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The overhead light is a sharp glare against the pristine white of the tiles. No mildew in sight. Just bleached-white cleanliness. It would just figure that Lewis keeps his bathroom clean enough to host a four-course meal off the floor.

As Gaspar stands in the ten by ten cramped conditions and brutal shine, he feels utterly helpless and without tether. Haneef's doing a good job filling the air with crap, though.

"Yeah, but is it contagious?"

Ros flaps a pale hand distractedly at Haneef by way of answer. Her little electronic reading metre thing flashes yellow on the display as she waves it around the interior of the shower. When she withdraws it to the other side of the shower curtain, the yellow gives way to green.

Haneef tries to poke her in the side. "Does that mean it's contagious?"

Gaspar shakes his head and turns to look out the door, where Lewis is visible down the hall, standing with his arms crossed, pale face completely bloodless and eyes wider than wide. He's looking at Gaspar, at Ros beyond in the room holding her electronic magical thing, with such outrageous hope that it hurts to look at him.

No go, Gaspar mouths.

Lewis's face falls.

"I need to get Hester to do more tests," Ros announces.

Haneef points at the large golden egg that is sitting in the middle of the sparkling bathtub. "Dibs on not carrying it."

Gaspar leaves the bathroom doorway, his focus on Lewis. He smiles, heart not really in it.

"You'll have to get checked out at the Rig. Use the temporal diffusion defence on them," Gaspar tells him.

Lewis fidgets his fingers along the hem of his sweatshirt. His engineered red eyes aren't sitting well in his face in this dark hallway; they look wet and on the verge of rolling right out of his skull. Body system removal is a problem with some melodramatic residents, but Gaspar's never had cause to believe Lewis would be one of them. He reaches up to place a firm hand on the taller man's shoulder and squeezes the joint as much as he dares.

"Temporal diffusion," Gaspar repeats, "then they won't quarantine you."

"I could be contagious," Lewis points out. His voice is rough, like he's been screaming recently. He most likely was. Gaspar would totally scream all over the place if he had laid an egg in the shower and didn't know why.

Haneef is such an ass. "Haneef's a miserable snot, don't listen to him."

Lewis tries to smile. The thinning of the lips and the quirking of the face muscles in no way convey amusement. "He has a point."

"He has no point. The man is pointless."

Lewis obviously doesn't believe him, his face remains unchanged and his eyes wet and weary. But he shuts up about it, so small favours and all that rot.

# # # #

Obviously Gaspar's brilliant and meaningful advice worked, because next morning bright and early, Lewis is in the monster pit sorting photogenic hobgoblins into separate groups so that Ros can mark down the different classifications on her Neanderthal tech clipboard.

Gaspar should probably be sanctioned for coworker stalking, because he is absolutely watching everything on a hacked security feed in Hester's lab. It's been routed it onto an itty bitty five inch screen, though. He might be nosy and creepy, especially when it comes to Lewis, but he's not going to court disaster by being obvious about it.

Of course, despite his genuine effort towards subtlety, one of the heads Hester keeps in jars on shelving next to the door of her lab notices what he's doing and starts to shout in slurred English about the Fifth of November.

Gaspar flicks two fingers at the screaming head. "I should never have introduced you to that show," he says.

Hester doesn't bother to look up from where she's bent over the egg on one of her shining metal floating tabletops. "He wouldn't be screaming if you weren't doing something wrong."

"Lies and slander." Gaspar props the screen up in full view against a Soul Casket-- Hester buys the cheap kind in bulk on eBay-- which just makes the head slur louder. "I am being the soul of discretion."

Hester pokes at the egg with a long thin metal rod. A shower of sparks fly up into her face. She remains unchanged by this development, but then again, so does the egg.

She does not comment on the fact that Gaspar has no soul, discretionary or otherwise. For that he feels the customary prickling of gratitude up his left nostril, prompting him to sneeze. "I will not ingratiate myself to you," he continues, scrubbing at his nose with his shirtsleeve as magnanimous as you please, "And I'm not doing anything wrong."

On the screen one of the hobgoblins begins to jump straight up and down. Lewis can obviously see that's the tell for an incoming firestorm, because he turns and hauls ass to the pit's closed gate to get out of range.

"You're not making any sense," Hester says, distantly. She fiddles with a knob on the table, then pokes the egg again. This time, no sparks. "Do you know what ingratiate means?"

Gaspar decides that his previous conversational point might get him backed into a corner in the near future, so he switches emphasis. "There is nothing wrong with what I'm doing."

Hester lays down her tool next to the egg and looks up at him.

"I know you're worried about him--"

"I would never be worried about Lewis, the man is like an oxen, laborious and true."

"--and I'm sure that whatever jokes Haneef's cracking are taking a toll--"

"What? I thought you didn't have a sense of humour!"

He crosses his arms and levels a glare in Hester's direction. She blinks twice and hesitates.

"I don't have a sense of humour," she says, slowly, sounding out the vowels.

"Think of what you said, Hetty, think," Gaspar demands, then points at the egg.

Hester looks at the egg, as commanded. She chews on her lower lip as she considers it.

"Can I have a hint?" she asks.

"Cracked," he says with feeling.

She's still not getting it, if the blank look she's giving him is any indication. He sighs, consigned to the despicable need for him to explain every single pun on the planet to the Residents, when the little screen bleeds white, and his attention snaps straight from puns to horrible technical malfunctions.

The white lasts for three seconds, which is long enough for a mandatory flashbang. Then it clears, the pit is scattered with stunned photogenic hobgoblins, and Lewis is on his knees, clutching at his midsection.

"FEETH OF NOVEHMBAAAHH," the head slurs at him in poetic excellence.

Gaspar smacks the jar over as he runs out the door.

# # # #

When Gaspar was assigned to this new guy's team, someone who hadn't even been on the Rig for more than a week, he was not impressed. He was even less impressed with the fact that Lewis Tooley had chosen to wear neon orange to meet his new team.

"Did you ever explode eyeballs on sight when you where in the Underground?" was the first thing Gaspar asked while idly toying with his coffee mug.

Allyssa was the one who decided on team assignments, and she was in the room too, ignoring all of them in favour of the lit-up wall panel of layouts and charts. It flashed pink, then puce.

"You'll be getting Resident Noor and Doctor Baad as a round-up for your team," she said while Lewis frowned.

"My mod is concussive force," Lewis told Gaspar.

"So that shirt has nothing to do with it."

Lewis' face cleared, then he quirked his lips, the first time of many. "Is that how your mod works? You're sarcastic until you pull something?"

Gaspar grinned before he could stop himself, and then Haneef tumbled into the room shouting about someone's roof being on fire.

# # # #

Ros has the most experience with the Isolation Chambers, so she gets to go in with Lewis to get him settled with magazines, a glass of water, and thirty-four pounds in weight of sensors stuck to his skin.

"Is this a new one?" Gaspar asks the tech currently camped in front of the observation monitors. The electrical cord of a nearby photocopier is caressing his leg, which he ignores. "I don't remember them being this clean."

"I just got here, dude," the tech says. He flicks his fingers at the lowest line of monitors. "So, maybe?"

The tech's Hello My Name Is sticker placed across his left shirtsleeve says 'Torio' on it. Gaspar wonders if he could get away with calling him the brand name of a food or something instead.

"You are helpfulness personified," Gaspar tells him.

Torio just gives a serene smile and fiddles with a random knob on the controls.

There's a mandatory three doors to seal in a single Chamber. Ros swishes out of the final one holding her trusty clipboard and a half-empty bottle of Goo-B-Gone.

"Did you know that he's allergic to oranges?" she asks Gaspar.

He nods. "They make him sneeze."

"He blew out ten sensors on his face. The concussive force made a dent in the wall." Ros is being awfully calm about the "recently locked in a room with a Resident's mods going on the fritz" thing. "It would be helpful if this sort of thing made it into the medical records."

Gaspar shrugs. There really isn't a better response to be had than that.

She blinks once-- her equivalent of rolling her eyes, Gaspar has always suspected-- and turns her focus onto Torio. "Are all systems go?"

Torio punches a big red button. They all wait for a moment to see if anything happens, but nothing does.

"Probably," Torio finally says. He flashes the peace sign at Ros. "I could do the leek dance if you want."

"The what?" Gaspar is confused.

Torio drops the peace sign and looks unimpressed instead. "It's a thing. From my Motherland."

Ros hums and shoves the Goo-B-Gone into a small cupboard next to the door. "It's an anime thing, Gaz, you wouldn't know it."

Gaspar's eyes narrow and he snarls, "Oh, anime."

"You got a thing against anime, dude?" Torio asks. He's squinting meanly right back at Gaspar.

"Hello Kitty is a menace," Gaspar pronounces.

Torio is appropriately offended. "Hello Kitty is a national treasure."

Ros flicks on the intercom that goes into the Isolation Chamber. "Hello Kitty is a cartoon cat."

Lewis' head rises from his flat-out position, raised eyebrows visible on the monitor he's showing on. "What?"

Gaspar elbows Ros out of the way so he's directly in front of the largest screen. "So do you feel like a pincushion yet?"

"This stuff is stuck with glue, not needles. Why are you talking about Hello Kitty?"

"Because we need to have a contingency plan for when the inevitable apocalyptic zombie takeover by Hello Kitties occurs."

Torio leans back in his seat and eyeballs Ros. "Is he always this sucky?"

Ros nods, because she's physically incapable of lying. Untruths give her hives, it's a weird side-effect of her mod.

The phone on the wall chirps twice. Torio reaches over to smack at the answer button without looking at it. "Arigato phone-o roboto. You're on speaker, whoever you are."

"Thank you," Hester's monotone voice replies. "Is Dr. Baad and Resident Sra with you?"

Torio hoots. "Doctor bad? Seriously?"

"It's a family name," Ros says. She inspects her clipboard for dust. "Hetty, we're both here."

"The first egg has been stolen."

Gaspar squeaks, and Ros blinks twice. That's been her sign of absolute shock and dismay for years now. "When?"

Hester growls, which is an uncommon noise found in the labs. "I just returned from an hour-long meeting, and it was gone. Whoever took it broke the doors to both my lab and my quarters across the hall, and the hermetic seal on my toilet."

"It is actually quite easy to break the hermetic seal on your toilet," Gaspar feels the need to point out.

"Are you saying that you--"

Allyssa's voice breaks over the intercom, cutting Hester off mid-vowel. "Red alert, known break-in on sublevel 1a, science wing. Proceed with procedure H4L1BU7, raise alarm."

The intercom clicks out, and the recessed lighting goes deep red, begins to flash.

Ros hauls out the door, Torio following. Gaspar waves after them. He's not going to run off into dangerous hallways where precocious thieves just waiting for an opportunity to upgrade to murder could be lurking.

He stands behind Torio's abandoned chair and examines the monitors that show Lewis from all angles. He's still flat on his back on a flimsy elevated cot, attached to a million wires that snake up under his clothes. His jaw is clenched. That's obvious enough from the screen.

Gaspar flicks on the open line into the Chamber. "You all right in there?"

Lewis' groan echoes over the speakers. "What-- What's going on?"

"Just relax, yes? It's fine, it will be--"

"Gaz," Lewis groans, getting his distress across quite well. He's shaking under all the sensors, the wires are literally quivering in time with his tension. Just because they don't have colour monitors installed on the lower levels doesn't mean shadows don't appear. And in the blinking distortion of what must be the red lights flashing inside the Chamber, Gaspar can see Lewis's abdominal muscles twisting.

"Come on Lewis, talk to me."

Lewis begins to pant. Mouth open, chest heaving, limbs trembling and eyes rolling back in his head.

Ros runs back into the room with Torio on her heels. She almost slams into Gaspar's back with all the careening and uncontrolled velocity that woman's got going on.

"Internal energy spike!" she shouts, and slams her palm on the button that opens the door to the Chamber.

# # # #

"So the issue here is his blood pressure."

