The Ninth Circle
(Part 1 of 2)
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A soft light glowed at the bottom of the ladder, warm and yellow like the emanation of a homely lamp. It seemed out of place to Tosh, who’d pictured some stark research facility lit by fluorescent lights and infrared sensors. That would have been a contrast with the actual manor itself, and she supposed the reality made more sense, but when Tosh was putting her life on the line, she liked the surroundings to acknowledge her effort.
The descent seemed to last forever, and Monty’s panting echoed up to her, growing louder with each rung. Sometimes, when she gripped one of the steel beams, she felt slick drops of blood on it, and her heart ached. Still, he had chosen this path, and one way or another, he would be all right. Unless I have to fight him. Would she be able to shoot if necessary?
She shifted the opening of her bag so that she could see her scanner screen. The LCD display showed seven figures waiting at the base of the ladder, but she saw nothing. There were no shadows and no hint of movement. With about ten meters remaining, Monty paused. Looking down, she saw him motion for her to stay put while he continued down. She gave him a thumbs up, and he continued moving.
Her heart thudded in her ears as he closed the final meter and set foot on solid ground.
“Hi,” Monty said, putting up his uninjured arm in the beginnings of a wave, but then he stopped and looked about confused. Peering about, he went a ways down the tunnel, his footsteps fading away. He returned after a short pause and said, “There’s no one down here.”
“I’m reading at least seven people within two meters of you!”
“I swear, there’s no one here!”
Tosh slid the remaining distance down the ladder, unwilling to take the suspense any longer. The shock of landing caused her legs to fold, and she stumbled, but Monty caught her. She heard a sharp intake of breath as she brushed against his arm, but then she was steady. She looked around, anticipating an attack at any moment, but Monty hadn’t lied; there was no one there.
The hall was carpeted a thick, luxurious navy blue, and faux candelabras lined the walls, complete with flickering bulbs. A florid wallpaper stretched all the way to a distant doorway some hundred meters away, and the abundance of flowers made her dizzy. Her scanner reported several more guards along the way, including two by the door. All of them were invisible.
“Oh my god!” Tosh exclaimed. She glanced down at the scanner again, and sure enough, it now read no one present. “It’s a hallucination!”
At that moment, the world rippled, as though a shockwave passed through, and she was surrounded by the governor’s private security detail. She turned to Monty, but the men closed in and all she could see was a wall of black kevlar. She knew his protests would not be forthcoming, but even so, she waited for him to cry out, “Stop! She’s with me! I’m the governor’s aide! Take your hands off her!”
Sure enough, Monty made no noise.
“Monty, you bastard!” she screamed. She kicked at the men grabbing her, but they forced her to the ground, and she got a mouthful of the carpet. She knew she couldn’t overpower them, but she fought on anyway, kicking and punching and scratching, all the while wailing uncontrollably. “I trusted you! I wanted to believe! I knew better, but I still hate you!” Tears poured down her face, and her mad struggle nearly bought her freedom, but then one of the men slammed his foot into her abdomen and she doubled over, sobbing and choking and shrieking, “I hate you, Monty, I hate you!”
She saw a white cloth come down upon her face like a shroud, and for a moment, she welcomed it, but then she remembered that she was giving in to him, making things easier for the man who’d betrayed her, and she turned her face away, refusing to bring air into her lungs even though she’d wasted her breath in wracking cries. I’ll suffocate before I give in! But a hand grabbed her collar and jerked her up. An open palm sent fire across her cheek, and she gasped in shock. The cloth entered her mouth, and the guard stuffed it in further and further until she was choking. The smell filled her nostrils, and she felt a numbness spread across her face, into her brain and down her neck. Even as she went down, a deep moaning continued to rattle in her throat, terrible enough to give even her captors pause. Well that was fine. She hoped they remembered it. She hoped he remembered it until the day he died.
Darkness closed in, and even then, all she could think about was how it matched the color of his hair, how the strands felt in her hands as she pulled him in for a kiss that seemed a million years ago. She felt a million years old, and if that was a kiss of innocence, then this moment was the doom of old age.
House was perplexed to discover that someone had cleaned up the morgue a little since he was last there. At least, there were no more unconscious men laying about. Jack was surprised by the large dents in one of the walls, and was even more surprised when House informed him they were the result of a combination of Gwen on an adrenaline rush and high-velocity soldier bodies.
