Into the Fire
(Part 2 of 2)
Banners forthcoming (sorry, we saw no reason to keep delaying a finished chapter for graphics reasons)
Click here for list of characters and general info.
“They’re called durians,” Gregor explained.
Cameron hefted the fruit--about the size of a melon--in her hand, though not with much force due to the large spikes on the husk. “I remember hearing something about them smelling.”
“These aren’t ripe yet.” He dug through the pile and extracted one which didn’t look much different from the rest. “Ah, here we go.”
The smell hit her before he handed it over, and she started gagging. “Oh my god! Put that away.” She imagined a cross between curdled milk and something that had been killed and left in the sun for a while.
“Guess we’ll just take the mangos.” He handed some money over and stuffed the thirty they’d put aside into a canvas bag the Doctor lent them. “They’re really quite good if you give them a try.”
“Maybe the Doctor has something that’ll take away the smell.”
“But the smell’s the best part!” the Doctor enthused, his sudden appearance causing Cameron to start. He grabbed a durian and inhaled. “Ah, reminds me of Snelfaeton Three. Brilliant cooks there. Make these delicate vegetable smoothies with little umbrellas.”
Ianto, Olli and Christian appeared beside him, and she gaped at their outfits. Gregor burst out laughing, shaking so hard she took the sack away from him before he hit someone with it. “Did you guys raid a museum?” he asked. Cameron stuck a mango in front of her nose to block out the smell, hoping the Doctor would put down his newfound-love some time soon.
“Did Cuddy find a toothbrush?”
Cameron shrugged. “We lost the others a while ago.”
“No problem.” The Doctor fiddled with his screwdriver until the light went on without any accompanying sound. “Hello? Jack? I know you’re there. Pick up!”
A flicker of static coalesced above the tip of the screwdriver into a miniature Jack Harkness. “I didn’t know you had my number,” he said.
“It was a general call; I figured no one else would answer. Where are you?”
“Just follow my frequency. We’re in a pub, and Cuddy’s trying to drink a pirate under the table. Chase is complaining because he thinks if Cameron were here instead of him, she’d have stopped her.”
Great, as if Chase hadn’t learned to stand up to his boss every once in a while. “Tell him to try anyway,” Cameron snapped. “Maybe she’ll think I’m still in his body.”
“What?” the Doctor asked.
“Let’s not agitate her any more than we have to,” replied Jack.
The Doctor did a quick head count with his screwdriver, causing Jack to complain about dizziness. Then he said, “We’re missing one person. Oh, yes, the, uh...” he paused and glanced at Olli, then continued quickly. “Is Olivia with you?”
“I think she went to beat up Angela Merkel. Wait, no, there she is. Yes, she’s dangling her goods at a merchant.”
“What?” Olli cut in.
“The necklaces,” Jack amended, waving his free hand carelessly. “I’ll see you soon.” He blew a quick kiss, then pressed his wristband and the image faded.
Ianto came over to push her wheelchair as the Doctor set off, pointing his screwdriver at every side street as he tracked the signal like a hound on the scent. Gregor intercepted him. “Please, allow me.” Cameron shot Ianto a minor eye roll as he assented and stepped aside. He just smiled back.
It wasn’t that the attention wasn’t flattering, but just as she found herself safe from Jack Harkness’ notice--she supposed that between House, Ianto and Cuddy, he was busy enough--along came another man to flirt in his place. She had promised Owen a date, so her schedule was quite full as far as she was concerned.
“You’re not interested in Jack because he can’t die or get sick,” Chase had told her as they packed for their trip. She didn’t bother to point out that they hadn't known about his resurrection habit until Cuddy slipped up after being harangued by Ianto for an hour about their foursome.
So sure, Gregor was handsome and suave and knew a lot about cooking. But he wasn’t her type, and by that, she didn’t mean someone with a terminal or chronic condition. Owen didn’t have a chronic condition (at least, not that she knew of), unless you counted irritability, and anyway, they had met under stressful circumstances. There was no telling what he’d be like when he relaxed. Except there is no downtime with Torchwood, apparently.
She realized Gregor had been saying something. “Sorry, what?” They were outside a ramshackle tavern, and cheers broke through the walls like they were paper. With luck, Cuddy would not be at the center of attention.
“I said this is no place for someone injured. Maybe we should go back to the TARDIS and wait.”
“No!” She saw the Doctor stop and look back at her, and she blushed. “I mean, I’m quite fine. It’s not every day you’re in eighteenth century Singapore.”
“Well, for the people who live here, it is,” the Doctor replied.
Gregor didn’t bother to press the issue and pushed her in. The smell of tobacco and alcohol hit her the moment they passed through the door, and it took her a few moments to adjust to the darkness. This establishment had no windows, though light sneaked in through cracks in the wood. Flames burned in lamps all around the room, which was such a safety hazard it didn’t bear thinking about, and the straw littering the floor compounded the danger. The patrons had arranged chairs and tables in a semi-circle--one that could have been drawn by a hyperactive first grader--around a man and a woman with shot glasses laid out before them. Jack and Chase were making rounds collecting wagers. She sighed.
Ianto leaned over and yelled into her ear, “I don’t suppose she’s going through a mid-life crisis?”
“I don’t know!” Maybe the TARDIS wasn’t such a bad idea. She could see if Owen was around for a videoconference. Waiting any longer would cause him to think she was backing out of their date, and that wouldn’t do. Not that they had anticipated a long-distance relationship of this sort in the first place, but she suspected the time vortex fazed him less than the hospital cafeteria.