"Well, yanno, stressed and tension and anything that gets the blood pumping, right?"

Gaspar rubs at his forehead with his eyes closed. "Yes, that would be called blood pressure."

Torio sucks on his teeth for a moment. "Well, not exactly. There are too many systems at play to simplify to just that alone."

Ros left to inspect the energy spike read-outs, and now it's just Gaspar, Torio, and ten nameless medical robots filling the burst open Isolation Chamber.

"So how do we combat this, then?" And of course Lewis, sitting on the cot and fidgeting.

"We gotta stop your vitals from spiking," Torio answers with a grin.

Gaspar wants to punch him. "That's kind of hard to do, you know this, yes? It's his blood pressure, it needs to keep going for him to live."

"He's modded, he can handle experimental procedures."

"Confirmed," one of the robots announces. "Three giga-ton residential modification, concussive. Organs adjusted per specifications found in Article UR4NU5, subsection 00P5."

"We'll tranq him up, and boom, fixed." Torio looks entirely too pleased about this line of action. He turns to Lewis. "You can still do your job on tranqs, right?"

Lewis' expression is dubious, but he nods.

Gaspar waves his arms over his head. Calm and composed isn't doing it, so time for him to be dramatic. "You'll burn out his innards! Pump enough tranquilisers into him and he will die! He simply cannot live without a working liver!"

"Oh, if that happens we'll grow him new one." Torio grins widely at Lewis, who has left the township of dubious to settle in the nice metropolitan area of totally freaked. "We have the lowest abnormality rate next to the Chinese State's efforts, you know."

# # # #

The first dose of tranquiliser is meant to work for six hours before a need to re-administer occurs; it lasts all of three before Lewis is flat on his back in the cafeteria.

It's not a busy time for consuming edibles, but Gaspar has to throw unwashed trays at the ten stragglers to get them out of the room. Hester tries to keep Lewis calm and get his pants off so that this pair doesn't rip.

He tries to crawl under a table to get away from everyone after the fourth egg is out, but Gaspar grabs his ankle and hauls him back. Lewis' bare ass on the slick floor and his total exhaustion are the only reasons Gaspar actually succeeds in this venture.

"They're going to try a higher dose," he tells Lewis. He can't help it that his voice has gone high and squeaky. He's a little freaked out after witnessing that whole. That whole thing. "Do you want to try the higher dose?"

Lewis is morose in the face and worse off with the hanging head and slumped shoulders.

"Lewis, come on, need some informed consent here, do you--"

Torio and two medical robots tromp in carrying a clear box full of syringes. They elbow Gaspar out of the way and prep Lewis for medicinal jabbing without waiting for the go-ahead.

Gaspar slides to the left so he can at least keep an eye on Lewis. His foot almost slips out from under him, he has to remain upright through careful application of windmill arms. On the floor is his ruined ice cream, which he'd only gotten three licks off of before all hell broke loose.

Hester hands him the new egg wrapped in a dirty wash cloth. She shrugs when he looks at her.

"The vault," she says, then turns to cluck over Lewis, now glassy-eyed and lax in the mouth.

# # # #

Madam Velvet is squat but strong, perpetually scowling but a total joy to be around. She runs the Rig with an iron fist and a lot of shouting, which means that the people who go drinking with her roll their eyes a lot when her voice starts to raise, and the people who don't are totally freaked out whenever she sashays into the room.

Gaspar is one of the rare few who has gotten drop-dead drunk with her but is still terrified to be in the same vicinity. This is why, when he's on his way to the storage vaults, he squeaks and tries to crab walk through ankle-deep water as quietly as possible.

Velvet hears him, of course she does. She whirls to face him, spinning like a ballerina wearing hip-waders and standing four feet eleven inches.

"Something," and here she pointedly looks at the egg Gaspar is clutching to his chest, "blew nineteen holes through nineteen walls about an inch up off the floor." She pauses for effect, her distinctly Asian Mother features projecting all the disappointment in the world, and Gaspar is getting the full dose. "Might you know what did it?"

"I don't-- How would I-- Don't you--"

"Of course I know what did it, I want to know if you do!" She snaps. Her eyes drop to the egg pointedly, then back up to Gaspar's face.

"Oh." He looks down at the egg. It's still warm from Lewis' body. He doesn't know if these are something Lewis is spontaneously producing, or is being forced to expel, or what, but he doesn't want to just drop it in case they plan on hatching.

Which is a terrifying thought, more terrifying than Velvet at karaoke, so he decides to stop thinking about it. He meets Velvet's eyes and glares. "Why didn't the alarm sound?"

"Circumvented so that he wouldn't lay another one!" Velvet waves a hand at the welders and workers trying to frantically plug the hole in the exterior wall behind her. The first time there was a leak that let water in, Gaspar was scared shitless. Now that he's used to them happening every ten days or so, he's just annoyed at the damp. Velvet shouts "Faster or we'll drown!" at the guy running the generator for the hot iron, then turns back to Gaspar. "So why'd this one happen, then?"

"I don't know! We were eating, and Hetty was talking about a paper on Quantum Time she'd just finished reading, and I was just eating ice cream, and he just--"

Velvet raises a hand. It shuts Gaspar up immediately.

"All right, fine. You were just and he was just. I get it."

She dismisses him with a flick of her fingers and turns back around to yell at the welder again.

Gaspar gapes for a moment, then the hole letting the water in cracks wider, which prompts his exit.

# # # #

At job six as Team Delta Three they were standing in the middle of Suburbia, looking like freaks casing a family of four's pristine home.

"I'm just saying--"

"No, you're not just saying." Gaspar cut off Haneef with a slash of his hand and a stern look. "You're presenting a hypothesis regarding a peaceable species that is entirely without basis of fact or premise."

"Do you actually hear yourself sometimes?" Haneef complained. He kicked at a bit of gravel on the driveway they stood on. "You didn't go to Uni, stop pretending."

Ros hissed under her breath. Gaspar was figuring her out slowly, and he thought that was her version of "oh snap he went there." He hadn't gathered enough data yet to be not entirely sure.

"The pod is inactive," Lewis announced as he exited the backyard and came round to the front. Already three months working for the Rig and he'd adjusted beautifully to ignoring the bickering that ran rampant among people who were cooped up on a man made island in the middle of the ocean.

Ros jotted down the development on her pad. Gaspar slapped Haneef on the back of the head.

"Why'd you do that?" Lewis asked Gaspar. It would take two years for him to get used to Gaspar's random bouts of hitting Haneef in the head.

Gaspar would never move past rolling his eyes at the Team Leader when he asked stupid questions.

Ros got on the phone to request pickup, and Lewis grabbed Gaspar by the collar to go talk to the worried family that owned the backyard the monster pod had materialised in.

Haneef made kissyface noises at their backs. Gaspar ignored him by shoving at Lewis.

"In the Underground we'd lock people up in holes full of gelatin rats," Lewis told him, five paces away from the worried family.

Gaspar had to appreciate that on a purely visceral level. Especially since they obviously heard him and looked at them like they were nuts.

Gaspar bared his teeth at the civilians, and Lewis didn't hide his grin as he began to explain the situation.

# # # #

The second egg just up and leaving a hellish destruction in its wake rules out someone stealing them, at least. Hester points that out when Gaspar returns to the cafeteria to check on Lewis, who is drooling and dopey, sprawled out under one of the tables with his pants back on.

The third egg vanishes straight up, through a small air vent that goes from Hester's storage vault and through four sublevels. There's an exit wound of shattered glass where it hypothetically rolled out over the deck and into the ocean that way.

Ros forms the theory that they're being called from some magnetising force on the bottom of the ocean. "It doesn't necessarily have to be sentient, it just has to have a powerful pull for whatever material these eggs are made of."

Gaspar thinks this line of thought is total bullshit, and says so loudly.

Lewis lays-- no, expels, he's not poultry so there is no laying-- his fifth egg when the alarm goes off because a multi-eyed prophet boar explodes spontaneously down in the monster pit. Gaspar gets him off into a service hallway for privacy, and chucks his palm tablet at a passing Janitor's head in a panic.

Number six is expelled during the dinner rush, while Lewis is so doped on tranquilisers that his movements are stuck at turtle speed. Gaspar threatens to carry him if he doesn't go faster, and there go the indicative gut cramps.

When he takes Hester the latest egg-- Lewis is snoring on a couch in Allyssa's quarters while she plays retro games on her illegal emulator machine that Gaspar made for her-- she tells him to stop bullying Lewis.

"He tries to be capable," she explains over his outraged yell, "and you are insulting him."

He doesn't really know what to say to that, so he storms out of the lab, and is immediately caught by a call on his talkie from an amused Allyssa and panicked Haneef.

The time frame between each egg is diminishing. So is how quickly the eggs vanish into (almost) thin air.

When night falls after the last thirty-seven hours have been taken up with hauling Lewis to medical and back, storing eggs, patching destruction, and surveying the land, Gaspar and Haneef stand on the catwalk over the Nuclear Core that powers the rig at bottom-sea level, forty-seven sub levels down. There's water everywhere, pouring into the Core's cage from a hole in the roof that the welders are frantically trying to patch.

Velvet is wearing a scuba suit now, and is yelling at the Scientists baling out water on the floor with tin buckets.

"These things let a lot of the water in," Haneef laments tragically, waving his hand at the latest egg-escape hatch. He's never been the strongest swimmer, and always acts accordingly. He once claimed it was because he grew up in Libya, where there is no water, but Gaspar once looked it up on the map and there's an entire coastline there. No water his sweet ass.

Haneef drums his fingers on the railing. He grins wide at Gaspar. "Think I can call Lewis a Hen now?"

Gaspar rubs at the side of his face, wincing at the prickly growth there. Twelve. They're up to fucking twelve now.

# # # #

Read-outs are like royalty in Gaspar's domain, and the ones printed on reams of flimsy paper are even better. He has to pet the printer every day and coo at it before it ever follows a command, but that's a small price to pay so long as he has hard-copies of his data.

He's petting it now, more absentmindedly than anything. The printer purrs and spits out loose papers covered with row upon row of <3 in light red ink.

The heading on one line graph is Time Frame Between Incidents. Frequency of Inhibitive Medication Needed is on a bar graph that Ros started this morning and he added consistently to throughout the day. These papers aren't doing it for him, he tosses them to the floor to mingle indiscriminately with the printer's attempts at flirtation..

Next printing batch in the stack has Theoretical Events of Stimuli in bullet points, ten pages long and in very tiny text. Various instances of ice cream are listed by Ros. Also multiple notes of threats from Gaspar.

He snorts. Lewis could slap his head right off his neck if he wanted to, there's no way he feels threatened by him. Gaspar is stick-thin and acid tongued, not a behemoth that can do actual damage. He tosses those pages onto the floor too, because why the hell not.

Last batch of data are power spikes with a specific energy signature that were recorded on the Rig whenever an expulsion occurred. They're always in Lewis' direct vicinity, which he assumes is a result of the actual event, because otherwise there's something (someone) out there with an extremely advanced aiming device that has something against Lewis.

He skims the twenty pages, ignores the loose power cords winding around his legs lovingly, and chews on his lower lip as he thinks.

# # # #

Hetty's laboratory four years ago was much smaller. She wasn't the head of her own research division yet, and she was still six months away from developing an explosive that actually chased after the target's specified style of shoe before it achieved detonation.

Gaspar still hung out with her. They got to the Rig on the same boat, her an intern fresh out of Doctorate-Grasping-University, and him newly fired from his job as Chief Engineer at a toy company. It was natural that they'd gravitate to one another.

"Tell me about the leader," Hetty had said to him as she ran controlled experiments of rapid fungus growth in a wet cardboard box.

"I am not likely to kill him," Gaspar replied as he draped himself over multiple chairs.

Hetty clicked her tongue and twisted the dial on the heater set on the table next to the box.

