with a flick of his wrist, onto a stack of blueprints and continues past, combing his long fingers into his growing forest of thick, dark curls. He'd forgotten to cut them the night he meant to, and it certainly hasn't crossed his mind again in recent day. "A figure is wrong somewhere. That's all. Just…have to find it. Again." That last is tacked on with some very dry humour.

Matto is looking a lot less grim than Ivory— numbers and diagrams and formulae were never quite his thing— he's a tactile puzzleworker of the worst sort, if he can't grab a hold of it and get to tinkering… well, he's not utterly hopeless, but he's nowhere near level enough to try to actually help Ivory without just getting underfoot. And so he is. Tinkering, that is, off in a corner with a line of sight to the whiteboard to make sure Timon doesn't do anything rash in a moment of frustration. He's got a power adapter and three sets of wiring joints on his lap, and has been fussing about with them idly underneath a ceiling of diagrams as he keeps watch. He looks up, breath thoroughly bated as the Poet returns, only to purse his lips together at the announcement and let out the breath with a sigh through flared nostrils.

Thorn, for his part, is off on the periphery; the lanky ECO is pacing at the back of the room, cigarette in hand. Occasionally he mutters something to himself under his breath, the wheels turning behind his eyes. He pauses mid-stride when Roubani enters the room, only to utter a heavy sigh and mumbled curse as Nadiv makes his announcement. A cloud of smoke is exhaled angrily.

"Rebound." Ivory's hollow voice is flat and toneless. "Glad you're on time — right on time to hear we've accomplished absolutely nothing." He's too tired to even sound disappointed. "Four point eight seconds, Poet. Four point eight bleeding seconds." Timon's boot kicks the paper into the corner. "Would that we'd proven you right this morning. At this point, I'd gladly wear three ascots, all paisley."

As one of the new arrivals, Wil's head drifts sharply about as he eyes the interplay between Stathis and Roubani. Another nervous squeeze of the water bottle ensues as he throws his head back to take a drink, before fumbling lazily in his fatigues pocket and produces the cap, affixing it. "Maybe, maybe not. By exhausting possibilities that -don't- work you're making some kind of negligible progress." He says, sighing again and smirking slightly in a look that might be an attempt at being reassuring. "I was thinking about this again when I was trying to sleep. Always assume your enemy is smarter than you are."

"Technically, I haven't been proven wrong yet," Roubani tells Timon, turning halfway back around to point a finger at the older man. "We haven't actually reached the parameters that were supposed to be tested, if I may be allowed to split hairs." He picks up two of the books lying about, searching the area under and around them for some once-abandoned papers. "It's got to be an initial calibration error. Faulty DAC…variable clock edge mishap." His hand spins in the air as he speaks, and a couple papers get tossed haphazardly over his shoulder as he digs through the pile. His dark eyes lift and glance at Willem. "Pillars of confidence, all of you."

Timon's eyes follow Thorn as the ECO stalks back and forth, his expression darkening with each thumping step. Thunderstorm warning — and when Rebound offers that delightful piece of wisdom, the clouds break entirely. "Wouldn't take much at this stage, now would it?" But even in this state, Ivory still can't work up the will to inject true venom into his tone. Instead, forcing his eyes closed with his fingers, the pilot exhales in a single sharp breath. "Look — look, forget the numbers for a moment and look at the board, just in case there's anything else we can cut from the start-up sequence we've forgotten to cut. Anything we don't need to turn on?" Beat. "How about our manoeuvring thrusters? Those can go, since we'll be getting shredded by Cylon lead in four point eight seconds anyway."

"Sure, let's just make th' bloody frakkin' thing more of a sitting duck," Thorn sneers from the sidelines. There's a short silence as he resumes his stalking; he passes under one of the lights, which only seems to highlight the bags under his eyes. His cigarette is flicked restlessly. "Worst case scenario assumes everyone in these godsdamned Raptors is a godsdamned incompetent waste of skin, anyway."

Roubani shakes his head at Timon, sitting back on his heels and rubbing his fingertips into his slender brows. "Manoeuvring thrusters piggyback onto the auxiliaries. The timing circuit runs simultaneously, that's not the issue. It's the calibration, I'm telling you." The JG's voice has lost none of its drive, speech still quick and hands moving as he talks. He exhales in a swift rush as Matto speaks, closing his eyes and rubbing under the orbital ridge with the side of his thumb. "Alright…alright. Perhaps we do just…need to breathe."

"Hey. Don't call -me- a sad sack." Willem says towards Roubani with obviously feigned petulance and an equally feigned hurt look towards the man, accompanying it. "I was trying to find a bright side to a grim, cold, unforgiving world. And now it's gone." Another heavy sigh on the part of the ginger-haired pilot. "I hope you're happy with yourself. Anyway, seriously. I'm not sure RCS going offline is a good idea for very obvious reasons. If you get a dirty FTL jump, for example, you're putting your life into the hands of Fate more than I'd like."

"Breathe," echoes Timon flatly, who's finally worked up enough energy to grab one of the thermoses at his side. Broad fingers work the cap before he's taking a long drag of tea straight from the bottle. "Because I was going to forget." The back of his palm flicks a few drops of hot water from his upper lip. "No shit RCS going offline is a terrible idea. What, you gentlemen suddenly lose the ability to pick out sarcasm?" His thermos is dropped to the ground in disgust — the impact from which causes its lid to fly open, splashing its contents all over the floor. The pyramid of paper begins to expand and droop as it absorbs the spill; then, uttering a truly vile curse, Ivory flings his legal pad at the whiteboard. Bullseye. The entire assembly collapses to the ground in a loud clatter of metal and plastic.

Matto looks at the board as he's bidden, then down to the pieces in his lap. Not that they have anything to do with anything. Then back to the board again. "Oh, um. Doesn't RCS have an automated circuit that's used to help stabilize the artificial gravity systems?" he puts out there quietly. "Maybe we could ditch that sequence from the startup queue, at — " Oh, hey, look, there goes the whiteboard. "Least — nevermind," he trails off, hunching back into his chosen corner to settle on his pillow and fiddle with his toys.

