England Field, 1965
Other Keara walked down the road viewing a local map on a hand-held device. She arrived before Captain Harkness and the bus. With a device strikingly similar to a key fob, she summoned a containment box from Nigeria. The contents provided everything she needed to destroy the 456.
Using the hand-held, Other Keara quickly accessed a blueprint. Assembling the device took longer than expected. She heard the bus in the distance before completing it. Having to rush to avoid encountering Jack annoyed her. But she activated it in time.
The bus arrived and Jack unloaded the kids. He eyed the area as if he suspected a problem. When he flipped open his wrist-strap to scan the area, Other Keara knew she had to act. Revealing herself had not been part of the plan. With no other option, she dropped the energy cloak concealing her. She needed to buy time.
As she hoped, Jack looked up from his wrist-strap. He reached for his gun. She activated her ballistic shield. He recognized it, adding to his suspicious, but he holstered his weapon.
“Who are you?”
“Future Torchwood.” Other Keara wondered how much she should tell him. “The aliens won’t honor this agreement.”
“You’re intentionally changing the past?”
She nodded. “It’s necessary to save the planet.”
The 456 attempted to take the children and transport the device Other Keara prepared. A light flashed briefly. She checked her hand-held and nodded. It worked.
“You destroyed your time line.”
She nodded. “Long ago.”
Jack is confused by that. “Are you staying?”
“I need to get home before Simon wonders where I am.” Other Keara smiled.
Moss-Probert Research Facility; Cardiff, Wales
Friday, June 21, 2019
Miriam Morgans was going to kill them all.
She manipulated the lock and stepped into the hallway. She learned as a child in care to accept being powerless. Social workers had rules, regulations and their compassion diminished the longer they held the job. Foster parents varied. More often than not they didn't care. It taught her patience and long-term planning.
The fire alarm blared. Red emergency lights tinted the dim hallway in a bloody red. Anger built over two years of captivity. The corporation recruited her, promising a job and housing. Homeless and desperate, she believed. A betrayal that would cost them. They gave her the ability, for the first time in her life, to rescue herself.
Nevils emerged from a security room halfway down the hall. A short, chubby man with roaming eyes and bad intentions. Other nights, she avoided him. The sleazy security guard had an unhealthy interest in vulnerable women. She suspected the scientists identified the docile ones. He avoided her.
"Go back to your room."
"No." Miriam sensed him, even if she couldn't see him clearly, and focused. Without a mental block, mask, or psychic ability, there was nothing he could do. He gurgled and slumped to the floor, the sounds nearly concealed by the fire alarm.
The door separating the male and female residential wings opened. Thomas stepped into the door way. A tall man, the lights reflecting off his bio-mechanical exoskeleton. Miriam couldn't help but smile. The only person in her life she could ever count on.
"Can you handle the doors?"
Thomas nodded. "I removed the security door on the control room."
Miriam wasn't sure what to say. She'd known he was strong with the bio-mechanics, but that was unexpected.
"I can unlock most of the others." He held up a bulky key-chain.
"Good. Be careful."
Miriam sensed her next target as she hugged him. "Take cover."
Ingria Gregson opened the door and peaked down the hall. The older woman worked as a corrections officer until a scandal ended her career. Circumstantial evidence linked the her to three unexplained deaths. The on-line information hadn't been surprising.
Miriam stepped into a doorway, concealing herself. Gregson cautiously stepped into the hallway closing the door behind her with a hand to minimize the noise. It was a moment before she realized the security door between sections was open. As expected, she reached for her radio.
"This is Gregson. Primary power is down. Emergency lights are active. The security door is open." Pause. "Nevils is down."
Miriam took that as her cue. She stepped into the hallway, revealing herself to Gregson. The woman hesitated. There were few people that suspected the experiments worked. Gregson was one of them. Killing the woman took less time than Nevils. She wondered if that meant Gregson was an easier target or if it got easier with subsequent kills. An uneasy thought. She would know soon enough.
"Are you all right?" The concern increased Thomas' accent.
"Yeah. Free the others."
Eighteen bodies later, Miriam entered a lab. For weeks, she reread the information on explosives. An article about terrorists distributing information on-line made her curious. The labs had all the materials for different purposes. A remote detonator was problematic but not impossible. Taking notes was risky. She memorized everything. Finding a laptop had been unexpected good fortune. She quickly found the website with instructions just in case. The devices took longer than she hoped. High school science class hadn't covered explosives. The Bunsen burners were another story. She turned them on before leaving the lab.
During the dark days of her childhood, Miriam found comfort in books. Not young adult books where kids or teens saved the word, but fantasy stories involving knights and dragons and epic quests. Memories of Lord of the Rings stayed with her into adulthood. Aragorn feared his family legacy and retreated from the path of king. Except Fate had other ideas. The novels came to mind as she walked through the facility. Red lights reflected off broken and crushed equipment and a body impacted in the dented concrete floor. Through the hallways, passed a pummeled fire door and down two flights of stairs. Building debris and splattered blood littered the floors. The humble ranger became an impressive king.
Miriam didn't see herself as anything as lofty as queen. God and country had nothing to do with her actions. Both abandoned her and Moss-Probert's other victims long ago. She was a freedom fighter, a rebel leader starting a revolution. More likely than not she'd be declared a terrorist before the day's end. The corporation had friends world-wide.
Moonlight beckoned through the battered front door like hope reaching into the waking nightmare. She followed the tendrils of light onto the front lawn. A green signal came from the tree line indicating all were safe.
"So it begins." A battle unlike any King Theodin of Rohan waged, she thought.
Halfway across the lawn, Miriam pressed the button. The explosion rocked the night, sending fire and smoke reaching for the heavens. While Litha had not been intentional, it was fitting. Midsummer had become nothing more than a big party in places that still celebrated it. But some remembered what it really meant. The ancients lit fires to ward off evil spirits. She honored those who walked before her with a bonfire none would soon forgot.
Thomas stepped onto the drive, his bio-mechanics shimmering in the moonlight. She didn't have to see his face to know his pain. From the condition of some of the bodies, he'd been forced to kill. She didn't enjoy killing, but it wouldn't keep her up at night. Much like the armies of Isengard and Mordor, the researchers were evil. There was no other word for people who could abduct and experiment on other people. They were different, her and Thomas. He still had his soul.
"I forgot the marshmallows, milady."
For the first time in two years, Miriam laughed.
Hughes Flats; Cardiff, Wales
Ianto Jones sat on the edge of Jack’s bed with his eyes closed. After more than ten years, Ianto knew his options. He either accepted Jack’s personality quirks or walked away. Both were easier said than done. Their relationship felt like an ongoing argument in between Torchwood crises.
Jack propped himself up. “Come back to bed.”
A simple request. Except nothing was ever simple anymore.
Before Ianto could respond, Jack’s mobile rang. He shifted to reach the phone on the nightstand behind him. “Morning.” He switched it to speaker phone, answering Ianto’s unasked question.
“Something happened,” Anwen said, unsure of how to explain. “It felt like a change in Rift energy.”
“Did you tell your mother?”
“No. She doesn’t want to believe me. It scares her.”
Ianto turned toward Jack. “Comparison?”
“Uncle Jack. You have energy like the Rift, but it’s different. You’re not from here and whatever happened isn’t either.”
“What did it feel like?” Jack asked.
“Change. Like someone editing a story,” Anwen said, “Except I think it’s time.”
Jack met Ianto’s eyes. They both had ideas what that meant and none of them were good.
“Get some sleep,” Jack said.
The call ended.
Jack flipped open his wrist-com and scanned the building. “Nothing obvious.”
“Is it possible Anwen senses chronons?”
Rather than answer, Jack reached for Ianto. The unspoken argument led to brief wrestling until they kissed and the conflicted faded as it always did.
When the mobile rang again, Jack was laying half on top of Ianto. Jack reached for it, not wanting to move. “Hey.” He switched it to speaker phone.
“We have a problem.” Gwen went on to explain that Anwen had a black, watch-like band on her left wrist. Scan readings suggested a wrist-strap. “We can’t remove it.”
“Give us ten minutes. And bring Anwen up.”
Jack Harkness stood in the kitchen eying the sunrise through the window. Ianto moved around the kitchen making coffee and considering breakfast. The familiar routine reminded Jack what caused the recent conflict. Ianto pointed out again they spent more nights together than they did apart. Two apartments didn’t make sense. Except if they moved in together, they’d argue more.
The door opened and Gwen entered with Anwen. Jack turned around and walked toward the main room, patting Ianto’s arse. They needed to talk without arguing. Easier said than done. Maintaining a relationship between two people with incompatible world views was complicated. And painful.
“Get a room we’re not in,” Gwen said in amusement.
Jack flipped his wrist-strap open and scanned Anwen’s new accessory. "The band is a wrist-strap similar to mine. It’s DNA encoded and has a chronon signature." He wondered why the readings looked familiar.
“How do we remove it?”
Jack looks at Gwen. “We don’t.”
She doesn’t like that answer. “Where did it come from?”
“I don’t know.” Except the scan readings looked familiar. Wrist-straps were customized. He didn’t remember one designed to conceal itself, or any instance where one was re-purposed. The only idea he had was future Torchwood. It didn’t explain why.
Gwen Cooper walked with Anwen back downstairs to their flat. Questions circled her mind. From experience, Gwen knew she’d have to accept not knowing for the time being. From what Jack said about wrist-straps, the device itself wasn’t a problem.
Her mobile rang as she closed the door behind them. She checked the screen. “Morning.”
"Morning." Andy Davidson sounded stressed. She could hear a busy scene in the background. "Do you know where the old hospital is?" He described the location.
"It’s beyond description, Gwen. Some type of research facility. The firefighters finally have the fire under control. They’re reporting several bodies with bizarre injuries and strange debris." He lowered his voice. "Possible alien technology."
"Send me the details."
As Gwen waited, she wondered about timing. She knew better to make assumptions or dismiss the possibility of a coincidence. But there was likely a connection. Why did her nine year old need a wrist-strap? What did it have to do with the old hospital?
“Mom.” Anwen walked back from her room.
Gwen looked up.
“Why am I receiving Torchwood notifications?” Anwen holds her wrist up. “Repeat notification.”
The wrist-strap replied, “Upgrades complete.”
Ianto Jones stood by the coffee pot mentally reviewing his to-do list. Landscaping, inventory, maintenance review. He wanted to plant annuals, but didn’t have time. Which was his fault. Torchwood London authorized hiring more personnel. He made excuses. For the most part, the jealousy was unfounded. But he couldn’t help it.
Jack walked up, set his chin on Ianto’s shoulder and set a hand lightly on his opposite hip. A gesture Ianto viewed as an affectionate demand for information. He was trapped between a hug and the counter.
“You’re tense,” Jack commented.
“I have a lot to do.”
“Are you mad about the flat or the applicants?”
Ianto hesitates a moment, knowing it’s pointless. “Yeah.”
“Do you want to interview support staff?” Jack gave it a moment. “A doctor wants to transfer from London.” Amusement crept into his voice. “She can keep up with Tosh.” He paused. “And has Owen’s bedside manner.”
“That’s why she’s leaving London. Owen was promoted to head of medical.” Jack was trying to politely point out the hiring paranoia was unjustified.
“Are we good?”
Ianto hesitated. “Sharing a flat is reasonable.”
“We’d argue more.”
Ianto sadly agreed. Although Jack didn’t bring company home, out of consideration, it would be harder to keep the details to himself. A compromise they made years ago. Understanding and accepting were unfortunately two different things.
Jack’s mobile rang. Jack lightly kissed Ianto’s shoulder as he reached for his phone. “Harkness.”