The doors to the lab swished open, and like the devil, Lewis came in. He carried with him a clipboard and two stacks of paper with ink smudged all over it.

Gaspar tried to straighten out of his slump over the furniture and only succeeded in falling ass-first onto the floor.

"You really are smarter than I am," Lewis said like he was surprised.

Gaspar got to his feet and ignored him. "Hetty, I retract my previous statement."

She blinked at Lewis. Then she looked at Gaspar with a quirked eyebrow for one blank moment before she went back to turning the heat up on her wet cardboard fungus.

Gaspar took the papers from Lewis and sighed. "She approves of you, help us all."

"I'm approved of by most people." Lewis had smiled then, this genuine wide thing that Gaspar would come to take for granted. "It's just in my nature."

Gaspar rolled his eyes and turned back to Hetty. "Do you hear this pablum? Nothing but ego."

Hetty ignored him in favour of saying "Oh" and stepping away from the cardboard right before it burst apart by the rapidly growing blob of writhing mold.

"Lab accident!" Gaspar howled, and then Lewis grabbed him by the arm and dragged him backwards out the door, Hetty following.

The doors slid closed, and through the little window they could see the fungus wiggle its way off the table and start to undulate in the direction of the en-suite lavatory.

"What was that?" Lewis asked, weakly.

"That's my failed results going down the drain," Hetty said. She looked up at Lewis. "Excellent reflexes, Team Leader."

Lewis looked at Hetty blankly, then hunched his shoulders. "I'm so sorry Doctor, I should've grabbed you too."

Hetty coughed into her fist. Her form of a laugh. "Your priorities are your own business, Resident Tooley. I will not argue against them."

Gaspar ignored Lewis' stammering in favour of looking at the papers Lewis had brought in.

Lots of forms. Legalese. Sign on the dotted line, already initialed in the Team Leader section by the block lettering of Lewis Tooley. Approval from Madame Velvet the next section down. Blank on the box requiring the requested assignment change for Team Delta Three's Second Position to be filled by the signer. And in print below it, the words please print full name.

"What's this?" Gaspar asked.

Lewis started, then saw Gaspar's focus on the paper.

"Oh, sign those. I need to take them to Allyssa for her to Witness, and we're set."

"Set for what?" Gaspar knew the answer, but it wasn't parsing..

Lewis raised his eyebrows at him, waited until Gaspar met his gaze.

"You're smarter than I am," Lewis said. "You can figure it out."

# # # #

Lewis is in his temporary quarters on the Rig, door left wide open because he's a horribly trusting person and doesn't think anyone will ever sneak in to mess with his stuff. Gaspar has yelled at him about this before, he knows he has, so he fixes a really nasty scowl on his face as he stomps into the room unmolested, the rolling sensor equipment following him like a row of sinister ducks.

At least the bathroom door is closed. He can hear the shower running, presumably with Lewis inside it.

Gaspar's mind automatically supplies a Power Point Presentation on the Proper Uses of Shower Gel. He lets himself enjoy it for all of twenty-three point nine seconds, then shakes his head as if it'll help and slams his hand flat on the panel that controls the door.

Said door slides shut with hardly a whisper. He glares at it on principal.

His hand develops a sharp pain originating from his wrist and shooting up to his elbow. He hisses and drops the electrical probe he brought with him onto the little card table next to the wall. Lubricant spears across the tabletop as it rolls, which catches Gaspar's attention.

"What are you doing?"

Gaspar stops swiping at the mess with his coat sleeve and grins at Lewis, who is being very wet while wearing very threadbare sweats and nothing else. Steam rolls from the bathroom behind him. The room is feeling newly hot and oppressive. Gaspar tugs at the collar of his t-shirt and clears his throat.

"So here, have a random question with an excellent reason behind it, by the way, but when is your next dose of tranquiliser?"

Lewis' movements are sluggish, but not entirely doped to molasses. He rubs a towel over his head three times and then dumps it on top of the closed hamper next to the bathroom door. "Two hours, give or take."

"Organs doing all right?" Gaspar asks.

Lewis rolls his eyes. "Would I feel them failing with this sh-- stuff in my system?"

"Probably not," Gaspar agrees. "Well, have I got news for you!"

"I didn't like that show," Lewis says and rubs at his eyes.

"No, what? No, not the show. I just--" Gaspar points at the sensor equipment with dim monitors and hanging cords idling next to him, "--I have an idea, a theory, on how to fix this problem of yours, and you can't be too out of it for it to work."

Lewis looks hopeful, but cautiously so. "You can fix this? I mean. Without the tranqs?"

"It would have to be without the tranquilisers, because it requires your body working as normal."

Lewis blinks at him, then leans against the bathroom door-frame and shrugs.

That's good enough as permission to continue for Gaspar. "Okay, so my theory here is that you are not creating the eggs yourself, yes? You with me so far?"

Lewis nods slowly, looking slightly relieved but still a whole bucketful of confused.

"So theoretically, which all my data supports but would take too long to outline completely, is that something is opening inside of you, created by an external force, and shoving the eggs through that way."

Lewis opens his mouth. Gaspar talks faster.

"Therefore what we need to do to stop this is to create a controlled situation where the external force is activated, and proceed from there!" Gaspar grins. "See, easy!"

Lewis closes his mouth, swallows, then asks, "And where are you going from there? With proceeding, I mean?"

"Well, I've got this electrical cattle prod type thing here, see?" He picks up the probe. It shines in the direct glare of the fluorescent overheads. "And what I was thinking, is that if you've got a realm from across time and space, or a portal from a different planet, or even--"

"I do not have a transdimensional subway system in my bowels," Lewis interrupts, shrill.

"Does anyone even use the subway anymore? Bad question, don't answer. My point, yes. My point! Is that if we get your blood pressure to spike and the rift opens to let another one through, I can close it with this!"

"You use that," Lewis repeats. His tone is very unimpressed. "Don't those leave electrical burns on the skin?"

"Well, yes naturally, however--"

"Don't you have electrical burns from one of those?"

Gaspar waves the probe to shut Lewis up. "I won't be hitting your skin with the bolt, therefore that is an entirely inapplicable argument in this discussion."

Lewis crosses his very muscley arms over his very muscley chest. "Then how are you going to use it to close this 'theoretical' rift?"

"Well first, your blood pressure needs to get going, and then I use it."

"Got that part already, thank you." Uh oh, Lewis is glaring. Eyebrows are angled in a stern vector and everything.

"I have to apply it directly to the controlled event," Gaspar spews out.

The moment of silence that follows is deafening while Lewis processes.

"The tranqs must be still raging if it's taking you this long to compute," Gaspar mumbles, mostly to himself.

"You apply that," and Lewis points at the probe, "directly to-- You mean you use it-- You put it--"

"Right up there, yes," Gaspar nods.

Lewis' eyes have gotten a bit on the pie-plate side of the spectrum. His mouth keeps opening and closing. It's like he finds the idea distasteful, which doesn't make Gaspar feel better about certain unnamed things, but this isn't about him so he refuses to focus on that. Maybe later, when he's sobbing into his pillow.

Lewis takes a deep breath. Lets it out, takes another. Finally, "And my BP will spike just from that going--"

"Oh, no, this is strictly for the event." Gaspar waves the probe around to help with the interrupting. "You need to masturbate for the blood pressure spike."

Lewis' face goes brick red as he roars "What?"

"I have three points in my defence!"

"Only three?!" Lewis shouts.

"All right, all right. First point," and here Gaspar points at Lewis, "This is as good a way as any to get a solution this outlandish applied."

Lewis' face is still red. He raises both of his hands to clutch at his head, making his damp brown hair stick out all over the place. "No, Gaz. Just. No. We're not--"

Gaspar talks right over him. "Second point! If I am wrong and this probe burns a hole through your intestinal system, it absolutely will not kill you!" He waves the probe for emphasis. "It will just hurt an extreme amount until you're fixed in Medical."

"That's not making me feel better about this idea," Lewis says. He drops his hands and crosses his arms again. "I'm not. I'm not comfortable with this."

Gaspar waves the probe some more. Lewis tracks the motion with his eyes.

"You don't have to be comfortable, you just have to get your BP up. And masturbation is a superb way to get the blood pumping, I should know because I'm an expert at it."

Lewis blanches. Then he shakes his head and opens his mouth to talk.

"And third point," Gaspar hurries to continue, before the terrible edgewise word can appear, "is that it's just me."

Lewis' mouth snaps shut, and his shoulders hunch. He flicks his eyes from the probe to Gaspar's face and back to the probe.

"It's just you," Lewis repeats weakly.

Gaspar nods. He keeps nodding. He'd grin too, but his skin feels too tight and he might split the skin on his face if he tried, and that would never help in this situation.
"I know the idea of something long and hard going up your anus is probably not the most delightful way to spend an evening--"

Lewis covers his face with his hands and groans. It sounds very heartfelt. "Stop."

Gaspar stops, as requested.

"This is the only way to fix it?" Lewis' voice is small and muffled from behind those long bearclaw hands of his.

"We could wait for the tranqs to wear off and throw you in the middle of an active monster pit naked, but there's no control there, and you might die so I wouldn't recommend it as a viable pathway."

Lewis swallows, drops his hands from his face and studies the floor. "And it's just you." It's not a question.

Gaspar doesn't know what he's supposed to do. Nod? Keep talking?

He decides to try talking. "Uhm, yes. Just me."

Another moment of silence with Lewis looking at the floor and Gaspar staring at Lewis, business as usual really, before Lewis says "Okay, fine," and Gaspar says "What?"

"Let's do it," Lewis repeats, "It's just you, let's go."

Gaspar blinks a couple times. Lewis still isn't looking at him, but if he's saying he wants to do it...

"All right, so you just." Gaspar points at Lewis' crotch with one hand and gestures at the bed with the other. "Get those off, get on that, and go to town."

Lewis' face is this stony fixture made of stone. He removes his sweats with no ceremony, hooking thumbs into the waistband and shoving down, then strides to the bed.

Gaspar doesn't want to look at his bare ass as he passes him-- no, really, he doesn't-- but he gets an excellent view anyway while Lewis climbs onto his bed.

Why the hell is this man so muscular? Is it a glandular problem? He should get Ros to do another workup, check Lewis' thyroids and hormone levels to make sure nothing isn't wrong.

"Did all of your glands check out when Ros looked you over?" he asks as Lewis situates himself across the bed, propped up against the headboard and legs stiffly spread.

"Is this a crucial question?" Lewis rolls his eyes and breathes through clenched teeth. "Because if it isn't you'll have to ask again later."

"A hyperactive thyroid is always a crucial matter," Gaspar tells him, but lets the subject drop. He has a tube of silicone lubricant in his pocket that he pulls out and squirts a line across the probe and along the ten inch steel rod attached to the handle.

He looks up from his preparations to find Lewis watching the lube drip all over the place with this dazed look in his eyes.

"Would you like to borrow this?" Gaspar waves the tube at him.

Lewis blinks, shakes his head, and reaches over to the nightstand positioned at the left side of the double. There's hardly anything in the little cabinet there, because Lewis has a half-gone tube of lube in his hand without even bothering to rummage.

"Wait, hold on." Gaspar shuffles over to stand next to the bed. The sensor equipment rolls after him. He pulls two loose pads out of his pocket and holds them out for Lewis to see. "I need one on the left femoral artery and one over the deep circumflex iliac." He indicates the area directly above Lewis' pelvis with his hand, then grins brightly. "Would you like to apply them yourself, or shall I?"

Lewis snatches the pads out of his hand and ducks his head to press them sticky side down to his skin.

Gaspar tries to not let his disappointment show; it probably wouldn't be a very good idea for him to know what Lewis' arteries feel like anyway.

The sensory equipment lets out two beeps to give an auditory confirmation that the data transmission from the pads has started. Gaspar pats the top of the monitor as a reward and it twirls slowly in ecstasy.

