The first Sarah Jane knew about the 456 was when Luke stumbled into the attic, hands fisted and pressed against his temples. He tripped coming down the steps, pitching towards her, and she sat down hard under his weight.
"Mum," he gasped, voice tight with pain.
"Luke, what is it? What's wrong?"
He shook his head, pressing harder against his temples. She could see his skin whitening from the pressure. "It's so loud." His body was twitching, jerking as he fought against whatever was happening.
"Mr Smith, I need you!" Sarah Jane gasped, trying to hold him steady.
Obviously already aware of what was happening, Mr Smith was scanning Luke before he'd even opened fully. "He is receiving a telepathic transmission of incredible power."
"Can you block it?" Sarah Jane demanded.
"I regret it will take some time."
"Hurry up and get started, then."
"Of course, Sarah Jane."
Luke arched against her, completely rigid, and then collapsed bonelessly. "It stopped," he mumbled, forcing his eyes open.
"Are you all right?" Sarah Jane asked, smoothing his hair back.
He laughed breathlessly. "I'm completely..." He tried to lift one hand and managed about six inches before it fell back to his side. "That was so hard."
"What was it? Could you tell?"
He shook his head again. "I'm not sure. I've never felt anything like that before. It was – they weren't even trying. I mean, they weren't pushing. I don't think they ever noticed I was fighting back."
"So it wasn't aimed at you."
"I think it was aimed at everyone."
Rani burst in, eyes wide. "There's a report on the –" She stopped dead, staring at them until Sarah Jane caught her eye. "What's wrong?"
"What report?" Sarah Jane asked. Luke was still completely limp, and she didn't trust herself to get him upright without hurting him.
"Mr Smith, BBC News has an emergency report. Can you display it, please?"
"...explanation as yet," the harried looking newsreader was saying. "But we are beginning to get reports from around the world and they all agree. At ten thirty GMT every child in the world stopped what they were doing and began screaming. When they stopped they all spoke, in unison and in English, one sentence."
"We are coming," Luke murmured, a beat ahead of her.
"What's going on?" Rani came to kneel on his other side, taking his weight so Sarah Jane could stand.
"I'm afraid I have no theories yet, Sarah Jane," he said. "This incident does not match any in my memory."
"There was another – earlier, around half eight, I felt weird for a moment. Nothing like that. I thought it was 'cause I hadn't eaten." Luke wilted under Sarah Jane's glare. "It was only for a couple of seconds, Mum."
"I will compare all readings taken at that time," Mr Smith said.
"Try UNIT, they'll be on this," Sarah Jane ordered, pacing restlessly. "Don't let them see you looking, though. Luke, let's get you off the floor. How do you feel?"
"Exhausted." He wavered when he stood; Rani hastily propped him up, helping him to the couch beside Mr Smith. "Mum, what about Torchwood? If this is all over the world, they'll be looking too."
"No," she said firmly. "We are not dealing with Torchwood."
"I thought you liked Captain Jack."
"Captain Jack is fine. I don't want Torchwood getting near you."
"Mum." Luke caught her hand, tugging gently until she stepped closer. "Every child in the world, Mum."
"It doesn't matter!"
"It does matter. You know it matters." He looked desperately at Rani, who nodded quickly.
"Probably they won't know anything anyway. There's nothing wrong with pooling information, right? They don't have to get anywhere near Luke."
Sarah Jane buried her face in her hand for a moment. "All right. All right. Rani, go and find Clyde, please. And if I'm still talking to Torchwood when you get back, don't come in. Wait outside until I tell you it's safe, understand?"
"I've got it, Sarah Jane," Rani promised. She squeezed Luke's hand as she stood; he smiled faintly, propping himself up slowly.
"I have Torchwood," Mr Smith announced.
Sarah Jane shooed Rani out and turned to face the screen. Luke couldn't see it, and Mr Smith quietly redirected the feed to the laptop on the desk near the couch so that Luke could watch.
"This isn't a good time, Sarah Jane." Captain Harkness – Luke recognised him from the Subwave Network – was obviously busy with something; he hadn't even looked up at the screen.
"What's going on, Jack?" Sarah Jane asked.
"We don't know yet." He looked up finally, stilling when he saw her face. "What do you know?"
"I know whatever it is it almost killed my son."
"Luke? He should be too old, it's only hitting pre-pubescent kids."
"I'm two." Luke stood, wobbling across to stand next to his mother.
"You're fifteen," she said sharply.
"I was born – made – two years ago. Maybe that's all that matters."
"Sarah Jane, have you been keeping secrets?" Jack physically backed away from her glare, holding up his hands apologetically. "All right, sorry. Luke, can you tell us what happened?"
"I just – it was so loud. I couldn't hear myself talk. I couldn't hear myself think. There was pressure – my brain was expanding, or my head was shrinking..." He leaned harder against Sarah Jane, shaking. "It didn't even notice me fighting," he said softly. "I thought I would die and it wasn't even a fraction of its strength. It didn't see me."
"Good," Jack said briskly. "Then they don't know anything about you. Did you get anything from them? Do you know who they are?"
"You know who they are," Luke echoed, repeating more loudly, "You know who they are. You're dealt with them before."
"Have I?" Jack studied him intently. "Why do you say that?"
All Luke's confidence drained away and he stared uncertainly at the screen. "I'm...I don't..." Turning wide eyed to his mother, he whispered "I don't know why I said that. I don't know why...Mum?"
"It's all right, Luke, it's all right." She pulled him into a hug, feeling him tremble against her. "He's exhausted, Jack."
"I'm fine," Luke said into her shoulder, but since she was all but holding him up it wasn't very convincing.
"Sarah Jane, I need to see him," Jack said.
"I am not bringing him to Torchwood!"
"No. I suppose not." Jack sighed, thinking quickly. "Okay, then can I come there? You're not in school today, Luke?"
"In service day."
"Good. Sarah Jane, can I bring my team?"
"All of you?" she said, alarmed. "I'm not sure...hang on a minute. Clyde!"
"I'm not listening!" Clyde said from just outside the door. Luke laughed helplessly, still clinging to Sarah Jane.
"Come in here," she ordered. Clyde edged in, eyes widening in alarm when he saw Luke. "Take Luke downstairs – carefully – get him something to drink and let him sleep."
"Sure, Sarah Jane. C'mon, Luke." He took Luke's weight easily. "You should eat more. You're too skinny."
"Taller than you," Luke murmured.
"Taller, yeah, but skinny. We need to get you buffed up some. What d'you want to drink?"
The door closed behind them and Sarah Jane turned back to the screen. Clyde hadn't looked at it or made any comment about it, and Jack had completely ignored the interruption.
"There's only three of us now," he said, faintly bitter. "Sarah Jane, I really need to talk to him. Whatever this is, it's serious. Please?"
"All right," she agreed reluctantly. "But it's off Torchwood's books, understand?"
"I understand," he agreed quickly. "I'll make sure they do, as well."
"Thank you. I'll see you soon."
Luke, ensconced on the couch with everything he could possibly want and several things he couldn't piled around him, looked up dreamily when Sarah Jane came into the room. "Hi, Mum."
"How are you feeling?" She brushed his hair off his forehead, sneakily checking his temperature at the same time. Normal – normal for Luke, anyway. He usually ran a little cooler than most people.
"Completely worn out. Do people often feel like this?"
She lifted his hand, watching it flop back to his side. "Not this badly, no. How's your head?"
He shrugged, looking away. "Not so bad."
"Luke," she said warningly. He was terrible at lying.
"It really hurts," he said in the exact same tone. "It doesn't matter. I can't take anything for it."
"We could try," she suggested. She was wary of giving him painkillers, and so far he hadn't needed anything much, but this was clearly special circumstances.
"It's not real pain. I mean, it's not something medicine would help. It's just – psychic aftermath."
"What can we do for it?"
He shrugged again. "I'm just so tired, Mum."
"Get some sleep," she said, brushing his hair back again. "Do you need anything?"
"No." He caught her wrist when she started to rise. "Don't go. Please."
"I won't," she promised, settling back beside him.
"Is Captain Harkness coming?"
"He's coming. Get some rest, Luke. I'll wake you when he gets here."
"Liar," he murmured, smiling.
"Get some rest," she said again, absently stroking his hair.
Clyde came in, hesitating when he saw them; Sarah Jane gestured him in, signalling silence. He nodded obediently, picking up his sketch pad and slouching into the armchair.
"If you're drawing him like this, he'll never forgive you," Sarah Jane said softly.
Clyde grinned. "Genius At Rest. Or maybe In Repose. I haven't decided. I could do a whole series. Genius At Work. Genius At Play. Genius Baffled By Modern Life. Genius At Housework..."
"Genius Trying To Sleep Except His So Called Friend Keeps Talking," Luke said, voice muffled by his cushion. Clyde grinned, bending over his sketch pad again.
The doorbell rang almost three hours later. Luke was asleep and didn't stir; Rani rose to answer the door. Clyde shut his sketch pad, laying it to one side and standing in front of the couch.
"Sarah Jane? Do you want me to let them in?" Rani called.
"Go ahead, Rani!"
Rani came in first, joining Clyde in front of the couch. Jack followed them, glancing around the room before focusing on Sarah Jane. "Good to see you again."
"Circumstances could be better," she said with a faint smile. "Introduce me."
"Gwen, Ianto, Sarah Jane Smith."
Clyde snorted softly. Sarah Jane swatted him gently.
"Clyde and Rani. And Luke."
Jack stepped carefully around Clyde and Rani to hunker by the couch. "Is he all right?"
"Exhausted. He really needs the sleep, Jack."
"We need to know what's happening."
"Not yet," she said firmly.
Jack sighed, rocking back on his heels. "Ianto, how about drinks all round?"
"Yes sir," Ianto agreed.
"Rani?" Sarah Jane said quietly. Rani nodded, heading for the kitchen with Ianto on her heels.
"Okay, if he can't talk to us himself yet, can you tell us exactly what happened?" Gwen asked, perching on the edge of the armchair.
Sarah Jane recounted everything she knew. Jack listened closely, still studying Luke.
"And...earlier, he said he was only two," Gwen said carefully.
"That doesn't matter," Clyde said quickly.
"It might. It might be very important. Please?"
"You can trust us, Sarah Jane," Jack added.
She laughed a little. "Can I? Torchwood?"
"We're not here for Torchwood, you know that. There's nothing going in any reports. But this thing is worldwide and Luke can help us understand it. Help us understand, Sarah Jane."
Sarah Jane sighed, nodding. "Luke was created by a race called the Bane. Do you remember Bubbleshock?"
"That stuff? It was horrible," Gwen said. "Rhys loved it, though."
"You're why Luke was created," Clyde said, finally giving up on his guard post and wandering over to lean on the wall. "Two percent of people weren't affected by it. They took samples of everyone who visited the factory and made Luke out of them. Archetypical human. They were going to use him to figure out how to get that two percent to accept the drink."
"But he woke up early, before they meant him to," Sarah Jane continued. "He ran from them. Born running, he calls it. I found him. The Bane tried to kill him when he wouldn't help them. They made him with a conscience, you see."
"Always a mistake," Jack agreed. Sarah Jane smiled faintly. "So you adopted him."
"If I hadn't, UNIT would have taken him. You know that, you know what they'd have done to him. He'd have been locked away somewhere running battle plans and designing weapons for them, if they hadn't just dissected him straight away."
"UNIT or us, you mean."
"Torchwood One was only recently gone down. And I was not going to let Yvonne Hartman or anyone like her get her hands on him. Can you imagine? Luke is a genius, Jack. A true genius. He could fix your wrist strap without trying, but he doesn't – he gave the Slitheen the formula to turn off the Sun because he thought it was a school science project."
"He's getting better," Clyde protested.
She smiled. "Clyde's been teaching him about the world. But he really is only two."
"But he's human?" Gwen asked.
"Yes. They made him human. He doesn't get sick and he doesn't dream, but apart from that he's perfectly normal."
"That and the genius," Jack added. "How was he able to fight off whatever this was?"
"He has the latent potential of ten thousand minds. He pulled the Moon out of orbit a couple of years ago."
"That was him?" Gwen said in surprise. "He turned off the Sun and pulled the Moon down and you just let him live here?"
"They weren't his fault. The Slitheen were behind it, both times." Sarah Jane folded her arms firmly, hating the way Torchwood could always get her on the defensive. Luke wasn't dangerous, she knew it with every bone in her body.
Jack glanced at Gwen, who subsided. "All right. Sarah Jane, I need to set up our computer. We can link to the Hub and we'll be told if anything else happens."
Sarah Jane nodded. "Go ahead."
Ianto and Rani reappeared with trays of drinks. Rani settled by Sarah Jane, watching the Torchwood team work at the computer. "You okay?" she murmured, voice low.
"Yes. It's all fine."
"Sure?" Rani asked doubtfully. They could all see how close to the edge she was.
"It's fine." She glanced at the team. "Stay with Luke for a minute? I need to talk to Mr Smith and I don't want them following."
"Yeah, of course. Go ahead."
Mr Smith was active in the attic. Sarah Jane tried vaguely to remember whether she'd shut him down earlier, and then decided it didn't matter. "Mr Smith."
"Sarah Jane. How is Luke?"
"Sleeping. Jack and his team are here."
"We'll need your help to find out what's going on. But I don't trust Torchwood."
"I know. Do you want me to refuse to follow their orders?"
