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Silver Bay 1.2: Curiouser and Curiouser



Silver Bay 1.2: Curiouser and Curiouser

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TITLE: Silver Bay 1.2: Curiouser and Curiouser
SUMMARY: Something is very wrong with this picture.
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.

Curiouser and Curiouser

Alton Jerome sits in his office and stares at the words scrolling slowly across his ethertablet. After a while he leans back and huffs out a soft breath.

This makes no sense, he thinks. An ancient galactic cruiser -- it should be in a museum, not adrift in uncharted territory. Four sets of diplomatic identification, one of them complete with a pilot's license and credentials. All of them visa-stamped and festooned with official seals proclaiming the dignity of the bearers, urging all who might encounter them to grant safe passage. Four sets, and two passengers. Only one set of i.d. matching one of those passengers -- a certain Doctor James E. Wilson.

Who is the other man? Who caused his injury, and why? And where the hell are the other three passengers?

Captain Jerome glances back at the diplomatic papers. In keeping with ancient tradition, they're printed on small folding booklets, the archaic introduction on the first page a stark contrast to the everyday language of Universal Standard:

... sans délai ni difficulté et, en cas de besoin, de lui accorder toute aide et protection légitimes.

All lawful aid and protection, Jerome muses. Perhaps. But not until he knows who he's aiding and protecting.

The intercom buzzes softly, and he sighs. "Jerome."

"Koreaga here, sir."

"Yes, Number One."

Gabriel Koreaga's voice is calm. "Security teams have finished sweeping the captured ship, Captain. They found something I thought you'd like to know about right away."

Jerome listens to his Executive Officer's report with growing interest.

"Well," he says at last. "I guess we know what happened to the other passengers." He drums his fingers slowly on the desktop. "What, but not who did it or why. I believe I'm going to go ask Dr. Wilson," Jerome says. "Carry on, Exec."

I probably have better things to do, he thinks as he shuts off the intercom, than listen to a stranger lie to me. He's got to turn in quarterly reports, approve the new hiring guidelines, weigh the competing bids to overhaul the entire food-service system. He looks again at the ethertab screen and narrows his eyes. Better things, but not necessarily the most interesting. After all, it's not every day a man gets the opportunity to talk to the dead.

The last time Captain Jerome had seen the prisoner, the man had been deeply unconscious, his face relaxed and peaceful beneath the clear membrane of the steri-sack as the physioscanner had declared him one hundred percent healthy and one hundred percent human.

Now that he's awake, he's looking somewhat the worse for wear. Dr. Wilson is lying on his back, his left forearm blocking out the light. Whenever he takes his arm away, his face is pale and washed out, and he seems to squint in pain at the ceiling, so much so that he quickly covers his eyes again.

Jerome watches for a while on the wall monitor next to the door. The two security guards De Santos has stationed there watch with him.

"All right," Jerome says. "We're not going to learn anything just by standing here." He nods to one of the guards, a youngster whose name tag reads "SGT. T. SPRUCE." "Open it up."

"Sir," Sergeant Spruce acknowledges, and palms a large red button on the control panel set under the monitor screen.

The door slides open with a soft hiss, and Alton Jerome steps into the cell.

There's no chronometer in the bare little cell, so Wilson's been tracking time as best he can, based on the frequency of meal delivery -- if two Total-Nutro bars and a flimsy bottle of water can be considered meals.  There have been two room-service calls thus far, so probably twelve hours or so since he awoke. How long he was out, prior to that, is impossible to know. The people who bring the emergency rations literally won't give him the time of day; they will only repeat "Can't talk to you, sir," and then leave as quickly as they can.

It's too soon for another visit from them, so the motion he sees through the tiny window must mean something else.

Wilson struggles into a sitting position at the sound of the door; it remains open long enough for him to see the two green-uniformed armed guards outside. The man who's walking into the room is armed too, although his uniform is an ivory color that almost matches the warm-white walls of the cell.

