Previous Chapters: 27 here or here
Characters: The Ninth Doctor/Rose Tyler/Captain Jack Harkness
Author's Note: In which even villains think they are patriots.
Edited by: the remarkable editrx - thank you so much! And also by my beloved dr_whuh.
Disclaimer: As much as I wish it were otherwise, no Whoniverse character is mine. They are the sole property of the BBC and their respective creators. I take no coin or credit, but do thank the BBC for letting me play in its sandbox.
Note: Because this is a long chapter, Live Journal may eliminate paragraph breaks, so you might want to read on Dreamwidth.
Linguistic notes: at the end.
“I don’t care what the Mordomo is asking. I do care what he is saying to the jornals and what rubbish is getting out via the tela’ovivos … no, the Governor fell ill during a policy meeting here and is under my personal care until he is well enough to return home … Of course I know it’s been two days, but that’s not the — what? Of course the information will be passed on to the Imperium. I ... we know our duty, and — excuse me? Excuse me?
“This is ridiculous. I have no more time for you. Good day, ser.”
Renhald Inverno slammed the receiver down, then clucked at himself in annoyance. Showing that kind of unrestrained emotion to these types was counter-productive. But really … he looked at the ceiling, then at the screens in front of him.
He couldn’t stop the deluge of inbox queries. He’d fobbed off his explanation of Bohlver’s disappearance to the more credulous parliamentarians, but that only went so far, especially since the fool’s physical condition had deteriorated so quickly over the past month that even casual vivos watchers could see it, no matter how his team had forced station managements to edit.
And Sera Lumina, the damnable jornals! He picked up one report from his people, eyed it with distaste, dropped it to pick up another, tried to read through the article, but threw it away from him with a growl.
He’d had so much so well in hand mere days ago.
He went to the window. His office — this official one, at least, not the one where he could get any meaningful work done — looked out over the cliff of Gel’Colinas, down into the residential areas of Abela Fort’leza. He eyed noble enclaves and merchant villas, the comfortable and not so comfortable middle class neighborhoods below them, and the cramped tenements still farther below. In the middle distance he could see smoke from factory stacks by the river. Beyond that, the blue outer walls of the city and the elusive silver gleam of the space port.
Seeing the port normally filled him with satisfaction. Today it was shrouded in a smoky caul altogether different from that of the factories. Crews were still trying to pull the hulks of burned out train cars away from the twisted metal of the bombed tracks
. Filhotes das bruzshas, camponeses patetas, bestes —
The phone rang again. He turned from the windows and stalked back to the desk.
“Assistente, I’m sorry to bother you—”
“I doubt that,” Inverno said waspishly. On the other end of the line, he heard Gadelha suck in a breath before continuing. “There’s been another … incident, Assistente.”
Sangre. “What, and where?”
“At the Rio Escuro wharves. One of the barges from Ribeiros just sank.”
“Sank, or was sunk?”
“Uh … they think she was scuttled.”
“This is a matter for —” He stopped. He’d been about to tell Gadelha to take it to Fahrar. “This is not a matter for me.”
“There’s no one else, Assistente.”
Inverno silently counted to ten. This can be handled. You just have to be willing to delegate to the proper people.
But he wasn’t certain he could do that. Abela Fort’leza’s civil authorities were already stretched thin, reacting to the outbreaks of sabotage. Most were electronic: downed commercial-government communication nets, broken traffic systems, banking systems scorched. It was hitting everyone who had enough money to put in banks, and everyone who needed to travel, but it hit mercantiles, the ones his people had the most sway with, hardest.
And of course, when businesses had to shut down, they sent their people home, and those types immediately took the streets in protest, he thought sourly.
Then the fires and explosions started, largely in non-residential areas. The main tourist market, the one the rebels called the Memory Market, had been torched just last night. It was the oddest thing, the commander of the Brigada d’Bombeiro had said during his very brief visit; there were no protests when it went up, despite the loss.
The look the commander gave him had been measured. Inverno, knowing what he did of Bohlver’s most recent efforts at “policing” in that area, had said nothing, simply massaged his temples and ended the meeting with a terse, “Send your report to the city and regional authorities. They handle these things.”
