Previous Chapter: Five
Edited by: My Best Beloved dr_whuh
Disclaimer: The Doctor, Rose, Jack and the TARDIS belong to the BBC, RTD and their various creators. So does the Whoniverse. I may create some original characters here and there, but I take no coin, and intend no copyright infringement. I simply love them all.
"These two – what are they?"
"They claimed to be Imperium, Tenante."
"Where's their identification?"
"Around here somewhere...these pockets are...wha...ah. Here it is." Pau Sampaio hung back as Laowhra rifled through the unconscious man's pockets, but he knew Lt. Isobel Fahrar had marked his presence the moment she walked into the house. If he tried to leave, he knew the two Maldad aides standing like obelisks behind her would frog-march him out back and leave him to the dubious mercies of her squad
The off-world girl lay sprawled across her compatriot's legs. All he could see of her face was her mouth and one pink cheek under a spray and tangle of blonde hair, but she looked like any of Luisa's school friends. Her lips were parted slightly, like those of a dreaming child
One who would not wake of her own volition. Somewhere in that pretty head was a mind buffeted by its own memories, scrambling for purchase and not finding it. Well before the lamia left her system, she'd be transported – he had no idea where, had no wish to – and there was every chance she'd be touched by the silk. Then she'd be gone.
"What do you mean?" Confusion made Laowhra's anger shrill. "I didn't lie. That wallet held Imperial identification. I saw it with my own eyes!
Fahrar cut across Laowhra's protestations. "No," she said with crisp precision. "You saw a psychic fraud. This is some sort of telepathically or empathically-imprinted paper. You saw what they wanted you to see. I'm not surprised. No Imperial agent would announce himself as openly as you say this one did."
Pau's sister-in-law shrugged, doing her best not to look discomfited. Her height and imposing mass helped a bit. "I can only tell you what they told me,Tenante."
"Well..." Fahrar looked thoughtful. "They were curious, and they are obviously off-worlders." She looked at Sampaio briefly, and with distaste, then back to Laowhra. "They're not agents, but their curiosity isn't welcome, no matter their allegiance. You were right to contact us."
Laowhra nodded. She pursed her lips, and Sampaio knew she was working up the courage to ask about Merrit and Luisa. "We were told...we were told that our relatives could be exchanged for help in tracking the insurgents." Laowhra said nothing more, apparently deeming reticence the best tactic after her initial comment
"For tracking insurgents, yes," the Maldad commander said, plainly annoyed. "These aren't insurgents."
"But what? You're not seriously suggesting your actions merit anything but granting you continued freedom, are you?" Fahrar had lovely eyes, very large in her olive-skinned face. Her expression rendered them ugly.
"Then proof," Laowhra said quickly. "Proof they're still alive. What if that's all I ask for...a holo, a message?"
Fahrar looked at her two pet informers. It was obvious that she thought Sampaio, now a portrait of cringing tension, was an unpleasant necessity, but she seemed grudgingly impressed with his sister-in-law's determination. "I can do this. I'll include a request for verification in my report. If you two stay in line, I'll let you know what they tell me. Get me a few things, I'll see about holos. If – if – you don't push me, I'll also back your request for their release. Once we have Nicola or some of his people in custody."
That was too much for Pau. "No! That's not what we were promised! They told us we just had to get some information!"
"Shut up. Collaborators do what they're told," Fahrar snapped. "Be grateful you're dealing with me and not with some of my colleagues. "
She turned to her human obelisks. "These two go back to headquarters. Call for the carryall and get them into it. I'll have them probed and sorted by dawn. If we don't need them, give them to the silk and move them over to Holding."
"Aye, Tenante." They executed quick salutes before one headed to the back door to call for the cage transport . The other approached the two victims. "Do we search them further?"
"No need," Fahrar said. "They're out cold. And I want to handle the rest of this in more comfortable surroundings."
Her order prevented the non-com from checking the Doctor more thoroughly than Laowhra had. He didn't find the Doctor's screwdriver.
The tall woman bristled at Fahrar's casual use of her first name, but she said nothing. The commander waved her over and handed her a thin envelope. "This is for you."
