The Ninth Circle
(Part 2 of 2)
In the darkness, Monty needed a few minutes to be sure he was awake and not still dreaming. Wincing as pain shot up his side, he rolled off his back and forced himself into a sitting position, legs crossed on the ground. The room was pitch black, so there wasn’t a hope of discovering where he was without moving around, and he wasn’t sure his body was quite ready for that yet. His arm continued to throb, but the cause of its pain seemed an eternity in the past. Back when I thought she trusted me.
“If I’m not meant to be with you,” he said into the darkness, “then where do I belong?”
He’d heard her screams as they tackled her, though the hallucination had prevented her from hearing his.
“She’s with me! We need to see the governor! I--”
But the guards just turned on him when he tried push his way through. He punched one, sending the man reeling into the wall, but another forced his arm behind his back, sending waves of pain and nausea through his body. As he sank to the ground, a boot caught him between his ribs, and the world went black when his head struck the floor. Through it all, the words “I hate you, Monty! I hate you!” stuck to him like the stain of some ancient, irrevocable sin.
He shut his eyes. It made no difference in what he saw, but he did it for the personal gratification. Focusing on his breathing, he began a slow count, loosening his muscles and trying to settle his mind. It was clear the governor, or the aliens, or both, knew he was a traitor. A pariah wherever I go.
No, he would prove himself to Tosh. He would rescue her, but first he had to get out. Perhaps he could convince Governor that he had been pretending thus far, fulfilling an act to perfection in case it had to be performed again, except his cell was sealed and he doubted anyone could hear him. His throat already dry from the exertions earlier in the evening, he decided to exhaust his other options before yelling himself hoarse.
The wall was cold to the touch, but smooth and dry, like plated metal. As he scooted around the perimeter, he took care where he put his hand, lest some trap of design or material catch him. The first corner he ran into caused a sigh of relief; with the room made in right angles, no one had decided to play with his mind and prevent him from discovering the room’s dimensions.
Unless this is all a trick of the mind.
That sort of thinking would get him nowhere. He wasn’t wanted, so why should anyone expend resources on him? Besides, he realized at the conclusion of his circumnavigation, there was no way out. The room measured about ten by ten feet but contained no doors or breaks in its walls for as high as he could reach. A similar search of the floor yielded the same result.
“It’s a pit,” he whispered. Before he could stop himself, his eyes drifted upward and he thought, I hope there isn’t a pendulum. “No!” he yelled, hitting himself on the forehead. “You read too many horror stories.” And not enough adventure ones with daring escapes.
He resettled himself at the center of the room. If the length or width had been less, he might have been able to push himself to the top using his legs and back, or at least reach the ladder that must be present. That was a fruitless line of thought, though.
He heard a hissing sound. It had started about a minute back, he realized, but he only just noticed it. His nose wrinkled as an acrid smell filled his nostrils. They were pumping in gas! That was hopeful, actually--if they still remembered him, they wouldn’t leave him here to rot.
He almost looked forward to the hallucination. Anything was better than the black. Anything except clowns, anyway.
Birds chirped and the wind rustled branches as he found himself in the middle of a forest. The noon sun punched through the canopy like columns descending from the roof they supported. A yellow rodent-like creature emerged from the nearby shrubbery. Its tail was bent at several sharp angles, like a mangled clothes hanger. Rearing up on its back legs, the creature tilted its head to one side as it examined him with seemingly sentient eyes.
“Are you an alien?” Monty wondered aloud. The creature scratched its head with a paw. “Well, you’re cute, at least. Are you looking for food?” Spotting some acorns hanging from a nearby tree, he headed over, plucked some and laid them on the ground at his feet, hoping its desire for food would outweigh any inhibitions about the stranger offering it.
The animal bounded over, ignoring him completely, picked up one of the acorns and took a nibble. Its ears twitched as it chewed, but then it straightened and nodded in apparent approval.
“You want more?” Monty asked as it wandered past him to the base of the tree. “Here, I can pick more.”
It stood on its rear legs again and bounced up and down. “Pika pika!” it exclaimed.
Out of the clear, bright sky, one lone thundercloud pulled together just long enough to send a jagged, blinding bolt of lightning down upon the tree. A loud crack accompanied the splitting of the trunk, and burning leaves exploded in every direction. A thousand acorns rained to the ground, sizzling, each one cracked and smoldering. Monty stood frozen, hand still outstretched just an inch from the now charred and burning plant. The air smelled of pie.
“Great,” he said. “Just great.”
Shipwreck Island was an overgrown mess. This was, of course, assuming it had any trace of civilization upon it in the first place, because if it had, no shred of evidence remained to prove the claim. Years of tides swept away at the beach until the jungle was almost at the waterline, and rotting pieces of wood littered what sand remained. The driftwood might have been remnants of ships, but there was little evidence either way.
“How lovely,” Rebeca cooed.
