Title: Through Time And Space: Chapter 17.2 – In The Midnight Hour Part 2
Characters: Ianto, OCs.
Word Count: 2585
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead
Summary: Plans for insurrection are finalised and the space station’s corrupt manager is removed from office.
Written For: Challenge #120: Midnight at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
The attack was set for halfway through what passed for the space station’s night, when businesses were closed for a few hours, the lighting was lowered to conserve power, and anyone not on duty got some much-needed sleep if they could. Pax liked to keep a close personal eye on his little kingdom via banks of monitors connected to the station’s surveillance systems. Because he had a suspicious nature, he didn’t like to think of the station’s inhabitants getting up to things when he wasn’t watching, so when he slept, the station did too. Ianto couldn’t have arranged things better himself.
By ones and twos, the black marketeers drifted into position. Patrolling security officers were quietly apprehended, stripped and stashed out of sight, to be replaced by men and women of the newly formed rebel force, dressed in the borrowed uniforms. By midnight, everyone was in place and awaiting the signal to move in. At midnight precisely, every light on the station went out, courtesy of the TARDIS. The rebels simply put on their infrared goggles and moved in.
The battle was brief and one-sided, the station’s security personnel having grown lazy and unfit over recent years. Confused and disoriented in the sudden darkness, the majority were quickly restrained, though a few hardier souls tried to hold back the invaders. Injuries to both sides were mostly minor and by the time the lights came back on five minutes later, the supposed officers of the law had been disarmed. There was a certain amount of poetic justice in locking them in their own cells and releasing their prisoners, most of whom had done nothing more than find themselves unable to pay the station’s exorbitant charges.
With station security out of the picture, taking the primary defence controls offline posed no problem and the auxiliary control room immediately took over. Everything was ready for Ianto and his team.
Down on the planet’s surface earlier that day, Empress Yvraine had sat at her desk watching footage streamed from the space station high overhead and becoming increasingly angry. Calling for her Commander in Chief, she showed him the information she’d been sent.
“This is intolerable, I had no idea!”
“Indeed, ma’am, this cannot be allowed to continue. What would you have me do?”
“My advisors are no longer to be trusted, your men must lock them up and initiate a full investigation to see how far this corruption had spread. According to the message sent with this information, people aboard the space station intend to wrest control from Pax and his minions on the stroke of midnight, station time. I want your three best commando units despatched in cloaked ships and ready to dock with the station as soon as the rebellion begins; Pax and everyone else involved are to be apprehended and brought back here for trial. Put one of your Commanders in temporary charge of the station until a new manager can be appointed. Everyone who has profited from Pax’s scheming is to have their assets stripped and used to provide compensation for those who have suffered under his regime.”
“As you command, ma’am.”
“Roget, must you call me ma’am? It makes me feel so old and I’m barely fifteen!”
“You are the Empress, ma’am.”
“And you have been like a father to me since mother passed.”
“When you are performing official duties, you must be addressed as befits your station,” Roget stated firmly, thensmiled gently. “The rest of the time is a different matter, my dear.”
“I suppose I can live with that. I’ve been lax, Roget, my youth is no excuse. I must in future keep a much closer eye on our space station rather than just expecting others to run it in accordance with my wishes. From this,” she gestured at the screens before her, displaying reams of data, “it appears that Pax has been running things up there for his own profit since my coronation. Almost seven years, Roget. I am a fool; I should not have relied on my advisors to keep me informed. My mother picked them and I trusted them, but they are not bound by the same oath of loyalty as you and your troops, and greed is insidious. I will not make the same mistake again.”
“Then you have learned a valuable lesson and will be more attentive to all that you govern because of it. Do not dwell on your failure; move forward with confidence and put the situation to rights. That is the best course of action.”
“You are a better advisor than any, Roget.”
“I am sworn to serve this world and its ruler, Yvraine, and I do so to the best of my ability in all things.” He straightened to attention. “I will lead the troops myself, ma’am.”
“Very well, Commander Roget, keep me informed. You are dismissed.”
Roget bowed slightly and left Yvraine alone in her office, still studying her screens and cursing Pax for his treachery.
