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Eram quod es, eris quod sum
Sex and Medical Malpractice
This is madness! This is TORCHWOOD!
Eram quod es, eris quod sum

Chapter 13
Divine Tragedy
(Part 1 of 3)

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Jack and Ianto took turns beating the front car bumper with the axe Owen had taken from the aliens. The rear one lay in a mangled heap in the corner and had taken over six minutes to sever from the minivan. The front appeared intent on outdoing its peer.

“If I may say so, sir, this is a good thing,” Ianto said between swings.

Jack was doubled over, hands on his knees and panting for air. “Explain exactly how you came to that conclusion.”

“After Monty failed to kill us, sir, Howell took up the chase and tracked our transmat to the factory. He knows we were there, and he knows we’re returning. Tosh intercepted transmissions ordering every alien fighter recalled to DC, and we believe he’s filling the entire building with hallucinogenic gas.” The bumper screeched but clung on.

“So doesn’t it make sense that we should get there before they finish all their defensive preparations?” House said.

“No,” Owen replied.

Foreman and Cuddy both turned to him. “Why not?”

“Uh,” Owen scratched his head. “Ask Tosh.”

Tosh didn’t realize they were all waiting for her answer until House threw an empty ammo clip at her. She jumped. “What? I’m sorry, were you saying something?”

Ianto let the axe head drop to the ground and leaned against the handle. “I agree with Tosh, sir. We should go back for Monty. He fought for us every bit as hard as if he were a member of Torchwood himself.”

“How do you propose we find him?” Jack asked. “There’s no time left. If we don’t get into the factory soon, aliens are going to start pouring out of every transmat and overrun us.”

Ianto looked at Tosh, waiting for her response. She sighed. “You saw the database in the plant, Ianto. It’s their only base of operations. Destroying it will effectively end the invasion. We have to do it, and now’s our only chance.”

Jack took Tosh’s hand and looked into her eyes. “Thank you, Tosh. I know this is hard for you.”

“He’s strong,” she replied. “He’ll make it.”

Ianto brought the axe down with a roar and the bumper dropped like a squirrel that had lost its footing. Gasping for air, he tossed the axe back to Cuddy, who shouldered it like a lumberjack. Everyone piled into the car, and Jack was about to ask Tosh to begin the second attempt when Foreman cut in.

“So we’re armed for the aliens,” he said. “What about this hallucinogenic gas?”

Tosh and Ianto both turned to Jack. “What?” he said. “Is there blood on my face?”

“Remember when the spider droid attacked us in the hospital, sir?” Ianto asked.

Jack thought about it, and the expressions that crossed his face went from confused to thoughtful to excited to indignant. “I’m not kissing all of you!” he said. Ianto nodded, about to mutter, “Good answer” when Jack was stupid enough to add, “It’d be physically impossible to maintain contact with everyone at the same time.”

Tosh had the keen insight to offer the wristband to Ianto before he had the chance to snatch it from her hands and injure her wrist in the process. “This,” he said. “Any article of clothing or object that has been in close physical contact with you will work to negate the hallucinations. Like so.” He put the wristband back into his mouth.

“Eeeeew!” said Foreman and Chase at the same time. Cameron, on the other hand, looked thoughtful. Owen just rolled his eyes, chalking another normal day with Torchwood up to some deity or universal force having a personal grudge against him. Cuddy glared at all of them, daring someone to ask her to stuff an article of clothing into her mouth.

“Just give me something clean,” Wilson said with a suffering air.

“Well, I’m immune,” House said. “Maybe that alien artifact didn’t do me such a disfavor after all.”

“How do you know the link will work?” Jack said before anyone could ask what the hell House was talking about. “We’ve never tested it or--”

“He has a certain instinct for jumping to the right conclusion,” Chase said.

House reached over with his cane and poked him in the forehead. “Thank you, Chase. It’s nice to know that you’ll suck up to me even when the hospital lies in shambles.”

Jack sighed. “Well, if I must, then I will strip for the greater good.” He grinned.

Before anyone could react to Jack’s offer of personal sacrifice, the transmat began powering up. Everyone stared at Ianto, who spat the wristband out of his mouth.

“I didn’t touch anything!” he protested.

“The transmat obeys conservation laws by switching the contents of the two pads,” Tos explained. “The aliens must be trying to come here!”

As though someone had switched a television channel, the view outside the window brought up a scene befitting the interior of a volcano. Streams of molten metal poured down from trenches all around, and above, the automated droids of an assembly line showered sparks down upon them. The minivan swayed as its parking spot rotated out into thin air. Four fraying ropes were attached to rings at the corners of the platform, and they went up to loop around a hook at the end of a crane.

“Shoot,” Cuddy said. “It’s a trap!”

Howell waved at them from the operating booth, then pulled a lever. The crane lurched as its arm jerked free of the weight of its load, and the minivan began the plunge that everyone had presciently expected before.

It’s a vat of molten steel down there!” Owen screamed.

Chase clutched at Cameron. “We’re going to DIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”

Wilson shoved his way up to the front passenger seat which House had managed to appropriate from Cuddy. “No, don’t say anything, House,” he admonished when the diagnostician opened his mouth. “There’s something I need to tell you before we die.”

“Okay...” House said.

“I love you.”

Four jaws dropped--the jaws being the ones belonging to, in alphabetical order, Cameron, Chase, Cuddy and Foreman--followed by silence except for the sound of air rushing past the minivan. Wilson grabbed both sides of House’s head and mashed their lips together.

A jarring thud threw them apart as the minivan’s plunge came to an abrupt halt. House slammed against the door and Wilson flew all the way back into the trunk. Everyone else just shook back and forth like bobble-head dolls. The tense expectation of steel melting through the car frame and roasting them all dragged on, and on, and on. Tosh peered out the window.