Moss-Probert Research Facility
“What do we know?” Jack Harkness drrove the Torchwood van with one hand on the steering wheel and one on Ianto’s leg.
“The old hospital was purchased by Moss-Probert, a pharmaceutical research company, three years ago," Gwen replied. "Their website claims they study plants. One conspiracy site accuses them of human experimentation." She tapped the screen. "There have been an increase in missing persons according to police statistics across Great Britain since the facility opened. The Rift grabs random people. The majority of the missing are in need of medical attention and/or homeless."
"Coordinate with the police." Jack parked near the police cars. "Andy is motioning to us."
Gwen climbed out.
Jack squeezed Ianto’s leg. "Take pictures for facial rec and plates."
Jack wasn’t sure if the argument ended or not as he climbed from the van. One problem at a time, he thought, heading for the suits. Civilians should not have been allowed at a crime scene. Their clothes and cars suggested they were well-paid businessmen and women. Money sometimes meant power which could explain their presence. They were somehow associated with the facility.
"Captain Jack Harkness," he announced. "Torchwood."
A pretty man in an expensive suit left the group to meet him. "Tedmond Lake. Moss-Probert." He extended his hand.
Jack shook it.
"Torchwood investigates fires?" The man smiled, trying to be charming.
Jack smiled back. "We investigate anything strange."
"As long as we're not wasting your time."
"Meeting new people is never a waste."
Lake removed a business card from his wallet. "Call me if you have any questions." His hand lingered briefly.
Lake's attempt to flirt near where his company's people died spoke volumes about him.
Ianto Jones stepped out of the van. Photographs cars, people, and anything with a logo, he thought. It thankfully distracted him. Arguing tended to make him jealous. Even knowing Jack needed to charm people for information and wouldn’t compromise an investigation.
"Are you with Torchwood?" A woman asked.
Ianto looked over at her. "Yes."
"The man flirting with your boss is Tedmond Lake. He's in charge of acquiring alien artifacts and technology."
"Who are you?"
"Miriam. I'm familiar with the facility." She took a moment. "The woman in her forties whose dressed like a desperate woman in her twenties is Albreda Starkie. She's an executive secretary." A beat. "Stilleman Caudell is officially a problem-solver. He's a thug in a suit."
"How do you know them?" Ianto wondered what he was missing.
"Research. The company made promises and then used me for a lab rat for years."
Ianto reached for his mobile.
Miriam sighed. "Please don't. I don't want to hurt anyone."
Ianto took his hand off the call button. "What do you want?"
"For Captain Harkness to take them all down. Terrorism charges would make them disappear into a UNIT facility. He has the contacts. They're well-connected and worth a lot of bribe money."
Gwen Cooper walked the scene wondering what wasn’t being said. The firefighters were cautious answering questions. They’d obvious seen something they didn’t want to admit to. One of the uniforms warned her about Moss-Probert but wouldn’t explain why. It reinforced the idea that the suits were damage control.
When she returned to the van, she had more questions than when they started. There was definitely a problem with the facility. Gwen needed to make calls about missing person statistics, and possibly call shelters for information on programs directed at the homeless.
"Andy spoke to a woman named Miriam," Gwen commented.
"She approached me." Ianto summarized.
"There is definitely alien technology. Some of the debris indicates bio-mechanical research.” Not something Jack wanted to see again. “At least one human modified with cybernetics would explain the damaged doors and the remains described by the firefighters.” Jack paused to think. “We need names and addresses of all Moss-Probert's facilities. I will contact UNIT about inspecting the other locations."
Hughes Flats; Cardiff, Wales
Anwen Williams reorganized her horse figurines on another boring afternoon. She could still picture the horse farm her mom took her to last spring. Beautiful, arrogant creatures. She held her small Arabian and smiled. One day she'd race across the countryside with her hair flying behind her. Her mother arranged a ride around the paddock. They only had English saddles. Western were cooler. Romantic nonsense, but she liked cowboys.
She watched old movies as her mom and dad thought the newer ones weren't age appropriate. A friend's parents let them watch Cowboys and Aliens. The ridiculous movie made her think of her mother's job. It was like a western. A wily gunfighter standing up against insane odds. Her friends thought she liked Daniel Craig because he was James Bond. She preferred Jake Lonergan.
Movies, and possible new movies, were forefront on her mind when she sensed him. An energy signature similar to her uncle's. The back door alarm should have sounded but hadn't. He was probably a friend of Jack's. Curious, and bored, she grabbed the alien lock-pick and small weapon she'd taken from her mom's collection. The building was as secure as her uncle could make it. Being able to defend herself was comforting somehow. Or maybe she'd watched too many westerns. She didn't want to be rescued.
Through the doors, and down the stairs, she wondered what the stranger was doing. If he was checking the security, that wasn't in the basement. Jack or mum would have called dad if there was a problem. She hesitated before entering the basement as it occurred to her that he might be an intruder.
If he was a threat, she justified they needed to know. The basement had dimmer light and smelled funny. She walked down the hall and approached the door. She used one device to unlock the storage door and gripped her weapon. With an outstretched hand, she opened it and stepped back out of view.
"Who's there?" Anwen hoped she sounded more confident than she felt.
"The tooth fairy." The man sounded amused.
Unsure what to say, she went with the first thing that came to mind. "Like in Hellboy 2?"
"Why are you here?" Anwen wondered aloud.
"Can you sense me?"
"You're a Time Agent," she decided, "Like Uncle Jack."
"Captain John Hart. I work for Torchwood."
"No." She should have called Jack. "You tried to kill my mum."
"A long time ago, Anwen. I work for Torchwood thirty years from now."
"The time changes. Why?"
"To prevent something bad from happening." Which made sense, if he was telling the truth.
"Why would you care? You threw Uncle Jack off a roof, and blew up half of Cardiff."
"Yeah. I met a woman who worked for Torchwood. She saved my life," John explained.
"I won't hurt you."
As crazy as it was, Anwen believed him. She stepped into the doorway. John Hart looked normal. Shorter than Jack with lighter hair, wearing business casual clothes, and an open wrist-strap. It reminded her of the one permanently attached to her wrist.
"Going to tell someone I'm here?"
"Depends." She held up her arm. "What does any of this have to do with me?"
He barely glanced at her. "It’s for future use. You weren't expected to figure it out for years. It’s dangerous right now."
She hesitated. "You can't stay here. Uncle Jack will find you."
John turned to her. "You need to be very careful. Don't talk to anyone outside of your family or Jack about any of this. The wrist-strap can save your life. But it can make you a target."
The really weird part was he sounded sincere. "What do you do for Torchwood?"
"I'm a mercenary. The head of Torchwood gives the orders. The general pays me."
She wasn't sure of the situation, but he wasn't telling her something. "What are you doing?"
"Adding a secondary security system. Check this out." He tapped the open computer panel and her wrist-strap chimed.
She opened it, and an automated voice said, "Testing building security."
"How do you have access?"
"We have remote connections to Torchwood Three,” John explained. “It allows us to communicate with the hub and each other, if needed."
"Torchwood situations can be unpredictable."
John Hart listened as her small footsteps retreated. Time travel was nothing new. Meeting a younger version of Anwen was different. The child reminded him of the women he knew: bold, curious, and self-assured. That world was gone, he reminded himself.
He reviewed the newest additions to the security system. The equipment had been sent back for the building. It would give him access to Jack's security. Anwen's presence made him wonder if he set off an alarm. Which could be problematic. If she reported him, he'd have to approach Jack and explained. A conversion he hoped to delay as long as possible.
With the upgrade complete, he headed home. The small dwelling had been part of the arrangement. He needed a place close by. Living in a flat meant neighbors who were more likely to notice oddities. The place was furnished nicer than many places he'd stayed over the years.
John entered through the kitchen door from the backyard, set his tool box next to the door and checked his security system. No problems. He started the coffee pot before returning his tools to the bedroom.
Selecting a mug from the cabinet above the pot reminded him of who coordinated the furnishings. The mug had a Mustang and a bad cowboy joke. The cookie jar next to the coffee pot looked like a pony. He wondered briefly about giving it to the girl. She'd enjoy it. It wouldn't remind him of what he'd lost. But her parents wouldn't understand. Convincing a ten year-old fascinated by Time Agents that he wasn't a threat was one thing. The Williams and Jack were another. John sighed, wondering how he would manage to keep it together when a stupid cookie jar bothered him.
Moss-Probert Corporate Headquarters; London, England
The spacious office inspired claustrophobia. Percy Heitt poured himself a drink. Listening to first hand accounts, and reading new reports left him tired. The facility was a total loss. The staff was dead. The research projects escaped.
A contact with the police department identified Miriam Morgans on-scene. Which more than suggested she was behind the destruction. Given her history of anger issues and problems with authority, it made more sense than any of the other projects. Except the research targeted psychic potential not intelligence. Everything they had on Morgans from her company aptitude tests to her public school academics said Morgans didn't have the knowledge or necessary skills. A government background check supported their assessment. The recruiters had specific criteria for research projects. They wanted people of average intelligence with no ambition nor leadership skills. The lost, broken and submissive were preferred.
Damage control was a priority. Reclaiming the projects was a necessity. Both would be problematic. The one silver lining was proof of successful enhancement. An autopsy would answer a lot of questions, and assist in recruitment for recreating the experiment. They needed to deal with the publicity and law enforcement first.
The door opened as Heitt returned to his desk. Albreda looked as tired as he felt. It had been a long day and would get longer. "Lake and Caudell are waiting."
Hewitt nodded. "Show them in."
Lake always reminded him of a chameleon. He could blend with any surroundings, often convincing people he had a charmed upbringing. Nothing could be farther from the truth. His social presentation was almost as impressive as his street skills. A useful sociopath.
Caudell had similar blending skills. The former military man followed orders and asked fewer questions.
"The situation is a disaster." Heitt said, trying to keep his anger in check. "How did Torchwood get involved?"
Lake sat forward in a chair across his desk. "The cybernetics project kicked in an impressive security door and crushed a security guard. The paramedics and medical examiner noted the extreme brutality," Lake said. "Torchwood was required to review the scene after a request was made. The bomb intentionally destroyed alien technology; it was found immediately."
Heitt nodded. "We need to limit the damage. Our facilities are being inspected. UNIT is involved."
"One of the scientists has a Middle Eastern grandmother. If we can connect her to terrorism, we can blame the research targeted by Torchwood on him. He passed a government background check. The blame would not be ours."
"Do it." A thought than occurred to him. "And reclaim the projects."
Torchwood Three; Cardiff, Wales
Gwen Cooper worked alone in the hub. She checked with Andy, followed up with police reports, and started reviewing location information. With no obvious police connection, she started to look at other information available. All of the corporate offices were on multiple mailing lists and shipping lists for medical and scientific equipment.
One caught her attention. Jack sent her undercover to a fertility clinic years ago. It required a lot of research, and more than one uncomfortable conversation with Owen. Certain medical equipment was used exclusively in reproductive medicine. None of the Moss-Probert facilities listed fertility research.
She started taking notes. One list was what the various facilities claimed to be researching. Another list was shipments and deliveries of medical and research equipment.
As she thought about undeclared research, an idea occurred to her. Illegal pot growers were often found when the police checked their electricity usage. An office building with an undeclared facility would also have unusual energy requirements. At first glance, it looked normal. Than she checked for generators. One of their buildings reportedly had state-of-the-art solar panels on the roof. An article had been done about it. Between the standard energy use and the reported out-put of the solar power, the office building used significantly more energy than similar buildings in the same area.
