On The Case

by badly_knitted [Reviews - 0]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure, Drama, Fluff, Hurt/Comfort, Standalone

Author's Notes:
Written for Challenge 229: Specimen at beattheblackdog.

Set in my Through Time and Space 'Verse.

The marketplace was crowded, aliens of half a hundred races milling around the long rows of stalls and booths selling practically anything anyone could need or want. Ianto and Jack picked their way through the throngs, not appearing to be in any hurry, stopping occasionally to look at the wares on display but not buying anything; they had a particular destination in mind but the last thing they needed was to appear too eager. Still, they gradually allowed themselves to be drawn to one particular stall where a large, fleshy alien with a florid complexion and a bald, high-domed head was calling out to passers-by, trying to drum up business. He wasn’t having a lot of success.

“Come now, good beings, surely there must be one among you in need of some extra help around the home! I have a fine specimen here!” the alien trader was saying, indicating a small, blue-skinned girl, huddled in the corner of a cage. “Healthy, strong, hard working, and a genuine bargain at only two hundred credits!”

Halting at the back of the small cluster of people who’d stopped to take a look, Ianto growled at the back of his throat; the sound was barely audible, but Jack’s sharp ears picked it up.

“Easy, tiger,” he murmured. “I know it’s difficult, but you’ve got to keep your cool.”

“I’m aware of that; this isn’t my first rodeo, but did you hear what that bastard’s saying? Healthy and strong my ass! Half-starved and beaten into submission would be closer to the truth. Slavers disgust me,” Ianto hissed in English, a language none of the people around them was likely to understand.

“I’m not a fan of them either, but…”

Ignoring Jack’s attempt to hold him back, Ianto strode forward, a disdainful expression on his face, looking the ‘merchandise’ over, unimpressed, before turning his gaze on the merchant and speaking this time in Galactic Standard, the language used by most traders.

“Strong and healthy? You need your eyes testing. Look at her! Small, scrawny, no muscle tone, obviously underfed, and you expect to get a premium price for her? I’ve never in all my years seen a sorrier specimen.”

Jack moved to intervene, worried that Ianto was about to blow this deal before they even started, but a soothing voice murmured in his head, ‘Don’t; Ianto knows precisely what he is doing. Trust him. He has learned a great deal during the time we have been travelling together. He will not fail in this.’

‘I hope you’re right,’ Jack thought back.

‘As far as I am aware, I have never yet been wrong.’

“Not my fault,” the slave merchant was insisting, wringing his upper two hands. “I’ve provided plenty of food but this one refuses to eat. Perhaps it doesn’t like what it’s being fed, but I guarantee it will change its mind when it grows hungry enough. Start out proud, some of them, but they soon come around once they learn their place.”

Ianto sniffed disparagingly. “If this is the best you’ve got, I’m not wasting my money; I’ll get what I need elsewhere. One scrawny, overpriced slave isn’t worth my time.” He started to turn away.

“But I have more, good sir!” the slaver called after him, reaching out an imploring hand as if to stop his prospective buyer from getting away. “Three others.”

That was what Ianto had been hoping to find out; where there was one ‘slave’ there were almost always more. Pausing, he turned back, eying the slaver suspiciously. “More? Then why aren’t the others on show with that one?”

The slaver waved all four hands in a gesture of mild embarrassment. “Had a bit of trouble keeping them calm; they’re a touch skittish, well-bred and highly strung.” As Ianto started to turn away again, the alien added quickly, “I’m sure it’s just that they’re unsettled by all the travelling, the sights and sounds of the marketplace, and the lack of exercise. My ship is small, and there’s little for them to do. Once they’re put to work, they’ll settle. They become restless with nothing to occupy their time.”

“Hm.” Ianto hesitated then gave a grudging sigh. “Well, I suppose I could take a look at the others since I’m already here. If they’re spirited enough, I might even be persuaded to make you an offer. But you’d better not be lying to me.”

