Previous Chapter: Ten
Summary: Love, silk, and memory, in shades of cold and dangerous blue.
Previous chapters: Prologue and One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten
Edited by: my Best Beloved, the amazing dr_whuh
Author's Notes: In which we learn why the Captain was hunted so quickly, and a little about the hunter. My apologies for the extreme length of time between chapters.
Disclaimer: As much as I wish it were otherwise, The Doctor, Rose, Jack and the TARDIS are part of the BBC's Whoniverse. I mean no copyright infringement, and take no coin.
"If getting psych prints left anything worthwhile sir, I'd use them all the time. But it doesn't work that way—
"No, not at all. If I have to, I will, certainly. But the man's ... unusual, at least enough to keep around for now. He's definitely off-world, for one thing, he's thinking in some archaic version of Anglish — yes, some worlds still use it — and he could be ... no, sir. I understand. Lots of tourists, lots of accidents. Just let me have some more time with— hold on, sir.
"No. This report is for Sous-Tenante Obrigad, not me. Obrigad? Supply side? Deliveries and supplies ... never mind, I'll deal with it. Leave it with me. That's all, and get out.
"Sorry, sir. Everything's been in flux since Avhenna went down. No, we'll manage. I'm seeing to it.
"I'll get back to you with the information. If they know anything about Nic— about the insurgents, or Machado, I'll get it. Fine ... yes, thanks. Thank you sir."
Isobel Fahrar put down her phone set and, yet one more time, rubbed her temples. It had been a miserable day, from start to finish, the latest and worse in a long line of them.
She'd been pulled out of General Command 10 days ago to handle the complete cluster fuck that was Fort'leza Central Detention, formerly Imperial Legion Regional Headquarters, Lizhbau-Fort'leza, in the wake of its warden's recent assassination. She'd expected it to be bad, but this? This was worse than everything she'd heard, even in the drunken scuttlebutt in the junior officers' club.
The paper blizzard, fine; the mishandled cases, handleable. The screwed up schedules, the missed deadlines and quotas, the growing unrest outside the gates, the questions, the steady stream of relatives looking for the disappeared? Not quite so easily handled, not without some heads rolling, but she could do that.
But the filth! The broken and neglected equipment, the slap-dash nature of everything, the way they kept their own weapons! The malnourished prisoners, the sick ones, the ones that had been worked over for no strategic reason, no good reason at all ... Sera Lumena, the dammed plumbing in this rat-hole! Day after frustrating day!
She had no illusions. It was a two-edged honor, a sign from the wolves above her that she was being tested, perhaps to destruction, that elegant phrase her engineer father used to use. They thought she was good, so they threw her into this swamp. If she drowned, there'd be another bright-eyed junior administrator to take her place.
She accepted it; it was the fire that tempered or consumed generations of hungry young officers. If she won through, though, if she cleaned up this cesspool and got it running the way it should ....
Dealing with FCD as it was now, and as it would probably be for the foreseeable future, was fraught with possible Imperial retribution. If she was in charge of it, though, eventually it would be much more ... low profile. Maybe even— But she wasn't in charge yet, she was just an unwanted intruder from GC. All the slovenly, careless, stupid — her temples throbbed — staff here, from the regular substandard washed-up or drummed-out ex-soldiers making their rum money as jailers to the sick bastard "Special Operations" crews downstairs, were impediments; all their own laughable excuses for officers testing her at every turn, damn their eyes.
She would beat them. She could make this place run like a dream, even the below stairs work. If she played this right, if she got through this secondment, she might find some more stripes waiting on the desk for her back at General Command. And those new stripes ... as a senior officer, she could come back here as the official replacement for Avhenna, not just the cleaner. She could turn it back into a military operation, not just a—
"Shut up," she said softly to herself. Very softly; she had no idea what listening devices some of Avhenna's surviving hyenas might have left. And then she laughed at herself. Wolves, hyenas, swamps and fires; she was mixing her metaphors badly. She most definitely needed sleep. But not yet. She had to get to the bottom of this thing that those two idiot informants had lobbed at her, all unknowing.
Almost she wished that she'd ignored the frantic calls from their handler, but she'd learned never to ignore her inner alarms. She'd pulled together the least inept people on shift at the time and had headed out to the Sampaio residence herself, not trusting anyone else. And her alarms had been right. These were off-worlders, poking around and looking for the insurgency. The girl had somehow proven resourceful enough to get out of her cell and go missing in the labyrinthine corridors of FCD. The man had almost done the same. That was intriguing enough, but the man's physical condition made her alarms go off even louder. They could well have been clean Imperials, far more dangerous to her bosses than the tame and dirty ones on Inverno's take.