Roubani opens his eyes just as the legal pad goes sailing, head moving as he watches the arc. His hand lifts, palm facing the ground, and waggles back and forth. "Splash. Six point five." He stands up again, his back complaining mightily about being forced to adjust position yet again this hour. He casts Willem a little smirk, appreciatively, then reaches up and rubs at one aching shoulder. "Everyone just calm down for a minute. Nothing's going to get done like this, let's…hmm."

"I cultivate a laser-like float," mutters Timon, spent for now.

"Sorry." Wil breathes out, a little defensively, throwing up his hands, one still clutching the water bottle. "If I state the obvious, it's because, well. More attention to detail rather than less tends to get you less killed."

Thorn pauses mid-stalk as Ivory takes out the whiteboard; Timon gets a slight browraise, but Komnenos doesn't comment. He's probably destroyed a few in his time, anyway. "All right there, King Laserface?" Thorn mutters dryly in the pilot's direction. Stathis' explosion actually seems to defuse some of Anton's own tension. He looks at the crashed whiteboard and the piles of papers strewn about the walls. "Frak. This is like undergrad, just without the girls. And the smoking circle.” There’s a long pause. “I need a drink. Don’t blow up the frakkin’ ship when I leave.” And with that, the ECO stalks out.

"Sorry," murmurs Timon after a while, not moving to clean up the spill — or the whiteboard. Arms hang lamely by his side; if he's truly apologetic, he's not doing a very good job of showing it. Under the warm halogen lamp, his receding hairline looks like it's about to sound the complete retreat. "I didn't think I'd actually hit the thing." Ivory musters up his usual wan smile.

Laser…what? Roubani eyes Thorn and Timon, then shakes his head. He laces his hands behind his dark head, stretching his back out. His eyes stay on the downed whiteboard, as though willing an answer to rise from the messy grave. He's silent a while as the talking goes on in the little room, then takes a small breath. "How willing would you all be to try an anthropological experiment?"

Matto disconnects a wire and caps over the connector with one half of the plier nose, distracted enough with whatever he's up to over there. But now Nadiv's proposing some wholesome new sport, and he looks up, brows both raised. "I'm game," he offers, setting the converter down beside the pillow he's sitting on and tossing the pliers to his off-hand. Anything but this. Kissy's attention span isn't what anyone would call stellar, he was probably ready for something new to do a while ago.

That question causes Ivory's ears to prick up. "The last time we did that, we discovered neither Matto nor Roubani would turn the other in for stealing Spider's cigarettes." It's a fond memory, one that overcomes his studied attempts to recapture his scowl. "I'm listening."

"Experiment? Are we going to regret this? I think we're going to regret this." Willem says, finally, smirking a little with a slight shift of his mouth as he leans back against the wall with his arms crossed. "Lead us to the land of the damned. What -do- you have in mind?"

"No, we discovered that neither Hale nor Komnenos would turn each other in for stealing Marek's cigarettes," Roubani points out, pedantically. "Albeit by proxy." He clears his throat, giving Willem a wry half-smile. "Haven't I already?" His hand indicates the room. "Where is Orpheus when we need him, really. Anyway." He glances at Matto, then back at all four, folding his arms. "On Sagittaron we would say: We are looking at this with injured minds. And the only way to return to a state of balanced energy is to heal them." His eyes flicker across each face. "We would…burn salvia divinorum, you see."

"It's true," Kissy corroborates Nadiv's correction, lifting up both hands and stretching his arms upward, placing the backs of his hands against the bulkhead, palms out, one brow quirked as he continues to listen. "Sounds promising so far," he voices to the others, a cheeky little grin tossed to the Anthropologist.

"Fair point, that. Leave it to the experimenter to forget the parameters of the experiment." Timon sighs again, leaning back in his chair as he stretches his legs, back arching in the process. And then, one eye prying itself open to peer in Poet's general direction: "Are you suggesting that we get — " Both open to stare at Wil. "He's telling us to get high." The words are accompanied by a slow shake of his head. "Gods. I hope you have some spare sandals and a few multicolored robes."

Roubani looks over at Matto when the man voices his opinion, then back at Timon and Willem. Timon's assessment of the situation gets no response, save for the brow that stays lightly arched. Waiting. Et tu, Stathis?

To the suggestion of, well, a mental lubricant, Willem barks out a sort of laugh as he meanders over towards a spare box to set his water bottle down gently and turns on his bootheel to walk back towards the others with a surprised grin. "Good old customs from the home front, eh? Don't tell me someone scoped out a corner of Botanical."

Matto lets his hands slip down the bulkhead to lace fingers and pillow behind his head, grinning at the joshing around, but fairly certain that Nadiv doesn't actually intend to rig up a bong. Fairly certain.

Ivory looks around — at Wil, whom he asks to lock the hatch with a wave of his hand; at Matto, who appears to be chomping at the bit; at Poet, who's got his eyebrow quirked; and finally at the smoke detector whose LED is blinking green above his head. "Turn that off," he says at length, leaning forward in his chair to set his elbows against his knees, "and we'll give it a go."

Roubani keeps his eyes on Timon's for a long few seconds, then unfolds his arms. "Kisseus?" He flicks eyes up to the smoke detector. Tinkerer's job. "Would you, please." He rubs his nose and starts for the crumpled bag that he'd toted all his papers and blueprints down in, crouching down by it. "Ask anyone from Sagittaron what piece of home they've brought aboard, and I should think you'd see this in the list. Mine is nearly a year old, so it's bound to have lost a little potency. But it should be enough." He rummages around until he finds the little tin where, for all appearances, he usually totes around his dwindling stash of tea. "Diviner's sage, they call it. To Apollo's arms we go."

