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"There's no need to manhandle me. I'm being perfectly cooperative here," Wilson snapped, legitimately annoyed. Two of the three soldiers who had found him in the elevator were escorting him outside the hospital and, in Wilson's opinion, were being a little overly rough about it.
Both of them ignored him. As they marched through the lobby, they were joined by another uniformed man. "The holding space in the parking garage has been somehow destroyed," he informed them. "So we're to take him and any other prisoners to the Governor’s mansion."
"It's just him," the particularly frowny soldier on Wilson's right growled. Wilson decided to call him Chuckles.
"What?" said the soldier to Wilson's left. He was very muscled and brawny and over six feet tall, but stereotypically he seemed to be a little slow. Wilson decided he would be Bigs. The new soldier was shorter, younger, and skinnier than the other two and on top of that had a demeanor like a small dog, and so he was dubbed Junior.
"There are no other prisoners. It's just him," Chuckles clarified.
"That's it? Didn't someone manage to round up the other four?" Junior's anxiety showed clearly on his face and in his body language.
"No," Chuckles snapped.
Wilson assumed the holding space they referred to had to be the trunk where Foreman and that friend of Gwen's were stuck, and was temporarily relieved by the revelation that they'd managed to escape. He also noted that Junior had said four people had escaped, and wondered who else had gotten stuck in a trunk.
He hoped it wasn't House. Wilson didn't ever want to deal with House after he'd been stuck in a cramped space all day with no Vicodin. The results would almost certainly be explosive and long-lived.
On the other hand, it wasn't really looking like he'd be seeing House anytime soon, anyway. It was annoying that that thought actually depressed him.
Bigs apparently decided Wilson was being too slow, jammed the end of his rifle into Wilson's back and Wilson, caught by surprise, yelped in an embarrassing way. They quickly exited the building and Wilson stopped to gape at the wreckage and scattered debris that was all that remained of the parking garage. He'd heard the explosion and the resulting thunder of heavy objects falling all over the place, but he hadn't paid it much mind; he'd been a little occupied with other things at the time. In retrospect, it seemed silly that he hadn't given it more thought. It wasn't like there were massive explosions at hospitals every day. It was dark out, but Wilson would easily see the remains of a power generator smoked gently off to one side. Bigs jammed his rifle into Wilson's back again.
"Keep moving," he said. The way he spoke was indistinct and Wilson had trouble making out what he was saying whenever he talked, but this he was pretty clear on. Resigned to his fate and assuming the day couldn't get any worse, Wilson trudged on, flanked by the three guards.
They'd only gotten a couple hundred yards away from the hospital when an old man appeared in front of them. Wilson stared blearily at him, and it registered somewhere in the back of his mind that this was the same man he'd interacted with earlier. His mind wasn't currently active enough to take that thought any further, so he set it aside.
"Oh good," the man said mildly. "You are Dr. Wilson, aren't you?"
Absently, Wilson noted that the man was wearing a cravat and wondered if he'd been wearing it earlier. After some brief thought, he decided he probably had been. He nodded an affirmative to the man's question, assuming nothing he could do could possibly get him into a worse situation than he was in already.
"Good, good, I had a bit of a time finding you. Let's get out of here, shall we?"
"Excuse me," Chuckles cut in. "I don't think anyone's going anywhere without my say-so." The man in the cravat frowned at him. Bigs did not bother to waste time with such pleasantries. He aimed his rifle and shot without a pause. The old man vanished and the bullet hit a large piece of cement instead. Wilson belatedly recalled that his name had been Bilis, then wondered if that could possibly be correct.
Junior gaped at where the man had been, then started jumping around excitably. "Is he a ninja or something? How does he get around so fast? Where'd he go?" Before anyone else could get a word in, Bilis reappeared a few feet away from where he'd been before and fixed them all with an affronted look.
"That was rude!" he said. This time, Bigs and Chuckles both shot at him, but he predictably vanished again before their bullets could touch him. This happened once more and by that time, all three of the soldiers were getting really antsy.
"What are we supposed to do?" Junior wailed.
"Shut up," Chuckles growled. "Just keep moving, and quickly. Ignore him."
"D'hurrr.... How's he doin' that?" Bigs said.
"It doesn't matter. Just get moving. We just have to get to the truck."
The started moving again, at a faster pace than before. They didn't seem to have much regard for Wilson's comfort, and he was constantly jabbed or stepped on in the rush. They made it to a large truck painted an ugly color of green and Wilson was shoved in the back seat with Bigs. Chuckles revved the engine and then peeled out, heading in what Wilson assumed was the general direction of Drumthwacket, though he couldn't really see past Bigs' bulk to make sure.
Less than a minute had passed before Bilis appeared out of nowhere in the empty seat next to Wilson, smiling pleasantly. Junior shouted in surprise, startling Chuckles and causing him to swerve into the other lane and nearly hit an oncoming car.
"Christ!" he yelled, then glanced in the rearview mirror and saw Bilis. He let out a short string of expletives, ending with "shoot it already you stupid shits!" Bigs couldn't get his rifle out in the cramped space, but Junior had a handgun and he obediently emptied a round of bullets into the empty seat where Bilis had been a moment before.
"Really, boys," Bilis said when he reappeared, looking disapproving. "I'd expect better from America's finest!"
"So," Wilson said, getting impatient, "are you going to rescue me or what? Because all these stray bullets are making me nervous."
"So sorry about that, but I do need a couple seconds to concentrate if I'm to transport you as well, and these young men aren't really affording me much," Bilis replied, staring pointedly at the soldiers. All three gaped at him.