“Be careful of the poisonous snakes.” He kicked aside a piece of wood to reveal a hissing, multi-hued viper.
Rebeca barely gave it a second glance. “This is a dream. How can it harm me?”
“Pays to be careful.”
An echoing shriek announced some predator acquiring its noon meal. A flock of birds fluttered out of the canopy, cawing in reprimand, and as Ianto turned his gaze to follow their flight, he noticed a twisting line of grey rising over the horizon, like a thread dangling from heaven, swaying in the wind. “Over there,” he said, thinking how nice it would be if they didn’t have to walk.
In a blink, they were surrounded by thickset trees and hanging vines. Before them stood a hut some two square meters large, composed of splintered branches and molding canvas. And in the middle, sprawled upon a gleaming red and orange plastic lawn chair, was the dirtiest human being Ianto had ever seen, and that included Jack after a night of chasing weevils through the sewers. A mass of dreadlocks extended from where his head lay like a nest of snakes, and a tricorne was tilted over his eyes, serving to mask his face as well. The smoke Ianto had seen emitted from a pipe the length of the man’s forearm, and the tobacco smoke was both pungent and choking, of a sort Ianto had never smelled before.
Their coughing was what alerted the pirate to their presence, but he made no move to defend himself. Rather, he removed the pipe from his mouth and hid it under the chair, then continued to lie where he was.
“Are you expecting us?” Ianto asked tentatively.
The man leapt out of the chair and staggered a few steps to his left before finding his feet. A tree branch swept his hat off his head, but he ignored that development, choosing to stare at Ianto with bleary, blood-shot eyes.
“Jones!” he declared. “Ianto Jones.” He rolled his eyes. “Of course it’d be you. It’s always you, with your suit and your sarcasm. Never anyone interesting. Go fetch my trigger-happy doppelganger.” He waved a hand in a carelessly dismissive fashion.
“Captain Jack!” the man said, stumbling forward and catching himself against Ianto’s shoulders. His breath smelled like he’d eaten something that’d been dead for days and flavored with garlic. Lot of garlic. Along with some really bad eggs. “Captain Jack! It’s Captain Jack!”
“Where?” Ianto grabbed onto the excuse to turn away from the man’s pungent mouth and saw Rebeca looking around frantically.
“No, no. It’s me!”
“What do you mean here?”
“No, I mean it’s me!”
“Who are you?”
Something clicked in his mind--the tardiness of the development he blamed on being gassed--and Ianto said, “Oh.”
“‘Oh’ what?” Rebeca snapped.
“This man is Captain Jack. Or, also named Captain Jack, I presume.”
“Yes, yes,” Jack nodded, and with his great mass of hair, resembled nothing so much as a bobble-head doll. “Exactly—” He froze, and his eyes widened. “You don’t know me.”
“I think I would definitely remember if we’ve met,” Ianto replied, choosing his words carefully.
“Ah. Crossing of timelines and buggery like that. Well, no wonder you look so stunned. Allow me to introduce myself.” He paused, then with elaborate flourishes of the hand, he bowed and said, “Captain Jack Sparrow, proud owner of the Black Pearl and last Pirate Lord of the Caribbean." He paused, then continued as if it pained him to do so. "Except for Elizabeth, of course, but she doesn’t count.”
“Timelines,” Ianto mused. “So you’re not the Doctor?”
“Of course I’m not the Doctor,” Jack Sparrow replied, swatting his hand back and forth to bat away the suggestion. “I’m much better looking than the Doctor. Any of his regenerations.”
“But you’ve met the Doctor?” Rebeca said, drawing closer. Ianto took the opportunity to redirect Jack’s attention to her and get some fresh air.
“Yes, yes, but who cares about him, aye?”
“How do you know the Doctor?” Ianto asked Rebeca.
“Oh don’t be silly, Jones. Aside from Torchwood, he must be the worst-kept secret ever. But I’ve never met him, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Tell me, then,” Jack said, leering at her breasts, “what brings you two here if you’ve never met me?”
“There was a coded message in a magazine article.”
“Aha! So it did work. Sort of. Well, not really, since I’ve never met you and Jones is absolutely ignorant. But it still worked! I am to be congratulated.”
“You left a message for Jack?” Ianto asked.
“For any of you, really, but I was rather hoping to get Jack. Or Toshiko--she has nice legs--or Owen, it’s fun annoying him.”
Jack staggered back over to Ianto and winked. “Plus I think he fancies me.”
“God, you’re just like Jack.”
“I am Jack, and you’d do well to remember it! Oh, you mean Harkness. Well, in that case, you should know I have a much bigger--”
“Okay!" Ianto shouted, drowning out the rest of that sentence. "So we meet in your past, but my future. I assume, since you know about timelines and all that, you’re not allowed to tell me anything.” Ianto wondered why this kept happening to him. First Susan, now Jack. Given his luck, he’d next be accosted by something even stupider, like video game characters or something. Mario was probably just around the next corner.