"If I'm here. Otherwise..." She sighed. "Use your best judgement, I suppose."
"I understand." He whirred for a moment. "Sarah Jane, I am still trying to find a way to help Luke."
"Thank you." Glancing at the door, she added, "I should go back down. I'll send Clyde or Rani up to check in with you."
"Please let me know if I can help in any way."
Luke finally woke late that afternoon; Sarah Jane came in from the kitchen to find him leaning against Rani and answering Jack's questions. Sarah Jane paused in the doorway, watching them; Gwen caught her eye and crossed quietly to stand beside her.
"He's being careful," she murmured. "Ianto keeps stepping on his foot when he pushes too hard. Your boy's amazing, you know."
Sarah Jane smiled faintly, pushing away from the door. Rani moved to let her sit down and Luke melted against her.
"How are you feeling?" she asked softly.
"Better. Tired." He glanced at Jack. "They have a pterosaur, did you know?"
"No. A real one?"
"A pteronodon. It came through the Rift, Mr Jones says. It lives in their base."
"Ianto," Ianto corrected absently.
Sarah Jane looked over his head at Jack. "Anything?"
"He doesn't remember anything."
"Sorry," Luke added.
"Don't be sorry." She smiled, jostling him lightly. Luke jostled back, rising to his feet and crossing to the window, leaning his forehead against it.
Clyde came through with a tray of drinks; Sarah Jane took hers, smiling at him. "Thank you, Clyde. You and Rani should go home, now."
"It's late," she said firmly. "I doubt anything's going to happen tonight. Go on."
"Clyde, wait. Captain Harkness?" Luke said quietly.
"What is it, Luke?"
"There's a government SUV down the road."
"That's not ours," Ianto said, straightening.
"No. That's why I said it."
Jack crossed to the window, looking casually out. "No one I recognise," he said finally. "Ianto, want to take a walk?"
"Yes sir," Ianto agreed, following him towards the door.
"Is that wise?" Sarah Jane asked, following him.
"Probably not. But it's very Torchwood." Jack grinned at her. "Wait here."
"No," Clyde said abruptly as they left. "Sarah Jane, we have to go out there."
"Because why haven't they come in here? They're looking for some of us. They haven't come in because we're too many for them, we...just come on!" He tugged her towards the door.
"I'm with him," Gwen agreed, following them.
Clyde and Luke stopped by the gate, loudly starting a conversation with Gwen, who played along. Looking over his shoulder, she watched Jack and Ianto talk to a woman backed up by two soldiers. The woman clocked them, looked annoyed, and kept talking.
Rani joined them, adding equally loudly, "Hey, Mum!"
Gita looked up from where she was watering the garden, waving. Rani gestured her over, saying softly, "Gwen, I'm really sorry about this."
"Just let her talk, it's safest," Luke added. "Mrs Chandra, may I introduce Gwen Cooper? She's a friend of my mother's from Wales."
"Wales!" Gita exclaimed in delight. "What a beautiful country. I was up there once on a holiday, my darling, and I remember thinking how beautiful it was. Tell you what, I saw some beautiful wild daffodils up there and I have some fine specimens in my shop. Blooming Lovely. I'm a florist."
"How nice," Gwen managed.
"Oh, what a lovely accent! Say something Welsh, my darling."
"What a strange little woman you are," Gwen said obligingly.
"It's such a beautiful language. You must meet my husband. HARESH!"
Sarah Jane joined them and Gita said brightly, "You always have such interesting friends, Sarah!"
"Jane," Rani murmured, mostly out of habit.
"Yes, I love my friends," Sarah Jane agreed distractedly. "Jack! Come and meet Gita!"
Jack waved from further down the path, smiling as another man joined the group. "So, Agent Johnson," he said, turning back to the woman, "are you planning to snatch us in front of all these nice people?"
"Could be traumatising," Ianto pointed out.
"It could, yes," Jack agreed. "That could be trouble."
Johnson rolled her eyes. "I could shoot all of them," she said mildly.
"Murder two families in broad daylight on a suburban street? Who taught your undercover class? Whoever it was, they missed a few points." Jack's smile dropped away. "Go home, Agent Johnson. Tell your boss you failed."
She gestured her men to back off. "This isn't over, Harkness."
"Oooh, a cliché. Standoffs just never feel complete without a good cliché, do they, Ianto?"
"I know I always miss them."
"I'll say hi to David and Mica for you," Johnson told him. Ianto didn't react, watching her climb into her car and drive away.
"David and Mica?" Jack said softly.
"My niece and nephew."
He nodded. "Have Gwen call her friend, PC Andy Pandy."
"Think he'd be able to stop a woman like that?"
"You can go back..."
"No. It's fine. Also, sir, just to point out, this isn't broad daylight, it's dusk. Shading towards night."
"Jack!" Gwen called, sounding a little frazzled.
"I'll take care of that," Ianto murmured. "You should warn Sarah Jane. Johnson's not going to give up."
Jack nodded. Ianto jogged down to the group on the path, smoothly inserting himself into the conversation. After a moment Sarah Jane stepped back and headed towards Jack; Luke trailed after her.
"What's going on?" she asked quickly. "Who was that woman?"
"A government agent?"
Jack smiled humourlessly. "Some part of the government, yes. Here to take me into 'protective custody'."
"Shouldn't you have gone?" Luke asked uncertainly.
"Torchwood doesn't answer to any branch of the government," Jack told him. "And we have a better chance of figuring this out if we have access to our own systems. Johnson didn't have any information from anyone whose name I recognise." Looking at Sarah Jane, he added, "She's not likely to give up."
"If she tries something in our house, she'll be surprised," Sarah Jane promised him.
"We should send the others home," Luke murmured, turning to head back to the group. Jack and Sarah Jane followed, catching up in time to hear his cheery, "See you tomorrow, guys!" Gwen had already vanished back into the house. Ianto followed Luke, smiling apologetically at Gita.
"They're quick," Jack noted, impressed. Rani, catching on, was leading her father back towards their house, loudly discussing what they might have for dinner and drawing Clyde along with them. Luke was lurking by the front door, watching as Rani and Clyde vanished into her house. Sarah Jane touched his shoulder, wrapping an arm around his waist and steering him into the sitting room.
"Jack," Ianto said quietly. "Gwen's found something."
"Don't think so," Gwen called from the computer. "Luke, you couldn't get us something to drink, could you? I am parched."
"Sure." Luke wandered into the kitchen.
The others gathered around Gwen's computer, watching as she pulled up police reports. "I tracked Johnson back," she said. "She's been around the country today. And I've found two death reports in towns she visited."
"No ruling yet. But they were both UNIT – retired, though, so I guess ex-UNIT."
"Three," Ianto said, leaning over her to open a new window and pull up another report.
Sarah Jane scanned the names. "No one I know."
Jack grinned suddenly. "Sarah Jane, we've been taking up all of your time. There must be other friends you'd like to check in with."
"UNIT friends, I assume?"
He nodded, more serious now. "The only person I trust in that organisation isn't there at the moment, and no one will talk to us. If there's anyone you trust won't lie to you..."
"He won't lie to me, but I'm not sure how much he'll know," she said thoughtfully. "Tell me, Jack, have you ever met the Brig?"
Mr Smith tracked Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart to UNIT headquarters in London, but he wasn't able to help much. "They're keeping him out of the loop," Sarah Jane reported. "He'll look into the deaths for us, but he's being sidelined."
"Anything he can tell us will help." Jack glanced up as Luke's phone rang and he quietly excused himself. "Ianto, have we gotten hold of Frobisher?"
"No, I keep getting that Spears woman. Frobisher's in his office, but he's ignoring us."
"That's not a good sign," Gwen murmured.
"John Frobisher? The Home Office Secretary?" Sarah Jane asked.
"He's Torchwood's liaison," Gwen explained. "Things like this happen, he's supposed to be the person we can talk to. Spears is his PA, been with him for years. We've never had any problems with them before."
Luke burst back in, eyes wide. "Mum, put the TV on."
"What? Why?" She glanced around, fishing the remote from between two cushions.
"Clyde's on the phone, he says..." He cut himself off when BBC News flashed up.
"...explosion at the Roald Dahl Plass. There is still no explanation as to what caused it..."
Gwen dug her phone out, dialling rapidly. "Rhys? No, we're fine, we're in London..."
"Johnson?" Ianto said, turning to the computer.
"Probably." Jack scowled, studying the screen. "I should have killed her."
"Jack!" Sarah Jane said sharply.
"She's trying to cripple us, Sarah Jane."
"We don't kill people." She glanced deliberately towards Luke and back at Jack.
"No." Jack took a deep breath, forcing it out calmly. "No, of course not."
"We still have access to all the servers," Ianto said, typing rapidly. "Whatever happened, the explosion didn't touch them. She obviously couldn't get deep enough."
"Not with it locked down," Jack agreed. "Gwen, can you check in with PC Andy?" Gwen waved, still talking Rhys down.
"They didn't get anything important," Ianto said softly. "The Archives are still there, and they'll be buried now. Everything's safe." Jack nodded sharply, still staring at the screen.
Luke nudged Sarah Jane gently. "Clyde wants to know..."
"They're not to come over here," Sarah Jane said sharply. "If this Johnson woman really is after Jack, I want them well away." Luke nodded, heading back out into the hall.
"I don't think she'd hurt them," Jack offered. "Use them as hostages, but not hurt them."
"That's very comforting."
"Sarah Jane, we may be imposing on your bountiful hospitality for a while longer."
Sarah Jane smiled thinly. "I'm sure. Excuse me for a moment." She went out after Luke.
"How dangerous is this woman, Jack?" Gwen asked, phone in hand.
"More than I thought, not enough for us to worry. She doesn't want civilian casualties and she can't afford to be seen. As long as we stay visible, she can't touch us."
"Jack, I need a favour," Sarah Jane said, coming back in.
"I need to borrow your TARDIS key."
"My what?" he said flatly.
"Your key. I know you have one. Mine isn't enough on its own."
"Enough for what?"
She shrugged. "Perception filter. Mr Smith thinks if we hang them outside, we can keep the house off the radar. Hopefully no one else will figure out you're here." Jack frowned and she added, "You'll get it back."
"I'd better." He tugged the chain off over his head, tossing it to her.
"Thank you." She vanished again.
"Will that work?" Ianto asked.
"Might do. It's enough to hide a person, more or less. It's worth trying, anyway."
Luke wandered back in, watching Ianto work and quickly getting embroiled in helping him with the databases. Gwen checked in with Andy and a few other people around Cardiff; Jack excused himself to the kitchen to check in, briefly, with his daughter Alice and warn her about Johnson. She wasn't happy, but she agreed to take her son Steven for a brief holiday. Just in case, he wanted her well out of Johnson's reach. Ianto did the same with his sister Rhiannon, eventually persuading her to take the kids away for a couple of days.
It was dark out, and Sarah Jane was just starting to think about where to put everyone for the night, when Luke stood so suddenly his chair fell over. He stumbled backwards, hands going to his temples. "Mum, it's happening again..."
"Again?" She rose, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. "Hang on, Luke..."
"Luke." Jack caught his shoulders, holding him steady. "Listen to me. I need you to lower your hands, okay? Trust me. Let go."
It took a couple of false starts but Luke lowered his hands, gripping Sarah Jane's arms tightly. Jack touched two fingers to the boy's temples, watching him closely. "Good man. Keep fighting them, Luke, okay? Listen, we're going to build a wall. Can you see what I'm doing?"
"I...yes..." Luke closed his eyes, groaning, and Sarah Jane winced as his grip tightened. Catching her look, Ianto pried Luke's hands free and let him grip his arm instead.
"Good. Keep it going. Just wall them off, let them yell in their corner. Can you see it? It's getting easier, right?" Luke nodded, eyes still closed. "Good man. Keep it up. That's it."
Gwen slipped out to the kitchen, picking up a towel and wetting it. By the time she came back in Luke had relaxed, fit over; he'd let go of Ianto, though he was still hanging onto his mother.
Jack was crouched in front of him, watching carefully. "Did you get the message, Luke? What were they trying to say?"
Luke flinched, rubbing at his forehead. "We are coming...back."
"Put your head down, Luke," Gwen said softly. He obeyed and she draped the cloth across his neck; he shuddered, reaching up with his free hand to hold it in place. "Want some tea?"
"I'm not in shock," he said, voice muffled.
"He'll drink it," Sarah Jane said. Ianto rose to his feet, heading for the kitchen.
"I'm not in shock," Luke said again, more loudly.
"No, but your headache's coming back and this might help. Keep your head down."
Gwen quietly reached for Sarah Jane's arm; it was already bruising where Luke had gripped her. She wrapped another cloth around it without saying anything.
"Who's coming back, Jack?" she asked as she worked.
"I don't know yet. Luke, any hint of a timeframe?"
Sarah Jane caught his eye. "Is that going to last, Jack? Whatever you showed him in there?"
"Probably not," Jack admitted. "It's only short term, it's not designed to hold up for long. Just to get your mind clear."
"I can do it again," Luke said. "I'll remember it."
"Good man," Jack said again, but he was watching Sarah Jane and the look on his face was clear.
"Where did you learn that?" Gwen asked. "I've never seen you do that before."
"It doesn't work with everyone. There has to be a certain level of ability."
"It's latent," Jack said quickly. "He can't use it. But it's there. It's a Time Agent technique, it's supposed to give you a breathing space to figure out what to do." He caught Sarah Jane's eye. "If they figure out he's hearing them, if they push, it won't hold. It's not designed to. There's other techniques I can show him, but they'll have to wait until it happens again."
