Pairings: Jack/Ianto, John/Nick, Gwen/Rhys
Characters: Jack, Ianto, Gwen, Rhys, John Hart and a cast of (probably!) thousands.
Spoilers: Set after Exit Wounds. Sequel to 'Will My Arms Be Strong Enough?'
Rating: Adult - it's going to get very dark in some places.
Warnings: Slash, language, angst, dark themes.
Summary: What's going on with the ship?
Disclaimer: I'm a student. I don't own Torchwood.
The Master List (as it stands) is here: anduria-trianys.livejournal.com/27610.ht
The sudden motion of the ship brought any action on board to an abrupt halt as the two men froze in place, although Orion's hand was still reaching towards the buttons on Nick's trousers. But any stillness lasted only for a couple of seconds when Orion's hand moved again and started to unfasten Nick's trousers, that mad lustfulness returning to his face with full force as he moved to press himself back against the young man and pin him to the wall again.
Only this time, Nick had just about had enough of Orion's behaviour. He knew that he couldn't kill him – as much as he hated to admit it, there had to be a reason why he had been chosen to go on this mission, although his actions up to this point hadn't given him the slightest idea what that reason was – but he could certainly give him a shock. So, just for a second, he let himself go limp and weak, letting Orion think he had him exactly where he wanted him, but then, as quick as lightening, he whipped out his gun and jammed the handle straight into the older man's groin. Then, as Orion's eyes widened in shock, he pushed him hard onto the ground and jumped straight for the controls. A few seconds later, he turned around, his gun in his hand and the safety catch off.
“Give me a reason,” he said, almost scaring himself with how quiet and cold his voice had become. “Give me a reason to do it and I swear I will. I may not be able to kill you, but I can do other things with a gun, which will be even more painful and, believe me, you don't want me to do that any more than I want to do it. However, if you behave, I won't have any reason to do anything...untoward and our working relationship may become that little bit easier. Capisce?” He waited for a response, but when there was none, he added, “Do you understand?”
There was silence for several minutes as Nick's words reverberated around the walls. For several moments, Orion seemed shocked that anyone had dared talk to him like that and Nick mentally congratulated himself. I bet that's the first time that anyone's ever spoken to him like that, he thought and smiled slightly to himself. But then, the older man's face relaxed and some of that arrogant swagger started to come back as he let out a loud laugh.
“Don't think I'm joking,” warned Nick, his voice casual, but his fingers continually stroking the safety catch on his gun. “Because I have never been more serious about anything in my life. Now, you can either back down and make our relationship that little bit easier, which may ensure that we both make it out of this mess alive, or you can just keep it up and this will end in disaster. It's your choice.”
Anyone watching the scene would have been able to tell that Orion wanted nothing more than to remind the young man that he was the senior Agent in this, and that meant he was the boss. It was incredibly galling to have someone who only a few days ago had needed his power over fire to be pointed out to him lording it over an experienced officer like this! However, as tragic as it was, when he saw his partner's – and, oh, how he hated having to refer to the whelp like that! – fingers still running calmly over the safety catch on his gun and caught the hardened look in his eyes, he realised that he had no choice but to accept or be killed. “Fine,” he growled. “You win – for now.”
“Good,” said Nick. “But don't think for one minute that you're off the hook, here. You so much as look at me oddly and I will find an airlock and kick you through it. Got it?” Orion nodded. “Good. Now, let's try and get ourselves back on track.” He pressed some buttons on his vortex manipulator and hacked into the computer database with ease, biting back his amusement at the shock on Orion's face. “What? Do you really think someone could work for Torchwood, have an ex-Time Agent as a partner, a computer expert for a cousin and not be able to figure out how to do this?”
“Clearly, there's more to you than I thought,” said Orion sarcastically.
“That's right,” said Nick. “We twenty-first century types may be primitive by your reckoning, but we can come good when it matters – and don't make a joke,” he warned, his hand going back to his gun.
“I wasn't going to,” said Orion stiffly.