“Let’s see if I can remember this properly. Because, from your reaction when you met me, again, when you will meet me and already have, but not yet, I do tell you something now. Though I didn’t know that then, or won’t know it. But I guess I’ll find out. Now. Hmm, so what should I tell you that I’ve already told but haven’t yet? Ah! We meet again, or did meet, or--”
“Jack, please choose a tense and stick with it.”
“We have met some hundred years ago, when I have been crewing a ship that has been—”
“Not that tense. And how many hundred years ago?”
“I don’t know, do I? Do I look like I’m keeping track? Do you see a collection of logs somewhere with little knife marks all over them?”
“Fine, go on.”
“We went on a treasure hunt in the Americas. Somewhere.”
“You’re very helpful.”
“So I am given to understand. There was a map, you see, but very strange, so trying to translate it into modern day analogues would be difficult at best. Nevertheless, it was a great adventure. Not so much for you, but the rest of us enjoyed it fine.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I can’t tell you that.”
“Hold on!” Jack exclaimed. “Be quiet!” Even though Ianto didn’t say anything, Jack clasped a hand over his mouth. He winced, as he felt something wriggle against his face. “Something’s coming! But what? Nothing’s supposed to be here.”
Ianto wrenched Jack’s hand away and whispered, “Then how are you here?”
Jack motioned at his pipe. “Good stuff. But if you haven’t met me, you wouldn’t know about it. So that would mean you’re here because... oh bugger.”
With a pop, Howell appeared in the tree above them, hovering like some monstrous balloon before gravity took effect, snapped the branches he stood on, and sent him tumbling onto the ground.
“You came with that thing?” Jack looked disgusted. “You know, Jones, you’re a lot of things, but I never knew you were stupid.”
“It’s not my fault. He--”
“Quiet!” Howell rasped. “The time for your human dominance is over! You are all my slaves!”
“I think not,” Jack turned and walked back toward his hut. “Goodbye.” He gave a cheery wave over his shoulder.
“You’re not leaving me here!” Ianto said.
“I’m sure you’ll survive,” Jack replied, an insufferable smirk on his face. He vanished from the dream.
Ianto returned his attention to the approaching alien. “So slaves?”
“Yessss!” he hissed.
“But we’re still in the hallucation. There’s nothing you can do.”
“On the contrary, Mr. Jones. Hallucination or not, some things stay the same.”
“Like the effectsss of gassssss!” Howell lifted a tentacle wrapped around a familiar-looking container. Ianto groaned as it struck the ground and began emitting dirty yellow fumes.
“You’re kidding,” he said as he heard Rebeca begin coughing. Howell just gave him the mirror image of Captain Jack’s smirk as everything went dark again.
A soft rapping on the door announced Cuddy’s return. Wilson looked up, expecting to see House and Jack storming in, yelling at each other, but instead, there was only Cuddy, followed by Chase and Cameron, the former in a cast and crutches and the latter looking flushed and embarrassed.
“Jack ran off without us after Chase broke his foot,” Cuddy said.
“Did you see the helicopter?” Tracy asked.
Cuddy nodded. “We should get Gwen out of here. We could move to the exam room Chase and Cameron were in. They said soldiers checked there but didn’t recognize them; we can’t hope for good luck like that again, but that should buy us time.”
“How will House and Jack find us?” Wilson asked.
“I was hoping Gwen had another tracker that we could use to pick up the signal on House.”
Tracy went to check, but before she reached her, Streed charged into the room. “Aha! I found you! Hearing of the strange events surrounding the escape of Dr. James Wilson, I used my trusty alien device to analyze the residual space-time disturbance in the area to track the location that he and his rescuer teleported to, and as a result, I was able to find you, and now the credit shall be mine! All mine!”
Cameron nodded. “Then I take it you didn’t bring any soldiers with you?”
“Good.” Cameron picked up a stool and brought it down upon his head. The governor collapsed in a heap. “That was easy.”
Tracy extracted a device almost identical to the one Jack had used to track House, except it was slightly smaller. “I guess size does matter,” she commented. Switching it on, she showed the display to Cuddy, remarking, “He’s in the morgue.”
Bilis held a hand up. “Perhaps we should relocate Ms. Cooper. If that hooligan tracked us down, then others may as well.”
“That’s a good point.” Chase said. “We could yip yip yip!”
Wilson poked a finger into his ear and twisted it about. I’d better not be going crazy again, he thought, but Cuddy was eyeing Chase strangely as well. This was moments before he fell to the ground and started chewing on Cameron’s shoe.
“Ew!” she exclaimed. “What are you--”
“The governor!” Tracy screamed. Standing in the doorway, Streed had apparently recovered from Cameron’s blow extremely quickly and was now aiming a spiral-shaped silver device at them.
