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Distress Call 3.4: Anomalies



Distress Call 3.4: Anomalies

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alarm clock
TITLE: Distress Call 3.4: Anomalies
SUMMARY:  Wilson looks for answers.  So does House.
CHARACTERS: Wilson, House
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. Links to all chapters are here.

Wonder of wonders: the clinic's laundry cube actually works.  Wilson peels off his damp clothes and throws them in with the dirty sheets.  With one hand he rubs at the back of his neck, while the other presses what he hopes are the right buttons.

As the machine hums into life, he sighs and walks out of the room.  House is as clean as he's going to get; now it's Wilson's turn.  There's a tiny shower stall right next to the laundry cube, but Wilson prefers comfort to convenience.  He's headed for the opulent bath in the master suite.

Wilson's artificial cycle of day and night can only do so much to make him feel better.  The hours drift past, empty and dry as the space all around them.  House had been partly right; it's not exactly entertaining to have a grouchy, crippled vampire for a patient, but it does give Wilson something to do.  He takes his lunch into the clinic, as he did the day before.  Perching on his freshly-sheeted new bed, he turns the vidscreen on with the sound down low.

House doesn't even twitch. 

It's only been three days since he found House, but Wilson's becoming ever more certain that his life has been irrevocably split into "before" and "after."  Not before and after he stepped onto the luxury liner that would take him to Capinari.  Not before and after he awoke in screaming pain on this old ship they'd hired to send him quietly home again; not even before and after he discovered that his colleagues were dead.  The dividing line in Wilson's life is this long, slumbering body.  The vampire he dragged out of the mud. If House can exist, anything can happen; it's as if the size of the universe has just doubled. 

The universe seemed safer when it was smaller, but that illusion is gone and Wilson knows he will never get it back.

Wilson wastes four hours in the control room, pressing what seem to be all the wrong buttons on the nav console and getting progressively more frustrated.  None of the tiny glyphs etched next to the buttons make any sense.  Other controls are marked with terse, abbreviated codes that give no real clue as to their function.  What the hell is a NAV FMC-R anyway?  Or a DISCH APU?  If he pushes STORM OFF, does that mean it will stop raining somewhere on the ship?  Which ... is absurd, but what else could it be?  He knows he could recognize a Class C starchart -- if he could get one to show up, but apparently that's not going to happen.  Wilson growls in frustration.  He's run a few jaunts on a dart cruiser, learned some basics, but he's not really a pilot, let alone a merchant pilot.  He isn't trained for this.

Unbidden, the ancient punchline to an Old Earth joke rises in his mind -- "Damn it, Jim, I'm a doctor, not an engineer!" 

Wilson had always laughed at it before, even though he'd never fully understood the history behind its humor.  Now he's beginning to get the bitter payoff, and it's not funny at all.

He'd like it in here, if he could get something to work.  The control room is spacious, shaped like a gentle crescent, with a solid console curving around the forward wall.  Above that, a thick sheet of ThermaPlast makes a huge, seamless picture window.  The view is breathtaking, really.  Too bad one patch of deep space looks pretty much like any other.  Without the nav system, he can admire his surroundings all he likes, but he'll never know where the hell he is.

Wilson takes a breath and presses the key marked Autonav On one more time.  The monitor abruptly goes blank, and he slams his fist into the console, jarring loose a stream of code that cascades like water across the screen.  The overhead lights flicker and then steady.

Wilson paces away from the console, comes back again, and finds the monitor asking him to Enter musical selection.  It's showing a whole list of titles and musicians, none of them familiar.  He stops himself just shy of making a random pick: what if he can't control the volume?  What if he can't turn it off?  There's too much potential risk. 

It's time for a break and a pain pill.  His head is killing him.

Wilson swallows two polyfentalide pills with a handful of water from the infirmary sink.  They make a chalky trail down his throat, so he drinks a little more before splashing some water on his face.  So tired, unreasonably tired. 

House shifts in his sleep.  There's a spot of drool on his pillow.

For a moment, Wilson wishes that he too could simply drift off, forget where he is.  If he sleeps now, he'll wish he hadn't.  It'll screw up the diurnal cycle he's only just begun to establish. 

He can't face the navigation problem again, so he'll tackle something else.  He'll go figure out what went wrong with the hybercells.  When he gets home, the families will ask, and he'll need to have something to tell them.

If you get home,
says a part of his mind that sounds strangely like a ... haemovore.