Only a couple minutes into their search for the elusive alien device, something started pounding very loudly from inside the cadaver lockers. House dove behind a nearby table, livid with shock. "What did you do," he hissed at Jack, "to bring the dead people back to life?"
"I didn't do anything!" Jack protested. House ignored him because he'd just noticed that there was a person covered by a white sheet, in front of him under the table. The person was breathing in a raspy, labored way. House yelped and scrambled backwards.
"Okay, I'm alright with aliens and all that, whatever, but dead people should stay dead!"
"Hello?" Jack said to the lockers, ignoring House.
"Who's there? Get me out of here!" screamed a muffled voice. Jack's eyebrows shot up.
"Owen?" he guessed.
"Obviously! Is that you, Jack? Get me out of here!"
"Me too!" shouted a second voice, from a locker two over to the right.
"And that's Foreman," House said. "So okay, they probably aren't dead people coming back to life, but what about these people under the tables! They're breathing!"
"Oh, they're still alive. We put them there," said Foreman.
"Right," Jack said. "We'll get you out. Hang on a minute."
"Hurry! It's stuffy in here and it smells," said Owen. Jack pulled on the drawers, but naturally they were locked. He glanced around for a key or at least a lock-picking device of some sort, but before he found one House called him over.
"I think I found it," he said, and pointed up. There the device nonchalantly sat, at the very top of a very tall cabinet. House made to poke at it with his cane, but Jack grabbed it, stopping him.
"What are you doing?" he said, aghast.
"Getting it down. Duh," House said.
"Don't just knock it down! What if something happens?"
"Alright, then you get it down." House stood back, perfectly happy to stay out of everything.
Jack huffed, then grabbed a nearby folding chair and placed it next to the cabinet. It was a little wobbly, but he decided he didn't care.
"What are you guys doing? Hurry up!" shouted Owen impatiently.
"Hold your horses," House snapped back. Jack could just barely reach the top of the cabinet when standing on the chair. His fingers scraped along the top, their tips just barely brushing the smooth surface of the device. He jumped a little, trying to grab it, and missed, knocking the device off the top. At the nearly same time he landed back on the flimsy chair, which gave way beneath him, and House dove forward to catch the falling device.
House landed stomach down on top of the device and Jack landed directly on top of him.
There was an eerily familiar complete silence.
Inside the lockers, Foreman was getting impatient. After a full minute with no more sounds he started pounding again.
"House! House! This had better not be a sick joke! Let us out!" he shouted.
"Foreman!" he heard Owen say from his locker. "I think something must have happened. It sounded like they fell or something."
"Oh god," Foreman moaned. "You know, I thought this day had hit its lower bound, but nope, if there's one thing I'm learning from this it's that things can always get worse."
Strange, Ianto mused. He could treat the fight with Howell exactly like any other fistfight, and all the punches that he landed seemed to hit the alien, yet he knew that its anatomy resembled nothing of a human’s, so how could that possibly work? Did the alien technology account for his actions in the hallucination, or did the hallucination guide his mind toward the right parts of the alien’s body to strike. And if the alien had any degree of control over the hallucination, why would it help Ianto pursue a successful fight?
Of course, given that the violent fistfight was continuing right this instant, Ianto suspected there was something wrong with his mind when he spent more time analyzing the logistics of alien technology than focusing on the battle at hand. Or rather, there was nothing wrong with his mind, but it had entirely the wrong priorities.
On the other hand, Howell had been caught off guard by Ianto’s sudden attack. His eye continued to bleed, though the flow had slowed to a trickle, but the combination of factors led to him falling into a corner where Ianto could thoroughly pummel him with little fear of retaliation. Rebeca might have been in a position to help had Howell not fallen upon her leg when Ianto punched him. As a result, she lay on the floor, and though Ianto doubted she’d even sprained herself, she seemed content to watch the brawl. From the glimpse of her face that he’d gotten, she was too amused to intervene.
The air about them began to fizzle as Howell’s human form began to break up. “Shouldn’t you be... trying to escape?” he wailed at Ianto, his voice rising and falling with the intensity of his disguise.
“That’s a good point,” Ianto said, grabbing hold of his two eye-tentacles and tying them into a knot. “But it’s not like I can’t leave whenever I want.”
Howell’s jaw reared up at him and roared, his rows of teeth almost quaking from the force of his exhalation. “I wouldn’t be so sure!” he rumbled.