Moss-Probert Research Facility
"I have more information," Cory Lynch said, sounding exasperated. "The video I received showed a paramedic and two firefighters chasing a child through the woods. It makes me think of Bigfoot videos. Shaky, questionable. Witnesses say the child is feral. With extended canines and claws."
Jack turned the van, heading back to the facility. "Werewolf?"
"Yeah." Cory hesitated. "I overheard something months ago. Moss-Probert had an incident. A young woman from a wealthy family had a mental breakdown. She was traced to a homeless shelter. A Moss-Probert representative recruited her for a research study. Her family found out and demanded her return. The company claimed she left prior to the study. Two private investigators reportedly died trying to find her. She was found dead months later, conclusively identified and accidentally cremated before an autopsy could be performed."
"Can you send me the details?"
"Not really. It would lead back to me."
"Do I have to tell you to be careful?" Jack asked.
Cory chuckled. "I date older, wealthy, closeted men. I'm always careful."
"I wouldn't call that careful." Jack knew there was more to Cory’s behavior than he admitted. They met through an older man Cory dated. The relationship had been a lot more than he’d admit. When the man died, Cory’s view of everything, especially life, changed.
"It has it’s moments. But the presents are always worth it."
"I need to go." Jack turned onto the facility's drive.
"You owe me dinner."
“When I’m in London again.”
Cody ended the call.
Werewolf children had to be simpler, Jack thought as he climbed out of the van. The scene looked much different than it had earlier. An ambulance sat next to the remaining fire trucks. The few people he could see were near the vehicle and on alert.
"Captain Jack Harkness, Torchwood." He announced, walking up to the small group. "I understand there is a problem."
A young, female firefighter walked over with a touchscreen phone, and held it out for him to view a video. It did look somewhat like a Bigfoot chase. Three men chasing a child in shorts. They split up in an attempt to capture him. The child jumped from a tree and attacked a firefighter.
"All three had to go to the hospital. The man taking the video was taken to the department shrink." From her tone, she'd explained it a few times before and hadn't been taken seriously.
"Where was the child last seen?"
"Behind the facility."
"I have a tranq gun." Which was partially true. Jack headed back to the van, and retrieved the weapon before calling Gwen.
"Hey," Gwen said.
"Did MP provide the police a list of study participants?"
Jack explained about the child.
"Do we have silver bullets?"
Jack smiled. "Knowing the kid's name might help."
"I wish I could help. When you get back, we need to discuss MP."
Ianto Jones worked from Jack’s office reviewing hub changes. Scan readings indicated chronon readings throughout the facility. They had new maintenance equipment. More than one unused storage room had been converted. One was listed as his office. It supported the theory that Anwen’s wrist-strap came from future Torchwood. The question was why.
The alarm on the big door sounded. Jack was back. Ianto left the office, intending to share the new information with Jack. Except he wasn’t wearing his coat and had a torn shirt.
"Research survivor." Jack carried a heavily restrained child across the main floor toward the back hallway.
Ianto hurried down the steps, following Jack across the room. Knowing the injuries would heal didn’t lessen the concern. They still hurt. Jack was securing the child in a quarantine cell when Ianto caught up with him. The wounds had long since healed.
“We have upgrades,” Jack commented, shutting the door.
“So far most are in the maintenance section.” Ianto touched the damage shirt.
Jack took Ianto’s hand gently. “Do I have clothes in the apartment?”
The intercom switched on. "We need someone to review Moss-Probert’s medical equipment," Gwen said. "They have an undeclared bio-lab. The type needed for extremely dangerous infectious research. And a quarantine unit."
Torchwood London, 2044
Anwen Williams returned to her flat at Torchwood London wondering if she had the energy for dinner. One government leader said he didn't recognize the authority of Torchwood because he didn't believe in aliens or the Rift. A Middle Eastern ambassador refused to speak with a woman; she refused to give into to the misogynist arse. The other leaders, politicians and representatives also acted like small children. She was suppose to be arbitrating and negotiating, not babysitting a bunch of spoiled brats.
She smelled pot roast as she opened the door. It reminded her of coming home from school and dad cooking. She missed her parents, and silly conversations with Jack. After her mother died, Jack retreated. They still talked now and again, but it wasn't the same.
John was in the kitchen area connected to the main room. He waited until she crossed the room to respond. "No." He smiled. "I told Cynthia you were overworked and losing weight."
"Pot roast, vegetables from the vertical garden and a homemade pie."
His ability to charm people reminded her of Jack. A charming, mischievous rogue. Seeing him standing in her kitchen with dinner, made it hard to believe he'd pushed Jack off a roof, caused the deaths of two Torchwood people, and left her mum to die.
"I need to change."
"Cynthia dropped off your laundry this morning. The basket's on the bed."
Which explained how he charmed the head of housekeeping into making dinner. "Thanks."
Anwen changed and returned to the main room. John had already set the table. All she had to do was sit and eat.
"How was daycare?"
That brought her thoughts back to the table. "What?"
"The arbitration with the 'adult tantrums.'"
Anwen smiled. She'd forget she told him that the night before. "A bunch of wankers. A friend of Jack's told me during a break that one of the representatives said I'm the head of Torchwood because I'm shagging Jack."
John laughed, almost choking. "You did say it was the family business."
Anwen threw a roll at him and hit in the head. He threw it back. Anwen laughed. John caught it the second time. He moved around the table and jokingly threatened to crush the roll against her forehead. They laughed and kissed.
More importantly the day faded and the stress with it.
Anwen Williams woke and rubbed her face. "What time is it?"
John stepped into the bedroom. "1000."
Puzzled, she pushed herself up. The curtains were drawn, but she could see sunlight beyond them. "How?"
"I called your assistant at 0600 and told him your phone was off."
Anwen laughed. "What did you threaten to do to Langford if he woke me?"
"Nothing you want to know about."
"Did he ask why?"
"I told him you were indisposed."
"You didn't." She was still chuckling she climbed out of bed.
"No." John smiled. "He would have died of embarrassment."
"Yeah. I met Landford when I was twelve. His late wife watched me while my parents worked." She headed for the bathroom. "What time am I expected?"
She peaked her head back out the door. "I thought I had an appointment with a representative."
"Javed Halim insisted on speaking with Jack."
"For the best. Halim is an old school women-should-be-seen-and-not-heard type. Sudan is having trouble with extremists and he's in London seeking help because he pissed off Aman. Torchwood Nigeria is obviously closer." Anwen returned to the bathroom.
"Do you dislike the man?"
She didn't respond for a few minutes. "Oh yeah. The last time I dealt with him, I walked into the meeting carrying a puppy and set it on the desk."
John laughed. "What happened to diplomacy?"
"He angered Aman by making anti-gay comments and offering him a bride along the lines of conversion therapy." She sighed. "He was incapable of understanding how offensive he was. The puppy stated my case." She paused. "The man is an arse."
"I'd rather see your arse. Can I wash your back?
Anwen laughed. "We have a couple hours, right?"
Patty's Pub; London, England
Sunday, June 23, 2019
Percy Heitt focused on the situation from the passenger seat of a late model sedan borrowed from one of the employees. Albreda chose the location randomly. A seedy bar filled with low-end blue collar workers was the perfect cover as no one would know them.
Inconsistencies bothered him. Each of the subjects at the facility had extensive background checks and psychology testing. None should have been capable or even willing to rebel. The subject infused with alien metal forming a partial exoskeleton was broken to the point of subservience. He'd been chosen for that reason. Yet, he tore off doors and impacted one of the security guards in a concrete floor. Which suggested he formed a bond with Morgans. Something else the researchers should have noticed.
Albreda parked blocks away. She was uneasy about waiting in the car. He couldn't blame her. "Be careful."
Heitt nodded before climbing out of the car. The area was depressing. He walking passed the decrepit buildings and avoided eye contact with the derelicts. If he had his way, they would round up the lot of them. Military or research. Either way, they'd be useful. Allowing the homeless and wayward to congregate was a disgrace.
Inside of the pub was even worse. Dim lights did little to hide the grime. He ordered a bottle beer. He didn't trust anything that wasn't sealed. Then he found a table in the back away from the degenerates, and placed his back to the wall.
Arriving early gave him more time to think. Torchwood proved more complicated and competent than expected. They made connections they shouldn't have been able to make. The werewolf boy video and injured emergency workers was a nightmare. Which could have been contained with bribes and a careful media strategy except Captain Harkness found the subject and took him somewhere. Lake had an investigator searching for the boy. The extreme situation required an equally extreme response. They had to get Torchwood to back down and get out of the way. Which required leverage.
Once the local situation was resolved, they would quietly reopen their doors in an area without extradition treaties. Some would ignore the situation for varying reasons. Others would welcome them for enough money. They could lose all the real estate in the United Kingdom and stay afloat. But they needed their data. Having the projects alive was preferable, but dead worked. As long as they controlled all of it.
Heitt checked his watch. In less than an hour, he would be in the air headed for Russia. Moscow would work temporarily. The trip would even double as an alibi. But he had last minute details to attend.
Caudell entered the pub, ordered a beer at the bar and wandered over. The large, former military man looked at home anywhere. At the office, he wore expensive clothing and was polite, well-groomed and cultured. Whereas in a seedy pub, he wore cheap jeans, a t-shirt and work boots. Anyone looking at him would think he was a blue collar worker buying a beer on a day off. Or after working overnight.
"Did you review the information?" Heitt asked as Caudell sat across from him in the back of the pub.
"Yes." The younger man calmly folded his hands around a stein, seemingly uncaring his back was to a room full of degenerates.
"Can you do it?"
"Yes." He already had the team selected. "Two million."
Heitt knew it would come down to money. Taking on Torchwood was neither pleasant nor easy. "Agreed."
"See you in Russia."
Heitt stood and calmly walked from the bar. No one paid any attention. Albreda started the car as he climbed in.
"Is plan B in place?"
"Yeah," she said quietly.
Good, he thought. If Caudell failed, the building would be destroyed. Either way, Captain Jack Harkness would know the price of interfering.
Stilleman Caudell waited until Heitt left to motion over his team. He'd served in the military with Bevans, Wogan and Cranmmore. Palfrey was recommended by someone he trusted. Without a word, they claimed chairs around the table. As instructed, they dressed to blend. Other former military would notice.
Each had extensive experience in combat situations and had seen a lot worse than a decent apartment building in Cardiff with unusual security precautions. Once they confirmed the Torchwood team was not in the building or specifically Captain Harkness was not, it would be a pretty simple matter of getting through the adult or adults and grabbing the kids.
"We're doing this, sarge?" Wogan sounded nervous. No one listening would realize the kid survived two tours in the Middle East. In a war zone, he was frosty. Social situations were another story.
"Yeah. Heitt agreed." Caudell told them he was demanding a million instead of two. He had higher stands of living.
Bevans sat back and sipped his beer. He wasn't sure about the situation, but he wasn't backing out. Not unexpected. He was the oldest and had the most experienced in the group.
Palfrey nodded. "We have a lay-out of the building?"
Caudell brought up the blueprints on his tablet and handed it to Palfrey. "Only two occupied flats. Harkness lives on the fourth floor. The Williams live on the third."
"We're attacking Torchwood." Bevans sat forward. "We won't be able to stay in the UK when this is over. Do we have an extraction plan?"
"Yes." Caudell had multiple plans. Russia was not the only non-extradition country. Depending on how it went, they could leave several ways. Ideally, they would grab the kids, make the exchange, and board a plane at a barely maintained airstrip north of Cardiff.
"Any chance its a set-up?" Bevans asked.
Caudell had considered it. Percy Heitt was a self-serving asshole who would sell his mother to get ahead. He'd reviewed the situation from different angles. There were any number of complications. Heitt wouldn't benefit by screwing them. If he did sell them out, Caudell was prepared for that too.