Ianto came back in, tray in his hands. "Drinks all around," he said brightly.
Gwen peeled the cloth off Luke's neck, letting him sit up, and passed him his cup. "Drink it all," she told him.
Luke took a sip and made a face. "There's more sugar than tea in here."
"It's good for you. Drink it all."
Sarah Jane glanced at him. "Luke, I need to talk to Jack for a minute. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," he assured her, but he had to concentrate fiercely to loosen his grip on her arm. Gwen settled next to him, aware that just having someone there would be some comfort.
Ianto was flipping through the TV stations, finally settling on BBC news. "...every child in the world," the newsreader was saying. "There is still no answer as to why they should be speaking in English. Once again, this evening's message was 'We are coming back.' There is still no clue who these strange messages are coming from or when they may have visited before."
In the hall Sarah Jane settled on the steps, cradling her cup. "Did you see anything in Luke's mind?"
"Enough to know he's amazing. But the messages – no. He was shielding me from them. Fighting them off took everything he had and he still took the effort to protect me. He's a wonderful boy, Sarah Jane."
"He's a boy, Jack. He's my boy."
"Yes. I know." He sighed, settling on the step below her. "I'm trying my best here, Sarah Jane."
She nodded quickly. "I know you are. Thank you. He seems better this time."
"We'll figure out a way to keep him safe. I promise."
She nodded, taking a deep breath to collect herself. "I don't have a spare room, Jack, but there's the couch..."
"We'll manage. We've been worse places. Got a couple of blankets?"
"Yes. I'll get them for you."
She didn't move, though, and Jack settled in to wait with her.
Ianto slipped out of the sitting room a little later. "Luke's sleeping," he reported. "Or dozing, at least. He looked like he needed it."
Jack nodded. "I'll take him upstairs. Any joy?"
"Every channel is showing the news. Everyone's talking, but no one has any ideas – or if they do, they're keeping them to themselves."
"We need to talk to Frobisher."
"It's late," Ianto said doubtfully.
"Hmm. Tomorrow, then, first thing. Sarah Jane, you should get some sleep."
She shook her head, accepting his hand up. "I'll be in Luke's room tonight. Tell Gwen she can use my room. I assume you're going to let her sleep at some point."
Jack nodded. "I'll bring him up for you."
Ianto took the empty cups, smiling faintly at her soft 'thank you'. "We'll figure this out, Miss Smith. I know you don't approve, but we really are good at what we do."
"I approve of your intentions, Mr Jones. Just not your methods."
"Ianto, Miss Smith."
"Sarah Jane, Ianto."
Jack came back through, carrying Luke. "Clyde's right, you should get some meat on this boy."
"Hyper efficient metabolism. He eats enough." Sarah Jane followed him up the stairs; Ianto headed back into the kitchen.
Jack came back down a little later, carrying an armload of blankets which he dropped on the couch. "Gwen, Sarah Jane says you can use her room."
"Won't she be using her room?"
"She's going to sit with Luke. Come on, I'll show you."
"I persuaded Rhys to take a couple of days holiday. Get out of Cardiff."
She studied him, fiddling with her phone. "What's going on, Jack?"
"I don't know yet. We'll figure it out. We always do." He grinned at her. "Get some sleep."
"Back at you."
No one slept much. Luke was the last one up, finding everyone gathered in the sitting room again. Jack was hastily packing things up while Gwen paced, talking on the phone, and Ianto wrote quickly on a notepad.
"What's going on?" Luke asked Ianto, who happened to be closest to him.
"We got in touch with someone in Frobisher's office."
"Is that good or bad?"
"Not really sure yet. Go talk to your mum."
He nodded, carefully circling the room to where Sarah Jane was leaning against the wall. "Morning."
"Morning." She pulled him into a hug. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine. What's going on?"
"Torchwood are leaving."
She shook her head. "Jack doesn't want to put us in danger."
"Because we never get in danger on our own?" he pointed out, frowning.
"You don't usually have the government hunting you down. Unless you've got something going on I don't know about," Jack said briskly.
"You're safer here," Sarah Jane said.
"We might be. You're not."
"You said the best chance of figuring out what was happening was here," Luke pointed out. "Where are you going to go? You don't have the Hub any more."
"We'll find somewhere."
"Jack, don't be ridiculous," Sarah Jane said firmly. "Unpack and get back to work."
Jack sighed, looking over his shoulder at Ianto and Gwen. "Well?"
"We are mostly set up here," Ianto said lightly.
"Rhys is coming here – sorry, Sarah Jane," Gwen added. "He won't be staying, I just had to give him somewhere to meet me."
Clyde wandered in, glancing casually around. "Morning."
"Clyde, didn't I tell you to stay away?" Sarah Jane said.
"That was yesterday. Who wants breakfast? I'm guessing you haven't taken time out from saving the world to eat yet?" He snagged Luke's arm, dragging him into the kitchen. "What's going on?" he hissed urgently as soon as they were out of earshot. "I nearly got lost getting here!"
"That's the perception filter. Mum is hoping it'll keep anyone who might be dangerous out." Luke glanced at the door, checking it was closed. "I think the government is trying to kill Torchwood."
"Don't they work for the government?"
"Not really." Luke shrugged, looking around. "Are we going to cook something?"
"I am," Clyde agreed. "I've seen what you can do to food. You don't get to touch."
Gwen headed out a little later to meet Rhys and pick up some things they needed. Clyde, and Rani who'd arrived after breakfast and ignored Sarah Jane's hints that they should leave, sat chatting quietly with Luke, pretending they weren't watching Jack and Ianto work. Sarah Jane tried several times to send them up to the attic, but they refused to go. Eventually she gave up and sat with them.
Gwen reappeared an hour or so later, Rhys in tow and eyes flashing. "Jack!"
"Uh oh," Clyde murmured, straightening up. "Retreat?"
"Frobisher ordered you killed!"
"What?" Jack frowned. "Well that's dumb for a lot of reasons. I can't die."
"Also, he needs Torchwood to deal with this," Ianto added.
"Also, he's supposed to be on our side. Where did you get this?"
Gwen dumped her bag and jacket on the couch. "His new PA. She saw the order go out. You and those three UNIT people."
"Hi," Rhys said awkwardly to Sarah Jane.
"Oh, sorry, love. Rhys Williams, Sarah Jane Smith. Her son Luke, his friends Clyde Langer and Rani...sorry," she added to Rani.
"Chandra. It's fine."
"You've got the magical connection?" Rhys said to Luke.
"I'm not sure it's really a connection. It only goes one way."
"Ah well, they say every little helps, yeah?"
Jack, who'd been leaning over Gwen's shoulder as she typed, straightened abruptly. "Kids, why don't you..." He floundered, looking to Sarah Jane for help.
"Not be here?" Clyde said with a sigh. "Come on, guys, let's go upstairs."
Luke glanced at Sarah Jane for her agreement before following him upstairs. Rani scowled at Jack, trailing after them.
"That was subtle," Rhys noted. "What's going on?"
Jack gestured to the computer screen. "We're getting an email from Gwen's new friend Lois."
"They're building something in Thames House," Gwen explained. "She's sending me plans. Does this look like anything to anyone?"
Sarah Jane stepped around Rhys to study the screen. "It's sort of like a tank," she said eventually. "Like a giant fish tank. Why are they building it?"
"The aliens sent instructions," Jack told her.
"If they can do that, why are they talking through the children?"
"Because they can. It incites fear. It demonstrates their power." He shrugged half-heartedly. "They want something, and they want to negotiate from a position of strength, so they're showing us. Do as we say or we will take your children. Look at our power."
"That sounds like the voice of experience talking," Rhys said, leaning over Gwen's other shoulder to look at the plans. "What're the tubes for?"
"Air supply. Or...some kind of supply." Gwen pushed gently until he backed up enough to let her stand. "Jack, why does Frobisher want you dead?"
"I don't know." When Sarah Jane glared at him, he protested, "I don't know."
"What about the UNIT names?"
"I don't know them."
"They were all good officers, according to the Brig," Sarah Jane said. "Good people. He worked with two of them at one time or another."
"Nothing in common?" Jack asked. "Missions they were all on, offices they all worked in?"
"Nothing on the record. Which doesn't always mean anything in UNIT." She sighed, sitting down. "What's the plan, Jack?"
"Until we know more about what they want, there isn't one, I'm afraid. You should probably keep the kids in today."
"You've changed your tune," Ianto said in surprise.
"Johnson's going to be getting anxious, if she's really supposed to take us out of play. No point in giving her targets. Gwen, did you have trouble getting back here?"
"Didn't see any black cars, if that's what you mean. Nearly pulled into the wrong drive, though."
"The keys are working." Sarah Jane nodded. "That's one good thing. Mr Williams, you must be hungry. Lunch time, I think."
"I'll help," Ianto said, mostly drowning out Rhys' "It's Rhys, thank you."
"Thank you. Jack, can I bring the kids back down?" Raising her voice just slightly, she added, "Assuming they aren't sitting on the stairs listening to us, of course."
There was dead silence for a moment, then the muffled sounds of three teenagers trying to sneak away without making any noise.
"They're fine," Jack agreed. "I wasn't sure what the information would have. I want to keep them out as much as I can."
"They've been fighting aliens for a while now," Sarah Jane pointed out.
"Yes. They haven't been fighting their own government."
"Is that where we're going?" she asked very softly.
"I think so," he said just as quietly.
"Well then. Forewarned is forearmed." She rose to her feet. "Ianto, let's see what's left in my kitchen." Leaning out of the door, she added, "Luke, you guys can come down now!"
"What's that?" Clyde called back. "Can't hear you over this video game we're enjoying up here!"
"Stop tying up Mr Smith's processing power!"
"We're not really playing anything," Luke said after a slight pause. "Can we stay up here?"
"If you want, until lunch is ready. Don't talk to Mr Smith! He's working on something for me."
Rani glanced at the boys. Luke was curled on the couch, completely ignoring them – not always unusual, but he wasn't actually doing anything, just staring into space. She looked at Clyde, who shrugged helplessly. Whatever was happening to Luke, they couldn't help with it.
She turned abruptly to the computer, typing rapidly. This was a long shot – the time was all wrong, for one – but it was the only thing she could think of.
"What are you doing?" Clyde asked, watching her.
"Tell you if it works," she murmured. "Just need a minute..."
There. Typing another line, she swung the computer around so Luke could see the screen. "Luke?"
"Took you long enough." Maria, clearly just woken up, glared at him from the screen. "What kept you?"
"Maria." Luke blinked, uncurling to look at her. "What are you..."
"Rani thought I might like to know what's going on."
"What's going on," he repeated blankly.
"Yeah, kids talking in unison, remember? You do remember what's been happening?"
"Yeah, of course." He shook his head firmly. "Yeah. Sorry. Has it – what's it like over there?"
"Pretty creepy, but it keeps hitting while most of the kids are asleep. We really only got the last one – we are coming back."
"No. Too old, aren't we?" She considered the group. "Or not. What's going on?"
"Luke's super alien brain's done it again," Clyde offered when no one spoke.
"What?" Maria eyed all three of them. "Someone start talking. Now."
Between the three of them they explained everything that had happened so far. Alan joined them halfway through, listening intently. "You all right?" he asked when they'd finished. Luke nodded. "How can we help?"
"My mother's worried about three UNIT personnel who were killed yesterday, but she can't find anything out. Can you try?"
"You want me to hack UNIT?"
"It'll help," Clyde agreed.
"It'll land me in prison."
"That's all right, Ianto Jones is brilliant at jail breaks."
"Comforting," he muttered. "Who am I looking for, Luke?"
He listed off the names. "They all worked undercover at different times, so I don't know...but if you can find anything, it'll help."
"Where d'you want me to send the information?" He was already typing on his own computer. Luke rattled off an email address. "Where?"
"A friend of my mum's in UNIT. She trusts him. He'll be able to use whatever you find."
"Are you all right, Luke?" Maria asked, studying him.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"Having those things in his head is killing him, but he's fine," Clyde agreed lightly.
"It's not killing me!"
Maria glanced at Rani, who shrugged. "It's not killing him, but it's definitely not much fun."
"I'm fine," Luke said firmly. "Honest."
"Uh huh. You look fine," Maria agreed. "Do I need to send the boys away?"
"Hey!" Clyde and Alan protested in unison. "What about Rani?" Clyde added.
"I'm a girl," Rani said in her best 'well, duh' tone.
Luke smiled faintly. "No. I'm all right. Promise."
Maria nodded. "All right. Call me? If you need to?"
She glanced at Rani. "Make sure he calls me if he needs to?"
"I'm going to need a little time on this," Alan said absently. "I'll send it to your mum's friend. Let us know if there's anything else we can do."
"Thanks," Clyde said brightly.
"Maria, you should stick with your dad," Luke said absently.
"Okay," she agreed, glancing at Clyde, who nodded quickly. "Listen, call us? I know you're going to be busy, but..."
"We'll keep you in the loop," Rani agreed. "Promise."
They pulled together a meal; Sarah Jane noted in passing that she was going to need to shop pretty soon. Hosting four extra people on top of Clyde and Rani was straining her larder.
Luke was quiet during lunch, picking unenthusiastically at his food; Clyde and Rani were covering for him, though, and it wasn't until he actually stopped eating and dropped his head into his hands that anyone really noticed.