“It looks like the aliens miscalculated,” she reported. “The length of the platform is roughly the same as the diameter of the vat.”

Owen groaned. “Tosh, if I’d known my life would one day depend upon geometry class, I’d have paid more attention in high school.”

“What she means is the aliens tried to plug a square peg into a circular hole,” Ianto explained. “Can’t be done.”

“So we’re not going to die?” Wilson’s voice drifted up from under a pile of rifles.

“No,” House said. “Not yet.”

“Oh. Well that’s embarrassing.”

There was an ominous creak.

“However,” Tosh continued in a Let’s-Discuss-The-Logistics-of-Playtime-My-Fidgety-Preschool-Wards voice. “The heat of the vat is sufficient to melt the platform we are on within twenty-five seconds.”

Step on the gas!” Cuddy screamed. Jack didn’t hesitate. He rammed his foot against the pedal, and the minivan shuddered before lunging forward, tires screeching. The forward momentum of the vehicle propelled the platform backward so that the forward edge of their support began falling into the vat before the minivan was fully moving. They all grabbed the edges of their seat and screamed as they soared through the air. The back tires caught the edge of the vat and the minivan flipped, tumbling through the air. By sheer chance, it landed upright fifteen feet down on the factory floor. There was a collective sigh of relief.

“That was close,” Ianto said.

“Oopsies,” Cameron said. “I dropped a grenade.”

Foreman buried his face in his hands. “Everybody out!” Jack yelled.

The doors flew open and Jack hit the trunk release, causing Wilson to tumble out the back. The Torchwood members shoved the others through unceremoniously before leaping out themselves. The minivan shattered in a thunderous plume of flame that suggested Cameron had dropped more than one explosive.

Before they could regain their feet, the world began spinning. “The gas!” Ianto yelled before he stuffed his mouth again.

“The gas must be denser than air!” Tosh exclaimed. “Jack’s clothing won’t eliminate the hallucinations completely, but if we can climb higher, we might escape it altogether!”

“Come on!” Foreman said, pinching his nostrils shut. “Strip!”

Jack unclipped his braces. “Any other day, and that would be a perfect request.” He tossed one to Owen and the other to Foreman. They both chomped onto the middle of the fabric and wrapped the ends around the back of their heads.

Jack stopped.

“Come on, Jack!” Tosh protested. “Now is not the time to develop a sense of modesty.” Everything began growing dark as the hallucinations closed in.

“I refuse to go into battle wearing only wet pants!” Jack said. “House, how are you doing?”

“Wonderful. And my wonderful vision is telling me that we are in a completely open space and aliens are setting up machine guns nests above us right now.”

“How about my shoes?” Jack asked Chase and Cameron. Seeing the look on their faces, he said, “Ok, fine.” He reached into his pocket and tossed a handful of loose change at them. “These should work too.”

Chase dumped his collection straight into his mouth, but Cameron weighed the five and ten pence coins in her hand and said, “Do you know how many people have touched this?”

“Right now, only one of them matter,” Jack said, pointing at himself. Cameron frowned but slipped three coins under her tongue anyway.

“Hey, it works!” she said. “What about you, Chase?” She waited for a reply, but all she heard was “Erp!” She glanced over. “Chase?”

“I think I swallowed them,” he said weakly. Cameron rolled her eyes.

“Faster, Faster!” Cuddy said. “Jack’s the only real thing I can see now.”

Wilson crawled out of his pile of M-16s and made a flying grab at Jack’s shirt. It tore at the seams, and he tumbled away with the entire article of clothing in his hands. “Ha!” he said, stuffing it into his mouth.

That is not the Wilson I know House thought to Jack. Jack was surprised that the overwhelming sensation he felt from House was pride. Maybe the man enjoyed driving his friends mad.

“He kissed me, too,” Jack said out loud. Wilson glared at him.

“That’s the best idea I’ve seen all day,” Tosh said, ripping Jack’s undershirt off him as well. “Come on, Cuddy!”

It was too late. At that moment, Smythe materialized behind her despite the fact that there was no transmat beam. He had a glowing orange device that looked like a battery strapped to his arm. Twisting Cuddy’s arms behind her back, he dragged her after him. Cuddy fell to the ground, and Jack took the opening to fire three shots at him. The bullets froze just before touching his chest and fell to the ground.

“Behold,” Smythe said, his voice a whisper and yet audible over the roar of the factory, “the power of BRAIN as it is meant to be used.” He lifted Cuddy to her feet and retreated behind her. “Not that I will give you another chance to fire. Know that if you do, she dies as well.” They both teleported away.

A new sound became evident to Tosh even over the cacophony, and she looked up in time to see Howell sending the crane down at them. “Chase, Cameron! Duck!” They dropped to the ground, but Howell anticipated the reaction and lowered the hook to compensate. It caught both their shirts and lifted them up like stuffed animals in an arcade.

“Oh no you don’t!” Tosh ran after them and jumped, grabbing hold of the chain above the hook just as the crane began ascending again.

“We’re going to fall!” Chase screamed, and indeed, the fabric was already ripping.

The hook soared up in an arc, soon ascending several meters per second. As it spun, Tosh saw that Howell was attempting a repeat performance of their earlier encounter. “You have to fall before we reach the vat!” she told the two doctors.

“There’s nowhere solid to land!” Cameron said.

“Brace yourselves!”

“What are you doing?"

“You’re going to kill us!”


“You’re aiming for that conveyor belt over there? That’s insanity!”


“How are we going to survive with all those moving parts chopping up metal?”


“Aw hell.”

Tosh reached down and tugged. Her added force caused the hook to tear through their clothing as though they were held together by Velcro, and they went flying. Tosh congratulated herself on her perfect aim as they sprawled across the moving convey belt amidst jagged pieces of scrap metal, but her satisfaction was short-lived.