Too late, Ianto saw one of his arms had grabbed hold of a grenade-shaped container on the collar around his neck. He tried to pull his hand away, but Howell undid the valve with a snap of his fingers. A mustard-colored gas burst forth with the speed of an explosion and filled the room. Ianto caught the full blast before he could hold his breath, and he staggered back as it filled his lungs. It had an acrid taste, a mix of burnt orange peels and fresh toast, and his skin began to tingle as he collapsed to the ground.
“What’d you do?” he coughed, but Howell had fallen on his back again, twitching and unresponsive. So at least the gas had the same effect on the aliens. Judging by the fact that a thick fog had now spread into the surrounding rooms, he wasn’t in any immediate danger from other people. He just hoped Howell wasn’t crazy enough to commit suicide just to take him out.
Losing his balance, Ianto fell on something soft and found himself face-to-face with Rebeca. She still had a small smile on her face, but her open eyes stared at him without comprehension. He tried to push himself back up, but he could no longer feel his arms. None of his limbs responded to his attempts to move them. A rainbow of colors swept across the room, and the walls began melting. You’ve got to be kidding me, he thought.
“Do you see the wallabies?” Rebeca asked no one in particular. “I didn’t know you could train them to tap-dance.”
When Tosh awoke, she found herself sprawled on a hardwood floor. Searing white lights blazed down at her, and she raised an arm to shield her eyes. She blinked a few times and made out... curtains?
A tremulous ‘A’ started up, echoing through an empty auditorium, growing louder as more strings joined up. She looked to her right to find herself on the edge of a stage. Below her, the pit orchestra continued tuning, and the conductor gave her a reassuring smile.
Where the hell am I? she wondered, rubbing her head.
“The better question might be ‘What did they drug me with?’” a familiar voice told her.
“Monty!” she cried out, stumbling to her feet at the sight of the man walking out from the shadowy recesses of the stage. He was dressed for a ball, complete with a suit Ianto would’ve killed for and a velvet cape the color of the twilight sky. When he moved, the stage lights made the material glimmer as though covered in a million stars. He swept her up in his arms, and she nearly forgot the last few hours.
The brush of satin against her thighs made her look down, and she saw she was wearing a maroon gown. “What did you do to me?” she asked, but the more she thought about the situation, the less it made sense. The only explanation had to be that she was still unconscious and having visions. She remembered the cloying scent of the cloth and realized it hadn’t been chloroform.
“So this is my imagination,” she said.
Monty gazed at her with furrowed brows. “A tad cliché, this, isn’t it?”
The orchestra launched into a four-four beat, and she recognized it as a tango.
“I don’t dance,” she protested.
“Well, I’m not responsible.”
What’s wrong with me? she thought as Monty pressed their bodies tighter together. Maybe the aliens are influencing my dreams. But no, she suspected this was entirely her own mind. Her sick, twisted mind.
“The sequence of steps is slow, slow, quick, quick, slow,” Monty whispered into her ear.
“Don’t worry. It’s tango. I lead, you follow.”
Tosh had to bite her lip to keep from crying. “If that’s the way you like it,” she whispered.
The music crescendoed as they swept across the stage, one, two, three, four, quick, quick, slow. Monty’s every movement was forceful but gentle, and the pressure of his body served to suggest rather than demand where she put her next step. The air swirled about them like gusts of wind as they glided from one foot to the other, and for a while, they moved as one, their actions saying everything words could not.
As they danced, the lights began to fade. Tosh couldn’t spare the concentration to look upward, but shadows flitted at the edge of her vision the way Monty’s cloak billowed when they turned. As Monty spun her, the violins suddenly ceased, leaving only a low chorus of cellos and violas. For the first time, she saw figures of black smoke whirling about them, all paired off and spinning to the same music.
Then she realized the spotlights weren’t turning off; they were shifting to a different couple. Dust danced as cones of light swept over the dancing figures, smoke turning to flesh for the briefest of instances as the beams illuminated them. Tosh thought she recognized the men and women, some her old university mates, others random people she’d seen strolling in the streets. As soon as the light was off them, they turned to ghosts again, but one pair just grew more and more solid until all the stage was dark save for the circle in which they moved.
This was one dance the two Captain Jack Harknesses had never shared; the one from 1941 led while her Jack followed, but as she watched, they parted, and the first one stepped out of the light, disappearing before her eyes. The spotlights parted, leaving the remaining one standing alone, still as a statue while the other figures fluttered past, oblivious to his presence.
