Three days after Jack disappeared, the head Torchwood office sent a replacement. No one was really sure how she got the job, but ever since Canary Wharf, the London Torchwood office had had such high attrition that nobody knew what was going on anymore.
All they knew was one day they showed up to work and a brassy redhead was sitting in Jack's office. Once they all gathered, she introduced herself as Donna. "Oy, you lot, I heard you opened the rift and jeopardized the entire space-time continuum. How stupid are you?"
Donna had Ianto make a banner that she hung in the hub, near the entrance. It read "I Will Not Activate Unknown Alien Technology" in block red letters.
"But," Tosh pointed out timidly, "we don't know what any of the technology is."
"Then it's bleeding stupid to turn it on, isn't it?" Donna replied.
Gwen found it.
Fortunately Donna, unlike Jack, viewed her position as an administrative one that didn't require her presence in the field. This had decreased the number of near-successful alien takeovers of the Hub by at least 60%, but had led to a new philosophy about protocol. Gwen, Owen and Tosh had all agreed—what Donna didn't know wouldn't hurt her. (Except for that one time with the shape-shifting alien that looked like a pastry, but really—who steals pastries off of other people's desks? Fortunately for Donna it turned out that stomach acid was a pretty effective weapon against the pastry-shifter, so she'd only had a night of indigestion to show for it.)
It worked sort of like the alien pendant Tosh had destroyed. It had two parts, one you left near a person, the other that picked up the signal, like a telepathic bug. They put it on Donna's desk, next to her pencil cup. She didn't notice it.
While Ianto kept watch, Gwen, Owen and Tosh all huddled in the morgue next to the receiver.
Oh, look, Prince William's writing a book about his mother. That's sweet. Too bad he takes after his father. ... Is it too early to order pizza? Where did Ianto get to?
Tosh squinted up towards Donna's office. Is that what she did all day? Wait—she was standing up, peering through the glass towards them.
Why are they all huddled in the morgue?
"Why are you all huddled in the morgue?"
They better not be hiding Weevil corpses again.
"You better not be hiding Weevil corpses again!"
I swear, they're like two-year-olds. Leave them alone for five minutes and they're up to their elbows in alien guts.
"I swear, you're like two-year-olds. Leave you alone for five minutes and you're up to your elbows in alien guts."
"Well," Owen said, tossing the receiver onto the table. "That's completely useless."
The alien orb suffused the Hub with a warm glow. It looked like a small white sun with trailing tentacles, pulsing whenever it spoke. They'd been tracking it for the past week, ever since charred corpses started showing up all over Cardiff. They might not have been as sneaky as they thought, though, seeing as how it followed them back here.
"I require…sacrifice," the orb said in its strange hissy voice.
Gwen quickly turned to Owen. "Weapons locker!" she whispered.
"Do you have anything in there that could kill a sun?"
"Well, I'd rather not be turned into toast, so barring a better idea, I say we fill it full of bullets!"
"Jack left alternative weapons," Ianto pondered. "Perhaps a laser…"
"I require sacrifice," the orb demanded again.
The sound of Donna's heels stamping down the metal stairs cut through the commotion and for a moment everything stilled. "Don't be ridiculous!" she bellowed at the alien. "Do you think we're just going to line up to be fried?"
"Well you're not going to get it, so just shove off."
The orb hovered a little uncertainly.
"Go on now! This isn't your planet and you can't just go around burning people up, so get back on your space ship and go!"
"I…" the alien trailed off, making it sound like a question.
"I mean it! Shove off!" She grabbed a broom and started waving it at the orb. "Shoo! Shoo!"
After a moment, the orb ascended through the ceiling and disappeared.
"Oh," Ianto said into the sudden silence. "I hadn't thought of that."
The Hub was empty when Jack returned. He had to admit he was disappointed. His team had been so enthusiastic in welcoming him back after the fight with Abaddon; he had to admit he'd been hoping for a similar reaction. Then he noticed the light in his office. It must be Ianto! And he was alone. Perfect.
He opened the door with a face-splitting grin only to find a woman he'd never seen before sitting behind his desk. And where was all his stuff?
"Hello?" he said uncertainly.
"Ah! You must be Captain Jack Harkness. Welcome back," she said briskly.
"And you are?" He tried for his usual self-assurance.
"Donna Noble. My team will be so glad to have you back." She grabbed his hand and shook it firmly.
"Wait—your team? This is my team." She was still holding his hand.
"Not anymore. What can I say? You snooze you lose."
"I'm sure we can…" he ran his hand suggestively up to her shoulder, leaning forward with all the intent over a century of pulling had taught him, "work something out."
To his surprise, she pinched his cheek. "Cheeky! I love it. The Doctor did warn me about that."
Jack drew back, startled. "You know the Doctor?"
"Now, I've taken the liberty of moving your things to the empty desk next to Tosh's. I'm sure she'll be thrilled to be able to use your extensive knowledge of alien technology."
"Well? You're dismissed." Donna said and turned back to her desk.
Jack stumbled out of the office a little stunned.
"Oh," Donna called. "While you're up, could you get me a cup of coffee? No cream, three sugars."
"Uh, yes, ma'am."
"Oh, you're going to work out just fine," Donna said, smiling after him.