Lewis squirts a huge glob of lubricant into his fingers. Half of it dribbles through his fingers and slicks up the outside of his right thigh, which while a very good sight to behold from Gaspar's perspective, isn't really helping.

"Well you're half there already," Gaspar points at Lewis' half-hard cock lying against his thigh, "so it'll be expedient at least."

Lewis looks at him with brow furrowed and lips set to a fine line. He drops the tube next to him on the bed, rubs his fingers together and contemplates his genitalia.

"Very expedient," Gaspar offers.

Lewis closes his eyes, breathes in through his mouth and out through his nose. Then he grips himself with his slicked up hand. He tugs his cock once, twice. All tentative and too-tight to be comfortable. His knuckles glitter under the fluorescent lighting.

Gaspar doesn't know where to look. He darts his gaze from Lewis' face, Lewis' cock, Lewis' face again and oh now his eyes are open and he's staring at Gaspar.

He picks up the pace. His hips get into it, little abortive thrusts that drive the flushed cockhead to pop out from the curled form of his fist.

Wet sloppy sounds echo in the room, bounce against the ceiling, make Gaspar fidget where he stands. He tries to maintain eye contact, honest he does, but now the bed is creaking with Lewis' snapping hips and Lewis is looking at him, mouth open and eyes hooded, and--

The sensor from the portable equipment squeals and Gaspar jumps sideways to get away from the noise. Lewis jumps too, letting go of himself and slapping a lubed hand flat on the wall and sliding out from under him.

"No, no, keep going!" Gaspar shouts. He pokes at the equipment and looks at the readings. Lewis doesn't start wanking again, but he does reach between his legs to roll his balls, biting his lip and watching Gaspar.

Gaspar blinks at the reflection in the monitor, then focuses on the spiked blip on the actual screen. His blood pressure is in range, that noise was just the warning sign.

He grips Lewis' left knee to shove him backwards. Everything between the man's legs is slick with lube, even his hole. His throat clicks as he tries to swallow, thumbs on the probe, and rests the sparking narrow tip against the anal entrance.

"Keep going. It'll feel weird, but keep going," Gaspar tells him. Lewis groans and twists on the upstroke by way of answer.

The sensors beep again, a series of five short and two long.

Gaspar swallows again with his severe case of dry mouth and slides the probe into Lewis with one long, slow push.

The sensor starts to wail, Lewis' fist spasms on his cock, and Gaspar pulls the trigger on the probe.

The handle jerks as it spews 1337 volts into Lewis, the sensor cuts out, and Lewis throws his head back and groans as he comes, low and shaking and wet. His neck is bared in the stark light, throat working and teeth clenched to make it look long and lickable.

Gaspar pulls the probe out with one quick motion and takes a step back. Takes another. Almost staggers into the rolling equipment, which is beeping at him cheerfully.

Lewis' eyes open, and he blinks at the ceiling like he's a recent acquisition of a head injury.

The readings that scroll across the monitor all come out as normal. The energy spike has vanished. The blips have all straightened out with mild waves to indicate a living, breathing human and nothing else.

Gaspar fiddles with the probe, clutches it to his chest. Then holds it out and away, because it might have residual alien particles on it and he doesn't want to get them on his shirt.

He starts backing away, hopefully towards the door.

"Okay, well, the Alien Rift in your bowels is--"

"The what," Lewis asks. Lifts his head from the pillow and stares at Gaspar.

"--completely taken care of now, so you can skip the rest of your course of tranquilisers and--"

"Wait, no, the what?" A little louder now. Lewis swings one leg over the edge of the bed, giving Gaspar a prime view of the smeared opaque mess all the way from abdominals to pectorals.

"--I would like to thank you for your participation and cooperation--"

Lewis puts both feet flat on the floor. The muscles in his thighs flex in a very interesting way. He grits his teeth at Gaspar and nearly spits, "Gaspar, don't you dare--"

"--but that'll have to wait for a later date because I need to go now see you later bye!"

He isn't proud of this, but he flees the room.

# # # #

Gaspar's time on the Rig before Lewis arrived was a dark, heinous age, full of heckling Hetty at all hours and being swapped off of every team he was assigned to like a perverse form of baseball cards. He'd be assigned on a new team for re-con purposes, or support personnel, or even second wave offence, but whoever the leader was would look him up and down, narrow their eyes, and then cast about for someone to trade with.

He never has told Lewis that, and he never will.

It's never a good thing to have your entire world hanging on one man wanting you around, but Gaspar isn't about good things, he's about survival. That's what life at a toy company taught him, and that's what he thinks of as he runs down the corridor as fast as he can to get away from his Team Leader, the success of his thought processes, and the look on Lewis' face when he came.

# # # #

Torio stands with a herd of moping techies clustered behind him. Every single eyeball, Residential Red or otherwise, is watery. Every single set of lips is trembling into a pout. Every single face is looking at Gaspar in despair.

"It's. It's gone?" Torio's voice wavers. He's probably about to wail.

Gaspar crosses his arms and wishes he'd gone straight to Hester's lab this morning instead of stopping at the cafeteria.

"Yes, it's gone. And fuck you very much, by the way, for not figuring out what was going on."

"Whoa guys, stand back, Mister Elegant is swearing!" Haneef shouts from across the room, because he's a dick. Gaspar grits his teeth and absolutely does not turn around to make a rude gesture at him.

"What application did you use?" Hester asks. She has her tablet in her hands. She's going to take notes.

"I'll tell you later," Gaspar snarls from the corner of his mouth. "I promised, didn't I?"

Hester's face does that monotone unimpressed thing she pulls out whenever someone is being obtuse. Gaspar resents the implication and glares at her.

"Your track record regarding timely information sharing is less than to be desired--"

"I don't want to talk about it in public, yes? All right?"

"--and this method you devised clearly needs to be in the records. What if this happens to someone else on the Rig and you are otherwise disposed and cannot--"

"I'll tell you later, Hetty!" he shouts at the top of his lungs. Haneef cackles like a loon, still out of punching range.

"--communicate your methods in time to stop such lengths from occurring again." She stops talking for a moment and scratches at the bridge of her nose. "How is Lewis doing?"

Torio and the techs wander off, looking sullen and morose. Haneef jeers at them, hanging on the railing around the outside deck. Gaspar slaps a hand over his left eye and groans.

"I'm not currently apprised of his status," Gaspar tells Hester. "Why do you always assume I am?"

Hester scribbles something on the tablet using her stylus. "It is not an assumption on my part, Gaz. I'm not blind."

Gaspar snaps his mouth shut. There's nothing he can really say to that.

# # # #

An hour later, Gaspar is trying to fish Haneef out of the run-off drain that runs alongside the North portion of the Rig's deck when the proximity alarms begin their klaxon wail.

Allyssa jumps out of the top of the observation tower. She lands on both feet and keeps running to the Western edge, the four storey fall not even mussing a hair on her head.

Haneef pulls himself over the railing on his own. Gaspar makes a face at him and tosses the rope he was trying to help with to the side as they follow Allyssa and the amassing of double digit guards.

"--never seen this species," a tech is saying loudly to anyone who will listen. Allyssa has her head tilted towards him, but she's facing the water. "Their eyes shouldn't work in the light. You can see that just by looking at them."

"You can generally see things by looking at them, yes I agree Resident Juan," Allyssa murmurs.

Haneef and Gaspar slow down behind her, and look over her shoulders at the churning ocean.

"We're freaking out over some sharks now?" Haneef's tone is rife with disbelief.

Gaspar hums. "Depends on how big they are."

Allyssa clicks on her subatomic radio and speaks into the mic, "All fighting grade, to the deck."

Lewis' voice crackles over the line. "Radar Seven, Delta Three, on my way. Is Resident Sra up there?"

Allyssa doesn't even give Gaspar the courtesy of looking around to check. "He is."

"Get him off the deck and to supplies, please."

She does look back at Gaspar now. Haneef hunches his shoulders and scuttles to the side, leaving Gaspar all alone in a sea of people.

"You heard the man," she says.

Gaspar turns and runs against the tide without a word. Techs are milling around further in, the guards pushing to the rails to see what's going on. Ros passes him on her way to where the action is.

Inside the the base of the Observation Tower are ten banks of elevators, all currently in use. Gaspar runs to the stairs and does a cannonball run down two flights, then turns down the hall to the left, and into the supplies room for Delta Three.

Lewis is there strapping mesh plating onto his thighs that's stronger than steel but actually bends if he's bitten by something with a big mouth. Gaspar hasn't seen him for hours and his chest feels like he's infected with the 1994 strain of influenza just from looking at him.

"I assume I'm support on this," Gaspar says. He bangs on the door to his locker and pulls out the masses of exposed wiring with frayed bits on the ends that he prefers in battle situations. He leaves the extra spark plugs in their box at the bottom.

"I already sent Ros to keep a record, so we're on defence," Lewis says. He shucks on more mesh over his head and straps it all together into a harness. "You're behind me, don't engage unless I go down."

Gaspar follows him out the door, trailing wires behind him. They're doing their best to keep up on their own, but he hurries them along by actually carrying a portion bundled in his arms.

"It's just sharks. Haneef can take them out with a laser cannon. Velvet can take them out with a laser cannon, and she's a horrible shot."

Lewis leads him up the stairs. It's a lot harder going up than it was coming down.

"Madam Velvet is a perfectly fine shot when she wants to be."

"Please don't. I absolutely do not want to have anything else to put onto my list of Things My Boss Does to Troll Me, I really don't. It is bad enough she had the Junior Techs thinking she was making homemade Chia Pets in her office."

Lewis bangs open the door to the base level of the tower, and there is all sorts of chaos going on. Techs fleeing to the elevators, guards speeding out the door, the obvious fighting grades doing what they need to in order to activate their mod while being crushed together like sardines in a can.

Lewis' radio clicks twice, and he thumbs it on. Haneef's voice carries over the speaker, "Tell Gaz they're no bigger than Shamu."

Lewis looks at Gaspar with an eyebrow quirked. Gaspar shrugs at him.

The doors to the deck of the Rig open. Everyone with a mod swarms out into the various groups of guards and other fighting grades.

Haneef and Allyssa are where Gaspar left them. He keeps two steps and to the right of Lewis as they haul their asses over.

Ten feet away, Lewis shouts, "Delta Three, reporting!" and then a massive long thing with a snout like a hunting dog and wide googly eyes and milky translucent skin with subsections of veins glinting gold in the sun shoots straight up out of the water, wiggles four fins feebly, and sinks back down under the waves.

"You liar," Gaspar screams. He points at Haneef, who hunches his shoulders. "That thing is much larger than Shamu!"

"There are more than one you moron!" Haneef shouts back, and then true to timing another one rises straight up out of the water all the way on the other side of the deck. Instead of sinking right back down, it tilts to the left and flops sideways onto the deck with a big wrenching sound of the metal railing being squashed under it.

Techs scatter left and right. Lewis says, "We'll go that way," and runs that way.

Gaspar tries to follow and shake his cables loose at the same time. He's only partially successful and almost trips onto his face.

The shark thing snaps its jaw at a retreating tech. Said tech yelps like an injured dog and climbs on top of a lashed down crate that has the word "SUPPLIES" stamped on the sides.

More screaming back the way they came from, and another shark has landed, this one got further in on its try. A resident has her leg trapped under its side and she's whacking at it with a crowbar that glows red hot in her hands.

"Roll out," Gaspar shouts at her. He throws the cables in front of him and they slither like snakes. He thinks, I want it dead, and they lunge forward like a massive creature made of fibre-optics and gauge 6 wire.

The Resident drops her crowbar and yanks her leg free just in time for the cables to connect to the shark. Electricity sparks once, twice, then surges like a cocoon over the shark.

Gaspar runs over to her and pulls her away from the sparks, because there's a puddle right there and he doesn't want a friendly fire casualty on his record.

The shark doesn't make a noise. It seizes in an arch, the gold veins writhing against its skin, and then finally relaxes in a dead sprawl.