"Watch out!" Wilson shouted as the truck nearly went off the road and into a telephone pole. Chuckles threw his attention back to the road just in time and they swerved back onto the road. Junior was frantically trying to reload his gun, but his hands were shaking too badly to manage it.
"Wonderful," Bilis said, grabbing Wilson's hands. "Now just be quiet for a short while...."
Then they both vanished together, leaving a bewildered trio of soldiers behind.
"So... what now?" asked Bigs cautiously.
House hit Gwen’s radiation detector in the hopes that it would pick up a reading. “You’re almost as useless as the chick who owns you,” he told it. “And that’s only because she keeps finding new ways to kill herself every five minutes.”
House froze. A spike drifted across the screen and vanished. It was like the machine had been sticking its tongue out at House behind his back but had been caught. He pointed the scanner in the direction he’d been facing when it went off, but nothing happened.
“Your momma was so ugly people thought she was a rejected Blackberry model.”
A bigger spike. As long as the reading wasn’t somehow out of spite, the situation was looking brighter. House was still wary though. Trust the British to come up with a machine that tricked you if you insulted it. So he walked up to an intersection, shook it some more and yelled, “I bet the shop had to label you as secondhand before anyone would buy you!” He liked that one, because it reflected poorly on Jack Harkness as well.
A series of blips appeared when the device faced right, so House took the turn, feeling pleased with himself.
“House can’t have left the building,” Jack said. “The military would be watching all the entrances.”
The others, so fierce when declaring themselves part of the search, no longer looked as certain as they had a few minutes ago. Once the magnitude of the task became apparent, it was hard to approach it with any amount of confidence. After all, Torchwood had spent a day searching for the alien artifact to no avail--the fact that House was running around with it in his pocket notwithstanding--and the radiation would have faded so much at this point that the scanners would pick up more hits from interference than the actual trail, even if it hadn't been pretty much everywhere in the hospital by now.
“House doesn’t do things without reason,” Cuddy said. "Even if the reason is sometimes completely inane." She turned to Chase. “And you are not allowed to tell him I said that.”
“So you’re suggesting he might have thought of something I didn’t?”
Cuddy shrugged. “It’s possible. His mind works in strange ways.”
“On the other hand, maybe seeing the scanner reminded him that there’s an alien artifact somewhere nearby, and if there’s anything he can’t resist, it’s a new puzzle,” Cameron said. “He might have Gwen’s scanner, but he must realize it’s next to worthless.”
“Unless there’s something we missed,” Chase added.
“Like the creepy old man in clothing from the nineteenth century standing in the corner with Wilson?”
Chase whirled around to face the direction Cameron was pointing and jumped. Embarrassingly, Jack did the same thing. Luckily for him, no one noticed.
“Who the hell are you?” Chase demanded.
Jack was interested to see Wilson stagger out from behind Bilis. He’d never known Bilis could teleport others as well, and that could be a useful piece of information, though he assumed it made sense, because Bilis managed to bring his clothes and other inanimate objects with him wherever he went. The image of a nude Bilis flashed in his mind, and he pondered it an instant before deciding that he needed to make a few more limits for himself.
“I’m Bilis Manger,” he said. “Where is Dr. House?”
“Why is everyone looking for House?” Cuddy snapped.
“Because I brought him his Wilson. He said I wouldn’t be allowed to see Ms. Cooper unless I rescued his Wilson from the National Guard.”
“Interesting,” Cameron said. Chase glared at her.
Wilson focused on Bilis and protested, “I don’t belong to anyone!”
“Of course not.” Cuddy patted his shoulder and led him off into a corner. “Where are your pills?”
“I’m off the pills. Really, I’m fine! Why is the floor covered in blood?”
Bilis watched the proceedings with a disinterested air. Jack took advantage of his temporary distraction to close the distance between them and seize him by the cravat. “What are you doing here, Bilis? And if you try to teleport away, I swear I’ll shoot on sight next time I see you.”
“I’m here to woo Ms. Cooper.”
“Woo. As in the first syllable of ‘whoozy,’ which is how she shall feel from the love that bursts in her mind when she sees me and realizes the deep connection we share.”
Jack pondered this a moment and decided it was so absurd he couldn’t be lying. Bilis was clever enough to think of a better story if he wanted to lie. Nevertheless, his mind rebelled against the thought of Bilis and Gwen together. “I don’t think Gwen needs more things bursting in her brain. And shouldn’t you be sacrificing goats to the son of Abbadon or something?”
Bilis took hold of Jack’s hand and pushed it away firmly. For a moment, Jack felt a burning heat radiate from the old man. “Abbadon had no son, thanks to you.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault he didn’t know when to stop. Like a goldfish, eat eat eat, that’s all it can think of, and then kerplowy.”
Bilis glared, but then the next instant, his expression was smooth again. “Yes, well, I doubt he was fertile anyway, and it’s been rather boring ever since. I mean, I spend all my life plotting to bring about the end of the world, and then what happens? The end of the world has to go and eat itself to death. Naturally, my life was rather devoid of meaning for a while after that, but then I remembered Ms. Cooper and how she made me feel all tingly when she touched me in my little shop. If you know what I mean.”
Jack noticed Chase doing a reasonable impression of a blowfish but ignored him. “Yeah, we don’t care about your little shop, and I really don’t think Gwen cares about how you feel... down there. I also don’t think she appreciates you stabbing her boyfriend.”
“Oh yes, speaking of Mr. Williams, there’s something you should know.”
Jack’s expression darkened. “You killed him again?”
“No, no, no, how crude. His death last time was merely a means to an end. I do not believe in killing my competitors, Captain Harkness. No, if I triumph, it shall be because I have proven myself superior in every way, and all shall acknowledge my victory.”