The pirate opposite Cuddy glanced at them as they entered, then grabbed a nearby man and pointed, whispering something into his ear. The approach of a veiled woman distracted Cameron from the contest.
“Welcome to the Sib Zamini. Perhaps you would prefer a room where it is quiet?”
The Doctor kept staring at Jack but replied, “Yes, yes, that’ll work.” Ianto had to drag him away.
“What’s your name?” he asked the serving woman as they circled around the counter and entered the backroom. It turned out to be as large as the main area and furnished in the same manner. Only seven patrons sat here, though, each slouched over a separate table and drinking out of tin mugs without looking at anyone else.
“Well, Bousseh, I’m the Doctor, nice to meet you. Sorry, but I couldn’t help noticing a lot of the staff isn’t local. I believe they’re speaking Farsi amongst themselves. Is this a Persian establishment?”
“Why yes, it is. You are a scholar?”
“Sort of. I guess you could say that. What are Persians doing out here?”
“We are just trying to make a living. Like everyone else.”
“Yes, but why Singapore?”
“Pardon, but my brother is calling.” She indicated a man motioning for her from the bar. “If you need anything, ask Niki.”
“Will she answer my questions?”
Bousseh glided away. “Niki is very shy.”
“Of course.” The Doctor flopped into a chair. “See, that’s shady.”
“Why?” Gregor asked. “Because she won’t answer your questions? If you asked me what I was doing with a coffee house, I wouldn’t be able to give you much of an answer either.”
“Yeah, but you live there.”
“So Persians aren’t allowed to live in Singapore?”
“It’s uncommon, so many of them. And all running a tavern? None of the patrons are Persian.”
“I think you’re being obsessive,” Cameron said.
“Look, when you’ve been around as much as I have, you start noticing things.”
Ianto nodded. “Things that tend to turn into alien threats.”
“So the Shah is an alien?”
“Your attorney general turned out to be one. And the governor was a collaborator.”
A new server approached them, this one dressed similarly to Princess Leia in her gold bikini, only with more tassels. “Why hello,” Gregor said, striking a pose. “You must be Niki.”
“Yes,” she replied, her soft voice drowned out by a sudden roar of laughter from the common room. She quivered, as though the sound shook her constitution. Cameron found herself feeling sorry for her. Anyone that delicate shouldn’t be scantily clad amidst a crowd of corsairs.
“Do you make coffee here?” Gregor asked.
Ianto perked up. “Yes, I hear the Persians make excellent coffee.”
“The Colombians make better,” the Doctor said, receiving several glares. He was sitting with his back to Niki and thus did not see what the other men were seeing. “What? They don’t put drugs in it, I swear! Not the type I drink, anyway.” He reached over to pat Niki’s hand, saying, “Sorry, no offense to...” His face contorted as he missed her hand and, trying to figure out what he had touched, felt his way along her waist, tracing the outlines of a thong. “Whoa!” He jerked away and toppled off the chair. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
Cameron gave her a sympathetic look, but she winked back. “I’ll bring a pot.” She was gone before the Doctor extricated himself from his coat, which had managed to wrap around his head as he fell. He glared across the table at Ianto, but because he was sitting on the floor, looked like a petulant six-year-old. “You could’ve warned me.”
“I assumed you knew you should have a dollar bill in hand before you tried that.”
Gregor put his head down into his arms as he broke down laughing. She elbowed him in the ribs but didn’t get much of a response. “That’s not what I meant!” the Doctor protested.
“You’re objectifying women,” she told the two men. Ianto looked confused and Gregor shook harder with laughter, so she decided to appeal to his brother, who had been sitting apart from the table with Olli, their heads together as they discussed something in a low whisper. “Aren’t they, Christian?”
Their conversation broke off and Christian gave her a deer-in-the-headlights look. “What?”
“Oh never mind.”
“Yes, exactly!” the Doctor said as he clambered back onto his chair. “I did it on accident but you were ogling her.”
“You’re not changing the subject that easily.” Ianto grinned. And here she’d thought he was a proper gentleman, with his suits and calm manner. The man had probably been around Jack for too long.
Niki returned with the coffee in a tall silver jug with an S-shaped neck. Their mugs were earthenware painted with bright colors, sturdy but still out of place in this dim, ramshackle establishment. Gregor paid her with more coins than was strictly necessary but she didn’t comment. Niki could use the money, and maybe he’d stop chasing after Cameron if he had other women to distract him.
At that moment, Cameron felt goose bumps, and she finally understood the phrase about someone walking over her grave. There was a shift in the atmosphere, something she couldn’t pinpoint, but she shifted uneasily. Then she understood. Quiet had come upon the tavern, and everything was so still she could hear a fly buzzing. Christian and Olli looked up, also sensing something wrong. The Doctor eyed the common room like a cat facing down a dog.
“She’s cheating!” someone roared.
“Now wait, wait, let’s be reasonable,” she heard Jack say.
“He was helping her cheat!” another person yelled. “And the blondie boy too! They rigged the wagers! You ragamuffins!”
Another long silence. “Really, Bob?” the first person asked. “‘Ragamuffin’? That’s the best you can come up with?”
“Does it matter?”
“Beat them up!”
