There's no music in space.
Nobody ever mentioned that there would be no fucking music in space.
It's probably because Daly doesn't listen to music. Or if he did, it would be some sort of weird white noise stuff, like wind chimes or ocean waves hitting a beach. And since Daly's the one controlling Infinity, there's no music.
Walton misses it. The wailing guitars, the thundering beat of the drums, the hollered lyrics that make up a great rock song. He's never been a great guitarist but he misses it now. He misses fucking AC/DC. He misses fucking to AC/DC.
In the first week, he lines up all the empty liquor bottles he's finished off and sets them on the floor in a semi-circle around him like the saddest set of glass drums in the world. The bottles are all shapes and colors, meant to emulate different "alien" booze from various planets in Infinity.
It doesn't matter where they came from--they taste like acid and when he drinks them, burn on the way down his throat and get him drunk enough to taste colors and see sounds.
With a rusted wrench, he strikes the empty bottles one by one, relishing in every ping and clang that fills the echoing halls of the cavernous ship. The noises dance in front of his eyes.
It feels like rebellion--Daly hates noise, and though he can't hear it because he's not in Infinity, Walton keeps hammering those glass bottles, harder and harder and harder until they shatter.
Anything to not to be alone with his thoughts.
Walton's an asshole. He'll admit that much. But he's not stupid.
The first time Daly says "exit game" and disappears into thin air, Walton's heart skips two beats.
Walton stares at his own hands, rubs his fingertips together. Pinches his thighs, pulls at his hair hard enough to yank out a handful of strands and bring tears to his eyes.
He can feel pain. His body is real. It has to be.
He says "exit game" like maybe it's that easy, but nothing happens. He stays right where he is.
He believes that he's real, even though he never gets tired, never needs to eat, sleep, or shit. It's a simulation, a game that Daly is playing with him.
Walton can even appreciate the humor of it--in real life, he's probably fallen asleep at the office, and Daly's attached a pod to his temple and stuck him in Infinity for a night just for shits and giggles.
But Walton doesn't have to worry. He'll be out, as soon as someone notices him slumped over at his desk on the outside. Infinity, as a company, can't run without him. He'll be out.
The next time Daly comes into Infinity, he shows Walton a video.
It's Walton--outside Walton--making an announcement to the office that they need to get cracking on the new update if they all want their Christmas bonuses. It's smarmy and charming and so convincingly him, except he's got no memory of it ever happening.
Daly smiles at him, his eyes slitted in glee. See?
The floor pitches unsteadily underneath Walton's feet. He gets the strange, sliding feeling of deja vu, staring at himself making a speech that he knows he's never made before.
After that, Daly sets the rules of the game they play. Or he tries to. The things he wants Walton to say--"Gee, Captain, I can't believe you were right! You're so brave, strong and smart!"--are so ridiculous Walton laughs out loud the first time Daly proposes it to him.
"What's so funny," Daly says, no trace of humor in his voice, like he really doesn't understand why a fantasy of being called a big strong Captain of an imaginary ship in an imaginary world isn't downright hilarious.
Walton looks at him. "Are you serious? Daly, you sound like a bad movie villian--"
And suddenly, his world goes dark, breath freezing in his lungs, trapped in his chest, trapped behind his lips, and oh god--
Walton's hands scrabble at his face, fingers meeting nothing but smooth skin.
He tries to scream, but the cries catch in his throat.
"Listen, listen, LISTEN," Daly says, stressing each word. Walton can barely focus past the fact that he doesn't have a face to grasp onto what Daly is saying. Everything sounds like it's distant, under water and drowned out by the sound of his thundering heart beat.
"I am a god here, you understand me? You understand? Nod if you do."
Walton struggles, jerks his head in what he thinks is an up and down motion--in the darkness he can't tell the floor from the ceiling, can barely think past the terror of not being able to breathe.
"I can do whatever I want. I can take away your face. I can take away your body, I can take away your life" Daly says, deadly and calm.
Walton feels his body tingle and he shakes his head as hard as he can, hoping that Daly is watching and can see him do it. Walton's chest heaves, body quivering with need for oxygen, even though he knows he doesn't need it to live.
"So, now you know where we stand. You are nothing in this world. Out there, you might have been someone, but here, you are mine to do with what I want. I say jump, you say how high. I say crawl, you get down on the ground."
Daly pauses, and Walton tries to sob, but the noise is mangled and muffled.