“I’ve heard things about Rhys, and I think there’s at least one department in which he has you beat.”
Bilis fixed him with a stern look that made him seem to belong to a nineteenth century painting. “As I was saying, there’s something you ought to know.”
“If you haven’t done anything to him, I fail to see how he could get into any trouble worth concerning me.”
Bilis smiled, and shivers ran down Jack’s spine.
Cardiff was lovely at mid-day. A cool sea breeze had brushed the clouds from the sky, repainting it baby blue. The unoccupied plaza before the Millennium Centre benefited from the additional light and glowed so brightly it looked like polished marble.
Though Rhys Williams didn’t walk to this part of the city often, a whim had led his feet here, and he stood before the fountain, watching his reflection in the cascading ripples. Gwen had only been gone a couple of days, but he found himself missing her. They’d had their fair share of arguments since her promotion, but after the first few turbulent months, her hours grew more regular, and their relationship had benefited from it. Now she was gone again, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was about to see their lives go downhill again. The fact that he hadn't heard from her since she left only served to amplify that feeling.
He had thought a walk might clear his mind, but it seemed to be doing the opposite instead. The more he thought about things, the more muddled his thoughts became.
He sighed, and in response, his stomach growled. Some chips, he decided, might help his mood. He turned around and began to head for the nearest pub, but he didn't even get three steps before he stepped onto a bit of ground that wasn't as solid as it appeared, and suddenly he was falling straight down. He caught a brief glimpse of a spacious underground room, but then he hit the floor. His head knocked against something and everything went dark.
“Rhys fell down the invisible lift?” Jack repeated, incredulous. He wanted nothing more than to borrow someone’s phone and yell at all his employees about forgetting to lock up the base before leaving. He thought about it a little longer, decided there was no reason why he couldn't, and stole Chase’s phone. He pointed a finger at Bilis. “This is not saying I believe you.” Bilis just looked at him with that insufferable air of patience.
The phone rang several times before Tosh picked up. “Hey Tosh, it’s Jack,” he said, trying his best to sound cheery.
“Aliens who want me dead are chasing me with bloodhounds right now,” Tosh replied, “so this better be urgent!”
“Did you remember to close the invisible lift hole?”
The line went dead. Jack returned the phone to Chase. “How rude. That was urgent.”
“So is that Ms. Cooper over there?” Bilis said, pointing at Gwen’s cot.
“Yes, but she’s sleeping,” Tracy said. Bilis ignored her and walked over. Jack ran after him and arrived in time to see him running his fingers down Gwen’s cheek and making cooing sounds. Jack prepared to grab him, but Tracy got there first and smacked him so hard he went flying into the wall.
“I do believe that was uncalled for, my dear,” Bilis said.
“Shut up,” Jack said. “All right, so I believe you. I don’t trust you, but I believe you. Gwen’s not getting better until House diagnoses her, so we don’t need him off on some treasure hunt that he’s unqualified to be undertaking anyway. What can you do to help us?”
“I’m not your hound. I can travel through space and time, but I can’t sniff him out.”
Jack grinned, then fished a tracker out of his pocket. He set its frequency to match the receiver’s, then handed it over to Bilis. “Do you remember how long ago you were talking to House in this room.”
“Put this tracker on him while he and Tracy are busy talking to yourself.”
Bilis smiled. “You are a crafty man, Captain Harkness.” He blinked out of existence, then reappeared a second later. “It is done.”
“That’s a little weird,” Tracy remarked. Jack shrugged, then turned on the receiver. A red dot pinged on the screen, showing House was headed for the morgue. He motioned to the others and ran out the door. As they left, he noticed Bilis moving toward Gwen again, but Tracy gestured menacingly with her hand and he stepped back. Pulling up a stool, she sat down next to her patient and nodded to Jack.
Almost immediately after splitting off from Cameron and Chase, Owen and Foreman ran into a group of soldiers, cutting off their route. They had to sneak back around to the emergency exit and find another way in. Luckily, they didn't have too hard of a time getting back into the hospital via the front doors. The National Guard seemed to be in a bit of a disarray, and the hospital staff was taking a no-nonsense approach to dealing with the soldiers.
Wherever the officers were, they weren't in the lobby, and so the soldiers were being assigned menial tasks by nurses, like cleaning up and filing unimportant paperwork. Meanwhile, the majority of the civilians who had been in the clinic were filtering out slowly, and the soldiers were for the most part letting them go after confirming the weren't on the list. Of course, there were those people who loved to be in the middle of the action, and they were excitedly trying to find out what was going on by questioning the soldiers and the nursing staff, neither of which appeared very receptive to them.
Owen and Foreman slipped past the two men left guarding the door by entering as a group of people left and then ducking behind a counter. From there it was easy to get to the morgue.
House wasn't there, but it was fairly obvious that he had been recently. No one else in the hospital could cause such chaos.
The morgue was dark and dank as usual, but now there was the odor of blood overlaying the usual overly sterile smell. There were also several unconscious uniformed men on the floor near the bottom of the stairs. Owen kicked one and when he didn't respond, they pushed them all under the tables and put white sheets over them. If nothing else, it'd leave them extra confused and disoriented when they woke up.
There were also several dents in the wall. They ignored those.
"Well, obviously House isn't down here," Foreman said when they'd finished moving the soldiers. "Should we go look for him somewhere else?"
"You know what? I'm actually not that enthusiastic about the idea of going back up there," Owen said. "I mean, it's fairly calm now, but you never know when hell might break loose again, and I honestly feel safer down here. Additionally, House is a bit of a bastard and I'm not that keen on actually finding him."