The thud of fists connecting preceded Jack flying through the doorway and across several tables, smashing the items atop them into sprays of glass. He crumpled at the Doctor’s feet, followed by Chase several seconds later, who was much luckier, as Jack had taken out all the bottles along the way and was also a soft spot to land on. The Germans leapt to their feet, Christian falling into a boxing pose. Ianto remained stationary but removed his gun from the holster. The Doctor gave them all a dirty look, but before he could admonish them for their aggressiveness, a flying flagon crashed into his head. He fell sideways against the table and flopped onto the floor like a dead fish. Gregor and Ianto rescued the pot of coffee before the Doctor could knock it over.
Cameron leaned forward and seized Chase’s collar. It didn’t look like he had a concussion, so she used her threatening voice. “What just happened?”
“Jack sneaked her shots of water that she switched with the vodka.”
“And she got caught?” A crowd was forming beyond the counter while the barkeeper tried to keep them out.
“No, no, the back room is for quiet!” he said. “Don’t break anything! Wait here and I’ll kick them out for you.” How helpful...
“God, the woman should be a magician,” Jack mumbled, rubbing his head. “Her hands do incredible things.”
“No, some idiot came and stole one of her shots,” Chase explained. “And found out it was water.”
Olli ran up from behind her. “The only exit is the way we came in,” he announced. Another glass bottle flew through the doorway. Ianto leaned aside and let it fly past just inches from his ear.
“Oh screw it,” the barkeeper said as the mob seethed closer. “The whole place is ruined anyway. Have fun.” He dodged under the counter, and the pirates roared past.
A gunshot stopped them cold. Ianto stood behind the table, his gun smoking as he stared at them, implacable as a glacier. Sure, they had the numbers to overrun them, but these were pirates. No one would want to risk being the one who got shot.
Jack grinned and cocked his own gun. “Not so tough now, are you?” He sneered at their cutlasses, which wavered for a moment before they vanished and became replaced by muskets. Cameron found herself staring into over forty barrels. “Oh.” Jack exchanged glances with Ianto. Chase took the opportunity to duck behind her wheelchair.
“Coward!” she snapped.
“You’re already injured! A little more can’t hurt.”
“Where the hell is Joey when we need her?”
Chase grimaced. “I ordered her to wait outside...”
“It’s obviously a life-threatening situation!”
“I told her to wait until I came back out, no exceptions. I was afraid she’d freak people out.”
“Great. Just great.”
“How about this?” Ianto proposed. “No one wants to die, right?”
The crowd stared until someone in the back yelled, “Right!”
“You just want to beat someone bloody but have a good laugh about it over a drink tomorrow!”
This time, his audience was much more enthusiastic. “Yeah!” they yelled in unison.
“So how about we drop the weapons. Good old fashioned fist fight. With chairs and tables, of course.”
“What about bottles?” a man with an eye-patch up front asked.
“One bottle per person. No cheating. That good?”
“Aye!” Over a hundred swords and guns clattered to the ground. Suddenly, Cameron's chair jerked and she looked up to see Gregor taking hold of the handles. “What are you doing?”
“You’re injured; you’ll be safe out of the way!” He gave her a push and sent her careening into a corner of the room.
“Hey!” Chase protested. “I was hiding there!”
She crashed into a table and the chair tipped, balancing on one wheel for a second before steadying and landing properly. She wheeled around, ready to join the fray, but an all-out brawl had already erupted. Many of the pirates didn’t seem to care who they were fighting anymore and threw punches without worrying about who they hit. One bit the ear off another, but both took this in stride and then allied to beat up a third pirate who’d dared to whack them both over the back with a chair leg.
Jingling announced the arrival of a serving woman, and she swung around in time to see Niki and Bousseh approach her. “I’m sorry about the fighting,” Cameron told them. “We--”
“All is part of a plan,” Bousseh said.
“Well, that’s a very zen approach, but I assure you we can pay for damages.”
Niki wrung her hands but didn’t say anything, and Cameron realized something wasn’t quite right. Bousseh removed a vial from her belt and, twisting the cap off, stuck it under Cameron’s nostrils. She jerked away, hands dashing to the wheels of her chair to escape. Bousseh snapped something at Niki so quickly Cameron couldn’t catch the words. Niki hovered a little while longer before dashing over and holding Cameron’s wheelchair in place. Bousseh grabbed her hair and forced her face toward the vial. With nowhere to go, she could only hold her breath, but even that wasn’t working. The smell permeated up her nostrils, and she sneezed. Her subsequent inhale caused the smell to hit her like a hammer, and her vision blurred.
“I’m sorry,” Niki whispered into her ear as she slumped forward and lost consciousness.
Christian feinted to the right and followed with a quick jab of his left fist, sending his opponent to the ground. He’d had some doubts about how appropriate his boxing training would be for a bar fight, and indeed, the pirates didn’t fight fair, but they also fought without thinking. As long as he kept a cool head, he could anticipate their next move with fair accuracy. The lingering question was how hard he should hit. He was loathe to use his skills to injure someone, but they weren’t in twenty-first century Germany, and sometimes violence was unavoidable. He settled for knocking them out and tried his best not to leave any permanent injuries in his wake.
A yell attracted his attention, and he saw a man with a three-foot long beard and a two-foot long table leg charge Olli, whom he’d taken care to keep behind him at all times. He flipped a chair over and jabbed its legs at the oncoming threat. The chair splintered in half but the pirate went down. From the corner of his eye, he saw Olli throw a vase, and when he turned back around, noticed someone stagger away from him, clutching his head. The entryway to the main common area was only a meter away.