The crane ground to a halt, and she looked down to see a new, much larger vat beneath her, glowing and churning like a sun. The hook swung back and forth but not enough to send her to safety. She wondered if she could wait Howell out and was answered when the crane began jerking up and down like a rodeo horse. “Shit!” she said as her fingers nearly lost their grip, but she stared into the booth and thought of Monty having to confront those cold, alien eyes. Imagining the chain was Howell’s neck, she inched her way up the links toward the arm of the crane some fifteen meters above. The shaking increased, but she ignored it. Fly on a wall, she imagined. No one ever dislodged a fly once it stuck. Higher and higher she went, and she could see the look of frustration on Howell’s face as he beat rapidly at the control panel. His face gleamed as sweat poured down, and she smiled at him.

Damned if I’m going to let him win, she thought. She giggled as she looked down at the glowing morass below and added, Quite literally.

* * *

Whoever came up with the idea of see-through stairs by means of pieces of metal with lots of holes riddled in them hated humanity, Owen decided as he and Foreman clanged their way up to the catwalk five meters above the factory floor. Chase and Cameron’s screams were still audible as the crane swung them out of sight, but the stairs soon took him high enough to see them fall onto a conveyor belt. House and Jack were taking the set of stairs opposite them, and they regrouped once they reached the top.

“Can we figure out a path to them?” Foreman asked.

Owen surveyed the maze of walkways, stairs, ladders and piping that extended from them to where Chase and Cameron were two small specks of white bobbing up and down amidst lots of specks of gray, and they weren’t even a third of the way across the length of the factory. He got the feeling they were a little underprepared for this confrontation. A helicopter and some heavy weaponry would be a good start to closing the technological barrier, but only a start.

The aliens began firing machine guns from their various fortified positions. The four of them threw themselves to the ground, and sparks flew as bullets struck the railing and bounced off.

“Grenade!” Jack demanded. Owen removed one from his belt and tossed it over. Jack removed the pin and threw it without looking. One of the gun nests exploded, taking out three suspension cables with it. The platform swung past just above their heads and into a catwalk on the next level up. The aliens went flying as the walkway snapped in two and swung up and down like a teeter-totter. Foreman let out a cheer which turned out to be premature as one end of the walkway then came slamming back down onto the level they were on, sending them all into the air.

Too late, Owen realized Jack’s braces had fallen out of his mouth amidst all his screaming. He fumbled with it, trying to keep it from flying away altogether, when he looked over and saw Howell swinging the crane back around for them. It caught the end of the brace just as he managed to get it around his neck, turning the object of his salvation into a noose. Two seconds later, something heavy slammed into his back, sending him spinning. He caught Foreman, also choking on his piece of Jack’s clothing. Owen considered helping Foreman out with his left hand in hopes that the doctor would do the same for him, but then he gave it up as being to confusing and settled on trying to avoid choking with his right hand alone. The fact that the crane was now rotating back the other way, trying to catch House, did not help.

The hook missed House, but House didn’t miss Owen. As he fell past them, he latched onto his leg to avoid falling into the molten steel below. Jack was not so fortunate, and the vat swallowed him up with a slurp, but Owen was too busy dealing with the added weight of House to worry about it too much.

“Choking... me...” he gasped, tugging harder at the brace.

“Hey!” House yelled at Howell, ignoring him completely. “Let them down! It’s not politically correct to lynch minorities.” He looked up at Owen, who was beginning to see stars. “Or Welshmen.”

“Get off!” Owen kicked House with his other leg and sent the man flying.

The hook began shuddering, which was not an action previously in its repertoire. He glanced up to see Tosh sliding back down the chain. Realizing his new posture eased his breathing, he continued tracking her rapid descent toward them.

“Damn you, Owen! I was almost at the top!”

Owen decided now was not the time to point out that he valued his life slightly more than Toshiko’s strained muscles. When she reached the bottom, she began tugging at the braces, but their weight kept them from budging.

“You’re making it worse!” Foreman screamed.

“Stop flailing; you’re making it worse!”

“Do something!”

“Foreman, grab Owen and climb up him. That’ll give me enough slack to get the brace off!”

“No!” Owen screamed. “He’ll break my neck!”

“You have no choice!” Tosh snapped.

“Yes I do. I control his left arm! No arm, no climbing.”

Tosh reached down and tugged hard at his noose. “Help him do it or I’ll break your neck myself.”

“Grrrk!” Owen replied, but he concentrated long enough to make Foreman’s left hand close on his own shoulder, and Foreman grunted as he pulled. Tosh slipped him off the hook, then repeated the procedure for Owen, telling him, “Oh good, you’re lighter.”

They plummeted through the air. “There’s something yellow under us,” Foreman told him before biting down on his brace again, this time making sure to keep the rest of it away from his neck.

From his vantage point slightly higher up, Owen saw they were falling toward the roof of a bulldozer. Then Foreman slammed into it and Owen fell on top of him. The metal dented inward, breaking their fall enough to prevent them from breaking anything else.

“Aliens!” groaned Owen, throwing himself off the gasping Foreman and dropping to the ground as another volley of gunfire broke around them. Foreman screamed and rolled off the roof onto Owen, knocking the breath out of him.

“Now we’re even,” Foreman said.

“I see keys! Grab them!”

They leapt into the vehicle, managing to share the driver’s seat. “How do you drive this thing?” Foreman asked, pushing at random buttons. The bulldozer started going backward. “Turn around! Turn around!”

“I can’t turn around! If I turn around I won’t know how to steer with your left hand!”

“Then you steer with one hand!”

“That’s not very safe!”

“Neither is driving a rampaging bulldozer in an industrial waste processing plant!”

There was a loud crash as the bulldozer reached the end of the walkway and ripped through the railing as though it were made of paper. “Forward! Make it go back!” Owen screamed.