"Luke, what's wrong?" Sarah Jane asked. She'd meant it to be quiet, but Gwen noticed and stopped talking in the middle of an anecdote, drawing the others' attention.
"Luke, is it them?" Jack asked. Luke nodded sharply, eyes closed tightly. "Got your wall up?"
"Okay. Clyde, move, please." Clyde scrambled out of his seat and Jack dropped into it, touching Luke's temples. "Okay. Same as last time, a wall."
"What's going on?" Rhys asked softly.
"Jack's helping Luke get them out of his head," Gwen said distractedly.
"Come on, Luke, you remember this. A wall. Come on, you can do it."
Luke stiffened, eyes flying open; his hands came up to knock Jack's away and he scrambled out of his chair, stumbling backwards. "It was you."
"What?" Jack stood and most of the others followed suit.
Jack took a step back, staring at him. Luke was panting, terrified and on the edge of tears. "Luke, I don't know what..."
"1965. It was you, you started this!" He plunged forward, thumping Jack as hard as he could. Clyde took a moment to be glad Luke had never had any interest in martial arts, or indeed learning how to fight at all; his hand-eye coordination and reflexes could have made him deadly, but as it was he was just flailing, missing Jack as often as he hit him. "You did it, you started it, this is all because of you!"
Ianto finally got an arm around him, spinning him away; Luke threw off Clyde's steadying hand, pounding out of the room. Rani chased him.
Jack, who hadn't reacted at all to the hits, sank down to sit on his chair. Ianto dropped to one knee in front of him, touching his arms and hands and face to try and get his attention. "Jack, what is it? What's he talking about?"
"456," Jack murmured.
"What is that? 456, what is it? Jack, come on."
Jack took a breath, closing his eyes. "In 1965 the British government was contacted by an alien race. They used the four five six frequency, so that's what they were called – they never gave us a name. They offered us a medicine, a cure for a new strain of Indonesian Influenza. They said an outbreak was coming and it would decimate the world."
"Twelve children?" Gwen said softly when he paused.
Jack nodded. "In return for the cure, they wanted twelve children. Twelve healthy children between the ages of two and twelve."
"And you handed them over," Sarah Jane said flatly.
"I didn't know. Not until I got to the meeting point. I hadn't been told, on purpose. But – yes. They took twelve children from an orphanage in Scotland and we handed them over, three UNIT personnel and me. The 456 gave us the cure and when the Influenza broke out, it was contained and dealt with. Government scientists confirmed it would have ripped through the world. Killed as much as twenty percent of the population, maybe more." He shrugged, looking up. "They didn't do this last time, use the children this way. They don't need to. They're in contact with the government."
"So what's changed?" Ianto asked.
"I don't know. But if they're back? This is really bad."
Rani knocked lightly on Luke's door.
"Go away," Luke said from inside.
"No. Let me in."
There was no answer; she opened the door, looking warily in.
Luke was sitting on the edge of his bed, gripping the edge of his mattress tightly. His eyes were red and swollen, but he wasn't crying anymore. "We are coming tomorrow."
"The message. 'We are coming tomorrow'. Go away. I don't want to talk right now."
"Who wants to talk?" She eased the door closed, crossing to sit next to him. "Talking's over rated. I'm just going to sit here."
She sat beside him for a while. They could hear voices rising and falling downstairs; Luke sat tense, listening, though she was fairly sure even he couldn't make out the actual words.
After a while she slid her hand across enough that her fingers were just barely brushing his; he didn't react at first, but after a few minutes he moved, wrapping his fingers around hers. Rani waited patiently, and a few minutes after that he sighed, relaxing all at once and resting his head on her shoulder.
"Hi," she said softly.
He breathed out a laugh. "Hi."
"No. Yes. I'm...yes."
"Once more, with conviction?"
"I'm all right."
She nodded. "Do you want to lie down?"
Clyde thumped up the stairs, coming in without bothering to knock. "You all right?"
"We are coming tomorrow."
He blinked. "Nice to know. Where are you going?"
"It's the message," Rani said when Luke didn't answer. "Whoever they are, they're coming tomorrow."
"Oh. Yeah, the news said that." He hunkered, watching them. "Captain Harkness figured it out 'cause of what you said. It's a race called..."
"I know who it is," Luke interrupted him.
He rubbed absently at one temple. "They know I'm here. There's...noise, in here. I can pick bits out of it."
Clyde whistled softly. "Okay, that's new. Think you should tell someone about that?"
"Yeah. I suppose." He didn't move, though; Clyde settled on the floor, leaning against the bed beside them.
"What are they talking about downstairs?" Rani asked.
"1965, I guess. Last time these aliens were here. Sarah Jane keeps sending me to do stuff so I won't hear them."
Clyde nodded, raising his voice by an octave. "Get Jack a glass of water, Clyde. Go and check in with Mr Smith, Clyde – as if I'd know if he'd found anything anyway," he added in his own voice.
"He knows about the 456?" Luke asked.
"Yeah. Don't they have a name?"
"I don't know. If they do I can't see it." He grimaced, flopping backwards across the bed. "I need to go apologise to Captain Harkness."
"Why?" Rani asked. "You didn't hurt him."
"Yeah, it was kind of embarrassing to watch, actually," Clyde agreed. Rani thumped him, grinning, and he stuck his tongue out at her.
"I need them out of my head, and I can't do it. I don't know how."
Clyde leaned on the edge of the bed, knocking lightly on Luke's forehead. "Ten thousand minds in there and you can't do it?"
"None of them know how. This isn't something that happens to normal people."
"I suppose not. I'll go ask him to come up."
"Can I help?" Rani asked quietly.
Luke smiled, shaking his head. "Stay with me?"
Whatever the adults had been talking about, they stopped when Clyde appeared. "He's all right," he told Sarah Jane, then turned to Jack. "He wants to talk to you."
"If he's going to hit Jack again..." Gwen started, but Clyde shook his head.
"He's over that. He says the 437 whatever have found him. They're poking around his brain, trying to get in, and he doesn't know how to keep them out, not really. He needs you to teach him, quickly."
"All right," Jack agreed, rising to his feet. Ianto and Gwen both tried to follow him; he glared them down, and before they could argue Sarah Jane said firmly, "I'll go with you."
"Clyde," Gwen said, "what message did Luke get?"
"We are coming tomorrow. Same as every other kid in the world." He turned before she could ask anything else, hurrying upstairs on Sarah Jane's heels.
Luke was sitting up, holding onto Rani. Sarah Jane sat next to him and he caught her hand, smiling shakily.
"Clyde says they've found you," Jack said, kneeling in front of him.
"Captain. I shouldn't have..."
"Not the time," he said gently. "Focus."
Luke shook his head jerkily. "Can't. If I concentrate on anything they can see it, they're looking at my thoughts. They're trying to figure out how I'm fighting back. I can't even think about you or they'll see...someone give me something to think about?"
"Count off pi," Rani suggested.
"I don't have to think about pi!"
Jack started him on a complex problem about a ship travelling between two points at a particular speed, going around a disputed area of territory, avoiding the gravity well around a black hole and staying free of an electrical storm. Sarah Jane took over, adding extra hazards and demanding updates on the hypothetical fuel consumption and travel time. Luke relaxed slightly as he ran the calculations, nodding when Jack reached for his temples.
Though Sarah Jane kept going with the problem, Luke's answers slowed and eventually stopped. Rani and Clyde glanced worriedly at each other, but before they could speak Jack shifted back onto his heels, letting go of Luke.
"Jack!" Sarah Jane demanded when neither of them spoke.
"It's all right. We put in – a fake layer. The 456 can poke around all they want in there, they won't find anything important."
"You can't keep them out altogether?"
"If we try and block them fully they'll just keep pushing. Luke's strong but there's a lot more of them. Putting in this fake layer, they think they've beaten him. They'll keep rooting around to make sure he's not hiding anything, but they won't find anything in the layer we've left them and they won't realise there's anything else to see."
"What's it like, mate?" Clyde asked.
"Like I've been slimed. But inside. They're moving around in there. It's weird." He rubbed at the bridge of his nose for a moment. "Thank you, Captain Harkness."
"Is this one going to last?" Sarah Jane asked.
"Yeah. This one will stick." Jack ground the heel of his head against his eye. "Luke, you should sleep, if you can."
"Yes, sir," Luke murmured.
Sarah Jane glanced at Clyde, who nodded. "We'll stay with him, Sarah Jane. Go do your thing."
Sarah Jane let Jack get most of the way back into the sitting room before asking, "Is it really going to hold?"
"It's really going to hold. He's strong enough to hold it up. He just didn't know how to do it. They can huff and puff all they want, that wall isn't coming down."
"Will he still get the messages?"
"I don't know. I think so. We'll find out, I guess."
"Everything all right?" Ianto asked mildly, watching them.
"Everything's fine. Where are we at?"
"Exactly where we were when you went upstairs," Gwen said briskly. "Lois is still sending us what she can, but Frobisher's office is in a holding pattern; they're waiting for this thing in Thames House to be finished. We probably won't know anything else until then."
"No sign of anyone finding us?"
"Nothing on any channel we've been able to monitor."
"Mr Smith hasn't found anything either," Sarah Jane said absently.
"Right." Jack shooed Gwen away from the computer, sitting at it. "If there's nothing going on, Gwen, take Rhys and get out of here for a bit. Get some fresh air."
Sarah Jane vanished into the kitchen for a moment, returning with her own TARDIS key. "Johnson's probably not going to sneak up on us from behind," she said off Jack's look. "The people back there have a big, angry dog. Your key is out front, it'll keep anyone seeing us from that side. Gwen, put this in your pocket and keep Rhys as close to you as you can."
Gwen accepted it, studying it carefully. "What'll it do?"
"It'll make people less inclined to notice you. Just don't draw attention to yourself, you should be fine."
"And don't lose it," Jack added. "Those are a rarity."
"Don't worry too much," Sarah Jane advised her. "They're hard to lose. Don't take it out of your pocket, you'll be fine."
Gwen nodded, slipping it into her pocket. "Thank you. Jack, I'll be back..."
"Tomorrow, unless we call you," Jack said firmly. "Take Rhys, find a nice hotel, relax some. We'll call if anything happens."
Gwen studied him for a moment before turning to Ianto, who smiled. "We'll call if anything happens," he promised.
Finally convinced, she left through the kitchen where Rhys had been hiding out.
The kids came down a little later, staying mostly out of the way of the action. The Torchwood computer had taken over most of the sitting room now, as Gwen and Ianto kept adding extra bits to it. Luke was fascinated, and whenever Ianto had time he explained what they were doing and what each component was for.
That evening Sarah Jane pulled out sleeping bags and camping mattresses and bedded the kids down in Luke's room. Jack didn't ask how she'd persuaded their parents to let them stay, considering what was going on. She passed extra blankets to Jack and Ianto and left them to sleep or not as they wanted. As long as they didn't wake anyone else up, she didn't care.
By the next morning tempers were starting to flare; tension and close quarters were taking their toll. Sarah Jane took Clyde and Rani shopping with her, leaving Luke with Jack after threatening him with various dire fates if he let anything happen. Jack took all the threats calmly, accepting them without argument.
Gwen returned a little later, bumping Jack from the computers and typing rapidly. "We may have a breakthrough," she said, pushing back slightly to show him the screen.
"What is that?" Jack asked, frowning.
Ianto got it before Gwen could answer. "That's Lois, isn't it? She's wearing the contacts."
"It's Lois," Gwen agreed. "They're on their way to Thames House. Lois is going to get into the meetings. We have eyes and ears."
"They're contact lenses with an embedded camera," Ianto explained to Luke. "We can see everything she's seeing, and we have lip reading software so we can hear, mostly."
"You're going to spy on secret government meetings?"
"Yeah," Jack said, watching him. "That's the plan."
Luke thought for a minute before smiling. "Cool." Eyeing the screen, he added, "Where are they?"
"Travelling somewhere. I don’t know London." Gwen studied the screen. "Is that Westminister Abbey?"
"St Paul's Cathedral," Ianto murmured.
"Ah. Knew it was one of those."
Luke straightened suddenly, looking past Jack at the wall. "We are here."
He gestured. "We are here. That's what they – the children are speaking. In that direction."
Luke nodded, eyes still locked in that direction.
Jack eyed him. "Any problems?"
"No. They can't see me anymore."
They watched Frobisher's party get signed into Thames House. Lois was clearly nervous during the security scans; Gwen tried typing comforting messages, but Lois kept jumping every time one showed up, so she stopped. The room they were shown into was crowded with people and Lois went more or less unnoticed as she slipped around the walls.
"What's the tank for?" Gwen murmured, studying it.
"For the 456," Ianto guessed. "They must need special atmosphere."
They watched Frobisher fumble through the introductions. Lois wrote the 456's answers in shorthand which Ianto translated, but apart from that the group was silent.
Jack glanced at Luke after a few minutes, drawing him to one side. "Can you hear any of that?"
"From the source, you mean?" Luke shook his head. "The wall's holding. I can feel them up there, but I can't hear them anymore." He studied Jack, swallowing. "Do you want me to try?"
"I really don't. Your mother'll kill me." Luke smiled faintly. "But I think we need you to. We have to know if they mean what they're saying or if this is just the opening volley. Are you willing?"
He took a deep breath, nodding. "If you think it'll help."
"It'll help. Do you know how?"
"Yes. I just...I need a minute."