"We've told you – " Laowhra began, but she stopped after gauging the look in the other woman's eyes, and wordlessly took the package
Three squad members made their way into the living room, and stood over their two unknowing charges. "This one's pretty," one of them said, looking at the girl speculatively. Pau felt sick.
The TARDIS pulsed around Jack with a disconcerting sub-vocal 60 cycle hum. She was unhappy, and it set his teeth on edge
Darlin', if it's any consolation, I'm willing to do anything you suggest to find them, he thought, then switched gears and spoke aloud. "First things first, though. We're going to have to get away from where we are, and set down someplace else. I hope you don't mind me doing the honors, since the designated driver's not here."
It had been a long night, and a longer day for Jack. He'd waited in that damned market until the cold drove him back to the TARDIS. On the way back, he'd almost convinced himself they'd simply crossed paths. They'd be in the console room waiting for him. Rose would be apologetic -- maybe she'd gotten sick, maybe she'd changed her mind about tea. The Doctor would jape at him, maybe warn him about staying out late. Maybe he'd say they'd decided to leave Lizhbau, and he was lucky he hadn't been left behind --
But the console room was empty when he threw open the door. He checked the data banks for Lizhbau's sunrise, set his watch, and spent the next few hours sleepless in his room, staring at the ceiling. When the watched beeped, he'd thrown his coat on and headed out to start his search in the last place he thought they had been.
But asking about Rose and the Doctor in the market had been spectacularly unsuccessful. Not only had no one admitted to seeing them, Jack's questioning of merchants and market-goers had netted him some unfriendly attention from the quasi-military thugs who stood around or swaggered about the area. When two of them started moving his way, pushing past some of the formally-togged night market revellers, Jack had taken it as a reminder that discretion was going to be the better part of valor, at least temporarily.
He'd excused himself from the fruitless conversation he'd been having with a nervous vendor, and tried leaving the market at a casual pace. Unfortunately, while those tailing him didn't have much finesse, they were tenacious. He hadn't been surprised, but he had been disappointed. Eventually he'd taken to his heels in an effort to shake them, but he didn't think he had by the time he'd thrown open the door and dashed up the console room ramp.
"So here I am," he said disgustedly. "Not a damned thing to show for my trouble." He'd escaped capture, but he had no doubt his questions had flagged him, and tied him to his disappeared loved ones—
—Friends. His disappeared friends. Jack wiped his mouth with one hand, and didn't notice how the TARDIS reacted to that slip.
So. He took a deep breath and mentally regrouped. Sitrep was the first priority, and one he should have reviewed last night. He might have left the Agency behind, but he shouldn't have forgotten the drill.
Subjects: Rose and the Doctor — not at the rendezvous point, missing for close to a day. Both trouble magnets, on a world, and at a time, where trouble was overdue to erupt anyway. Take it as a given they'd fallen foul of the authorities.
Fact: Trouble could mean serious or fatal mental injuries and subsequent bodily death or slavery, making rescue not only a matter of necessity, but probably a two part operation; retrieve their bodies, then their minds
Fact: Time was of the essence and wouldn't the Doctor give you the fish eye if you'd said that where he could hear you? Jack snickered involuntarily, then sobered. But it is, he acknowledged silently, it is
Concern: Could he do it alone? Answer; absolutely not. He needed information on Lizhbau's security forces, jails and prisons (public and black op), maps, timetables, news reports, current gossip, everything that could help him track the two of them. He had none of that, save what he could find in the library. That'll help, no question, but it's not enough, he thought, before pushing past it to the next sitrep nugget.
Personnel: He had no backup, no on-the-ground agents to help him. But he might be able to use one pool of potentially sympathetic contacts.
The resistance must be active, because the merchants' unease and the aggressive nature of the thugs – what were they called? Maldads? – were signs of a jumpy administration, not one whose oppression had successfully suppressed anything.
"And the best place to find the resistance is in bars," he said aloud. He dug into his coat pocket, pulling out the Lizhbau tourist brochures and maps he'd stuffed into them what now seemed like days ago. He scanned the map first, then fanned through the two or three other pieces from the library
"No...no...yesss!" Jack's grin was feral as he sat on the jump seat to get more familiar with "Places They Don't Want You to Visit: A Planetrekker Publication."
