SUMMARY: Something went very, very wrong.
CHARACTERS: Wilson, House
RATING: R for language and themes (gen fic).
WARNINGS: This is a very alternate universe. Adult themes and adult language.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: The stories from this ficverse are numbered by chapter and scene, rather than by day as we did before. This story is totally unrelated to Aftershocks.
All he can see is the gray mist that's suffocating him.
He gasps for air, his head pounding as if it will split wide open. The pain shoots through his skull with every beat of his heart -- and his heart is beating faster, faster, faster still.
Wilson screams, and nothing happens.
There's a painful trickle of air in his throat. No sound. His limbs are heavy, unmoving. The grayness all around him is so cold, colder than anything he's ever felt. He'll die; he has to get to safety.
"Help me." He forces the words out on his breath; his vocal cords are frozen. He tries to lift his head and only awakens a fierce ache in his neck. "Oh God. Someone. Help me."
No answer. His throbbing head keeps time with a horrible sound. Loud. Loud, like ... like an alarm.
The surface beneath him begins to move, raising his body until he's sitting halfway up, on a chaise lounge inside some icy hell.
The alarm -- it must be an alarm -- is still sounding.
Ship. The thought is like the sudden opening of a door. I'm on ... I was on ... a spaceship.
Lights pierce through the fog, bright white lights, blinding him all over again. He's not suffocating now, but oh hell it hurts and it's so cold in here -- in the hyberroom. Another little door opens in his mind. Hybercell.
He squeezes his eyes shut and then opens them, very slowly. The lights become easier to bear, and he can see vague, fuzzy shapes. So there's some kind of hope. Not blind. Temporary. Please.
Blinking, he fights to recall where he is and why. Oh. Oh. Going home from Capinari. He's coming out of hybersleep -- all wrong. Waking up is never fun, but last time he wasn't blind and screaming. Last time there wasn't that damn alarm drilling into his ears.
His body is flooded with adrenaline, from fear and from the needle in his arm, the automatic delivery system that ensures prompt awakening. Wilson can feel it, taped into place; ironically it's the one thing that doesn't hurt.
If he could move, he would rip it out. He has always, always hated the concept of hybersleep.
Getting out of bed is taking ... he's not sure how long. Far too long, with far too much pain involved.
He's prepared for his legs to buckle, which they do, repeatedly. It's the pain that takes him by surprise, blitzing through his body with every bend of every joint. Each time he hits the floor it hurts so bad that he wishes he would black out.
After the third fall he gives up and decides to sit for a while. His hands appear as pale blobs against a dark, wine-colored surface. Red carpet, he thinks dully. If only it were thicker and softer, he could lie back down and sleep. That's if he didn't hurt so bad, and if he weren't full of adrenaline, and if it weren't so noisy in here.
Won't somebody shut off the damn alarm, he moans, but the words never make it from his mind to his mouth.
Gradually his vision clears. The gray veil thins until he seems to be looking through a soft-focus lens. He leans back against the base of his hybercell, and he can see Ulman reclining in her own open cell, a few meters away. The fuzzy shapes behind her would be Norfolk and the ship's owner -- captain -- whose name Wilson can't recall.
They're lounging like royalty while Wilson suffers. Sleeping in, he thinks, in between the sharp pulses of pain in his head. Lucky bastards. Who the hell sleeps through this kind of racket? Bracing himself, he pushes upward, slowly. His hands are clumsy and it's hard to hold onto the slick sides of the coffin. Sleep cell, he corrects himself. Not coffin.
Never in his life has Wilson been this sore, not even when he was a kid and had that fever that he thought would kill him. By the time he's upright, he's panting, the room is spinning in a red blur around him, and there's a metallic tang in the back of his throat. Nausea. He's got to get something for the pain, but it hurts too much to move.
Also, he doesn't -- oh. Yes, he does remember now. There's a kit attached to the foot of each cell. Electrolyte syringes, pain relief syringes; everything has to be injected. It's not safe to eat or drink, right out of hybersleep.He'll have to choke down a liquid flora-pack first, to restore all the intestinal bacteria that the hybercell destroyed. That, too -- a plastic tube full of sickly sweet bioactive solution -- will be in the supply box.
Wilson grimaces at the thought, and at the renewed waves of pain that roll through him as he inches, leaning on the side of the cell, toward the wake-up kit.
The stuff in the syringe was only polyfentalide, but he'd have taken anything he could get. The injection is helping a little, dulling the worst of the aches.
Strange; the alarm doesn't seem even half as loud as it did at first. Wilson feels like he's coming off the worst hangover of his life. Hopefully the others won't have to go through ... the others ... wait. They should be awake. Has he really been in so much pain, his mind so muddled that he didn't notice? He staggers over to Sara Ulman's cell (and these are his first unsupported steps, and he doesn't fall, so that's progress) and stares at the readout panel on its side.
His legs give out again; he hears himself hit the floor. It probably hurts, but this time Wilson feels nothing.
Doctor Ulman is dead. She's dead, and so is Doctor Norfolk, and apparently so is the owner of the ship. Sutherlin. That's his name. Was his name.
No wonder the fucking alarm is going off.
It takes two dazed, groggy hours for Wilson to gather enough strength and then to make his way -- constantly having to lean and rest against walls -- into the control room.
Hobbling up to the console, he presses numb fingers to the flashing ALERT icon on the monitor. The alarm, at last, falls into blessed silence.