Remembering the conversation just brought back his headache. Inverno had no respect for his municipal and state counterparts, but it infuriated him when he knew they had no respect for him.
Those in the industry were still well in hand, he thought. Over the last three days he’d quashed the two or three flickers of rebellion he’d spotted in the messages of his larger producers.
He couldn’t blame them; he had their breeding stock. Certainly they’d never wanted to give it to him, and certainly some of them had hidden some worms, but not enough to save anyone but themselves should the central stock disappear. So word that the capital was in the throes of something he still refused to call open rebellion had given some producers ideas. He’d dealt swiftly with that, sending some of his military people to their farms, and the ideas subsided.
But working with the regular regional authorities or Parliament? Ridiculous. He couldn’t work with any of them.
He snorted, then scowled. Nor they with you. It wasn’t his fault, he reminded himself yet again. If he’d had cooperation from others, he could have held Bohlver’s position a decade earlier; the Emperor could have been persuaded.
But so few backed him publicly. They wouldn’t say what they were willing to admit in the privacy of home or office, or in the clubs Inverno used to experiment with silk: that the industry he kept going — sometimes, it seemed, through sheer willpower, he thought bitterly — kept Lizhbau alive.
What else is there here, he thought. Our fields feed the planet, nothing more. Tourism helps, but not enough, since we’re too far from the Empire’s center. I do what must be done. Humans sin and always will. I simply provide them something for which they pay handsomely. And what they pay supports this world.
As for the governor? Inverno’s unease flared into angry worry. The man was now fully in the throes of lamia poisoning, and Inverno was uncertain whether brain damage from the unceasing hallucinations or wholescale organ failure might kill him first. Damn that rebel for his shot ….
The phone rang again. He cursed, but answered it.
Inverno stiffened. He knew that voice. “What are you doing on my line?”
“Callin’ you up, should be obvious.”
“Where are you? How did you get out of the morgue?”
“That would be telling, now, wouldn’t it? But I’m coming for you. Comin’ for all of you. Unless you want to come meet with me.”
He tried to signal his secretary with the desk button set up for that purpose, but the fool had apparently left the outer office, so there was no one available to try to track the call. “Why should I do that?”
“You’ve had your hands full these last few days, I hear. Couldn’t happen to a nicer fella.”
The satisfaction in the alien’s voice … Inverno tightened his grip on the handset, his knuckles white. Of course. Xeno bastard, you’ve roused them. Ralé, camponeses — “Do I have you to thank for all this … commotion?”
“Me? No, not really. Couple of my friends, maybe. Even then, they’re more like cheerleaders for some of your usual suspects, at least some of who you met at Central Command, I’m told.
“More likely, though, you have you to thank for all of this.” The xeno’s voice, until then full of resoundingly false bonhomie, went cold. Inverno knew the trick; he’d used it countless times. It was uncomfortable to have the tables turned. “So I suggest you make your way over to your labs. Say, in about a standard hour or so.”
The labs —
Could this day get any worse? Once again, he forced himself to be calm. “Shall I bring some of my staff?” He thought he brought that off rather well, given the circumstances. Where in hell was his damnable secretary? He pressed the other button, the one meant to call for military staff.
“If by that you mean a bunch of your bully-boys, I wouldn’t advise it. Too many people in here are apt to jostle things. Break them, even.”
“I can be there within minutes.”
“Oh, I’m sure you can. But I wouldn’t advise it.”
What can I believe? Inverno tried to think two steps ahead, as he was used to doing, but couldn’t get his thoughts in order.
“You’re bluffing.” He looked through the door. Someone should have answered the second button almost immediately —
“Bluffing? Oh, not even close. I wouldn’t be invitin’ you over to the lab if I didn’t know exactly what I could find there, and where I could find it. Not to mention — although I am mentioning it — I know how to get to it.”
“You’re not gonna say I’m bluffing again, are you? I expect better than that from you, Mr. Assistant to the Governor. By the way — how is the man you addicted to silk doing?”
I will find this … creature, and I will kill him, Inverno thought.
“You’ll kill me? Oh, that’s just bog-standard villain talk there, Renhald-me-lad. But I’ll remember you said it.”