In the supposed safety of his bedchamber, Pax slept peacefully until a shrill alarm dragged him from slumber, alerting him to potential trouble somewhere on the station. Before he was even fully awake, the sound cut off abruptly. That was impossible! Only he could deactivate the alarms in his quarters once they were triggered by the automated systems at security. Sitting up, he realised his bedchamber was lit with a soft illumination, yet he knew he’d turned off the lighting before going to sleep. He rubbed at his eyes roughly. Was he dreaming?
“Wakey wakey, Mr Pax, this is your wake-up call. I was beginning to think you might sleep right through the alarm. Such an annoying sound, isn’t it? I took the liberty of turning it off for you.”
The voice was strangely accented and unfamiliar, and Pax scrambled from his bed, staring in shock at the man seated casually in his favourite chair. The reading lamp was turned on; that explained the light.
“Who are you? How did you get in here? This place is secure, no one can get in without my authorisation!” Pax was angry and more than a little rattled. He tried to think what he could use as a weapon. He only ever needed to be armed when he was out and about in the station, not when he was safe in his own home; all his weapons were locked in the safe in his office.
“Who I am isn’t important, just think of me as a concerned citizen. As for how I got in, well, that’s my secret.” The man looked up at him, smiling slightly. He was young, surely less than half Pax’s age, though it was difficult to be certain. He appeared to be human, which made the situation seem even more surreal; true humans were very rare out here. Still, he didn’t look threatening and Pax saw no sign of a weapon.
“What do you want?”
The man’s expression changed, turning hard and cold in an instant. “You’ve been a very naughty boy, Mr Pax. Nobody wants to play with you anymore, so I’m here to take your toys away. You’ve been playing with things that don’t belong to you for far too long anyway. You took things you had no right to, stole from good people; you’re directly responsible for so much suffering, and all so you could live in luxury. It ends now.”
“So this is a power play? You think you can take over? You foolish boy; I can have security here in minutes, then you’ll really know suffering.”
The smile was back on the man’s face. “Your so-called security people are… currently indisposed, enjoying the hospitality of their own cells I believe. Did you think I was alone?” He laughed. “Oh no, not alone, not by a long shot! You’ve upset an awful lot of people.” A flick of a switch set into the arm of the chair and Pax’s wall screens came on, displaying visuals of the corridors outside his suite. They were packed with angry people, waving fists and improvised weapons. Even with the audio turned off it was clear they were shouting. “Look at them all, out for your blood! They want to see you suffer the way they have. Shall I open the doors and let them in?”
“You can’t! You wouldn’t!” For the first time, Pax was starting to realise that he was no longer in control of the situation.
“Why not? How would it be any worse than what you’ve done to them, destroying their lives for your own gain? Of course, if I let them in, they’ll most likely rip you limb from limb. Some of them might even eat you, I gather in certain cultures it’s traditional to dine upon one’s enemies. Good thing there’s plenty of you to go around.” He shrugged, looking completely unconcerned. “There’s no accounting for tastes. Sadly, your fate isn’t mine to decide; that privilege belongs to Empress Yvraine. Still, whatever punishment she selects, I’m sure you’re not going to like it. Even now, her forces are approaching, ready to take you and your… employees into custody. You’ll all stand trial at her convenience. I’d love to be there, but I have business elsewhere.” He rose to his feet.
“You’re going to leave me here?” Pax could scarcely believe his luck, but the surge of relief was short-lived.
“Good God, no! Why would I leave you in your secure bunker where no one else can get at you? No, you’re coming with me; I’ll drop you off where Yvraine’s troops will be sure to find you. Don’t bother to dress, I doubt you’ll be allowed to keep your own clothes for long anyway.” A strong hand grasped Pax by the upper arm.
“And what if I… decline to accompany you?”
The man pressed a button on a small handheld device he took from his pocket. “I just opened all your doors; the horde from outside will find their way to this room in a matter of minutes, I’m sure they’d be delighted to find you here, alone. Your choice, but I’d make up my mind quickly, if I were you.”
Pax weighed his options; he had no chance against the mob he could hear approaching, but against one man… “I’ll go with you.”