Foreman laughed. "Try working with him! He's really insufferable."
"Is he always so... violent and sarcastic? And cranky?"
"It's usually worse. He has no tolerance for other humans. Except Wilson, oddly. And sometimes Cuddy."
"I noticed," Owen said dryly. "Still, I bet my boss is worse."
"Impossible! You obviously don't know House very well." If there was one contest in the world that Foreman was absolutely positive he could win, it was the Worst Boss contest.
"It's not that Jack's a bad guy," Owen continued, "it's just that he's got these really annoying habits. Like, he'll screw anyone, and he does! Even worse, women always seem to find him more attractive than me. So when we all go to a pub after work, guess who's inevitably going to end up going home alone? Me! And I normally have no trouble picking up girls!"
"That's your problem with him?" Foreman laughed. "He's got nothing on House, then! I can't say I've ever been out drinking with him and I'd never want to, but I can imagine it'd be something close to hell."
"That's not the only problem! Recently, he just disappeared for a week! Without tell anyone. We didn't really know what to do. Then he came back with this stupid excuse and of course, everyone just forgives him. Ugh, it's so annoying."
"Basically, your biggest issue with your boss is that he's too likable?" Foreman said.
"Er..." Owen said.
"House is cruel, sarcastic, egotistical, pushy, acerbic, and a drug addict. He makes us do things that are barely legal, and the whole time he's throwing insults at us. He's unbelievable."
"If you hate him so much, why are you still working for him?" Owen asked. Foreman sighed.
"As much as I hate to say it, he's the best damn doctor I know, and I've learned more from him than I ever thought possible. But you met him, you know what he's like."
"He kept hitting me over the head with his cane!"
"Yeah, he's really possessive over that whiteboard."
"Can't he find something better to be possessive over?"
“Do you think we can make it back to the car?” Tosh asked as they crawled through the bushes. Monty shook his head, and she heard several barks from just around the corner. They’d managed to make it to the front of the mansion without being caught, but it looked like their luck was out.
“The good news is the dogs should be a little calmer now that they’ve been out a while without finding any prey.”
“Great, so they’ll be able to identify our corpses afterward.”
Monty rolled his eyes, “No, I meant that if they’re calm enough not to bite the first thing they see, they should recognize me as someone friendly. They won’t attack.”
“Are you really willing to give it a try?”
“I see no other choice.” Monty stood up, put his fingers to his mouth and whistled. Tosh pulled out the alien device and wondered if dogs were religious. If they were, she hoped ‘Thou shalt not maul humans’ was one of their commandments.
She didn’t have long to worry, though. As soon as Monty revealed himself, the dogs started charging. “Sit!” Monty roared, holding out his arm in a command to stop. Tosh’s heart leapt at the unexpected tone of authority. When he wanted to, Monty knew how to make people listen. Plus he had really nice arms. Calm down, now is not the time for a hormone rush. Especially when she knew Monty was part of the conspiracy, he had to be. No one fell in love that fast. No one. That was the moment she realized she’d been manipulated again, and she still felt numb from the knowledge. She wished she could believe his words rather than her suspicions, but lives were at risk, and she couldn’t stake everyone’s fate on a romantic flight of fancy.
The dogs fell over each other skidding to a halt. Tosh’s heart pounded, and she told herself it was only the adrenaline from nearly being mauled. “Well, that worked out nicely.”
Monty nodded and clapped his hands together as though brushing dirt off them. “I told you, I’m just that good-- AAARGH!” A dog jumped from the front porch and landed on Monty, sinking its teeth into his arm. The rest of the pack followed suit, howling like wolves. Tosh dodged to the side, avoiding the falling dogs but not the slobber spilling from their mouths. Monty noticed her pointing the alien device at the dog on top of him, and his eyes widened.
“No! What if you miss?” He squeezed his eyes shut as she thought, Activate! and a flash of light turned the world white. A shrill screech burst through the air, followed by that deafening silence, and when Tosh’s vision returned, she saw Monty laying in a fetal position on the grass. The dog had disappeared.
“Monty?” she asked, afraid for him despite herself.
“Damn it, Tosh, that was the scariest thing anyone’s ever done to me. And that includes the bloody hound trying to bite my arm off.”
“Don’t be stupid,” she said, but inside, she felt a wave of relief. The rest of the bloodhounds were sitting on their haunches now, licking their lips and staring at them with puppy-dog eyes. Kneeling down, she examined Monty’s arm and tsked. “This is going to need medical attention. You should reveal yourself to the Governor. He’ll be expecting you, anyway, since you showed your ID to security.”
“Right, that might be a good idea. Hopefully he won’t be suspicious, and... what the hell is that dog doing?”
Tosh followed Monty’s gaze to the wall, where one of the hounds was whining a high-pitched keen and bashing its head against the wall. She watched in fascination as it struck with a loud thunk, backed up two feet, then charged forward again.
“I think that was the one attacking you,” Tosh said.
Monty scratched his head. “I thought the device converted things into religious fanatics.”
“Right, well...” Tosh frowned. Thunk, thunk, thunk. “I guess it sort of makes sense.”
“I still don’t understand why those dogs attacked me,” Monty said. “They must’ve been really riled up. You think that second pack was chasing someone else?”
“Who else would be here? I mean--” Tosh sighed as her phone vibrated again. She picked it up and snapped, “I don’t remember if we closed the invisible lift, Jack!”
“Oh shoot,” Ianto’s voice came from the speaker. “I knew I forgot something.”
“Ianto? Sorry, I thought you were... never mind. What’s going on?”
“I’m in Drumthwacket. Are you all right? I got chased by these dogs, and I thought they might be after you.”
