SUMMARY: She has never dealt with anything like this before.
CHARACTERS: House, Wilson, and the Hotel California
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: This begins the time between their leaving the Silver Bay and arriving at their first destination. Links to all chapters of this story are here.
"You're going to kill yourself," says Doctor Wilson, the third time Doctor House falls to the control room floor.
She references them in her own Common Language now -- the identity tags encoded in her babbage engine erased once they had keyed and set their personal records.
In the ten hours since they left Alexandria Station, Doctor House has been trying to walk -- not with crutches, but with a cane, the way people did before the advent of regenerative medicine. His attempts have failed; his leg is not healed enough. "There must be a place where they won't care what species you are," Doctor Wilson says. "We should find one. Get you to a regen facility."
"That would be advisable," Callie agrees. "Shall I set course for the nearest advanced medical center?"
"You shall do no such thing," Doctor House rasps, lying on his side on the polished stone tiles. "You shall also stop fussing at me, asking stupid questions, and assuming that there's any such thing as a 'safe place.'"
Callie's database includes the basic anatomy and biology of homo sapiens haemovorus, but little else. In an instant she opens channels and queries a half dozen subether nets for more information. The results are not favorable.
"It appears that you are correct. Within the civilized realms, likelihood of interspecies conflict is approximately ninety-five point nine per cent."
"Interspecies conflict." Doctor House snorts, a sound Callie's programming recognizes from the context as derision or disgust. "Nice word."
"We're screwed," says Doctor Wilson.
"I'm screwed. You can walk."
"Oh, can I?" His hands rest on his hips as he looks down on Doctor House. "How far, before the biological tether runs out?"
"Fine. We're screwed."
"What about your own people? They must have the same level of tech-- "
"They'd kill you, you moron." Doctor House extends one hand upward. "Need a little help here."
Doctor Wilson comes closer, reaching out.
Instead of getting up, Doctor House grasps his wrist and pulls swiftly down. Doctor Wilson yells -- a sound of alarm, danger -- as he topples to the floor.
Callie extrapolates the trajectory of House's movements -- the direction, course, bearing, orientation, the inevitable terminus.
She knows what he intends.
She cannot permit it.
In a fraction of a second, she pushes a neuropulse through the console room, taking careful readings as both bodies spasm and then lie quietly in a pile of crossed limbs and cane.
She isn't sorry.
Callie remembers everything.
Even during the times when she wasn't conscious, her lower functions remained, monitoring and recording everything that happened within the confines and surroundings of the ship. And so she remembers it all, right from the start.
She remembers the Songs, she remembers her Building, she remembers the laying of her Keel.
She remembers her Creator, Doctor Rachel Weiszman.
"It was just one of those things," Doctor Weiszman said. "Oh, but you're not listening, are you, hon?" She had rubbed at her eyes, and Callie had noted the traces of wetness on her cheeks. "Always the same," she murmured. "A fight for love and glory."
Doctor Weiszman had sighed, exhaled, sobbed. She'd leaned forward, over the desk, over the workbench, over Callie's primary, rudimentary neural net.
"Say the magic word and the duck comes down," she whispered.
It was a culture-flea, one for which Callie had no previous reference, but it didn't matter.
Doctor Weiszman had pressed the button, initiated the code, said the proper and customary words for a new Ship's Command (Fiat lux), and --
Callie had Awakened.
While her passengers lie silent, Callie has been searching all those memories, all those old stored transmissions and reams of data.
In all her long experience, there is nothing that applies to her current situation. Nor does she find helpful information on the subether; instead of clear facts there is a snowstorm of conjecture, legend, and accusation. The things Callie needs to know, she will have to learn for herself.
"Doctor House." She calls his name because, despite his drugged and injured state, he is the first to regain consciousness.
"Yeah." He does not open his eyes, but Callie has no capacity for being offended.
"I cannot allow you to hurt Doctor Wilson."
"Wasn't going to hurt him."
"The vectors of your physical motions indicated your intent to bite him."