En Route Sanatorium Park; Cardiff, Wales
"What do we know?" Jack Harkness drove the Torchwood van.
Gwen sat in the passenger seat using one of the modified tablets to remotely access the hub and Internet. "Not much. Teenagers walking in the park found what they believe was a body. They reported an alien probe eating it." That amused her. "Responding police officers assumed the kids were high. They still haven't ruled it out, but they did find what may have been a body with some type of metal thing embedded in it." She paused. "Padrig Toller, the senior constable, opted to call us instead of the morgue because the surrounding vegetation is dead."
"Have they considered it’s a bio-hazard?" A ghoulish display made more sense for Halloween.
"No. Karlen Bryn, the other constable, suspects it’s a prank. She’s worked security at universities for extra cash and says it looks like a student prank."
Jack doubted it. "Have they secured the area?"
"Yeah. Hold on." Gwen tapped the screen. "Toller is now reporting the tent placed over the remains is dissolving."
"Evacuate the park. Possible hazmat situation. Get a helo in the air for additional photographs." The police should have done it immediately. Bizarre situations in Cardiff hadn't been a secret for years.
Gwen grabbed her mobile from the charger. "Could this be a distraction, Jack?"
"Moss-Probert has called in favors, destroyed evidence, and there are no witnesses. I make progress on tracing one of their affiliate companies and suddenly we have a strange body."
"What would the distraction accomplish?"
Gwen held up her hands. "I don't know. Give them time to make evidence disappear?"
The scene was chaotic. Gwen Cooper wondered again if it was a distraction. It sounded like something out of a tabloid. Emergency workers had barricades up. Several police cars, two fire engines, and a morgue van. Two reporters were setting up equipment just outside the barricade. It would be a media circus before long.
"Torchwood," Jack announced to the officer at the nearest barricade. He smiled and the young man looked down and blushed. She shook her head slightly. Jack had that affect on people.
Gwen simply waved and picked up her pace to catch Jack as he crossed the grass. The remains were on a patchy grass area next to the River Ely. She could see why the kids described it as an alien probe eating a body. It looked like some out of a low budget horror movie.
Jack flipped open his wrist-strap after he stepped into the trees. "Scattered alien metal, a few broken devices and a malfunctioning miniature maintenance bot. Decay from the body suggests it came from a morgue."
"Distraction," Gwen concluded. "Can you deactivate the bot?"
Jack tapped his wrist-strap. "Tell the police it’s not dangerous, but will take hours to clean up. The park needs to stay closed."
"Why would Moss-Probert do this?"
"I don't know." Jack paused to think. "Call Andy. Tell him to monitor all emergency calls. Anything unusual or involving Moss-Probert, we need to know immediately."
Hughes Flats; Cardiff, Wales
Anwen Williams sat at the kitchen table watching an old western. She wanted to watch a new one, but that required figuring out how to get passed the child safety controls. She eyed her wrist-strap briefly. From watching her uncle, she knew it could control certain technology. She had no idea how it worked.
Then the back door alarm sounded. Anwen stood and hurried for her stash of weapons. It wasn’t long before her dad had his gun and mobile. His body language answered her question. Mom and Jack were across town.
Anwen stepped back into her bedroom and flipped open the wrist-strap. “John Hart.”
“Miss me?” He sounded puzzled.
“The back door alarm went off. It’s just dad and me.”
“Five minutes.” John disconnected.
John Hart entered through the back entrance using a key he made himself earlier. He paused, listening. His hearing was impressive, and he heard nothing. He went for the stairs. He paused to scan the building with the basic security equipment he installed earlier. There were five intruders. One in the stairwell. They were trying to manually unlock the apartment doors. They had no idea how the tech they used to enter worked.
She replied, "Someone is trying to break in."
"I need to talk to your dad?"
A moment passed.
"Who is this?"
“I’m John. I work for Torchwood London. Are you armed?"
He quickly explained the situation.
John headed for the stairs. The look out was on the second floor. John quickly disrupted their ear pieces. Then pulled a miniature stun grenade from his pocket, and tossed it up the stairs; it detonated. He un-holstered a gun. When he peered around the corner, the man wasn't dazed. A shot grazed his arm. He tossed a second grenade and instead of waiting, as he had before, he spun around the corner and caught the man preparing to withstand the grenade.
He climbed the stairs. The man was still alive. He shot him a second time point blank in the head. Then ran up the remaining stairs.
John could only assume they were biomechs although he had no idea how. With that in mind, he quickly jury-rigged two different types of grenades before opening the stairway door. He tossed them together, destabilizing the biomechs. It was messy, but solved the problem.
The Williams' third floor door was open when he reached it. John heard a shot before he stepped in. A man, dressed all in black, was backing toward the door. They'd both underestimated Rhys Williams.
"Shoot him in the head," John said. He hoped to interrogate the surviving one.
A shot sounded as he was crouching by the man he'd taken down. Rhys stepped out of the bedroom. He had a gun and blood on his clothes.
The man hesitated as he raised his arms. John knew the trick and fatally shot him. The result was instant, and horrifying. As he died, the man started to transform. A crunching sound and metal crashing followed.
“Get back in the room. Shut the door!”
John retreated quickly to the hallway.
"What happened?" Anwen asked over his wrist-com.
“Dead man’s switch.” John didn’t have time to explain. "Can you sense the creature by the door?"
"Uh." Anwen closed her eyes and concentrated. She could easily sense John. Then she realized what she was looking for was not an energy signature, but a negative area. "I can sense it. I don't know what it is."
"Throw it into the Rift."
"I don't know. I never asked." John sighed. "You can throw it into the Rift."
Anwen had a different idea. She focused on the Rift. She could sense its familiar, tingling energy. She channeled the energy into the nothing, and the Rift absorbed it. She lost her balance almost immediately, feeling dizzy and nauseous. "Is it gone?"
John quickly scanned the area. “Yeah.”
“I don’t feel well.”
“Rhys, you need to put her in the shower. As cold as you can get it.”
“Everything glows.” Anwen sounded high.
Hughes Flats; Cardiff, Wales
Not for the first time, Gwen Cooper wondered about the price of working for Torchwood. She usually loved it. Working with Jack, she'd seen both the amazing and the impossible. Security issues were always a concern. Hughes Flats should have resolved some of the problems.
Gwen's mobile rang. "Are you okay?" She could hear the shower running in the background.
Rhys sounded relieved. "The bloke you sent took out four of the five of them."
"From Torchwood London. He had a thing on his wrist like Jack."
The only other wrist-strap Gwen knew of belonged to John Hart. "What happened?"
"The front of our flat was destroyed. The floor looks solid. The wall between the flat and the hallway, the kitchen counter, the table, the carpet." He hesitated. "It looks like a very strange bomb went off."
"Jack's pulling into the car park."
Gwen couldn't get passed the wrist-strap comment as she climbed out of the van. She explained what Rhys said.
"I don't know."
Jack ran for the building and Gwen followed. They took the stairs instead of the lift. He paused to scan the body. "A biomech. The person who did this knew what they were doing."
"Another time agent?"
"According to John, there are only seven left." He believed that much. "John's the only one that would come here."
"Why would John save my family?"
"I don't know."
Gwen Cooper entered her flat and found Anwen on the floor with wet hair wrapped in a blanket. She looked up at her with tired eyes and a weak smile. Rhys hovered nearby, his clothing stained with blood. Only then did she remember Rhys saying the other man took out four of the five invaders.
"Are you up to telling me what happened?"
"It all started with the tooth fairy in the storage room…" Anwen tried recounting what happened as if it was a funny story. The humor didn’t reach her eyes.
Gwen listened, having trouble connecting the John Hart who tried to kill her and the one who saved her family.
"When we talked about drugs, you said addicts could do horrible things,” Anwen said. “It’s a sickness."
"If John went to one of those places, maybe he's not sick anymore."
Even recovering addicts had serious problems. The immediate question was why John cared. There had to be something in it for him, but she had no idea what. She could imagine it had to do with getting back into Jack's good graces. Ten years had passed for them. John moved through time so it could be weeks or months for him.
"How old does John look?"
"Jack's age, maybe. His hair is grayer."
"Was he wearing a red coat?"
Gwen stood and moved over to Rhys. He motioned her farther into the flat.
"What is it?"
"What exactly did John say to you?"
Rhys stopped to think. "He was from a Torchwood London."
"Remember the man I told you about who worked with Jack before Torchwood? He tried to kill me, shot Owen, threw Jack off a roof? His second visit he blew up half of Cardiff."
"John was here to protect Anwen. She asked him for help and he came."
Jack Harkness scanned the damage twice. Even with identical readings, he didn't believe what he was seeing. A creature that should have destroyed the building was taken by the Rift. While the Rift did remove people and items, it was random. This wasn't.
Jack looked up as Gwen stepped back into the hallway. She had an odd expression.
“It was John.” From her tone, that isn’t what concerns her the most. "Anwen can control the Rift."
Although Jack considered that unlikely, it fit the readings. Another thought occurred to him as he was trying to piece together what happened. He knew why Anwen’s wrist-strap looked familiar. It was a replica of John’s with a few modifications.
Near Hughes Flats
John Hart sat on the floor in his house. After all he'd seen, done, and survived, he thought he'd never feel again. The sex, alcohol and drug addictions had been an unconscious attempt to feel. None worked. He'd been angry and lashed out, blaming others for what was missing.
He held up the simple necklace with a gold ring. It looked braided on top. Simple and solid without adornment, like the woman it belong to. She had been many things to him. He chose peace for the inside engraving. It was the one thing no one else had ever given him.
With a sigh, he tucked it back under his shirt. She was gone. When the time changes started, the woman he knew and loved ceased to exist. If he lived to see her again, he would be too old, and the circumstances leading to their relationship couldn't be repeated.
Unable to handle the memories or pain, he forced himself to focus on the laptop and Stilleman Caudell's flash drive. It had unexpected information. Caudell had been hired to abduct Anwen. The goal was extortion. Security and alien tech details were minimal. The building blueprints came from the city and included what floor and flat the Williams lived in. Which could have been determined from utility records. The result of shooting Caudell appeared to be secondary. He doubted Moss-Probert knew the consequences of what they intended.
Anwen's ability was unknown to them. Even after destroying the creature, they should have assumed Jack's defenses did it. Although, he couldn't guarantee it. If they figured it out, the next attempt on Anwen would be a power grab.
The gaps and inaccuracies suggested the information wasn't firsthand. The psychological profile on Jack was hilarious. Egomaniac and sex-crazed. His immortality was reduced to fast healing. Caudell either suspected a set-up or alternatively Moss-Probert wanted to plant information. Which could mean the profile was intended to be insulting. Either way, one of them expected Torchwood to act on it. It wouldn't take much to determine whether MP would benefit from it. That would tell him the intel's purpose.
After improving Jack's security net, and his own, he could work on the MP problem. It helped that Anwen had a tracking device. Jack had changed a great deal since the days they worked together. But his methods were much the same. It meant he knew where Anwen was all the time.
Hughes Flats; Cardiff, Wales
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Gwen Cooper stepped through the roof access door. Jack stood where she expected watching the sunrise. He had one foot up, meaning he was thinking. Anwen asked more than once about Jack and roofs, and Gwen didn't know how to explain Jack's ego to her daughter. Like a King, Jack surveyed his land. She closed the door quietly behind her. he held out a hand toward her as a gesture without turning his head. She joined him. The familiar lights and sounds of early morning Cardiff were relaxing.