"Oho? So if Spider wanders down here and smells the waft of some burning herbs, he'll start toking? I'd pay good devalued money to see that." Willem grins faintly, a slight flash of his teeth as he meanders over towards the hatch and flips the lock as Timon requests. "I'll have to keep this a secret from Persephone otherwise she'll start trying to place orders with every Sagittarian on this ship." He chuckles, closemouthed as he heads back to approach the others.

That tin has sure fooled Timon, who sniffs the air before it's even opened — as if by doing so he can confirm that it's not in fact sage but chamomile that's going to fill the room. There's something extraordinarily tentative about the way he scoots his chair backwards, away from the spilled tea, so he can push wastebasket and paper out of the way. That way, nobody can say he started the fire. "And I Ariadne," Ivory mutters, watching the hatch slam closed. "Lest she think I've become more of a — how do they say it? A fan of the Lords?"

No answer from Roubani about what Kai may or may not inhale. Which probably says more than any words would have. There's no strange smell coming from the tin - sorry Timon - just a pop open of a little hidden part of the case. He digs his fingers into the narrow slot, pulling something white from inside. There's a faint chuckle at the mention of the potential reactions of the others' girlfriends and he gets up, settling into a seat. "Not a word about the gods, just for you, Stathis." A smile flickered that way. "I remember when I was at university, the chemistry department was particularly fond of evenings spent poring over their work in a smoky room. They used to say that the tendrils of smoke themselves would spell 'Discovery' in the air."

Matto has his assigned task, and pushes up onto his toes to investigate the thing a short while, unfastening it intact, first, and parsing it out with his eyes, tracing current trails and figuring out what wire, precisely, does what, before easing open one small latch and just letting the wiring flick free, leaving the whole thing dangling there for ease of putting back together later on— or maybe just in case one of those other wires is a security alert.

"Thanks, Poet. Wouldn't want anybody to think I was getting soft in my senility." Timon tries his best to stifle a yawn, rubbing his hands against his forehead — sadly bare of hair. "For our department, it was always red wine: once in the morning as a constitutional, four more at lunch as a lubricant of conversation, and — well, by the time we got to dinner, most of the senior lecturers were too blitzed to keep on counting." Ivory shifts his chair back further against the port wall until his shoulders brush up against the blueprint of a Raptor engine. "I used to bring a tape recorder to our dinnertime talks until I realized I didn't want a record of what I said." Vaguely curious eyes settle on Matto as the man goes about his work. "Where'd you learn to do that?"

A slightly wide-eyed Willem creeps up on the gathered group here, as well as Roubani's prize. He sniffs the air. "Heh. This brings back memories. It's been, what? Six years. Seven?" Narrowing his eyes, he exhales a quick sigh. "I've stopped counting time."

"Classy," Roubani says to Timon, just mildly enough that any intended irony is muddled. He rolls the white thing between his fingers, turning his eyes again towards the crashed whiteboard on the floor. Once the smoke detector's been properly gutted, he exhales a long breath and cups his hands in front of his mouth. Scritch-scritch…click. The smoke that rises is thin, and has a sweetish tinge that immediately tingles noses used to tobacco. He draws on the little 'cigarette' and then again without exhaling first, and then it's held out to his right - Matto.

"Learn?" Kissy wonders, "I mean, nobody really ever taught me how," he tells Timon, "But the concept of without-power-machine-no-go has a surprising number of practical applications," he adds with a chuckle. He tucks the pliers into a pocket and then eyes the little thing, hesitant, a moment. He takes it, finally, and, corners of his eyes tightening a little, he imitates the native to the left. When in… Storage Room, right, guys? He swallows a little over the lungful of smoke, and passes it along to Timon.

The chuckle is returned, albeit faintly: Ivory's mood is still a tad bit foul. But there's some admiration in his voice as first Roubani and then Matto take their first hits without incident. "Those were some remarkably proficient manoeuvres," he comments, eyeing the cigarette — is that what this thing is called? — with some degree of trepidation. His chest pulls inward as he breathes to calm his nerves, involuntarily drawing some of the smoke into his lungs, and immediately his eyes begin to water. "I suppose — " Cough cough. "I suppose I should tell you now that I've no idea how to do this." And then, with a loopy smile, he's bringing the unfiltered tip to his lips, sucking in another half-lungful — most of which comes right back out again after another fit of hacking. Yup: time to pass it along. Your turn, Wil.

"Then again. As I recall, this is one of those things that makes you -forget- time." Willem says, one of those tentative smiles painted upon his face as he leans over to grasp the joint. "Thank you." He says simply and plainly to Timon as he grasps the burning stick and props it between his lips. He takes a strong drag and seizes up just a little, letting out a faint cough as he exhales the bluish smoke from his lungs into the air in a failed attempt to maybe blow a smoke ring. The smile grows slightly catlike as he extends his hand to proffer the joint to its next target. "No more time. It's a brilliant illusion."

One knows the stars have changed alignment when the room looks to Nadiv Roubani for guidance on vice. Not that this really counts as 'vice' in a culture that regularly hotboxes their temples in search of the divine voice. The corner of his mouth draws back in a faint smile that shows a hint of teeth when Timon professes his ignorance on the matter. "It will teach you." He shifts in the chair, taking the 'cigarette' back from Willem. "The specious present….what was it? Immediately…incessantly…sensible. What a grand joke." He waves a hand, smoke spiraling in the air. A well-practised sip of smoke from the thing and it's on its way back to Matto.

Matto hacks a little, red-cheeked, on the smoke on its way out. It's been a while, for him, and his lungs have grown used to clean living again. "I never really thought there was any time to begin with," he chimes in, still sounding firmly in his right skull, as though this weren't a notion just recently come to him. "I mean, it's not a -real- thing, anyhow. It just helps us do math," he states, almost an accusation, as if Time were some great con man in need of unmasking. Oh, here's the cigarette, again. He nearly passes it right along to Timon again, but, looking at it, he swallows again, and, not feeling too poorly off, he inhales shallowly from the thing once, twice, as Nadiv had set the example, before doing so.