"But the one thing you are not allowed to do is die. You can try, sure. Fill your blood with that disgusting alien alcohol as much as you want, but you're not real, Walton. You're not human, you understand? You're my experiment. And you are going to live for as long as I want you to."
Walton nods. Anything just to make it stop, anything to not choke to death.
Just as quickly, he can breathe again, light flooding his vision white.
Walton sobs, retching onto the floor, his entire body shaking, curling in on itself in a vain attempt to stop any other attacks. As if that would stop Daly from doing whatever he wanted.
"So, go ahead," Daly says.
"Yes...Captain. Thank you for saving me, Captain," Walton says, the words tremulous and shaky.
The corners of Daly's lips tip up in a smile.
"Better," he says. "Come on, now Lieutenant. Off the floor. We have more planets to save, and I haven't got all day."
Their first "mission" together is to a red desert planet. Walton can admit that's maybe the only cool thing that's come out of this--the fact that they're able to teleport to different planets, each with their own unique designs and creatures.
But it doesn't take long for Walton to grow bored of it. The same schtick he's expected to say, clapping and smiling with fake gratitude every time, gets boring.
So maybe he's a little sarcastic.
Okay, maybe he is a lot sarcastic. But really, there's only so much hurrah-ing he can take.
"Wow that was sure a close call, Captain! I almost didn't think we were going to make it," Walton says, sarcasm dripping from every word.
Daly turns to look at him--Walton can almost hear the gears in his head turning, mind working with cutting precision to think of another way to punish Walton. The no-face thing is getting old.
"Get on your knees," Daly says.
Walton raises an eyebrow but does it, wondering if this is another one of those "grovel at the feet of your almighty Captain" rituals that Daly likes to play.
And then Daly unzips his fly.
"You're going to suck my cock," Daly says, and the words sound formal and rehearsed, the ends of suck and cock clicking harshly in his mouth. He stares down at Walton with eyes devoid of hunger, or desire. Just power. Doing this just because he can.
Walton has--had--a running bet with everyone in the office about whether or not Daly is still a virgin, and most everyone has money down on the "yes" side.
Daly, for one moment, looks unsure, and the sight makes Walton want to laugh even harder.
"You're joking, right?"
Knowing what Daly is going to do next doesn't make it any easier to bear--Walton is thrown into darkness again, faceless, unable to breathe, and even after the hundreds of times that Daly has done this, it still doesn't get any easier. His body's natural instinct warring with the rational idea that he doesn't actually need to breathe to exist, and he truly isn't sure what is the more terrifying of the two.
But then, Walton hears Daly say, smugly, "exit game."
The first thing Walton feels is pain.
Blinding, searing, white hot pain, like the oxygen he's breathing back into his nonexistent lungs is fire, burning up his entire being.
He's still on the red planet. He's right where Daly left him when he exited the game. The sun in the sky is bright, and it burns his eyes. But all he focuses on is breathing, and choking, and breathing, and wondering what he deserved, what he'd done to deserve being stuck in an eternal torture chamber with Daly as his master.
Walton sobs into the dirt, his entire body seizing and shuddering as he breathes after what feels like years without air.
"My my, miss me much?" Daly says from wherever he's standing, a few feet away from Walton. "You know, I wasn't even gone for very long. Two days, visiting my parents' graves in Connecticut. Of course, you threw a fit in the office about about me taking time off, because we're going to be late on the next game delivery. And yet...you take more time off than anyone else in the office. How does that work?"
Walton can barely comprehend what Daly's saying, his whole body shuddering apart. He wasn't able to die. He stopped breathing and he still didn't die. For days.
"I'm only stopping by for a short while, I need to get back to the office," Daly says, "and I think I'll be stuck out there for a while..."
"Please," Walton says desperately, the word ripping its way out of his throat. And he hates himself for being so weak, hates himself when he finally looks up at Daly where he's standing, tall and proud, and smiling. "Please...don't," Walton says.
"I knew you'd come around," Daly says, smiling. Cheerful.
Daly unzips his fly.
Walton doesn't say a word this time. He gets to work.
"I'm pretty sure this breaks the Geneva Conventions," is what Walton says, the fifth time they do this. It's flippant, meant as a joke. There are only so many times you can end up on your knees and still feel like you're a human, still feel like you're worth something.
Daly doesn't finish this time.
Instead, he creates a-- a thing -- and it's. Not human. The threat of it alone is enough to make Walton shut up. He's tested Daly once before, and he isn't keen to find out what other creative ideas Daly's got up his sleeve.