Foreman punched something which made the blade swing upward, shifting their weight even further backward. The bulldozer tipped over the edge.

* * *

Wilson and Ianto peered out from underneath a very large workbench. Ianto had tried to go after Jack, but Wilson, sensing danger, had pulled him under.

By now, everyone else was out of sight, having been dragged away for various reasons.

"So what, exactly, is BRAIN?" Wilson asked when he'd caught his breath.

"It stands for Beta-Radiating Abstractive Innovatory Neurology," Ianto replied.

"That's a mouthful."

"Er, yeah. To put it very simply, it's the idea of mind over matter. As it turns out, humans have a large amount of psychic energy, but we can't use it because it's all latent. BRAIN technology is using outside forces to harness that psychic energy and turn it into a weapon."

"Oh," said Wilson. He chewed on his lip. "That sounds dangerous." He glanced mournfully over at the smoking remains of the minivan. He stopped chewing on his lip and starting chewing on the sleeve of Jack's shirt when the minivan threatened to morph into a daisy.

"This is a ridiculous factory," said Ianto conversationally. "Not exactly what you'd expect to see underneath the Botanical Gardens. More like in a bad science fiction movie with an unreasonably high budget."

"You know what?" said Wilson. "I think we're going to need a deus ex machina to get out of this one."

A lot of feet marched past the desk. Ianto and Wilson drew back. Predictably, the last set of feet stalled, then a head belonging to a disguised alien peeked under the table. Ianto lunged forward and dragged him under, a hand over his mouth, before he could give away their presence.

It didn't matter. The alien kicked and struggled and generally made plenty of noise, so that the whole group of marching aliens noticed and backtracked.

Ianto and Wilson were momentarily distracted by the bizarre costumes the aliens were wearing. They seemed to be trying to imitate soldier uniforms, but they had unfortunately taken their cues from The Nutcracker, and so in addition to the bright red velvet and gold rope trim, they had big fake mouse ears and whiskers painted on.

There were about twenty-five of them, all staring (or trying to shove one of their comrades aside so they could stare) at the two men huddled under the workbench. Ianto broke the silence by giving the captive alien a hard push, sending him right into the pack at a fairly high velocity. Wilson grabbed a wrench and threw it also for good measure.

The wrench landed with a promising thunk as Ianto and Wilson scrambled out from under the bench and sprinted away.

"After them!" hollered the one who was probably the leader of the little gang. The alien mouse warriors took off, chasing Ianto and Wilson across the factory floor.

They leapt over two conveyor belts in a row like hurdles. Wilson chanced a glance back and saw two aliens, not entirely used to their current form, trip and fall onto the belts, only to be carried away at high speed.

The rest looked very angry and were doing a good job of keeping up.

Unfortunately, the fact that Wilson was looking behind him meant he wasn't watching where he was going, and therefore he did not notice when Ianto skidded to a stop, and plowed right into him.

Ianto had stopped because he'd come to the edge of a precipice. They both tumbled over the side, and one of the mouse soldiers, unable to stop himself in time, tumbled over with them. They landed not very softly in something like a mining trolley on rails, with Ianto and Wilson in one car and the mouse soldier in the one behind them.

The impact caused the lever keeping the trolley in one place to jolt and they began to move, slowly at first but gaining speed. They gained altitude and it quickly became clear that the purpose of the carts was observation, and also that they were not supposed to go at the roller coaster speed they were going at.

"AHHHHHHH!" screamed Ianto, Wilson, and the random alien mouse soldier at the same time. Ianto gathered the presence of mind to grab the alien by the front of his flamboyant coat jacket and heave him overboard, then returned to screaming as the cart reached a bit of a drop and unsteadily raced down the tracks.

Below them, the alien hit a pile of wood chips with a sick thud.

"There has to be an emergency break somewhere!" shouted Wilson. "Who designed this stupid thing?" He held onto the edge of the cart for dear life and groped around the floor of the cart at the same time, unable to see clearly because the rattling of the cart was jerking him around so much. It was like the worst wooden roller coaster ever.

Finally he found a lever on the floor and, hoping it was the right one, he yanked at it. It slid up easily and the cart screeched to a halt so suddenly that the momentum threw Wilson and Ianto both out of the cart and into thin air fifty feet above any surfaces.

"AHHHHHHHH!" they screamed together as they plummeted.

Their fall was broken by a flimsy shed roof, which they hit, fell through, and ended up landing on a pile of straw inside.

"That was lucky," remarked Ianto when he'd got his breath back.

"Oh my god it is like we are in a bad cartoon," said Wilson. They attempted to stand, but the straw was making it difficult. The whole inside of the shed was filled with it.

"Interesting," said Ianto, looking down at the straw.

"I never want that to happen again," said Wilson. "Ouch!" he added when something pricked his hand. He looked where Ianto was staring. "What the hell?"

"Needles," muttered Ianto. Wilson stuck Jack's sleeve back in his mouth, thankful he'd tied it around his neck before all the chasing had started, but this was not a hallucination.

"Why are there needles mixed in with all this hay?" moaned Wilson, really not needing his life to become any more surreal.

"Well, if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say they were trying to understand humans so they could pass for one," mused Ianto.

"What? With needles and hay? What a silly idea!"

"Well, from our perspective, yes. But we take saying and idioms like that for granted, don't we? 'Like a needle in a haystack.' They were probably trying to make sense of something that is nothing more than a quirk of language."

"Great. Now they're not just aliens, they're socially retarded aliens. Can we get out of here before I ended up covered in pinpricks?" said Wilson crossly.

They didn't get a chance. The double doors of the shed burst open and they found themselves looking down the barrels of a dozen rifles, courtesy of a dozen alien mouse soldiers.

Wilson buried his face in his hands. "Wake me up when it's over, will you?" he said, then for clarification added, "I'm still hoping I'm just asleep and I've dreamed the last two days."