"When,"  Wilson insists, softly, on his way out the infirmary door.  "When I get home."

It's weird, though.  The thought of home doesn't bring half the sense of happiness that it should.  Perhaps he'd been telling the truth when he told House that there wasn't much to miss about Delphus.

The hyberroom is kind of bizarre.  Its cells, which have always looked to Wilson like coffins, have now become exactly that.  The place is darkly elegant, like an ancient drawing-room or a modern funeral parlor. It's paneled in fine wood just like so many of the ship's other interiors, but it's barren.  There's no furniture, no art, nothing but the line of cells-turned-caskets.

Wilson had the fourth one, nearest the door, set a few meters away from the other three.  Its placement and design indicate that it was retrofitted, not part of the ship's original equipment.  The explanation for Wilson's having lived is probably as simple as that: design differences in his hybercell slowed the lethal process.  But what, exactly, did he survive?

On the wall opposite the door is one large built-in cabinet, which tastefully conceals the master cell control console. Wilson knows it's there because he used it to turn off his cell and put the other three into "nonliving occupant" mode.  It's a straightforward interface, designed for use by the moderately educated, scary as that thought is.

It's a simple matter to ask for a hard copy of the cell histories.  Unlike the navigation console, everything on this one is clearly marked, including the button for PRINT.  Less simple is the task of deciphering the stuff once it's been printed.  Wilson looks around, remembers that there aren't any chairs in here, and settles himself on the floor.

This is going to take a while.

He has lost track of time, but he thinks it's been a couple hours.  Wilson rubs his forehead and stares again at the printouts in his hand.  The columns of numbers bleed into one another, telling their morbid story in a foreign tongue.  He's not sure why he keeps reading it again and again, when he's already certain he's got the right translation.

It was an overload of nitrogen that silently killed the sleepers.  That kind of thing can happen if the regulator valves get stuck.  Hybercell systems all have failsafe triggers, to detect such problems and wake the occupants before they die.

This time, the failsafe failed, too. 

We won hell's lottery, thinks Wilson.  What were the chances?  He isn't sure if his own survival was a stroke of luck or not.  Rubbing his eyes, he rests his head in his hand while he considers that question -- and decides, for probably the thousandth time, that it isn't important. 

There's no such thing as luck, only chance.  There's no deeper meaning, no sinister design, just an old ship with poorly-maintained equipment.  He won't find any more answers in the columns of swimming numbers.  With the sheaf of measured minutes curled in his hand, he gets up and heads back toward the infirmary.  His head hurts again, and he left the polyfentalide in there.  Along with House, who's a headache of a whole other kind. 

"Bloodsucking bastard," mutters Wilson, and he feels the corners of his mouth curve upward when he says it.  He shakes his head.  "If that's what you're relying on to keep you sane," he murmurs to himself, "and it's working?  Then you are in much worse shape than you thought."

"What's that?" demands House, the moment Wilson walks through the infirmary door.

"What?  Oh.  Printouts of the hybercell histories.  I ... figured out why everyone died."  He steps closer to the bed, holding up the papers so that House can see there's nothing on them but a bunch of numbers.

"Why everyone else died?  Or why you didn't?"  Leave it to House to get right to the point.  "Give it here."

"I already --"

"You deaf?  Give!"  House snatches the papers, his hand striking with an animal quickness.  Nice improvement in the patient's condition, Wilson thinks, but keeps that observation to himself.

"It's not compelling reading,"  Wilson says.  "The plot sucks, and you already know how it ends."

"Shut up. I'm working."  House's gaze is glued to the numbers, like they're the most fascinating thing he's ever seen.

"It was the gas balance," says Wilson, trying to spare House the trouble.  "Nitrogen overload.  My cell was newer and it --"

"You're screwing up my diagnosis.  If I needed a consult, I'd ask."

"Fine.  Have fun."

Wilson swallows a polyfen tablet, grabs the remote for the vidscreen, and settles heavily onto his bed. 

This, thinks House, was one hell of an accident.

Wilson's right, sort of.  It was a gas balance problem, nitrogen overload.  But where three sets of numbers are very closely matched, the fourth set is not.  At the time when the auto-wake was triggered, three of the sleepers had been dead for hours.  The fourth -- Wilson -- was way behind schedule, approximately an hour away from expiring when he awoke.  There has to be a reason for the anomaly.

"Tell me something."