Nick didn't believe him for a second, but he didn't argue and went straight back to fiddling with the controls, occasionally pausing to check any scans on his wrist strap. “Clearly, this ship knows where she's going,” he said. “Apparently, there's a shorter cut to the Nova Djinn world than the one we were taking and she's changed her route and is taking us round there.” He grinned. “It beats having to use a sat...” but he trailed off halfway through his comment, frowning when something else flashed up on the scanner.
“What is it?” Orion leaned over and examined the display. “What's happening?”
“Can you just check I'm reading this right?” asked Nick. “Because from what I can see, it looks like we've jumped ahead fifty-two years.”
“What!” exclaimed Orion. He shoved Nick out of the way and rushed towards the controls to check for himself. “How did that happen? I didn't do anything to it!”
“Well, neither did I!” retorted Nick and then bit his lip. Getting angry with each other wasn't going to help them now. “Never mind who did it – can we try and get her back into the right time?”
“That's what I'm trying to do, but the controls are set! She just won't budge!” Orion kicked the dashboard angrily. “I bet R'nessa knew what she was doing; this is just a final trick so she can get her own back on me again and make me look like a fool!”
“Oh, what a load of rubbish,” said Nick in disgust. “Firstly, I think that, as the Queen of the Neokin, she'd be a bit more mature than to resort to something petty like that. And secondly, if she was going to do that, don't you think she'd have warned me first?”
“Why would she do that?”
“Well, she does seem to like me. After all, she did give me this,” Nick pulled the small key R'nessa had given him out of his pocket. “It's the key to a private room on this ship; she said I could use it if I got sick of your company.” He couldn't quite resist a smirk as Orion openly gaped. “And thirdly – if she did have some sort of master plan to humiliate you, can you really look me in the eye and say that you didn't deserve it?”
“Oh, shut up,” growled Orion. “The point is, while the short cut is fine, the fact that we've been thrown out of our time is certainly not fine.” He kicked the dashboard again and swore. “What do we do?”
Slowly, Nick rested his hand gently on the dashboard, stroking the surface, hoping to get some answers from there. However, he wasn't prepared for the sensation of something gently brushing against his mind and silently urging him to stay calm and relax.
It will be all right...
Nick blinked, even though his eyes were closed. What? He opened one eye and looked around, expecting to see someone behind him, but the only person there was Orion, who was watching him with a mixture of curiosity and extremely grudging respect.
It will be all right, the voice repeated. Just stay calm...I know where I am taking you.
“What?” exclaimed Nick, not realising that he'd spoken out loud. “Are you...driving the ship?”
He was rewarded by a soft laugh before the voice spoke again. I am not someone driving the ship, Nick Jones. I am the ship. I have the gift of what you might call sentience, you see, but only speak with whom I choose. You need only think what you want to say and I will hear you.
You...you chose to speak with me? Nick couldn't understand it. Why? I'm just a plain doctor who ended up somewhere I don't belong. I'm not important or anything like that.
That's where you're wrong, the ship answered him. You are extremely important; you will save thousands of lives on this mission, Nick. But that is not why I chose you; I chose you because, like R'nessa, I saw such deep compassion inside you; something that is so often found to be greatly lacking in this future.
You're not kidding, agreed Nick, allowing himself a sad smile.
When you came to the library, deep in the Forests of Amion, so deep that the Neokin never dare venture there, they saw within you what I see now. They saw someone who would do anything to protect and care for what they love. You were welcomed by them because of that; because they saw how much you cherish the written word, they accepted you. No one has been so well received there in centuries.
What must I do? Nick asked, shaking slightly. I mean, how can I get us to where we're going...
You don't need to do anything, answered the ship. I understand that you are worried; I would be too in your position. But I have also seen inside your mind and I know that you are free-thinking and intelligent in ways that your companion can only dream about.
Does he know? Nick knew he was frowning again. I mean, that you're alive?
No. Orion is arrogant and cynical. He will never believe that a machine like me can think or work like a human. He sees me as a pile of scrap metal, just convenient enough to take him to his destination.
