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These are not the droids you're looking for - Eram quod es, eris quod sum
Sex and Medical Malpractice
randomhouses
randomhouses
These are not the droids you're looking for
Eram quod es, eris quod sum

Chapter 13
Divine Tragedy
(Part 2 of 3)



Click image for sources used


When the computer screens began spewing alien text at her, Cameron knew she was in trouble. “CTRL-ALT-DEL, CTRL-ALT-DEL!” she said, bashing at the keyboard. A red light on the wall ignited and began spinning, and the monitors all went dead, showing only: “Unauthorized access detected.” Alarms sounded.

Immediately, the droid sat up, having been curled up beside her seat while she worked. Pointing its sensors in multiple directions, it ran up to a corner of the room and smashed through the wall with its arm. Catching a bundle of wires between its claws, it tugged and ripped everything apart in a storm of sparks. The room went dark. Outside, the clanging of machinery and hiss of moving liquid steel continued, and Cameron peered out to find the factory still operating as usual.

“Great. We broke the room that can break the factory.”

The droid tilted its head. It flickered and turned transparent, while a whiteboard appeared where it was standing, but the image was so fuzzy she couldn’t read the text scribbled on it. At first, she was confused, wondering whether the droid was malfunctioning, but then she remembered the attack in the hospital. “Oh!” she exclaimed, spitting Jack’s coins out of her mouth. At once, the droid flickered out of existence and turned into a whiteboard that read: “You want to shut down the factory?”

“Yes, and preferably put it permanently out of commission. Do you know how?”

An invisible hand wiped the board and then scribbled: “Of course.”

“Will you help me?”

A line appeared under the two words, and the droid popped back into existence. Beckoning for her to follow, it dashed off into the next room. Cameron followed as best she could, considering the lighting approached pitch dark the further she wandered from the factory proper. When she commented on this fact, however, the droid projected a hallucination of the surroundings properly lit into her mind.

After a series of control rooms, they emerged into a cylindrical room that loomed up over a hundred feet and dropped down so far the space diminished into a point due to perspective. A walkway circled a glowing column that had to be an advanced form of power generation; something big had to be powering a factory that might be the largest in the United States, and she’d seen no engines to this point.

“It must be difficult to destroy,” she commented. The droid projected a map in her mind and indicated a storage closet on the other side of the room. Meanwhile, from the direction they’d come, a series of red dots were headed their way. It gave her a push and turned to face the intruders.

The door was unlocked when she reached it and swung open at her touch. She assumed the droid must have hacked the system. Inside was several containers full of C4 explosives. The map in her mind changed to schematics about how to rig them, and she began following the instructions.

When she emerged from the room, packs of explosives under her arms, the droid was engaging in a ballet of death amidst a group of seven aliens, chopping at them with the blades at the end of its tentacles while dodging the bullets with exquisite ease. Within seconds, it had disarmed its antagonists, and, in even less time, vivisected them. Cameron stopped watching once the blood started flying and concentrated on hooking up the charges. Once the screaming stopped, she looked up and saw the droid watching her, its arms not up to the delicate task of wiring explosives.

“Sorry, I’m going as fast as I can,” she said. It shrugged by waving two arms at her and plonked down onto the floor to wait. She finished two minutes later, though her hands were shaking at the thought of what she was doing, which was ironic as they remained steady under the most extreme circumstances in the emergency room. But then, she wasn’t blowing anybody up in the emergency room.

They retreated to the original control room before Cameron triggered the detonation, but as she did so, a waterfall of molten steel plunged down onto the balcony from the factory and started flowing toward her. She screamed and ran in the opposite direction straight into the column of fire rushing forth from the generator room. “Crap!” she said, but moments before certain death, the droid slammed into her and pushed her against the edge of the room, and the flames rushed by just inches from her face. The heat didn’t seem to bother the droid, though it kept shifting position to keep Chase from getting burned. This was mildly distracting, as it meant drool kept dripping onto her neck at random intervals, but she supposed it was better than getting incinerated.

* * *


The first missile curved away its projected path moments after it launched. Owen found this development so surprising he stopped in his tracks. Since he was still holding onto Foreman’s hand after their initial moment of panic, Foreman continued onward and caused him to fall onto the floor. His weight brought Foreman crashing down on top of him.

“What the hell are you doing?” Foreman snapped.

“Look, the missile isn’t heading for us anymore.” Owen pointed and they watched its smoke trail angle and make several loops. “I wonder if it’s guidance system malfunctioned.”

“Why would a rocket use a guidance system?”

“I don’t know, but it must. Maybe it’s some sort of alien technology... Christ on a pogo stick!” The last comment came about because the missile had spun its way next to a vat and decided it had found its purpose in life. Soaring upward, it plunged straight toward the opening and detonated. The container shattered, giving a fair visual approximation of a volcanic eruption as the streams of molten steel arced through the air and plunged toward the ground, melting and bringing down every other piece of machinery they touched. By the time the entire chain of destruction ended several hundred meters away from Foreman and Owen, enough machinery to serve Torchwood Three’s needs for several centuries had been reduced to slag. It served as a testament to the size of the factory that as a whole, that it still appeared mostly unharmed.

“It was a heat-seeker!” Owen said. “Are they retarded? What the hell are they thinking?”

“Probably nothing at all,” Foreman said in a quavering voice as over forty new smoke trails became visible. “Now we really need to run!”

Owen didn’t need to be told twice. Detonations began overhead, sounding like a fireworks display of nuclear weaponry. In the distance, he spotted a door with an LED display next to it.

“Elevator!” Foreman said, taking the words out of his mouth.

“What if it gets damaged?”

“Do see those stairs over there instead?”

“Yeah!”

“Look up!”

“Oh.”

The stairs led nowhere, and additional examination showed that everything over twenty meters had sheared off and scattered all across the factory. He wondered when that had happened. Nevertheless, Foreman was right; the lift was their only chance now.

Debris from the explosions began raining down, which meant the molten stuff would be following soon thereafter. Sure enough, a stream splashed down just ahead of Foreman, and he barely dodged it. His pants caught on fire from the extreme heat, however, though it took them both a few moments to notice.

“Drop and roll but don’t stop!” Owen yelled. Foreman screamed and started rolling but not in the right direction. Owen kicked him. “No, that way!”

“I’m getting dizzy! Is the fire out?”