Monty glared at her phone for lack of a better target. Tosh shrugged and mouthed, It’s not his fault. “We’re okay,” she said. Monty glowered some more, so she added: “Mostly.”
“Good. If you’re inside, I can get you to safety, but be careful. Jack just called and he says the hospital’s in lockdown. All our names are on a terrorist list, along with our pictures. They know who you are, so don’t try tricking anyone you meet. Just avoid all contact.”
Tosh breathed in deeply and hissed through her teeth. “We’re outside. Monty was going to try to get us in, but if that’s the case...” It’s now or never. She turned to Monty and said, “You need to get that wound looked at. Go in without me and I’ll try to find one of the hidden entrances.”
Monty shook his head. “I know where some of them are... approximately. You’ll never find them without me. I’ll be fine.” He gave her a weak smile. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”
“Good luck, then,” Ianto replied, which was the most unhelpful thing he could have said. Can’t he convince Monty? Scare him into leaving me! But he just added, “Call me when you get in.” The phone flashed as he hung up.
Tosh sighed. She gestured at Monty: “Take off your shirt.”
“Do it!” she snapped. She regretted her outburst the instant it left her mouth, but Monty nodded and complied. From the look of sympathy on his face, he understood her anger was from frustration that she couldn’t get him to safety. If only he knew the full story. Would he be angry at me? But no, that implied he was innocent, and she knew better.
Taking the shirt, she tore off the sleeve that had been torn by the dog and used the rest of it as a bandage around his arm. He grimaced as she worked, but she had to do the thing properly. As properly as she could without antiseptics, anyway.
“That should slow the bleeding for now, but it needs to be disinfected. And know this, if you seem to be bleeding too much, I will get myself caught if that means keeping you alive.” She froze at the vehemence in her voice, but she knew it was true. Even if Monty was a spy, she wasn’t willing to let him die. Jack had told them after he returned from his absence that Torchwood was different now. Preserve life whenever possible, that was how he’d explained it. And Monty... as for Monty... well, god but does he have nice arms. Toshiko let out a choked gasp, half sob, half laugh. Monty just took her hand in his, and for a moment, she was lost in his gaze.
“I guess we’re going to have to find the entrance fast, then,” he said. “Come on.” He bounded to his feet with almost his usual energy and pulled her up with his uninjured arm. Seeing no choice, she ran after him. Behind them, the other bloodhounds continued to observe the single dog repeatedly running into the wall. Then, one by one, they each started following suit.
A few minutes later, Tosh realized Monty was leading her into the gardens. Their path was interrupted several times by more roving packs or a few guards, but the dogs were mostly stretching their legs at this point, and the guards were so terrified of the dogs they didn’t notice other humans on the lawn. As they moved deeper into the flower beds and rows of trees, the encounters grew less frequent until Monty stopped at the edge of a stone patio.
“This should be it. Rumor is that one of the trellises has a touch plate embedded in that causes some of the stones to slide open.”
Tosh ran to the walls of latticework and brushed away the flowers. Pressing her scanner against the wood, she ran the device over until it beeped. “Here, the wood is reading as harder than the surroundings. It probably has metal underneath.” She pressed her fingers against it and smiled as she heard a rumbling behind her.
Five stones rotated out from their positions and slid under their neighbors to reveal a ladder dropping into darkness. Monty ran up to it, nearly stumbling as he stopped at the edge. Tosh placed a hand on his shoulder as support and noticed his pale face.
“Are you sure you’re fine?”
He nodded. “I should go first in case I lose my grip and fall on you.”
“Maybe I can go on alone.”
“Toshiko, stop trying to lose me. I feel better knowing I’m by your side to protect you.”
He was about to go down when her scanner beeped again. The display lit up with waves of red. “The infrared sensor is picking up a large number of people down there.” She glared at him. “This entrance is defended.”
Monty looked surprised at her accusatory tone. “I’m sorry, but this is the only one I know about. If we can’t risk breaking into the house, this is our best bet. I’m still the governor’s aide, aren’t I? I’ll make the guards listen.”
“Don’t you think regular guards are more likely to accept your word?”
“They all should. I do have security clearance, and in the darkness down there, they’ll be less likely to see you or recognize you. Please, let’s hurry.” He didn’t wait for a reply as he grabbed hold of the ladder and started descending. Tosh bit her lip, but she placed the scanner in her bag and followed him into the pitch black.
When Ianto hung up, Rebeca was still staring at him with a creepy, predatory gaze. She had agreed to help him harbor Tosh after discovering she was part of Torchwood as well. He supposed she thought that having more of them present meant a better chance of getting whatever she wanted. In the meantime, she had a pair of scissors in her hands and kept threatening to cut off his pants if he tried to leave the room. His father having been a tailor, he felt this was a great misuse of the power of scissors.
“So Monty Pike’s helping your friend out. Interesting. He never struck me as the type to go against his boss.”
“You’re absolutely sure Governor Streed is helping the aliens?”
“If he isn’t, then I’m not Mrs. Streed.”
Ianto pondered her comment for a moment, but she seemed to take this as a sign of infidelity and snapped the scissors menacingly. “Uh, so, I’ve been wondering,” he stammered, trying to change the topic, “I keep hearing Governor Streed this, Governor Streed that. What’s your husband’s first name, anyway?”
“All right...” Ianto said. “What’s the governor’s first name?”
“No, you fool. His first name is Governor.”
“That’s a little presumptuous, isn’t it?”
“It’s a perfectly legitimate name.”
“He didn’t change it after taking office?”
“Of course not. Why would he do that? It’d be hell for the ballots and name recognition.”