The orchestra thundered at her ears. She felt the stage tremble beneath her feet, as though they were giants tearing the world apart in their wake. Wood splintered and beams cracked, but Tosh and Monty had eyes only for each other. Faster and faster they went, shaking dust from the rafters. The violins picked up their parts again, and the room collapsed faster. Curtains tore as invisible moths chewed through them. Rust and rot ate the seats; the ground turned to dust, whirlwinds churning them into funnels that shot up like pillars.
Now, they were the focus of attention again. Brighter and brighter they grew, until halos lit up their skin and the heat from their bodies caused the air to shimmer. Their breaths mingled, and sweat dripped from her brow. Louder and louder the music became, even as entropy took the pit. She wasn’t even sure what the dance was anymore, or whether the finale was anything like the beginning, but it didn’t matter. All she knew was that she had to keep moving or turn to dust as well. Faster, faster, but still more graceful. Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. The music filled her, resonating every cell in her body until she thought she would explode. She wondered if that meant it was their turn to vanish as well, but when the final note struck, it was the destruction that died instead, and the white-hot light turned to black without any intermediate transition.
They stood motionless, still pressed together, chests heaving from the exertion. All around, there was nothing.
...this is your life.
The music and the heat, all the dizzying emotions that had flooded her, began draining away. She couldn’t even see Monty, but that made her feel better. Now, there was nothing standing in their way, nothing to prevent the pure truth from passing between them.
“You betrayed me!” she yelled, punching him in the shoulder.
“What makes you think that?”
“It’s obvious! You took me into a trap back in that secret passageway. You didn’t defend me! You were willing to say anything to obtain my trust! You told me you would die for me, but who decides that after knowing someone for two days? You work for the governor, and I know he’s a traitor! That tow truck--our car had no parking violations, so what were the chances of both of us getting towed at the same time? The aliens arranged it all, didn’t they? ‘Let’s attach a spy to Toshiko, because she’s so desperate she’ll trust anyone who shows an interest in her!’”
“Those are your words, not mine.”
“Fine. If you’re not a traitor, prove it!”
“Then you’re a liar!”
Monty squeezed her close until she couldn’t breathe. “I can’t prove it, not without your full consent. There’s many forms of betrayal. If I’m innocent, then you’ve betrayed me in your heart. And this proof... there’s no turning back. One of us is damned either way.”
“Then so be it!”
Her defiance met a silence that dragged on for close to half a minute. She was about to rage at him again when she realized a wind was blowing against them. Goosebumps sprang up on her skin as an ice cold chill sank into her bones. Her breath turned to fog as a faint gray light cast them into a faded world of snow.
In the distance, a soft thumping, like the beat of a heart, sounded with disturbing regularity. Monty’s face was a grim mask, and she shifted under his gaze. Her heels crackled against ice, and she saw they were standing on a frozen lake. “Oh my god!” She gasped as she saw they were surrounded by human scalps lying in irregular circles upon the surface. “Where are we?”
“The ninth circle of Hell,” Monty replied. “Final resting place for traitors.” There was an aching sadness in his voice, and she felt his fingers dig into the fabric upon her back, trembling and afraid to let her go. With a sinking feeling of dread, she turned to see the giant form of Lucifer towering over them, his ragged wings beating out the frozen winds of his prison.
“You demanded proof,” Monty said. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I had no choice.” He jerked away from her, unable to stay and unwilling to go.
“What proof? Monty!” She stepped forward to take hold of his hand but realized she couldn’t move. Looking down, she saw that her feet were frozen, the ice already as high as her ankles. “Monty, what’s going on!”
“I told you one of us would be damned. There... my proof is there in your doom.”
Tosh grabbed her leg and pulled, but the ice climbed up her skin relentless as a glacier. “Don’t leave me here!”
“You betrayed me, Tosh. You didn’t trust me.”
“I’m sorry!” she screamed. The surface was rising faster now, and her hips became immersed. She started flailing, but when her hands touched the ice, they caught and started sinking as well. “I’m sorry! All the evidence was against you!”
“It’s too late,” Monty said, wringing his hands. “I can’t do anything. I can’t, and...” he ran his hand through his hair, pulling at it until chunks start falling. “Oh my god I can’t do this!”