"It's real enough to've been killing us for the past four — five days, now?" This Ivory points out with a sour look at the whiteboard still lying collapsed on the ground. Hit number two from the proffered sage is taken with slightly more confidence and slightly fewer coughs; pale cheeks hollow as he imitates Poet's motions. It's with some effort that Ivory manages to swallow the smoke. Even before he hands the thing to Wil, color has rushed to his cheeks — bright, brilliant red, which under the flickering halogen bulb makes him look like he's put on rouge. Lightweight. Then, eyes slamming shut, he forces himself to breathe, sweet-smelling air swishing through clenched teeth. "But if this stuff really makes time disappear like Rebound says it does, there's our solution: we pipe it into the Raiders' cockpits and wait five minutes." Timon rocks forward. "Make that one." The correction is accompanied by a sudden and incongruous fit of laughter.

"Motherfrakkers," Thorn mutters with a frown as he finally re-enters the room. He stops in his tracks as he sees what's going on, particularly what's being passed around. "Th' frak?" he asks, crooked smile creeping onto his face. An additional chair is pulled into the impromptu circle, and he looks curiously at the cigarette that's being passed around. "This by you, Nadiv, is an anthropological experiment?"

"It -is- a joke." Willem says, eagerly reaching over towards the joint again and waggles his eyebrows pleasantly. "It's an anthropological experiment, Thorn. Like he said. See what happens when the burden of time is removed. Now, we have all the time in the world. For the next few minutes, we're immortal. So we can think like the enemy." Another toke. Puff, puff, give, and the joint is passed around again. "Except, not at all like the enemy. What would a machine fear, Ivory?"

"Pipe?" Roubani fixates on that one word which, for no apparent reason, is fascinating. "Perhaps that's what it is. Time…a hollow cylinder, dimensional rules…piped." He holds up his hand, making an O out of his fingers, which he slowly squeezes into a fist. Over which he looks at Thorn, opening both hands again.

"That's work, Aaah'vry dear," Kissy points out, "Work's killing you. Time's… well, time's been killing all of us since we were conceived, put it like that," he says, then pauses, leaning over to drag over the box he'd stood on to get the detector, then step around to sit on one side of it. Feels less awkward than standing about. "If we -weren't- hurtling headfirst toward death at sixty million miles a minute…" he begins, then stops, just letting his mind go there ahead of his mouth.

Thorn gives Nadiv a skeptical brow-raise as he plucks the joint from Willem's hand. Someone's stoned, alright. "Frak me. Never thought I'd see this shit again." With that, he's puffing away, taking a couple long hits. He holds the smoke in for a long moment before finally letting it out with a series of staccato coughs. "'As soon as we're born, we're dying'," Thorn recites with a slight smile after Matto speaks. One last quick hit, and the joint's moving on. Anton gives a brief headshake. "Wow." A look at Rebound. "What would a machine fear, Wil?" He shrugs. "Hard drive reformat?" He chuckles at his pallid attempt at humor.

"But you see — they can't fear, because they can't — " The rest of the sentence dies in a shuddering gasp. Ivory reels backwards in his seat as the smoke from his third and most thorough breath to date reaches his system, right as his brain is finally set alight by the chemicals ingested from hits one and two. Metaphorically speaking, of course — nothing's on fire, here, yet. When his eyes blink open again, they're streaked with red. "Sixty million?" Timon manages, rolling forward to hand the joint back to Roubani. "Faster than the stardust we are," he half-speaks, half-chants. "Billion-year-old carbon — we are golden." As indeed the room has become. "And we've got to get back to the garden. Or — " More chuckles that come dangerously close to exploding into hysterical laughter. "Or something."

Roubani reaches over to Ivory to take the cigarette, starting it again on its round robin among the five. He closes his eyes as he draws two small hits from the burning white, breath held as he sits up and leans over to pass it to Matto. Or at least, he thinks he does. The field of gravity around his hand is suddenly much lighter than that around the rest of him, his hand lifting like a balloon in the air up above Matto's head. "They have to fear. Finite. They are finite beings, just as us…ashes to ashes, rust to rust." He laughs, looking up at a peculiar couple streaks of warm color in the air.

"No. They fear -us-. Maybe not 'fear'. There's no chemical reaction. But obviously there was enough of a motivation to try to wipe us out." Wil says, lazily as he starts to babble, looking a little dazed as he reaches for the cigarette and breathes in with aplomb. He doesn't bogart it for too long, mind you, as he slowly extends his fingers outwards to continue the circle and sputters off a -cough-laugh-. "So wait. They apparently viewed us as a threat to their existence."

It doesn't help that Kisseus' eyes keep slipping downward, making the whole storage unit look as though it's scrolling up on him. He swallows again, and leans over to sit on one hand and stretch the other one up overhead and intercept the cigarette. "Do they know their drive is them?" he wonders. "To their existence, or their—" Kisseus tries to find a word for what he's thinking of, "Self-being?" the emphasis subtly on the first syllable, "Their… autos own…" he wraps his lips around the word as it comes out all smoke. "If we can re-write themselves, is that better or worse than gunning them?"

Timon's buffeted again by another sheet of molten gold, which emerges from the corner of his mind's eye to wallop him in the torso — from which point of impact now spread a hundred tendrils of warmth, searing his skin with fingers of invisible heat. A bead of sweat — just one — gathers on the tip of his nose before dipping down into the little indentation above his upper lip. He can't summon up the strength to wipe it away. Speaking, though? "There is no ‘them.’ They overgrow us as nature overgrows us," he declares, voice soft and scratchy. "Concrete crumbles; bricks shatter — " Another shudder. "They destroy as weeds destroy, and when Man in his senescence is spent, they shall vaunt over our broken bones and buildings and — " Ivory pauses, throat pulsing. "Shit," he murmurs expressively. "I'm out of 'b's." Cue the chuckles, which by now he's given up on checking. Echoing laughter fills the room, muffled but not drowned by slinky gilded smoke.