* * *

"That was seriously unpleasant," Jack said, climbing heavily out of the vat. Molten steel rolled off him in the same way mercury might. "It's nice to know that sort of thing won't kill me, though. I've always wondered."

"BASTARD!" House was yelling from somewhere beside the vat. Jack looked over. House had somehow managed to land on the only soft objects in the whole room--a couple bags of feathers, used for who knew what. Now he was having trouble getting up. Jack grabbed his arm and helped him to his feet.

House stared at Jack, then rolled his eyes. "I think you've lost your pants," he said.

Jack looked down. "So I have," he observed. "Must've gotten burnt off."

"Aren't you going to get some more?" asked House after a short pause.

"What, here?"

"I really can't be seen with you like this. People might think I'm gay."

"I hardly think that's your biggest problem."

House looked up at the rest of the group. Chase and Cameron were just barely in sight, high above on a conveyor belt, and Owen and Foreman were trying to drive a bulldozer and failing quite spectacularly. Wilson, Ianto, and Cuddy were nowhere to be seen.

"Didn't Cuddy get kidnapped?" said House, frowning.

"Er," said Jack.

"That was rather silly of her."

"If you say so," said Jack, who had given up.

"Still, I suppose we'd better go rescue her. You never know, maybe she'll reward us with sexual favors."

* * *

The far end of the conveyor belt ended in a furnace, and Cameron could see Chase was in no position to run away, thanks to the way he’d neglected her body. Right now, she had him on her back as she ran against the flow of the belt, dodging left and right to avoid jagged scrap metal like she was in a game of Frogger. The belt vibrated from the combined force of her footsteps and several spider droids climbing up the structural supports. Chase provided a running commentary on their progress.

“They’re getting closer!” he said. She spared a glance to see them swinging from one triangular set of beams to the next like chimpanzees on the warpath. “They have things in their claws!”

One of the droids threw itself into the air and five feet in front of them, sending waves up and down the belt. Cameron screamed and turned around, but another one swung from below to block her path. She turned, expecting to see the first robot to have closed in on her, but it remained the same distance away, jogging backward at her pace.

“The other one’s doing the same thing!” Chase said. She took his word for it and focused her attention on the one she could see.

She ran faster and it clanked backward faster, though she soon stopped that because the struts below them were creaking. The droid opened a compartment and removed a top hat, which it glued to the top of its body.

“Just so you know,” Chase said into her ear, “the one behind you is juggling. It’s up to seven balls now, and it just added a live iguana. Whoops, never mind. There goes the iguana.”

The one in front of her started drawing a face on itself using a bottle of whipped cream. Raising two of its legs into the air, it mimed being trapped in a box. Then it pushed around the whip cream to change the smiley face into a frowny face.

Wait! it signed, holding up one leg and clapping two blades together. With the other “hand,” it drew out a flower and offered it to Cameron. A spray of water squirted out into its own face, and the droid pretended to fall backward in surprise.

Cameron was so intent upon figuring out what the droids were up to that she stopped paying attention to where her feet were going and stepped onto a piece of metal. Her ankle twisted and she began falling. The droid dropped the act and pounced before she was halfway to the ground, and she screamed. So that was the plan; catch them off guard so they couldn’t escape. Well, she refused to play into their hands, claws, whatever...

She let Chase slide off her back and shoved him to her right, causing herself to fly leftward. The droids slammed into each other, and then the two humans were falling through the air.

Chase struck a droid that was still climbing up and grabbed it. It screamed, a mixture of a screech and whine, and began flailing, crashing into one beam and then another. “Listen, buster,” Chase exclaimed, “there’s nothing wrong with my arms, so I can hang here, blocking your vision, for as long as I need. So how about you cooperate?” The droid struggled a little longer, during which time Cameron was acutely aware of the fact that she was still falling and nothing was coming to break her fall except the ground.

Finally, the droid bobbed up and down in a gesture of acquiescence, and Chase slid his hands over a few inches off its visual sensors. “All right, then rescue that falling woman, er, man, now! Whoa!”

The droid set off at an astounding speed, essentially falling while speeding up its acceleration by swinging at the supports and pushing off them. In three seconds, it was alongside Cameron and wrapped an outstretched tentacle-arm around her waist. Then it latched onto the nearest strut and began stopping their fall, letting go and grabbing the next beam down whenever the force of their deceleration threatened to injure them. It took another twenty feet for them to reach a complete stop, but when they did, they were all alive, if a bit shaken and hanging just five feet over a contraption filled with spinning blades that was shredding metal into tiny slivers.

They dangled there long enough to catch their breath, and then their savior climbed over a few feet and deposited them onto a balcony. Chase patted its body, cooing, “Aww, who’s a good spider?”

It responded by leaping onto the balcony beside them, knocking out half the wall beside the entryway, and rubbing itself against Chase. Her coworker responded by giggling.

“Looks like you have a new pet,” she said in a flat voice.

“Don’t be jealous, Cameron, it doesn’t suit you.” A beam of light shot out from the droid, which it then played up and down Chase’s body. The scan eventually focused on his leg, and then the robot lifted him up and dropped him on top of it. “Hey, look, it’s giving me a ride!” He bounced up and down as they began moving into the next room and struck his head against the top of the doorframe. He fell to the ground unconscious. Cameron sighed, and the droid actually slapped its own head. Then it skittered off and returned with some rope, which Cameron used to tie Chase to the robot’s back.

“I’m the smart one,” Cameron told it. The droid bobbed again, a sign Cameron took as agreement. Together, they continued into the room, which was darkened and glowed blue from the rows and rows of monitors present. She guessed these were the control stations for the industrial portion of the factory. “Do you know how to turn the factory off?” she asked.

There was a twirl, which Cameron guessed was the opposite of bobbing.