“No, it’s on your shirt now too!”

Splash!

“AAAAAARRRGGH!” Foreman covered his face as droplets soared past his face. “Maybe if I just lie here everything will be ok!”

“Don’t you dare!” Owen kicked the now immobile doctor, but he refused to move. Sighing, Owen bent over and started rolling Foreman ahead of him like he was a bundled carpet. All around, molten steel dripped down and oozed toward them while jagged rods spun through the air like falling tree branches. A particularly large flow was still ahead and cutting off their escape route. “All right, the fire’s out! Get up, get up!”

Foreman scrambled to his feet and screamed again when he saw the river of metal ahead

“Keep running!” Owen said, following the command up with a string of curses.

“Let’s circle around!”

“We won’t get there fast enough!”

“It’s too wide to jump across!”

Owen slowed down just enough to fall behind Foreman and give him a push as he attempted to turn away from the glowing orange mass ahead. Left with no choice, Foreman jumped and landed on the other side. Owen had to double back, having lost some momentum because of Foreman, before attempting the jump, and the extra time cost him the heel of his shoe, but they both made it into the elevator.

“Come on, come on!” Foreman said, pushing the top floor in rapid succession.

“You’re going to break the button!”

The doors closed, shutting out the hissing outside, and they breathed a sigh of relief. The heat seemed to lessen as well as the car jerked and began ascending. Owen’s sole continued to smolder, but that was a minor consideration. “We did it!” he said. “We’re alive!” He hugged Foreman and to his surprise, the other man hugged him back. They jumped up and down a bit, figuring that their run of bad luck was finally over.

The lift clanged as its upward motion came to an abrupt halt, leaving the car swinging in the shaft. All the lights went out, plunging the interior into complete darkness. Both of them froze.

“Oh god,” Foreman said. “No, no, NO!” He jabbed the open door button to no effect, then pounded the wall. “Why is it always us? Get us out of here! Somebody help!” He started ramming the door with his shoulder over and over again. Owen wondered whether this was what fish thought when they smashed themselves to death in aquariums.

A man’s voice saved them, though, as someone called from the other side of the door: “Foreman?”

“Chase?” Foreman said. “Or, I mean, Cameron? Oh, I’ve never been glad to hear from you before!”

“Don’t you mean you’ve never been so glad?” Owen asked.

Shhh! Not so loud!”

“I heard that.” Cameron said. “Nevertheless...”

A gleaming Terminator 2-esque blade sliced through the door next to Foreman’s head and he fell backward, screaming. “What the hell!”

“Sorry!” Cameron said. “I said to wait for my mark!” she told someone else beyond the door before adding, “You’re not hurt, are you?”

“I’m probably having a heart attack!”

“Don’t be such a baby. Ok, do it now!”

The doors screeched open as something ripped them apart, and they found a gleaming, five-foot high droid staring at them. Owen added his voice to Foreman’s screams before Cameron stepped out from behind it and patted it on the leg. “This is our friend,” Cameron said. Chase was perched on top of the droid’s substantial body, and he waved at them.

“Hello,” he said. “It appears I got knocked out and just woke up. Have I missed anything?”

“The power went out,” Owen said, stepping out of the lift. Foreman followed closely, which was a good thing as two seconds later, the cable snapped and the car plummeted back down to ground level.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Cameron said. “I blew up the power generator, and the blast must have damaged the infrastructure.”

“You blew up the power generator?” Owen repeated incredulously.

“Yeah. C4 charges.”

Owen’s jaw dropped. “You know, Dr. Cameron, as much as I hate you for nearly killing me just now, I have to hand it to you. You’re doing pretty damn good.”

“Joey,” Chase said.

Everyone turned to him, and Owen wondered if his brain had been addled when he was knocked out, however that had come about, but Chase just gave them a sheepish smile and said, “Can I call it Joey? I’ve always wanted a baby kangaroo.”

“That is not a kangaroo,” Foreman said, eyeing the droid with suspicion.

“But it likes me,” Chase said, rubbing the top of its body. “Who’s a good girl? You are, yes you are.”

“We should find the others,” Cameron said.

“Yeah,” Foreman replied, backing away from Chase as though he had some incurable and highly contagious disease. “Let’s do that.”

* * *


"Wow, I can't believe we got out of that!" said Wilson as they walked out of the now collapsed and softly smoking shack.

Ianto pulled a stray needle out of his bum with a wince. "I thought we were goners for sure," he said. "There were at least fifteen armed mouse aliens and only two of us!"

"How did we get out of it again?" Wilson asked after a brief pause, sounding a little puzzled.

"Do you know, I can't quite remember," said Ianto.

Wilson shrugged dismissively. "Now what?" he said. Ianto didn't get to answer because he hadn't been watching where he was walking and he'd stepped onto a giant circular section of floor that had turned out to be slowly rotating in place. He yelped in surprise, lost his balance, and fell. Wilson shushed him urgently. There were mouse soldiers all over the place and loud noises could easily attract them.

Ianto got onto all fours and crawled quietly off the moving section of floor. Then he stood up and grimaced at the white stains of who-knew-what on the knees of his trousers. He and Wilson turned together and crept determinedly in the opposite direction of the moving floor, keeping watchful eyes on the ground.

They barely got five feet. There was a massive clanging noise as something big and metal smashed to the ground behind them right where they had been standing. They froze. They turned around. Whatever it was, it probably weighed over a ton.

"Where the hell did that come from?" Wilson squeaked.

"Ah HAH!" came a triumphant voice from just to their right. "We've found you!" Mouse soldiers scurried in from all sides and surrounded them, pointing rifles in their direction.

"What do we do? What do we do?" said Wilson.

"I don't know!" Ianto replied. Wilson thought frantically.

"Quick! Start singing Tchaikovsky!" he said.

"What?" said Ianto.

"Just do it! You never know!" With that he started belting out the first several notes of the Overture from The Nutcracker. Ianto, uncomprehending but seeing no better alternatives, joined in, trying to cover parts that Wilson couldn't manage. It was difficult to vocalize a piece of classical music written for a full orchestra with only two people who each only had a passing familiarity with the composition, but they managed something that sounded decent. There was quite a lot of noise happening around them, so they had to sing very loudly to be heard.

For a whole minute, no one moved. Then, as Ianto watched bewildered, first the alien mouse soldiers in the front and then the ones further back started to imitate what could only be described as a ballet.