All of this takes less than sixty seconds. Gaspar's cables slither back to him, pet his legs and worm over his boots. The Resident says "Ugh" and runs off somewhere, leaving him with a thoroughly cooked shark corpse.

The gold veins are dripping off the body, and Gaspar starts back a step as they slither off onto the deck and right over the edge into the water.

"That's not good," he says to no one in particular.

Someone wretches to his left. He turns to look and sees Ros bent double with yellow bile waterfalling out of her mouth.

Gaspar carefully gathers up his cables and keeps an eye on her while petting them into submission.

Ros' mod is a peculiar thing. She was supposed to be given a spitting venom type, but ended up with getting her stomach acid weaponised. Now all she has to do is vomit up her stomach contents, and a sentient puddle around two feet in diameter will attack anything she wants it to until she is forced to reabsorb it.

She breathes heavy, catches Gaspar's gaze and waves weakly. Then she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and walks quickly towards the closest shark, her bilious puddle rolling ahead of her.

A spark catches Gaspar's hand, and he drops one wad of the cables. He frowns and shakes then out, looking for tears. A few spark in the puddles that have washed up onto the deck. He twists the frayed ones out of the main mass and lets them slither about on their own.

Then he looks around for something to do.

Another shark thing is to the left of him. It's trying to use its fins against the grating under it, get more firmly on the deck.

He checks on Lewis, who is slapping at the spinal region of a shark in the other direction. The thing is pressed against the bent railing with Allyssa watching a few feet away.

Gaspar decides to tend to the unattended shark on his own.

The thing's eyes waggle around on their stalks, milky white and unseeing. Or maybe they've adjusted already and can see everything. Gaspar lets the cables writhe around him, lets out the thought it'll make me happy if you shock it, and they comply immediately.

A whoop happens behind him. Then Haneef runs past him with an axe held over his head in both hands. Gaspar sighs and pulls the cables back.

Haneef leaps onto a barrel of petrol that is lashed to the deck, does a backflip, and comes down axe-blade first on the shark's neck. The webbed gold light immediately flickers and slides off through the runoff grate.

The head lands with a plop three feet away, closer to Gaspar than anyone else, and Haneef pouts and kicks at the new corpse.

"That should've been more dramatic," he says.

"At least some rolling around for cinematic purposes," Gaspar agrees.

Mike the Janitor starts to sob somewhere on the deck, this gasping baby hiccoughing noise that should not come from a man six foot seven inches. Gaspar relaxes at the sound; Mike always cries like a baby when any fighting is finished. He says it's great stress relief, but everyone gives him shit over it anyway.

Haneef takes a hop and a skip, then punts the shark head past Gaspar and into a puddle of Ros' sentient stomach acid. It rises up like a gorgon head and burns through it immediately.

Ros gives them both a nasty look.

"Report on injuries!" Allyssa shouts, and some pained voices begin to chorus.

"It's so freaking lame to be hurt by deep sea monsters," Haneef says.

Gaspar starts to bunch up his cables. The frayed ones are lying listlessly in the puddles, he'll have to get some rubber gloves and collect them for repairs before the cleaning crew accidentally try to pick them up.

"They're as big as hotel shuttles, there's nothing lame in that," Gaspar replies.

Haneef snorts and Lewis comes over to them, sweating up a storm and with a wild look in his eye.

"Eleven of them," Lewis says. Then he blinks at the headless corpse and amends, "Er, twelve."

"You can count, how wonderful," Gaspar seethes.

Lewis has the audacity to look wounded by that.

"You're supposed to stay behind me," Lewis points out. He even points at him, for emphasis. "Where did you go?"

"You skipped off too quickly for me, damnit." Gaspar shakes his partially bundled cables at him. "These are heavy, and you're too fast."

"Is this about to become a domestic?" Haneef asks.

"Shut up," Gaspar and Lewis say simultaneously, then glare at each other.

Ros staggers over clutching at her stomach. She looks wan and a bit green in the face. She sits down on the deck next to Haneef and leans against his leg.
"Why did you kick it into the acid?" she moans.

"You never eat enough," Haneef tells her. "Also, your face."

"Even if I run ahead you're not supposed to stop and go somewhere else just because you feel slighted," Lewis tells Gaspar. "You're my second, you're supposed to follow me."

Gaspar rolls his eyes. "You had it covered with Allyssa. What am I supposed to do, not fight at all?"

"Yes," Lewis says, just as Allyssa walks over and peers at Ros.

Gaspar squawks "What?" and Allyssa puts her hand on Ros' forehead.

"Do you need to go to medical?" she asks her.

Ros shakes her head. "If I feel bad in an hour I will find Hetty."

That satisfies Allyssa, so she stands tall and moves over to separate Lewis and Gaspar.

"Having one of our "Off-Days", are we boys?"

"He doesn't want me to fight at all!" Gaspar points at Lewis. "He's being a control goblin again."

"You are designated as support and therefore should not have to fight," Lewis snarls. "And I am not a control goblin, I am your team leader!"

"You are such a control goblin, you puke more acid than Ros," Gaspar corrects.

"I can always put your quarrel in the incident report." Allyssa watches them freeze, then adjusts the sleeves on her thin jacket. "Or I can forget all about this in exchange for the highest ranking team on the Rig to provide a sound theory as to why this latest incident occurred."

Haneef raises his hand. "I call deep sea vampires."

Everyone looks at him, and he shrugs. "Vampires can do hypnosis."

"I think they were controlled by the eggs," Gaspar says. Lewis starts and looks at him with a caught in the headlights stare. Gaspar ignores Haneef's raised eyebrows and Ros pinching the bridge of her nose. "Since they left of their own volition, they most likely can transform enough to control low-level intelligence for useful applications."

"Define useful applications," Allyssa demands.

Gaspar shrugs. Lewis flinches at the motion.

"Acquiring sustenance, possibly. Achieving a goal already programmed into their existence, certainly."

"Someone's changing his specialisation," Haneef sing-songs.

Gaspar shows his teeth to Haneef. "If you bothered Hetty as much as I do, you'd know all about parasitic lifeforms and the concept of natural selection too," he growls.

Lewis breathes out loudly through his nose, then turns and walks away to the interior building without a word.

"Hey, he's not saying they controlled you," Haneef shouts after him. At Gaspar's look, he holds up his hands and says, "What? I'm helping!"

"You are not helping," Gaspar bites out.

"I have to write my report," Ros announces. She still looks green from reabsorbing the acid, but she wobbles up to a stand and wanders off with hunched shoulders.

Gaspar prods at some shark viscera with the toe of his boot.

Allyssa pokes at her wristwatch. "The cleanup bill is going to be quite heavy this month," she comments.

"Velvet is going to eat us for dinner and shit us out the morning," Haneef groans.

Allyssa shakes her head at the corpses, but her next line of conversation is directed at the clean-up crew trying to edge their way out onto the deck without slipping in guck. "Bring nets and rope before the current takes them." Then she walks off towards the entrance to the interior.

"Fishing isn't fun when the fish are dead," Haneef tells Gaspar in a conspirator whisper, "but try telling her that?"

Gaspar grins at him, all teeth. He's still running high on the endorphins of almost getting his head bitten off and can't stop his hands from shaking. He looks around at the mostly-empty deck except for dead sharks, sees Lewis standing near the broken windows, arms crossed and his head tilted down as he talks to Allyssa about something or other.

The smile drops right off his face.

# # # #

One tech is shirtless, his dark brown skin glistening with sweat and stretched tight over too-prominent ribs and with only a sparse covering of hair to distract from the thinness.

The other tech has his shirt still on, but he's got the crazy-eyes going and his bowl-cut is stereotypically M.I.T. graduate with a helping of "I'm only seventeen and working here because I've got something to prove, not because I'm actually an adult."

Haneef is the one who suggested the Fight Club contest for who could name the new shark species. These two young scientists flailing at each other with air-filled boxing gloves are the only two left.

Allyssa is surprisingly entrepreneurial about the entire thing and has been taking bets ever since the first match started three hours ago.

Team Delta Three -- and Allyssa -- sit on stools out of the fight zone around a tall circular bar table eating sushi. Gaspar is directly across from Lewis, and it's gotten very obvious that they're not talking to one another.

"I hate it when mom and dad fight, by the way," Haneef says. He jabs Gaspar in the ribs with his elbow. The motion makes a pot of soy sauce up-end, and Allyssa rights it with a hiss, not taking her eyes off the fight.

"That is quite possibly the most disturbing cliche you've come up with this week," Gaspar tells him.

Ros sniffs her wasabi-running nose and dabs at it with a napkin. To Allyssa she asks, "What are we left with?"

"Mitsukurinidae Steve and Mitsukurinidae Darth Maul."

They all look at the writhing mass of cheering techs. One of the fighters, the bowl-cut teenager, gets in a good bop and gives a surprised shriek at his martial fortitude.

"If we had gotten the portal to close faster, this probably wouldn't have happened," Lewis says morose as a man can be. Velvet had yelled at him for the property damage, and he's stayed silent, even while Gaspar shouted at her for being an accusatory ass.

The only time Gaspar ever stands up to Velvet is on account of Lewis -- and in one memorable incident, Hetty -- and she always takes it with a raised eyebrow and a show of teeth.

"They likely activated due to the closure," Gaspar points out, not wanting to think about Velvet's teeth anymore. "The energy signature keeping them dormant ceased transmitting, and that was the signal for their shell programming to run."

Haneef clacks his chopsticks at Gaspar like chomping jaws. "How'd you get that thing to cut out permanently, anyway?"

Ros stops chewing and glares at Gaspar. It's a very abrupt reminder that he still hasn't told anyone what he did.

He looks at Lewis and raises his eyebrows. Lewis isn't looking at him, head down and focused on his slabs of cooked shark. No one says anything.

After a moment Ros takes pity, because she's borderline wonderful at all times. "I am very much for the enticement of scientific progress, you know I am," Ros says as she waves her shark-laden chopsticks at Gaspar, "but can we table the talk on bowel functions until maybe when we aren't eating lunch?"

Gaspar shrugs and shoves another huge bite into his mouth. "Just because you get icky easily," he mumbles around rice and shark and too much wasabi paste.

One of the cagefighting techies falls backwards, lands on the mat like a sack of rotting turnips with a bowl-cut on top. The shirtless tech left standing starts to run laps around the ring with his arms up over his head, screaming incoherently.

Ros sips at her iced mocha drink. "Looks like this dish is called Steve."

# # # #

It occurs to Gaspar the next morning that the Rig has only one kind of alert: red, wailing, and not at all differentiating between degree of threat.

He wanders into the Rig's War Room-- set up in the bowels of the sub levels, naturally, but only a ten minute jog from where he keeps his temporary rooms-- and is greeted by absolutely no one.

Everyone is there, of course. They just don't bother with a hello.

"I can go back to bed if I'm in the way," he offers the room at large.

Velvet arches one perfectly plucked eyebrow by way of answer. He sits down in the chair furthest from her ire.

If that chair so happens to be right next to Lewis, then oops. Lewis isn't looking at him anyway.

"Atlantic City is currently being besieged by numerous octopus entities," Velvet says in a conversational tone. "It's the job of Delta Three to contain, or if otherwise forced to, eliminate the threat upon such an illustrious city."

"You're talking about New Jersey," Haneef points out. He's not afraid of Velvet, and Gaspar has always found him to be a fool for it. "There isn't another Atlantic City, right? You're talking about New Fucking Jersey?"

"New Fucking Jersey, yes," Velvet says. The map on the big screen behind her is lit up with streams of text, scrolling past too quickly to read. It's very dramatic to look at, but otherwise useless. "Least amount of property damage as possible, please, we're still paying off the City of San Diego for that aquatic ape thing you so expertly handled."

Everyone winces, as they well should. The aquatic ape thing was absolutely horrible.