Jack nodded, squeezing his shoulder and going back to the computer. Frobisher was faltering through a question about why the 456 had chosen Britain to visit, clearly uncomfortable. "...why the 456 chose Great Britain as its point of embarkation."
"We came here," Luke murmured. Ianto, frowning, repeated the words from Lois' pad. "You have no significance. You are middle men."
"...middle men. Jack, what's he doing?"
Jack waved him off, drawing Luke back to the computer. "Keep going," he urged the boy. "Gwen, read out what Frobisher's saying."
"We have a request," Luke said.
Gwen blinked, turning back to the computer. "By all means."
"We want a gift."
"Of course. But what nature of gift exactly? Jack, what are we doing?"
"We want..." Luke paled, taking a step back. "Captain..."
"What?" Jack said intently.
"They want children," he whispered.
Jack winced. "We knew they probably would. That's what they wanted last time."
"No, they..." He shuddered. "Last time it was just twelve."
"And this time?" Ianto asked.
"Ten. Ten percent of the children of the world." His voice shook. "They want two hundred million children. And they'll destroy the planet to get them."
Sarah Jane and the others returned a little later; Clyde took one look at the group in the sitting room and steered Rani into the kitchen with the bags of shopping. Luke threw his arms around his mother, burying his face in her shoulder.
"What's going on?" Sarah Jane demanded.
"The 456," Gwen said quietly. "We know what they want."
"And what do they want?"
Luke muttered an excuse none of them heard, letting go of Sarah Jane and hurrying into the kitchen.
"They want more children," Jack told her. "A lot more."
"Ten percent of the world's kids," Ianto said. "They've given the government a little time to think about it, but if we don't agree it's war. They'll take what they want."
"What's..." She glanced towards the kitchen.
"Luke got the plan straight out of their heads."
"He's hearing them again?"
"I asked him to...I'm sorry," Jack added at her look. "We needed to know what they really wanted and how far they'd go."
"I know. But we really did need to know."
She took a deep breath. "We'll talk about it later. What did you find out?"
"They want ten percent. Or they'll destroy the world and take whatever they can get."
"What do they want children for in the first place?"
Jack sighed. "Luke says that children of that age create – some kind of chemical reaction that induces psychotropic reactions in the 456."
Sarah Jane puzzled her way through the sentence. "They're getting high on the kids."
"One of the original twelve children is in the tank with the 'Ambassador'," Gwen said. "Still alive, though it doesn’t seem very aware at least."
Sarah Jane glanced towards the door again and Ianto shook his head. "He's all right. A little shaken, but all right."
"He's not hearing them any more?"
"No," Jack assured her. "They started to notice him, he said, trying to get through again, so he backed off. He won't have to do that again."
"I hope not. Do you have a plan?"
"We're still working out the kinks."
"He has no plan," Gwen stage-whispered. "He just thinks if he talks big enough, something will happen."
"Meeting's starting back up," Ianto noted, gesturing to the computer screen.
Sarah Jane slipped into the kitchen, where Luke was sitting at the table talking quietly to Rani. Clyde caught Sarah Jane's eye and shook his head; she breezed past to get a glass of water, heading back into the sitting room without doing any more than touching Luke's shoulder.
Jack and the others were gathered around the computer, watching the meeting, when she came back through. Ianto caught her eye, frowning. "They're discussing how many kids they could get away with offering," he said disgustedly. "Asylum seekers and juvenile delinquents, mostly."
"They're going to give in?" Sarah Jane sank into the nearest seat.
"They're considering it a needs of the many scenario."
"We're not going to let them do it," Jack said firmly. "We're recording all of this. If they try and go ahead, we'll release videos of them plotting to hand over Earth's children to aliens without so much as a whimper."
He studied Sarah Jane for a moment, touching her arm. "It's not going to happen," he said again when she looked at him. "I swear it."
"Children, Jack. Clyde and Rani are only two years over..." She shook her head, cutting herself off.
Ianto straightened suddenly, reading from the screen. "Frobisher going to Thames House to make offer. 6700 children of earth. 62 UK."
"They aren't going to like that," Jack muttered. "Ask her if she can go with him."
"It's just Frobisher," Gwen said, shaking her head. "He hasn't taken anyone with him."
Jack looked at Sarah Jane, who shook her head firmly. "Don't ask him, Jack."
"I wasn't going to," Jack protested.
"You were going to mention your problems in front of him and hope he'd volunteer. Luke's just a boy and he's done enough for you already."
"He has done enough," Gwen agreed. "We won't say anything to him. Promise, Sarah Jane."
"Thank you," Sarah Jane muttered stiffly.
"We should've gotten a camera on Frobisher," Ianto said absently, typing quickly.
"Well, 'scuse me. I did my best," Gwen huffed. "What are you doing?"
"I'm thanking Lois. She is committing treason for us, and so far all we've done is ask her to commit more treason."
"That's very thoughtful of you, Ianto," Sarah Jane said pointedly.
Gwen perked up a minute later, studying the screen. "Hey – Frobisher's there. They're watching him."
Lois was scribbling frantically, trying to copy Frobisher's words, the 456's response, and the comments being passed around her. Ianto translated as quickly as she wrote, but out of context and unable to see who was speaking, it wasn't much help.
"Sarah Jane?" Rani came in, glancing uncertainly around. "Luke's getting a message."
"What is it?" Jack asked quickly. Sarah Jane, already on her feet, glared at him. "And is he all right?"
"He's fine. He says they can't get through. It's just a message."
Luke appeared in the doorway; Clyde was hovering at his shoulder. "3, 2, 5, 0, 0, 0."
"That's the message?" Jack asked. "What does it mean?"
"It's ten percent," Ianto said from the computer. "Three hundred twenty five thousand is ten percent of the children in the target age group in the UK."
"News says kids in other countries are saying different numbers," Gwen added. "Always ten percent."
"The 456 are going public. Time we did as well. Get Lois somewhere we can talk to her," Jack ordered. "Good work, Luke."
"They'll arrest me," Lois protested.
"They're planning on handing over three hundred thousand children, Lois," Jack said again. "If we can get into Thames house we can stop this. You're the only hope we have."
There was a long pause while Lois struggled with it. "All right, "she said finally.
"Don't worry. If you get arrested, we'll put Ianto on the case," he said brightly.
"Jack," Gwen hissed.
"What, too soon?"
"You know what to do, Lois?"
"Yeah. I'm good."
"If we could do it we would. Just stay calm. I'm right here with you, okay?"
"All right. I'll see you later."
Gwen clicked the phone off, glancing around. "Are we ready?"
"Captain Jack, may I talk to you?" Luke asked suddenly.
"Sure, Luke." He followed the boy into the hall, carefully closing the door on Clyde. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. I mean, nothing specific. But they have some kind of plan. They were expecting someone to face them down. Please be careful in there."
"What kind of plan? Can you see?"
Luke shook his head. "I'd have to let the wall right down and they'd get in. But they believed it would kill any thought of resistance."
Jack eyed him. That wasn't Luke's phrasing, so something had to be leaking through. "What does..."
Clyde burst into the hall, glowering defiantly at Jack as he joined Luke. "Like you didn't know I was listening," he said off Luke's look. "Secret meetings with the guy keeping the aliens out of your head?"
"There's nothing wrong," Luke told him. "Just some last minute advice."
He didn't say who was advising whom, Jack noted. Luke still couldn't lie worth a damn, but apparently he could prevaricate with the best of them. "It'll be fine," he said brightly. "Just keep that wall up." Catching and holding Luke's gaze, he added, "Don't go poking. Not for any reason."
"Sir," Luke murmured. "Clyde, can you tell my Mum I went upstairs? I've got to...not be here. I won't be long."
"Sarah Jane, we're going upstairs!" Clyde yelled cheerfully. Luke grinned, heading upstairs.
"Clyde," Jack said quietly. Luke kept going without looking back at them; for form's sake, Jack waited until he'd rounded the corner of the stairs to tell Clyde "Don't let him bring that wall down."
"You try stopping him when he thinks he's got to do something. Is it a trap?"
"No. At least, not that I know of. It wouldn't be much of a trap if we knew about it beforehand, I suppose..."
"Does Luke think it's a trap?"
Jack smiled faintly. "You're dangerous, aren't you? Don't let him drop the wall." Clyde nodded grimly, turning to run up the stairs, and Jack went back into the sitting room.
"Everything all right?" Gwen asked.
"Everything's fine. Are we ready?"
"Ready to go," Ianto agreed.
"Take your key, Jack," Sarah Jane said.
"Can yours protect the house?"
"I gave mine to Rhys when you sent him away."
"It's kind of important," Gwen added when Jack glared. "He gets caught, we're up the creek. We lose all our leverage. His copies of those recordings are important."
"Except for Sarah Jane's computer, who also has the files and can distribute them just as quickly as Rhys can. Ianto and me aren't trying to hide from anyone. You guys keep the key." He took the bag Ianto offered him. "See you in a while."
"Be careful," Gwen said, rising to hug Ianto tightly.
"I'll keep him on the straight and narrow, don't worry."
"Might be biting off too much, Ianto," Sarah Jane said lightly, smiling at Jack's pout. "Be careful, Captain."
"Always, Ma'am," he grinned, leaving with Ianto on his heels.
Luke and Clyde reappeared a little later and the group gathered around the computer, watching as Lois spoke to the government. She was clearly terrified, but she managed very nicely. Torchwood had copies of all the meetings; under threat of having them released to the general public, the officials agreed to let Jack and Ianto enter Thames House.
A new feed appeared on Gwen's computer, a direct feed from the 'Ambassador' room, and they watched Jack square off against the 456.
The conversation seemed to be going well, until the 456 said calmly, "We have released a virus into the air." Luke sat bolt upright, staring at the screen.
"Thames House is going into lockdown," Gwen muttered, typing frantically. "I can't get it open!"
Luke pulled Rani and Clyde out of the room and upstairs. Sarah Jane barely registered it, watching numbly as Gwen tried desperately to release the doors of Thames House and save some of the victims. The gas the 456 had released worked too quickly, though; people were dying even as they fought to reach the doors.
In the corner of Gwen's screen Jack and Ianto had slumped to the floor and were whispering to each other. Gwen stopped typing, watching with tears in her eyes as Ianto died. Jack kissed him gently, lay down, and followed suit.
Sarah Jane wasn't sure how long they'd been sitting staring at the bodies of Torchwood Three when Luke leaned past her, flipping the screen off. "Mum, come on," he said gently, urging her to her feet. "We have to go."
"Where?" She watched Clyde and Rani cajole Gwen to her feet. Gwen was still crying, though she didn't seem to be aware of it. "Luke, Jack..."
"I know. We're going there." Glancing at the others, he added, "To bring Gwen to them."
"Thank you, I can walk," Gwen said, shaking off their hands. "I'm not quite insensible yet."
Sarah Jane took a step forward. "Gwen..."
"I'm going to Thames House."
Sarah Jane glanced at Luke, standing quietly at her elbow, and at Clyde and Rani, hovering uncomfortably in the door. Clyde was carrying a backpack, fiddling uncertainly with the strap. "We're coming with you." Gwen didn't argue, slipping between Clyde and Rani and leaving the house. The front door closed very gently behind her.
"What about Mr Williams?" Rani asked.
"Leave him for now. He's not in danger and we need him where he is." Luke touched Sarah Jane's shoulder, moving to join his friends.
Sarah Jane got them out of the house and into the car – Gwen was leaning against it, ignoring Gita's attempts to get her attention from across the road – and started towards Thames house. All the time she was wondering. When had her son started sounding quite so much like Jack Harkness?
Mr Smith found them a mostly unobscured path to Thames House and they arrived just as the first tentative explorations were being made. Gwen's Torchwood status, and a call to Lois secured her access, but they had to wait while investigators searched the building.
The kids chatted quietly while they waited. After the first two hours Clyde went to the nearest shop and brought back cups of horrible tea and snacks, and every hour after that one of them – usually Clyde again – repeated the trip. If it bothered Luke to be so close to the 456 he didn't show it, talking quietly with his friends and smiling at Sarah Jane every time she came past to check on them. He was wearing Clyde's backpack and every so often he jostled it lightly as though checking it was still there.
Gwen sat, silent and very still, and waited.
It was several hours before the investigators gave up and came to fetch her. There was another argument about her gun, and then another about the guard they insisted she take. They'd allowed Sarah Jane and the kids as far as the main doors, but they wouldn't let them in and Gwen didn't want them to wait for her.
Luke suddenly stepped up to her shoulder, tugging absently at the strap of his bag. "I'm going with her," he told the guard.
"I have permission for one person only. Sit down, kid."
Luke glanced over his shoulder at Rani and Clyde. They immediately started yelling, crowding up around the guard and his friend, shouting and forcing them back a couple of steps. Gwen heard Sarah Jane's lipstick go off and the lights on the far side of the lobby exploded, creating instant chaos.
Luke tugged at her wrist. She couldn't hear him over the noise, but their path was clear and she followed him into the maze of corridors and rooms.
"We don't have long," he said, racing through the corridor junctions without pausing. "Can you read chemical notation?"
"Yes," she said dubiously. "It's been a while, though."
He flashed a grin over his shoulder at her. "I tested it on Clyde. It won't be hard. Come on."
"What are we doing?"
They reached the make shift morgue. Luke didn't look around, dropping to his knees next to the nearest body, but Gwen was transfixed in the doorway, staring at the rows of corpses.