"Andy called." Gwen took a moment. "The peasants are restless. Tedmund Lake is dead. Dr. Guenevere Floyd, the medical examiner, asked to speak in person. Six Moss-Probert employees, including Lake, have been killed since the facility was destroyed. Thirty years of pathology experience and Floyd isn't sure how they died." Gwen shook her head.
Jack set an arm over her shoulders. "How are you holding up?"
"I don't know. Anwen has changed.” Gwen sighed. “I don’t know how to explain."
He gave her a gentle squeeze.
She leaned into it. "Why is any of this happening?"
"A future head of Torchwood opted to change time to prevent a situation she couldn't solve."
He was keeping something from her. Anytime she started asking questions, she felt like Jack, Ianto, and even her daughter were hiding something. "What does that have to do with Anwen?"
"Knowing about the future…"
"Stop it." She wanted answers. "Tell me!"
"Anwen made the changes. Anwen in the future."
Gwen couldn't believe she hadn't seen it. As crazy as it sounded, it made sense. Everything except John.
Mae'r Chwaer Hyll
Unsure of how else to contact John, Jack Harkness made arrangements through Anwen. John reluctantly agreed and named a time and place. He sounded different. Time had passed since his last visit to Cardiff and something changed him. The question was what could have affected him that much.
The pub was busy on a Saturday afternoon. Pool balls clashed on one side of the room. Televisions murmured in one corner and over the bar. Jack walked around tables full of happy, noisy people.
John Hart sat in the back where he expected him. His clothes were similar to what showed in the building's CCTV footage. He was eating dinner and drinking water. He looked up from his tablet a moment before switching it off.
"Which speech am I getting first?" He sounded amused. "Breaking into your house? Talking to your niece? Or violating territory?" John sipped his water. That sounded more like the man he knew.
"Moss-Probert." Jack sat across from him.
"Down to business. MP is a corporation involved in genetic engineering. Torchwood policy changed at some point from arresting the scientists to executing them. Countries quietly hunted them for knowledge and experience in combining contemporary and alien technology for military purposes."
"And you just know that?"
"One of the varied duties Torchwood assigned involved soldiers. Having been one yourself, you sympathized with the conscripted. I hunted them." John sipped water. "There was nothing anyone could do except put them down."
Jack suspected there was a lot more to it. "What did Torchwood offer?"
"Varaxi crystals. Boxes came through the Rift. The general paid me two an assignment. Except MP soldiers.” John smiled. “I expected hazard pay."
Jack laced his fingers together. "Two crystals an assignment?"
John’s smiled broadened. "The general offered two originally and lied about how much he thought they were worth. To make me think I was conning him."
It sounded plausible. "What country?"
"None. He was in charge of Earth's space defense." John’s humor faded. "Something changed. Earth was at war with itself and aliens. Torchwood believed they came through the Rift originally from another time line or universe, and determined when they started affecting Earth. It was necessary to combat the influence. Which is why they needed me."
Jack knew he was missing something. "How did Torchwood recruit you?"
"The general used recovered alien technology and scans of your vortex manipulator to abduct me. He then offered me the crystals in exchange for an assignment."
"He's someone I know."
"How is Anwen involved in this?"
"She's the head of Torchwood in 2049. It’s different than it is now." John hesitated. "This isn't a conversation we should be having."
"Anwen sent back a malfunctioning wrist-strap and you to protect her?"
John shook his head. "Except it isn't malfunctioning. Anwen knew how her ability would manifest. After her younger self knew how it worked, she'd make a bad target."
Jack knew John wasn't telling him everything. The pronounced change made him wonder more than Torchwood bribing him with a king's ransom. "What happened to you?"
"I almost died. A Torchwood woman cleaned me up and dried me out. Cliche romance."
"Where is she now?"
John looked at the table, the pain written across his face. "She's gone."
There were still pieces missing. John was a mercenary for Torchwood. They paid insanely. Then he met a woman, fell in love, and was trying to honor her. He'd be there ally while the guilt and the pain lasted. Or rather he'd follow Torchwood 2049 orders while it lasted.
Moss-Probert Office; Moscow, Russia
Percy Heitt reviewed reports at his desk in the new office. The building and neighborhood left much to be desired. The noisy downstairs neighbor was a wannabee record producer with an odd assortment of clients. Directly across from the wannabee was a modeling agency that either promoted porn or was a low rent escort agency. Whichever the case, the situation was mortifying.
The botched abduction attempt was a bigger headache. Caudell had a five man team including three biomechs. Captain Harkness and his paramour were across town. An unknown person or persons took out Caudell and the creature that should have destroyed the building. The police report claimed Rhys Williams and an unspecified guest of Harkness defended against the home invasion. Which wasn't possible. Scan readings of the building indicate the creature was transported into the Rift. Harkness was reportedly afraid of opening the Rift which meant someone else was involved. Except there was no evidence of another person.
He could only conclude there was a problem with his information, including two unknown Torchwood agents in Cardiff. Which made him wonder how several sources were inaccurate. The extra agents had unexpected knowledge and skills. He needed better information.
Heitt reached for the phone. There was a party planner who was very good at coordinating fundraisers. A wine tasting or an art gallery showing would work as a cover. Both for those in favor of the company's various projects and those who traded in information. It would be worth the expense.
Sanatorium Park; Cardiff, Wales
The general approached the constable manning the barricade. He held up Torchwood London credentials and the man moved. The lack of questions made life easier. Although he gave himself a contemporary profile, no one knew him. If they ran a DNA scan that would be more complicated.
Away from the constables, he flipped open his wrist-strap. The device had been modified from his grandfather's, and quickly produced a holographic layout of the park and the various artifacts. Moss-Probert had a self-centered approach to alien technology. If they could make it work, and it was useful, they used it. Otherwise, they discarded. Often with little regard to the consequences.
The miscellaneous alien trash could provide information, if one knew what they were looking for. A device near the river, away from the staged body scene, was of particular interest. He crouched down and brushed the dirt off of it. While it was little more than a broken doorknob, where it came from interested him. Readings indicated a tag from the former Torchwood office in Nigeria. MP's connection to that office, and the arse in charge of it, were years in the future. Or should have been.
He stood, wondering. Aman Oliveira was forty-seven in 2049. While it wasn't impossible that the current seventeen year-old version gained power early, aided by the changes made in time, he doubted it. They suspected Oliveira fled through time with stolen Torchwood information. Possibly with Jack's help. With neither the knowledge or technology necessary to establish early, he hadn't expected much. The psychic hadn't agreed with that assessment. He suspected she'd been right. Not surprising as she'd been right about almost everything.
Forest Farm, Nature Reserve; Cardiff, Wales
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Sunlight filtered through the trees on a beautiful afternoon. Miriam Morgans sat with her back to Thomas reviewing information on her laptop. Even sitting in a park felt odd. Moss-Probert not only gave her a horrific ability, they changed her in ways she hadn't figured out yet.
"Are you all right?" Thomas asked.
"Yeah. I'm still thinking about the post-disaster revision of my file." The incident report she found on the MP network said the researchers didn't understand anymore then she did. While she lied about her IQ and academic potential, neither explained her new tactical and strategic skills. The only theory provided was that the psychic enhancement which resulted in her ability affected the rest of her mind. The researchers believed her personality change was evidence of brain damage. When reassessed with updated information, the reviewer concluded it was part of the enhancement process and suggested they would be unable to control any successfully enhanced subject.
Thomas lightly touched her upper arm with his hand and then withdrew it as if having second thoughts.
Miriam set the laptop aside and leaned back. "What are you afraid of?"
"I don't want to hurt you."
He made an unhappy noise.
"You rescued a very breakable elderly woman from a car accident. You know your strength."
After a moment's hesitated, he slid his hands over her shoulders and hugged stiffly.
Miriam laughed. "Are you expecting me to object?"
"I am not used to this."
"No crazy, bossy women in Mumbai?"
"There are." He was amused. "They never noticed me."
She ran her hands over his arms around her. The smooth metal over the back of his arms was always cold. His hands weren't completely covered and his skin were warm. "I notice you."
He set his chin on top of her head. "Why do we stay? We could find a tropical island and be Robinson Crusoe."
"Moss-Probert has to burn. I have to see it through."
"Why?" He was finally relaxing against her.
"MP targets people who can't, for whatever reason, stand up for themselves. I was an accident the recruiters and scientists won't repeat. I have to stop them." The reviewer concluded Thomas' rebellion was based solely on her influence and if they separated them, MP could easily control him. Which meant two things. She had to be incredibly careful not to dominate him which was difficult as it wasn't intentional and she needed to burn MP to the ground and kill anyone who could resurrect it so they couldn't either.
"You found another facility?"
"A fertility clinic in Manchester. Injections, harvesting, fertilization and implantation."
"Yes and no." Miriam checked her watch. "Three hours. We need to go. We need to get there during lunch before the day staff returns."
Thomas hesitated. "What do you want me to do?"
"Take out doors." Miriam tapped his arms to be released. "I don't want you anywhere near the facility when Torchwood arrives." She stood.
"I should stay with you."
Moss-Probert Affiliated Research Facility; Manchester, England
Gwen Cooper wondered about the situation. The unusual threat against the facility resulted in a quick connection between the fertility clinic and the destroyed former hospital. Miriam's intention, if she was behind the attacks on Moss-Probert, appeared to be statements directed at Torchwood.
Jack parked the van outside the barricades. "Captain Harkness of Torchwood." Normally, the police would expect ID. Most had heard of Jack and his vintage clothes. The officer moved the barricade to let them pass.
"Why would someone pool almond extract in the air circulation system?" Gwen sounded puzzled.
"Cyanide smells like almonds."
"Fake terrorism. The note on the door. The emergency services call. What is she playing at?"
"A terrorist threat generates a lot of attention. She wanted us to see something." Jack tapped his ear piece. "Ianto, did you listen to the emergency call?"
"Yep. It sounds like Miriam. At the hospital she said she didn't want the bystanders getting hurt."
"A considerate terrorist," Gwen commented wryly.
"Different motivation,” Jack explained. “Her issue appears to be unethical research. She's trying to rescue people. She doesn't expect the police or the government to shut down the research."
"Have you checked missing person, Ianto?"
"Yep. No match."
Jack didn't think that meant much. "A missing, homeless adult could be ignored."
"Did you find a connection to Moss-Probert?" Gwen asked.
"Vaguely. They use the same service providers and suppliers. Based on your utility assessment, they use more power than similar fertility clinics in the UK. I will compile lists of equipment and listed facilities."
She followed Jack into the building. It definitely smelled like almonds. She couldn't help but picture a cookie commercial. Elven terrorists.
Jack crouched by a security door. Like MP's hospital facility, it had been smashed in. He scanned it with his wrist strap.
"What could do this?"
Jack stood. "An android. Or someone with full body cybernetics."
"I don't understand the woman. She could knock the building down with this technology."
Jack reconsidered scan data. "It’s not a weapon but a modified human. Which fits with some of the debris at the hospital."
"Another survivor from the hospital explosion?"
Jack Harkness stopped in the doorway to the second floor lab and stared in horror. He was looking at something he hoped he would never see again. Even with the local technology mixed with the alien, he knew what it was. And why Miriam wanted them to see it.
"What is this?"
"A biomechanical soldier lab."
"Like the Borg?"
"Yeah." Which possibly explained the man who beat down the security door. "It starts with experiments on combining adult humans with technology. This facility is for genetically designing people better able to adapt to biomechanical enhancement."
After a building walk-through, they returned to the van. Jack hoped the connection Anwen had to John also worked for him. "John Hart."
"Jack?" John asked a moment later. He sounded surprised.
"We need to talk."