For a moment, Nick wondered if there'd ever have been a time when he might not have believed that a ship or a machine could function like a human. He had read several science fiction novels, particularly one series where disabled humans were wired into a life support machine and eventually became what were known as brainships, or sentient starships. That had been fascinating and heartwarming even because it had meant that people who might never have seen the universe could go out and have a life. But then,after Canary Wharf, and seeing what had happened to Lisa, the idea had taken on a whole new meaning, one that had at best unsettled him and at worst terrified him.
I don't know whether to be scared or not, he admitted. It's like the old is warring with the new – well, newer, I guess – what I read in my books compared with what I have seen...I don't know how to reconcile the two.
I know.The ship seemed to smile. You have seen too much not to be wary of such technology, but I assure you, I am not like the race of Cybernetic creatures I have seen in your mind. I mean you no harm. She paused and Nick got the impression that she was deep in thought. Suddenly, pictures started flowing through his mind, images of a young woman seated in front of the controls and smiling, her face relaxed, as the ship started to rise gently and sore through the starlit sky until they touched down on a remote desert.
The scene faded out and changed to one showing the same woman, now with blood staining her clothes, carrying a fallen comrade over her shoulder. She gently eased him inside the ship and started cleaning his wounds. Then, to Nick's astonishment, without anyone saying a word, the ship took off again, this time landing in the grounds of a large glass building that looked terribly familiar. Then, the woman stepped out again, her friend unconscious in her arms. It was then that Nick looked closer at the man and gasped in recognition.
Yes. The ship's voice cut through the scene. R'nessa – yes, that young woman you saw there was the Neokin Queen – and your partner were friends at one time, but he was a wild adventurer, even as a child. One day, the two of them met on the desert you saw, but ran into trouble of a terrifying kind. But I was able to take them back to his homeland, where they have the best healers in the galaxy. As soon as I saw them, I knew that was where he had to be.
Otherwise he would have died... Nick's blood chilled at the thought. You saved his life. If you hadn't gotten him to somewhere he could be cared for... but he couldn't finish the sentence. Instead, he smiled softly. I guess you really do know where you're going.
So it would seem, said the ship, amused again. Now, open your eyes again before that buffoon who calls himself a Time Agent causes some serious damage.
Yes, ma'am! Almost before Nick had thought the words, he opened his eyes, just in time to see Orion wrestling so hard with a joystick it looked as if he was about to wrench it free of its holder.
“Stop!” he shouted and elbowed the older man aside with startling ease. “Just leave the controls alone before you break something!” Then, sensing that this might not be the best way to get Orion to do what he was told, he added more quietly, “Just trust me. This ship knows where she's going.”
“How do you know?” challenged Orion.
“I just do,” said Nick calmly. “Call it a side effect from reading too many science fiction novels, but I doubt she'd have just decided to throw us out of time without a reason for doing so.” He looked out of the window. “Besides, we're about to come into land.”
The satisfaction at hearing Orion's growl of annoyance would stay with him for a very long time.
Nick blinked several times. “It's an amphitheatre,” he said. “Are you seriously telling me that the Nova Djinn live in an amphitheatre?”
“Oh, yes,” said Orion. “The Djinn are, first and foremost, a race very keen on spectacles of any kind – apart from the kind on your face!” He laughed raucously at his joke. “They basically live in little hollowed out rooms underneath the seating in the theatre so that they can come out and see what's happening easily.”
Nick looked around nervously at the crowds of people screaming and cheering in a language he couldn't understand. “And what's happening today?” he asked, but before he received an answer, he caught sight of a raised platform in the centre of the arena where a well dressed man was brandishing a whip in one hand and a long scroll in the other. Behind him there was a long and straggly line that seemed to be made entirely out of raggedly dressed people of all species, all of them chained together and with expressions ranging from exhaustion to utterly heartbreaking misery, but all with the same deadened look of resignation in their eyes.
As soon as he saw them, Nick was hit by a sickening thought. “This looks like a slave sale!”