# # # #

The skeletal structure of an in-progress new casino serves as a helipad for the Rig's transport. It's like a hoverboat, but with a big glass shield over it, and it moves faster.

They take the lift to the ground floor and manoeuvre around plastic sheeting and abandoned sack lunches to reach the street. The place is like a ghost town, but no one switched off the whirling lights and tinny music from the front lobbies, so it's a very active place to be dead in.

Lewis takes point, as always. Allyssa as the Assigned Rig Observer follows at his left, and Gaspar takes his place at his right. Ros is in place three steps behind Lewis, protected by the heavy hitters from frontal assault. Haneef takes the tail position because he's a lazy asshole and doesn't like being shot at.

The GPS calculator combination thing Ros is carrying flashes arrows at the top to direct them where to go. Gaspar has heard tales of how units got from point a to point b before their budget increased to include electronic assists. Something about navigating by the stars, and forced cannibalism in snowed over mountain passes.

They pass three city blocks straight, then take a left turn, putting their backs to the ocean. There aren't as many casinos in this area, giving way to high-rise condominiums and bodega cafe bookshop multiplexes that also sell floral-print shirts to tourists. There are also a lot of broken cars they have to walk around.

At Pacific Avenue the wreckage thins, and Lewis checks their left and right for danger. At the look to the right, he stops and stares in wonder.

Gaspar follows his focus, and well. There are definitely octopuses causing a bit of trouble here. And they appear to have stolen an antiquated police car, too.

"For the records," Allyssa says into her wristwatch that Gaspar is certain is only a watch and that she's merely embarking on a persistent practical joke upon them all, "target sighted on parking garage access off of Lighten Road, in progress of devastating an outlet Build-a-Bear store."

Devastating is a good description. Frolicking in the gory remains of the hopes and dreams of small girls everywhere is also a good way to say it. The writhing mass of octopuses and single car is practically mauling a field of fibrefill stuffing and the tattered remains of hollowed plushy bears.

"I think those are Enteroctopus," Ros says.

"What does that mean?" Haneef asks.

Ros scratches at the back of her head. "Very big."

Allyssa is unimpressed.

Lewis sighs his The World is Against Me sigh. Then he checks the fit of his gloves. Gaspar decides to slowly unravel his mass of electrical wires he's been carrying looped over his shoulders.

"Okay, so if multiple components piloted by multiple entities meld together to create a huge mecha machine, what is it called?" Haneef asks.

Gaspar watches the octopuses wiggle and worm their way across the asphalt, dragging the Crown Vic with them as it balances on top. It looks like there are eleven of them. And there's a fine gold filigree sprawled like spiderwork over everything.

"It's not Thundercats," Haneef continues, "and it's not Gundam anything. I know I watched this show, come on help me out here."

Allyssa murmurs "Robotech, perhaps."

"No, those were like Gundam, all-in-one." Haneef scratches at the side of his nose and pokes Gaspar in the back of his ribcage.

Gaspar startles, glares. Haneef returns the glare with a jerk of his head towards Lewis' back, punctuated with a descriptive waggle of his eyebrows.

"They're called Voltron," Ros says. She's stepped back to take the rear position. Probably because she's the smallest at four foot eight, and also because she doesn't like being the first thing for the monsters to try to eat. "Show from the eighties, I have the DVD collection."

"Right, the cats linking together. Knew it was something kitty kitty."

"Is any of this crucial to the task at hand?" Lewis asks. He doesn't sound upset, he's just being conversational.

Gaspar watches the octopuses draw nearer. There's a familiar voice coming over the intercom of the Crown Vic, like a talk radio show he's heard before or something. Except he hates talk radio, and he thinks that might be his own voice he's hearing.

"--never be worried about Lewis, the man is like an oxen--"

"Gaz?" Lewis asks. He takes off his helmet and squints at the octopusmecha, as if that will give clarity to the situation.

"Oh fuck this all," Gaspar moans.

Velvet's voice is next over the speakers. "--you were just and he was just. I get it."

The octopusmecha writhes in their direction. It's slow going, but they've got maybe a good two mile per hour clip. They'll get to them before the sun goes down at any rate.

Lewis jams his helmet back onto his head and jerks a quick look at Gaspar before he turns to Allyssa. "We're still at capture alive as preference, right?"

Allyssa consults her wristwatch. "Let me put it this way: Hetty wants to study them."

Lewis' jaw clenches. Then he faces the tentacled monstrosity that is currently saying in Gaspar's voice "--need some informed consent here, come on--" and holds up his fists like a boxer preparing for round one.

"Let's go," he says. And the team breaks formation to run at it.

Lewis gets to them first, and he proceeds to punch out the closest octopus. A concussive wave ripples outward on impact, but the rest of the team rolls through it and misses the damage.

Haneef jumps on top of an abandoned Chevy Tahoe and gives a burst of applause. The fire that plumes out of his connecting palms flows like a slow-moving spiral at the right mass of octopuses. Gaspar ducks under the fire before it hits and runs around the back.

Gaspar's holding a containment box. They all have on hooked onto their belts, but Gaspar has his electrical cables writhing around him keeping the power on, so he's holding onto his with his hands. The lights on top flash orange, meaning priming, have to wait a moment before ready to fire.

Two octopi explode under Haneef's flames. Allyssa shouts obscenities at Haneef from her perch on the other side of the street, and Gaspar watches the gold filigree on the corpses go liquid and slither under a nearby family sedan.

"It's the eggs!" Gaspar shouts. Ros screams back, "Got it!" and leans over to puke onto the asphalt.

"--you have to give Gaz some space to breathe," Hetty's voice says over the Crown Vic's intercom system. "Just talk to him."

Lewis punches out an octopus until it untangles from the car, then starts hitting the hood with both fists, one two punch out. Gaspar runs over to the weakly twitching octopus and sets his containment box next to it. The lights are green, time to try it.

"We have to focus on the octopuses," Gaspar shouts at him, over the Crown Vic playing Lewis' voice, "--he'll never turn me away, right?"

Lewis jumps onto the crumpled front of the car and kicks in the windshield. Another ripple of concussive force through the air.

"--I will never understand you two," Hetty's voice says, and Lewis' replies, "It's not important, this'll never be fixed the way he needs it to, I'm not good enough for--"

Sparks fly from the Crown Vic as Lewis stomps through the dash, and the intercom cuts out with a screech. The gold slithers off the car and pools under it like some kind of precious metals engine fluid surrounded by dismembered octopus limbs.

Haneef whoops as another octopus explodes. Allyssa hasn't stopped her litany of swears, and Ros is dissolving an octopus corpse with her stomach bile down the street.

Lewis stands on top of the dead Crown Vic breathing hard and shoulders heaving. Gaspar clears his throat, but he doesn't look at him.

"I'm not going to ask. I'm just going to capture this possessed octopus here before Haneef kills it."

Lewis persists in his staring contest with the crumpled car dashboard, but he says "Go ahead" so that's as good as an order. Gaspar leans down to punch the button on the top of the box, then takes a hurried step back.

The box quivers, beeps once, and explodes into a fiery ball of nothing. Gaspar falls onto his ass in surprise and the octopus promptly dies.

"Gaz!" Lewis stands over him, face twisted and hands out. "Gaz?"

Gaspar shakes his head. He can hear, everything just sounds tinny. And looks a bit like sparkle. Did he hit his head? He doesn't remember hitting his head.

"You didn't hit your head," Lewis says. He puts a hand on Gaspar's shoulder. "Come on, up your get."

Gaspar wobbles at the standing position, and Lewis releases him like he's diseased as soon as he doesn't list too much to the left. Gaspar raises his eyebrows at him, and he weakly smiles in return.

"Was the box flawed?" Lewis asks.

Gaspar blinks, then looks at the dead octopus. "I think it's too large." He points at the six-foot long tentacles, the rotund body, the translucent skin that shows bits and bob floating inside. "That thing isn't from around here."

Lewis looks at it too, and says "Huh."

"The eggs!" Ros screeches from outside the blast zone.

They both whirl around, and a puddle of gold has passed Ros, is streaking towards them at high speed. Gaspar fumbles with the electrical cords hanging dormant around his neck, then Lewis shoves him to the side before the puddle hits him.

Once again, Gaspar is on his ass. From that position he's in a prime spot to see the gold filigree spread up Lewis' legs, spiderweb across his skin, to watch his eyes roll back as the gold lines dig into his eyeballs and make him scream.

Gaspar screams back, something like "No" or "Not him", he gets to his feet to enforce this sentiment. But Lewis stops screaming like a switch cutting out, his eyes return to normal, and then a watery giggle emerges from his throat two shades lighter than his actual vocal cords should be able to produce.

Then he twirls around like a ballerina and hops over to a mostly intact car, smacks it with his hand and shouts, "GONNA BREAK THIS."

He skips away, to an ice-cream truck that is on its side. He shouts, "GONNA BREAK THAT," and smacks it in the undercarriage. Steam starts to streak out from the engine.

Then he uses those long legs of his to do an ambling lope over to a 1986 family sedan and kicks it in the rear driver's side tire, making the entire rear axle drop off. "OOH, THIS TOO."

Allyssa comes over to where Gaspar is watching with his mouth open.

"Team leader compromised," Allyssa says, flat and conversational. They all watch Lewis smash a cherry red Mustang Convertible with three of his concussive slaps. It looks like he's smacking it into submission in a training exercise, but the garbled giggles coming from his throat are distinctly not his.

"Haneef, strategic point is yours," Allyssa calls over her shoulder. Haneef nods and runs up a wall to get upwind.

Gaspar's fingers tighten on his cables. They're writhing in confusion, just like he is internally. "I'm his second," he tells Allyssa, a touch hysterical. "Command goes to me."

Allyssa's lips compress into a thin line for a moment. Then, "You're second against my better judgement."

At Gaspar's flinch, she dips her head, fiddles with her watch. "You've always been compromised when it comes to Lewis, you know that," she continues, softly.

"I have three tranquilisers," Ros says as she holds out her pouch. Three capped hypodermic needles are in there, full of green fluid. "I need to be close enough for a sure shot."

Allyssa nods at her, then shouts to Haneef, "Cover us!"

"Hey, who's telling who what to do in here?" Haneef shouts back, but he does as she asks. He runs to the side, perpendicular to Lewis, arms out like a toddler playing aeroplane, palms turned forward and ready to clap.

Ros keeps pace with Gaspar, one step behind as they move in from the other direction. Allyssa is ahead of Gaspar and to the left a bit so that if Lewis looks their way, he'll go for her instead of Ros.

"I do not want to make this call," Ros says as she hands Gaspar her containment box. Gaspar doesn't look at her because he has to fiddle with it, but he does growl a bit.

"I'll make the bloody call," he snarls. The lights on the top start to flash green, once every four seconds. Primed and ready.

"It is my job as medical combatant to do it," Ros says, a little louder. "I just do not want to do it for Lewis."

Gaspar clenches his teeth. He doesn't even know who is on Lewis' next of kin; he doesn't want to think about having this not work, and him finding out.

"I'm his second," he croaks. Haneef is ten feet away from Lewis now and against the breeze, he cuts in a direct line and then halts enough to slap his palms together. A huge blast of fire shoots out from the tinder of his mod, and Lewis picks up a dead octopus and throws it at the flame.

Haneef goes down under the dead octopus with a squawk. Impact looks painful, and quite squishy.

Gaspar runs past Haneef and the octopus. Head down, box clutched to midsection, and when he can see the scant top of Lewis' shadow he slams onto his knees and puts the box onto the oil-soaked asphalt, looks up at Lewis to gauge distance.

Lewis hasn't moved. He's standing there with dull eyes, watching him, lips split into a manic grin that matches the quivering tension of his body.

"HALLO, LOVE," Lewis croons. The things make him croon. The undercurrent of a gargle is in every syllable, makes Gaspar's spine itch in discomfort.