“Of course, good sir, I wouldn’t think of it. If you’d be so good as to follow me, they’re back here.”

Jack waited as Ianto followed the merchant behind a screen. He was gone for a good fifteen minutes, but when he returned, he and the slaver were haggling over price. Finally reaching agreement, Ianto bowed curtly to the alien, who gave a much deeper bow in return as he accepted the credits Ianto handed him.

“You won’t be sorry, good sir, you’ve got yourself a real bargain.”

“We’ll see.” Glancing towards Jack, Ianto beckoned him over. “I’ll take the small one myself, doesn’t look like she’ll be any trouble; my man here will bring the other three.”

“As you wish, good sir.”

Offering deep bows of his own to both Ianto and the slaver, Jack followed the latter behind the screen, returning a few minutes later with three nervous beings trailing behind him, their hands bound in front of them with leather thongs attached to what amounted to leashes.

With Ianto leading the small one, who looked to be not much more than a child, they set off through the portside marketplace again, the crowds giving way before Ianto’s arrogant glare, but as soon as they were around a corner and well out of the merchant’s sight, he paused just long enough to pick the small alien up, carrying her the rest of the way.

The TARDIS’s door opened as they approached and Ianto went through into the console room, but didn’t stop there, heading straight for the corridor that led to the medical suite. Jack followed with the other three aliens, relaxing now they were safely inside their ship.

“That was an impressive performance,” he said, stopping just inside the infirmary and immediately untying the three aliens he’d been leading as Ianto set his burden gently on the padded examination couch and freed her from her bonds. “I couldn’t have done better myself.”

“Like I said earlier, I’ve done this before.”

With a soft hum the medical scanners examined the patient.

‘She is undernourished and has a mild infection, but that can easily be cured,’ the TARDIS informed both Ianto and Jack.

The alien girl jumped as something pressed against her arm, administering a dose of medicine.

“Shhh,” Ianto soothed. “The medicine is to make you well again. There’s nothing to fear; you’re safe here, no one will harm you.”

“Yes, master,” she murmured obediently, her voice dull and her eyes cast down.

“No, not ‘master’. I’m Ianto and this is Jack. Your parents asked us to find you and bring you home; I’m only sorry it took us so long.”

The alien girl looked up, startled. “My parents? They’re alive?”

“Yes, they’re all fine. We’ll have you home with them before you know it.”

“What’s to become of us?” asked the boldest of the three men Jack had untied. He was rubbing his wrists where the soft, downy fur that covered his entire body had been worn away, leaving raw skin and open sores. He and his companions weren’t the same species as the blue-skinned girl.

Jack turned to them. “First we’ll tend your wounds, then we’ll take you wherever you want to go, but you’ll have to wait until we’ve returned the young lady to her family.”

“We’re not to be slaves?”

“Not anymore. As of this moment, you’re free.”

“But you paid money for us. How can we repay you? We have no credits with which to buy our freedom.”

“No one should be enslaved against their will,” Ianto said firmly, picking the alien girl up to carry her to a comfortable room where she could rest and recover from her ordeal. “If you want to repay us then live well, help others whenever you can, and be happy. In the meantime, once you’re patched up Jack will show you to your rooms and get you something to eat. I’m sure you must all be tired and hungry.”

With that, Ianto left the medical suite, doing his best to answer the alien girl’s questions. A sense of quiet satisfaction filled him for another rescue mission successfully carried out.

‘Intergalactic private detectives, that’s what we are,’ he thought, smiling wryly. ‘Missing persons a specialty.’

‘Perhaps then, I should begin scanning for our next case.’ The TARDIS sounded amused.

‘That, my dear, sounds like an excellent idea.’

As long as there were still slavers, stealing intelligent being away from their homes and families and selling them into servitude, Ianto, Jack, and their TARDIS would never be short of people to save. What more satisfying occupation could there possibly be?

The End