She blinked, dropping next to Luke. "Who's this?"
"Doesn't matter. We've only got a minute or two before security finds us." He pushed a tray of syringes into her hands. "Look at the labels and tell me if you can read them. You have to be sure."
Someone yelled up the corridor behind them. Luke flinched, hunching his shoulders against the noise.
"What are you doing?" Gwen asked.
"I don't have time. Please, Gwen, look at the labels."
Gwen obeyed. Luke was trembling and his eyes were fever-bright. She looked at the tray, puzzling out the labels. "Where did you get this? Half of these are illegal!"
"Mr Smith helped me. Can you read it?"
"Yeah. I know them."
"You have to be sure," he said again.
"I'm sure. I know all of these."
"Good. Give me exactly what I ask for when I ask for it, okay? The timing's really important." He carefully folded the shroud back to expose the arm of the person below – a woman, Gwen thought, studying the slim wrist.
"Luke, there's no heartbeat. How will this help?"
"Don't worry about that."
"Luke." She caught his wrist. "I have to know what you're doing."
"They're not..." He gestured frustratedly. "They're not dead yet."
"By Human standards, yes," he said very quickly, words spilling out. "But not by Galactic standards, and I can create Galactic-level medications and I can cure them. But you have to help me. Please. Are you ready?"
Gwen took a deep breath. "Yes."
He rapped out the first three names and she handed him the syringes smoothly, watching him jab them in one after another. He was counting under his breath, cutting himself off to ask for the next syringes.
When he plunged the last one in the body arched under the sheet, breath rattling in and out unsettlingly. Luke hastily tugged the shroud down, clearing her face and watching critically as her breathing started to even out.
"Good," he said finally, scooting back a little and gathering the used syringes. "Gwen, find Ianto. We might get another one done." Leaning back over the woman, he started talking softly.
Gwen left them to talk, hurrying along the rows and tugging at the shrouds, just enough to clear the faces. She found Jack in the fourth row; Ianto was lying next to him.
"Here, Luke!" she called over her shoulder.
The woman was sitting up now; Luke touched her shoulder, murmuring something before standing and jogging across to join Gwen. "Ready to go again?" he asked. The trembling had eased off and he looked altogether healthier.
"I'm ready. Let's do it."
They saved three before the soldiers poured in. Ianto and the first woman blocked their path, desperately protecting Luke until he'd finished with the third person; as soon as the last syringe went in he skidded backwards, raising both hands in surrender. Gwen pulled the shroud away to show the man gasping for breath.
"These people aren't dead yet and this boy knows how to save them," she said, raising her voice over the soldier's shouts. "Unless you want to be responsible for them dying for real, let him get on with it!"
"I don't have enough for everyone," Luke murmured.
"And get him some supplies!"
There was a lot of arguing between the soldiers and a lot of yelling for information that wasn't coming. Eventually someone decided Luke might as well be saving people while they argued, and he was allowed to continue. They replaced Gwen with a soldier, though, and each revived person was given a guard.
Jack revived halfway through the process and took over arguing with the soldiers. He managed to get Sarah Jane allowed down; Luke grinned at her but kept going, working around the room.
They were all held in quarantine once he was finished; the soldiers didn't have the authority to decide what to do, and they were waiting for someone who did to arrive. Gwen clung Ianto for a long time, trying to convince herself he really was there.
Finally she let him go, standing to let Jack into her place. The pair hadn't been more than four feet from each other since Jack had revived; even then, they kept glancing at each other or touching lightly, making sure neither had vanished. Gwen wasn't sure she wanted to be too far from them, either, but there was something she had to do.
She crossed to sit beside Luke and Sarah Jane. Luke was curled into her side, eyes closed, and for almost the first time since Gwen had met him he looked his age.
"You all right?" she asked softly. Luke nodded without opening his eyes and she looked at Sarah Jane.
"He had to let the 456 into his mind, a little, so he could see into theirs to get the cure," Sarah Jane explained quietly. "He's got the wall back up, now."
"I think if I worked at it, I could get the cure down to one injection." Luke's eyes were still closed as he spoke. "Then it wouldn't be any good to the 456 at all. Anyone could do it."
"How does it work with no heartbeat?" Gwen asked curiously.
"It doesn't spread through the circulatory system. How's Ianto?"
"Confused. They all are. But he's alive." She touched Luke's arm, waiting until he looked at her. "Diolch yn fawr."
"You're welcome?" he said uncertainly.
Gwen laughed softly, nodding. "Yes. That's thank you."
Luke smiled at her, eyes closing again. Sarah Jane smoothed his hair, waiting until he fell into a doze. "What's going to happen?" she asked quietly.
"No one seems to know. They're waiting for someone with some kind of authority to tell them."
"Your Frobisher doesn't know?"
"If he does, he's not talking to us. Where are Clyde and Rani?"
"I made them promise to get to safety when the soldiers let me down here."
"So where are they?"
She smiled faintly. "Probably hanging around just outside the entrance, waiting to see what's happening. Go back to your team, Gwen. We're fine."
"I am with my team."
"Oh, no." Sarah Jane shook her head. "We are not Torchwood." She smiled to take the sting out of it.
"Too late," Gwen said cheerfully. "My husband's been saying that for years, but once you're in, you're in."
One of the guards paused beside them, offering bottles of water. Glancing at Luke, he said softly, "Is he all right?"
"Fine, thank you," Sarah Jane said crisply, taking the bottles.
The guard nodded, moving on, and Gwen stood. "We're just over there, yeah? Give a yell if you need us."
"I will. Thank you." She gently shook Luke awake, pressing the water into his hands.
Jack was watching when Gwen came back. Like most of the revived, Ianto was pale and shaky but seemed fine apart from that; he was taking measured sips from his water bottle. Jack had an arm around him but wasn't actually holding him up.
"They okay?" Jack asked quietly when Gwen dropped beside him.
"Luke's tired. He's bouncing back."
"He let them into his head, didn't he?"
"Sarah Jane says it's sorted now."
"I'll talk to him, later."
Gwen bumped Ianto's shoulder. "How are you feeling?"
"A little – disconnected. But alive, which is apparently an improvement."
"What do you remember?"
"Dying," he said flatly. "But not being dead."
"It's hard to remember the actual being dead part," Jack agreed.
"No bright light, no pearly gates?" Gwen asked, mostly joking.
"No." Ianto smiled faintly, studying the bottle he was holding. "None of that."
Jack looked up suddenly, letting go of Ianto. "Here comes trouble," he remarked, just loudly enough to be heard.
Johnson smiled sweetly at him, halting at the edge of their row. "You're to come with me, please."
"What about everyone else?" Jack asked.
"The boy and his mother are coming too. Everyone else will be checked by medical staff and decisions will be made then."
"I'll tell them." Gwen slipped past Johnson before she could protest; one of her soldiers followed, but Gwen wasn't too worried.
Sarah Jane looked up as Gwen hunkered beside them. "What's wrong?"
"Johnson's here. She's taking us all into custody, you too."
"Us?" Sarah Jane repeated.
"Luke just brought a roomful of people back from the dead, Sarah Jane."
"They weren't properly dead yet," Luke murmured. "Not by galactic medical standards."
"Even so." Glancing over her shoulder, she added softly, "I don't think they're going to hurt us."
"That's a relief," Sarah Jane said dryly. "Can you walk, Luke?"
"Yeah. I'm fine, mum. Promise."
They joined the others, Sarah Jane more or less ignoring the guns and Luke sticking quietly by her shoulder. Jack patted him on the back and Ianto smiled at him, but none of them spoke, following Johnson out of the room.
"Oh, we almost made it," Sarah Jane said in disgust, turning. Clyde had attempted to rush them and was currently being held by two very large soldiers. Rani was behind him; another soldier was standing over her but not actually holding her.
"The remains of your little gang?" Johnson studied them. "Bring them both along."
Rani's guard caught her arm, pulling her along, and Clyde struggled against his."Let go of her!" he snarled.
"So sweet." Johnson climbed into her vehicle without looking at them.
The soldiers let all seven of them ride in the same van, at least; Clyde hurriedly sat next to Luke, squeezing his hand tightly. "It worked?"
"It worked." Luke grinned. "Nobel in chemistry, here I come."
"As if they'd let you claim it for this."
They rode in silence to Johnson's base. Both Luke and Ianto had recovered enough to walk under their own power once they got there; Johnson had her medic check them both out anyway before confining all seven to a room.
Clyde rattled the door for form's sake before turning back to Jack. "So what's the plan, boss-man?"
Jack blinked, glancing at Sarah Jane. "Sorry?"
"The plan. You've got a plan, right?"
"Not so much since I died, no."
Clyde scowled, turning to Luke. "What about you? Any insights?"
"Sorry. It's all quiet in here." He gestured vaguely near his head, shrugging.
Clyde looked desperately at Sarah Jane, who shook her head. "Sometimes, Clyde, all you can do is wait."
"Well that sucks." He slid down the wall to sit, scowling.
It was almost three hours later when Johnson opened the door, focusing on Jack. "Is the government really planning to hand over thousands of children?" she asked. She was pale. "Your Lois is yelling at anyone who gets within fifty feet of her. There's rumours spreading all over the country."
"Good girl," Gwen said proudly.
"It's true. They're handing over three hundred twenty five thousand kids. And that's just here in this country. Worldwide it's something in the region of two hundred million." Jack rose to his feet, watching her. "It's all on our computers. I can show you a copy if you'll let me link to it."
"They're just going to hand them over?"
"Let me show you." She nodded absently, taking a step back to let him out. "Luke, come on."
"Why Luke?" Sarah Jane protested.
"In case I need him. He knows what's going on, after all."
"Jack Harkness, you are not to let him contact those things!"
"It's all right." Luke smiled at her, rising to follow Jack out of the room.
Jack was able to access the Torchwood computers from Johnson's set up, displaying the files of the meetings. Johnson watched her government prepare to hand over the children, one hand pressed against her mouth. "How can they..."
"Let us try and stop them," Jack said urgently.
"They can be stopped," Luke added. "We can do it, ma'am."
"Ma'am," Johnson repeated, half laughing.
"He's very polite. Let us do it."
She nodded, finally. "What do you need?"
Jack drew Luke to one side while Johnson was arranging for the supplies he needed. "You all right?"
"Everyone keeps asking that," he said, baffled. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Where'd you get the cure, Luke?"
Luke shrugged, looking away. "I'm a genius, Captain."
"Even a genius needs a starting point. How did you know?" He caught Luke's chin, turning his face. "Are you alone in there?"
"More or less. The wall's up, if that's what you mean."
"I told you not to drop it in the first place."
"If I hadn't, all those people would have died."
"You could have died."
"They don't want to kill me. They want to know what I know. What I am."
"Luke. Letting them read you is dangerous. The more chances you give them to do that, the more likely they'll figure out the wall is a fake."
"But it's all right when it suits you? When you need information? I saved Ianto's life, Captain Harkness. I saved all of those people."
"And I'm very grateful. I just want to be sure you're all right. Gwen was worried about you, she said you looked ill earlier."
Luke frowned. "When?"
"While you were healing the first victim. Did you really start a riot?"
"Clyde and the others did."
Jack smiled. "Sounds like Clyde. Did he know what you were doing?"
"I didn't tell him. He probably guessed. Clyde's pretty smart. He knew I needed to get to the bodies."
"Luke, are you all right?"
He nodded. "With the first woman – I had the wall down, a little, enough to see the shape of the virus. I needed it to know what to do. After her I could remember and I got the wall back up. They didn't see anything, they didn't know I was looking."
"And you're sure it's safe now?"
"You can check, if you want. They didn't realise what I was doing; they're not paying much attention to me any more."
"I'll take your word. Just be careful, okay?"
"Good man," Jack said softly, grinning at him. Turning on his heel, he added more loudly, "Let's get rid of them once and for all, yeah?"
"Why?" Gwen protested, following Jack from computer to computer as he typed quickly. Dekker, one of the engineers dealing with the 456, had proven very useful in getting the system up and running, though his pessimism and open admiration for the 456 were starting to grate on everyone.
"Because I need you to. Take Ianto and go back to Sarah Jane's. If this doesn't work, you'll need to get Mr Smith to broadcast warnings. All over the planet, Gwen, you understand?"
"Take Rani," Sarah Jane added. "Mr Smith will listen to her."
"Please," Jack said quietly.
Gwen studied him for a moment before nodding. "All right. Want me to take Luke and Clyde?"
"I'm not leaving my mum," Luke said fiercely.
"And I'm not leaving them," Clyde added.
Sarah Jane shrugged, but her eyes were very proud. "Let them stay. They can help."
"Right." Gwen turned on her heel, heading out. Ianto paused to say a very thorough goodbye to Jack – Clyde looked away, groaning, and Luke watched interestedly – before following her.
"So what do we do now?" Sarah Jane asked.
"It has to be in the frequencies," Johnson said. "The 456 communicate exclusively on that frequency. There's got to be a way to fold it back on them."
"Maybe," Jack agreed, turning to the equipment.
"It's hopeless," Dekker muttered, but he bent to the work anyway.
Luke and Clyde watched as the adults got very involved in whatever they were working on. "You know what they're doing?" Clyde asked softly.
"Some." Luke's eyes were distant.
"You all right?"
"Yeah. The 456 are getting noisy. Not – they're not talking at me, specifically, they're just noisy. They think they're winning."
"Anything you can use to defeat them?"