“Christian! Help!” Gregor waved at him. Four people separated them, and Olli picked up the table leg from the downed pirate and swung. Two people separated them. Meanwhile, Gregor and Ianto were still passing that pot of coffee between them, depending on who needed his hands free to fight.
“Just forget the coffee!” An opening appeared, and he dodged between the two, dragging Olli behind him. Then there were four of them in a circle, their backs to each other, which made for much better odds. “Okay, if we charge the door, we should be able to push through.”
Ianto nodded. “On three. One, two, three!”
Yelling at the top of their lungs, they ran forward, bowling over the remaining pirates. As they were about to reach the counter, Gregor stopped, causing the three of them to trip. “We have to get Cameron!”
“What?” Ianto gasped. “Where’d she go?”
“I pushed her into a corner so she’d be safe!”
“You pushed her into the corner of a room we were trying to escape from?”
“Fine, I’ll do it myself. Here, I turn the coffee over to you. Guard it with your life.”
“As if I needed telling,” Ianto muttered as he caught the pot. At that moment, hands grabbed Christian by the shoulders and lifted him over the counter. Another pair tried to seize Ianto but met the scalding surface of the coffee pot.
Christian grabbed an overturned wine bottle as he fell to the floor and smashed it against his assailant’s head. Someone else’s fist connected with his temple, and he went down in a daze. He fought down the urge to vomit as he tried to get back up. A body fell upon him, and he braced himself for another punch, but none came. Glancing over, he saw the man was unconscious.
Staggering to his feet, he looked around but couldn’t find anyone he recognized. The pressure of fingers on his collar caused him to swing around, ready to attack, but he stopped himself at the last possible moment when he recognized Olivia.
“Stop! Don’t hit me!” she screamed, shielding her face with her hands. A bald, shirtless man with a chain of earrings that fell to his chest stood beside her, scowling. He had a chain of shells around his neck, so Christian assumed she had bribed him into being her bodyguard. It was working. People took one look at him and the lines of scars that ran from his face down his arm and decided to choose a less imposing opponent.
“Have you seen Olli?”
“One of the serving men put a hood over his head and dragged him into the back! We’ve got to save him!” Olivia dashed off, and Christian ran after her, his heart pounding. If anything happened to him...
They didn’t get far before Chase crashed into scarface. The doctor bounced off Olivia’s bodyguard and onto the floor while he remained steady as a pillar, utterly implacable. Chase squeaked before spotting familiar faces and gasped, “They got Cameron and Olli!”
“Where?” Christian demanded. There was no sign of either.
“They went down a trapdoor! Come on.” Chase scrambled through the crowd on hands and knees, which wasn’t a bad idea, as most of the fighters were focusing on those at eye-level. Christian ducked down when scarface’s circle of influence began waning, and Olivia followed his example. Then her bodyguard got smacked in the face by a large platter and went down. She stopped and dashed back, blocking Christian’s way.
“What are you doing?” he snarled, giving her a little shove.
She tore the necklace off the man, taking care to keep the shells from spilling, and stuffed them into her pocket.
“You’re unbelievable,” he told her as they continued moving.
Ahead, Chase dug his fingers between two floorboards and pulled, A panel large enough for Cameron’s wheelchair flew open, knocking two people over, while a third backed into the hole and vanished with a yelp. They listened as his screams faded into the distance.
“That’s a long way down,” Chase said. “Make sure you take the ladder.” A chair came out of nowhere and struck him in the back, sending him through the trapdoor head first. Christian lunged for his foot but missed.
Olivia shrugged. “At least he’ll have the other guy to land on.” She pushed him aside and began sliding down the ladder. Christian looked around to see if anyone else was around, but Gregor was making his way back through the doorway and Jack had the Doctor thrown over his shoulder as he held off four thugs. He didn’t seem to realize that every time he turned around, he swung the Doctor into the person behind him. “Are you coming?” Olivia yelled.
“Yes, yes,” he replied, grabbing hold of the first rung and beginning the descent. Before he went too far, he closed the trapdoor. Sure, no one would be able to follow, but at least no one would fall on top of them as they climbed, either.
The drop turned out to be fifteen feet, which wasn’t as bad as it’d seemed. Chase was waiting for them when they arrived and looked unscathed, save for a rumpled hairdo, as he had, indeed, landed on the other person. “Is he alive?” Christian asked.
Chase nodded. “He’ll be in pain for a while but nothing life-threatening, surprisingly enough. He didn't hit his head.”
The tunnel was damp, with a centimeter of water on the ground at the deepest point--the floor was concave. Since it ran underground, running was difficult, as everything had turned to mud. The trail was clear, though, because Cameron’s wheelchair left distinctive marks. Iron holders anchored into the walls held a row of torches that lit the way.
“Is it me or does this seem like a lot of work for a simple pub?” commented Chase.
“Simple?” Olivia injected a good amount of contempt into the word given how hard she was breathing. “There’s nothing simple about its owners.”
Christian recalled the Doctor’s comment about the rarity of Persians in Singapore. “They’re pirates too, aren’t they?”
“Yes. I mean, it’s a profitable enough side venture, but Fafa said the tavern served as their home base for the region.”
“Fafa?” Chase said. “Are we talking about the Mr. Frankenstein dangling you on his knee earlier?”