Gaspar's throat gets lumpy and blocked at the words, anyway. He punches the button on top of the box and shoves it as hard as he can towards Lewis.

It slides across the macadam with ease and goes off right as it hits Lewis' boots. The box explodes, a ball of pure writhing electricity left in its place, and it promptly seperates into a little domed cage around the closest living creature: Lewis.

Gaspar staggers upright to watch Lewis hiss and duck down. The containment cage shrinks down with him, keeps him low and defenceless.

Lewis squats down, knees set to chin and his palms flat on the asphalt. He stares blankly and without blinking at Gaspar. The wide grin is gone from his face.

Haneef cannot stop chanting "oh shit" from where he's wiggling out from under an octopus corpse. Allyssa shouts from her stance on top of the smoking shell of the Crown Vic.

"Is he secure?"

Gaspar tries to answer, chokes on the word with a cough.

Lewis is still staring at him through the electric field.

"Yeah," he croaks. A little louder, "Compromised team leader is secured."

# # # #

A selection of Conway Twitty's Top Thirty Hits play on the speakers in the observation room at a manageable volume for all eardrums in the immediate vicinity; the eardrums inside the Isolation Chamber, on the other hand, are entirely a different matter.

Ros chews on her lower lip. "I thought it was supposed to help dispel..?"

The bolted down bed and table in the room are vibrating from the percussion. Lewis sits in the centre of the room with his hands over his ears. The dark shadowed lines of the alien tech don't even flex in discomfort.

"The movies lie." Haneef shakes his head. "I don't know who to believe in anymore."

Gaspar twitches a hand over the controller for the music, and it dims into nothing.

"Getting close enough for shots is impossible," Allyssa says. She's leaning against the closed door with her arms crossed and chewing on her lower lip. "Past scenarios dictate that electricity will work again..."

"Stun him enough and he'll die," Gaspar points out. "I am diametrically opposed to stopping his heart just because he has a selection of new jewelry."

"Mind controlling jewelry."

"Heart stopping is not acceptable." He slaps a hand onto the control panel, and ABBA's Dancing Queen starts to thread through the speakers.

Haneef blinks at the monitors. "What?"

"He likes that song," Gaspar explains with his shoulders hunched.

On the monitors Lewis begins to dance and twirl around. Apparently the mind-controlling melted egg things like ABBA too.

"Do you think they received some of his genetic material in the process of expulsion?" Ros muses.

Gaspar opens his mouth to explain exactly how no genetic materials could possibly have been transferred and Haneef punches the RECORD VIDEO button on the panel.

# # # #

Allyssa, as always, is ravishing in red, her black hair curling loose around her shoulders and heels like spiky knives clacking across the steel Isolation Chamber floor.

Gaspar and the others watch on the array of monitors, the entire group holding their collective breath as she advances.

"Lewis, you know this is a bad idea," she gestures at him, then at herself, with the taser, "and I know this is a bad idea, so how about we come to an accord?"

The gold spiderwebbing across his skin like metalwork veins glitters in the light as he rips the bolted-down table right off the floor and flings it at her.

# # # #

Ros flat refuses to take part in this "farce of Swiftian proportions," and Gaspar isn't given the option.

"Not yet," Allyssa tells him, nursing the bruise on her forehead with an ice cold beer Haneef had handed her as soon as she emerged from the Chamber. "You're the secret weapon when it comes to him, we won't use you until we have to."

So in Haneef goes. No one holds their breath, because if he manages this mission it'll be a god damn miracle.

They watch on the monitors as Haneef shakes an octopus arm at Lewis and shouts "HOW COULD YOU," because that was apparently the good idea he had when he offered to try.

Lewis doesn't have a table anymore, but he does try to kick Haneef in the head.

The monitor flickers with static as Lewis chases Haneef around the room, periodically stopping for high-kicks that really are quite high since Lewis is all leg when you get down to leg and torso ratio.

"Secret weapon, yes?" Gaspar asks Allyssa. She refuses to look at him, instead watches the display with a twist to her lips that looks downright irritated.

# # # #

Lewis is crouching in the middle of the empty chamber, head down between his knees and hands once again flat on the floor. Gaspar enters the room holding a fully charged taser in one hand and a box of clear ziploc bags in the other.

"Hey, Lewis," he says, for want of anything better to do with himself.

Lewis stands in one long drink of water motion. He's always been this huge man, filling the room just by being in it, but this thing that is controlling him is obviously taking his personality and flushing it down a waste evac; Lewis would slump his shoulders when he's not in gear. He'd relax so he's not as threatening as he knows his bulk to be.

This thing has him standing with squared shoulders and a considering tilt to the head that looks downright predatory.

"WHY HALLO THERE," Lewis says. His voice is still garbled, like his vocal cords aren't quite developed. His mouth is grinning much to wide, his skin is veined with gold. His eyes are flat, but focused on Gaspar's throat.

"COME CLOSER, YEAH?" The things that writhe over Lewis' skin draw tight and thin then pulse outward like a heartbeat. "GIVE US A KISS," the things make him hiss.

If Gaspar didn't already know about the alien-possession going on here, that last bit would be enough to tip him off.

He audibly swallows, regrets it, but no use lamenting it now because Lewis is leaning forward with dull eyes and a grin and--

The taser is lightweight in his hand, the trigger pulls easy after he aims. The barb shoots right into Lewis' throat, the voltage discharges, and the lights in the chamber flicker.

Lewis' body falls back from the force of it. His arms jerk and twist, neck contorts, face screws up in muscle seizures. The gold veins lining his body writhe across his skin. They twist like a dying snake, head cut off and no one to bite because the fangs are gone.

Lewis falls to the steel floor and a writhing puddle of gold slithers off of him. His skin is left pale and flat, and the gold oils away from his sparking body towards Gaspar.

Gaspar drops the used taser and pulls out another from his pocket. He doesn't look at Lewis twitching on the ground, he focuses on the melted alien eggs and hitting it with the taser as soon as it's in range.

The barb hits dead centre, he depresses the trigger. A long hiss fills the room and steam rises from the puddle.

Beeping that lets everyone know that containment doors are opening begins behind him. He drops the second used taser and sidesteps around the broken remnants of the bedframe, comes to a stop at Lewis' too-still form on the floor.

Third and final door slides open with a hydraulic whine. Gaspar kneels next to Lewis, back turned to the mess. He holds out the box of ziplocs and a passing tech nabs it on her way to the puddle of alien tech. He's not watching them figure out how to scoop it into the generic brand containment devices, he's kneeling next to Lewis and checking his pulse.

There's nothing there. Lewis' eyes are another kind of dull. The completely wrong kind.

Chest compressions. Ten rib-breaking pushes. He hasn't got the upper-body strength needed to crush a man's heart, but he slams his hands down, one over the other, right on top of Lewis' chest, over and over and over.

After compressions, antiquated but still workable, pinch nostrils and breathe into mouth. Make the brain get oxygen by breathing for it. He slots his mouth over Lewis' and heaves his lungs into the other man's, then pulls back to smack at his chest again.

Ros grabs his shoulder and shoves him away mid-compression. She's kneeling too, but she's got an epi-pen in her hand and is pointing the needle at Lewis.

"He will seize when this hits," she says, and jabs the needle right into Lewis' heart.

For one moment, everything is still with the sound of scraping coming from the huddled techs across the room. Then--

Lewis does seize. His eyes flutter and his arms thrash and Gaspar holds onto the closest limb he can reach so that Ros at least doesn't get hit. But his eyes aren't dull anymore.

Lewis makes a noise that sounds like gark, and coughs up bile, saliva, right onto Gaspar's shoulder.

Gaspar wheezes what his ego would prefer to be laughter. He really hopes he's laughing, but he can't tell. It sounds too wet for joy, even to his ears.

Ros squeezes his clean shoulder and leans over them to check Lewis' pupils.

"Back with us?" she asks.

Lewis says gark again, then nods and turns his head into Gaspar's bile-splattered neck.

# # # #

The inside of Gaspar's flat has always been riddled with a plethora of overlarge mice that take great pleasure in bullying his single normal-sized cat, and remains so when he gets home now. There is also a field of shattered glass right in front of the door, so he probably should clean that up soon.

He drops his keys in the bowl next to the door, toes off his shoes at the kitchen, flicks the light on in the dining nook, then remembers to go back and close the door. Just to keep out the salesmen, of course.

Now there's glass embedded in his socks. He hobbles back to the kitchen on the sides of his feet. The shards aren't deep, no blood, and they come off easy with the sock.

Mulberry swishes in, paws coated in dried blood and viscera. Gaspar pets him when he jumps onto his lap.

"Did you get one? Good for you," he coos at the cat as he picks off shrivelled bits of flesh and innards from Mulberry's fur. The carcass is still around here somewhere, damn cat can't ever finish one himself.

Gaspar wrinkles his nose. He hopes it's fresh. He doesn't want to have to smell an old one. Too many bugs.

Someone knocks on his front door. He leans his chair back, braces his feet against a table leg, looks down the hall and hollers, "It's open!"

The door opens, and Lewis is on the other side. Gaspar's feet slip and the chair falls forward. Mulberry growls and slides out of his lap.

Gaspar gets out of the chair and staggers out to the hallway. Lewis is locking the door behind him, frowning at the glass with his exceptional multitasking ability.

"You haven't even changed," Gaspar says. It's a statement of the obvious; there are burn holes where the electricity hit the metal buckles and intensified enough to rip through his jacket.

Lewis grins at him. It's a sloppy and easy looking. It makes Gaspar's mouth dry.

He has to put a stop to this.

"You also smell like burnt meat," Gaspar continues. Lewis just smiles wider and walks over the glass, great big crunching noises made by his heavy boots.

"Have you been to medical yet?" Gaspar tries again, hands out in front of him and slowly backing away.

"Cleared in record time," Lewis says, finally. He's not crunching anymore as he walks, but he's still advancing. "I tried to see you before you lit out, but Hetty told me you pulled the Exceptional Trauma card."

Gaspar's back hits a wall. A quick glance around shows he's entered the living room and is on the wall that features the sofa and an unplugged lamp. The lamp's cord instantly starts to twine around his ankles. "I killed you, of course trauma was involved," Gaspar says. Well, tries to anyway. Lewis comes to a stop a scant foot away from him, still being serene in the face and carefully looming in body. Gaspar shifts on his feet, the cord around his right ankle grows tighter.

"Are you sure you're all right?" Gaspar tries again. "No overnight observation? No lingering consciousness issues?"

Lewis rolls his eyes. "Do I look like I need observation?"

Gaspar sniffs. "No, but you smell like it. Is that barbecue? Do you come with dipping sauce?"

"I might be persuaded to produce some," Lewis mumbles under his breath. He shakes out his shoulders to stop the stoop and proceeds to really have a go at the looming thing. There's only three inches or so of difference between their height, but Lewis in this stance makes it feel like ten or more.

"I wanted to talk to you about what happened."

Gaspar hesitates, mouth open and eyebrows raised. Lewis meets his gaze head-on.

"What.. happened?" Gaspar asks.

"Yes, with the-- with the sharks and the possession and the recordings coming out of that car." Lewis scratches at the back of his neck, looking tentative again. "With the mass transit system and. And how you fixed it."

"I still haven't told anyone about that," Gaspar rushes to say. "I can't feasibly keep scientific process out of the records, but if I give enough time no one will think to look at the papers when they enter the system and--"

Gaspar cuts off when Lewis slides a bit closer. Now they're two inches apart, give or take. It's enough to make the air in Gaspar's throat catch, not because of the closeness, but because of the expression on Lewis' face.

Damn man almost looks fond.

"There's nothing to talk about," Gaspar says.

"Gaz.." Lewis starts.

Gaspar cuts him off. "Really. Nothing at all."

"Look, you--" and here Lewis scrubs at his face with one hand and sighs. Then: "You need to give an inch, okay? I'm trying to apologise."