Too late, he realized he’d spoken aloud. He tried to recover, aware that he sounded as stiff as cardboard. “The Governor is recovering from an illness.”
“That’s what you call a drug-engendered neurological crisis exacerbated by stunner fire, is it?”
Inverno said nothing. Spies, moles, informants everywhere … and still no answer to the alarms he’d tried to trigger. He abruptly envisioned a new and disturbing alternative explanation for his missing secretary and the mysteriously absent security officers. Sangre ….
Time to change tactics.
“What guarantee do I have that I won’t be harmed if I come to the labs alone?” He didn’t really think the xeno would be stupid enough to attack him, but he couldn’t be as sure about any of the rebels with whom the alien had clearly thrown in.
“You don’t have to worry about me,” the alien said. “But I can’t say the same about anyone else here. You’re just gonna have to trust me and keep to the schedule.”
Inverno thought about Nico Machado. His suspicions about the recent rash of sabotage and small-scale rebel successes seemed to have been proven true; Machado was the efficient organizer the opposition had needed, and of course he was someone with more knowledge of how the Upper Hill operated than most of its previous leaders. That it was Bohlver’s son, unaccountably and infuriatingly sprung from prison, was the only logical assumption.
We should have killed him. But the governor had been more in command of himself then, not yet completely dependent on the lamia, and still absurdly attached in some fashion to his offspring. Inverno had had to be more careful about suggestions at that point, and demonizing the boy, rendering him an object of contempt, had seemed a reasonable alternative ….
“Still with me?”
Inverno brought himself back to the current situation. “Yes.”
He had to go to the xeno, he realized, his fury mounting. He needed to find out how far into the labs his opponents had gotten. He’d changed the codes to the storage and stasis chambers of course, the moment he’d been free from seeing to the Governor in the infirmary, but the fact that these people had made it through to the labs at all meant he couldn’t take anything for granted.
Inverno looked to his outer office, still distressingly quiet and free of responding secretaries or security officers.
“If I must.”
He had no intention of going without protection, though. He looked at the clock on his desk, thought a moment, then smiled.
********* ******* ***********
Jack’s crow of success brought Nico and Jao to where he was sitting in the TARDIS’ secondary control room. The Doctor had relegated planetary system searches to Jack, while he and Hilda put their heads together in one of the TARDIS labs, reviewing her work with the detoxified silkworms, and Jack had declared this location his own for that purpose.
Rose had taken it upon herself to be a liaison between each group of people now in the TARDIS, from a shell-shocked Pau Sampaio, who’d been plucked from the safe house a day or so earlier, to Salvha, who still hadn’t recovered from the shock of Filomena’s death.
Right now, she was with Hilda, for which Jack was grateful. Hilda was giving both Salvha and Rose as much quiet succor as she could in the aftermath of that loss. With Hilda around, he and the Doctor could give Rose her space — something it had been clear she needed — knowing someone was there to comfort her. There was no question she needed that support. Jack understood. He’d been shaken by Filomena’s death; he could only imagine what Rose felt like.
Jack was thus free to spend the last two hours reformatting his search algorithms. Even after he’d done so, he hadn’t been certain that his efforts would bear fruit, so he was especially pleased when he found the right life signs.
“You located my — the Governor?”
“With the bio data you were able to provide, yes,” Jack said. “You were right about him still being at Central Command, but now I’ve got his exact location. He’s on the same level as the labs. We can go in and get him out of Inverno’s hands.”
Silence made Jack look up from the screen. He eyed Nico. “If that’s really what you want to do.”
“I wouldn’t have asked that we try to find him, if I weren’t interested in making him a … a bargaining chip,” Nico said. His averted gaze belied the businesslike tone.
“Well, the Doctor wants him brought to the med lab as soon as we can extricate him,” Jack said. “We can check his condition, maybe help him —”
“I’m less interested in that than his strategic value,” Nico said harshly.
Sure you are, pal. “Keeping him alive makes him more valuable. Detoxing him does the same,” Jack said, keeping his tone just north of nonchalant. “Let’s get him here before we talk about anything else.”