Hard on the heels of discovering that she might actually have something more on her hands than an off-world tourist, or even a careless Court spy, she'd had to take a call from Inverno, less than three hours after they'd retaken the prisoner. Someone had tipped Inverno off to both the capture and the "escape," and he had been displeased. She'd had to use every mental trick in the book to sound unconcerned, yet respectful, but it had worked, and he had rung off sounding rather more at ease.
Whoever had thought she might be chagrined at the untimely information leak needed to be found, and dealt with.
Fahrar shuffled through some reports she'd just reviewed, stamped the completed ones, and pulled out the ones to be turned back to their unfortunate crafters. Then she stopped and thought about the phone call again, before fishing into her desk for the headache pills.
Damn the man. She'd only had to take his calls for the past 10 days, but already she hated talking to the Governor's major-domo. Not that he wasn't intelligent — he was, and perhaps that was what bothered her the most. Why people with that kind of brilliance were willing to put it to the service of avaricious fools like Bohlver, instead of taking power for themselves, was beyond her. Yes, she understood the idea of eminences grise but surely the really successful ones had better material to work with?
"Tchaugh." She hated the taste of the pills; they dissolved too fast for the water to wash out of her mouth completely. She picked up the phone again. "I'm coming down. I want to see that work-up. Yes, again."
She headed down to the euphemistically named interview room, after looking at the clock. She had at least another hour before Celestino came back, probably with another excuse about why he couldn't find the girl.
When Jack slept, he curled up on his side like a child, with his hands near his face as if to protect it. The Doctor knew that because he'd come across the exhausted Captain barely a day after he had come on board, dead asleep on the floor in some out of the way TARDIS room. That's when he'd known the man hadn't had enough sense to believe that he'd been invited to stay.
The TARDIS had provided him a perfectly comfortable room, and the conman — the Doctor was at that point reserving judgment on whether the description could be jettisoned — had been effusively grateful for it, but the Doctor recognized the unease he saw flickering across the other man's face. He'd been a conman so long he didn't trust others not to con him, the Doctor knew.
When Jack had asked if it was all right for him to poke about a bit, his most attractively insincere smile lighting up the room, he'd cocked his own eyebrow, shrugged, and told him to do what he liked. He didn't mind; his veins were still filled with the fiery delight of that night, and of the dance. More time alone with Rose suited him fine and Rose, after a keen look at him, obviously decided to let sleeping dogs lie. He was certain she wondered why he'd let a stranger wander the halls of the TARDIS, especially one of whom he'd been loudly wary. He wasn't about to tell her that should he, or She, decide Jack was a liability, the TARDIS could keep him going harmlessly in circles until he decided what to do with the man.
A few hours later, with Rose asleep or futzing about in her own rooms, he finally decided to check on the newcomer. As he'd suspected, the bedroom was still empty, which meant Captain Jack Harkness was further inside his marvelous ship.
It had taken him a bit longer than he'd expected to find the ex-Time Agent, but She finally decided to give him a nudge in the right direction. And there the man had been, curled about himself with his eyes moving rapidly under their closed lids. His bravado had apparently hidden bone-deep weariness. (How long had he been running, what had he been running from, how desperate was that con?) It had obviously ambushed him before he could retrace his steps to his new bedroom.
Even as the Doctor had suppressed his irritation at this, he was struck by the still figure. Jack seemed like a tired street child, snatching cold and comfortless sleep in some cobblestone alley. The image had surprised a briefly protective surge in him, which unexpected emotion he had rejected almost as soon as it occurred; still, he'd been gentle when he awakened Jack and walked him back to his bedroom. He'd never been sure who was more embarrassed about it all.
Over the next few days and weeks, he had found himself searching for that vulnerability in Jack awake, and told himself he was just keeping track of a potential problem when he watched the man. He didn't trust handsome men. He certainly didn't trust handsome human men who flirted with ... he didn't trust handsome men, nor brave men, nor bright ones whose eyes followed him around as if searching for a lifeline. He certainly didn't trust the man who slept like a beautiful child on the floor of the TARDIS—
Damn. He'd been thinking about one of them again ... Jack? Yes, it had been the Captain ... three-two-one, wipe it away ... He turned from the memory as quickly as his silk-soaked mind would allow him to. Back to the word mazes, top levels of the mind, come on now, you can do it, you're a bloody Time Lord ... word mazes, child's play, plus they were the only safe paths for now. Keep to the maze and hope they stopped chasing him ... he couldn't let them find Jack—.
"What is Jack?"