“I guess I’ll just have to figure this out myself, then.” She took a seat and began typing.

* * *

Tosh regained the top of the chain after rescuing Owen and Foreman from their ridiculous predicament. The muscles in her arms felt like they were on fire, and she cursed both of them as she realized she still had the length of the crane’s arm to go. Honestly, she thought furiously, hoping anger would distract her from the task at hand, who’s stupid enough to get braces caught around their necks? Of course, that made her think of her own token of Jack’s. Those 51st century pheromones were making her dizzy and getting on her nerves.

The crane stopped jerking about like a dog with fleas, and she had a moment to savor the stillness before the chain started retracting. “Damn you!” she yelled at Howell, keeping her eyes fixed on the diminishing length between her fingers and the spinning gears reeling her in. She’d had about a meter left before reaching the absolute top, and she hoped that was enough. Mental calculations flashed through her head in the seconds remaining, and then she let go.

Her upward momentum carried her just high enough that she wrapped her arms around the crane itself and pulled herself atop the arm. The chains clanked below, but she was safe from them now. “Hah!” she exclaimed.

Howell started beating at the controls again, and she nearly slid off the end, but she caught herself and persisted in shimmying down the length of the arm. Realizing he wouldn’t lose her that way, Howell stopped shaking the crane and pulled out a gun. Tosh did the same, as she no longer needed both hands to keep the machine from bucking her off, and she fired first. Since hers could fire on automatic and he only had a handgun, she won. He tossed the weapon aside and dodged out of the booth. She heard fading footsteps as he vanished into the distance. She kept up her fire until he was out of range, but her arm shook so hard she couldn’t line up a good shot, and the bullets clanged harmlessly against the floor of the catwalk.

Once he was gone, she checked the chamber and saw she had only several shots remaining, so she turned off the automatic and slid the remaining way into the booth of the crane. Then she clambered off and pursued.

The walkway ended in a crossroads, branching in opposite directions and attached to stairs that led to the levels above and below. Remembering the gas and wanting to get Jack’s shirt out of her mouth as soon as possible, she went up.

She found three aliens perched at the top, setting up a machine gun. Though there were a few close misses because they were uncooperative enough to move, she used her remaining bullets to take out their eyes, as she wasn’t sure where to fire to kill them. Then she pushed them over the ledge, took over their position, hefted the machine gun and said, “That’s more like it.”

At least seven other nests were within range and visible. She took out three before the others realized was happening and re-aimed to target her. The bullets punched through steel and forced her to abandon her position until they stopped firing. Then, using water to cool the barrel, she opened fire again.

Another type of gunfire rang out, and sparks flew as the bullet missed her head and struck the gun instead. She swung the weapon around to aim at the newcomers streaming up the stairs. The barrage tore the first two into a bloody mess, causing their handguns to drop. The ones behind pushed them forward as meat shields, and Tosh ran out of bullets before the two corpses ran out of mass.

Five remaining aliens circled around her, and she saw they were weaponless and out of breath. Doubtless they had rushed over as soon as someone saw the position compromised, but there were still the two guns on the ground. One of them bent over to retrieve the closest weapon, and Tosh grabbed a piece of railing that had dislodged when she pushed her earlier opponents over. She swung it around and knocked the gun away, then hooked the other one and pulled it toward her.

Shots rang out and sent three blinded aliens staggering over the edge. The other two reared up and tried to body-slam her. She ducked out of the way and whacked one over the head. It felt like striking a water bed. Not expecting the skin give in so much, she failed to bring the rod back around in time, and the second alien rolled into her.

Before it could crush her under its weight, she spat out Jack’s undershirt, wrapped it around the empty gun and stuffed them into the alien’s mouth. It roared but somehow managed to get the ball stuck in its throat. Hacking and gagging, the alien rolled back the other way, bringing down the other one. The two tumbled end over end and teetered over the edge for a second before Tosh took one last swing at them and decided which way they would go.

Her surroundings failed to change when she took a deep breath, confirming that she was indeed above the gas. Then she saw a man run through a door several floors up, and since he wasn’t anyone she recognized, he had to be Howell. None of the other aliens had disguised themselves. A quick visual search didn’t find any other humans, so she decided to pursue. Whether Monty was all right or not, the alien would pay for what he’d done to him.

Two flights of stairs up, she tripped on the landing. She swung her bar around, thinking an alien had caught her, but there was nothing there. A black box about 125 square centimeters large sat at the edge and had caught her foot. On the top, there was a note: “To: Toshiko, the girl pursuing my heart.”

“That’s just wrong,” she said, trying to pick it up and toss it down into a vat. The box didn’t budge, but when she paused in her efforts, she heard beeping. “Shit!”

She leapt over the box and down the stairs, legs pumping as she dashed along the catwalk. The box detonated, filling her vision with white, and metal groaned as the entire network of suspended walkways began collapsing in on itself. About ten meters ahead, she saw steel bend downward as the floor began to slant and its weight dragged itself further and further down.

With only two meters left to go, she jumped and closed her fingers around a vertical piece of railing on the side that was not about to break off. The catwalk snapped and the supporting metal under her fell away, leaving her hanging fifty meters above ground level. Arms feeling ready to snap, she pulled herself up and staggered to her feet, brushing herself off in an attempt to calm her nerves. It did not help that when she looked up, she found herself staring into the barrel of a rocket launcher.

* * *

The bulldozer smashed through four layers of scaffolding to collapse onto its side upon a conveyor belt. Foreman and Owen stopped screaming long enough to realize this particular assembly line carried plates ready to be stamped. Then a massive press the size of the bulldozer came crashing down upon them, and the screaming resumed.

The frame creaked as the machinery pressed down upon them, but finally, the time limit came up and it lifted again, permitting them to move on to the next stage.