Jao, who’d said nothing since the end of the last strategy session, spoke up now. “Will we have to shoot our way in and out, like we did the first time?”
The three men looked up, startled, as the Doctor entered the room. “We’re going to have Inverno here. I imagine that’ll calm the shooting a bit.”
“What do you mean, we’ll have him here? That wasn’t part of the plan,” Jao said. He sounded suspicious, as he had about everything the Doctor said.
“You’ve seen the results of a week of destabilization efforts,” the Doctor said. “You’ve caused much of the destabilization, and done a fantastic job of it. By the time I called Inverno—”
“— You what?” from Jack. “Doc — Jao’s right, we had a plan —”
“— What?” from Nico. “Are you mad?”
The Doctor was unruffled. “Yes, I called him. By the time I did it — about an hour ago, once I’d finished setting the TARDIS coordinates with the codes Filomena gave us — I’m guessin’ he couldn’t summon too many henchmen to his side. The last word you got was that there were wholesale desertions, right?”
Jao shrugged, unable to deny what the Doctor said. He and Nico had sent word out to all their cells to put the pressure on targeted police and military, any of the Maldads who had a spark of conscience or an inch of spine. They’d specifically chosen officers Jao had designated as optimum targets, but got the word out to the rank and file as well, particularly among the military, since they were the ones Inverno was using to control Abela Fort’leza.
It had taken about 30 hours to start the cascade of defections, folks slipping away with as little noise as possible. That in turn cleared the decks for more sabotage, and the cycle escalated in a quite satisfactory fashion.
Jao responded, less hostile now, but still wary. “Not everyone’s deserted.”
Nico wasn’t wary or hostile, but he did sound tired. “Doctor, you can’t change things without telling us.”
“Tellin’ you now, aren’t I?”
Jack stood up, making it a smooth motion that put him between the two men. They were far too much alike, Jack thought. “Fill us in more.” He looked the Doctor in the eye, fighting his urge to smile at the other man and forcing his face into a semblance of disapproval for the Time Lord’s usual cavalier modus operandi.
To his relief, the Doctor nodded slightly, then turned back to Nico. “I don’t mean to be takin’ this over from you, Machado. That’s not my style. This is your planet, your city, your fight. Your father, too, I know. Gettin’ him back is important to me. Maybe for different reasons than it is for you — ” His shrewd gaze was surprisingly kind. “ — but we both want him out of the grasp of the man that —”
“Yes, well, thank you.” Nico nodded tightly, but said nothing more. The Doctor sighed slightly.
“And I wasn’t deliberately hidin’ things from you, either,” he continued. He spoke as he moved past Jack and rounded the small console area to look at another screen for a moment. “I didn’t complete the TARDIS’ programming, even with Her ready cooperation, until just before I called Inverno. And —” he cocked an ear and started smiling even as Jack felt the TARDIS move in his mind “ — She’s headin’ us right to Inverno’s lab now. Where he’s meetin’ us, no doubt with weapons and bad intentions.”
Jack stiffened, and saw Jao and Nico do the same. The Time Lord chucked a thumb in the direction of the main console room. “Care to join me?”
“Mother of worlds, Doc —” Jack grabbed for his holster, and he saw the other two do the same.
The Doctor frowned. “You’re not going to —”
“ — You spring a surprise like this on me, you don’t get to tell me what ordnance I carry.”
The Doctor glowered. “My TARDIS —”
“Relax, Doc. It’s a stunner. I don’t kill unless I have to.”
The Doctor relaxed slightly. “Fair enough. And don’t call me Doc.”
“Sure thing, Doc.”
That was the end of any talk. All of them ran, full-tilt, down a corridor that Jack knew was much shorter now than it had been when he’d entered the secondary control room. The green, gold, and orange of the main control hove into sight; Jack saw Hilda and Rose waiting for them. “Doctor, the rotor’s moving. Is that you, or Her?” Rose looked at her watch. “I thought the mission wasn’t to start for hours.”
“Apparently, that’s no longer the case,” Nico said. “And, again apparently, we are en route to the lab.”
Hilda looked at him. She didn’t question the change, just asked, “Your — the Governor. How close is he to the lab?”