“Well, everyone would hear his name and know he was governor.”
The scissors snapped again. He wasn’t doing well at staying on her good side. At least, not when he had pants on. He thought about this for a moment as well, then quickly dismissed the notion from his mind. A lascivious smile lit up her face, as though she knew what he was thinking. He backed up from where he was sitting on her bed until he was on top of the pillows, but she never moved from her position on the chair beside her desk.
“I’m a little thirsty,” he said, remembering that he’d smelled whiskey when he first entered the room. Maybe the thought of getting him drunk would have the same effect on her.
Sure enough, she turned around, cracked open a picture frame and withdrew a bottle. “Do you want to do the honors?” she asked.
Perfect. “I assume you keep the glasses in the bathroom.” He took the bottle from her. She nodded, and he left, trying not to appear hurried. Once inside, he flipped through the drawers and located everything he needed. As he withdrew two shot glasses, he slipped a laxative into one of them and poured out the drinks. When he returned, she downed the entire shot without waiting for him.
She waved him away, so he went back to his spot on the bed and sipped his slowly, savoring it as he might a cup of fresh-brewed coffee. A few minutes later, he heard a gurgle, followed by an, “Urp.” He glanced over and saw her face contorted like smoke some time after leaving a cigarette.
“You bastard,” she said before making a mad dash for the bathroom.
“Sorry!” he called after her. Pocketing the scissors, he strolled out the door, whiskey bottle and glass still in hand.
He’d questioned Rebeca about the layout of the house, and if she hadn’t lied, the governor should be in his favorite lounge on the first floor where he entertained his guests. He proceeded to the stairs, which two guards were ascending.
“Hello,” Ianto said.
“Who are you?”
“Fancy a drink?” The two were close enough that they didn’t have time to react before the bottle and glass flew through the air and slammed into their heads, shattering and sending them reeling down the stairs. Ianto stepped over them, feeling a little guilty for injuring them as much as he had, and ran for it.
He slowed down as he approached the lounge. Tip-toeing up to the door, he heard voices beyond.
“I’m afraid, Governor, the situation at Princeton-Plainsboro has escalated to a point where drastic measures are necessary.”
“Really, my National Guard are sufficient for the task. The place is a mess already, but the last thing we need are aliens storming the building with hundreds if not thousands of witnesses we aren’t able to silence.”
That was odd, Ianto mused. The other man had to be the attorney general; he was the only guest of note present tonight. Yet if the governor was deferring to him, then that had to mean the attorney general was the alien! He leaned closer.
“Your men are unreliable! Just look at Montgomery Pike. The Torchwood woman should’ve been ours at the tow yard, but we held back because he was accompanying her. If you can’t even control your aide, how are we supposed to trust you with an army?”
“Well, I’m afraid Pike can be a bit overzealous at times. I assure you, he has his orders now. That wasn’t even a complete loss. You did manage to fix up the van as a transmat reception point.”
There was a loud crash as the attorney general apparently slammed his fist onto a table. Or maybe through the table. “You will follow orders or you will be destroyed! Do not talk back to me! The time for negotiation is over.”
“Please, give me two more hours. You won’t be displeased, I promise.”
There was a pause before the alien said, “Oh I’m certainly pleased right now. At least one of you can do things right.”
“We have one of the members of Torchwood in custody now.”
Tosh! Ianto backed away from the door, preparing to go to her rescue. He bumped into something soft. Or rather, someone soft. A sharp edge pressed against his neck, and he smelled cigarette smoke.
“You don’t think I only had one pair, did you?” Rebeca asked as she drew the scissors along his skin, leaving a thin trickle of blood. “Honestly, you can’t say I didn’t give you a chance. But if you aren’t going to bring me aliens, I’m just going to have to catch them myself.” Her voice dropped to a husky whisper. “And you’ll be my bait.”
She slammed her free hand into his side right where the robot had slashed him earlier in the day. The injuries burned like fire, and he felt the bandages go wet as he collapsed to the floor. The door opened and Attorney General Howell stepped through. He flickered, fading in and out of existence for a fraction of a second, and then he extended a hand to Rebeca.
“Well done, Mrs. Streed.”
“Please, call me Rebeca,” she said. With a wink at her husband following the attorney general through the door, she added, “I don’t think I’ll be Mrs. Streed much longer.”
Howell nodded. “Governor, an interesting option presents itself to me. Perhaps you should personally lead the Guard at Princeton-Plainsboro, and I’ll take over here. How does that sound?”
Streed stiffened. “Pike won’t listen to you.”
Howell’s eyes held nothing human in them as he turned on Streed, advancing until he’d backed the governor up against a wall. “I don’t need him to listen. In fact, I don’t even need him to be alive.”
The governor whimpered as he sidled out of Howell’s presence. At the threshold of the room, he managed a faint bow and stammered, “As you say.” He disappeared faster than the road runner, though there was a disappointing lack of smoke clouds in his wake.
Howell returned his attention to Ianto, and this time, he let the entire disguise slide. A whirl of colors accompanied the disappearance of his human form, and an alien of the same species that attacked in the hospital stood before him. One tentacle drifted up to Ianto’s face, the eyeball at the end making wet squishing sounds as it twisted about, surveying him with a sort of manic glee. Then one of its arms grabbed hold of his neck and forced him back to his feet.
“You are the human involved with Jack Harkness,” Howell pronounced. Out of the corner of his eye, Ianto saw Rebeca staring the alien, greedily devouring its appearance as though it were an oasis in a desert. He judged she was indeed playing her own game rather than serving the aliens, just as she’d told him, but clever as she might be, her meddling would backfire in the end. He didn’t intend to be there to save her when it did. Howell was too busy examining Ianto to notice. “You will cause him to spring our trap.”