“Now that’s kind of unnecessary, isn’t it?” Wilson said, his voice trembling a little as he found the object pointed at him. “What, uh, what does that do?”
“It makes you believe you’re an animal,” Streed said, his voice dripping with delight. “An animal that suits your personality.”
“So Chase is a small, annoying dog?” Cameron said, trying to repel his advance with her foot. It didn’t work very well, as he just bit down and started shaking it back and forth.
“Bark! Bark!” He protested when Cameron shook him off.
She sighed. “Of course.” Giving Streed’s hand a pointed look, she winked at Wilson.
“No, I’m not distracting him!” he replied. Oops. Streed’s aim whipped over to Cameron and he eyed her with a manic look.
“Think you’ll jump me while I’m not paying attention? You’re not going to pull the same trick on old Streed twice, missy!”
Cameron gave Wilson a death glare as the device whirred, its spirals spinning like some cheap hypnotist’s toy, and she suddenly crouched down, put her hands out in front of herself, and started hopping. Wilson barely had time to take this development in before Cuddy and Tracy lunged for the governor. The man turned on them and let out a little scream, as though he hadn’t anticipated any resistance. In his rush, his aim went wide and went between them.
“Hiss,” went Bilis, his tongue flicking in and out of his mouth as he glided forward bizarrely, for all intents and purposes looking exactly like the snake he was apparently supposed to be. Wilson just shut his eyes and hoped everything would go away. Naturally, this meant that two seconds later, he was knocked flat on the ground as the struggling threesome crashed into him.
He winced as the device, still spinning, went over his head. A sharp tug told him it didn’t quite make it past and was now reeling his caught hair tighter and tighter into its grip. He waved his arms about, beating at whoever was nearest, hoping this would somehow ease the situation. Instead, there was a sharp cry and a thud as a body hit the floor. All sounds of struggle ceased, though the device continued winding its way into his hair.
“Was that the governor? Please tell me the governor’s knocked out.” He got no answer. He felt a sharp tug, followed by the sounds of snip snip, and a cloud of brown strands rained down from above.
“Got it!” Tracy announced, stepping aside to reveal the alien device in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. Wilson looked over further to see Bilis crouched in a corner, entranced and terrified by Cuddy, who was on all fours and staring him further against the wall.
“Uh, what’s going on?” Wilson asked.
“Well, she got hit,” Streed replied, stroking his chin as he surveyed the scene. “And then... really, what sort of animal is that supposed to be?”
Tracy joined them. “A bigger snake?”
“A tiger,” Streed said. “She looks like she would be a tiger. Big and strong and virile.”
Wilson started choking on nothing in particular. Bilis chose that moment to flee, flopping onto the ground and rolling to the other end of the room. Cuddy bounded after him, complicating their guesswork by making no identifiable sounds. Chase was doing an admirable job of filling that void, however, as he continued to bark and woof and howl his way around the room until he caught sight of Cameron, still hopping around, and tackled her. Cameron kicked him directly in the abdomen, and he collapsed into a whimpering heap.
“I’ve got it!” Tracy exclaimed. “She must be a mongoose!”
“That’s clever.” Streed nodded. “Why, I think you’ve got it. But why would she be a mongoose?”
They both turned to Wilson, as though he would have an answer. He was spared the necessity of answering, however, as he realized that, given Streed’s intentions before he was distracted, it was much more productive to knock him out than reply. So Wilson punched him.
The governor slid halfway across the room as Wilson leapt aside and yelled, “Fire the thing! Fire it!”
Tracy took aim, but Streed grabbed a fallen tray and brought it up over his face as she fired. Wilson was still hoping the device would work through metal when Tracy dropped it and started bounding around the room, pausing every once in a while to perform a pirouette.
“Look at me! I’m a gazelle! I’m a pretty, tasty gazelle! Wheee!”
“Gazelles can't speak, you idiot!” Streed yelled.
“Well, I don’t think it really works quite the way you explained,” Wilson said, picking up the alien artifact. Streed raised the tray again, but Wilson just strode over and kicked it aside. The metal must have reflected whatever it was the alien object did, but that wouldn’t be a problem now. “See you later.” Wilson grinned and pulled the trigger. Mentally, he made a note to himself to check out some nearby gun ranges.
Streed just lay on the ground. Wilson had been prepared for many reactions, but not this. As he watched, though, Streed’s eyes narrowed, and he let out a great snort. His expression did not suggest vindictiveness. Rather, it seemed Streed considered Wilson below him and was merely considering whether to rid himself of a nuisance or not.
“Oh great. So what are you supposed to be?”
Streed huffed. “A rhino.”
Wilson had no time for a scream before Streed knocked the breath out of him, sending him flying through the doors and down the hall. He was scrambling back onto his feet when Streed charged at him, covering the distance in almost no time at all. He knew he had no chance of getting out of the way before Streed reached him, so he thrust his hands forward, hoping against hope that would be enough, and shut his eyes. There was a crunch, like sheet metal ripping.