It was quite surreal, and oddly synchronized. They must have spent a lot of time studying that ballet to have the moves down so well, and more than that, to be so programmed to respond to it.

Nearly fifty oddly-dressed aliens danced on all sides as the two of them hummed out notes as best they could. Five minutes had passed before Wilson nudged Ianto with his elbow and motioned toward a break in the circle. They began slowly, carefully edging towards it. Giant combat boots that had never been intended for anything approaching ballet tiptoed gracefully around them.

Wilson ran into a large section of the music he couldn't remember enough to improvise through and segued clumsily into The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy. Ianto followed his lead as best he could. The aliens never missed a beat.

They were almost there... Almost there... So close---

"WHAT! Is going on here!" boomed a new voice. It was so deep it seemed almost to be on the edge of what you could actually hear and what you could only feel. It was loud in the sense that the sound of it got everywhere, but not in the piercing, obvious way most sounds do.

The crowd of pirouetting soldiers parted near the massive block of metal and the figure that entered was a match for the voice in every way. This alien had also taken his cues from humans and The Nutcracker for his form, but he had taken everything to a whole new level.

Ianto and Wilson were staring directly at a nine-foot-tall Count Drosselmeyer.

He towered over them, resplendent in his obscenely decorated nineteenth century suit and coat with gold trimming, an extravagant white cravat, and huge black boots that somehow, absurdly, had snow caked around the soles. He even carried a small nutcracker in one hand and had an ornamental epee strapped around his waist.

Wilson didn't waste any time. They were close enough, he reasoned, so he grabbed Ianto's sleeve and tugged hard as he ducked through the gap in the soldiers and ran for his life. He didn't even notice until he was safely hidden behind some sort of sinister machine that he'd tugged a little too hard and taken Ianto's sleeve with him instead of Ianto himself.

"Shit," he muttered. He peeked around the corner of the machine and saw Ianto being marched off with the rest of the soldiers, led by Drosselmeyer, who by now looked a little embarrassed by their impromptu dance routine, insofar as an alien mouse soldier can look embarrassed, at any rate.

Now what? Wilson wondered.

* * *


Thunderous explosions rattled the walls of the storage room as Jack, House and Cuddy prepared to exit. House tried to stop Jack from opening the doors by screaming “Halt! HALT!” in his brain, but Jack ignored him and did it anyway. A scene of chaos greeted them as assembly lines ground to a halt, broken machinery sent pieces of metal spewing up in fountains and streams of molten metal poured from broken conduits. Fires engulfed massive portions of the factory, and unsavory smells drifted up from the sewage processing portion of the plant. Jack decided to shut the door.

See? You should have just listened to me from the start, House thought to him.

“Shut up!” Jack snapped out loud. Cuddy jumped.

“No one said anything!” she said, clutching her chest.

“Yeah,” House said, crossing his arms at him.

“Shut up,” Jack repeated, giving House a shove for good measure. The lights went out, and Cuddy stared at Jack for a few seconds as though wondering if he had any other latent psychic issues he hadn’t told her about. A second glance outside the door showed every piece of machinery had ground to a halt, and Jack nodded. “Someone took out the power. The factory is fairly compromised, so I think it might be a good idea for us to focus on getting everyone out of here now.”

“Maybe, but why don’t you figure out how to undo this link first?” House said, shaking the alien artifact at him.

“Stop being selfish. It’s not like I enjoy having you in my head either, but we’ll have time to sort that out once everybody is safe.”

“Jack’s right,” Cuddy said.

“No one asked for your opinion,” House said, slamming the base of his cane against the ground for emphasis. “In fact, everyone who is not wearing underwear does not get a vote!”

Jack and Cuddy both glared at him, though not before Cuddy instinctively glanced at Jack and turned beet red. Jack flashed her a grin, and at the same time, an explosion took out part of the room and sent Cuddy falling as the floor beneath her collapsed. Jack rushed over and saw Cuddy hanging onto some exposed piping a meter below.

“Help me!” she screamed.

House jabbed Jack. “You are no longer allowed to smile at women. Clearly they do not have the presence of mind to avoid spontaneously combusting when you do so.”

“Are you acknowledging my amazing sex appeal?” Jack asked.

“Stop flirting and find a way to get me back up there!” Cuddy yelled. “If I end up saving myself, I will beat you with this pipe.”

“Women.” House rolled his eyes. “We tell them to take control of their bodies and they freak out.”

Cuddy began swinging her legs, hoping to throw herself in range of the lattice holding up the storage room. Overhead, a damaged furnace creaked and broke apart, falling straight toward her.

“Grab my ankles and brace yourself!” Jack ordered House.

“What? I am not--”

“Now!” Without waiting for him to follow the order, Jack took a flying leap off the edge and House barely missed him as he grabbed one of his feet while hooking his cane around the base of one of the racks nailed to the wall. A missile flew past Jack’s head as he fell toward Cuddy and blasted into the furnace, setting off a massive detonation whose shockwave caused the piping to snap. Cuddy began falling, but Jack doubled over and climbed past House in a flash of the eye, pulling the doctor back into the room and tossing his cane down after Cuddy. She caught it as it flew past her and used the extra reach to grab the lattice, slamming into it as the cane caught.

Almost a minute of silence passed as they all gasped for air, and then Cuddy yelled, “What am I supposed to do now?”

“Climb back up!” Jack said. She was a long way down, but he knew she was rolling her eyes.

“Easier said than done!”

“Would you please get off me?” House snarled. “Your crotch is dangerously near my face.”

Jack glanced down and saw that in the chaos, he had indeed ended on top of House. He grinned. “Your crotch is dangerously near my face.” The words were the same but meant something completely different out of his mouth.

House sniffed. “Tell me, why do you smell better the more we run for our lives in a hot and sweat-inducing environment? I ask, of course, purely out of medical curiosity.”

“Sure you do.” Jack didn’t move. “It’s 51st century pheromones. They’ll get to just about anything remotely humanoid, so when it’s with an actual human and my chemistry gets pumping, well... anything could happen.”

“I don’t think so. Wilson!”

The door creaked as it swung open, revealing Wilson. “House, thank god!” he said, obviously having heard the man call his name. “Just earlier I was-- naked! Oh my god.”