Message received, Wilson thinks. As if I could overpower any of these guys anyway. He's got a headache that just won't quit, and a deep, dull pain in his chest like something's trying to gnaw its way out. Guess getting stun-blasted isn't anything like on the drama-vids, where the hero jumps up and keeps fighting.

"Dr. Wilson, I presume," the man says, and Wilson looks up.

His visitor is tall, as tall as House, if House could stand on his own, with clipped silver-grey hair just a little shorter than Wilson's own. His face is tanned, burnished copper by the light of a thousand alien suns, and his green eyes seem to shine with a fiercely sharp intelligence.

"That's me," Wilson says, and tries not to wince as his pounding headache suddenly intensifies.

"Then I'm afraid we've got something of a problem," the man says. He holds up an ethertab in his right hand; he smiles, revealing strong white teeth, but the smile isn't reflected in his eyes. "Or should I say, you've got a problem, and it's a rather large one."

A cold dread begins to form in Wilson's stomach. "I ... don't understand."

His visitor regards him silently for a moment, then begins to read from the 'tab's screen.

"'The chief Public Information Attaché for Delphus Planetary regrets to announce the deaths of Doctors Rupert Norfolk, Sara Ulman, and James Wilson. The three esteemed physicians, members of the first Medical Exchange Diplomacy delegation to Capinari Corporation, were murdered while en route home, in a vicious sneak attack on their vessel. Intelligence services of Delphus Planetary have determined the attack, a cowardly act of sabotage, was carried out by operatives of Capinari Corporation. Not only is this tragic incident an affront to all peace-loving peoples of the quadrant, but it constitutes a Level 1 contract breach, cementing Delphan support for the long-proposed hostile takeover of Capinari.

Merger negotiations, according to sources within the Executive Board, are set to begin immediately.'"

He lowers the 'tab and shakes his head. "'Merger negotiations,'" he drawls. "Because 'war' is such an ugly, little word." The tall man stands quietly, his hair shining silver in the harsh light of the cell. He's waiting, Wilson realizes, for answers to the questions he hasn't asked yet.

Wilson swallows. "They forgot Sutherlin," he says softly. His head is still pounding, jarring piston-strokes inside his skull. "The pilot. He's dead, too. 'Hostile takeover' -- that's what they're calling it now?" The walls of the cell tilt lazily around him; Wilson pinches at the bridge of his nose to try and make it stop. At least the pain in his chest has receded. "Your uniform -- are you the Captain of this ship?"

"I am. Alton Jerome, at your service." Jerome nods politely, but of course there is no doubt as to who will serve whom.

"Captain, is House all right? The, uh, other guy, the one who was with me. He's ... my patient."

"His name is House?"

"Gregory House. I don't ... don't know much about him, other than that."

"I notice he's not mentioned among the dead."

"He would be ... on someone else's casualty list, somewhere. I found him, or rather, my ship ... he was shipwrecked, which is why his leg -- "

"Looks like a large carnivore had him for lunch."

The floor of the cell tilts this time, and Wilson squeezes his eyes shut for a moment. God, but his head hurts. I don't even know how long I was unconscious, he thinks wretchedly. Just how much do these guys know? He opens his eyes. Captain Jerome is watching him calmly.

"What happened ... you ... you might want to record this, if you aren't already," Wilson says. He takes a deep breath. "I'm afraid it's going to take a while."

"I appreciate the update, De Santos, but Mister House will have to wait." Jerome slips off his polished shoes and tosses his uniform jacket over the arm of the sofa. The pale fabric almost glows against the dark, rich leather. "Tell him I'll talk to him in the ... later in the morning. I've got to get some sleep before I fall down."

"He's demanding pain meds, sir."

"He should be." From a simple decanter atop the end table, Jerome pours a glass of Siglis single malt, watching the soothing, pale gold sparkle. "I've seen his leg. Get Royston to dispense something." He pauses to take a sip of the warm, smooth fire.

"Will do, sir. Anything else?"