Tentatively, he opened his eyes again and saw Streed had attempted to bite him, perhaps realizing he had no horn with which to attack. His jaw had closed around the alien artifact, however, which now lay in splintered pieces upon the floor and in his mouth.
“Oh, that’s got to hurt,” Wilson commented. Streed’s face held a mixture of agony and confusion as his mouth dropped open, allowing silver slivers to fall like snowflakes. As though in a cartoon, several of his front teeth followed suit. The governor fainted.
The next moment, Wilson was on the floor, as Tracy tackled him. She smiled as he asked, “You’re not still a gazelle, are you?”
“Nope,” she replied. She stood, helping him up, and he saw Cuddy, Bilis and Cameron standing over Streed’s prone figure.
“Breaking the device must have reversed its effects,” Bilis noted. “Which is excellent, because that means this silly man will feel his pain fully.”
“Where’s Chase?” Wilson asked.
“Still suffering,” Cameron replied. “I know that’s my body in there and all, but honestly, he had it coming.”
“Well, you must admit,” Rebeca said, once they’d regained their senses-- if managing to wake up in a hallucination within a hallucination could be called regaining one’s senses at all--“That was pretty clever. He used what he had.”
“It’s called being a one-trick pony,” Ianto replied, rubbing his head.
“I think it’s clever enough.” Rebeca sidled closer, and as came within arms-reach, she raised her hands and brought them down toward Ianto as a club materialized in her grip.
Ianto threw himself to the side and drew his gun. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’ve been thinking. What happens when we wake up? It’s kind of risky for Howell, isn’t it, if either of us wake before him. Yet if it’s just random, why would he keep coming after us?”
“So what do you think is going on?”
“I think there’s a way to speed up our return to reality. Or my return, anyway.”
“By knocking me out with a club?”
“By knocking both of you out, my dear. Quite frankly, the hallucinations are a struggle for dominance between our respective minds, linked by a psychic field generated by the gas, or the aliens, or something.”
“So whoever is the last one standing defeats the others and wakes up first?”
“Very good. You might as well put that gun down, however, because I doubt you’re willing to kill me.”
“Why not? You’re a traitor.”
“Exactly. And I might yet betray the aliens as well. Whereas if you kill me, you’re assured of Howell’s full and devoted attention toward your capture once he wakes. Do you really think you’ll get out of Drumthwacket without me?”
Ianto nodded. “You make a decent point.” Rebeca advanced like a cat eyeing a mouse. He ignored her and instead concentrated on a space about two meters above her. “But," he amended, "I hardly trust you to knock me out.”
“So what are you going to do about it?”
Ianto pointed a finger upward. She had about a second to register the ACME-labeled anvil falling from the sky before it hammered her into a crater in the ground. The rumbling from the impact continued as Ianto approached the edge of the hole and considered whether his imagination had taken things a little too far. The impact had turned into a bottomless pit as the safe and Rebeca continued to tunnel deeper into the crust.
“That’s not good,” he said, though at this point, he had to admit he wasn’t exceptionally concerned about Rebeca’s survival. He did not expect Howell to charge him from behind, however, and with an echoing howl, the two of them plunged into the tunnel, down and down and down...
There was no sense of time as they descended, but it seemed mere seconds before they struck ground. The land and air was bitterly cold; when Ianto noticed the cracks from their impact, he realized he was lying on ice.
Darkness pressed heavy upon him, shrouding his surroundings in mystery, but the distant thud of a heartbeat made him colder than any change of the temperature. He felt his body growing numb and knew he had to stand before the chill seeped into him further. He rubbed his hands together before attempting to push himself up, even though every muscle in his body protested movement.
When he redirected his attention to the ice, he screamed. A face stared up at him from beneath the surface, contorted in a permanent expression of shock and sorrow. He threw himself away from the sight, scrabbling backward on hands and feet, heart pounding as he tried to process the information. Was it just a vision, or was yet someone else in the hallucination as well? Catching his breath, he forced himself to approach the apparition again, and this time, with mind clear, he realized it was someone he recognized.
“No,” he whispered, realizing what this meant. So much for his mission here. It was Toshiko buried under the ice. She had not escaped from Drumthwacket, and now... was she even alive? Or was this the fate of those who could not escape the gas.
Even as he thought, however, a warmth filled his body, and now he realized the ice was melting wherever he put his hands. Hearted by this discovery, he pressed harder against the surface, and the rock-hard surface collapsed into slurry. He reached in further and further until he got a firm grip on her shoulders, and when he touched her flesh, it was still warm.
“Toshiko!” he said. “Wake up! Tosh, it’s me!” He pulled, and she slid free from her frozen tomb.