John hesitated. "Why?"
"There is a functional second gen biomech lab with technology similar to Aloxixon II in Manchester."
"That's not surprising."
"Who is Miriam?" Jack asked.
"Miriam Morgans is one of Moss-Probert's test subjects. And future Torchwood. Avoid her."
Gwen waited until he closed his wrist strap. "What are we doing with the lab?"
Jack motioned out the window. "UNIT is handling it."
"Will they destroy it?"
He could only hope.
Torchwood Three; Cardiff, Wales
When Ianto Jones realized the changes extended beyond maintenance, he started looking for them. Quarantine, cell enhancements, cold storage, and hub defenses really made him wonder. A second bedroom and a kitchen dining area had been added. When he tried viewing the changes as puzzle pieces, he realized the future was probably preparing for multiple events that hadn’t happened yet.
He stood in his office wondering why he needed two desks, a work bench and a ballistic cage in the corner. If anything he’d learned working for Torchwood, the answers would be hard to find. Either Jack received a latter he hadn’t found or shared or the person making changes didn’t think they needed to know. That level of arrogance suggested Jack was responsible.
An unfamiliar computer chime sounded. “Hi, Ianto.” The voice was soft and unfamiliar. “I heard so many Ianto Jones stories over the years. The man with the impossible tasks of managing Torchwood Three without a support staff, and keeping Jack Harkness out of trouble. Neither would I wish on anyone.” She took a moment. “You have the unfortunate distinction of being the only survivors of the Cyberman attack on Torchwood London that stayed with Torchwood.” She paused. “People often underestimate the quiet heroes. The ones who face insane odds with the wrong skill-set. No matter how bleak it gets at times, your contributions are necessary and appreciated.” She paused. “Jack loves you. He can’t be the person you want him to be. I know what it’s like to love a man I will never understand. It’s maddening at times.” She gives it a moment. “But the one thing that can be said about Jack is he can and has gone through hell for those he loves.”
Torchwood London, 2047
Miriam Morgans knocked on the door frame to the upstairs lounge. Normally, she would have avoided an intrusion. But the situation couldn't wait. She'd discovered something that made her question her dedication to Torchwood.
Steven Carter looked up from his coffee and tablet. "What happened?"
Miriam crossed the room and stopped in front of the table. She handed him a tablet computer with what she'd discovered. The rumors varied about their relationship, including sexual gossip. She considered him a friend under most circumstances.
He accepted and started reading.
"Why does Torchwood have a biomech lab?" She couldn't believe it when she first found the information. She reviewed it three times before searching for confirmation.
Steven looked up. "We don't."
"Yes we do. Torchwood Nigeria has a fully operational lab. I spoke to someone in the office. They are producing biomechs with local volunteers."
"Aman Oliveira is in charge of Torchwood Nigeria." A beat. "Anwen did not authorize a lab."
Miriam took a moment to calm herself. "Do I need to mention what I will do to that lab, Oliveira, and anyone remotely involved, if its not dismantled?"
Interrupting Anwen could be an experience. Steven Carter told Langford Talbot, her assistant manning the door, that it was urgent. Reluctantly, Talbot stepped into the office.
Anwen stepped into the hallway a few minutes later. "What is more important than the Prime Minister complaining about Torchwood?" She asked quietly.
Steven explained Miriam's visit and the information she provided.
"Call Jack. We need to meet, assess and prepare a tactical plan. If Oliveira has a biomech lab, he's a dead man."
"Yeah." Steven already knew that but hearing her say it made it worse. Oliveira and Jack had been friends and occasional lovers for around twenty years.
Emergency family conferences were few and far between. Anwen Williams opted to hold the meeting in her flat. Steven walked into the main room looking apprehensive. It wasn't going to be a pleasant conversation. She'd had more time to review the information Miriam provided and contact her own sources. Oliveira's list of offenses exceeded Miriam's report.
"At the stables with a bag of apples." Anwen smiled. "I told him we were having a family meeting. He took the bag without a complaint."
A knock sounded on the door moments before it opened. Jack entered looking tired. There had been an alien situation the night before. His appearance said more about it than the report. "What's the emergency?"
The amusement disappeared. She explained, "We received information that a Torchwood office is operating a biomech lab."
Whatever Jack expected, that wasn’t it. "How solid is the information?"
"Very. I confirmed it through sources." She motioned toward the small table.
"No." Jack objected.
"We're waiting for satellite pictures. Once we have specifics, we will coordinate a response."
Jack was adamant. "The information is wrong."
"I wish it was." Anwen sighed.
"Who are you sending?"
"Morgans' team," Steven said.
"No." Jack said. "She will kill everyone."
Anwen said. "Jack, Aman has a biomech lab. He's creating an army."
"There is another explanation." Jack paused. "Who found the lab? John?"
"No," Anwen emphasized. "Miriam found the lab. John had nothing to do with it."
Jack stood. "I will talk to Aman."
Steven stood. "No special treatment."
"Aman would not betray Torchwood," Jack said adamantly.
When Jack took a swing at Steven, Anwen flipped own her wrist-strap. "John Hart."
"I need your help."
"Jack and Steven." Anwen exhaled. "Get back here. Bring a stun or tranq."
Anwen moved away from the argument. She'd never seen Jack angry enough to swing at someone. But she'd never had to execute one of his friends.
Minutes later when John entered, he aim a stun gun and hit Jack and Steven with pellets. They both hit the floor. "Which one's the problem?"
John removed zip ties from his pocket. "What happened?"
"Aman has a biomech lab."
John swore, moving over to Jack's prone form. He was already coming around when zip-tied his hands in front of him. He restrained his feet next.
He then moved over to Steven and removed a vial from his pocket.
"What is that?" Anwen asked.
"Nanogenes. It will heal him faster." The yellow cloud left the vial and flowed over Steven.
Jack was groaning. "What did you do?"
"Just a bit of bondage."
"Anwen," Jack said.
The nanogenes returned to the vial.
"No bondage for you."
Steven was not amused.
Anwen's mobile chimed. She checked the message. "When you're done flirting, we have a situation to discuss."
"What happened?" Steven stood.
"Someone tipped Aman off. He's mobilizing."
John walked over to Anwen. "Oliveira is a zealot. Have you considered he created the lab for Torchwood?"
Anwen looked at John, trying to wrap her mind around that concept.
"Fighting biomechs is getting harder and harder. We've lost fifteen people this year already. In an area where people are struggling to protect their families from human problems, nevertheless alien, the volunteers would line up. Even knowing the risks." John paused. "It could give them a chance to fight back against warlords and the environment."
"You listen to him and not me." Jack found that incredulous.
Anwen walked over to where Jack was still restrained. "What John's saying explains why. It doesn't justify it or change the outcome. We agreed. You agreed. All labs come down. All those response go down with them."
"What would my mother tell you to do?"
Jack closed his eyes and laid his head back.
Cardiff Police Station; Cardiff, Wales
Thursday, June 27, 2019
Gwen entered the police station remembering the first time she’d seen Jack there. It felt like a different life time. She’d seen her first Weevil and thought it was a costume until it killed someone. It wasn’t so much years as miles. The young patrol who’d never used a gun had come a long way.
“Gwen Cooper with Torchwood,” she told the young woman behind the front desk. “I need to speak with the constable in charge of the Moss-Probert investigation.”
“DI Goreu Sayer.” The constable grimaced. “Have you met him?”
“He’s a dinosaur.” She wrote down his name and where to find him. “He doesn’t believe women should be in law enforcement.”
Gwen had met the type. Most were older men who had been on the force for decades. They didn’t like change. “Thanks.”
Finding Sayer was easy enough. Multiple cliches behind a ridiculously organized desk. He was a balding, overweight man in his late fifties in a mismatch suit eating a donut.
“DI Sayer.” Gwen reminded herself again to watch her tone regardless. “I’m Gwen Cooper from Torchwood.”
His expression said he didn’t care.
“Captain Harkness needs information. Torchwood is handling the bizarre aspects, including the Sanatorium Park situation. I sent in reports. He needs then information from this side of the investigation.”
By the time she left with a flash drive, provided by a young, female constable who looked ready to quit, she was happy to be leaving the police station. The odious man was a lawsuit waiting to happen.
“Mrs. Williams.” An older woman stopped her in the hallway. “I’m Dr. Floyd, the medical examiner. Do you have a few minutes?”
“Yes.” Gwen wondered, “Is there a problem?”
“Walk with me.”
The doctor led her to a small, unused room in the back. She shut the door. “I know what caused the Moss-Probert deaths.” She hesitated. “When I worked for Doctors Without Borders, I found myself assisting an investigator from The Hague. He was in Kenya looking at the body of a man associated with a warlord. I don’t remember which one. A group of Russians were accused of war crimes. The investigator thought it was evidence of a new form of torture.” Dr. Floyd closed her eyes. It was definitely not a pleasant memory. “The man was a poacher. The Russian defectors run a nature preserve and only target trespassing poachers.”
“You’re saying one of the Russians killed the MP employees.”
“No. I’m saying Moss-Probert created a psychic capable of killing people by destroying a part of the person’s brain.”
Gwen stared at the doctor. “You’re certain?”
“Unfortunately.” Dr. Floyd paused. “I blame Moss-Probert for creating the psychic because of who the psychic is targeting. If I get a body in the morgue and someone obliterated his genitalia, I can reasonably assume he raped someone.”
Gwen entered Jack’s office. He sat at his desk with his sleeves rolled up and his coat on the rack in the corner.
“I spoke with the DCI in charge of the Moss-Probert situation. As it’s getting out of hand, a team has been assembled. He’s an old school fetch-me-coffee-type. He wasn’t going to take me seriously. I implied I was your secretary and running your errands.”
“Both suspects and potential victims are deemed dangerous to police. He may call you to make sure it’s not hysterics.”
Jack grinned. “Secretary? You could sit on my desk and take notes.”
“Someone pointed out, as I was walking away, that he shouldn’t have insulted a woman carrying a gun.” Gwen failed to keep the stern expression.
“The government liaison is former military. He’ll have fun with her.”
The humor was short lived. “Dr. Floyd approached me at the station. She wanted to speak in person because she knows how the MP people died.” Gwen paused. “They were killed by a psychic.”
“What’s it based on?”
“Personal experience.” Gwen explained.
Jack sat back, obviously thinking. “We need a doctor.” He reviewed the applicants sent from London and didn’t like the candidates.
“Dr. Floyd is still coming to terms with what she saw in Africa.”
Jack stood and walked over the large windows overlooking the main floor. He held out his hand. Gwen walked over and he set an arm around her shoulder. “It’s too quiet.” Jack paused. “We have been officially ordered to restaff.”
Gwen looked up at him. “You follow orders?”
“Depends on the orders.”
She leaned against him. “I can picture staff orientation. Announce yourself when entering the hub, if the lights are out. Otherwise you could walk in on something.”
“We’re not that bad.”
Dealing with bureaucrats and law enforcement required patience and diplomacy. Hiring a community liaison to coordinate with the government appealed. Jack paused in the hallway outside his flat and steadied himself. Ianto was expecting him and making dinner.
“Honey, I’m home,” Jack closed the door behind him.
“That’s bad.” Ianto was at the stove making stir fry.
Jack took Ianto’s hips with hands and pressed himself lightly to his back while lightly blowing on his ear.
“Distract me and dinner will burn.”
“Can I distract you after dinner?” Jack kissed Ianto’s neck.
He hit the top of Jack’s head with a pot holder. “Please set the table.”
Jack found the dishes and set them out. He arranged them next to each other instead of across the table. Dinner was soon done. Ianto filled plates and mugs.