He dashed forward, taking hold of her arms and pulling as hard as he could. Her gown tore beneath his grip, but she kept sinking lower and lower. The ice was at her chin now, and a shadow fell upon them. She looked up to see a gaping jaw come down upon them. Terrible certainty filled her; she was sure that must be what the aliens looked like. The entire invasion was judgment. She screamed, but Monty didn’t even look up. He just kept tugging at her, refusing to let her go. “I shouldn’t have brought you here. I betrayed you too,” he kept muttering.
“No you didn’t! You didn’t! Get out of here while you still can!”
The creature clamped its teeth around Monty and, with a snap of its neck, sent him flying through the air. His body tumbled about, limp as a rag doll, and disappeared into the faded heights of the cavern. She tried to scream his name, but her jaws were locked, and as her head went under, her eyes remained fixed upon the spot where she last saw him, forever pointing at the proof of her guilt.
Only about half an hour following the incident in the morgue, House woke up. His leg was throbbing and there was something really heavy on his back. Further inspection revealed that to be Jack, still unconscious. House heaved himself up, throwing Jack off. Jack hit his head on the floor with a loud crack! and woke suddenly.
"What!" he shouted. House's raised an eyebrow as he heard in the back of his mind, Ouch, my head! What happened? Oh shit the alien device! He was fairly sure it hadn't been him who thought that. His head was just fine.
Meanwhile Jack had grabbed the smooth, ovular device, which was still sitting innocuously where it had fallen, and pocketed it. Halfway through the motion of standing up, he froze.
"Ohhhh no," he said. House felt a wave of comprehension that he was sure wasn't his own, because he still had no idea what was going on. He used a table as leverage to get himself to his feet.
"What did you do to me, you bastard?" he said to Jack.
Jack stared at him. "Are you, uh, hearing voices? Or something?" he asked. Please say no. I don't want to deal with this, House heard.
"Yeah, because you did something to me! While I was unconscious! You're sick!"
"I didn't do anything to you! I was unconscious too," Jack retorted.
"So why am I hearing a voice in the back of my mind that sounds like you?" House demanded.
"I don't know! I'm hearing you!" They both stiffened.
"Oh hell," they said at the same time.
"It must've been this," Jack said, pulling the alien device back out from his pocket.
"I thought it switched peoples' minds, not linked them," House said. In a way, he wished that had happened, not because he in any way wished to be Jack, or to even be associated with him, but because Jack's body had the obvious advantage of not having a bum leg. A muffled ruckus from the direction of the cadaver lockers briefly registered in his mind, but he dismissed it in the face of infinitely more important matters. He felt the same brief notice and quick dismissal coming from Jack, but he didn't know whose thoughts had triggered whose.
"Well," said Jack, "we don't really know what it does. We only know what it did. Never assume something only has one function."
"So basically, this is just some sort of psychic alien mind-raping device?" How does it work? The nanotechnology must be astounding. Maybe some sort of neuron mutator or converter? Jack was thinking. House deliberately tried to send the thought Shut up and answer his way and was pleased to see it must have worked when Jack glared at him.
"I suppose you could think of it that way," he said. "This sort of technology is way past the limits of my knowledge and experience, but whatever it is has to work by manipulating psychic energy in some way. The number of things it is potentially capable of is infinite."
"Nothing's infinite," House said, instinctively latching onto something he could apply logic to. "Everything has an end. People only use "infinite" when they don't have the brains to imagine something really big."
"I am not arguing with you over something that inane." Jack sighed. You have no idea, House heard. "We have bigger problems to deal with."
"So what are you waiting for?" House said.
A sense of horror House hadn't previously realized he should be feeling crept over him. "You can reverse it, right?" he said.
"Why would I be able to do that? I already said I don't know how it works!" Jack said, frustrated.
"Are you telling me that the mighty, confident leader of a top-secret alien-catching gang is stumped by a two-inch egg with an impish streak?"
The troupe of Riverdancing wallabies made a loud enough racket that Ianto and Rebeca ran no risk of being overheard despite the fact that Howell sat two seats down from them.
“You’re not very upset at being gassed,” Ianto remarked.
“We’re having a new experience, aren’t we? And I’m sure we’re seeing the same thing. Just think, if we could discover the chemical makeup of the gas, how much money a drug like this would make. Communal hallucination: it’s not restricted to people with access to exotic frogs anymore!”
Ianto sighed. “We’re not very well-dressed for the evening. We are going to be here a while, aren’t we?”