Another press came down, and the plastic windows shattered.

“Oh my god, it’s like we’re Natalie Portman in Star Wars!” Foreman screamed.

“She had better reflexes!” Owen screamed back.

The machine struck a third time, and the compartment began crumpling. Foreman threw up his hands to hold back the collapsing metal, but Owen happened to be lying on his left arm and got punched as it flew up of its own accord.

“Ow!” Owen clutched a bleeding nose. Foreman’s left had raised up and began pounding him in the face. He roared and tried to stop the attack with his right hand, but then the bulldozer dented further and slammed into his elbow, striking his funny bone. He howled in pain. Owen did not sympathize and continued using his own arm to assault him. “Hey Foreman, stop punching yourself!”

Foreman retaliated by taking control of Owen’s arm and strangling the man. “Stop. Choking. Yourself. Bastard!” he said between punches to his face.

“I hate you!” Owen gasped.

“Sentiments. Returned!”

The bulldozer shuddered, causing them to return their attention to their predicament. “Hey! We’re past the presses!” Owen exclaimed.

“We’ve also reached the end of the line.”

A claw descended from the sky and picked them up. They decided to stop fighting and save their breath for more screaming. Sure enough, the bulldozer was not a shape that accommodated the claw’s design, and it lost its grip on them. They tumbled through the air.

“Uh,” Foreman said, pointing at something beyond the remains of the window. Owen turned his head and saw an iguana falling alongside them. A chain of juggling scarves trailed from its foot, and as the cloth flapped about the creature, the other end snared on its tail, forming an arc that caught the air and inflated. With a whoomp, the scarves turned into a parachute and the iguana appeared to soar upward.

“Lucky git,” Owen muttered.

Their own luck wasn’t that bad as the bulldozer slammed into a number of canvas bags that burst, sending up a minor explosion of feathers.

Owen clambered out of the wreckage spitting down out of his mouth. “That was a hell of a ride.”

Foreman hyperventilated.

A moment later, the iguana dropped onto Owen’s shoulder and experienced significant bowel movements on his shirt.

“Gross!” he exclaimed, knocking the animal off him and sending it skittering into the recesses of the vats. He tore his shirt off in his haste to keep the excrements from leaking through. “Not a word of complaint,” he growled, raising Foreman’s fist in warning.

Foreman shrugged. “After the last two days, this is perfectly normal. But try to keep your pants on.”

“I’m not Jack,” Owen snorted. As he laughed, a flash of light caught his eye, and he glanced up in time to see a streak of flame and clouds headed their direction. Following the trail back to its source, he saw an alien at one of the highest levels of the factory. Based on the line of silver extending along its bulk, it held a missile launcher. He grabbed Foreman’s arm and ran. “Incoming!”

* * *

Howell dabbed at the streams of sweat pouring from his brow as he watched the missile soar away from his compatriot. This would teach the humans a lesson. He had ordered his soldiers to bring in the most advanced missiles they had in storage at the DC facility, which while not even close to rivaling their usual firepower, would be more than sufficient to wipe out these nuisances.

The alien bent over the case of ammo and brought out another shell to load. Then it paused and looked over at Howell, its eyestalks quivering. “What is it?” Howell snapped.

“You ordered us to bring the most advanced missiles,” it replied in its guttural voice.

“Yes, so?”

Rhakz isel nor kregh!” The alien quivered in agitation.

Howell’s mouth dropped open. “What do you mean the label says ‘heat-seeking’?”

All around the factory, aliens were in position with targets sighted. They began firing.

* * *

Cuddy tried to scream, but Smythe clamped a hand over her mouth. She hadn't received any clothing from Jack, so happy purple bunnies were closing in on her from all sides and a turtle with floppy dog ears and glasses was spinning above her head.

The spinning was making her dizzy. She wished it would stop. There were sequins falling in waves from the turtle, which was quite mesmerizing.

The hand over her mouth smelled sort of foul, and the odor distracted her from the rapidly spinning turtle. She bit down on it, not eager to taste the source of the smell, but very eager to get it away from her face.

There was a high-pitched shriek and the hand fell away. The sense of movement did not fade, but a slight case of vertigo set in when giant purple, pink, and orange clouds rolled in above her and started raining granola bars.

"Ouch," she said instinctively when one fell at her head, but instead of actually hitting her, it fell right through her. "Right," she muttered. "Hallucinations. There are no clouds in factories. Not often, anyway."

Behind her, Smythe had turned into a giant tater tot, and the crane to her right had morphed into a yellow high chair.

She struggled against the tater tot, but it was somehow holding her firm. To her left, a plumber was trying to force a melon through the eye of a needle. She sighed and gave up, taking the hint.

Vaguely, she understood that the tater tot was taking her somewhere she probably didn't want to be.

Michelangelo's David walked up to her and started complaining about the size of his penis. He said he had a hard time satisfying the Mona Lisa, which was why she had that stupid fake smile on all the time. Cuddy told him not to try any of the enhancement pills advertised all over, because they didn't work, and reassured him that at least he wasn't a eunuch. She knew a man who was half a eunuch because he'd changed his mind in the middle of the operation. He thanked her and left.

She remembered that the man she knew was actually her computer mouse.

For some reason, she knew that thought was an odd one, she just couldn't for the life of her figure out why.

She was just starting to feel a little like she was Alice in Wonderland when the tater tot shoved some sort of pill into her mouth. She choked a bit, then swallowed it by accident.

Thirty confusing seconds later, the tater tot was no longer a tater tot, but once again Colonel Smythe.

"You!" she gasped, trying to sort out what was reality and what wasn't and simultaneously twist out of his grasp. He didn't budge. "You have the... the alien thing! Hand it over!"

The hallucinations had all faded by now, and she found she was in a fairly large storage room, with racks of tools along the walls and a rusting pile of various metal in one corner. In other words, it was a room full of potential weapons. This did very little to comfort her.