“No chance of that, I’m afraid,” Ianto replied.
Howell gurgled. “You are his lover!”
“But he doesn’t love me.”
The skin on the alien rippled, as though Ianto had thrown a stone into a perfectly placid lake and disturbed everything. Hyurk, hyurk, hyurk came the noise from deep inside its body, and Ianto realized it was laughing at him. Before he realized what he was doing, he pulled the scissors from his pocket and stabbed it into the eye closest to him. Howell let out a shrieking roar strong enough to shake the entire house. As the hallucination reasserted itself, the human Howell fell backward, clutching his face as blood spewed forth from one eye socket. He punched Ianto in the stomach, knocking him into Rebeca and sending both of them flying into the next room.
Disentangling himself from her, Ianto stood and dashed for the exit, but she grabbed hold of his leg and twisted. He fell, more from the fact that she had a knack for hitting him where others had attacked him first than from her strength alone, and then guards burst in from all directions, each with a gun ready and aimed. He put his hands up.
Howell emerged through the doorway, his left eye an empty socket glowing red. “You will regret that, Jones,” he hissed, his voice a combination of garbled tones, as though five people and a synthesizer were all speaking at once. “You will regret that very much. My species believes in an eye for an eye.”
“Do you expect me to let you do that?”
The attorney general grabbed his shirt, smearing it with blood, and pulled him close. His face centimeters from Ianto’s, he bared his teeth and replied, “No, Mr. Jones. I expect you to die.”
Rebeca choked back a giggle, and the guards shifted on their feet as they pondered whether they were serving the right person. After all, the insane bad guys always lost, and usually a few of the guards got fed to piranhas along the way, or at least got pushed into vats of industrial waste. Having failed to grow up as a movie buff, Howell glanced over to see why they were laughing, and the momentary distraction was more than enough time for Ianto to press The Button on Jack’s wristband.
Since Union Station, Ianto had modified it slightly. Scary as Britney Spears’ music was, the song hadn’t been the main point of the attack. What the button actually did was emit a very low frequency sound that was below the threshold of human hearing but caused an intense feeling of unease--a similar phenomenon tended to occur in “haunted” houses and other eerie locations. Jack programmed the device to use a combination of sounds to key into the fear portions of the human brain, thus causing widespread panic. The song had merely been the object of terror that people locked onto. However, Ianto felt that was exceedingly low-brow humor. Instead, he held up his arm and yelled, “Drumthwacket is out of coffee beans! There is only generic instant left in the kitchens!”
The room emptied faster than a singles’ bar on Valentine’s Day, leaving only Rebecca and Howell. He suspected nothing would ever faze Rebeca and remembered too late that the device wouldn’t work on an alien. He ducked as Howell swung at him, but the man caught the back of his suit jacket and it tore off with a loud rip.
“I have one suit left!” Ianto yelled at him. “One! And it’s in a rental car! Do you have any idea how upset I’m getting?”
Howell tossed the jacket aside. “Actually,” he said, making that squelching hyurk-hyurk sound again, “your rental car blew up.”
Ianto punched him, hard.
Jack held a finger up to his lips and shushed his followers. Cameron drew to an immediate stop, causing Chase to run into her. Cuddy then stepped on his foot with her high heels.
“I think my big toe’s broken!” Chase screamed, hopping up and down on one foot as he clutched the other.
“You broke my foot?” Cameron exclaimed. “We’re this close to getting our bodies back, and you have to break my foot now?”
“Shut up!” Jack said, to no avail. Sighing, he directed the three of them into a nearby room and while they were distracted, shut the door and ran off. When he got far enough that Chase’s complaints no longer drowned everything else out, he paused to listen for what he’d thought was House’s voice.
“And I mean, look at that paint job. I bet, yep, says right there, ‘Made in China.’ I bet you’re covered in date rape drugs. I’m crippled and I don’t need date rape drugs to get laid. How sad does that make you? I bet you’re full of viruses too. I hope you gave some to Jack Harkness when he tried to get in your pants. Not that you wear any pants, whore.”
Jack contemplated this string of insults and couldn’t come up with a single possibility for the object of House’s scorn. It made no sense, and he could feel his eyebrows trying to crawl up his forehead as his brain worked. One thing was for sure, though: the staff at Princeton-Plainsboro were worse at being discreet than Torchwood, and that was saying something.
“Frank Zappa wouldn’t name his kids after you if you were the only thing left in the world!”
Thing? Then everything clicked, and Jack ran to the intersection to intercept House. “So beating up Gwen isn’t enough; you have to take it out on her radiation scanner as well.”
House looked genuinely surprised to see him. The man must really have been enjoying his tirade not to realize half the hospital could hear him. “It’s not my fault your team’s equipment sucks.”
“That device is one hundred percent Earth manufactured.”
“Probably why it sucks.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Yes, but it also can’t hear you. What are you thinking?” He snatched the scanner away from the doctor and saw a flat line.
“See?” House said. “It’s a masochist.”
Jack pulled his tiny screwdriver out of his pocket and flipped the back panel open. “Tell me, doctor, what do humans do when they’re upset?”
“They yell at people.”
“They also become violent.” Jack gave a few of the wires a good push, and the device began emitting a series of beeps and bloops. “Loose wires. You were shaking it while yelling, thus causing it to work intermittently. I expected more sense from you, House.”
The diagnostician shrugged. “I enjoy yelling. It helps me think. By depriving me of my temporary amusement, you’re putting your colleague’s life at risk.”