Rebeca wrinkled her nose. “When the performers smell like that, I don’t think it’s a black tie event.”
He ignored her and decided to put the limits of his mind to the test. An image of his favorite suit fixed firmly in place, he closed his eyes and concentrated. When he opened them again, his ragtag outfit had been replaced with a brushed and ironed suit with a red shirt and striped tie. “Excellent,” he said.
Rebeca leaned over and ran her finger down his cheek. “I think you’d look better with nothing on.”
For a moment, his clothing flickered worryingly, but then one of the wallabies tripped and fell off the stage onto Rebeca, redirecting her mind to more pressing matters. “I hate glitter!” she squealed, pushing the flailing marsupial away. It hopped away looking disgruntled.
“They do have good form most of the time, though.”
“Yes, they’ve adapted the performance quite well. I wonder which one of us is responsible.”
“You were definitely talking about them when I went out, so I’m blaming you.”
“What would you have preferred, Mr. Bond?”
Ianto shrugged. “I like wallabies, but I pictured a petting zoo. Oops.” As soon as the words left his mouth, he knew both of them would picture a similar setting, and sure enough, the auditorium popped out of existence to be replaced by an expanse of dirt and yellowing grass. The wallabies continued dancing behind a wooden enclosure, stirring up clouds of dust and foul smells.
“YAAAAARGH!” Howell screamed as his seat vanished from under him, plopping him into a large, muddy puddle. Ianto and Rebeca, more prepared for the transition, stood a distance away, leaning against the fence. A lone eye protruded from the muck, its tentacle pointed at them with a baleful bent.
“You know,” Ianto called to him, “if the gas was an attempt to win our fistfight, you’re not doing a good job at following up.” A thought occurred to him, and he eyed his companion to see if she was thinking the same thing. By the curve of her lips, she was.
They looked back in time to see the troupe of wallabies hop out of thin air and begin stomping on the alien. Taking advantage of the distraction, Ianto said, “The aliens promised BRAIN technology to your husband.”
“I don’t know. I’m hoping he dies so his lawyers will hand over all the materials he has locked away.”
“Such a devoted wife.”
“So if Howell could override our fantasies, he would. Since he can’t, I can only assume that his species either lacks the imagination or the brain structure to beat the human mind.” He wasn’t about to go into the details of BRAIN technology if she didn’t already know. However, Tosh had reported that her alien tech caused people to have religious experiences, while the one they tracked through the rift switched Chase and Cameron’s minds. The aliens had a gas that could link minds while in a hallucinatory state. Everything they possessed targeted the mind, which made Ianto doubt his original assumption that BRAIN technology was just a myth. If any species was capable of inventing such machinery, it was the one invading Earth, yet given their lack of innate psionic ability, why would they create a technology that they themselves couldn’t utilize?
Unless they didn’t want to use it themselves. Unless they intended to trick humans into accepting BRAIN technology outfitted with an override. Then humanity would become a weapon, possibly the most dangerous weapon ever made...
Looking at Rebeca, he saw that her mind was beginning to probe the possibilities of their newfound world. If Howell can’t stand up to her, then I’m the only obstacle in her way, he realized. Time to distract her.
“It’s getting a little boring out here, isn’t it?” Punctuated yelps continued to emit from Howell’s direction, along with a series of squelching sounds. While both of them avoided looking at him and the offending wallabies, the mud flying everywhere was becoming a little difficult to ignore.
“What do you propose?”
“How about a treasure hunt?”
After the excitement of the alien encounter and ensuing brawl, it took her a moment to recall their earlier conversation, but when she did, her eyes lit up, and Ianto could tell he was safe for the moment. His victory, however, was short-lived, because he realized that however devious she might be, he knew what to expect from her.
He had no idea what they would find on Shipwreck Island.
Chase’s--that is to say, Cameron’s--foot was fractured. Cuddy guessed that at least three bones were damaged because of her heel; the foot was swollen and turning purple like some hideous balloon animal. She now glared at him as though he had been at fault, but surprisingly enough, Cameron was taking the situation in stride.
“He’ll need a cast,” she informed Cuddy
“Yes, I know.”
“Aren’t you upset at all?” Chase asked.
Cameron shrugged. “I figure the worst of the pain will be gone by the time I get my body back. You’re not allowed morphine, though. I don’t want to deal with a dependence just because you can’t stand a little fracture.”