“Yes, indeed it does,” agreed Orion rather nonchalantly. “In fact, I know of nothing that gets the Djinn more excited than the smell of servitude on the air – well, assuming they're not the ones being enslaved, of course.” He gave a rather harsh laugh. “Don't look so surprised; slaves sales have been going on here for over ten centuries; since this world was first colonised.” He waved his hand around. “It is, in fact, called Segygand, which translates into your own tongue as Slave Land.”
“You mean they actively support slavery?” exclaimed Nick.
“Yes, they do.” Orion frowned. “Come on, Seren; look into your own history – you can't pretend it didn't exist in a time closer to your own.”
“No, but it was abolished, outlawed even, centuries ago!” retorted Nick, aghast at the thought that all the work that William Wilberforce had carried out during his life had been for nothing. “Why would anyone want to support, even celebrate, such a barbaric practice so far into the future?”
Orion brushed a hand through his hair. “Like I told you, don't raise your expectations too high,” he said. “The future isn't necessarily as enlightened as some people might like you to believe.” He sighed for a second and then tossed a large bundle of black fabric to Nick. “Put this on; it's going to get cold shortly and I can't have you freezing to death. That would look terrible for the Agency. I'm going to do some scouting.” Then, without another word, he walked away.
Nick scowled but did as he was told, letting the fabric brush against the dusty ground before he looked up at the stage, his blood boiling at the arrogant smirk on the slave master's face. His fingers tightened around the hilt of his sword and just for a moment he wanted nothing more than to go up there and slice the man into pieces. He shook himself; that wouldn't help anyone, not at this point. The first priority was to find, and obtain, whatever it was that they had been sent here for.
With a deep breath, he drew his cloak tightly around him – Orion had been right about it getting colder – and made his way towards the middle of the packed arena, trying not to get caught up in the mad crowds surrounding the stage. Suddenly, however, all the shouting and chatter stopped and silence dropped over the amphitheatre like a cloak of darkness. Then, a loud voice rang out, a voice harsh with malicious laughter. Looking up, Nick saw the slave master had come forwards and was speaking, a venomous smirk on his ugly face. He didn't understand a word of what was being said – and frankly, he wasn't sure he wanted to know – but it must have been popular, because the crowds suddenly started shrieking and cheering again.
The man's grin widened and then, to Nick's surprise, he went over and unchained one of the slaves behind him and dragged the man forwards before throwing him heavily down onto the stage so that his already bruised skin caught in the splintered wood. He then let fly with a rush of words that, even though he couldn't understand them, made Nick shiver in a way that had nothing to do with the cold. But it was nothing compared to how he felt when the victim was pulled roughly to his feet by the scruff of his neck and his face became recognisable.
Oh my God... Nick swayed violently and had to grip onto a branch that was protruding through the brickwork. It...it can't be...
But even as he said that, he knew it was. He would have recognised that face anywhere.
In that moment, the world seemed to fade away. Even though John's eyes looked so dazed and lost and even though he was clearly severely injured, Nick's heart felt lighter than it had been since he had left Cardiff behind. Just knowing that John was alive and that message had been wrong was enough to bring a smile to his face. Maybe, just maybe, everything would be all right.
But then a loud cheer went up and Nick was abruptly catapulted back into the amphitheatre where the Djinn were yelling and screaming as they threw things at John and the rest of the slaves. Then, the master stepped up again, that horrible smirk back in place and he spoke. Only the last words needed no translation; for some reason, Nick instantly heard what they meant.
And he's so easy to discipline as well!
Instantly, he started running towards the platform, but he had barely moved three steps when, amid jeers and catcalls, the man pulled a sparkling silver gun from his belt and, never taking his eyes off the audience, he fired a bullet straight into John's forehead, and then another one into his chest, sending him to the ground in a fast flowing pool of his own blood.
Next Time: So, John has been found, in a less than ideal state, but is all as it seems? And, equally importantly, will Nick ever get home?
*Runs and hides in nuclear bunker from potential lynchers while screaming 'I'm sorry!'*
Oh! *Pokes head out to say 'Bonus point to anyone who can spot the Anne McCaffrey reference and name the series' and ducks back again*