"If Ozymandias was any indication, th' frakkin' skinjobs can experience th' range of human emotions, at any rate," Thorn opines as the joint comes back to him. It crackles softly as he pulls another breath into his lungs. He exhales slowly, blinking; the stuff's already starting to hit hard. Timon's laughter proves contagious; Thorn leans back in his chair, laughing wickedly.

Roubani draws in a sudden, sharp breath of air, inhaling what feels to him to be the entire room, broken down into its separate molecules and coursing one by one down his throat. Some burning hot, some freezing cold, some the temperature of the color yellow. He starts to laugh again, hearing his own voice coming from several different corners at once. "They are not nature. Not nature. They are from our hands…and by theirs we perish? Hah." His hand cuts through the air, dragging a long splash of gravity with it. "Error. Maybe that's what they fear. We programmed them, we infuse in them, fear is…inherited. Imperfections, fatal flaws." He sits up abruptly. "Pallas could not find a fleck or flaw — even Envy can not censure perfect art — enraged because Arachne had such skill she ripped the web."

"We -are- pretty old, aren't we?" Kissy slouches forward, elbows finding his knees as he steadies himself against the scrolling when it suddenly changes directions on him. "You know, the old cities don't look like much anymore… you'd never think to look that they were ever anything so spectacular as they were. Rise and fall. outdated paradigm, but helpful. Maybe it's just their turn, after all. ."

"Not nature but like it," says Timon, in whose ears Poet's words are ringing far longer than they have any right to be ringing. "And that's a weave whose weft we cut — forty minutes ago, or years — and whose warp we slashed. How chimerical, that delusion." And, having just noticed something about the structure of his sentence: "How chiasmic." This sends him into a paroxysm of glittering, eerie laughter — but though his body contorts like he's just heard a seriously good funny, nothing but wheezing comes out. Well, only one way to fix that: another hit of the old cigarette, which — miraculously — is still not burned out. "And so we shall simply fade away, not with a whimper but a bang: for rust, in this grand game, beats dust."

"I don't know. That ore they're hammered out of came from -somewhere-. Maybe an unrecognizable form of nature but still a -system-. Nature isn't exactly kind, sometimes." Wil offers, as he simply sits out for the moment, kind of staring off into the wall and blinking his eyes rapidly. He waves his hand, swiping it in an arc as he starts to gaze at it, tracing its movements. "Nadiv, you're right. They're of our hands. They're in our image. Maybe that's the source of their blind rage. But - that goes back to what I was saying before. Time." He suddenly rips out a series of snickers, and giggles, and almost doubles over as he attempts to catch his breath. And fails. Some moments later he does, in fact, take in a strong, ragged breath and continues blathering. "Time. Like I just said. Do I make any sense? This is all a matter of time. Of seconds.”

Roubani laughs again at the sight of Wil doing so. "Rise and fall…" He repeats Matto and then closes his eyes, exhaling a cathartic breath after the shaking grip of hilarity. "No." Eyes still closed, he points his index finger towards what he thinks is Timon. "No, we shall not." Eyes open again, breath in…out…and he stretches out his long legs, looking back at Wil. "Seconds. Yes…" Slowly, his head starts to nod a little. "Four point eight seconds." A beat, his eyes flickering down to his knees and then slowly back up. "Fire. Faster. Faster."

"Somebody take th' J from Ivory, he's turning into a frakkin' quote machine." Thorn rolls his eyes, but there's a silly grin on his face nonetheless. "It's making m' head swim." He takes the still-burning joint and puffs. "Or maybe it's this shit," he wheezes through a cloud of smoke. He looks to Timon as the conversation finally, mercifully, goes back to shop. Then to Nadiv, back and forth between the two. "Um. That sounds more like a fuel problem than a power problem, y' put it that way."

Timon's reaching for another hit when something hits his hand — another one of the thermoses beneath him, from which sharp impact he recoils as three more bottles tumble down towards the deck. The pain, at least, is enough to cut through the golden haze — and as chance would have it, when his eyes refocus, they do so on the — "Board," murmurs Ivory. "It gives us no time. Look — " He points somewhere in the thing's general direction. "That’s what we need. EW — RCS — avionics — chaff — DRADIS — wireless — " He ticks them off as if by rote; indeed, his bloodshot gaze shifts away from the whiteboard to the ceiling halfway through the list, having spent the past five days paring down each start-up procedure to its very bare bones. "And FTL," he finishes, drawing the last letter out as long as he can manage — as if he's spooling up the drive himself. Ten seconds later, another hiccup of laughter escapes him. "'L,' see? I made it ‘long,’ like FTL."

"Nah. I mean. Quote machine. He's just getting -inspired. Like a religious experience." Willem says with a certain degree of pleasant, halting grace and no shortage of wonder. "None of us wonder why some Oracles hit this stuff. It's like being touched by Apollo. Or Hermes. Aphrodite." He swipes another long arc of his hand as he watches his arm trail out in front of him bemusedly. "Chronos. Time. It is all about time. Ivory - do you remember that old buried classic I told you about the condemned man, given one final gift? The Secret Miracle?" He starts to say something else and his mouth snaps shut rapidly, falling silent as he nods excitedly. "Yes. FASTER THAN LIGHT. Which is what I can do with my hand right now." Needless to say, whatever else Wil was going to offer disappears in a small flood of giggles. Yes. GIGGLES.

"Fire faster." Roubani repeats this yet again as the phrase digs itself into his gray matter. His attention's not on the board; it's on the low-burning cherry of the joint as Thorn draws on it, half-lidded eyes following it as it passes by on his radar. "I see that…they would see that. The ignited spark."