“Or two,” Cuddy muttered.
“Or three!” Chase yelled back.
“Hush, you’ll attract attention,” Cuddy snapped. “I’m surprised Jack hasn’t complained about us holding him back.” There was a pause. A loaded and--in Chase’s opinion--uncomfortable pause. “Where’s Jack?”
The two women burst out of the room, forgetting all about Chase. “He left us!” Cuddy exclaimed. “After all that talk about being on a team, he left!”
“You’re supposed to be quiet!” Chase hissed, his concern for his life suddenly outweighing concerns about getting fired. Cuddy gave him a considering glance, then nodded and left, saying, “I’ll go get a cast. You stay here in case a soldier decides to check in or Jack comes back.”
Cameron looked ready to protest, her mouth open in an expression that ranged between indignant and confused. Chase wondered whether he looked that vapid when they were doing differentials or if it was just Cameron; he would have to look into that.
He didn’t have long to ponder these questions of personal vanity. As soon as Cameron shut the door, a whirring sound grabbed his attention. Cameron dashed to the window, pulling aside the blinds in time to reveal a helicopter landing in the parking lot where the humvees had cleared out an open space in anticipation of its arrival. A harried-looking man leapt through the door as soon as it opened, nearly losing part of his head to the spinning blades above. This event added little to his composure, but as soldiers surrounded him, Cameron gasped. “That’s the governor!” she exclaimed.
“So he’s showing his true colors at last,” Chase muttered, a little unnecessarily. “Well, this is good. Everyone will be too busy dealing with him to look for us.”
“No, don’t you understand? He’s probably here to make sure the job gets done right. They’re going to sweep the hospital again!”
“Don’t be paranoid.”
The door crashed open and two soldiers stepped into the room, guns raised. Chase yelped and threw himself against Cameron, nearly sending them both through the window. Clutching her tightly, he screamed “Please don’t shoot me!” in as high-pitched a manner as possible. Cameron glared at him before catching on, then redirected the stare to the soldiers.
“I’m taking care of a patient here,” she said, indicating the swollen foot. “She broke her foot when one of your men ran into her, so I’d appreciate if you didn’t make things any worse.” Chase could feel her heart pounding, but from the furious expression on her face, he would never have been able to tell she was nervous.
The soldiers lowered their guns. “Terribly sorry, sir, but we’ve been ordered to search the hospital for suspected terrorists.”
“That’s no excuse for terrorizing my patients! Can’t you at least knock?”
“That’d give away the element of surprise.”
“Oh, er, I suppose.” For a moment, she looked confused. Then she waved a hand at them. “Now get out of here! Shoo!”
The two soldiers exchanged looks and one of them mouthed: “Shoo?” at the other, but they left anyway, which was all that mattered.
A moment of silence followed their departure, during which time there was only the sound of their rapid breathing as adrenaline ran through their systems. Then Chase said, “Why do you have a hard-on?”
Cameron gave him that silly, vapid look again. “I do not!”
“I can feel it! You’re turned on! What the hell could get you aroused in a situation like this?”
“How should I know? It’s your body!”
“It’s your brain!”
“You know, I don’t even want to know why you were paying attention to what was going on down there. You’re the one with problems, if you’re feeling yourself up.”
“I do that all the time!” There was an awkward pause. “I mean--”
“I didn’t need to know that.”
“So either you enjoy being terrorized, or you really like your own body.” Chase leaned harder against her. “So soft and squishy.”
“Squishy?” Cameron’s eyebrow soared upward. Chase suddenly realized he’d made a terrible, terrible mistake.
“AAIEEE!” he screamed as Cameron stomped upon his foot. Writhing in agony, he lashed out in her general direction and knocked her legs out from under her. She fell on top of him, smashing the air out of his lungs. “God you’re heavy!”
“Then. Exercise. More!” she replied, punching him with every word.
Suddenly, they heard the sound of the door opening, and they froze.
“Oh my god,” Cuddy said. “What the hell are you two doing?”
To Chapter 9: Part 2
Back to Interlude: How Do They Rise Up?
Summary: Tosh and Ianto go to Hell, while Jack and House merely go to the morgue. Foreman and Owen are locked in the morgue, but you’ll have to read to find out if the corpse lockers are the new car boot. Also, if Cameron and Chase were animals, what animals would they be? Here’s a hint: not ducklings.