“Gwen! Gwen – wake up!”
Rhys slapped his wife’s naked bottom and waited for her to stir. For some reason her head was down by his feet and the duvet was pulled across the bed sideways. Glancing across the floor at the scattered articles of clothing, hastily shed by the looks of them, and then catching sight of the pair of lacy red knickers hanging off the wardrobe door it all came back to him. He grinned.
“Ughhh?” mumbled Gwen incoherently, her head feeling heavy with the type of hangover gifted by an excess of cheap red wine. As the room revolved around her head, she noted the clenching of her stomach that seemed intent on reminding her of the last time she swore never to touch supermarket Valpolicella again.
“Your phone! It’s ringing. I’m not answering it. It’s probably him again.”
Rhys was growing increasingly irritated at the way Jack Harkness always managed to call them at the most inconvenient of moments. It occurred to him, in a moment of paranoia, that maybe the bastard had hidden cameras in their bedroom. Even the thought of it really pissed him off. He scowled as Gwen clambered over him to reach over the edge of the bed. She pulled her hand bag out from under the heap of clothes, where it had been dumped when they’d stumbled in at some unearthly hour. It struck Rhys that his wife was never quite so graceful in her movements when she woke up after a good night out.
Gwen pulled the phone out of her handbag just as the ringing stopped, but before she had the chance to call the number back there was the distinctive sound informing her that she had received a text message as well as voicemail.
The instructions were brief and to the point: four or five life signs had been detected in a derelict industrial building on the outskirts of the city.
“Shit!” Gwen slammed the phone down and dashed off in the direction of the bathroom. She scrabbled around in the bathroom cabinet, grabbed the packet of paracetamol and downed two with a gulp of tap water.
“That was Harkness, wasn’t it?” Rhys appeared beside her, leaning in the doorway to the bathroom. His voice sounded resigned.
“No, not Jack. It was Ianto.”
“What? Don’t tell me he’s going to be phoning at all hours as well… what’s going on?”
“Don’t be daft. They’ve got signs of non-human life – Ianto texted me the location. I don’t suppose-”
“I really don’t think you should be driving yet, you know. I bet you’re still over the limit -”
“Drop the lecture, Rhys. I’m not going to drive, but something’s turned up and they need me. Can you give me a lift?”
“Yes, now, sweetheart, please? You weren’t drinking last night, come on, please… I’ll make it up to you later, I promise.”
“OK. Come on then – let’s not hang around.”
Gwen regretted not having time for a shower, but decided she’d grab one back at the Hub later, once they got back from the callout. She pulled on her usual work attire of leggings, boots, slinky top and leather jacket. The hours may have been better in the force, but she’d always hated the uniform, especially that bloody hat.
Ianto answered his cell phone as the SUV swung crazily around the corner – he was sure that Jack did that deliberately to make him grab hold of his arm.
“Gwen? Right then, we’ll see you there.”
“She’s on her way?” Jack turned his head and grinned as he appraised what Ianto was wearing. He loved that suit and the man in it.
“Yep. Meeting us there.”
“Good – that makes five of us and four or five aliens. Better odds.”
The SUV came to a skidding halt on the broken tarmac outside the deserted buildings. The four team members checked their equipment once more, they were all armed and Tosh held a scanner that was indicating that they were in the right place. Ianto took a second scanner and tucked it into his jacket pocket, and then he stepped out of the vehicle loading his semi-automatic as his feet hit the ground. He was the epitome of elegance in his dark, silk-lined suit and he knew it. Ianto smiled shyly to himself knowing precisely the effect his outfit had on Jack. The sooner these creatures were dealt with the better, he had unfinished business back at the Hub, or, to be more exact, in Jack’s quarters.
The team fell in with Jack as he moved purposefully across the scrubby wasteland towards the red brick buildings. Ianto to his right, with Tosh and Owen slightly behind them. It was then that Rhys pulled up alongside the SUV, Gwen throwing open the passenger door and then leaning over to give her husband a quick kiss before leaping out to join her colleagues. She resisted the urge to wave goodbye as Rhys drove off, knowing that it would only prompt Owen to torment her more than usual, she could already see that he was ready to have a go.