He expects to learn about the fatal malfunction, but instead what pops up on the monitor is a map with a trajectory.
Vessel down. Emergency protocols activated, reads the screen. Automatic guidance engaged.
Auto-wake status: complete. Estimated time to destination: 10:17.
Rescue craft ready: Bay 1.
Survivors: Out of range. Stand by.
The ship appears to be blissfully unaware that three of its four occupants are dead. Its attention has been caught by someone else's catastrophe. There's a distress beacon coming from another ship, wrecked on Planet E19.218.8a.
Wilson has a good idea of what those numbers mean. It means the place is so remote and useless that no one has bothered to name it. That little a on the end of the number, though, indicates a breathable atmosphere.
The realization catches him like a sharp set of talons: there's a chance, the barest chance that someone might have lived. From the shadows of the control room, a wild, vicious hope rises up. An impossible hope; it'll swallow him whole if he lets it. But Wilson has seen newsvids of crash sites and he knows how it goes. There's rarely much left of the downed ship, let alone the passengers. That's how it'll be this time, too. Nothing but wreckage.
That's what he'll believe, at least for the next eight hours. It'll be eight hours before the ship gets near enough to tell him if anyone's alive.
Until then, he's going to the infirmary. He'll put himself on IV nutrition, try to rehydrate and strengthen his body, and oh yes, ease the pain. If anyone is alive -- and they're not -- he'll have to be well enough to keep them that way.
E19.218.8a has turned out to be an endless wasteland of dark, lifeless mud. Approaching it, Wilson can't help thinking that on a planet this ugly, the hulking wreck and its attendant crater are almost decorative. At least the disaster is interesting, Wilson thinks as he numbly allows Runner 1 (a ridiculous name, since there is no Runner 2) to autopilot its way to the ground. The craft lands at what its computer thinks is a safe enough distance -- and what Wilson thinks is way too far to walk (to slip and slog) in his current condition.
He slogs outward anyway, with a hurriedly assembled bag of medical supplies slung across his back. The closer he gets to the wreck, the more thankful Wilson is that he's had nothing to eat. Just because you can breathe the atmosphere, he thinks -- bent double for a moment by the slow movement of an especially putrid mass of air -- doesn't mean you'd want to.
On the hot, sluggish breeze he smells death and smoke, iron and sulfur, and a protozoal stink that comes up from beneath his feet. The 'survivor' that his ship detected is probably the core of a ruined engine, pulsing out the last of its energy.
Still, Wilson has to know. He climbs the slight rise around the edge of the crater, and looks down.
All the bodies, and the parts of bodies, are still inside the wreck or down in that slimy hole around it. The big ship's belly has been ripped open, and there are hints of large, jagged stones buried beneath the muddy plain. The crater is actually shaped more like a giant wave, a wake where the huge ship pushed the sodden ground outward as it slid to a halt.
Some people were apparently thrown clear as the hold was torn apart, and others seem to have survived only long enough to crawl a little distance away. There's a faint, high trill of insects, tiny speck-flies that circle around Wilson's aching head.
The newsvids Wilson has seen could never have prepared him for the reality of a crash site. He hopes with every weary, sick fiber of his body that the survivor -- if there is one -- is not inside the wreck. He scans the brink of the crater, looking toward the rear of the hull. If there's a shallower slope somewhere, it might allow him to get into the ship, if he must.
There's one body farther out than all the others, lying on its back atop the crest of the gigantic wave of mud.
The breath stops in Wilson's throat. Exhausted and drugged as he is, he might be delirious, but he could have sworn that that one moved its head.
He runs so fast toward it that he barely feels the thick ground clutching at his shoes.
Wilson drops to his knees at the fallen man's side, heedless of the muck. He slings off his backpack, trembling as he fishes out his hand-held bioscanner. The last thing he trusts right now is his own vision, his own mind; he knows he's too far gone.
He presses the scanner's sensor against the man's neck and hears a quick, weak rhythm. A pulse.
A pulse, oh God, a pulse. Probably the only human pulse for a million miles in any direction. It's too late for everyone else, on both the wrecked ship and Wilson's own, but not this one man. This one's alive.
The man's right leg is wrapped in what looks like a bloody, muddy shirt. Best to leave that as it is for now. Wilson leans over him and begins to search for other injuries.
The sudden command startles him so hard that he jumps back and lands on his ass. Recovering, he finds the man staring at him. Blue, he thinks, and then unaccountably Wilson wonders whether this man will kill him first.
"What?" He's not sure he heard correctly. "Why would I ...?"
"Kill me, idiot," the man grunts. "Or ... get me ... the hell out of here. Your pick." Talking is an effort for him; his breathing, which had barely been noticeable, is now rapid and harsh.
"I have to go get the body sled, but I'll be back in ... not long," Wilson murmurs, while he takes a pair of scissors and snips away the man's ruined right sleeve. The man watches him take a packaged swab and syringe from his bag.
"Polyfentalide," Wilson explains. He finds a vein, cleans a spot of skin and swiftly injects the drug. "For the pain. I'll get you something stronger as soon as I know it's safe. Don't worry," he says, unsure which one of them he's trying to reassure. "I'm a doctor."
A cold, strangled laugh comes out of the fallen man's throat.
"You'll regret this," the injured man says, his voice quickly failing. "I promise."