"Hm?"  Wilson's watching some inane seri-mance.  Two dark-eyed women are yelling at each other, crying hysterically, apparently over someone named Alfonso.  Fuck Alfonso, thinks House, and then realizes that's exactly the problem; both of these girls have done just that, and ... he can't afford to get drawn into that story right now.

"You said your hybercell was different from the others?"  House asks.  "You know -- in some way other than not having a stiff in it."

"Asshole," Wilson mumbles.  "Yeah.  Yeah, it ... had a different design.  Newer.  Not original equipment, and that difference is what saved my life."

"No, my ship's SOS was what saved your life.  You need to go check something."

"Why?  We already know --"

"We think we know.  I need diagrams of the wiring, the gas conduits.  It's important."  It isn't really, except in the sense of relieving House's boredom, but that's important enough.  Odds are that Wilson's explanation is correct, but there's a possibility House wants to eliminate.  Or confirm.  Either way will work for House, but it'll be a hell of a lot more interesting if he's right.

"My head hurts.  It can wait." 

"But I can't.  You think you're miserable now?  I'm crippled, pissed off and in serious pain; annoying you is the most fun I'll have today."

"You're hurting?"  Wilson is suddenly paying attention.  "More merstellin right now ... probably cause more nausea.  If it's really bad we can put you on --" 

"I'm okay right now, you idiot.  Don't get so excited.  Get me those schematics before I start throwing things."

"Fine," sighs Wilson, and rolls off the bed.  He looks funny in his bare white feet, padding out of the infirmary to do House's bidding.  I could get used to this, House thinks, and then wonders what the hell is wrong with him. 

A new set of shrieking sounds makes him look again at the vidscreen, just in time to see Dark-Haired Girl Number One launch herself at Dark-Haired Girl Number Two, starting a big juicy catfight.  The vid remote is way over there, on Wilson's bed; if House watches, who can blame him?  He can't change the channel.

Histories for the cells are easy to get.  Not so, the schematics.  The cell console interface isn't designed for that kind of thing, and if there ever was an owner/operator manual, it's long gone.

Wilson turns away from the console cabinet and looks over the three closed cells.  Blessedly, fog has formed inside them, so the occupants' dead faces can't be seen.  He'll deal with the bodies ... later.  Maybe after they get rescued, if they get rescued. 

The hybercells are placed like beds, their heads flush against one wall of the room.  Between Wilson's cell and the other three, there's a door in that wall.  That would probably be the cylinder closet, where the gas tanks and the actual circuit regulator are discreetly tucked away.  An inspection of the machinery isn't likely to tell him anything new, but if he doesn't look, House will surely ask why he didn't.  Then he'll have to come back here, simply to shut House up.  He may as well do it now, get it over with.

The lights come on in the cylinder closet as soon as Wilson opens the door.  It all looks normal -- antique, but in good working order.  The large main regulator hums quietly to itself, keeping Wilson's former shipmates in frigid, sterile stasis.  The smaller regulator is idle, no longer in use because Wilson's cell is turned off, and --

Oh, shit.

He turns on his bare heel and walks out, his mind racing in several directions, none of them pleasant. Either there's a good explanation, and he's being an idiot, or ... or ... he's not.  What he needs is an intelligent, impartial opinion.

He has to go tell House.

  • noooo, cliffhanger!!

    I love how intrigued each of them is by the other. Those little touches, about how they can get used to it, how that ship is more home than a lot of what both of them experienced in the past (though we don't really know about House, yet, but that's what I infered). Two very interesting people, they are, especially together.

    And I can't help thinking that House could help Wilson with the nav system. He was on his ship alone, after all, and he's brilliant and curious about how things work, he must know something Wilson doesn't about engines and computers.

    Problem is, up to know House has mostly slept or was in too much pain to be really helpful. But I'm sure that as soon as he's better he will want to do something, and figure out how to control the ship. Actually, he has already started, and his intervention has moved things... even if we don't know in which direction, yet. ;)
    • *grins*

      We're having so much fun with them.

      He was on his ship alone

      Actually, no. Remember all the bodies Wilson found at the crash site? House wasn't alone; he was just the only survivor.

      And if you read carefully, the clues are all there for what must have happened to Wilson and his colleagues.