“His name is Fafa and he knew a lot about the area!”
“But the tavern’s ruined!” Christian said. “That makes no sense.”
“And the owner’s brother uncovered Cuddy,” Olivia added.
“They started a fight that wrecked their base just so they could kidnap Olli and Cameron? Why would they do that?”
“I hate to break this to you,” Chase said, “but as a group, we kind of stood out, even in a port full of foreigners.”
“At least we tried!” Christian snapped, pointing at his outfit. He was growing kind of fond of it; the leather had padded many blows during the fight.
“I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but maybe our strangeness suggested we had value.”
Olivia clapped her hands. “Maybe we fulfilled some ancient prophecy by showing up!”
“This isn’t a movie! We’re still on Earth!”
Chase groaned. “Don’t mention prophecies. Prophecies always involve something blowing up and lots of people dying.”
“I see light!” Christian exclaimed. Sure enough, the torches ended some thirty meters away, leaving the end of the tunnel in darkness, save for a shaft of daylight shooting down from the opening above. Shadows moved in the light, indicating the pirates were close. Christian grabbed the ladder as soon as he was in range and shot up it, skipping two or three rungs at a time in his hurry to close the distance. The last pirate climbed out and saw him coming. Barking out a command, he kicked the hatch shut, but Christian threw his weight against it before it could close and pushed through. There were three Persians guarding the exit, which opened into an alley. They drew their scimitars, but Chase and Olivia rushed through the entrance and ran into them before they could swing. Christian picked up the hatch and threw it at the last pirate.
He looked up in time to see the trailing edge of Bousseh’s dress turn the corner. “That way!” he yelled.
The alley opened back into the marketplace, and the crowd had grown since they entered the tavern. He jumped up and down, hoping to catch a glimpse of their quarry over the heads of all the shoppers, but nothing stood out. “Shit!”
“Let’s ask if anyone saw anything,” Olivia said, grabbing a nearby man and smiling at him.
“You can flirt later!”
“It doesn’t hurt to ask directions!” she snapped back. “Excuse me, did you see a group of pirates barging their way through with a woman in a chair?”
The man laughed. “You’re new here, aren’t you?” He shook her off and proceeded on his way.
“It was worth a try!”
“Now we’ve wasted time!”
“Shut up!” Chase screamed. “You go that way and Olivia and I will head the other direction! We can cover both possibilities.”
“Ooh,” Olivia said, stroking his arm. “Why am I coming with you?”
“Because you two seem intent on biting each other’s heads off. Plus Christian doesn’t need help in a fight.”
“Oh.” She sounded disappointed. Typical.
Before they could execute the plan, a deep rumble emitted from the ground, and cracks split the ground, sending up clouds of dust. Those less steady on their feet tumbled, spilling the contents of their shopping bags in every direction. The three of them grabbed each other to brace against the shaking, which lasted almost ten seconds before ceasing. Stalls tumbled and chickens went wild as their cages bounced off.
“Okay, just an earthquake,” Christian said. “Let’s get moving.” But he spoke too soon, as a moment later, a pillar of fire blew apart a building across the square, sending burning pieces of wood in every direction. The flames reached close to fifty meters into the sky and hadn’t died down before a giant rock hand reached out from the crater and slammed against the ground, obliterating half the market.
“See?” Chase cried, pointing a shaking finger at Olivia. “Prophecies! This is what happens when you mention prophecies!”
The head that followed the hands out of the ground was made of granite, large enough to belong to Optimus Prime and carved in the image of an Aztec warrior, complete with stone headpiece and real feathers, though Christian had no clue what sort of bird could provide colored feathers to match the scale of the figure. The stone man let out a moan, like the earth crying, as it heaved its mass out of the hole and clambered to its feet, easily achieving the height of the flames that preceded its appearance.
“Now we should definitely run,” Olivia said, breaking off in the direction Chase had indicated, which happened to be away from the monster. Chase didn’t look back as he dashed after her.
Christian sighed. If the pirates had taken Olli the other way, that meant he had to get past the moving statue, which was at this moment kicking away the few stalls that remained standing. Taking a deep breath, he charged, weaving through the mass of screaming shoppers and dodging the earth and wood flying up from the statue’s feet. The creature spotted him, the only person heading for it rather than running away, and decided to reward his individuality by trying to swat him like a bug. At the last possible second, he leapt aside as its open palm crashed down. A shockwave of air erupted from the point of impact, sending him tumbling like a paper plane caught in a storm. He thumped back to the ground only to see a second hand dropping from the sky.
He rolled aside in time to get caught between two spread fingers. The statue tried to close the space between its fingers and crush him, but its hand had buried into the dirt and gotten stuck. He took the opportunity to clamber over the back of the hand, but it pulled free before he could reach solid ground. As the stone rose, it catapulted Christian into the air. His trajectory followed an arc over its shoulder and through the thatch roof of a building down the street. Dust and straw accompanied him as he crashed through the attic, managing to avoid rafters before smashing into the floor and landing on a pallet in a dimly lit room.
Every part of his body screamed in protest as he groaned and rolled over. He found himself staring into the empty sockets of a skull on the floor beside the bedding. He yelped and began scrambling away when it spoke. “Hello,” it said in a British accent. “How nice of you to drop in. I don’t get visitors often.”
“Uh,” he replied. Screaming You’re a skull! didn’t seem polite and was, anyway, a rather obvious thing to say. He settled on obvious but practical instead. “Hello. Excuse me, but am I dead?”