“I thought you’d see it my way.”
The man led Pax to the auxiliary control room, closing and securing the door behind them. Three other people, two women and a man, were already present in the small area, working at the consoles.
“All the pirate ships are disabled,” a melodious voice filled the room. “One is destroyed, it was already firing when Izelle targeted its weapons. Unfortunate, but unavoidable.”
“Good job, everyone. I think it’s time we departed, don’t you?”
“Are we not going to stay and help?” the younger of the women asked.
“Yvraine’s forces are more than capable, we’d just be in the way. We can watch from orbit on the viewscreens if you wish.”
The other man shook his head. “No, we did our part, those responsible for stealing from us will pay for all their crimes. There is no need for us to witness their defeat. Is this him?” he added, gesturing towards Pax.
“The one and only. A fitting gift for the Empress, don’t you think? Maybe he should be gift wrapped.” Pax found himself being propelled towards a door he’d never noticed before, in the corner of the room. It opened inwards as they reached it and he was shoved roughly into the room beyond. It was like nothing he’d ever seen, with a central console on a raised platform, surrounded by low tables and comfortable chairs set on a polished wood floor.
“I don’t understand; this isn’t part of my suite.”
“No one said it was. This is my ship.”
“That’s impossible! Nothing this size could fit…” Pax trailed off as he saw the corridors radiating away from the console room. He stopped dead as if rooted to the ground, staring around in a mix of awe and barely suppressed terror. Surely this was all some kind of nightmare? Maybe he shouldn’t have eaten so much at dinner.
The other three people entered behind them, the door closing by itself, shutting out all that was familiar. It was the last straw; flailing in panic, Pax twisted in his captor’s grasp and sank his teeth into the other man’s hand, tasting an unfamiliar coppery tang. A foot stamped hard on one of his own, grinding down on the bare and tender flesh, and he howled in pain, pulling the abused foot free and staggering backwards a couple of steps before gravity took over and he sat down hard. The shock of the fall brought him back to his senses and he cringed, staring up at the man now standing over him. Was this it? Was he going to be killed?
“That wasn’t nice,” the man chided, glaring down at Pax disapprovingly. “Now see, this is why you had to be stopped; you don’t know how to play nicely with others. Ah well, no lasting damage done.” He held up his hand and Pax gaped as the wound closed before his eyes, healing so completely that within moments there was no trace of it.
“What are you?”
“I’m a man who can’t be harmed, Mr Pax. I am eternal and I can never die.” Pax fainted dead away, and thus missed the man’s final words. “It’s not as much fun as it sounds, that bloody well hurt!”
Commander Roget and his troops stood in front of the security HQ. They’d rounded up the rest of the space station’s workforce and locked them in the cells for the remainder of the night; in the morning the tedious business of sorting out which were complicit with Pax’s activities and which were given no choice in the matter would begin. The only one not accounted for was Pax himself. Roget’s musings were interrupted by a strange, eerie sound behind him, and he spun on his heel to gape in astonishment as a massive tree in full leaf gradually faded into view just metres away and seemed to solidify.
The atrium that fronted the security offices was by no means a small space, but the tree was so immense it reached almost to the distant ceiling, dwarfing the surrounding buildings. Slowly and cautiously, Roget stepped forward across smooth plasteel undisturbed by any sign of roots. How the tree remained standing with nothing to anchor it was beyond him. Reaching out, he laid his hand on the rough bark of the trunk. Its texture certainly felt like that of a tree, but it was warm and seemed to throb faintly beneath his fingertips. As suddenly as it had appeared, and accompanied once more by the same eerie noise, it started to flicker in and out of visibility, gradually fading out of existence as if it had never been there; but one thing had changed. Where the tree had stood just moments before was none other than Maynaud Pax, bound and gagged, a large and decorative red ribbon tied around him in a neat bow. There was something white attached to it, fluttering slightly in the breeze created by the tree’s departure.
Roget reached for the tag, turning is so he could read the words inscribed on its surface.
For Empress Yvraine,
With my respect,
P.S. Beware of the teeth – he bites.