House shoved Jack off him and sat up, eyeing Wilson up and down. “You’re fully dressed. That means you gained clothing today, which certainly bucks the trend. Congratulations.”

“No, no!” Wilson said, shielding his eyes with his arm. “I mean, why is Captain Jack naked?

“So you weren’t naked earlier then.” Jack injected as much disappointment into his voice as possible.

Wilson glared, then realized this entailed looking at his nude form and averted his eyes to House instead. “No, I was chased by aliens earlier and got lost.”

“Stop picturing me naked,” House snapped. Wilson switched his gaze back to Jack, groaned and then covered his face with his hands.

“I find it wisest to feel flattered when someone declares their undying love for you,” Jack advised House.

“It was not undying!” Wilson protested. “I did not say anything about undying!”

“I agree,” House said. “After the events of the last two days, it’d be best if zombies and vampires did not get involved as well.”

“The last thing we need is another competitor for BRAIN.” Jack settled into a comfortable position on the floor, which involved leaning back and spreading his legs. “Actually, since we’re waiting for Cuddy to get back, I think we should work through some issues between you to.”

“What issues? That he’s a doormat who lets me walk all over him, and I have no scruples about taking advantage of that?”

“No, but you’re clearly in denial about wanting him back.”

“I haven’t lost him.”

“I didn’t mean that.” Jack set him a dirty image through their mind-link to make sure House couldn’t dodge the issue. House frowned aggressively at him.

“Look, House is right,” Wilson said. “If you’re trying to start a threesome or something like that--”

Jack frowned. “I was trying to get you two into a somewhat functional relationship, but if that’s what it’ll take, you won't see me complaining.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Stay away from me!” House moved to brandish his cane at Jack before realizing he no longer had one. Jack, meanwhile, took advantage of the situation to shimmy across the floor and pull House in for a kiss. “Wow, no sex for two weeks, Dr. House? No wonder you’re feeling a bit desperate.”

Wilson choked. “Ignore him,” House snapped, pushing Jack away. “He’s making stuff up.”

“Mind link,” Jack said, miming strings between his head and House’s. “Does fantastic things for anyone with psychic training and an interest in voyeurism. I mean, I know he’s been browsing through my back catalog of steamy encounters and he’s definitely not picky about whether they involve females.”

“Lies!”

“Dr. Wilson has a very nice bottom,” Jack said. “Give it a feel.”

Wilson began making squeaking noises. They ignored him, though for different reasons. Jack knew House was trying to close him out, but he’d been going easy on the man until now and keeping the link working did not come anywhere near his mental limit. But he did find House fascinating. He was a man intent upon keeping himself miserable, and Jack wasn’t sure even House knew why.

“My sex life is perfectly satisfactory.”

“With women, yes, oh that one’s gorgeous. But maybe you don’t find your sex life complete with only women.”

“What a fascinating insight, Dr. Phil.”

“And face it. If you’re ever going to have a long term relationship, Wilson’s the only one who’ll put up with you. Cuddy might put out, but it'll take time, and you’d grate on her.”

“You’ve only known us for--”

Jack slapped him on the back. “You’re many things, House, but you’re not stupid, so stop pretending to be. This kiss, it’s going to get between the two of you and there’ll be a long period of awkwardness followed by mad, hot sex and then more awkwardness before you decide never to see each other again or get in a relationship. I’m just trying to speed up the process.”

“Never see each other again?” Wilson coughed.

“And discussing this with a naked man who hunts aliens is not awkward or weird at all,” House replied as though they were discussing baseball statistics.

“I fail to see how hunting aliens contributes to the awkwardness.”

“If I have sex with Wilson, will you shut up?”

Wilson threw up his hands. “Jack, I know you mean well, but this is not the way I imagined my first time would go.”

“You’ve been imagining a first time with me?” House asked, sounding amused and intrigued at the same time. “Aww, were there flowers?”

“There definitely weren’t missiles in a sewage processing plant!”

“Was I there?” Jack asked.

A long silence which implied yes.

“Well, that’s the only detail that matters.” Jack pulled Wilson over and kissed both men, one after another. “All right, now your turn.”

Wilson and House looked deep into each other’s eyes, though Jack felt like he was watching two dogs ready to maul each other rather than two people in lust.

“I’m only doing this to shut Jack up,” House said.

“Whatever keeps you going,” Wilson replied dismissively. Then his eyebrows shot up. “Wait, no! I didn’t mean it like that!”

“I’m hoping it’ll shut you up too,” House said, and then he pulled his friend over and their lips met. Jack barely managed to keep the thought, God, it’s never been this difficult before from interrupting House.

* * *


Tosh ducked as the rocket launcher discharged, and the back of her hair caught fire as the missile rushed past. Unfazed, she launched herself head first at the alien, smothering the flames and knocking it off balance at the same time. Three chops at what passed for its head and the creature slumped backward into a stupor. Missiles burned across the factory like a swarm of angry bees, but none seemed headed her way, so she ignored them and ran along the walkway, searching for another way up, for now she knew that was the direction Howell had gone.

The end of the walkway led into another transmat station. Half the consoles were no longer working, and a quick diagnostic informed her no power was coming from the generators. The transmat itself and the main computers continued operating on back-up battery power, but that would fail within ten uses.

There was no way to scan for her colleagues now that the equipment was down, but the sensors on the surface remained functional and told her the aliens were airlifting in the big guns. “I suppose it’s too much to hope there’s a self-destruct button,” she muttered.

“Indeed, it is.” She spun around in time to see Howell exit from the transmat, gun in his hand. “You don’t mind me dropping in, do you? Oh, and any move I don’t ask for from you, and I shoot you in the head, so drop all your weapons and turn around.”

Seeing no alternative, Tosh obeyed. Howell had a manic glint in his eye that reminded her of Suzie, and that was more than enough to gain compliance from her. Besides, the others had done a good job of shutting the factory down so far.

“So now what?”

Howell grabbed her shirt collar and pulled her backward with him. “Now we wait for your friends.”

* * *


Ianto watched the Count Drosselmeyer alien send most of his mouse troops away to different parts of the factory as they marched along the floor, avoiding remnants of mass destruction and taking occasional detours to avoid collapsed stairs and such, when necessary.

"Where are you taking me?" he asked calmly after a few minutes of this.