“Same level,” Jack said. “There’s some sort of hospital section right next to where Inverno does his work.” He left unsaid what needing an infirmary next to a silk lab meant.
“Well, there you go,” the Doctor said. Jack suspected he’d stopped himself from rubbing his hands, which would have been altogether too cheery for the rest of the room.
“Once we have Inverno here, I guarantee you I can get all the information we need to convince your Emperor to name a new governor, bring Inverno and others to trial and, finally, end this filthy trade. Without usin’ any chemical coercion, I might add,” he continued. “And with the help I’ve given Hilda, who didn’t need that much to begin with, mind you, the new genegineered silk worms will double their output of silk, and it will all be psychoactively inert.
“Then, just to make things a little busier for any of Inverno’s goons who stayed loyal, I took the liberty of scramblin’ off-planet communications, which should prove to attract the attention of off-planet authorities. The goons will have more than us to worry about in, oh, however long it takes the nearest Imperials to investigate Lizhbau’s sudden radio silence.”
“Sera Lumina, you don’t do anything by half, do you?” It was clear from Nico’s face that he couldn’t decide whether to laugh or to throttle the Doctor.
Fahrar arrived, presumably from the library, but said nothing. The woman had become positively mute since Filomena’s death. Jack wondered briefly what she would look like were she ever to lose control of herself, before turning back to the conversation at hand.
“So here we are. What now?” Nico asked. He caught the Doctor’s eyes and held them.
The Doctor smiled manically, and Jack’s tension ratcheted up. He knew an “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ll figure it out, I think” look when he saw it. He raised his eyebrow.
In return, the Doctor smiled even more broadly. “You say that sidearm of yours is a stunner?”
Jack nodded, waiting.
“Well, here’s the thing. I don’t usually approve of weaponry, but Rose has convinced me we need to move fast.”
“Got that impression, yeah,” Jack said, his gaze darting between the Doctor, Nico, Rose, who’d assumed a rather feral grin when the Doctor mentioned her name, and the TARDIS door. “And?”
“When we open that door, there will be people on the other side who aim to do us harm, to take me prisoner again, and probably worse for the rest of you. Take a look on the screen next to the red lever, Hilda, Rose. Am I right?”
“We’re not where we were,” Hilda said a moment later. She was clearly still unused to TARDIS travel, but she managed to sound matter of fact. “It’s a laboratory. Men just ran into the room —”
“They heard us arriving,” the Doctor said. “She’s not shy about Her entrances. They’ve got weapons, right?”
Rose was right next to Hilda, peering into the screen. “On the nose, Doctor. About seven of them, it looks like.”
“So much for him being unprotected,” Jao said heavily, with a dark look at the Doctor. “That’s why I normally like landin’ us in out of the way corridors,” the Doctor responded. “But today, we’re not doing things slowly. And seven men? Hardly an army, is it? Jack, when the door opens, I want you to take out all the minions. Put ‘em to sleep. If one of you others have a stunner, stand with the Captain and make faster work of it. If I’m right, which I often am, Inverno will come in when the last man hits the floor.”
Jao looked at Nico, who looked at the ceiling briefly. “And then what? We stun Inverno and drag his carcass in here?”
“Precisely!” The Doctor grinned.
“This is your plan?” Nico was aghast.
The Doctor stopped grinning. “It is. Slicin’ the Gordian knot.”
“The what?” Nico looked blank.
“Give me a stunner.”
They’d all forgotten Salvha, who had been standing very quietly behind the console room guard rail near Fahrar. He hurried to Nico’s side and continued. “I’m the best shot here.” Jack didn’t bother to contradict him. On the viewscreen he could now see that there were enough Maldads in the lab now, all of them looking confusedly at the little blue cubicle they’d rushed in to attack, that he welcomed a helping hand.
“Join Jack at the door,” the Doctor said. “Jao?”
The latter handed his stunner to Salvha, then looked around the console room at everyone else. “This had better work.”
“Agreed,” Jack said, with one last glance at the Doctor. “All right, Salvha. On three.” The minute and a half of ensuing confusion ended as the Doctor had predicted. All the Maldads were down, probably for the next few minutes. But there was no sign of Inverno.