"Y'all crazy." Thorn does his best (still not very good) imitation of the southern dialect of his homeworld… which in turn draws a hysterical cackle of his own. What's left of the joint is passed on to whoever wants it. He tries to restrain the silly, though, as Roubani again mentions the problem at hand. "Uh, wha, Nadiv? See what now? Y' lost me." Another chuckle. "Ironic, that. Lost. We're all lost, anyway. Lost among the stars. You can't go home againnnnnn…" Thorn breaks into a bit of impromptu singing, suddenly momentarily oblivious to the conversation around him.

"The secret miracle … of my magic doorknob." Remember that story? As for the joint, Timon wants it, and after he takes it, out goes his other hand to grab at Wil's, perhaps to prove the other man wrong. He misses entirely, of course, stopped by some flimsy golden membrane that now threatens to encase his arm entirely. A curious expression crosses his face as his palm pushes out, rebounds in, flails out, slips in — and stops. "You're thinking," he murmurs, eyes blinking back tears from the smoke still billowing about him as his gaze focuses on Poet. "You and your marble friend — " This, also to Roubani. There's two of them, now? Apparently, and one's more a statue than anything else. "Talk to us, not each other."

"Bad touch, bad touch," Kisseus rejoins to Willem's indications of divine fondling, cackling a little further as he lets the light collected in his hands spill from where it's pouring out of his face, soaking his legs in the process. "It says we used to live like that. With no death and no birth. And we traded it in for Aphrodite," he offers grudgingly. "Procreation. No birth without death. No love between people. Just… things… sitting inside the walls… alone, but completely happy. Love is desire, desire is lacking. We can't desire that which we have, and so the highest desire is to be one with another person… the other half of the wheelamaman."

Thinking. Either that or the floor in front of Roubani's just turned into a cascade of whirling music notes. His dark eyes stare at it, the left one twitching slightly at the corner as though the worst headache he's ever had is coming on swift and strong. Then - speaking of time dilation - he's suddenly out of his chair and wheeling around on his heel. "IT'S THE GODSDAMNED IGNITION!"

"There's ignition there," Ivory observes softly, matching Matto's singsong, for it’s on Matto that his gaze has all of a sudden become fixed. "Between those halves, sitting inside those walls, 'til they're one and together and different — " A thin puff of smoke drifts forth from his nostrils as Roubani explodes out of his chair. Whoa baby. "There, says dear Ari." Timon's voice gets a little louder. "There's the spark, for you see, love — Humanity — we are hypergolic." Where that word came from, even the pilot probably doesn’t know.

Matto smiles broadly. Ari. Dear Ari. Gah! Kissy slides off of his crate, feet going all wavery under him as he panics in the wake of Nadiv's screaming about something being on fire. Once he finds that little bit of firmness to his knees that stops him from just crumpling to the floor in a heap, he heaves himself to the side, lunging at the Poet to try to tackle him to the deck in a duck-and-cover before the explosion goes off.

"Again, with the doorknob. Funny, I ended up associating both of those stories, Ivory. Good catch." Willem says, having finally straightened in stance and recovering from his little laughter-fit. "So we either find someone or something to love, or someone or something to hate. Sometimes there is overlap, Kisseus." Again, Wil's thought patterns are racing in a way that is custom-designed to send poor Matto running for cover. He's seeing patterns -everywhere-, of course. He continues. "And sometimes people and things are always there, lurking in the background. Like Persephone was. Or…" And then it hits him too, as he echoes the exclamation. "The ignition." He calls out, in wonder.

"IGNITION! Oof!" Roubani takes a Matto to the gut, sending him backwards with arms comically pinwheeling. His back crashes into the wall, foot skidding until he's sitting THUD on the ground and pointing straight at poor Matto's face. "Did you see that, Ivory? Hypergolic, indeed…Price!" He scrapes his long legs back under him, inching back up the wall. "Are you with me? Do you understand?"

"That's funny," Ivory mumbles, in unconscious echo of Wil. Roubani: Timon has answered in the negative. "Now he's there — " Thumb covers one eye as he tries to focus on Roubani. "And he's — still there." Pinky finger wavers like the tip of a compass before settling back on Poet. "Marble and flesh together, Galatea in reverse — though he's your dream, my dear bear of kisses, not mine.”

Matto buries his head against the wall, covering up the Poet until whatever explosion was there has passed, eyes squeezed shut. He says something, finally, but his voice doesn't carry far beyond the range of Nadiv's neck, at least… not distinctly. Nadiv can probably make it out, but beyond that it has about the consistency of a wavering murmur.

"Ignition." Willem repeats, bemusedly, trying to speak and think through the haze of the herb's effects. Or maybe he's just swimming in it. It's hard to tell. "Ignition. Ignition. I believe I'm with you, Nadiv. The key is, the spark. The -speed- of it. The -timing-." He says, his mouth hanging open at the end of the sentence bemusedly. He takes a sort of uneasy step, and then another, pacing in a slow, sloppy circle. "Apollo and Hermes, and now Chronos. Time." He nods emphatically, jutting his head to and fro.

Roubani grins at Matto. He squeezes the man's shoulder on his way back up to his feet, and presses the back of his cool hand to an overly warm face. "'Has Chronos…bound them with his famous chains?'" He asks Willem, turning dark eyes on the man. "A metaphor, of course, for Chronos' chains are inescapable, in Tartarus." He licks his lip, drawing in a much slower breath than he has been. "And can we do the same… fire faster. The ironies of instability - how does one get tylium to ignite faster?"

"Um." Thorn frowns. "Y' can't change th' laws of chemistry, Nadiv. Tylium burns as it burns." Moar frowning. "Tylium. Burning. Tylium burns." His lighter comes out of his pocket; he flicks the wheel, watching the flame. The lighter sways back and forth in his hand, the flame flickering in the air.

Matto just sort of rolls off of the Poet and slouches there on the floor, for the time being. "You can untie Chronos' bootlaces if you try," he points out. "Just remember which one was tied to which when you're done."