“Not yet,” the skull replied. “I’m James Norrington. What’s the commotion outside? Are they here?”
“You mean the giant killer statue?” He tested moving his limbs one by one. Nothing seemed broken. Wriggling his toes, he confirmed they still worked.
“Oh.” Norrington emitted a sigh of relief. “No, the rock golems are just the advance guard. The main army isn’t here yet.”
“Yes, exactly.” Norrington didn’t seem to understand sarcasm, but then he added, “That means we still have a chance of getting off the island alive. And by ‘we,’ I mean ‘you.’ I’m quite dead already, in case you haven’t noticed.”
He tried sitting up. It felt like a hundred horses trampling on him but worked out. “You’re not doing too badly.”
“I suppose,” the skull replied bitterly. “If you follow my instructions, I can get you on a departing ship.”
“I have to rescue my boyfriend! He got kidnapped by Persian pirates.”
“Ah, that’s good then.”
“Yes. Pirates usually have ships. It means he’ll get off the island alive, so if you’re smart, you’ll pursue a similar line of action, though I don’t recommend getting kidnapped on a general basis.”
“If I help you get away, will you help me find him?”
Norrington chuckled. “You assume I want to flee.” He paused. “But for Elizabeth’s sake, I suppose I have to. I don't know how you think a talking skull could help, but very well, we have a deal. Get us both out of Singapore, and I’ll help you save whoever you want.”
Jack finally caught up with Gregor, who had been weaving in and out of the backroom several times for no apparent reason. Maybe the guy just liked to fight. Jack, on the other hand, was getting worried the Doctor might start glowing from all the hits he’d taken to the head, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone. Well, maybe his eleventh incarnation would be less bony, but he might also end up ginger and spend all his time staring into a mirror instead.
Gregor looked relieved to see him. He sat against the wall, pretending to nurse a black eye, but when he lowered his hand, the worst he had suffered from the fight was tussled hair. Jack approved. “What are you doing there?”
“They’ve pretty much forgotten who they were originally fighting,” Gregor explained, “and it looks like they’ll be tired or unconscious within a few more minutes, so it’s easier just to wait it out.”
“We should make sure everyone else is okay!”
“Yes, but you looked like you wanted me to wait for you.” He got up. “Let’s go.”
They sneaked into the common room by virtue of ducking below the average pirate’s height, thus escaping attention. Nobody remained standing except Barbossa, who was carrying Cuddy out the door in his arms. “Stop right there!” Jack yelled. He was a little surprised when Barbossa obeyed.
“I was just taking her outside to your friends.”
The pirate shrugged. “Look, I don’t resent her cheating. I paid off the bartender to do the same for me.” Beside him, Jack heard Gregor sigh.
“So what happened to her?”
“Some of the others got mad and forced a few shots down her throat,” growled Barbossa, eyes flashing malice. “They’re the ones with extra lumps on their heads.”
“Stop that, House!” Cuddy yelled before drifting into semi-consciousness again.
“I’d hand her over but you appear to be at full capacity,” Barbossa remarked.
“I have two shoulders.”
Before Barbossa could respond, bursts of flame shot up across the city, accompanied by minor tremors. They stepped away from the building as its walls crumbled. The relocation turned out to be a better decision than they could’ve known, as a massive eruption knocked them off their feet and columns of fire transformed the place into a pyre. The ground below began crumbling, setting off a stampede away from the epicenter. As they ran, Jack realized their group was much smaller than it had been. Ianto was with them, but he was the only addition. Gregor must have come to the same conclusion, because he yelled, “Where’d everyone go?” He slid to a halt and grabbed Jack. “They better not have still been inside!”
“We didn’t see them!” Jack replied. “They must have gotten out before us.”
“Then where’d they go? My brother wouldn’t leave us behind!”
“I didn’t see any of them come out,” Ianto replied.
At that moment, Chase and Olivia came running down the street. “Run!” Chase screamed. “There’s a giant rock golem coming this way!”
Jack caught his arm as he passed and forced him to a halt. “A what?”
“A two-hundred feet tall rock golem!” Chase repeated. “And shit! You didn’t tell me one was chasing you too!”
“What?” They all looked up in time to see a massive stone man emerge from the ruins of the tavern and start jogging their direction.
“How’d you get out?” Gregor demanded.
“Uh, trapdoor,” Chase said. “The Persians kidnapped Cameron and Olli. We chased them but got lost, so we split up.”
“Christian went the other direction.”
Gregor did some quick counting on his fingers. “That’s everyone still alive,” he replied, giving Jack a look that made him feel like he had narrowly escaped certain death.
“Where’s Joey?” Chase asked.
Gregor blinked. “Almost everyone.”
“You mean Joey’s still over there?”
“Forget the robot!” Olivia screamed. “We’re going to get pinned between two giant statues!”
“I agree,” Barbossa replied. “If you’re talking about that tiger of yours, well, tigers can take care of themselves.”
“Not against giant rock men!”
“Come on!” Jack started running, and Gregor and Olivia dragged Chase screaming and kicking away from the tavern.
“Where are we going?” Ianto asked.
“We should head to your ship,” Barbossa suggested.
Ianto frowned. “Do you think we should--”
“He’s not going to steal the TARDIS,” Jack pointed out. “One pirate isn’t a threat. Let’s go!”
“We’re going the wrong way if you want the harbor,” Barbossa told him.