"Yup." The Doctor opens his eyes, looking around the control room as if searching for a physical presence there.
"Your fangs can cause serious or even fatal injuries. I am programmed to prevent that."
"Are you only programmed to save his life?" Doctor House begins to extricate himself from Doctor Wilson's limp embrace, scooting across the floor, pulling his cane from beneath the other man's left arm. "Because if you're playing favorites, I need to know."
"I am not capable of favoritism. I cannot allow either of you to harm the other."
Doctor House halts where he is -- zero point seven zero one zero four meters from Doctor Wilson. He draws up his left leg and rests his forehead on his knee.
"Callie," he says. "We need to talk."
House clearly doesn't care that Wilson is groggy and his head hurts. Before he can even drag himself up off the floor, House bombards him with the explanation of what they're going to do.
Wilson agrees, as if he has any real choice. If the ship's all-powerful computer wants a complete scan of the process, absolute proof that it isn't harmful to him, then so be it. Wilson wouldn't mind having some proof himself.
"Only three rooms," House says, "are equipped for that kind of detailed scanning. This is the one we're using."
The pain in Wilson's head grows tentacles and starts to squeeze. "So I have to roll a bed out here just because you hate the clinic?"
"Unless you'd rather lie on the floor. Or in the hyberroom; that's the other choice."
Wilson sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose to try and stop the throbbing. "Wish we could just do this in one of our quarters."
"Are you insane? You'd let her watch, probably record you, every time you jacked --"
"I think she already does. Fine. Control room it is. Not until after we've eaten, though."
"Of course not. It was dumb of me to try biting you before you'd even cooked dinner."
"Have I told you lately that I hate you?" Wilson turns and walks out. He's the one who needs pain meds right now.
He forgets to come back with House's crutches.
Three hours later
"Turn down the lights," House commands, and Callie complies. Darkness won't interfere with her readings.
Her vision penetrates harmlessly through layers of flesh -- sigma-rapid waves showing her the finely-curved fangs as they pierce Doctor Wilson's skin and enter a brachial vein. She watches the contractions of tiny muscles that squeeze the voracin glands and reservoirs, forcing serum out.
Doctor Wilson has been envenomed. His body relaxes under the influence and his brain begins to shift into a dreamlike state, its higher functions depressed while other areas light up with a burst of activity. Theta waves increase. Respiration slows.
As Doctor House begins to feed, he exhibits similar changes. Yet where the bitten man slowly loses consciousness, the haemovore does not.
It is done in a few minutes, and the feeding-incision is so small that it begins to heal under the simple pressure of Doctor House's thumb.
"How long will he sleep?" Callie asks.
"Few hours. It varies. He'll be fine when he wakes up."
"My readings show that it was not necessary for you to attack him earlier."
"Your ... readings."
"The process strongly stimulates the pleasure centers in Doctor Wilson's brain, just as it does in yours. He enjoys it."
"You think I enjoy it."
"There was a three hundred and twenty percent rise in positive limbic system activity. It has still not returned to baseline. The data are very clear."
"Go to hell."
"I do not have coordinates for that location." Her database shows no fewer than thirty-nine places by that name, beginning with eight separate planets named Hell, progressing through Hell Paternal, Hellebore Station, and Hellring Zex. "Please be more specific."
Doctor House does not reply. He rolls over onto his back, turning his head away from Doctor Wilson. More than an hour of chronological ship-time passes before he finally falls asleep.
Callie counts off every second of it.
House swats the edge of the monitor, and Honest Eggie's face fades to dusty gray and then to black.
Edgar H. Poland is much older and fatter than he'd been when House last saw him, but he's the same tricky, lying greaseworm he always was. If what you need is a new engine or a few spare electron coils, Eggie's your guy -- a big dirty shop full of decent merch, fair-enough prices.
If what you need is less legal, though -- and if you need it badly -- you may as well go ahead and bend over.
Especially if Eggie knows that you're a haemovore.