"Wait. Do that again." Ivory's voice is suddenly a lot harsher than it was. Reddened eyes dart towards Thorn, arms swimming forward as the imaginary chains restraining him finally break. Take that, invisible golden membrane. And aloud: "That — that thing you just did — " He tries and fails to mimic the flicking of a lighter. "Turn it off," the man breathes. "And back on. And back off."

Roubani turns around, looking down at Matto. He's silent for a time, just standing there. Then he blinks, lifting both hands and separating them, palms up. The left closes and then the right, alternating a few inches up and down. "Untie the bootlaces. Oh my gods."

"Inescapable in the end. But the length of them is relative. It's all relative. Related. Rel - FRAK. What -am- I saying?" Willem babbles some more, excitedly as he continues his sad attempt at rhythmic pacing, continuing to move in a circle. Except it's more of a spiral. He sways once and then regains his balance and settles up against a box in rather drastic lean. His eyes narrow somewhat as he starts to squint. "I'm not a chemist. But there may be some way to engineer an upgrade in the Raptor's fuel lines."

Matto sprawls on one hip, lifting one knee and sinking one elbow like a dead Etruscan laid out atop his bed, head tipped at a curious ankle as Nadiv demonstrates shoelace-tying for him, suddenly growing a few too many hands, making the Kissybear sit there in open-mouthed quiet.

Thorn squints in Timon's direction. "Eh?" He looks from Ivory to his lighter, then shrugs and starts flicking the wheel again. The flame flickers on and off; Thorn watches it again for a moment, before looking back to Ivory expectantly. Then, to Willem, and — frakking gods. Comprehension, or something like it, dawns on Thorn's face, and his eyes go wide. "Wait a frakkin' minute…"

"Chronos' bootlaces." Roubani repeats, to his hands. And then to Willem and Thorn. "Untie the bootlaces." He points at Thorn, jabbing the air with his index finger about four times. "You understand! Two boots, apart. Back together. That's it! What am I saying? Say what I'm saying, for gods' sake!"

"I think — " Ivory says faintly, his attention still fixed on his ECO. "I think — " As Anton complies, Timon's eyes go wider, their dilated pupils nearly swallowing up the irises in which they're set. "Look," he whispers, a near-beatific smile on his face. "Everybody, look here — " For once, Ivory's not pointing at the board; instead, his index finger gestures past the taller man to the blueprint behind him, which fades in and out of his view as his vision swims in oceans of gold. "Quick — stand here, everybody except Thorn, you can stay there — "

And from the dim recesses of that sky-blue skeleton Ivory sees emerging the outline of a Raptor propelled forward — faster than the speed of light — by a blast of Promethean fire, which ignites in the mere milliseconds it takes for Anton's flame to flicker on and flicker off and flicker on again.

"It's beautiful," mumbles Ivory, lifting up and forward the flat of his palm as if by doing so he can make the Raptor go even faster. And then, faintly, in the barest of whispers, he says what Roubani is saying: "It's — it's RCS."

Matto stands up. At least, in his mind, he does. Some form of self emitted from the inert, drawn by madid threads as his eyes twitch erratically. Erradically, even. Well, not quite.

"It's - bootlaces," comes Willem's response, smiling faintly, bemusedly. "The sword of Metaphor slays the problem." He strides over towards Ivory's blueprint, managing to keep his balance just so as he does.

Roubani paces while Timon gestures at the blueprint, head turning slowly as he keeps eyes on the diagram even while he cuts a focused swath through the air, left and then right and then left again. "Yes. Yes. Separate the boots. A hypergolic assembly, combined just at the right time…ignites the tylium faster…"

"Um." Thorn repeats himself as the wheels keep turning. "Y' need — you need a kick. Something extra. A modded RCS assembly is pointless if you don't have something t' mix in with th' fuel…" He rises from his seat and begins to pace the room again. A cigarette — a real one, not the funny kind — comes out of his pocket. Hey, might as well use that flame for something, right. Then, only a few moments after he starts pacing, he stops. And laughs. "What about unrefined tylium?"

An odd little look drifts across Timon's face as Roubani paces back and forth, his lips slightly open, sweat slipping down his still-crimson cheeks. He's still — the high's fading, slowly but surely, but it hasn't gone yet. And in its wake it's left him with slightly slower mental circuitry now that the hallucinated Raptor has completed its jump out of the Stathis System. "Can't use that," he murmurs. "The ship — you'd blow it, and then — " There's almost sadness in his tone as he curls up into himself on his oil-stained chair. "I don't want to go back there."

"Just the right time." Wil nods along excitedly, as he crosses his arms in front of his chest. "So you're saying the reaction is accelerated in a manner of seconds. Uh. Wait. Unrefined? Just how safe is that?" he inquires, head tilting in a birdlike manner. "Or is this even a matter of 'safe'? Nothing's safe. As you well know." He extends an index finger in a lofty, almost pompous fashion. "No need to steal another one of Stathis' nine lives, here. No, the quicker reaction is the key, like Nadiv said. Quicker. Quicker." He repeats, for some unknown reason. Well, the reason's obvious. He's just a little frakked up.

Roubani puts his index finger against his lips as Thorn speaks. To hush himself rather than the other man, his mind seeing this spinning past in almost too much clarity. "No…" He says finally, looking over at Timon. "No, no. We wouldn't. You'd have to keep them apart, you see, just like those boots." He grabs a pen up from the floor, striding over to the blueprint and Timon's raptor. Inside the outline of the bird he draws two compartments, and a line from each. "This one…" He taps the top. "Unrefined tylium, like Anton said. This one…" He taps the lower. "Normal fuel mix. Keep them untied, now, until you're ready to ignite, and then." His pen makes a streaked line connecting them. "Chemical reaction."

Matto is having a serious case of not being at home. It's his first out-of-body experience, that he can remember at least, and the wetness of the stuff pulling him along has got his full attention for the moment, the words all melting around the threads and dripping to the floor as he slides through them.