Jack glared. “You know perfectly well we’re talking about that blue box.”
“Oh. So you caught me staring, did you?”
Cuddy moaned. “That’s the last Vicodin prescription I’m writing you!”
“Arrr, I hate talkative drunks.”
They reached the marketplace, which was pretty much in ruins--those parts that weren’t burning down, anyway. The TARDIS stood unscathed between two flaming buildings, but two men had tied ropes around her and were pulling with all their might to no avail. Barbossa shoved them aside and slashed the ropes, allowing Ianto to move in and fumble with the key. Both golems were hot on their heels, the earth trembling with each step they took.
“Captain!” the skinny one with an eye patch said as he recovered. “We can’t move it!”
“Shut up!” Barbossa snapped.
Jack glared. “You were trying to steal the TARDIS.”
“That was before these creatures attacked! I’m a pirate; spare me the moralizing.”
The door swung open, but the golem from the tavern threw a wagon at them, forcing Ianto away from the door. Jack didn’t move but instead threw the Doctor into the TARDIS before the wagon bowled him over. He half-expected to be crushed and wake up later, but the vehicle was so damaged it split in two as it struck the ground, sparing him most of the impact. Instead, he flew some ten meters down the street and survived.
A light wind started up as the familiar whooshing sound of the TARDIS dematerializing filled the alley. Jack stared as the door swung shut and the blue box vanished with only an unconscious Doctor inside.
“DOCTOOOOOOOOOR!” Chase screamed, as though he were auditioning for the Time Lord version of A Streetcar Named Desire.
“Angel of death indeed,” Barbossa muttered. A giant foot stamped down where the TARDIS had been moments before. “Fine! To my vessel then.” He dodged through the ruins of a one-story building, heading straight for the docks. The others hesitated only a moment before following, except for Chase, who went straight between the golem’s legs and ran for the tavern.
“Goddammit!” Olivia yelled, chasing after him. Jack went after her, because Ianto could take care of the others.
The golem bellowed and scooped all three of them up with one smooth movement. Olivia screamed, Chase kicked before clutching his foot and whimpering, and Jack activated his wristband, hoping it would emit a sonic frequency capable of shattering stone. The sound was inaudible to human ears, but the creature clutched its head with both hands and screamed. They had just enough time to slip through its fingers before its palms slammed against its temples, and they slid along the sleeve until they fell onto its shoulder.
As it flailed, trying to find the source of the sound, the golem crashed into the other one. It shuddered, a crack running across its chest, and Jack nearly fell before getting a grip on one of the folds carved into its collar. The other golem responded by pushing the first one over, lifting it up, and tossing it across the city. Only a quick scramble into the headdress of feathers saved them from being flung off as the golem struck ground, taking down three buildings, and bounced into the air again, this time short an arm and a leg.
Once it stopped bouncing, it started rolling, and Jack was beginning to notice a problem as the seashore drew closer and closer.
“Can we let go?” Chase asked.
Jack shook his head. “We’re going too fast!”
At last, the statue skidded to a halt in the middle of the three-meter-deep gash it had plowed. The head teetered over the edge of a cliff, and a gusting wind threatened to dislodge the feathers, which were already bent and bedraggled. The statue emitted a sigh like the surf and became still.
“Well, that was close,” Olivia said. She unwrapped herself and began climbing toward the neck.
“Wait! Stop!” Jack screamed, but it was too late. Her heel came down on the base of his feather, which was already frayed, and it snapped like a twig. Jack felt a lurch, and then he was plummeting toward the foaming waves, probably churning because of sharp rocks just beneath the surface, and he closed his eyes, thinking this was not one of his preferred ways to go.
When he struck something, it wasn’t hard, cold water but rather a soft cushion of air, letting him down like a feather bed deflating under his weight. He opened his eyes and found himself in a blue oasis. Walls of water loomed overhead, curving as though held out by a large bubble of air, and sunlight shimmered through the movement of waves above. Two women stood to his right, one in silk robes, the picture of elegance, the other wild and untamed, with dreadlocks falling to her waist and small, white crabs circling her feet.
“I know you said help would come from above,” the first one said, “but this is ridiculous.”
Jack shrugged. They were pretty, and he suspected he needed their help too if he wanted to get back on land. “I’m Captain Jack Harkness,” he announced. “What can I do for you ladies?”
The harbor was burning by the time they reached it. Four golems tore through the piers, swinging at ships still in their berths, while three more waded into the water, trying to form a blockade. Ianto counted twelve ships that had escaped the island, which didn’t amount to much, considering hundreds were in port. The rest were either shattered or sinking.
“I don’t think we’re getting out this way,” Gregor said.
“Have faith, matey,” Barbossa said. “See that beautiful vessel with the black sails? She moves fast as the wind, the Black Pearl does.”
“She’s out in the water,” Ianto said. “I don’t see any tenders.”
Cuddy stirred. “If you’re going to photocopy your butt, at least make sure you don’t have a distinctive birthmark there! Everybody, pants off!”
“What kind of hospital does she work at?” Gregor asked.
“Tai Huang!” Barbossa roared. A Singaporean rushing by paused.
“Barbossa! You’re alive!”
“Why hasn’t the Empress set sail yet?”
“We are waiting for our captain!”
Barbossa stormed over and grabbed the man. “Elizabeth is dead! If you want to live, sail now. I can captain her.”