“I am so sorry I missed your call, Ianto,” Gwen called out trying to catch Ianto’s attention and avoid having to deal with Owen.
“Don’t worry about it, Cooper,” snarled Owen. “After all, you’re the only one of us sad gits with a life. I’m surprised you’re not on flexitime.”
“Sod off, Owen.” The last thing Gwen wanted to deal with a hangover was Owen.
“Nice of you to join us, Gwen, better late than never I guess.” Jack raised an eyebrow as he tapped his watch. He then led on with Owen and Tosh in tow, leaving Ianto to speak with Gwen.
“I brought a spare gun and comm. Unit,” explained Ianto as he passed the items to Gwen.
“Bloody early start this is - I take it you stayed over at the Hub last night then?”
Ianto shook his head and walked on, refusing to acknowledge Gwen’s conspiratorial wink or her prying into his sleeping arrangements. It was only last week that she had caught him and Jack in the hot house with their pants down, literally, so that ought to tell her all she needed to know. Fortunately, he was spared further interrogation as Jack issued instructions.
“Gwen, you and Ianto can take the other side of the building, check the upper floors. Tosh and Owen - with me, we’ll check the ground floor.”
Ianto and Gwen jogged off towards the back of the building whilst the others followed Tosh who was holding her scanner in front of her like a dowsing rod. Jack took one last look at Ianto as he ran across the dried earth, overgrown with weeds, admiring the view and hoping for a speedy resolution to this matter. The sooner he got Ianto back to the Hub the better.
“This way,” called out Tosh.
The open expanse inside the old factory was made claustrophobic by the thick brick pillars that obscured their view and made it seem as if there could be anything lurking behind the next corner. As they walked into the building, Tosh frowned.
“I'm getting mirror readings on both floors. Separate signals at either end of the building.”
Jack looked in front of him and indicated wordlessly for Owen and Tosh to head in one direction, as he spun round to check the opposite end of the building.
“Y’know these creatures are very quiet,” mumbled Jack as he prowled cautiously, his gun aimed at nothing in particular.
“Maybe they’re asleep?” wondered Gwen out loud as she took it in turns with Ianto to scoot forward and swing her gun aimed two-handed into the open areas. She knew that she’d personally much rather still be in bed.
“Perhaps they’re hatching?” suggested Ianto, scanning the floor space for anything remotely egg-like. Yet another reason to regret watching Alien with Jack the previous night, he thought, remembering Jack’s outrageous claims.
“Or maybe they aren’t creatures at all,” added Tosh.
It was at that point that Jack caught sight of an explosive device. The countdown on it was ominously low. There was no way, outside of movies, that the timers on any bomb reached zero just as they were discovered. This had to be deliberate. Someone had lured them here intent on trying to kill him and his team. Before he had time to curse whoever it might be, the device detonated.
There were shockwaves as each device exploded at the same moment. The sound was deafening and muted any attempted communication.
The walls crumbled, joists came crashing down and what was left of the windows blew out in spectacular blasts of rotten wood and glass.
Ianto barely had time to roll his eyes before spinning around to push Gwen to the ground. He shielded her with his body as a slab of partition wall slammed into him from behind, knocking the air from his lungs. Before he could catch his breath a flying shard of brick caught his temple rendering him unconscious. He never heard Gwen’s screams.
As soon as Tosh saw the device she yelled at Owen to take cover and between them they took shelter against the wall, holding their arms above their heads to deflect the worst of the shower of rubble that cascaded down onto them, Owen favouring his bandaged left hand.
Jack gasped as his ribcage expanded, dragging air into his oxygen-starved lungs. He was trapped. There were clouds of dust still settling around him and the sounds of loose pieces of brick rolling down heaps of rubble as he moved. Other than that, there was silence. He blinked furiously, tears flushing the grit from his eyes as he desperately wondered what had happened to the others. He thought of Ianto and bit his lip. Not him, please, not him.