Timon doesn't initially see what Roubani's doing, though he tries to make the effort. It's a struggle, but somehow Ivory manages to fight his way through the sluggish mist that's settled about him, mist that's infused his clothes and even his skin with something sweet and bitter. "Time, Poet," he whispers. "Time — like Rebound just said, or did say, or has said — time!" The word is hissed with uncommon fury, spat out with exhausted desperation. "How quick?"

Thorn nods vehemently as Roubani chimes in and draws his diagram on the board. He assaults his cigarette with abandon, turning to Timon as the older man speaks. "You inject tylium precursor into an active fuel stream?" Komnenos blinks, trying to think through the smoke-induced haze in his mind. "Frak," he whispers. A look over to Poet. "You crunch the numbers, Poet." Then, back to Timon: "Five bloody seconds is all we need. I can't believe it would give us any less than that."

"Time." Wil repeats, as he mouths, nigh-soundlessly as he steps on over against the wall, leaning back against it for a few as his eyes start to flutter closed. "It's like a primitive rocket. Only the next evolution of one." He whispers. Looks like he may be passing out. Whoah. Stuff is potent.

Poor Wil. Roubani rubs his forehead with the back of his sleeve. "Ah, hmm…" His fingers pinch the bridge of his nose and then his face relaxes, breath drawn and exhaled. His head tips back, hands setting on his hips. "That's at least…let's think. Depending on the mix, of course, all depends on the mix. Six to nine seconds cut from ignition, at least. Wouldn't you say, Thorn?" His speech has come back to quite lucid, the crest of the high having passed a while ago. His face is still reddened, browline touched with sweat.

Matto seeps, drawn by some powerful osmosis by the nothingness outside, through the gaps between the atoms of the hull, mouth opening here in the physical realm, throat making some sickly sort of gurgling noise, but nothing more.

"Six — " Ivory blinks as he tries to clear some of the sweat off his face, apparently not realizing that his sleeve would work far better than his eyelashes. Head shakes vehemently. "But — but nine." His right hand clenches, clasping between its fingers a yoke and stick — "One-one-thousand," he counts. "Two-one-thousand." Left hand punches a series of codes into a command board only he can see. "Three-one-thousand." Back goes the stick, back goes the seat. "Four-one-thousand." And then, a look of absolute wonderment crossing his face, his hands fall back to his lap. "Give me that much," the pilot whispers, cradling his head in his palms. "Give me that much and I — I'll — I — " Up from his seat jumps Timon Stathis, stumbling forward until he can hold the little diagram Roubani's drawn on the blueprint. "Can you build this?"

Thorn, at least, seems to have figured the sleeves bit out as he wipes a line of sweat off his brow. "At least," he whispers in Roubani's direction. He paces excitedly as Timon wrestles with the idea. Face flushed, he leans in over Timon's shoulder, staring down at Roubani's improvised blueprint. "It just might frakkin' work…"

"I think so." Roubani's eyes are narrowed, his voice more confident than the words would suggest. "Have to run it through the sims, prove it's viable, then make it work. I can adjust it for Vipers but Thorn, you'd have to take point for Raptors. No reason it can't work, none at all…land vehicles had these for decades." He trails off then, letting out a cathartic sounding exhale and crouching down where he stands, right next to Matto. His hands skid through his hair, heels of his hands pressing on his temples. Not in frustration though, that's long gone.

Timon glances up as he senses somebody looming over him, and as recognition dawns — it's his ECO! — he stands up with remarkable abruptness. "Find the right mix," he rasps, though his expression is clearer than ever before. This has gotten the good old adrenaline pumping, all right. "By the time I get up there, you'd best be on the horn with a preliminary number. Anton. You." The pilot straightens his back, leaning on Komnenos for support. "You and I. We. We're going to the sims." And not even pausing to see if Rebound's okay, he's feeling his way across the wall to the hatch, which he unlocks with a definitive clack. "We’re going to the sims to power ourselves up a ship."

Matto sits there, gurgling aimlessly until his eyes crease at the corners, his mouth opens more widely, his head draws back and then snaps forward with a violent sneeze, then snaps back again with almost as violent a shock as his self snaps straight back into his form, eliciting a shout, "AAAH! What?!" he asks, confused. His sneeze seems to have confused him. He blinks a couple of times. "Ohgods," he mutters. "What are — where are — what's going on?" he asks the ones shuffling toward the hatch.

"Right," Thorn replies crisply to Timon. For Anton, at least, the high seems to have passed… mostly. He stands woodenly, allowing Ivory to use him as a cane of sorts. "No problem, Poet. I'll handle it," is said in passing to Roubani, and then he's roughly guiding Timon out the hatch. "Party's over, Kiss," he calls out as he leaves.

Roubani bursts into bright laughter, as much of a tension-release as the loud rush of air that left him seconds ago. "The smoke alarm." He grabs Matto's sleeve, tugging. "Have to fix the smoke alarm. Not to mention carry poor Price home." He lifts his head from his hands, clearing his throat and raising a brow at their downed comrade. To the departing he calls, "Go on, make us proud. We'll do damage control."

Matto clears his throat a few times, getting his wits back about him and trying to make his limbs stop feeling so… melty. "Smoke alarm. Right," he agrees, but, for his part doesn't move, quite yet, the bright laugh from next to him bringing a smile to his features, at least.

"Oh, we're fine," says Timon, though he's most decidedly not: evidently, he thinks damage control refers to him. Fortunately for the pilot, Thorn's shoulder is a steady one; the ECO apparently wasn't kidding about doing this sort of thing in undergrad. "So we'll be fine, you'll be fine, the kissing bear, he'll be fine, all of us — we're — " Ivory tries to figure out what he'd been trying to say next, framed in the hatch as he is, but his words accelerate forward far too quickly for his own good. "Numbers, Poet! On the horn with the numbers — " The rest of his words fade into the corridor as, Komnenos right beside him, he dashes past a few befuddled nurses to the central stairs beyond.

One could even say they’ve been ignited.

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