"Bless you, you little muck-raking Zagat wannabes," he muttered, poring over the chatty and only somewhat skeevy brochure. "There's always a market for the seedy underbelly of tourist towns." It only took him a moment to scope out what he needed
"There we go...dives. Dives with at least two easily-accessed exits, mind you, in case I get a negative review from the people I'll want to make friends with."
That could happen. He'd been worked over more than once on missions – seriously worked over, land-in-casualty worked over, week-in-hospital worked over – when people he wanted to work with thought he was working with people they didn't want to work with. He really couldn't afford to have that happen this time. It wasn't just a mission depending on his continued health today, it was the Doctor and Rose.
The risk couldn't be helped, though. Jack had long since learned that you accepted the chance of injury and death, then did your damnedest to minimize their possibility. He called it the big ol' bus attitude: you could walk out any door and be hit by a big ol' bus, but you couldn't stay inside to avoid it.
"So, what do you say? How about a trip to the nasty side of town?" he asked the TARDIS, trying to keep the trepidation he felt about piloting Her out his voice. He put one hand on the console, inwardly bracing for whatever shock She might deign to give him as a response. Instead, he felt a pleasant vibration. Thanks, sweetheart, he sent Her way.
When he moved to start the process, he could only hope he and She together could take Her from the nicely isolated park area the Doctor had landed them in that morning, and deposit them smoothly in an alley behind – he stopped and checked first his brochure, then a city map he brought up on one of the TARDIS' screens – "Cheap Eats Inside."
"Catchy name. I'm sure the the clientele is equally memorable." Damn! Can't I shut up, just once? Jack knew his own foibles well; he talked to himself to calm his nerves. Knowing that, however, simply annoyed him more. He grimaced, and ploughed both hands through his hair before making some final adjustments to navigation.
"Alright partner, be gentle with me," he said, lips thinning as he waited what seemed like a lifetime for the rotor to move. When it did, groaning and grinding quite as satisfactorily for him as it ever did for the Doctor, he was simultaneously relieved and elated.
Jack didn't know how long they would be in the Vortex, and he didn't know if it was safe to leave the console, but he had to. "I'll be right back," he promised the air, then ran down the hall to where he prayed his room would be. There it was, a plain wooden door – how the TARDIS could present him with the reality of oak panels he didn't even want to guess – with a lock he suspected wouldn't keep the Doctor from entering if he chose. Inside was the exceedingly spare room of a man who still believed he was a soldier, but loved comfort. His bed was plain, but broad and welcoming, his dresser equally plain, but deep and built to carry lots of interesting things in its drawers.
Down under his shirts and socks in the bottom drawer, to the back...there they were.
Jack had been determined, since coming aboard relatively unarmed and immediately plunging into trouble with his new teammates, to even their odds beyond the Doctor's admittedly remarkable escape skills and Rose's gut bravery. He'd seen at Albion Hospital just how little the Doctor cared for weapons, so Jack had wasted no time or precious good will trying to convince him otherwise.
Instead he'd waited for the right moment, on some planet they'd visited shortly after his arrival. The Doctor had been more interested in watching Rose play with a troupe of pixie-like children than in keeping tabs on an undoubtedly unwanted tag along. Jack had made some excuse to leave, and easily discovered the local munitions shop. He'd found and bought the items he wanted, headed back to the TARDIS and stashed them. No one had been the wiser when he returned to the Doctor's side in time to clap along with the Time Lord and a small group of fascinated natives as Rose and the children ended their unplanned performance.
Now Jack went through the arsenal - still far too small, he thought with regret - making some quick choices and stowing them in strategically placed inner-lining pockets of the great coat. He re-checked his gun's safety, then doffed the coat to put on a more efficient shoulder holster. Once the gun was in place, he slid its extra clips, and a few more surprises, into places even a determined pat down shouldn't catch. He shrugged his coat back on, feeling better for the new weight underneath. The Doctor might not like guns, but he wasn't the Doctor and he sure as hell didn't expect to rescue his companions without firepower.
He made it back to the console room just as the TARDIS shuddered to a stop. Checking one of the outside view screens, he breathed another sigh of relief. "Lady, you can drive better without me, I swear." They had materialized in an almost impassably narrow alley, so short it was less a passage way than an alcove. It opened onto a debris strewn brick-paved rear yard, with the TARDIS door just catey-corner from an overflowing garbage skip. It was going to smell delightful outside those doors, Jack just knew it.