"I don't know. I don't think so. It's hard to pick out anything particular."
Jack was staring at them when Clyde looked over, one eyebrow raised. Clyde waved him off and he turned back to his work.
"That might be it," Jack murmured.
"What?" Johnson asked.
"Johnson, you have records of scans from when the kids were talking?"
"That's not the 456 frequency. If we can figure out how they're getting at the kids..."
There was a noise at the far end of the room; Jack glanced up, paling as a dark haired young woman and a young boy - Alice and Steven, his daughter and grandson – were escorted in. "Johnson, what's..."
"She's been causing trouble for my men, trying to track you down. Get them to keep quiet."
Jack nodded, hurrying towards them and sweeping Steven into his arms. "What are you doing?" he hissed to Alice.
"Everything that's going on, you thought I'd believe you didn't have anything to do with it? What's happening?"
He glanced over his shoulder at the computer set up. "We're almost there. I need you two to stay out of the way, okay?" Glancing at the nearest soldier, he added, "Maybe a Coke or something for Steven?" The soldier nodded, wandering off, and Jack added softly, "Just keep quiet. Please. Trust me."
Alice studied him for a moment before nodding. "All right."
Jack smiled at her, ruffling Steven's hair before heading back to work.
"Who d'you suppose that is?" Clyde murmured.
Luke glanced at Alice and Steven. "Captain Harkness's family."
"What, like wife and son? Isn't he about seven thousand years old?"
"Two. Maybe. And no; daughter and grandson."
"What? Ew. How can you tell?"
Clyde studied him. "Luke, are they in your head again?"
"They know the Thames House victims didn't die. They know I did something. They're trying to get through to see what it was. They can't do it, but I have to concentrate."
"That your way of saying 'shut up, Clyde'?"
"No." Luke grinned. "I can concentrate on more than one thing at a time."
"No," Jack said suddenly from across the room, pushing Dekker away.
"It's the only way."
"No! I'll find another way to do it."
Luke stood, moving towards the semi-circle of computers. Clyde followed him, suddenly very wary.
"We don't have time to find another way. This is the only way."
"Jack, you can't," Sarah Jane protested.
Dekker turned to look past Luke and Clyde. Following his gaze, Clyde saw Steven chatting happily with one of the guards. "Centre of the resonance?" Dekker laughed softly. "That kid's going to fry."
Luke gripped Clyde's shoulder, tightly enough to hurt. "He's going to put feedback on the frequency the 456 are using to talk to us," he said softly. "It'll hurt them, a lot. Maybe kill them. It'll definitely make them think twice about attacking Earth. But he needs a kid to send it through, and Steven's the only one here."
Clyde grimaced, watching Jack type frantically. "He wouldn't actually do it, would he?"
"It'll save 6.2 million children."
"It..." Luke nodded quickly. "It's horrible. But if he...I have to think of the logic. It's too big otherwise."
Jack broke under their eyes, accepting that there was no other way to do this and no time to think of another solution. He glanced at Johnson, who bit her lip but gestured to her soldiers. Two forced Alice out of the room, ignoring her screams; two more hustled Steven towards the plinth that was ready and waiting for him. Sarah Jane tried to protest and Johnson pushed her backwards, glaring her into silence. Alice pounded on the door from the other side, screaming and shouting.
Luke watched numbly. He'd already made his decision; he knew what he needed to do. He couldn't let this happen. Letting go of Clyde, he took a step towards his mother and then paused, uncertain.
Clyde had been watching him; he must have figured it out the same time as Luke did, because he took a quick step forward, gripping his arm. "Luke, tell me you're not thinking what I think you're thinking."
"What choice do I have?"
"That thing will kill you."
"Might kill me. It'll definitely kill Steven. I can't let Captain Harkness do that." He glanced at Sarah Jane; she was watching the soldiers wrestle Steven to the centre of the room with one hand pressed against her mouth. "Keep hold of her, will you? And tell her..."
He couldn't think of the words, but Clyde nodded anyway, eyes bright. " 'Course I will. It's an honour, Luke. Always has been."
Luke nodded stiffly, turning and walking towards where Jack was still fiddling with the machine. Johnson was watching – he could feel her eyes on his back – but she didn't make any attempt to stop him, so he ignored her. He smiled shakily at Steven as he passed the raised plinth.
"Captain Harkness." That wasn't nearly loud enough. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Captain Harkness, use me."
"You're too old." Jack didn't look up, though he wasn't actually doing anything useful, just resetting the values over and over.
"I'm in contact with them, though." Sarah Jane cried his name, obviously having realised what he was doing, but he didn't turn and she didn't come after him. Clyde must have been hanging on to her as he'd promised.
Luke took a step closer to Jack, trying to get into his eyeline. "I'm so much stronger than Steven is. Don't do this to him. Please."
"It'll kill you."
"Maybe. It'll definitely kill him. Maybe I can survive it."
Jack looked up finally. "This thing will burn you from the inside out. Even if you live, your mind'll be gone. Your mind, Luke. That brilliant, shining mind and all the things you could do with it."
"I pulled the Moon out of orbit, Captain Harkness, without even a headache afterwards. Let me do this, please."
Jack looked at Sarah Jane. She was shaking in Clyde's grip, but she hadn't tried to stop Luke. "I love you," she called, voice breaking.
"I love you, Mum, so much." Luke didn't turn, terrified of seeing the look on her face.
"You're shaking," Jack said, quietly enough that only they could hear.
"I'm afraid," Luke said honestly. "But I have a chance, Captain Harkness. If you put Steven in that machine he will die. Maybe too soon to do any good."
"Your mother will kill me."
"Your daughter will hate you." Luke was pretty sure that was what Clyde would have called a 'low blow' but he was running out of time. The 456 were building up to something, he could feel it. They needed to do this now.
Jack studied him for a moment before mouthing 'thank you'. Luke nodded, locking his knees to keep from collapsing. Carefully, he began thinning the wall in his mind; for this to work, he'd have to be in full contact with the 456.
"Steven," Jack said quickly, "I can't let your mom back in yet, so I want you to go over to Sarah Jane and hold her hand. Stay with her, okay?"
"Yes, Uncle Jack." Steven hurried over to Sarah Jane, who wrapped an arm around him.
"Luke, are you ready?" Jack asked, gesturing him onto the platform.
Luke nodded, taking a breath. Looking at his mother, he said firmly, "This is my decision." To Jack, he added, "This is my choice." He let the wall crack, feeling the 456 rush, shrieking, into his mind.
'Thank you,' Jack mouthed again, and then he flipped the switch and Luke's world was lost in a haze of pain.
Clyde desperately wanted to look away. Luke was twitching, shaking so hard it looked like he was about to fly apart. Beside them, Steven had started the eerie wailing that had so far preceded communications from the 456.
"It's working!" Jack yelled, making minute adjustments to the control panel. Luke was bleeding from his nose and eyes and ears and mouth, convulsing so hard Clyde couldn't see how he was even still upright.
Steven stopped screaming, staring blankly ahead for a moment.
Johnson was watching just as closely as Clyde was; when Jack cut the power and Luke dropped, she caught him easily, pulling him off the plinth. Clyde was there to hold him, propping him carefully upright.
Luke's breathing was frighteningly shallow, his pulse was racing too fast for Clyde to count, and under the blood he was sheet white. He was still twitching, muscles misfiring as he fought to recover; his head lolled loosely onto Clyde's shoulder in what had to be a horribly uncomfortable position. Sarah Jane dropped to her knees beside them, pushing his hair back and smearing the blood across his forehead and her hands.
"Here." Johnson touched Clyde's shoulder, holding out a handful of paper towels when he looked up.
"Did it work?" He looked past Johnson at Jack, who was holding on to Steven, head buried against the boy's chest. Steven, looking completely baffled, was gently stroking his hair. Alice was hovering behind them, clearly desperate to get at her son but not quite angry enough at Jack to deny him this moment.
Johnson touched her earpiece, listening for a moment before confirming, "It worked. We've had word from UNIT. The 456 representative exploded. They've withdrawn." She glanced at Sarah Jane, sympathy clear on her face. "What do you need? I've paramedics..."
"No," Clyde said quickly. "Just...give us a couple of minutes. Sarah Jane will be able to talk to you in a few minutes. Can we get a couple of bottles of water?"
Johnson gestured to another soldier, backing away to give them some privacy. Four bottles of water were delivered in silence and Clyde started cleaning Luke's face, working around Sarah Jane's hands. He pushed a wet towel into her hands when he was finished and she cleaned herself up mechanically.
Luke hadn't responded to her touch. He didn't respond when she whispered his name, when she buried her face in his neck and wept. He was completely unresponsive, still breathing in those frightening shallow gasps, heart still beating so fast it was visible, still so white he was almost see through. Clyde shifted carefully, propping Luke's head against his chest instead of his neck.
Jack crouched next to him, rubbing at his eyes in a way that was probably supposed to be casual. "Is he all right?"
"I dunno. He's breathing, and he's stopped bleeding, I think, but...I dunno, he doesn't ever get sick. I don't know what's normal."
"None of this." Jack leaned across him a little, touching Sarah Jane's hand lightly, just one finger to the back of her hand. "Sarah Jane. What do you want us to do? I could probably get Martha here."
"Martha," Sarah Jane repeated blankly.
"Yeah. You met her, on the Crucible, remember? She was with the Doctor until very recently."
"Martha," Sarah Jane said again, comprehension flooding in. "She's a doctor."
"Yeah. UNIT, but I'm pretty sure you could have anything you wanted right now."
"I have some pull at UNIT. No, thank you. We don't need her. I want to take him home."
"Luke isn't normal, Jack. I don't want any doctor, even one coming from the Doctor, examining him. I want to take him home."
"I'll arrange it." Jack started to rise, hesitated, looked back at her. "Sarah Jane..."
"If you try to apologise to me, Jack, I will slap you," she said levelly. "This is my decision, this is my choice. It was nothing to do with you, and if you try to make it about you and your guilt..."
Jack shook his head, straightening out of his hunker. "Do you need anything?"
"Someone needs to call Rani," Clyde said. "Um, Chandra. 36 Bannerman. Let her know we're all right."
"I'll do that," Jack promised.
"Don't tell her about Luke," Sarah Jane ordered. "She'd only fret. And ask her to tell Mr Smith we're all right."
"I will." He turned on his heel, heading for Johnson. "I need a number for Rani Chandra, 36 Bannerman Road in Ealing. And I need you to arrange to bring them home." Glancing around the room, he added, "And please get Alice and Steven out of here."
"She's taking him home? I've got medics here, I can get her straight into any hospital in the country..."
"She doesn't want him in a hospital. Luke isn't quite normal." He shook his head at her look. "Don't even try. If you touch that boy someone far worse than me will come for him. You do not want to piss off the people she can call in."
She nodded, tapping at the computer. "Got that number for you...I can send someone with her. Oath of silence."
"No. I know a doctor in UNIT; we've got ties, her and Sarah Jane and me. I think Sarah'll listen to her. Call out the number for me."
Rani picked up before the first ring had finished. "Hello?"
"Rani, this is Jack Harkness, I'm..."
"What's going on?" she said over him. "We saw on the news the 456 are gone!"
"They're gone," he agreed. "Your friends helped us send them packing. We're arranging to get them home right now, but it might take a little while. They just wanted to let you know they're okay. And Sarah Jane asked if you’d mind telling Mr. Smith for her.”
"Sure," Rani agreed easily. Jack noted that; Mr Smith was obviously a code between them. "Tell Luke to turn his phone on, yeah? I've been trying for ages. And if they're going to be very long, can..."
"I'll let you know as soon as I do," he promised. Taking a few steps away from Johnson, he added, "Do me a favour, Rani?"
"Sure," she agreed slowly, suspicion leaking into her tone.
"Do you know who I am?"
"Torchwood," she said, even more slowly.
"Right. Sarah Jane doesn't like Torchwood very much. So she won't ask me for help, even if it's something I can do myself without involving Torchwood at all."
"Still following," Rani said when he paused.
"I would like you to save this phone number. And if something happens, even if you don't know if I can help, I would like you to call me. I promise I won't burst in," he raised his voice slightly over her objection, "I wouldn't ever do that. If I can help, I'll call Sarah Jane and offer. You guys are fantastic, but there are always times when help could be useful."
"I'll save your number," she said neutrally.
"That's perfect. Thank you, Rani. I'll call you as soon as I know when they'll be home."
He hung up, glancing up as Alice and Steven were escorted out of the room. At the doorway she paused, looking back at him; murmuring something to Steven, she came towards him.
Jack waited patiently, carefully not reaching out to her. Alice was going to be in control for a long time.
"Is he all right?" she asked finally. She didn't look towards the plinth, or the figures huddled around its base.
"I don't know yet," Jack said honestly. "I hope so."
"So do I. Please tell his mother – well, tell her."
She took a step closer to him, studying him. "Would you have done it?" she asked. "If Luke hadn't volunteered. Would you have used Steven?"
"I don't know," he said again, still honest. "I hope not. I'm glad I didn't have to find out."
She nodded. "Don't call me for a while, Dad."
"I won't," he said softly.
"I'll call you. I will. I just..."
"It's in your hands."
She nodded. Taking one more step forward, she brushed a kiss against his cheek before hurrying out. Jack watched until the door swung closed behind her; then he went back to join Johnson.
"Got a car for the kid," she offered. "It'll take them right back to Bannerman Road."
"Thank you." He leaned over her to study the readings. "One more favour?"