“I’ve replaced the scanner with something you’ll hate even more.” Jack flourished his hands. “Me.” To be honest, he expected House to retort with a nasty comment rather than lift up his cane and try to beat him over the temples, but his short time around the doctor had honed his reflexes, and he managed to dodge the attack. While he was ducking, he aimed a punch at House’s stomach and sent the man reeling. Jack straightened, feeling pleased with himself, when House flipped the cane around and hooked his leg as he fell. The two of them went down in a heap, and Jack felt a fist make contact with his jaw.
“Misanthropic bastard,” Jack said, punching him back.
House threw him off, then body-slammed him. The two went rolling into a door, which crashed open, rebounded off the wall, and flew back into Jack’s head. Seeing stars, Jack failed to avoid House’s retaliation. “Overly peppy personal-space invader!”
Jack managed to catch House’s next blow and twist his arm around. He stood, forcing House up as well. The doctor tried to get behind him to free his arm, but Jack threw himself backward, slamming them both against a wall. House did a little hop and brought his full weight down through his elbow onto Jack’s shoulder.
“Argh!” Jack yelled. “I’m going to have to die or see a chiropractor to get that fixed!”
“Should’ve thought of that before messing with umph!” House replied as Jack swung him off into the counter. Containers and cotton swabs went flying as House sprawled against the shelves. Jack leapt at him, but House rolled out of the way, grabbed a bottle of tongue depressors and threw it at him. The sticks exploded everywhere as the jar bounced off Jack’s head and the lid snapped open. He nearly lost his balance and grabbed the closest thing nearby, which turned out to be the handle of a cabinet. The door swung open and slammed into House’s face as he tried to charge him. Then the handle ripped off and they both fell in a heap. The contents of the cabinet spilled down on them, and Jack grabbed the closest box that went bouncing past. It turned out to be a sample of Claritin, but he didn’t really care. Instead, he set about beating House with it as hard as he could.
“Get... off!” House lifted his arms over his face to protect himself from the rain of blows, but he couldn’t get away as Jack was sitting on his good leg. His cane lay abandoned on the other end of the room, so he did the only thing he could. He grabbed the nearest tongue depressor and stuck it up Jack’s nose.
“Ow, ged id oud!” Jack yelled, beating him harder.
They were interrupted by the clicks of safeties coming off three handguns. Jack turned his head to see the doorway crowded with soldiers. “Hi,” he said, waving sheepishly at them. The stick slipped out of his nostril and landed on House’s face. “Ew!” he exclaimed.
“Stand and put your hands up!” the soldier nearest them said. Jack complied, but House barely staggered to his feet before he fell again.
“I’m afraid I need that cane, my good man,” House said.
The soldier hesitated before gesturing at the cane with his gun. “Fine, go get it, but slowly.”
Jack nearly chuckled. House took close to fifteen seconds crossing the room, putting on the most pathetic display Jack had ever seen. It took him another ten seconds to hobble back onto his feet. By then, their captors were tapping their feet. House moved a few steps closer, then smiled. “That’s better,” he said. Half a second later, all three of them were unconscious on the ground, and Jack had to admit he was impressed.
“Those two look like our size. We should take their clothes,” Jack said. “That should spare us a lot of the attention we’ve been receiving.”
House eyed him with suspicion. “You just want to strip them.”
Jack grinned. “Does it matter? I bet you’d look good in a uniform.”
House twirled the cane in warning but let Jack approach the men. Once they changed, they examined themselves in the mirror, and House grumbled that he was too old not to be a commanding officer. Jack decided he vastly preferred the old look from the World Wars. “If I’m going to look like this, I should at least get a UNIT cap,” he muttered to himself. House whacked him in the shin.
When they returned to the scanner, it was still showing an elevated radiation trace. They followed it back into the hall and into a stairwell.
“That’s leading into the morgue,” House said.
“I hate looting dead bodies.”
“It’s not stupid enough to teleport into someone, is it?”
That was a good question, and Jack didn’t know, so he shrugged and replied, “Haven’t been feeling constipated, have you?”
"I hope Gwen is okay," Owen said when he and Foreman had finally run out of horror stories about their bosses.
"I'm sure she's fine. Whatever else House may be, he isn't a murderer." Foreman screwed up his face, like it took real effort just to say those words.
Before Owen could respond, there was a thump from the above that indicated someone was headed down. "Shit!" Owen hissed. "Where can we hide?"
"There!" Foreman dashed over to the opposite wall where all the cadaver lockers were and started pulling them open. "Find an empty one and get in!" He found one just as he said that and climbed awkwardly in. He heard Owen scrambling to climb into his own and he pressed his hands against the sides of the locker and pushed, sliding the drawer closed.
He heard a deafening click. Dread slammed into him like a hammer. He pushed against the walls, trying to open it again, but sure enough, it was locked shut.
"Don't close it all the way!" he yelled, hoping Owen would hear him, but even as he said it he heard Owen's drawer slam shut. "Fuck," he said, with feeling, then hastily shut up when he heard the door open and several pairs of footsteps loudly entering the room.
"There's no one down here, sir," said someone.
"All right, come back up here," said a voice that sounded like it was coming through a walkie-talkie.
"Roger," said the first voice, and then Foreman heard them leaving.
There was a minute of silence, and then Foreman heard Owen cursing vehemently from a nearby locker. He sighed and tried to make himself comfortable.
To Interlude: How Do They Rise Up?
Back to Chapter 7: Part 2
Summary: Six months since the last chapter (eep), Bilis sets out to rescue Wilson in order to woo Gwen, Ianto is held hostage by a woman threatening to cut off his pants, and Foreman and Owen share work horror stories in the morgue. Also, Rhys falls (literally) into Torchwood.