Sitting in the evening-lit control room, House waits for Callie to make some sort of intrusive remark, but she's quiet. Must be occupied with actually flying the damn ship, for once.
Down the hall, in his quarters, Wilson sleeps the sleep of the heavily drugged. House had waited, taken blood and left Wilson sleeping, and then he'd called Eggie. One prying, nosy vulgaris at a time, thank you.
House picks up the crutches that lean against the console, and gets up.
There's a syringe full of forgetfulness, back in House's cabin, but that's not what he wants tonight.
He swing-steps his way to the kitchen, where their small store of liquor awaits.
Morning, Day Four
"You're saying this guy can ... give me a new genechip?" Wilson seems to enjoy interrogating House over food. This morning it's some kind of golden grill-cakes with fruit and syrup, and it would taste a lot better if eaten in peace.
"He won't have to. Your only problem," House says, around a mouthful of food, "is that you're officially deceased. Eggie can redirect your chiplink to an echo bank which will show you as alive and well, without notifying your native authorities." He drains the last of his coffee and holds out the empty cup, batting his eyes. "I can't believe you brought me breakfast in bed. Are you trying to seduce me?"
Wilson sighs heavily, refills both their coffee mugs, and ignores the joke. "Forgive me if I'm not inclined to trust a guy who calls himself Honest Eggie."
"First smart thing you've said all week."
Evening, Day Four
That hands-on-hips posture of Wilson's is so annoying. House only regrets that punching him would require too much effort.
"I cooked breakfast. I cooked lunch; I cooked dinner," Wilson peeves, looking every inch the Unhappy Woman. "I'm not doing room service again. Get up. You need the exercise."
"Your specialty is terminal and chronic conditions, not regen therapy. You don't tell me what I need."
"Not your slave, House."
Wilson's eyes narrow, his gaze moving over House's body in a way that causes an intense and unexpected discomfort. "Callie," he says, "give me pain indicators for Doctor House, please."
"She's a damn robot. You don't have to say --"
"Pulse, respiration, and blood pressure are all elevated. Strong indication of --"
"That's enough, Callie. Thank you." He stands there and looks House over again, silently, before leaving the bedroom.
When Wilson returns, he's carrying a tray with both their dinners, and there's a jet syringe peeking out of the pocket of his shirt. Sweet, sweet relief.
House hates him.
Five hours later
In the middle of shipnight, the console's glow still provides enough light for him to see.
"What do you need, Doctor House?"
He needs a new leg muscle, a home, his career back. He needs a real animal, a bottomless bank account, and several nights of sex with the Dreaming Sirens girls.
"I need you to stop spying on me."
"I don't understand that request."
"I don't want mechanical mommy watching me take a dump."
"You wish to discontinue monitoring functions?"
"In the passenger quarters, hell yes! Who programmed you, the Magistrates of Wellian?"
"Current defaults were set by --"
"Just show me how to change it."
A monitor rises smoothly from the console top, showing him a prompt screen.
House pulls up a chair.
"Callie," says Doctor Wilson, while he digs into the kitchen coldbox.
The rations thunk onto the kitchen countertop and Doctor Wilson straightens himself. "Think House will hate going back to eating freeze-food?"
"Previous reactions indicate that he will be displeased."
"I hope so. He doesn't like it, he can get his lazy ass out of bed and come get something else. If he's gone twenty meters in the last three days I'd be shocked."
The mathematics of Doctor House's movements take her no more than a nanosecond to compute. "Doctor House has traveled three point eight five seven seven kilometers in the past seventy-two hours."
Doctor Wilson stops unwrapping the freeze-meal.
"That is correct. Three point eight five --"
"How? He never ... oh God."
"He appears to be nocturnal. You were not aware?"
"I was not," replies Doctor Wilson. "He's ... he's exercising? He's rehabbing himself, isn't he?"
"His stamina and range of motion are improving."
Doctor Wilson leans on the counter for several seconds before opening the coldbox and tossing the half-unwrapped food back inside. "I think," he says, "I ... think I want something fresh."