The problem with Jack, the Doctor decided, was that he shouldn't be in his mind at all. What should he call him, a flash of diamond in the pan or just flash? He'd been both, it seemed ....
"What is Jack Flesh?"
Ah. He was back in the word maze and they'd followed him there, away from— No. Not there. Simple enough to do, even as psychically off-balance as the silk made him. Wouldn't want the Captain to be found outside the ... not there, why did he keep circling back to ...how about a hospital?
"What is the Gas Masque? What is Albion?"
Amateurs. All they could do to keep up with him, much less find anything out. They had him, they had ... no, she was on her way, she was free, he knew it, she'd find a way to ... and he'd do everything he could to keep them from Jack.
"What are you?"
"This line of questioning's hopeless," Fahrar said, throwing the latest printout to the desk in disgust. "All we're getting are meaningless word games. And I don't know the damned language well enough to decipher the rules. The infusion's not working. Are you sure you can't get a psyche print off him?"
The look the other woman gave her was as close to exasperated as a corporal could risk giving an officer. "Short of wrapping him in full sheeting, no, not with the kind of baffles I'm reading. At least not until I have an idea of whether that dual-heart mutation reflects any other DNA complications. You said you wanted him alive and thinking afterward."
Fahrar knew when her tech — from R&D back in GC, seconded with her to Special Operations, and worth twice, three times any of the poorly-trained techs here — was telling her the unwelcome truth. So what did she do now?
She looked at the man lying strapped to the interrogation couch. His eyes were open, sightless. She knew that meant he was fully under the influence of the silk infusion, and she wondered momentarily whether he was seeing something that made him happy, or something that he hated.
Oh, hell. She needed something, she'd have to risk it.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Do the minimum sheet print. If he convulses ... hold on another few seconds. He'll either give us what we need, or—" she stopped, unwilling to go the full distance with this one. Not until she could figure out if he was even human. "Belay that. If he convulses, pull the sheet."
What? Wh— where was the maze? Ah ... what? Oh.
No. No, no ... no ... no, no, no ... getting closer, this is bad, think, getting closer, what now ... right, you have to run. Come on, run. Run ... run, get away ...can't let them catch you ... home. Can't stay here, they'll find me, find her, they'll find him ... have to save them, get away now ... right, that's it, home. Get home, just around the corner — stop — run — no, no nearer ... I'm coming, hold on, I'm coming home —
"Tenante, your luck's holding." The tech looked up, professional satisfaction and relief warring across her face. "Not only is he not dead, I think I've got something. Here ... let me ... there. That's it," she spoke half to Fahrar, and half to the pretty length of silk she removed from the man's forehead with gloved hands. Still looking at the readout, she moved the silk with practiced ease to the scanner.
For a minute or so there was silence while she made some adjustments to the machine's dials. As images gradually resolved on the screen, she spoke again, still dividing her attention between those images and printed information Fahrar couldn't understand. "Don't think it's going to be much, but — aha! There we go! That. See that? That box thing? May not look it, but that's his transport. And there's a third person. Harkness. Military? Looks it. Maybe Imperial ... this is hazy, but it might be what we're looking for."
Fahrar didn't mind showing the tech how relieved she was. "Thanks. Now we've got a starting point. And his brain's still working?"
"Well ... I can't promise, but the hearts didn't do much more than stutter, so I don't think there was any brain damage. Don't think you're going to get much from him, though. Not for a while. You might want to put him in the infirmary, and not in a cell. Just in case the convulsions do start." The tech suddenly remembered who she was talking to. "Unless you have no further use for him?"
"No, I wouldn't say that," Fahrar said. "I think you're right. But not the infirmary. Have him transferred to Room 4, Floor 4. That's the old commander's quarters, but I'm not sleeping there these days, so you can secure him there. It's good and private. And Corporal? Have some of your GC people do it."
The tech nodded, understanding her completely. "Do you want prints of the box, and the man?"
"Yes. Yes, indeed."
Fahrar smiled. Inverno wanted results? She'd deliver a wild Imperial or two to him, and a cleaned up prison. And maybe, maybe, an alien.
Now to send out the sweeps.
She walked back to her office, whistling.
"What's your name, sweetheart? Shhh ... shhh ... s'okay, dear, it's alright. I'm here. Shhh." The girl reeked of vomit and feces, but Rose held her close in the darkness as she whimpered, and used the same words Jackie had used when she was a child, awake and crying because of nightmares. "What's your name?"
The silence continued so long Rose wondered if the girl would ever speak again.
Then: "I think ... Luisa?"
(to Chapter Twelve)