As soon as she was free, she began moving. Eyelids fluttering, she frowned at him, “Ianto? What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be here! You can’t stay! Hurry, go!”
“Calm down, Tosh. Where are we? Where do you think this is?”
A single tear fell from her eye and shattered into ice crystals as it hit the ground. “Hell, Ianto. We’re in hell.” And she pointed. As though the revelation illuminated everything, the heartbeats grew louder, and the distant darkness resolved itself into the form a winged monstrosity struggling to break free from the ice.
He began to feel the creeping cold again and looked down to see the ice crawling up Toshiko’s body, like some slime monster trying to engulf her. And from her, it began spreading on Ianto too.
“No, Tosh, look at me! This isn’t real. This is a hallucination. The aliens gassed you, and they got me too. We’re in a shared vision, but none of this is real. Whatever you think to be true will become true. As long as you don’t believe in this, it’ll be all right. It’s all fake!”
“It’s fake?” Tosh still looked confused, but the ice had stopped its steady advance. “I think I remember. I was in a tunnel, and Monty. Oh my god, Ianto, watch out!” Tosh threw herself against him, forcing him to the ground just as a club swung through the air above them. Ianto lashed out, slamming the base of his gun against Rebeca’s shin, and she collapsed.
“Found another future acquaintance, Jones?” Rebeca sneered.
“You know where we are, Rebeca?” Ianto said. “The ninth circle of hell. Reserved for traitors.”
“Oh, how poetic. But I kind of guessed that from the frozen bodies and the giant bat over there.” Rebeca staggered upright, and Ianto helped Tosh into a standing position. None of them made a move for the fallen club, but then, they could all summon another one up at a moment’s notice. “But you know what? This is a hallucination. Treachery is in the eye of the beholder, and to my eye, I haven’t done anything wrong.” She smiled. “But what about you? Have you any skeletons in your closet?”
Thudding footsteps began from behind Rebeca, and he heard the squeal of hydraulics even as he realized what was coming. The dull gleam of metal armor was the first glimpse he got of Lisa as she emerged from the darkness, and his entire body went cold.
“No, no,” he said, but he couldn’t even shake his head. His feet were rooted to the ground, and he felt himself sinking.
“Look away, Ianto,” he heard Tosh say. “Come on, you can do this. It’s not real, remember? You told me it wasn’t real!” Her voice grew more urgent, but it was also fading away. It was cold, and Lisa stood before him, eyes filled with disappointment. It was over. He thought he’d gotten over the memories, thought he was able to deal with it, but no. And now he’d failed Tosh too...
Wham! Brilliant white light dazzled his vision, and when it vanished, so had Lisa. Blinking, he glanced over and saw Tosh standing over Rebeca’s body, a bent crowbar in hand.
“That was satisfying,” Tosh remarked.
“All right, this is good,” Ianto said. “Now we have to knock out Howell, and we should be able to wake up.”
A grenade bounced across the frozen landscape and landed at their feet. “Run!” Ianto yelled, grabbing Tosh’s arm and following his own advice. The sudden movement caused Tosh to drop the crowbar, but its purpose had been served. The hissing yellow gas pursued them as they slid along the terrain, and behind them, Howell’s screams of rage drew closer and closer. Gas canisters littered the ground as he threw one after another at them, and they dodged each one as though they were falling bombs.
The chase dragged on, and the two of them grew breathless. No matter what they wanted to believe, Ianto knew they couldn’t run much further. Finally, he stopped, and Tosh fell against him, breathing raggedly and unable to utter any protest to his abrupt halt. Ianto faced the darkness, hoping he appeared more confident than he felt, until Howell’s slithering form drew into view.
“Howell!” he yelled. The alien paused, though it slid for a few more seconds before reaching a full stop. One tentacle was poised over the trigger of another canister, but he looked ready to humor whatever Ianto wanted to say. “You’re a traitor, you know that?”
“A traitor?” Howell laughed. “What sort of tactic is this?” The tentacle drew closer to the release. “You think I’ll be distracted by your talk while you drop an anvil on me as well?”
“No, no mind contests, I promise. And believe me, breaking your word has serious consequences here.”
“Traitor’s circle. I know this part of your mythology.” The tentacle backed off the pin a little but still lingered far too close. At this range, Ianto knew he would not be able to escape the gas if Howell decided to throw the canister.
“Well, your panic attack with the gas gave you away, didn’t it?” Ianto said, his mind rushing ahead, checking and doublechecking the points he wanted to make. There was no room for error here. “All of your alien tech revolves around mind control. Yet, now that we’re here, you’ve given the game away. Humans have a superior imagination, and thus we could utilize the technology far better than your race ever could. So why would your race ever work so hard at developing something you can’t use yourselves? There can only be one answer: you intend to have humanity serve you. You want to develop BRAIN technology and use the human mind as a weapon. And in that is your weakness, because if the wrong human gets his or her hands on the technology, there’s nothing you can do to save your mission from defeat. So in a moment of fright, you betrayed everything your race has worked so hard to conceal, and now you’re in a contest of wills in an environment that works heavily to your disadvantage. How’s that for treachery? Accidental, yes, but if motive was everything, so many more would be innocent, isn’t that right?”