“Doctor?” Nico’s lowering gaze was all too easy to interpret.
“Patience,” the Time Lord said.
Doctor, you can’t counsel haste one minute and patience the next. Jack kept the thought to himself. “Rose!”
“Rope, line, handcuffs — anything we can use to immobilize seven men … no, eight. Anything She can provide or that you can find on your own.”
He turned back toward the lab and heard the muffled sound of her trainers running from the console room.
Almost before that sound died, he heard something else: a squeak and clatter that resolved into what he realized was the sound of a gurney being wheeled closer and closer to where the TARDIS stood.
When Inverno maneuvered the gurney through the door of the lab, its bulk between him and the TARDIS, Jack wasn’t surprised. Nor was he surprised at the identity of its unconscious passenger. Dehde Bohlver was breathing stertorously, his head twitching minutely back and forth, his lips moving in words Jack couldn’t make out.
“Can I ask you not to stun me?” Inverno said that as pleasantly as if he’d asked someone to hand him a cup of tea.
“Told you he’d come,” the Doctor said, edging his way past Jack and Salvha through the TARDIS doors. “Wasn’t expecting your sidekick, I’ll admit.” He stepped over the collapsed Maldads to stand at the foot of the gurney. “He doesn’t look well at all.”
Inverno looked down at Bohlver. “This was the fault of one of your compatriots. Whoever stunned him.”
Jack couldn’t help himself. “Not the lamia you introduced him to, of course.”
“Jack.” The Doctor’s tone warned him, and he fell silent.
“Thank you,” Inverno said, still managing to sound as if he was having a completely normal conversation. “I appreciate civil conversation, not childish insults.”
“Don’t. Push me.” Jack didn’t care what the Doctor said. His abrupt rage turned the edges of his vision red.
Rose came up behind him and touched his shoulder. “Hold on, Jack. Just a little longer.”
The red haze receded. Jack trusted himself to give a quick nod.
The Doctor sounded very gentle as he said, “I suggest that you say absolutely nothing that can make my colleague decide not to listen to me. I might not be able to stop him from beating you senseless.”
Inverno stepped back. “You need to control your people.”
At that, the Doctor laughed. “It was a lot easier to control yours.”
Behind him, Rose was securing the unconscious Maldads, helped by Jao. Jack heard Jao whisper to her, as she handed him another pair of plastic cuffs: “Where’d you get so many of these?”
“Fahrar,” Rose whispered back, as she unceremoniously rolled over the last soldier and grabbed his wrists. “She keeps being useful.”
Inverno heard Fahrar’s name and scowled. The Doctor noticed.
“Yup. She’s with us, now. And you have yourself to blame for that.”
Jack could see Inverno struggle to maintain his facade. “Enough. I came alone, and unarmed, just as you asked. I brought the Governor here, because he needs care, and all of my staff appear to have left him unattended. I offer him to you and to your —” he looked over at the TARDIS, obviously confused at the size before his eyes widened upon catching a glimpse of the cavernous interior “ — your … craft?”
“The TARDIS.” The Doctor crossed his arms and grinned. “Wanna see the inside? Actually, don’t answer. You’re going to. Jack?”
Inverno saw Jack raise the stunner and threw up one hand in a reflexive motion. “Don’t! Not … not until you hear my offer.”
Jack looked to the Doctor, who nodded slightly. “I’m listenin’.
” “I know when I’m beaten,” Inverno said, very slightly breathlessly. “I congratulate you on turning the city into complete chaos in less than a standard week. I assume that’s thanks to Macha- the Governor's son,” he said, looking beyond the Doctor. Jack looked behind him and saw Nico’s expression.
“Of course that’s not important,” Inverno said hurriedly. “The situation is beyond my control, and I recognize that. Just before I came down here, I heard news from Parliament. The members have introduced motions asking the Emperor to remove the Governor and to investigate my role in the silk economy.”
Of course he’d call it an economy, not the drug trade, Jack thought. Equivocation and double-talk, basic bad guy tools. And they almost always end up believing themselves. He waited.
“I also understand that the off-world communications grid has gone down, which will bring the attention of the Empire here even more quickly than Parliament’s activities.”