      The one of us who's writing most of this part will be out of town for a day. We expect to update on Thursday.
      • aah, I forgot. In my brain, the bodies were just the animals House had with him to drink blood from. He referred to something like that, and Wilson saw mostly furs, so... I did not pay attention to the rest. Anyway, I'm still sure House can conjure up something.

        As for the ship, I don't think it was just an accident. I'm thinking... sabotage? Maybe aimed at killing the doctors because they knew something they shouldn't have (what with sending him quietly home...)?
        But, to tell you the truth, even if I can't help shooting ideas in the dark (it's fun!), I'm not putting too much effort into guessing, I'm sure your explanation would be better anyway.

        (Plus, and I know this is completely OT, Lost takes up most of my - poor - speculating abilities anyway. - and in vain, I might add. Maybe I should redirect them, lol. ;) )
        • Wilson saw mostly furs


          We seriously do not recall writing anything in which Wilson saw fur. Are you perhaps dreaming scenes from this story while you sleep at night?

          Because we're totally not. Ever. You believe that, right?

          I'm thinking ... sabotage?


          We could tell you if you're right about that, but we're evil, so we won't.
          • o-kay.

            I re-read the first part because I was so sure a about it, and yet... of course you are right and there was no mention of furs. I could be totally dreaming scenes about this - it's happened before, with books, tv shows, whatever - but the scary part is that I wasn't aware of that. o_0

            hee. I love your evil streak, so don't worry. ;)
  • How scary is that? Being in space in a spaceship without the owners manual. Yikes! House is as needy as always. Love the update. :D

    The whole time I was reading this I couldn't help but think that Wilson's headaches might be due to escaping gases that haven't been turned off? Perhaps House's specis isn't affected by it. Now the fact that he exclaimed "Oh, shit" makes me believe it more.
    • Hee hee hee.

      Put yourself in Wilson's place, with everything he's got to deal with. You'd have headaches, too!

      And House wouldn't. He's on such heavy drugs to block the pain in his leg.

      We're still waiting to see if anyone figures out what Wilson has just figured out -- and what House has already guessed at and is trying to confirm or disprove.
  • ...it'll be a hell of a lot more interesting if he's right. That's such a perfectly House thought. :)

    The AU setting and storyline are marvelous as always -- I'm in awe of the world-building that's gone on to create this -- and I love the steadfastness of their characters. Wilson is doing what's right (and suffering what House dishes out for doing it) and House, cantankerous as always, has seized upon a puzzle with a medical component. Oh, happy times!
    • This little puzzle is the first mental relief House has had since the crash. He'll milk it for all it's worth.

      I'm in awe of the world-building that's gone on to create this

      Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
  • Still loving this.

    Hmmmm. All I can think is somehow Wilson was the only one who was supposed to survive, unless he just happened to be the one out of luck. I'm sensing some kind of sabotage here. Is this something to do with the ship itself? I'm thinking of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I'm probably totally wrong. I suck at speculation.

    I'm hoping House will somehow have to figure out how to get the two of them out of a potentially dangerous situation.
    • Wilson was ... supposed to survive

      But he was very nearly dead when, purely by chance, the distress call from House's ship caused the ship's auto-wake program to kick in, pulling him out of hybersleep. Another hour and Wilson too would have died.

      • Crap. See? I told you I suck at this.

        Okay, then ALL of them were supposed to die. At least Wilson still got lucky.

        Soooo, House basically saved Wilson's life who in turn saved House's life. Well, House's ship actually saved Wilson's life. Okay, now I'm confusing myself. It's hard to focus on this story with a 3 year old by your side, asking you to draw the Zula Patrol on his drawing board. :)

        That's my excuse.

        Okay, then someone must have sabotaged the system somehow. I need to go back and re read this thing when I get a chance.
        • *bows to you*

          If you can get anything done with a 3-year-old child in the house, we are in awe of you. You do not suck at this. You have TEH SUPER POWERZ.

          And you are entirely correct. In a very real -- if inadvertent -- way, House (or his crashed ship) did indeed save Wilson's life.
          • Yes, it makes things a bit challenging with a 3 year old running around. Now I'm getting surrounded by inflatable planets. Yes, my son is a totally space freak so this story is very appropriate for me to read right now. :)

            Am I even close that House will somehow immerse himself in solving this case? Maybe it'll leave Wilson a bit shocked. He won't believe House at first, then finally revealing some deep dark secret stored in the ship's computer or something. Wow, now I'm REALLY going out on a limb.

            Anyway, can't wait for more!!