Howell quivered, but Ianto knew the words had struck home. “No,” the alien protested. “But I haven’t lost yet! And now, I shall gas you, and I will win!”
Ianto grinned. “Too late.” Behind him, he could feel the weighted presence of the monster that dominated the circle, for all the time they’d been running, they’d be running toward the center.
A bone-rattling roar shook the cavern as Howell reached to unleash the gas. Its force caused him to drop the canister before he could succeed, and then teeth closed upon him as Satan swept him into one of his jaws and swallowed him whole for the traitor that he was.
Immediately, the cavern began wavering, dissipating like smoke. His hand tightened on Tosh’s, but she put a hand on his arm. “I’m waking, Ianto, I can feel it. I’ll see you soon, okay?”
And then she was gone. Everything was gone, and he was floating in darkness, but without any sensation at all, he knew he was rising. Up and up he went, and in time, the pitch black began brightening. Waves of gray swept past him, and then a white light bathed everything.
He woke to the sound of ringing alarms and Britney Spears. A muddy haze still hung in the air, but Ianto knew he had little to fear. Most of it clustered over the forms of Howell and Rebeca, both of whom showed signs of waking as well. He figured his won victory had bought maybe minutes at best, but that was enough. He grabbed Rebeca’s scissors and advanced on Howell, but a blinking light on Jack’s wristband told him its sonic effects were draining the batteries. Shouts announced the return of the guards, and he knew he wouldn’t have time to kill Howell before he was caught. Cursing, he tucked the scissors into his pocket and ran.
"I don't want you hearing my thoughts! That's an invasion of my privacy!" House shouted, alarmed at the idea that there was no immediate way to reverse his apparent mind link with Jack. "Even worse, I don't want to have to keep hearing your thoughts!"
"I don't want you hearing my thoughts either," Jack said, "but seeing as we're sort of stuck with it, you should know it is possible to limit what gets through. Obviously we're not hearing everything, just surface thoughts, and not even all of those."
"Alright. So, explain."
"Umm... well, it's sort of the same thing as consciously sending thoughts, except the opposite."
"If it's the opposite, it can't be the same," House quipped. Jack ignored him.
"The theory is the same. If you consciously try to block me from your thoughts, I probably won't hear them. At least, not as much; I don't know how powerful this thing is." House eyed him warily but for once shut up and did as he was told. After a minute, Jack made an excited noise.
"There! It stopped! Before I was hearing an almost constant stream of thoughts from you, though most were very vague, but now I'm getting nothing!"
"I haven't been getting anything constant from you!" House said, annoyed. "Just little blips."
"Right, that's because of my training," Jack explained. "I kind of unconsciously block things like that. Since some is still getting through to you, I can assume that the same will happen with me even if you're blocking."
"This is more than just inconvenient," House gripped. "I can't be constantly concentrating on keeping you out of my head. Or keeping me out of your head. Whatever."
"Settle down. It probably won't be that hard. If you imagine a mental image of a wall or something, that's easier to maintain than an abstract block. It doesn't take as much effort as you think."
House was interrupted from being extremely peeved at the universe and taking it out suddenly and violently on Jack by a sudden BANG!. He and Jack both whirled around to face the cadaver lockers, where the sound had come from, and belatedly realized that similar sounds had been in the background of their whole conversation.
"Owen and Foreman!" Jack remembered.
"Ugh, who cares? What kind of idiot is stupid enough to get locked in a dead person drawer, anyway?" House said. Jack rolled his eyes and went over to the lockers.
"Where are the keys for these things?" he asked. House retrieved a single key from next to a sink and tossed it at him.
"One size fits all," he said. "Now that we've got this stupid, useless alien thing, can we get out of here?"
"Just hold on a minute." Jack twisted the key in one of the locks and pulled the drawer open. Owen practically surged out, jumping to the floor and immediately moving into a full-body stretch.
"Jesus, can it get any worse than this? I get out of one tightly confined space and less than an hour later I'm trapped in another! Not sure which one was worse, really." He stopped babbling and glared at them. "Took you guys long enough. What the hell?"
"I think," said House dryly, "we had more important things to deal with." Jack finished opening the other locker and Foreman got out of it at a slightly more sedate pace than, though he looked no less peeved that rescue had taken so long.
"What could possibly be more important than getting two people out of a couple of dead person lockers in which they are stuck?" Owen asked, incredulous.
"Now's really not the time," Jack cut in hurriedly. "I've got to get this thing somewhere I can examine it properly." He pulled the alien device out of his pocket and showed it to Owen briefly. "Recognize it?"