"Not far!" boomed Drosselmeyer in his almost impossibly deep voice. The sound reverberated around the cavernous factory, even despite the crashes, bangs, and yells coming from all around.

"Er, what are you going to do with me?" Ianto tried.

"I can't tell you that!" boomed Drosselmeyer.

"Well, what can you tell me?"

"You know, I prefer it when my prisoners don't talk!" boomed Drosselmeyer conversationally. Ianto felt another headache coming on, this one merely piling on top of the one he already had. He was getting fed up.

"I'd really like to know what's going to happen to me," he said.

"Too bad!" Drosselmeyer boomed.

"Stop booming already!"

"No can do!" More booming.

Ianto saw that the platform they were walking along was soon going to end, quite fatally. Bugger, he thought to himself. Don't tell me that I'm going to die because some alien into cosplay made me walk the plank in the middle of sewage plant. What a way to go.

* * *


Sweat soaked through every garment on her as Cuddy clambered the last few feet and pulled herself over the railing to lie panting on the platform in front of the storage shed. “You sure you couldn’t have climbed down and carried me, Jack?” she shouted. No one answered. If they had left without her...

Back on her feet, she threw open the door and screamed when she realized what she was seeing. “Oh my god! What are you doing?”

“Pheromones,” House replied.

“Want to join in?” Jack asked with a grin.

Cuddy took one look at the burning factory then stepped inside, sighed, and pushed several heavy crates in front of the door to block it. “Oh, if I must.”

* * *


“We’re stuck,” Owen said.

He stood with Foreman and Cameron around the droid, Joey, while Chase sat on top, but all of them were examining the map it projected of the factory. As far as they could tell, every exit from the room they were in had been blocked by one explosion or another, which meant they were stuck waiting for Jack or House to come rescue them. There was only one conclusion to draw.

“We’re screwed,” Foreman said.

“Stop being pessimistic,” Cameron snapped.

“Face it, is there anyone we can count on but ourselves?”

Owen jabbed a finger at the map. “There, is that a transmat room?”

Joey bobbed up and down, causing Chase to cheer as though he were a rodeo cowboy.

Cameron touched him on the shoulder. “We don’t know how to use a transmat. Tosh used that wristband last time, remember?”

“Hey, if Tosh can figure it out, I’m sure I might get lucky.”

“Lucky?” Foreman said. “Have you been very lucky so far?” To add emphasis to the remark, Owen’s left hand lifted up and slapped him lightly across the face. Owen retaliated by punching Foreman out with his right.

“Stop it!” Cameron grabbed him before he could follow up with a second blow, and she was quite strong in Chase’s body. He sat back, one punch having been enough anyway. Foreman groaned but lay still, though Owen could see his eyes move behind his eyelids.

“Hey, Cameron. If we get out of this alive, do you want to fuck?”

To her credit, she barely blinked. “Flowers would be nice, first. Maybe a date, dinner...”

“Terminal illness,” Chase added.

Owen grinned. “Since you haven’t said no, I assume you’re going to say yes.”

“To a date,” Cameron replied firmly. “Why not? Though I’d like to know why now.”

“First time we’ve talked without someone trying to kill us or us trying to kill each other. I take it as a good sign in the evolution of our relationship.”

“Only the fittest survive? That’s a great metaphor for love.”

“How else do you explain your high divorce rate?”

“I have one condition.”

“Oh god. I will not wear a dress.”

Cameron nearly doubled over. “Has someone actually requested that before?”

“University. Let’s just say I’m not planning to elaborate.”

“Well, that’s going to be a problem. What I was going to say was that now I know the secret about your job, there’s nothing about your past that you can claim immunity about, correct?”

“If you’re expecting a life story in one night, well, let’s just say even recounting the one night stands would take longer than that.”

“Experience won’t impress Cameron,” Chase interjected.

“I’m just saying, if I ask a question, you have to answer. Fair?”

“No, it’s not fair, but I agree.”

“Works for me. Foreman, stop feigning unconsciousness. We should try that transmat.”

“It’s too late,” Foreman groaned without opening his eyes. “That inane conversation has caused irreparable nerve damage.”

Owen grabbed Foreman’s left hand and forced him to respond as he pulled him into a standing position. “Come on. The factory might blow up any moment.”

The journey to the control room was uneventful. At one point, a cave-in blocked off the hall, but Joey swept the debris aside as though it was dust.

“All right, everyone get on the pad in case I activate something on accident,” Owen said.

“Isn’t that a good reason not to stand in the way?” Foreman objected.

“A transmat can’t malfunction, and since it’s hooked into a grid, the worst that’ll happen is you end up on another pad, but there’s only so much power left. I’d guess five teleports remain before the batteries fail, so let’s not waste them.”

“Joey, do we have any alternatives?”

The droid turned into a whiteboard again, scribbling: “I can climb out.”

“How many can you carry?”

“One at a time.”

“Even one less reduces the strain on the transmat,” Owen said. “At worst, we can take turns.”

The others agreed and Joey set off with Chase while Foreman and Cameron took their places on the pad. Owen fiddled with the controls and typed commands in like: “Activate” and “Engage!” He was disappointed it didn’t work, as it usually did in television shows. This was hyper-advanced technology! It was supposed to be simple to operate.

“Owen, why’s there a light blinking?” Cameron said.

“There’s lots of lights blinking!”

“No, I mean on the machine itself. Come here and look.”

Owen walked over and saw she was pointing at the ceiling above the pad. Standing beside her, he followed her finger to see a single red LCD blinking.

“It just started,” Foreman said.

“Well, I’d guess it’s a warning.”

“Of what?”

“Maybe something’s draining the batteries...” Owen paused, and they all heard electronics powering up.

“Or someone’s activating the transmat from the other side!” Foreman exclaimed. “Everyone off!”

There was a mad rush off the pad, with Foreman and Owen shoving each other out of the way while Cameron simply stamped on their foot and jumped. The three of them tumbled to the ground and found themselves looking into the barrel of a gun.

“Too late,” Owen said as his gaze went past the gun to meet Howell’s leering grin. Behind him, Tosh sat on a chair, hands and feet tied. Shuffling in the doorway announced the entrance of several more aliens, uncamouflaged, each toting a tripod that looked capable of supporting a Hummer.

“Welcome to the party,” Howell said. “Now, let’s see if we can’t persuade your leaders to join us.”