Walton keeps track of the days with tick marks on one of the walls of the lounge.
The sun doesn't rise--they must be in a system of space where there are no planets that need it. He keeps track of the time by watching the rotation of the nearest planet--there's a mountain there that scrapes the clouds, tall enough to be seen from space. Every time the mountain disappears and reappears, Walton carves a strike into the wall.
He keeps this up for as long as he can, but when he hits 478 strikes, he stops.
There is no use in trying to quantify infinity.
So Walton drinks instead.
He starts to measure time by Daly's visits. Leading up to the busy holiday seasons, Daly visits sparingly, too busy working on new code to devote much attention to his pet project. But during the actual holidays themselves, well.
"Merry Christmas," Daly says one day. Walton blinks. A hot chocolate, steam rising from the full cup, fills the cold room with the earthy, nearly sickly sweet scent of chocolate. Daly holds the cup out to him, waiting expectantly for him to come and take it.
Walton's mesmerized at the sight, saliva pooling unbidden in his mouth. He can't remember the last time he smelled food. The last time he smelled anything that wasn't engine oil and the sharp, ethanol burn of alcohol.
Daly catches his wary look.
"Go on," Daly says, and when Walton doesn't move, Daly sighs, bringing the cup up to his own lips to take a sip.
"Not poisoned. See?" he says.
Walton doesn't know what to make of this, so he takes the mug from Daly's hands, making sure that their fingers don't brush. When he takes a cautious sip, the hot chocolate is so sweet and delicious it almost brings tears to his eyes.
Daly smiles, a strange little smile that's made more unsettling because that's the most tender that Walton has ever seen him, and it makes him want to throw up.
"Your son was in the office today," Daly says, taking a seat in the Captain's chair. Walton resumes his usual spot--kneeling at the Captain's feet, shivering when Daly cards a hand through Walton's hair absently.
"My...my son," Walton whispers. He wonders if time passes the same up top as it does in the game, though he would wager that it doesn't. How old would his son be now? 10? 12? Besides some slight changes in hair, Daly doesn't look much different every time he enters the game, but children's appearances change faster and more often than adults' do. The thought that he might not even recognize his son if he saw him again is enough to bring Walton to his knees, if he wasn't already on them.
"There was candy in the office, and you--well, the real you--indulged, and gave him a lollipop."
Daly pauses in petting Walton's hair, looking down at him to gather his expression.
"You shouldn't do that, you know. Give your son so much sugar at such a young age. It'll rot his teeth."
Walton nods, numbly. Finishing his hot chocolate, each sip scalding his throat. He can barely feel it, barely even taste it. Every bone in his body singing with longing. Trying to remember what Tommy's face looked like opening presents on Christmas day, Walton finds that he can remember Tommy's smile, but not his voice.
"I think I'd like to try something new today," Daly says amicably. "An early Christmas present to myself. I want all of you," Daly says, and it's the most unattractive way that anyone has ever tried to proposition Walton before.
Walton wants to say "Jeez, at least buy me dinner first," but he doesn't think that Daly would get the joke.
Walton knows what's coming next, but the knowing doesn't make it easier.
Walton learns that he bleeds, in this universe. He bleeds, he bruises, and he aches.
That's not to say he doesn't fight back.
If he bleeds in this universe, doesn't that mean that in theory Daly could too?
Walton tests this theory out the next time they fuck--he rakes his nails down Daly's back, hard, curious to see if he can leave marks too, the way Daly does on him.
Daly groans, breathy and whiny as he speeds up his thrusts, mistaking the scratching for passion. Walton shakes, disgusted that he's somehow accidentally added on to Daly's pleasure.
Daly comes faster than normal this time around. Even smiles at Walton when they're done, like there is a world in which they could be lovers. Walton tastes bile in the back of his throat, but forces a smile when Daly says "feeling rowdy today, huh?"
But his plan works--when Daly finishes and gets up to put on his Space Fleet uniform, Walton catches a glimpse of his back, and there are red scratches all down it like branches of veins.
The next time Daly comes down into the game, Walton is ready. Or, as ready as he'll ever be. He's broken a few bottles of alcohol, sharpened the broken edges of glass on the metal legs of the chairs in the break lounge.
When Daly appears, Walton, glass bottle behind his back, charges him, sinking the sharp edge of the bottle directly into the thick vein on Daly's neck.
Shock, on Daly's face, as blood pours out of his neck.