"There would be no benefit for me if I did that," said Smythe, a bit haughtily. "I think I'll hold onto it, thanks."

"I need it!"

"I have no doubt."

"Grrrr." Obviously, he wasn't just going to hand it over. So much for the direct approach. Cuddy switched tactics. "Fine. This technology you're using... the hallucinogens in the air. What's that called again, BRAIN?"

"It’s closely related; the differences are too subtle for you to understand." This was said with a hint of pride. Cuddy watched the odd smile on Smythe's face as his head swayed a miniscule amount from side to side atop his abnormally long neck. He's human, she remembered. Not an alien in disguise.

"What do you plan to do with it?" she asked. So human.

"I could do anything!" There was definitely more than a hint of pride there. Good.

"Like what?" she challenged. "Impress me."

"I quite enjoyed your little strip tease back at the hospital," Smythe said with a leer. This threw her off completely.

"What?" She cast her mind back and eventually remembered that yes, she had indeed pretended to strip for several army officials in order to buy House time. She blushed. "That was a ruse!" she shouted.

"Oh, I know it was. But since then, I have been quite interested in seeing your cute little panties."

"What has that got to do with anything?" Cuddy demanded.

"Well, I can do anything with BRAIN technology, which means I can do this!" In a flash, he was holding her panties in his free hand. She felt a draft.

"Why you--!" she began, before remembering it was a horribly cliché way to begin a threat. She settled for twisting out of his grip and stamping her foot.

"That is obscene! Give me those back!"

"Ruse or not, you did promise," Smythe teased. He twirled the panties around in his hand, using his superior height to keep them away from her.

"I did no such thing!"

"Ah, you break my heart, Doctor." He put on a fake sad face. "Very well. What are you willing to do to get them back?"

Seeing no other option, Cuddy took a deep breath, grabbed his face with both hands, and mashed a kiss onto him. Surprised, he dropped the hand holding her panties within her reach. She took the opportunity and snatched the panties away from him. Without sparing the time to think, she acted instinctively, swinging him around and throwing the panties around his neck. She pulled tight.

Smythe was too surprised to react properly, and a second later he was choking. With luck, his panic would keep him from remembering to use BRAIN. He flailed, but Cuddy had a tight grip and he had no leverage. He couldn't throw her off. Slowly, his struggles grew weaker and weaker until he fell to the floor, blue-faced. She held her panties there for several more seconds, just to make sure.

As she was getting up the door burst open and Jack ran in, brandishing a rusted pipe.

"Alright, where is she?" he shouted, swinging the pipe around. House sauntered in after him.

"Chill, I think she handled it just fine herself." Jack stopped and lowered the pipe, embarrassed.

Cuddy glanced down at the panties in her hand and blushed, equally embarrassed. She regarded them for a second more and then tossed them to the side, deciding she'd rather not wear them now. Then she looked back at Jack and blushed harder.

"You're naked!" she told him. He grinned and wiggled his hips.

House was laughing.

"Shut up and help me out here," Cuddy snapped. She bent over and started going through Smythe's pockets. She found the alien device pretty quickly and handed it to House, who shoved it at Jack.

"Reverse this stupid link!" he demanded.

"I don't know how to!" Jack said.

"Why not!"

"Why would I? We have to find Tosh! If anyone can figure it out, it's her."

"She'd better not die, then! Last time I saw her, she wasn't exactly in a safe place!"

"You just hold onto that, and don't lose it."

"Why don't you put on some of his clothes?" Cuddy suggested to Jack. Jack glanced down at the corpse and made a face.

"Ew, no thanks," he said.

"I'm not going to lose it, I'm not an incompetent," House said. Cuddy rolled her eyes.

"This is a stupid argument," said Jack.

To Chapter 13: Part 2

Back to Chapter 12: Words Fly Up

Summary: A finale chapter so epic it requires three posts. A battle in a factory under Washington DC, a sexual liaison involving House, Jack and Wilson, and a diagnosis for Gwen are just the highlights as Arc 1: Conspiracy Theories comes to a thrilling conclusion.

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3 comments or Leave a comment
stillbrainfried From: stillbrainfried Date: May 24th, 2010 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Three parts??? You really broke LJ with this one...

the bumper dropped like a squirrel that had lost its footing Poor thing. ;-)

OMG, Wilson declared his undying love and kissed House!! ROFL.

“I refuse to go into battle wearing only wet pants!” Jack said. Oh, come on, Jack. You've never been that shy before. What's with all the stories you end up naked? (I do solemnly swear this was written before he ended up naked!)

Oh my, the whole chapter is a mixture of Indiana Jones 2 (can't remember the title and am too lazy to look it up), Geonosis (wow, even Foreman and Owen thought so), Alice in Wonderland and a Roadrunner cartoon (and I thought that even before Wilson made his comment) - and I love it ;-)

And Chase made a friend :-)

randomhouses From: randomhouses Date: May 26th, 2010 03:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Yep. I was all "WE MUST MAKE IT THREE PARTS BECAUSE IT IS THE FINALE AND MUST BE EPIC" and my co-author was like "You're insane and that's the stupidest reason ever." But we made it happen. You can probably tell there was a little padding, but hopefully nothing boring. Ironically, it is unlikely we'll have a finale longer than two parts ever again, because the other finales will be so long they have to span multiple chapters.

I've always felt fics made Jack to be more promiscuous than he actually is, but hey, we'll go with it when it suits our purposes.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? That one was freaky... Thankfully we don't have anyone ripping out other people's hearts.

Yep, that friend comes in useful later too.
stillbrainfried From: stillbrainfried Date: May 26th, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought of the bit with the trolleys...

The spider acting as a whiteboard was hilarious ;-)
3 comments or Leave a comment