Jack leaned on the counter as Ianto filled the dishwasher. “Movie?”
“Chose one? I have a couple calls to make.” Jack headed for his office.
With the information Ianto pieced together, he contacted law enforcement about the locations in Belfast, London and Edinburgh. Each assured him they would keep the information as quiet as possible and see about search warrants. Belfast law enforcement already suspected something was wrong with the facility which made for a quicker response time.
Mara Tierney, his contact in Belfast, answered on the first ring. “Jack,” she said happily, “We got them. Your information gave enough for a basic warrant. They were holding fifteen undocumented women. On the basis of immigration violations, we have two dozen warrants. We’re dismantling everything.”
“Eventually. Right now we will hit them with every petty thing we can and build a case as we go.”
“Good to hear. Make sure your people are careful. They have soldiers on a lot worse than steroids.”
The humor faded. “We know. The holding facility for the women was hit an hour after we transported them there. Security had to get creative. We lost two Garda. But we know how to fight them.” The humor crept back. “We’re Irish. We can fight anything.”
The conversation with Edinburgh went a little different. Camron Doak answered after a few rings.
“How’d it go?”
“Pooched.” Doak was not happy. “The search warrants were issued but not kept quiet. No one took my warnings seriously. MP tried packing before our people got there.” He hesitated. “Five dead, eight wounded. Their steroid freaks tore up the place. Three traumatized women were rescued after the wankers set the building on fire.”
Jack hadn’t known what to say. He felt bad, but he couldn’t be responsible for others not taking his advice.
London hadn’t acted yet. He insisted that Jenna Sukarno contact Belfast and Edinburgh for additional information.
Ianto peaked in after the conversation with Sukarno. “Everything all right?”
“Belfast saved fifteen women.”
Forest Farm, Nature Reserve; Cardiff, Wales
Miriam Morgans enjoyed the simple quiet. She walked, her fingers entwined with Thomas’. The scents and sounds of nature surrounding them. It was possible to forget for awhile what had been done to them. Thomas stopped next to a large tree and pulled her to him. He was hesitant, worrying he would misjudge his strength and seriously injure her. She tilted to her head up to meet his gaze and lips as she trailed her finger tips over his face. She wanted more than kisses and nervous caresses.
“We should find a tropical island,” Thomas said softly in the dim moonlight. “Moonlit walks along the beach…” He stopped mid sentence and listened.
Miriam knew without asking. They weren’t alone. Unless another pair of trespassing lovers were in the area, Moss-Probert found them. She concentrated. They were masking themselves from her. But not for long.
Without warning, Thomas lifted her and started running. The first explosion barely missed them. The second destroyed a tree, sending splinters in all directions.
She focused as she could on their pursuers while Thomas ran. It was just a matter of getting passed how they were concealing their minds.
Thomas tripped and shifted, trying to avoid landing on her as he fell. An explosion hit the ground knew them. Thomas covered her as the wave his them. He groaned slightly, but she could smell blood. He’d been hit.
Enraged, she focused on whatever part of them she could find. If she could find them, she could hurt them. With concealed minds, she couldn’t kill them quickly, but she could still kill them. Screams rose into the night as she ripped their flesh. A bullet grazed her arm revealing the shooter. She targeted him and his heart exploded. Another shot missed. Another target acquired. She strode through the woods as men twice her size ran for their lives.
When there were no more to kill, she returned to Thomas. His injures were worse than she’d hoped. She tore his hoodie into pieces and patched his wounds as best she could. All the while plotting her revenge.
Near Forest Farm, Nature Reserve
John Hart heard the police over his scanner and understood what the locals did not. Someone was dumb enough to send someone after Miriam Morgans. He’d seen firsthand what the woman was capable of. She could lay waste to an army. What the police were describing suggested something set her off. The Miriam who served as the general’s right hand preferred to kill her targets quickly and mercifully. He’d heard stories of what she’d done to an alien force after they injured the general. It sounded similar.
“Who are you?”
“Captain John Hart, Ms. Morgans. I work for Torchwood.”
“Why are you here?”
“The police reports from the area. Has someone been injured?”
Miriam moved around so he could see her. “How do you know me?”
“I work for future Torchwood. You’re legendary.”
She crossed her arms. The petite woman with the pixie face looked harmless in the dim light.
“I have healing technology. If your friend can be saved, they will heal him or her.” The Chula nanogenes had saved his life more than once. Never indirectly.
“I believe you. For now.” A beat. “Can your tech save a human with biomechanical augmentation?”
Thomas was injured. John had heard of him. He’d been described as her conscience more than once. “Yeah.” According to the stories, he was killed in battle and she went on a rampage through an enemy stronghold.
“If you know of me, you know what I’ll do if you harm him.”
Better than you do.
Thomas was a large, dark-skinned man. John guessed he came from India. He leaned against a tree. His cybernetic enhancements were blatant, evidence of early experimentation. Except the metal looked alien.
“Evening.” He had a faint accent. Moss-Probert was known for using immigrants and the homeless for test subjects.
“I can heal your injuries. I need to adjust the technology.” John crouched next to him and flipped open his wrist strap.
“Yeah.” John removed a vial of nanogenes from his inner coat pocket. He carried mostly for personal use.
“We’re not going back to a lab.”
“No.” John set the glowing yellow swarm of nanogenes against his skin. “There is a safe haven in Africa for psychics with Ms. Morgans ability level. It will take some effort for her to arrange. You will be safe there.”
“They will accept a monster?”
“You’re not a monster.”
Thomas held up one of his hands, the metal reflecting in the moonlight.
“When I was an addict I attempted to kill the closest friend I’ve ever had. He made me mad.” Memories that would haunt him forever. “I lied, manipulated him and hurt people he cared about for money. People died.” The nanogenes returned to the vial. “Which one of us is the monster?”
Near Hughes Flats
John had reservations about bringing them to his house. Both because he didn’t know much about Miriam before she joined Torchwood and it was so close to where Anwen lived. There weren’t a lot of options. The important part was keeping Miriam out of trouble and getting her to the refuge in Africa as soon as possible.
“This is a Torchwood safe house?” Miriam called from the bedroom.
“Miriam,” Thomas chided quietly, looking apologetic.
“Its a dump.”
The Cardiff office is a sewer, John thought with a smile. Sewer chic, that’s how he’d described it the first time he’d seen it. “I wasn’t expected to have company.”
Thomas assured, “It is something for now.”
“When did you eat last?” John asked.
Miriam walked back to the kitchen. “A few hours.”
That was one less problem. “There is one bathroom. The bedroom door needs to stay open.”
“I need a shower.”
“The hot water makes a creaking sound before it runs out.”
Miriam groaned, disappearing again.
“We appreciate it.” Thomas sat at the small table while he set up the coffee pot.
“Not an issue.”
After the door closed and the water started, Thomas asked, “Why are you really sending us to Africa?”
John listened for Miriam. She was in the shower. “Miriam is full of anger. Sooner or later, she will run out of Moss-Probert targets,” he explained. “The refuge in Kenya is safe. It’s run by psychics. They understand anger and coming to terms with being demi-gods.”
“Why do you care?”
With a sigh, John sat across from Thomas. “I made a promise.”
“She must be an impressive woman.”
Hughes Flats; Cardiff, Wales
Friday, June 28, 2019
Jack Harkness lay in bed, with one arm behind his head and the other around Ianto. He slept with his head on Jack’s shoulder. The night went without an argument. They were settling back into a routine. Which would last for awhile. Jack lightly brushed his finger tips over Ianto’s back. Their relationship was the longest Jack ever had. Despite the ongoing conflict, it was a commitment he never expected to make.
Jack wrist-strap chimed, and he flipped it open.
“Uncle Jack.” Anwen sounded tired, “I received a Torchwood notification. Rift activity.”
Jack again wondered why she was getting the messages instead of him. “Thanks. Get back to sleep.”
Ianto stirred. “Are we leaving?”
“I don’t know. I will check with the hub from the office.”
Ianto shifted back so Jack climb out of bed. “Do you want coffee?”
“Go back to sleep. I’ll wake if we have to go.”
The bathroom connected the bedroom to his office. He quickly booted the dedicated laptop. Logging in took longer than expected. The connection issues alone meant he had to leave. The Rift information was more worrisome. The object was half concealed. One of the Torchwood upgrades tracked it. The controlled direction and movement suggested a small ship of some kind.
Jack headed back to the bedroom. He needed to call Gwen and get dressed.
“What happened?” Ianto sounded half awake.
“Possible small ship came through the Rift headed for Swansea.” Jack sat on the edge of the bed. “Do you want to go?”
Jack leaned in and kissed Ianto’s forehead. “It will take awhile.”
“Call when you’re coming back. I’ll make breakfast.”
3 AM. Gwen wondered about her life sometimes. Somehow her simple police career transformed into a complex mess that took over her life. Her husband who’d been there for her through so much over the years was straining under the weight. Anwen’s seemingly magical ability was more than he could handle. Over the years, Gwen had been forced to chose between the men in her life. She married Rhys because he loved her and was stable. She’d gone around the world on Torchwood business with Jack, often leaving on a moment’s notice.
Somehow her ten year-old daughter understanding made it worse. Anwen should make demands and be difficult at times. Instead she simply accepted the new connection to Torchwood.
Gwen’s cell phone rang. “What happened?”
Jack explained about the ship and Swansea.
“Give me ten minutes.”
John Hart was remembering all the times someone said he was crazy. Miriam Morgans’ obsession with Moss-Probert was out there. He followed behind her, much like Thomas, with the small hope of keeping her from causing too much damage.
Miriam looked and sounded so much like the older version he’d interacted with occasionally. The speed she reviewed information and made connections was impressive but not as impressive as it would be. The major difference was how she approached her obsession. Over the next thirty years she learned patience and long-term planning.
“Where are we going?” John asked from the passenger seat. The van belonged to an elderly neighbor in the hospital.
“A private pier. Moss-Probert is trying to relocate people from different places. The cops took down genetic research facilities in Belfast and Edinburgh. The London police waited to accumulate more information. They are evacuating all of their remaining facilities.”
“This close to Cardiff?”
Miriam nodded. “They have added support coming in from somewhere.”
“Thomas is a first gen biomech.” An unusual one. “Moss-Probert has second gen biomechs. It’s not the same as the facility you escaped from.”
“How do we fight them?”
John wondered when he became the voice of reason. “We need equipment and a plan.” He wondered the best way to say the obvious. “Thomas doesn’t have the stomach for this. We need more than two people.”
“Torchwood.” John had no idea how he was going to make that work. “Jack has handled insane situations before.”
“Call him. While you’re at it, tell him I want Drystan.”
John took a moment. Asking Jack for help would be bad enough. Asking for favors was unlikely. “Who’s Drystan?”
“The child he took from the MP facility. Werewolf boy.”
Explaining that he burned his bridges with the current Torchwood would likely not have a positive affect.
“What’s wrong?” Jack Harkness asked. Gwen had said almost nothing since they left the building.
“I asked Anwen why she contacted you instead of me.” Gwen looked away. “She said the Torchwood equipment was in your office.”
Jack knew he was missing something.
“Anwen is ten years old, Jack. She doesn’t complain. She doesn’t make demands.” Gwen sighed.
“Anwen being Anwen. Give her a few years. She’ll discover boys and girls.”
“That would be normal.”
Jack’s mobile rang. He answered it hands-free. “Harkness.”
“Jack.” John sounded hesitant. “I’m with Miriam in Swansea. We have evidence that Moss-Probert is transferring test subjects off-shore tonight.”
“Are you on speaker?”
“I’m in a van. Miriam’s driving.”
“How bad is the situation?” Jack asked.