Gaspar looks down to bat at the lamp cord. It's trying for his hip now, which is not accepted in this household. Absently he asks, "For what?"

"Well, you love me, right?"

It's like all the air is sucked from the room with five words plus punctuation. Gaspar stares at the hardwood flooring with eyes wide enough to water, his breathing a great big rattle in his ears.

Lewis puts his hands on Gaspar's shoulders. His forearm obstructs Gaspar's view of the floor, he has to look up. He doesn't want to, but he has to.

Lewis still has that fond expression, but he's also got a tightness to his eyes that is new.

"You're not the most subtle man," Lewis continues. "I haven't said anything, but."

Gaspar jerks against Lewis' grasp, tries to break free. If he can just get some distance this will make sense. If he can get out of the man's airspace, he won't be so muddled.

Lewis doesn't let go. He bounces him against the wall, presses him against it, and tilts his head down to breathe against Gaspar's ear.

"I'm sorry I was an idiot, okay?" Lewis tightens his hold on Gaspar's shoulders, loosens it, tightens again. "I thought rank came before everything, and I'm your superior and--"

"Superior in what, exactly?" Gaspar bites out. His eyes are so wide they're drying out, he's staring down the hall at the closed front door. The locked door, and what if he can't flee in time? Just leave Lewis here with his cat and a dead huge rat somewhere and--

Lewis brushes his lips against Gaspar's cheek, then brushes them against his mouth. Tentative pressure, nothing demanding, but most certainly there. Gaspar stops staring at the door in favour of staring at Lewis' face as he pulls back.

"I thought you liked women," Gaspar stutters.

Lewis nods. "I like women."

Gaspar takes a moment to absorb that. Then he narrows his eyes and opens his mouth, because he needs to stop this -- whatever it is -- right now and--

"I didn't say only women, okay," Lewis continues. He leans his forehead against Gaspar's and breathes out. "Your affront is really funny, though."

"Your amusement is all I ever want, really." Gaspar tries to wiggle to the side, out and away, but Lewis' grip on his shoulders keeps him still and against the wall.

"I'm sorry I didn't do anything before," Lewis says. Gaspar goes still. "I'm sorry it took me having some kind of anomaly in my insides to realise that insisting on being only your team leader is never gonna be good enough."

Gaspar looks down at his feet. Their feet. Lewis has got his legs pressed slightly between Gaspar's, and it's either the best sight ever or a sign that he's going losing his grip on reality. "We're calling an alien portal in your rectum an anomaly now?"

"I'm trying to ignore the body horror part."

"Then I shall respect your wishes," Gaspar offers magnanimously. Then he glances up at Lewis' face and inadvertently makes eye contact. "So you are saying, in summary, that I am not a total fool in this situation and you are quite amendable to the status quo being shifted in a more intimate favour?"

He hates how hopeful his voice sounds.

"Stop talking so much," Lewis says. Then he shifts forward to press their open mouths together again, and Gaspar forgets his panic to close his eyes and just breathe into the other man.

"In summary," Lewis mumbles against his mouth, "I'm saying that you've been listed as my next of kin for the last two years and there's a reason for that."

Gaspar blinks. Then pulls his face away from Lewis' and blinks some more.

"You're quite the martyr," Gaspar announces.

Lewis rolls his eyes. "Takes one to know one."

"No, no, you're willing to put me as your closest relation but won't let me know that this waffing about I've been doing is reciprocated? Are you daft? We could've been doing this for--" and Gaspar stops raging to squawk as Lewis lifts him up off the floor, walks three steps to the left, turns and dumps him onto his back on the sofa.

Then he follows him down, pressing close and heavy on top of Gaspar like a very warm, very sex-addled blanket.

"Please stop talking so much," Lewis begs in a despairing tone before he goes back to kissing the air out of Gaspar's lungs.

Gaspar kisses back of course, wraps his arms around Lewis' neck and hitches their hips together to give the barest hint of friction. But he also says "This isn't over" as clearly as he can with another man's tongue in his mouth.

Lewis moves to Gaspar's jaw, kisses down his throat and pulls at the buttons on his shirt. He says "Of course not" into Gaspar's collarbone, and Gaspar arches his back to help get the shirt off his arms.

He licks down Gaspar's stomach, and Gaspar hisses through his teeth, cards his fingers through Lewis' hair.

"I don't know if I can do this," Gaspar gasps out. "You smell like Mongolian barbecue."

"I'll take a shower," Lewis mumbles against his stomach. Then he presses his thumbs into the hollows of Gaspar's hipbones and presses.

"Shower later, get this off now," Gaspar says. He yanks at the back of the Kevlar-laced jacket while Lewis lets go of him to get the buckles on the front. They twist against each other, pulling indiscriminately against clothing, until Gaspar's left with his jeans and boxers shucked down to his knees and Lewis has got nothing on except some interesting bruising around his middle.

Gaspar wraps his arms around Lewis' neck and kisses him open mouthed, sloppy. Lewis shoves Gaspar's jeans further down his legs using his knee.

"We need-- we need--" Lewis gasps into his neck, their hips roll together like a well-synced machine.

Gaspar scrabbles at his shoulders and pulls one foot free of the prison that is his jeans, then hooks that leg around Lewis' waist. Leverage in place, he jams a hand down the back of the seat cushions, into the crevasse that leads down into the bowels of the sofa.

He yanks a mostly-gone ten ounce bottle of lube out of the sofa and crows in triumph. Lewis laughs into his neck.

Gaspar smacks him in the shoulder with the bottle until Lewis takes it from him. "Not only did I finish your statement, but I had a solution! You can't just get service like that these days."

He kicks off his jeans completely, finally, and Lewis twists the cap right off the bottle, dumps half of the contents over Gaspar's stomach.

It's like a cold drippy jolt and Gaspar jackknifes against the sensation. Then he settles back, watches Lewis drag his fingers through the mess.

Lewis is still gorgeous naked. He's gorgeous all the time, to Gaspar. He has no idea what Hetty means when she says that Lewis has the head the shape of a sweet potato, because Gaspar has seen sweet potatoes, and he's looking at Lewis' head, and there is no direct correlation between the two.

Also, he resolves to never say this aloud, because Lewis leans down to slip a finger behind Gaspar's balls, along his perineum and slowly, slowly into him. If he says anything, Lewis might stop. Just on account to the vegetable comparison. Instead, Gaspar groans and shifts his hips to make the finger get in there quicker.

Lewis hisses and grabs at Gaspar's thigh to keep him still. Gaspar clenches down out of spite.

"I am a grown man and I insist on you hurrying the fuck up," he snaps.

Lewis snorts a laugh and worms two fingers in to the first knuckle. He grins over Gaspar's loud intake of breath.

"More like that?"

"Nnnrgh," is all Gaspar can reply with, but it gets the gist across. He bucks his hips to help the stretching, hooks his other leg around Lewis' waist and crosses his ankles at the small of Lewis' back. Then he licks the other man on the carotid artery and hisses "get to it."

"Impatience is the opposite of virtue," Lewis murmurs. He twists his two fingers, presses a third at the rim just so.

"I'll be virtuous later, come on!" Gaspar reaches down with one hand to grab his dick and hold tight on the base. Lewis leans back to stare for a moment with glazed eyes, then Gaspar drops his other hand to thumb at the precome at the head and Lewis snaps back into focus.

Gaspar's hands are pulled away from himself, pressed over his head with a sharp look.

"Condoms?" Lewis asks.

Gaspar swallows, shakes his head.

There's a pause, then a clenching of the jaw. Lewis' shoulder tremble a bit, his grip on Gaspar's wrists tighten. "Then perhaps we should--"

"Don't you dare," Gaspar snarls. "I am not tabling this discussion for later."

Another pause. Lewis stares him down, then sighs and leans back. He doesn't court disaster by asking "are you certain," which Gaspar appreciates. Then he pulls Gaspar's hips up into his, lines up, leans forward to let gravity become an active participant in the proceedings, which Gaspar appreciates even more.

Lewis presses in, slow and thick. He drops close enough to mouth at Gaspar's throat, says "We should really be using a condom."

The agonising slow burn in Gaspar's ass is enough to make him tetchy. He rakes his fingernails up Lewis' bare back and tries to kick at the man's ass hard enough to make him go faster. Neither work, so he snarls, "So sorry I'm not sexually active enough to warrant keeping condoms in stock, now get inside me."

The last part might have been said in a bit of a yell.

Lewis grunts and lean back. He grips Gaspar's ass with both hands, pulls wide to spread him even more, and bucks his hips to slide in to the hilt in one smooth motion.

The angle happens to be just right, because Gaspar keens into it with dark spots swarming his vision and some kind of wonderful endorphins running up into his brain.

Lewis doesn't let him adjust. He withdraws with a slick slide until just the head of his dick is left, then slams in again. Then he does it again. And a third time.

Gaspar hasn't got it in him at the moment to be embarrassed, but on thrust three he comes with a wail.

The ringing in his ears dims after some heavy breathing on his part, and he notices that Lewis is braced over him, tense and frozen.

"You all right?" Gaspar asks.

Lewis groans, shifts his hips. Gaspar automatically flexes around him, which makes Lewis shudder.

Gaspar's still shaking, but he tightens his legs around Lewis waist and waves a hand in a "go on" motion. "Don't mind me," he laughs.

Lewis shifts his hips again. Gaspar's abdominals twitch against the sensation, a little too much to be comfortable but not quite painful.

"You sure about this?" Lewis asks. His teeth are clenched, how adorable.

Gaspar hums and rocks his hips a little. He's feeling full and stretched and sticky, he's not going to mind staying that way for a while longer.

He grabs Lewis by the back of the neck and yanks him down to kiss him. It's more a smear of tongue than anything, but it gets the point across as he clenches down on Lewis at the same time.

Lewis starts a slow rhythm, keeping his eyes on Gaspar's face, probably for signs of discomfort. Gaspar lets his mouth hang open and his eyes roll back when the angle is just right, keeps his arms around the other man's neck like a lifeline.

Just because Gaspar's stamina is deplorable doesn't mean Lewis is much better. He starts to breathe faster, little groans as punctuation to the slap of skin on skin. Gaspar helps out by clenching on the in-stroke and arching his back.

He feels a stirring in his gut. Might be hunger, but most likely is arousal that can't follow through.

Lewis drops his head onto Gaspar's collarbone and moans, stutters his hips a couple times, and then freezes, shoulders shaking. Then he slumps right on top of Gaspar, sated and squishing the hell out of him into the sofa cushions.

Gaspar has no idea how much time passes, but he feels the rawness on his back and realises that his sofa is probably ruined now.

"We're doing this again, right?" He suddenly has to know. It's imperative. "This isn't one of those oh I'm alive so I'll go partake of intercourse with that fellow mooning over me, is it?"

"Once a day for the rest of our lives. Twice on Thursdays," Lewis croaks. Then he licks Gaspar's collarbone and shifts his hips to start to pull out. Both of them groan as they're separated, but Lewis doesn't go far. Just props himself on his elbows and looks at Gaspar with a wry grin.

Gaspar raises his eyebrows. "Why Thursdays?"

Before Lewis can answer, Mulberry meows from the kitchen. It's a loud screech, actually. It's how that cat likes to get attention, but while Gaspar is used to it, Lewis obviously isn't because he startles and falls off the sofa.

A wet dragging noise emerges from the kitchen. Gaspar rolls onto his side to look, and there's a partially eaten giant rat corpse carriage and Mulberry acting as valiant royal leading horse.

"What in bloody hell is that," Lewis asks from his sprawl on the floor. He's very sprawled and very naked, and Gaspar will take care of that in a moment, but immediate priority is taking care of the ruination of the afterglow.

Gaspar flings an arm towards the corpse and flails it around in the hope that Mulberry gets the point. "No presents! No presents!"

Mulberry stops midway to the sofa at his gesture, then sits with his back to them and sticks up a hind paw so he can laboriously lick at his toes.