"This Wilson fellow told me the wildest tale I've heard in years. The part about the hybercells, we already know; the rest I won't believe unless it's verified. Tell Messner I want those flight records today, not tomorrow. "

"He's trying, sir, but he says he's never seen a recorder this damn old. None of our systems will interface with it, so they've got to use the California's own equipment. Apparently that's ... just as easy as you'd imagine."

"Cali-what?" Jerome takes another, larger sip of his drink, which seems to get better with each new bit of information he learns.

"He hasn't informed you, sir? Our relic has a name. HC255 is otherwise known as the -- " The Lieutenant pauses, obviously looking at something. "The Hotel California."

Jerome frowns. "The hell's that mean?"

"I have no idea, sir." She sounds, Jerome realizes, almost as tired as he feels. No damn wonder; she's been sticking with this ... capture, or rescue, or whatever it'll turn out to be, right from the start. Her watch ended hours ago.

"Take off your next shift. I'll have Burke cover it; let him know."

"Thank you, Captain. Anything else, sir?"

"That's all, De Santos. Get some rest."

By now barefoot, Jerome walks over to the alcove of shelves in his living room. On the center shelf, beneath a tiny floodlight, sits a box of clear novaglas. It holds a single piece of Old Planet scrimshaw -- the tooth of some eternities-dead cetacean, a chunk of etched ivory that tapers to a smooth, blunt point. An orphan of some ancient chess set, the tooth bears the figure of a robed man on one side, charcoal against the yellowed bone. The grooves of the tall headgear he wears have been worn down by untold numbers of fingers, leaving only a faint impression of the original crosshatching.

By rights it should be in the Silver Bay's Museum of Sail on the seventh deck, but something in the little piece had spoken to Alton Jerome, and ... well, being a Captain does have its privileges. Besides, this isn't a perfect example of the art anyway. It's cracked on one side, splitting the image of the Bishop carved there right down the middle. He looks at the scrimshaw for a long moment, then smiles, struck by a sudden thought.

He wonders if Mister House plays chess.
  • (Anonymous)
    Wilson is the perfect time traveler, House will be fascinated by his anecdotes and recollection of bygone days. This should fascinate him, it already fascinates the Captain. I am surprised House hadn't had an inkling of this before now.

    Wilson needs a job, the captain doesn't like his current physician, I sense a mutual need.

    By the way, I love this universe
    • *grins*

      All we've actually said is that it's a really old little ship -- even Wilson has had plenty of thoughts about that, earlier in the story. What was it he said? That it was "an elegant old junkheap"?
  • I am loving this story!! (I love everything your consortium does!) It is moving along at a nice pace (of course I would love multiple chapters a day but I do understand..really I do). You all have a great way with the original characters, I can almost see them the same way I can see House and Wilson! WTG!!!
    • We've been working overtime on this, lately, and we've got more coming up quite soon, so do stay tuned.

      We'd written a lot of this stuff long time ago, but as the ficverse has grown and become more complex, we're pretty much re-writing this whole segment as we go.
  • yay! a new update so soon!

    It's so amusing that the official language of the past was French. ;)

    The captain seems a much nicer guy than what I expected. I just wonder exactly how much Wilson told him... mmm.

    Also, I'm betting Wilson is starting to suffer from withdrawal... I hope they will put them together soon.
  • I love the small details that ground this in "our" reality: the language of diplomacy is still French, data analysis of flight recorders isn't fast, chess exists, and Wilson discovers the hard way that it's nothing like the movies when the hero gets knocked down. :)

    Jerome is a fascinating character, as much a politician as a leader in the many levels of his thinking. Can't wait to see more!
  • I love this chapter. The first meeting between Wilson and Capt. Jerome. The way House sort of floats around on the edges of everyone's thoughts and words. I absolutely loved the description of the Captain as he settles down for the evening. Great imagery throughout. Iit's like I'm a fly on the ship, always where the action is. Can't wait for the next chapter. Will we be getting a chapter a day - pleases!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    • I think you'll see more tomorrow (Wednesday), Idon, so do try to hang in there.

