SUMMARY: Out of the frying pan ...
CHARACTERS: House, Wilson, OCs
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 beginning of the second part of the Distress Call Universe. Links to all chapters of this wild AU are here.
They're awfully fucking efficient here, House will give them that. It takes these civilized corporate goons almost no time to fill the closed docking bay with oxygen and then invite themselves aboard.
The ship's airlock pops with a soft whump! and a hiss -- it's much too close, an entry point conveniently placed not far from the control room, the way cruisers were designed back when hyperspace was strictly the province of the wealthy. Piracy wasn't much of a concern in those days, not when you had a private army to scare away the wolves. These particular wolves just happen to wear the uniforms of a corporate security team. Dark green body armor, some stupid little logo on their breastplates. The black blast helmets with opaque shields make them look like giant bugs, and they're stepping quickly through the lock, spreading out like they own the place.
Which they do, House thinks. Why, Grandma, what big teeth you have!
And sure enough, oh, shit, the first two are already bringing their right hands up --
House barely has time to yell, "We told you we're not armed, you mor--," before two bright blue flashes shoot across the room. The first burst sends Wilson crumpling to the floor; the second crackles for a moment through House's bones, and then he knows nothing more.
The team is silent, eyeing their prisoners warily for any sign of movement. When Corporal Rehman finally speaks, his words are prefaced by a soft snort of disbelief.
"Pretty pathetic-looking pirates, Lieutenant." He toes gently at the still body of the man on the floor with one booted foot.
Lieutenant Terry De Santos holsters her weapon and slides her dark faceguard up; her smooth brown skin seems to glow behind the clear blast shield. "We don't know what they are yet, Corporal," she says crisply. "But we'll find out soon enough. Let's get moving."
This catch they've just reeled in is an absolute oddity, unlike anything else Jerome has ever seen. It was -- before the kill pulse -- throwing off a damn strange engine signature, vastly different from any thruster in common use.
His team trundles down the boarding ramp, the inert bodies of the ship's two occupants secured in clear steri-sacks, gliding along on grav-slabs. Jerome uses the time to study the little cruiser.
The ship is ovoid in form, tapering at the top and bottom like a giant seed. Its upper three decks are passenger quarters, their outer walls studded with circular viewports. It has the look of something not just old, but verging on ancient.
A name can be seen, but not read, on the port bow of the battered silver hull. OT ... L ... F ... NI ... is all Jerome can make out through what looks like centuries worth of debris pings and docking scrapes.
Levin's searches have turned up no record of an HC255. That's not surprising; five-digit IDs were discontinued right around the time they scrapped Polaris Four, way back at the bitter end of the Second Expansion age. This ship is either a fake, or it's older than Fort Alpha Centauri.
Whatever the hell it is, Jerome wants to know and he would prefer to know now.
He'll have to hold off, though. There will be time tomorrow to explore the anachronistic little barge. Right now, the unconscious captives have to be inspected for injury and more importantly, contagion. Under normal circumstances, the Captain would walk away and let one of his medical staff do that job unobserved.
These, Jerome is certain, are not normal circumstances. He intends to be present this time.
Wilson wakes up alone and with a pounding headache, lying on a thin mattress, on a pillowless bunk in a clean, barren room. A near-blinding light shines directly down into his eyes.
Cell, he thinks, as soon as his throbbing brain can form words. Cell; prisoner. Fuck. House was right. He takes a deep breath; why does his chest hurt? Maybe something to do with the stunners. Those things must've been hell on House. Oh God, where's House?
Slowly, Wilson sits up on the bunk, keeping one hand on his head so it doesn't fall off while he takes a better look at his new environs. Everything is so bright, a warm, almost yellow tone that mimics the strongest natural light Wilson's ever seen. There's one door with a small window and no handle. An alcove to his right holds a basic toilet and sink, the same white as the walls and the floor.
"Is ... is someone listening?" he calls to the empty air. "Anyone?"
No reply comes. Wilson stands, meaning to go and look out that little window, but the sudden movement makes him dizzy, makes his head hurt more brutally than ever. He lies down again, not knowing what else to do except wait.
Dr. Royston hears the man's query, but he doesn't respond. He's under strict orders -- he goes to the command-circuit com and keys in 001.
"Captain? He's awake, sir."
"The, ah ... younger one." Royston has to stop himself from saying 'the human one,' thus letting on to anyone in earshot that the other one isn't. "He's trying to talk to us."
"Thank you, Doctor. That'll be all."
Gary Royston takes a relieved breath as the com goes silent. Goddamn Alton Jerome, who stood there and watched the scan, saw the fucking fangs, and barely even twitched.
"Isn't that interesting," Jerome had said, reaching up to the monitor, calmly tracing the scanned outline of those hidden, venomous teeth. "You're going to keep this one classified, Royston."
For a moment, Royston had been sure that Jerome meant to kill this freak, but no. No, of course not. Captain Jerome never did a damn thing to make Royston's life easier.
"Respectfully, sir, this is a --"
"Helpless, crippled prisoner." There had been no room for argument. There never was, never is, with that asshole. "If I hear as much as one word, one whisper about this from anyone, I will dismiss you immediately. Have him and his fellow passenger put in separate cells and call me when one of them wakes up. And Royston?" Jerome had stared right through him, those cold green eyes creeping him the hell out. "I know that both these men are in stable condition. They're going to stay that way. Harm either of them, and you will wish you hadn't."
Royston's off-duty now that the first 'patient' is awake, and all he wants is a tall, strong drink. What Royston really wishes he hadn't done was to take the job on this ship in the first place. Sure he'd been desperate, but no amount of money is worth dealing with Alton Jerome.