“MP has second gen biomechs. I don’t know how. MP has to be expecting an attack.”
Jack still had reservations about John. “Rift activity indicates a possible small ship headed for Swansea.”
John said, “MP is expecting unspecified back-up.”
“We need to meet.”
Voices could be heard in the background. “In exchange for our help, Captain Harkness, I expect Drystan to be returned. Unharmed. The young boy you removed from the facility grounds,” a woman said.
“I have to ask why. The child is feral.”
“Drystan was scared.” The woman said. “I’m familiar with his problems and have access to the research files. We can care for him.”
“Can we discuss it after dealing with the aliens and Moss-Probert?”
“Miriam doesn’t like what you said to her,” John said carefully.
“Where are we meeting?”
“I’ll text it.” The call ended.
“Is John afraid?”
An unfamiliar image came to mind as she read. It didn’t take long to realize she was sensing the Rift. The ship she was seeing was preparing to exit over Cardiff.
“Dad,” Anwen yelled.
She moved and half fell off the bed. “No, no, no.” The energy around the ship was wrong. Very wrong.
“What is this?” Rhys stepped into the bedroom.
Kneeling on the floor, Anwen focused on the familiar Rift energy. She could picture it in her mind. The beautiful ribbon in space only she could see. As she had with the negative creature, she searched for something different. The ship had time energy wrapped around it like Uncle Jack and John. She thought of the toy space ship and searched for any indication of an engine.
“Anwen?” Her father’s voice sounded distant.
When she found it, she channeled Rift energy into it. She’d watched a show on airplanes. Hitting a bird could bring down a plane as it disrupted the system. She felt the ship’s energy change. It was struggling to continue through the Rift.
“Ianto,” her dad said, “Get down here. Something’s wrong Anwen. I think its the Rift.”
She wanted the aliens to back up or turn around, but she knew, somehow she knew they wouldn’t. They fought the Rift. They fought her. She couldn’t let them through. Tears slid down her cheeks as the ship exploded. She saw her dad as Ianto rushing into the room. It was too much. “I killed them all.” The room faded.
There was a continuity error in this chapter.
Near (private pier); Swansea, Wales
The Rift alarm sounded as John Hart climbed out of the van. He flipped open his wrist-strap and remote-accessed Torchwood for details. He listened to it twice. The information wasn’t good. He had no idea how they would deal with an alien ship. Current Torchwood had defenses, but nothing compared to the future he came from.
He reached for his phone to call Jack, but he saw the Torchwood van approaching.
“Did you get the notification?” John walked over to Jack.
Jack looked puzzled.
“Do you have access to Torchwood’s computer?” John asked. “A ship is trying to come through the Rift.”
Jack retrieved a laptop from his van and booted it on the bonnet. “It was a ship.”
John walked with his hands out in front of him. “Was?”
“The ship’s engine’s exploded trying to enter the atmosphere.”
That took John a moment. Anwen had told him she could manipulate the Rift to prevent things from exiting. He assumed she meant small things. “Who’s with Anwen?”
Hughes Flats; Cardiff, Wales
Ianto Jones had gun in hand when he entered the Williams’ flat. He locked the door behind him, having no idea what to expect. Rhys said something was wrong with Anwen. He arrived in her room in time to watch her pass out muttering about killing someone. He holstered his gun and fished his mobile out of his pocket.
“She needs a cold shower now.” Rhys scooped Anwen off the floor and heading for the bathroom.
Ianto called Jack.
“Is Anwen all right?” Jack asked immediately.
“No.” Ianto explained.
“Ianto,” John said, “If you open her wrist-strap, I can do a remote medical scan.”
Ianto recognized John’s voice. “Jack?”
Near (private pier); Swansea, Wales
John Hart read the readings twice and didn’t like it. “She’s in a coma.”
He walked away from the group. He needed to think. Anwen knew how her ability worked. She returned the hub and the wrist-straps. She planned for everything. He didn’t understand the secrets, but she had her reasons. Which meant the answer had to be at Torchwood Three. Returning the hub had been time consuming. There had to be more to it then sentimental value. John remote-accessed Torchwood and the medical database, and then remote-accessed Anwen’s wrist-strap again. The response was what he already knew, but included what needed to be done.
“Have Ianto take her to Torchwood. The infirmary will provide instructions. The improvements include nanogenes.”
“How does he have hub access, Jack?” Gwen demanded.
Jack relayed instructions. “Text me when you arrive.”
Ianto hesitated. “I will.”
Near (private pier); Swansea, Wales
Miriam Morgans had no idea what the problem was, but she suspected it was bad. While John coordinated with Captain Harkness, she accessed Moss-Probert’s system. The information was bizarre. Something happened to their back-up. The few people discussing it weren’t willing to explain what happened over the system. Which meant MP kept secrets from their own high level people. They did, however, reveal their victims had already been transported to the pier.
After a quick smile to Thomas, she walked over to the Torchwood group carrying her laptop. “MP is discussing whether or not they need to cancel the transfer.” She explained what she knew about the canceled back-up. “We need to go now.”
When the very upset woman pulled Harkness away from the van, Miriam turned to John. “What happened?”
“Her daughter is sick.”
Miriam wondered what that had to do with John. From what little she’d seen of their interaction, the woman hated him. It wasn’t a failed relationship, or at least she doubted it. “Thomas can sit with her. We need to go.”
“Give Jack a minute.”
Jack walked back. “What’s the situation?”
“How many research subjects? How many defending them?”
“According to this, there are eight transport vehicles. The number of prisoners per vehicle will vary by how they’re restrained. After I escaped, MP changed their policy on psychics. They are transported in stasis units.” Miriam took a moment. “They came from different directions and avoided an obvious procession.” She tapped the keyboard. “Each known vehicle has two people. Security in the back varies by the type of research and modification. Stasis pods have no additional security. The vehicle transporting individuals like Drystan have one security person per two restrained. Additional security was implied. I can only estimate there is a minimum of twenty-four security.”
“How many biomechs?”
“I have no idea.”
Jack considered. “What are they expected you to do?”
“Frontal assault. Arrogant, no thought.”
Jack nodded. “John, can you disrupt their communications?”
“Yeah. Mobiles, computers. I can even disrupt their computerized vehicles. Everything but radios.”
“Gwen get the megaphone and field glasses.”
“Miriam, with that many security, we need to separate, confuse and take them down quietly. They’re expecting arrogance. Making demands through a megaphone at superior troops is arrogant. But keeps you out of range.”
“John and I will take out the hostiles.” He looked at John. “Quietly.”
“Gwen and Thomas will free the prisoners quietly. No tearing off doors.”
Jack closed his laptop. “John and I will recon first. We need to plan, stay focused and most important we need to stay calm.”
Jack Harkness waited until they were away from the group to quietly ask. “How dangerous is she?”
“Set her off and she can level an army. But she doesn’t have the experience or control to handle it yet.”
“You sounded apprehensive on the phone.”
“Miriam is the most dangerous person I’ve ever met. She’s a genius on top of being able to kill people psychically. But right now she’s obsessed with MP.” John hesitated. “When I met future her, she was hunting anything associated with MP with a fervor. But she had it under control.”
“Is there anyone she listens to?”
“The general.” John shook his head.
The off-shore transport was flashing a green light. A small boat headed toward shore with the same light. A small, Asian man stepped out of the boat. He walked up the pier and onto the sparse grass barely visible in the dim light.
“Captain Harkness,” the elderly man said with amusement, his Chinese accent faint. “It has been many years.”
Jack approached, wondering what about the man was familiar.
“Bobby Zhao.” He smiled. “My mother told you her name was Mai. It was sixty years ago. We were hiding in the back of a grocery store in London. You were looking for an alien.” He chuckled. “My mother’s English was so bad, she thought you were looking for a woman.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t remember.”
“The creature looked like something from a horror movie. Tentacles and oozing blue slime.”
Jack nodded. “I remember that. We wound up in the basement where the owner was hiding illegal animals. A tiger, pandas and a crying alien.”
“Mother told the store owner that you were a friend and that if he reneged on their agreement, you would come back.” That amused Zhao.
“Why are you here?”
“I am a ferryman for a refuge in Kenya. They offer safe haven to psychics, oddities and freaks of nature. To prevent the world from exploiting them.” Zhao paused. “Ms. Morgans contacted the refuge seeking shelter. She explained that she needed a home for more than herself.”
John stepped forward. “It’s an honor.” He bowed slightly. “We have another emergency to attend.”
Zhao nodded. “Understood. I will make arrangements for young Drystan at a later date.” He smiled. “Captain Hart, Ms. Williams will have a full recovery.”
“How did he know you?” Jack Harkness asked.
“I don’t know.” John shook his head. “I don’t want to know.”
“Zhao, the ferryman. He’s nicknamed after Charon from Greek mythology. He ferries the souls to the underworld.” John sighed. “The refuge sent him in case he needed to wade through bodies to reach Miriam.”
Torchwood Three; Cardiff, Wales
Ianto Jones had no idea how to activate the new medical equipment. Rhys carefully set Anwen on one of the examine cots in the infirmary. Unsure of what else to try, Ianto opened her wrist-strap.
The computer response was immediate. “Stand back. Medical emergency. Releasing nanogenes.”
They stood in silence, watching and waiting.
After the cloud returned to its box, the computer announced, “Patient is sleeping. Do not disturb.”
Rhys settled into a chair. “Explain this to me.”
Ianto headed for his office.
Jack Harkness lead Gwen into Torchwood through the garage. They found Rhys sleeping in a chair near Anwen in the infirmary. He hadn’t given the infirmary much of a review when he walked through. Arrogance, he realized. He didn’t consider his team might need it. The upgrades were impressive. Centuries beyond 2049.
He reviewed Anwen’s condition. Controlling the Rift had a serious affect on her brain. Over time, he wondered how much she adapted to it. The system had obviously been designed with her in mind. From the looks of the records, she’d written much of the information herself from personal experience. There was a lot it didn’t say. He couldn’t blame her for keeping secrets. The job did that to a person.
John stepped into the infirmary with his hands in front of him. “She needs nutrient packs.”
“Why do you care?” Gwen demanded, waking Rhys. She un-holstered her weapon.
“Part of the job.”
“Gwen.” Rhys sounded half awake. “He saved her life. Twice now.”
“He can’t be trusted.”
“Take Rhys to the conference room,” Jack said.
She reluctantly agreed, after a moment.
“You can’t stay.”
John nodded, “I know.”
“How did you get in?”
John looked up from the monitor. “I’m in the system. Anwen, adult Anwen, said you wouldn’t be able to remove it.” John held up a hand. “I am not here to cause trouble.”
“This isn’t about money.”
“No.” John opened his wrist-strap and made corrections.
“What do you want?”
John turned to look at him with haunted eyes. “I want to go home to my flat in London. I want to con the housekeeper into another pot roast. I can’t. My home and my life and everything I care about is gone.” He closed his wrist-strap. “You have your home and Ianto.” He headed for the infirmary door. “Be happy.”
With Anwen in the infirmary with her parents, Ianto Jones prepared the former alchemy lab flat. Unlike the building, there was no argument about sharing. Which was why he resisted interviewing and hiring more staff. He didn’t want to share.
The door slid open and Jack entered carrying his coat and looking tired. It had been a long day.
“Clean bedding.” It was a stupid comment, Ianto knew.
Jack tucked his coat into the closet. “Anwen’s recovering.”
In a rare show of uncertainty, Jack hesitated, keeping his back to Ianto. “Would you like to go for a weekend? Just us?”
Ianto smiled. “As long as it’s not in an office. You can’t be trusted with copiers.”