"No one ever said it'd be easy," he told himself, and felt the 60 cycle hum surge again, vibrating his bones. Nothing for it but to go fishing for drunks with information, and hope he got to the resistance on his own terms. With a shake of his head and a repositioning of his shoulders, with a broad smile on his face and cold determination in his eyes, Captain Jack Harkness stepped out of the TARDIS, and headed for the bar.
The carryall was just about twice the size of a generous Victorian Age steamer trunk, but only half as comfortable, the Doctor realized, as he forced more of the lamia out of his system. He focused on the discomfort, which helped keep the drug at bay. He wasn't tied – he spared a second to thank fate for providing him with over-confident captors – and, without elbowing the still unconscious Rose (oh god Rose, still be there for me) more than three or four times (please wake up and snap at me for elbowing you Rose, please wake up) he was able to snake his right hand down to his pocket. No one noticed. After dumping them unceremoniously in the carryall, their frustratingly unseen handlers had manhandled it out of Sampaio's house and onto a flitter. They had thrown some sort of tarp over the thing, which prevented him from getting a better look at the situation, but did protect him from discovery as he moved about.
He listened carefully, gauging the sounds of traffic and passers by. Those were quickly drowned out by the sound of machinery and klaxons, by which he guessed the squad was traveling further into the industrial zone, near some factory. As the cacophony swelled in the unseen landscape beyond the tarp, he activated his screwdriver. One quick jiggle to get it to the right setting, and the latch to the carryall door snapped open without anyone on or next to the flitter even noticing. Now that he knew he could get it open, he pulled it shut again and slid the screwdriver back in his pocket. Wouldn't do to alert anyone to his conscious state when they pulled off the tarp. He had to be patient at this point.
The Doctor was used to waiting for the right time to act, but doing it while pretzeled around Rose was more difficult than he had expected. Her breath came and went on his neck, as her head fell against his upper chest, and he was uncomfortably aware of his own flesh each time she breathed. Her hair whispered along his cheek and he could smell it. Focus, you hormone-addled git he raged at himself, without much success. Focus, or the lamia'll have you back in no time at all.
By the time the flitter slowed and settled, in some busy courtyard by the sound of it, he had regained enough control to continue planning. What he hoped was that whoever commanded this group – he thought he'd heard the name Fahrar – would leave the squad momentarily, expecting them to move the prisoners to a cell. Once they did that, with any luck they'd leave it there and head to barracks, and he'd be free to climb out unnoticed. He figured on having a window of no more than five to eight standard minutes, if he was lucky, to get Rose and himself free before Fahrar arrived.
"What you got under the tarp, boys?" The voice was gravelly and alcohol-sodden, but assured. He knew the type; a career non-com with a drinking problem. Some higher-up was fond enough of him to give him a sinecure where he couldn't hurt anything. Fantastic; this type just wanted to get his job done with a maximum of speed and a minimum of effort. That usually meant a paucity of attention, too.
"Just a couple the Tenante wants to go over." That was one of the squad members. "You got a spare cell?"
"They worth anything?"
"There a pretty bint along with some big-eared lad. He's probably worth nothing, but she'll fetch a good price," the squad member said. The Doctor marked that voice for later. "But we can't do anything to 'em until Tenante Termagant has her go."
"Oh, well, anything the Tenante wants, the Tenante gets," the older voice grumbled. "Alright. Take 'em down to 42. That's big enough for the two of them, and her and her chair when she's ready."
The carryall lurched as squad members pulled it off the flitter. The Doctor heard a door open, and then stopped thinking about much except his shoulder and his nose, both of which collided with the carryall's side as the Maldads hauled it awkwardly into some building. That's my nose bloodied for sure he thought, dismayed, just as he and Rose were dropped without ceremony onto the floor of Cell 42.
"Should we check on them?" a younger voice asked a bit diffidently.
"What do we look like, babysitters?"
There was no answer amidst the bustle and rattle that signalled that their captors were leaving the cell. He waited, counting out two very long standard minutes while their footsteps retreated. When the door slammed again, he moved.
(to Chapter Seven)