“What are you going to do?” Owen demanded as the aliens pulled them to their feet, one to guard each human. They forced them toward the door, and as they emerged into the factory, Owen saw Ianto with his hands tied and standing on a platform before a break in the railing. An ornately and bizarrely-dressed alien stood behind him, gun nestled against the back of his head. “Oh shit.” Below the platform stretched a sheer drop of hundreds of meters that ended on the factory floor, now immersed under a roiling sea of molten metal.

“Exactly,” Howell said, and there was a squeal of feedback as one of his lackeys activated a PA system. His voice boomed across the seemingly endless volume of the factory, shrinking its size with its presence. “Humans, we have your colleagues. You are surrounded. Surrender in five minutes or your friends go to the steel.”

* * *


As the four of them lay on the ground, catching their breaths, House decided there were worse situations to be in than naked between Cuddy and Wilson. I want pizza, came a thought from beyond Wilson, and House glared. “Food and sex, is that all you think about?”

“Every once in a while I save the world,” Harkness replied.

“Fine, you think about food, sex and large explosions.”

“Well, if you’re going to put it that way, all you think about is sex, drugs and people in pain.”

“Don’t forget rock and roll,” Wilson said.

“Sometimes it’s just minor discomfort,” Cuddy added.

“Do you always eat like that?” House asked.

“Some of us can’t hear thoughts, you know.”

“Hush. Answer the question, Harkness.”

“Eat like what?”

“Takeout. Pizza, Chinese, team dinners and late hours.”

“Pretty much. The Rift doesn’t operate by our schedule.”

“What does Gwen eat at home?”

“How should I know?”

“Because ever since you hired her, you’ve decided you like standing on the roof outside her apartment building! I don’t know why I bother--everyone lies and I just have to peek into your head.”

“You need my permission.”

“Do you want her diagnosed or not? I can’t send anyone to break into her place in Cardiff and raid the refrigerator. Cuddy sets funds aside for when I get sued, not when I decide to annoy Interpol.”

He sensed Harkness lower his defenses, like someone opening a sluice gate and letting water pour through, though in this case, the water was thoughts. He was a bear hunting fish, pawing at memories without any attempt at subtlety. There must be some pattern of behavior or early symptom that no one noticed...

Suddenly, one particular event leapt out at him, and the fish became the hunter.

“That metaphor really doesn’t work,” House muttered before getting swallowed whole by the memory.

“You’s not taking me alive!” a voice slurred in a cockney accent. “I’s got rights, I has...”

A shiny golden blur resolved itself into a robot that looked distinctly like the whiney one from Star Wars, although this one had a pink apron draped over its front with two baby pandas sucking on pacifiers and wielding samurai swords and the caption: “Kiss the Cook... Or Else” emblazoned across it in Comic Sans font. It wielded half a broken beer bottle in its left hand. Jack was busy extricating the remains of the other half from his neck.

“Are you all right?” Gwen asked, her aim never leaving the robot. Owen and Ianto flanked her, and they spread out to surround the droid.

“Where the hell did this thing come from?” Jack demanded as he got back up.

“Rift activity thirty minutes ago, followed by the owner of a pub reporting a disturbance in his kitchen to the police,” Tosh reported through his headset. “I’m wiping their database of the call and forwarding addresses of those needing to be retconned to Ianto.”

Owen flinched back as the robot turned its bottle onto him. “Yeah, but what is it?”

“It appears to be a service droid. Apart from the beer bottle, there shouldn’t be any weapons. Scan of circuitry indicates there isn’t any hostile behavior programmed in. All aggression stems from damage in the upper right part of its head.”

“Doesn’t have weapons. That’s all I needed to know.” Owen fired once and the bottle shattered. The droid’s mouth creaked open, revealing four sharp fangs, two at the top and two at the bottom. Letting the remaining shards of the bottle drop to the ground, it charged at Owen, arms swinging and teeth gnashing. “What the hell, Tosh! I thought you said it was safe!”

“The shape of the fangs indicates it was meant as a bottle opener for Minolean wine.”

“Thanks!” Owen screamed as he fell to the ground under the droid’s weight. He grabbed its neck, holding the fangs at bay just centimeters from his nose. “I feel a lot better knowing it wasn’t supposed to kill me.”

Jack seized the droid under its arms and tossed it aside. It clanged against the asphalt and part of the casing on its shoulder fell off. The head slammed against the curb, and the waxing notes of a keening mezzo-soprano burst into the night.

“What the hell is that noise?” Tosh asked, and Jack could only imagine what it sounded like in the Hub, filtered through their headsets.

“Verdi’s Aida, act four--” Ianto began.

Gwen cut him off. “If we don’t get that droid to quiet down, we’re going to be attracting a lot more attention than we want.”

“Aw, who’ll come investigating opera at one in the morning?” Owen asked.

“Masters, I just wish to please,” the droid said, limbs jerking as it dragged itself off the road. The right leg kept twitching, preventing it from standing. Jack considered this a good thing. He continued to pursue a cautious approach as he inched toward where it lay, but each second suggested the machine had reached the end of its functional lifespan. “Please, masters. A little bit of repair and I am sure you will find me an excellent servant. I have references from seven different planetary systems, and I make lattes to die for.”

“I’ve already died once and I haven’t gotten any,” Jack replied. He bent over to inspect the wiring under the shoulder panel that had dislodged. The droid cooperated for about half a second before disconnecting the malfunctioning leg and bashing Jack’s head in with the appendage.

The second time he woke, Gwen, Ianto and Owen were all hovering above him and their target was nowhere in sight. “What the hell happened?”

“It hopped away, sir,” Ianto said. “And then you got run over by a speeding car, so we had to stop our pursuit to convince the drivers you were drunk but uninjured.”

“It took three of you to convince a motorist to drive away?”

“Some people want to take responsibility for their actions,” Gwen protested.

Owen shook his head. “No, they were quite eager to take any excuse to leave, but some evidence is hard to ignore, like blood splattered across the entire intersection; you got dragged a fair distance.”

“Well, given the circumstances, I feel fantastic,” replied Jack. “Don’t tell me you lost the droid.”

“I’m tracking it with the CCTV network,” Tosh announced, “but it’s hopping at about fifty kilometers per hour, so without knowing where it’s headed, it’ll be hard to catch up even with the SUV.”

"That's, uh, impressive...."