      We're writing at a furious pace, but wow, there's so much to contend with in this ficverse. We love it, but it does get exhausting!
  • (Anonymous)
    Just two words...
  • So the sabatoge plot bobs back up to the surface? Good!

    There is so much here to applaud. Especially love, "Guess getting stun-blasted isn't anything like on the drama-vids, where the hero jumps up and keeps fighting." Some things never change. Nice assault on action films. :)

  • I don't usually comment. As House'd say, it's just old fashioned laziness, mixed with a lack of a lavishing instinct. But you are just AMAZING. I'm pretty demanding about the stuff I read, and I humbly have to admit that you got me totally hooked. Keep it up and keep it coming.

    BTW, Hotel California?? The Eagles? Seriously? Really nice touch.
    • Hotel California??

      Well ... yes. Seriously. Although when we realized that was the name of the ship, we burst out laughing so hard.
  • That Wilson and his shipmates were sacrificed as a gambit in a political game, regardless that Wilson survived that play, is very chilling indeed.

    Nice structure and plot development. You have set me to speculating whether Jerome and his crew will become entangled in political shenanigans they'd rather avoid. Very intriguing.
  • So now we have confirmation that all were supposed to die and who ever did the deed leaked the details of their death unless the Attaché was the one who did it. Is Wilson suffering from the blast or is he all ready suffering from House withdrawl? I know I am. Get back to my cranky doc so he can snack on Wilson! More please.
    • Oh, we've got the next ... let's see ... the next three chapters pretty well drafted out at this point.


      See you soon!
  • Trying to type with an 8-week old kitten constantly attempting to climb up on my lap, so this'll be short. Really liking Jerome so far. Reminds me of a Star Trek fic where Kirk, just recently given command of the Enterprise, goes against his first mate's warnings and invites the "frigid" Commander Spock to play chess. Hope it goes well.

    Poor Wilson. Withdrawal's a bitch, ain't it? :)

    Interesting that the sabotage was politically motivated. Wilson better be careful - once word gets out that he's alive, he'll be in a lot of danger.
  • Oh it so fits that House and Wilson would be stuck on a ship called Hotel California.

    Stab it with their steely knives but they just can't kill the beast
  • Great update, love the bit about the Hotel California. Chess with House should be interesting.
  • Well, you know what I am going to be singing all night:

    Last thing I remember, I was
    Running for the door
    I had to find the passage back
    To the place I was before
    ’relax,’ said the night man,
    We are programmed to receive.
    You can checkout any time you like,
    But you can never leave!

  • a) broke out laughing at the ship's name.
    b) loved this chapter
    c) house + chess + jerome = interesting
    d) loved this chapter again.
  • Okay, this is fantastic!!! Sorry, I've recently started stalking (or is it lurking? I can't remember what people say...) this story, but I haven't commented yet!!!! I was going to wait until I caught up, but then I saw the name of the ship. Fantastic! I laughed, and it made me think about how much it fit. Thanks so much for an awesome story.
    • Why, thank you! It makes us so happy to hear from readers; otherwise we never know if anyone's out there or not.

      You'll want to keep reading. We've just finished the second part of this ficverse, and there will be more to come. Out of curiosity, how did you find this?

      • Ooo, excitement :) And I think I found this on a House/Wilson group... "Grabbing his Cane". I'm not a really active Live Journal-er, so I'm still figuring things out. I was clicking on pretty much anything and this came up :D Glad I found it.
  • Hah! I forgot this part. "Not only is this tragic incident an affront to all peace-loving peoples of the quadrant, but it constitutes a Level 1 contract breach, cementing Delphan support for the long-proposed hostile takeover of Capinari."

    Perfect, their deaths were political. Isn't that just like mankind. :(
  • Hotel California...Lewis Carroll in the title...this is not a fanfic, this is a dream come true. :-)
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