Owen frowned. "Nope. Nothing like anything I've ever seen, though if you don't know what it is I wouldn't expect that I'd know."
"Why should I care about what strange antics you and Foreman are getting up to? You're not my children, I have no responsibility for you," House cut in, a little belatedly. Foreman rolled his eyes.
"I don't even know what to say to that," muttered Owen.
Jack shrugged. "Let's go."
They hadn't even made it two steps before a noise at the top of the stairs alerted them to the presence of another person. "Shit!" Jack hissed, and motioned for everyone to hide. He ducked behind a nearby table, but no one else moved. House raised an eyebrow at him.
"Nuh uh," said Owen. "This place is hazardous. I'm staying right here, in the open." Foreman nodded in reluctant agreement while Jack slapped his forehead. At about the same time, a tall, thin man with an abnormally long neck strolled through the door as if he were on a walk in the park.
"Oh, splendid!" he said. "I do believe you are Doctor House, and you must be Doctor Foreman. We've been looking for you for quite some time, you know. And if I'm not mistaken, you two are, ah, Captain Jack Harkness and Owen Harper. Wonderful!"
"I'm a doctor too," Owen griped.
"Who the hell are you?" House snapped. Jack had pulled out a gun and had it trained on the man, who didn't seem to take notice of it.
"I am Colonel Pistachio Smythe. I am under orders to retrieve all of you, so come with me, if you would," he replied.
"I don't think so," said Foreman.
"How did you find us so quickly?" Jack asked. He held the gun steady, ready to shoot at the slightest sign of hostile action.
"Simple!" Colonel Smythe grinned. "Well, not so simple, I suppose, although the application is. Have you ever heard of BRAIN technology, Captain?"
"Hell," Jack said.
"Is that like implanting human brains into robots to create a massive and indestructible army?" asked House.
"That actually happened, you know," Owen said conversationally.
"You're kidding. That's like Typical Science Fiction Plot Version 1.0."
"No, it's not like that," Jack interrupted. Smythe shrugged.
"Please follow me," he said. He started towards the door, then abruptly spun around again, smiling in an unnervingly pleasant way. "I almost forgot! Before we head upstairs, Captain, would you be so kind as to hand me that little trinket in your pocket?"
House stiffened, suddenly alarmed. Jack's eyes narrowed, but he otherwise showed no outward reaction.
"What?" asked Foreman.
"I'm afraid," said Jack calmly, "that I have no idea what you're talking about." Don't say anything, echoed Jack's voice in House's mind.
"Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie," he said, just to be contrary. Jack rolled his eyes and Smythe's flickered over to him for an instant before returning to the captain without comment. I don't know why I bother, House heard.
"Don't make me do this the hard way, Captain," said Smythe. "I'd really rather avoid that if at all possible."
"Is that an invitation?" Jack said.
"I'd hoped it was more of a warning."
"Well sorry, but you're bang out of luck."
Smythe sighed. "I'm really not a violent man by nature, Captain. I'd hoped it wouldn't come to this." Without any further warning he surged forward, slamming into Jack and sending them both crashing into the table behind them and then onto the floor when the table rolled backwards. They were struggling for the device, Smythe trying to remove it from Jack's pocket and Jack doing everything he could to prevent him. House leapt back a little belatedly, while Owen darted forward and grabbed the back of Smythe's jacket in an attempt to pull him off Jack, unsuccessfully, and ended up being knocked onto his rear end.
Foreman took several steps away from the brawling men. "Oh no, I am not getting involved in this," he said.
At roughly the same time, Jack wrestled the device out of his pocket and out of Smythe's immediate reach, and threw it at Foreman. "Catch!" he shouted. Caught off guard, Foreman fumbled with it for a second before dropping it right on Owen's head.
"Ou--" Owen got out before there was a flash of silence.
When sound returned, Jack was making a despairing sound, House slapped his forehead, and Owen and Foreman were both looking very dazed. Smythe made a grab for the device where it had landed on the floor. Jack swiped at it and missed, and House deftly smacked the colonel over the head with his cane, but aside from a grimace it didn't seem to affect him. He pocketed it and quickly retreated, running back up the stairs and looking like he was trying very hard not to clutch his head in pain.
"What now?" House shouted at Jack. "We have to get that back!"
"Calm down. It's under control."
"Under control? How do you figure? And what's wrong with them?" he gestured at Owen and Foreman.
"I slipped a tracker on him while we were fighting. And I don't know but I wish they'd snap out of it so we can get a move on." Jack waved his hands in front of their faces. "Hellooooo? Guys?"
House took a more direct approach and slapped Foreman hard. "Wakey wakey! Not a good time for a nap! Can't have five more minutes! You're late for your bus!"
In light of this abuse, Foreman and Owen woke up.
To Chapter 10: Do You, Mr. Jones?
Back to Chapter 9: Part 1
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.