They headed for the SUV anyway, knowing there was no point in standing around and guessing. Jack took the wheel while Gwen buckled in beside him and Owen and Ianto took the back seats. “Tosh,” Ianto said, “this thing doesn’t belong to humans, does it?”

“Nothing in our database, though the teeth suggest not.”

“No,” Jack said. “It’s from the 49th century and not made by humans.”

“So it shouldn’t have an opera in its memory banks. There’s a broadcast of Aida on Radio 3 tonight.”

“It’s headed in the right direction,” Tosh said. “Give it a try.”

“All right,” Jack said as Gwen reprogrammed the GPS navigation system to direct them toward the nearest station.

Enough of this! House decided, seizing control of Jack in the memory. He wondered if this would work.

“What is wrong with you?” he yelled at Gwen.

She looked at him with a puzzled expression, lips parted so that he could see the gap between her front teeth. “Sorry?”

“There’s something wrong with you! This is... let’s see, two weeks before you leave for Princeton, and the underlying condition for a pheochromocytoma should be present already. What is it?”

“Listen, I don’t know that Cuddy should be paying you if you think you’re going to get an answer this easily.”

House whacked her over the head because he could get away with it in his imagination. “This is no longer Jack’s mind. It’s mine doing all the work. I chose this memory, which means I already know what the problem is in my subconscious. So just say it.”

“Such a temper.”

“You’re one to talk.”

“Hey, I wasn’t always like this. It’s the disease that makes me throw people five meters because they looked at me cross-eyed. Come on, let’s do it the fun way. You like a puzzle, so work this one out.”

Somehow, he’d driven the SUV in all the right directions, intercepting the droid as it made its bid for radio stardom. Unfortunately for the droid, he wasn’t paying attention to the road, and its body crunched like a sack full of peanuts under an eager elephant, but nobody noticed the development.

“The droid didn’t always have a temper either.”

“Yes, but why?”

“It’s damaged, same as you, but that’s just another symptom. The question is how it got damaged.”

“Or corrupted.”

“Is there a difference?”

“Maybe.”

House pondered this. He wasn’t an expert on robotics or physical electronics, but he knew enough to guess: “Physical trauma would damage it, but corruption can come from natural processes. There doesn’t have to be a specific incident that caused it. It just is.”

“Correct. Obviously, its internal diagnostics can catch many of the mistakes; after all, that’s an advanced piece of technology. It will self-correct to a certain extent.”

“Unless something goes wrong--”

“Yes, wouldn’t that be horrible? I mean, the poor droid, aware of its original programming but unable to complete its imperatives. How must it feel?”

“Shut up. Now you’re just distracting me.”

“Well, just because it’s a robot doesn’t mean it doesn’t have feelings. You’re too removed, House.”

“In this particular situation, feelings have nothing to do with the diagnosis, so I don’t care.”

“You sound just like Jack when I first met him.”

House honked the horn. “Damn you, Harkness, if you can’t control the impressions of your colleague, get me out of this mad hallucination! How am I supposed to think with her moralizing at me?”

“I am not moralizing!”

“Then there’s no reason for you to be talking. You can’t even pronounce ‘emotional’ without almost getting ‘mushy’ so stop talking to me about the robot’s feelings and get back to the point.”

Gwen huffed, but Ianto leaned forward from the backseat and said, “For the record, we ran over and destroyed the droid about two miles back, and you weren’t too upset then, so by now, any argument about what it felt or did not feel is a bit of a moot point.”

“See?” House slammed on the brakes. “Now what were we talking about?”

“Self-correction mechanisms, sir,” Ianto said.

“Thank you. And now that you’ve corrected this conversation, you can go away.”

Unlike Gwen, Ianto was quite obliging, and he slid back into the darkness that enveloped the back of the SUV and vanished.

“So if you were a robot,” House told Gwen, “your self-correction mechanisms failed. But a human’s self-correction programs are inscribed in their DNA. The genetic code. There are no genetic diseases in your family history that could be responsible; I know, because we actually requested records from Cardiff. That means...” And the light bulb in House’s head lit up. “Oh.”

Gwen winked. “Oooh.”

The interior of the SUV rippled and expanded, tearing apart like a popping balloon, and House was back in the factory. He discovered he had sat up during his trip through Harkness’ mind, and Harkness sat cross-legged across from him in what appeared to be a state of meditation, but his eyes opened as soon as House looked at him.

“‘Oooh’?” he said. “That doesn’t help.”

“It does for me,” House said. “I know what’s wrong.”

“And?”

“We need to get back to the hospital so I can confirm it.”

“He always likes being dramatic when he announces a diagnosis,” Wilson said.

Harkness scowled. “Fine. Get dressed and we’ll move out.” Unable to take his own advice, he swept out the door, leaving an awkward silence behind him.

“Well,” said Wilson.

“It’s too late to be having second thoughts,” Cuddy told him.

“I think you’re projecting your feelings onto him,” House said. “After all, Wilson looooves me too much to be having second thoughts, whereas you know I’ve just completely undermined your authority.”

“Yeah, I’m sure that was foremost in your mind the whole time,” Cuddy said, pulling on her blouse. “I think we all needed a little stress relief, and you know that’s all this was, so bringing it up again with me will get you nowhere, House.”

“Or what? You’ll strangle me with your panties?”

“Or stab you with her shoe,” Harkness snapped, sticking his head in through the door and gesturing for them to hurry up and follow him. “Get moving!”

“You weren’t in such a rush before,” Cuddy retorted, but she had dressed with astonishing speed and was out the door soon after, leaving just House and Wilson buttoning up their trousers.

“Well,” Wilson repeated.

“You heard the woman. We’re not allowed to talk about this again.”

“But...”

“Just about everyone except yourself has suspected you have feelings for me.”

“It was that obvious?”

“Yes. So now let’s focus on what everyone knows about me.”

“Oh.” Wilson shifted his feet. It was quite obvious he thought a rejection was forthcoming because the idea of House saying, “I love you” in any tone other than sarcastic was, well, absurd.

“Casual sex on the other hand...”

Wilson’s eyes lit up. “Oh!”

“You are pathetic, you know that?”

“And you’re just afraid of appearing vulnerable.” Wilson grinned. “So it’s like friends with benefits.”

“No, it’s me doing the women of the world a social service. You don’t suppose screwing you is tax-deductible, do you?”