"Exit game," Daly gurgles through the blood bubbling on his lips.
And this is how Walton learns that Daly cannot die by bodily injury in the game.
Daly takes revenge. Of course he does.
Tommy. Tommy. TOMMY.
The ship really is beautifully designed. None of the buttons work, but they all look real anyway, labelled with a gibberish language that looks like an unholy mix of the cyrillic alphabet and hieroglyphs.
Walton takes to wandering the halls like a ghost when he's bored, drifting from room to room until he's got the entire shipped mapped out in his mind. Four floors, a basement, ten rooms, two lounges, and the command center.
He runs his fingers along the sleek chrome panelling, the surfaces cool on his fingers. The amount of detail--down to the temperature of the panelling in the damn walls--is astounding.
He catches his reflection in one of the chrome panels, and for the first time since he's been on the ship he looks at himself.
He looks like shit. Dark bags under his haunted red-rimmed eyes, face pale and gaunt, his blue uniform hanging loose and baggy on his body. A body that women--and men--used to find attractive. So, aging, or at least some form of it, does happen in this computer universe Daly has constructed. It's almost unbelievable, Daly's attention to detail.
Did Daly make him like this in this world, pathetic looking? Or did he turn himself into this person, endless days going out of his mind with loneliness and Daly's games turning him into this weak creature?
Walton forces himself to look away and keep walking down the hall, but his reflection chases him the entire way, floating behind him like a ghost.
He purposefully does not look out the airlock at the end of the hall. He purposefully does not think about the body of a young boy frozen in space. He purposefully does not try to think at all.
"You're...pathetic," Walton says, an ugly laugh ripping its way out of his throat as Daly pounds into him. The effect is lessened by the way Walton's breaths whistle in his throat, breathless and tremulous, but he means every ounce of what he says. Because he has nothing left to lose, he's lost it all, or given it to Daly. His body, his mind, his son, his everything. In a sick, twisted way, he's come to look forward to Daly's visits, because his entire being and existence is alone in the vastness of outer space, sometimes for weeks on end, and he'd rather Daly kill him in anger and create a new him than live another day in the boundless and lifeless eternity that he's been forced into.
Daly's pale eyebrows knit together, confused and hurt and angry all at once.
"You...this is how you get your rocks off, huh? What, you can't get anyone in real life, so you had to make me, in a computer game, just so you could lose your virginity? When you exit the game, are your jeans wet with your own come? Do you think about me when you masturbate in the shower before you go to work--?"
Daly slaps him, so hard that his head snaps to one side, teeth rattling in his skull.
Walton shuts up after that, and lies there and lets Daly take his pleasure.
"You're going mad," Daly observes, when all is said and done, and he's pulling on his uniform and tugging it back into place. Walton still hasn't moved from where Daly finished with him, facedown on the cold floor of the control room.
Walton doesn't respond to that. The only thought in his mind how much longer he'll have to wait to get his hands around a bottle of alien alcohol.
"Are you okay?" Daly says, one day.
They're both naked, and Walton barely registers the words, but when he does, he laughs. And laughs. And laughs, until the sound distorts in his ears, makes it sound like he's sobbing. Because apparently he's become unresponsive enough that even Daly, who probably still hasn't lost his virginity in real life, thinks he's too boring to fuck now. He wonders if this is the part where Daly kills him, or if he'll simply keep fucking Walton, despite the fact that Daly would probably get more pleasure and response out of fucking a blow up doll.
Daly looks on in consternation until Walton has laughed himself into tears, unable to stop.
After that, Daly takes away his genitals.
And then the very next day, Shania is there.
With two people, it's easier to mitigate Daly's moods. He takes it out on one or the other of them, but never both. Slowly, over time, Walton tells her a fraction of some of the things that Daly did to him.
But there are some things he never speaks about, and by the look on Shania's face, she doesn't want to know about them either.
Walton grins bitterly at the look of horror on Nanette's face as he slaps at the slab of skin where his crotch should be.
"There's no genitals in Space Fleet. This is a wholesome universe," he says, taking a generous swig of alcohol. The burn of it isn't enough to take away the bitter taste in his mouth. She'll never know what a curse it was to have them. None of them will ever know.
But there is a glint in Nanette's eyes, something that suggests that she isn't going to take this one on the chin. That she isn't going to let Daly get away with playing Captain anymore.
Walton drinks, and smiles, and squashes down the phantom ache of hope in his chest.