“No! You’re famous for stealing ships, but this one will never be yours.”
“You’re putting your lives in the hands of a woman who jumped off a cliff!”
The man remained resolute. “Captain Turner will come.”
Barbossa spat in disgust and returned. “We’ll have to find another way.”
“Yeah, steal a ship, brilliant plan,” Ianto told him.
“I’m a pirate! How many times do I have to tell you? This is how we do things!”
“The golems are headed this way,” Ianto said. “What if you signal the Black Pearl from the other end of the dock. If she’s as fast as you say, she can pull in, get us aboard and leave before the golems come back for her.”
Cuddy slapped Barbossa. “No running during surgery!” The pirate looked ready to kill, any sense of protectiveness about her long gone.
“Hold on, let me try something,” Gregor said, snatching the pot of coffee from Ianto. He ran over, forced her mouth open and poured a cup’s worth of liquid into her mouth. Cuddy gurgled and flailed before her eyes shot wide open.
“Where the hell am I!” she snapped. “Let me down!” Barbossa dropped her, and she yelped as she landed on her bottom. When she tried to get back up, she remained wobbly, but Ianto rushed over and let her put an arm across his back.
“Okay, let’s get moving!” he told the others.
The golems ignored them as they ran past, too intent on destroying the remaining ships to pay heed to mere humans. When they reached the end of the dock, Barbossa removed a skyrocket from his pocket and lit it using a burning hull. The firework soared into the sky and exploded in a burst of red sparks. Everyone held their breath. The Black Pearl began turning, and Barbossa’s two lackeys let out a cheer.
“Mind explaining why the city’s suddenly burning down?” Cuddy asked him. “I don’t remember reading about giant rock men in history books.”
“The human race is very adept at covering up and explaining away anything out of the ordinary.”
“Hush!” Barbossa hissed. “This is a very exact procedure. Now, when she approaches, they’ll drop three rope ladders over the side. Pintel, Ragetti and I will go first. The rest of you follow afterward. We’ll have to run out into the water, but not too soon, or you’ll get pulled under. The ship will not stop moving, because it can't. Got it?”
A golem roared and stomped into the water, sending up waves tall as a person. It thundered its way toward the Black Pearl, trying to intercept her, but the ship was indeed faster than anyone expected and raced past, avoiding a swing of its fist by less than a meter. The waves were giving her trouble, though, and before long, it became clear that unless she beached, she would tip once she entered shallow water.
“Back up, back up!” Barbossa yelled. The hull hit the sand with a sickening crunch, like a thousand beanbags getting crushed at once. The ladders went down before the Black Pearl stopped, and the crew put down long oars to push her back out into the water.
Pintel and Ragetti went up the ladder like monkeys, getting aboard within seconds. Ianto motioned for Gregor and Cuddy to take their places, and he followed Barbossa. The Pearl began sliding backward before he was halfway up, but two golems were converging on them now, one from the sea and the other by land. As he clambered over the railing, the ship shook and cannons fired from her port side. The blasts caught the golem in the water in the chest, and it staggered backward. Starboard fired, taking the legs out from the one approaching by ground. It began dragging itself forward with its hands, but Ianto could tell it wouldn’t reach them before they set sail.
The port cannons went off again, but the golem dodged the cannonballs. The Pearl swung around enough to catch the wind in her sails, and she shot away like a swimmer off the block. The golem struck the water, sending out a massive wave, but the ship turned enough to catch the crest, and then they were out of range. Three golems remained further away, but Ianto saw they could outrun them.
The crew cheered as they cleared the edge of the island and reached open water. Barbossa ordered them to circle at a distance and await the Empress.
“I thought you said their captain was dead,” Ianto said.
Barbossa grinned. “I lied.”
“Hail the other ships!” Cuddy demanded. “We need to know if the others made it off.”
“The other ships aren’t waiting to chat,” Barbossa replied. “And they left long before us. If your friends survived, they’ll be leaving on the Empress and we’ll see them soon enough.”
But at that moment, a flare of light caught their attention. As they watched, the entire city erupted into flames, flashes of red and orange engulfing the skyline while lightning crackled across a clear sky and struck targets across the island. As the sound of thunder reached them, a shockwave of dust and debris exploded from the center of the city, the expanding ring leveling every building and ship still standing.
“Brace yourselves!” Barbossa cried. Ianto grabbed the side of the ship as the eruption reached them, tearing through sails and snapping the mizzen mast in half. It was like a wall of darkness sweeping across the ocean, and visibility dropped to zero as the primary debris struck them. Ianto felt the ship buck and shake as they were tossed further out to sea. Barrels of supplies rolled down the deck, one striking him, but he shut his eyes and held on, hoping he’d still be alive when it was over.
A heavy layer of dust covered everything as the last of the blast dissipated. Roiling water surrounded them for as far as they could see, and Singapore was nowhere to be found. The rigging was snapped or hopelessly tangled, and Ianto could see a long journey of rowing ahead of them. Silence smothered the ship as each person stared in the direction where he or she thought Singapore most likely was, and he knew that one question weighed on everyone’s mind: How could anyone have survived that?
To Chapter 18: Escape from Singapore
Back to Chapter 17: Part 1
Summary: It’s all a bit domestic until rock golems burn down Singapore. Two of our heroes get kidnapped, Cuddy bids against Barbossa for a toothbrush, Gregor and Ianto bond over magic coffee, and sociopathic mermaids attack a ship.