“Given how much you owe me, people will think you’re prostituting yourself.”

Harkness burst in again. “Hey, love birds! Sorry to break up the quickie, but we’ve been found.”

House limped off after him, but Wilson had been too distracted by their conversation and quickly threw on his shirt without buttoning it. He chased after them and ended up stepping on House’s heel, which got him a sharp rap on the shin from his cane. House found himself regretting the reprimand, however, as the shed they’d been in evaporated in a burst of flame moments after Wilson crossed the threshold.

“What was that?” Wilson yelped.

“Wide-beam lasers,” Harkness said. “Tricky to get working but devastating in just one use.”

The source of the laser appeared to be several stories up from across the factory. “What’s to prevent them from shooting us again?” House asked.

“Technical malfunctions, if we’re lucky.”

Feedback from a speaker system proved Harkness wrong as all weapons activity ceased while the alien leader monologued. “Humans,” he said, “we have your colleagues. You are surrounded. Surrender in five minutes or your friends go to the steel.”

“Hey, isn’t that them there?” Wilson pointed. In the distance, a gathering of alien and human forms stood on a platform elevated high above the factory floor.

“Stop making it so easy for them to see us!” Cuddy hissed from behind some crates. It was too late.

“Oh, there you are,” the voice continued. “All four, you say? Well, shoot them and get it over with.”

House decided now was the time to start limping faster, and the three of them joined Cuddy as she headed off the platform and into a corridor shielded by thick walls. The laser struck the platform, engulfing its entirety in a cone of blue light. The metal sizzled and groaned as the structure began melting.

The beam shifted to follow them as the platform began falling apart, crashing into the floors below. House dodged behind the wall, and a door-shaped beam blasted apart everything in the rooms beyond, but the four of them were safe.

“Aaargh, what are you doing?” There were screams amidst intense feedback before the sound from the speakers steadied out again and they heard Toshiko Sato's voice cry out: “Transmat code Seven-Charlie-Alpha-Eight-Two. Hurry!”

The laser shut off and House peered out past the fizzling door frame to see the figures on the distant platform now struggling. It looked like the prisoners had gotten loose, and one tall man, whom he guessed to be Ianto Jones, was about to be pushed over the ledge when he head-butted his alien captor and slipped past him, shoving the creature off the edge in his stead. Sato was being dragged away from the far wall, where the PA system must be located, and four other figures in the middle were being herded away from the fray.

“Quick,” House reported, “they’re going to try moving the prisoners now that we know where they are.”

“They also know where we are,” Cuddy said.

Harkness grabbed Wilson, the person closest to him, and set off running down the hall. “Hurry. I can’t operate the transmat, so we have to be on the pad by the time the aliens try to teleport over!” Their shoes squelched against the ground, leaving chunks of rubber as they ran. House got an idea and pressed his cane against the ground, hoping the “World’s Grandma” sticker would melt off. Instead, the entire length caught fire and melted.

“Shoot.”

“You idiot,” Cuddy said. She grabbed a nearby office chair and wheeled it over. “Here.”

“What’s this supposed to be?”

“A walker, now move it!”

They caught up with Harkness and Wilson in the transmat station, where Harkness was busy entering data into the computers.

“I thought you didn’t know how to use it,” Cuddy said.

“I don’t have the access codes,” Harkness said. “But what I can do is change it so that this transmat station always teleports to the one Tosh specified.”

“But if the aliens don’t come from that station...”

“Three stations will swap occupants rather than just two, but the principle works the same. All right, I’ve got it. Everyone on board!”

The room flickered, and they were there. Rushing out of the room, the platform was empty, but it was definitely the one the hostages had been on, because House could see the tortured remains of their platform still crumpling and dripping.

“They must have used the same trick as us.” Harkness groaned.

“Not a very good choice, then, for a trick.” Cuddy pointed up, and about twenty floors directly above them, aliens and humans were flying in every direction as an all-out brawl erupted. Most importantly, the stairs between that floor and theirs was intact.

“I am not climbing up those,” House said.

Wilson put up his hands. “I’m not carrying you.”

“Go and sit on the transmat,” Harkness ordered. “When we rescue everyone, I’ll program this one and the one above to go to two pads in Drumthwacket. Stay on it, don’t make noise and you should be fine. Actually, for that matter, all three of you stay.”

Cuddy shook her head. “I have employees up there too. But Wilson can stay.”

“What? Why?”

“Because you’re about as useless in a fight as a cripple,” House said. He contemplated himself for a moment and amended: “Actually, you’re even more useless.” Without waiting for additional protest, he threw Wilson into the office chair and wheeled him away. He paused at the doorway and removed the alien artifact from his pocket. “Harkness, will this work at long range?”

Harkness nodded. “I believe it can reverse effects without all parties being present.”

“Well, in that case...” House tossed the artifact over, and Cuddy ducked behind the staircase as Harkness caught it. They began leaving, but House decided to add: “Good luck. And... be careful.”

Cuddy smiled. “That must have been hard for you to say.”

“Just go!”

“You take care too, House.”

To Chapter 13: Part 3

Back to Chapter 13: Part 1



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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Comments
stillbrainfried From: stillbrainfried Date: May 24th, 2010 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, now I know what you meant...

And I've only just noticed the changing sub-titles to your motto - Obi-Wan Kenobi - how appropriate ;-)

Who came up with Tchaikovsky? It definitely adds to the Alice in Wonderland feeling (although I couldn't have sung that to save my life)

Jack, Wilson, House and Cuddy? There are things I really don't want to think about...

And House lost another cane. I'm detecting a pattern here...
randomhouses From: randomhouses Date: May 26th, 2010 03:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Changing sub-titles? Do you mean the text at the top of each chapter or the mouse-over pop-up text on each picture?

Tchaikovsky was definitely all muskratio.

LOL, what's wrong with Cuddy getting some action? :)

Well, you didn't expect House to continue being the world's greatest grandma, did you? It's too bad we didn't give him anything weird for his next cane.
stillbrainfried From: stillbrainfried Date: May 26th, 2010 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Definitely the text at the top of each chapter...

There's still the celery option ;-) Hmmm, House is with Four, isn't he? Maybe that's where Five got the idea??
randomhouses From: randomhouses Date: May 29th, 2010 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, I like the way you think. Your celery suggestion has been recommended to muskratio.
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