            Edit: Oh, and did I forget to mention the 5 month old puppy we have too? He just shredded one of his stuffed animals all over the living room floor. Oh, the joys of family life. :)

            Edited at 2008-05-19 02:48 pm (UTC)
  • Wow, I really like this story, although the cliff-hanger is killing me. I'm thinking someone from the ship tampered with Wilson's hybercell and disconnected the failsafe, only said person got it wrong and disconnected all the failsafe devices (or whatever they’re called), and on top of that (s)he messed the nitrogen levels, so the only reason Wilson was behind schedule with the poisoning was because he was completely disconnected from the tanks, he wasn't supposed to die from nitrogen, he was supposed to suffocate on CO2. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it, ‘till next Thursday when I’m proven wrong. xD

    Speculations aside, I really like this story, I love the universe you’ve created and how immense and familiar it feels, I only wish I had a small fraction of the talent any of you guys have.
    • *grins*

      We love our speculators, oh yes we do.

      And this ficverse? Really is immense. We're kind of frightened of it.
  • I should have had more faith in you guys. I thought the demise of Wilson's shipmates was just a McGuffin to get Wilson on his own, which struck me as just a bit clumsy (sorry). I am so thrilled that it was not an accident -- or at least that's where you seem to be going, but what do I know?

    Who would want to kill Wilson? Why would anyone want to kill Wilson? Does Wilson (maybe his shipmates, too) know something he shouldn't? This can hardly come as news, but you've got me thoroughly hooked.
    • Well, we did need a way to get Wilson into the middle of Deep Space Nowhere, all by his lonesome.

      But in our ficverses, things are rarely as simple as they first appear.
  • LOL @ House getting sucked into the soap opera on the vid. :)
  • Since there have been multiple comments about the totally unfair and torturous cliffhanger, I want to mention some details that I really liked. I enjoyed how Wilson has the chance to play some music but he decides that it would be too big of a risk if he can't turn it off. Sure, it's sensible, but it's so sad that he cuts off a chance for relaxation at the knees, so to speak. There's also neat rhythm of "Explore, Headache, Pill, Repeat" that reflects the plodding familiarity of the "diurnal cycle"--until the disruption at the end, anyway.

    Speaking of regularity, I got the impression from this chapter and the previous ones that Wilson's thoughts keep drifting back to the same place (how weird this is, how he needs to get back, etc.) and while it does show the direction of his mind, it gets sort of repetitive to rehash those thoughts without any significant change from chapter to chapter. This isn't really a problem now that the plot seems to be picking up, but it struck me when I was reading through.
  • If he pushes STORM OFF, does that mean it will stop raining somewhere on the ship?

    Ne-he-he XD

    This Wilson hasn't seen any Space Western, has he?

    (and Bones wasn't a doctor either; he was a liquor provider =P)
  • I was going to leave you an anonymous comment.

    Then that anonymous comment became longer than any of the essays I've written this year, so I set up a live journal account and posted it there to save you from my spamming.

    I like this fic far, FAR too much.
  • We're still waiting to see if anyone figures out what Wilson has just figured out -- and what House has already guessed at and is trying to confirm or disprove.

    At the risk of looking like a complete idiot for posting this, the first wild thought (which I'm sure is crazy wrong) I had was, what if Wilson is actually one of them...a haemovore...like House...and the others discovered it somehow...made him take that separate pod, or maybe even made it just for him...so they could pipe in some noxious gas and kill him...but maybe it backfired and killed all of them instead...
    The villagers were afraid...
    Perhaps the source of Wilson's headaches are his own need for sustenance...
    How would Wilson not know? I don't know...but it may be like Deckard not knowing he was a replicant in Bladerunner...
    I'm sure I'm more wrong than orange juice after brushing your teeth, but then Wilson is never truly what he seems to be, is he?
    • If Wilson were a haemovore, though? He'd know it. The Blade Runner idea is interesting, but biologically impossible in this case.

      In canon, Wilson's just a doctor -- and he's still never quite what he seems to be.

  • I'm guessing that Wilson was the only one supposed to die. He's managed to piss someone off or offend someone and now Nightdog wants him dead or mostly dead. I love House seeking brain distraction and Wilson little panic about his pain level. Wilson's frustration with the technology is interesting because it further issolates them. I'm not sure knowing where they are would help, but it would make him feel better.

    Edited at 2008-05-23 12:24 am (UTC)
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