“Told you that, too!” The Doctor looked over his shoulder at Rose, Jack, and the others clustered near the door. He was grinning humorlessly.
“Ah. Again, you’re to be congratulated on your planning,” Inverno said, his expression sour. “I — is there somewhere more comfortable we can speak, perhaps somewhere in your ship that we can take the Governor?”
“First, tell me what you want from me,” the Doctor said.
“I want you to get me off planet.”
Jack heard a muffled curse behind him, but didn’t turn to see who it might have been from.
“And take you where?” the Doctor asked.
“Any inner core system. I’m confident you can do something of that sort. You’re xeno, with —” his eyes slid back to the open door of the TARDIS “ — technology that appears to be far in advance of what we have.”
“That’s it, then, nothing complicated, just … let you go.”
Jack heard the Doctor’s tone. So did the man in front of him. To Jack’s surprise, he responded in the same tone.
“It’s perhaps a little more complicated than that. I’ve taken the time since your call to made some some … adjustments … to the Governor’s metabolism. I won’t bore you with the medical details, but the changes are such that —”
“He’ll die without you around to help undo the adjustments.”
The Doctor looked grim and Jack’s heart sank. He’d been worried ever since Rose had unleashed herself on them following Filomena’s death, wondering if her rage would wash everyone forward like a wave and then swamp everyone in some sort of undertow.
That the Doctor had allowed Inverno the time to do anything after calling him — calling him, for the love of all that’s holy, something the most wet behind the ears agent wouldn’t do — was horribly telling. He was emotionally compromised, Jack knew.
And he wasn’t the only one. The three of them, Rose, Jack and the Doctor, were so emotionally connected right now that Jack himself had been carried along in the rush to bring lamia silk to judgement.
Well, we’re on the horse, best ride it to the end of the road. Jack forced his attention back to Inverno, who was talking.
“You are correct. But I’m a man of my word, and I swear to you that, once you have let me off at a world I deem satisfactory, I can reverse those adjustments. In fact, I can do so in your craft, while you watch. The reversal won’t take hold until after I am safely away, but it will happen, and the man will be … perhaps not healthy, but alive.”
“Doctor, can he do that?” Rose, once again, sounded as if she knew the answer and wouldn’t like it.
“I’ve no doubt he could if the patient were a little less compromised to begin with. After all, he’s a medical researcher,” the Doctor said, his voice dripping with contempt. “But the patient’s a tad more than compromised.”
Inverno bristled. “I can reverse what I’ve done. I can’t reverse what he has done to himself.”
Nico strode past Jack, knocking him to one side in his rush at Inverno, neatly evading the Doctor and skirting the gurney on which his father lay. Inverno stepped back, but not far enough. The younger man grabbed him by the shiny buttons on his uniform jacket; one popped off and flew in a neat arc onto the gurney.
“You will do exactly as you’ve said, envenen’o sang,” he snarled, a sound Jack would not have thought he was capable of. “Or the next time I go to prison, or to a mind-wipe, I will deserve it; I’ll kill you, and I will put my father out of his misery.”
Nico’s face was livid, his lips as white as paper. Inverno, on the other hand, was purpling; Nico had found someone other than the Doctor to throttle. Jao and Hilda were on him in an instant, pulling him off Inverno. Hilda grabbed his head and forced him to look at her. “No, Nico!”
Seeing Hilda seemed to bring her lover back to his senses; he dropped Inverno, looking at his own hands disbelievingly.
“Jack, Jao … get the gurney inside,” the Doctor said. “ I’ll take this one.” To Jack’s delight, the Doctor scruffed Inverno, then frog-marched him into the TARDIS. “Let’s see what he can do before we hear from the Emperor, shall we?”
Maybe, just maybe, we’ll pull this off, Jack thought.
Linguistic notes: jornals=print media, newspapers, Lizhbauan social media, such as it is; tela’ovivos=live media; Filhotes das bruzshas=sons of witches; ralé=rabble; camponeses=peasants; patetas=fools; bestes=animals; Brigada d’Bombeiro=fire brigade; envenen’o sang=blood poisoner, another curse based on the blood/light religious imagery that’s rife in Lizhbauan neo-Portuguese.
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