"Destroy this." He gestured to the jerry-rigged consoles and the plinth in the centre of the room. "Kill it. Take it apart completely."
"Consider it done."
He sighed, crossing the room and dropping to sit next to Clyde. The boy smiled a little at the groan he gave. "Long day?"
"The longest." He gestured over his shoulder. "Johnson has a car and driver ready to take you back to Ealing. Want me to carry him?"
"I can carry him. I just can't lift him, not from the floor." Glancing at Sarah Jane, who hadn't reacted to Jack's presence, he added, "Might need you to help, though."
"You got it," Jack agreed. He stood, stepping over Clyde and Luke to crouch by Sarah Jane. "Sarah Jane, are you ready to go?"
"Go," she repeated.
"Home. Johnson's got a car and driver ready for you. They'll take you straight home."
She glanced up, finally. "You trust her, Jack?"
"Yeah. She chose her side."
"Are you coming?"
"Do you want me to? I'll have to go back to Cardiff sometime, but I can come now."
She considered for a moment, still absently stroking Luke's hair. "Yes. Please."
"All right," he agreed. "Ealing it is, then. Let me help you up."
He got her on her feet and then carefully lifted Luke, holding on to him while Clyde cursed and walked in circles, trying to work out the pins and needles in his legs. When he was ready, Jack gently put Luke into his arms.
"I can help, sir," the nearest soldier offered.
"We've got it, thanks. Do you know where our car is?"
"Yes sir, it's this way."
The drive back to Ealing passed mostly in silence. There were few people on the streets and the government car passed through every roadblock without stopping.
Rani came running as soon as they pulled into Sarah Jane's drive. Gita was behind her, and Clyde grimaced. "Captain, can you head her off? We don't want her knowing about Luke yet."
"What about Luke?" Rani demanded, trying to see into the car.
"In a minute," Clyde murmured, watching Jack stride down the drive to intercept Gita. Within thirty seconds he had her turned around and wandering back across the road with him, looking slightly dazed.
The driver helped Clyde ease Luke out of the car; Rani gasped but didn't question him, helping to boost Luke into his arms. Sarah Jane already had the door open and they got him in, laying him carefully on the couch.
Jack came back, pausing to talk briefly with the driver before dismissing him.
"What did you do to Gita?" Sarah Jane asked, a touch of humour in her voice.
"I just introduced myself," Jack said innocently. "Old friend of yours."
"Very old," she agreed. "Rani, can you put the kettle on?"
"I'll help," Clyde said hurriedly. Rani looked like she was about to burst.
Under cover of running the tap and rattling the cups around, he explained what had happened as best he understood it. "So he volunteered," he finished, rummaging in the cupboard for biscuits. "He thought he could survive it. Steven would have died for sure, so maybe he was right..."
"He's alive?" Rani asked.
"Oh yeah. Breathing. He just hasn't woken up."
"He will. Luke's the strongest guy I know."
She smiled, leaning her head on his shoulder. "Sorry. Second strongest guy I know."
"That's more like it." He glanced at the door. "Where're Gwen and Rhys?"
"Went to pick up some friend of Jack's. He said it was urgent."
Clyde nodded. "Think we've been gone long enough for them to argue about...whatever?"
"Maybe. One way to find out." She picked up the milk and sugar bowl, letting Clyde wrestle with the tray.
If they'd interrupted Jack and Sarah Jane, there was no sign of it. Clyde carefully lowered the tray onto the coffee table, studying Luke closely. It might have been wishful thinking, but he thought there was a little more colour in his cheeks. His breathing and heartbeat were still too fast and too shallow, though.
Ianto was sitting with Jack, quietly getting him to talk through everything that had happened since they'd split up.
"I should go and talk to Mr Smith," Sarah Jane said after a moment. Catching Rani's hand, she tugged her to sit next to Luke. "I'll be back in a minute. Stay there?"
"Of course," Rani agreed quickly.
"Can I come, Sarah Jane? I'd like to meet your Xylok."
Sarah Jane shrugged, heading upstairs without answering.
"I'll take that as a yes," Jack murmured, following her.
Clyde sighed, slumping back in his seat and nibbling on a biscuit. "This is going to be a fun visit. I can already tell."
Luke hadn't stirred by the time Sarah Jane sent the kids home, but there was definitely more colour in his cheeks. Jack carried him up to his bed and sat with him, forcing Sarah Jane to get some sleep.
Clyde and Rani were back first thing the next morning; Rani was quietly telling Sarah Jane about how dazed her mother had been all evening and how much she suddenly approved of Sarah Jane's taste in friends when the doorbell rang. Clyde bounced to his feet to answer it.
Gwen was standing on the doorstep with another woman, watching him. "Hi," she said when he didn't speak.
"I used to travel with the Doctor," the other woman said. "Jack asked me to come down and see Luke."
"Sarah Jane doesn't want anyone looking at him."
"I understand that. But he's obviously not better, or you would have said. I'm a medical doctor, and whatever else Luke is, he's still human and he's going to need care."
Clyde bit his lip, considering her. Finally he opened the door, saying, completely deadpan, "Oh no. Don't force your way in. Help. Captain Jack."
Gwen smiled, leaning against the door. "After you, Martha. Let's break into this home, overpowering the poor boy who tried valiantly to keep us out as Sarah Jane would have wanted him to." Stepping into the hall behind Martha, she raised her voice to yell "JACK!"
Jack hurried down from upstairs, pausing at the base of the stairs.
"They forced their way in," Clyde said, wandering into the sitting room.
"They'll do that," Jack agreed, taking one of Martha's bags. "Thanks for coming."
"How is he?" Gwen asked, shedding her coat.
"Hasn't woken up yet. He looks better, though."
"Good. Can I see him?" Martha glanced up the stairs.
"Better let me go first. She can't kill me."
"You didn't tell her we were coming, did you," Martha said with a sigh.
"Wouldn't have mattered, she hasn't heard anything any of us have told her since we got here."
"I'm just going to hang out down here," Gwen said. "Tea all around?" She vanished in the direction of the kitchen.
"Come on." Jack started up the stairs.
Rani slipped past them without looking at them when Jack pushed the door open. He made a mental note to do something nice for her later before stepping inside. "Sarah Jane? Martha's here."
"I told you I didn't want her," Sarah Jane said tonelessly.
"I know you did. I called her anyway. Luke is human and he needs care. At the very least he's dehydrated by now." He stepped in, gesturing Martha in after him. "She was a Companion, same as we were. We can trust her."
Martha hunkered by the bed, glancing at Luke before looking at Sarah Jane. "Will you let me help him, Sarah Jane?"
Sarah Jane stared at Luke for a moment before nodding. "Yes."
"Thank you." She rose to her feet, beginning a more thorough check of Luke. "Jack, tell me exactly what your machine was supposed to do."
"I'm going to go and make tea," Sarah Jane said, standing stiffly.
"Gwen's down there," Jack told her.
"Want to bring anyone else to my home?" She flounced out before he could answer and Jack sighed, settling on the floor near the door.
"The machine, Jack?" Martha said, pulling some of her supplies out of her bag.
Jack described it as best he could, including its effects. "Luke's not quite human, though," he added. "You'll need one of them to tell you about him – I never got the full story."
"I'll tell you," Clyde offered from the doorway.
"How long have you been there?" Jack asked.
Clyde half shrugged, eyes on the bed. "How is he?"
"Dehydrated, at the moment," Martha said briskly. "You know about him?"
"Don't think so."
"Tell me from the start," she said.
Clyde went through the whole story as he knew it, from Luke's first day in the Bane factory right up to the start of the 456 invasion.
"They built him?" Martha said.
"From bits of other people. He was going to tell them how to take over the world, except he escaped before they could make him do it. Mr Smith, Sarah Jane's computer, scans him every so often; you should check with him."
"I will; thanks. But he's essentially human?"
"Completely human. He was built from humans. His mind's the only difference, and that shouldn't matter for giving him an IV, right?"
"No." She lifted one of Luke's arms, studying the veins. "Jack, give me a hand?"
They got the IV in without any trouble and Martha checked his eyes and reflexes and a couple of other things Clyde didn't understand. "Okay," she said finally. "That's as much as I can do right now. Clyde, can you show me Mr Smith? I'd like to see those scans."
"Yeah." Clyde glanced at Jack. "You'll stay?"
"Of course. Take your time."
Clyde led Martha up to the attic, dropping to sit on the steps. "Mr Smith, I need you," he said apathetically.
Mr Smith appeared, fanfare and all. "Clyde. How is Luke?"
"Still asleep, or unconscious or whatever. Mr Smith, this is..."
"Martha Jones," Mr Smith said smoothly. "Former Companion to the Doctor, former member of Torchwood..."
"I wasn't," Martha protested. Absently, Clyde noted she was taking the talking-super-computer revelation very well. Travelling with the Doctor had obviously raised her surprise threshold.
"...Currently attached to UNIT. How can I help you, Martha Jones?"
"I need to see the scans you've taken of Luke. Jack asked me here to help look after him, but I don't know what I'm dealing with."
"Physically, Luke is human and should be treated as such. His body temperature tends a little on the low side of human norms. All other resting vitals are exact human averages." Mr Smith pulled up the scans on his screen. "He has shown no signs of allergies or reactions to any food or medications, though he's never been tested for them, and as he doesn't fall ill there has been no reason to give him anything. The only difference is in his brain scans."
"That is a difference," Martha agreed, studying the screen carefully.
"Is it?" Clyde asked.
"Mr Smith, can you put a normal brain scan side by side with Luke's?"
Mr Smith scanned Clyde and the results appeared on screen. "Like so?"
"That's fine, yes. See those bright areas, Clyde? That's the parts of your brain you're actually using. Thinking and autonomic responses."
Clyde glanced from his to Luke's. "His is much brighter."
"He uses more of his brain, according to this."
"He is a genius," Clyde agreed. "Isn't that dangerous, though? Won't he burn out or something?"
"As far as I've been able to determine, the Bane designed him to last," Mr Smith told them. "Presumably they were going to use him for other tasks once their takeover of this planet was achieved."
"They didn't know what they were building," Clyde murmured. "Does this help you, Martha?"
"Mr Smith, can you scan Luke now?"
"He would need to be here in this room."
Martha considered it. "He's on an IV at the moment. If he hasn't shown any signs once it's finished, I'll get him up here."
"Any signs of what?" Clyde asked. Martha shook her head and he insisted, "We're his family. Any signs of what?"
"He's not showing any signs of brain activity," she said reluctantly. "I've no monitors down there, so it's hard to tell, but there's no eye movement and no reflexes. Jack's...he says that's what the machine did, how Steven would have died. He'd have burnt out."
"You're saying he's brain dead?" Clyde backed up when she tried to touch him.
"I'm not saying that," she said firmly. "That's why I want Mr Smith to look at him, all right? Look, you've said he heals really quickly. He could still come back from this. I could be wrong. I just don't know yet."
Clyde nodded, thinking quickly. "Don't tell Sarah Jane. She doesn't need to hear that until you're sure. Does Captain Harkness know?"
"I haven't told him, but he knows some medicine. He may have figured it out. He won't say anything."
"I hope not," Clyde said fiercely.
Martha nodded, glancing at Mr Smith. "Thank you, Mr Smith. Can you stay active? I might need you again."
"Thanks," Clyde added, following her out of the room.
Luke was still unresponsive when the IV finished. Jack went to distract Sarah Jane – "Torchwood will reimburse you for everything we ate, Sarah Jane, so just come and go through this list with me" – while Clyde and Martha carried Luke up to the attic, where Rani and Mr Smith were waiting.
"I can't believe Sarah Jane fell for that," Clyde muttered, propping Luke up for the scan.
"She doesn't want us to see how worried she is, so she's going along," Rani told him.
"Well, that's ridiculous. We all know exactly how worried she is."
"There is brain activity," Mr Smith announced. "It's low level, much lower than his norms, but it is increasing."
"Can you project it?" Martha asked.
"No. It is increasing in fits and starts rather than at an even pace. Hopefully he will regain consciousness within the next two days, but I cannot be any more exact than that."
"Two days. That's better than before. Thank you, Mr Smith. Clyde, help me get him back down to his room?"
"Sure. Rani, can you make sure Sarah Jane hasn't got past Jack?"
"Yeah." Rani squeezed Luke's hand, slipping out of the room and downstairs. Martha gave her a moment to be sure it was clear before nodding to Clyde.
They had Luke back in bed before Sarah Jane came up. Martha glanced up when she paused in the doorway, smiling.
"Hi. Everything looks good. All his vitals are within his norms according to Mr Smith. Reflexes are still a little off, but that's not a big deal. He'll need another IV if he doesn't wake up by this evening, so I've just capped the port for now."
"He hasn't woken up yet?"
"Not yet. But his breathing and heart are fine, his colour's fine..."
"And he's not bleeding from every hole in his face, so, y'know, there's that," Clyde added. Martha glared at him, but Sarah Jane was laughing, just like he'd hoped. He grinned victoriously, heading downstairs.
Gwen was just arriving with a woman he thought he vaguely recognised. He wondered if the perception filter was off or if Gwen just knew the way to the house well enough to find it now. Probably not, since he and Rani had been having trouble.
It was really weird getting lost while walking straight across the road.
"Where is everyone?" Gwen asked.
"I dunno, I've been upstairs. Well, Martha and Sarah Jane and Luke are all up there."
"How is Luke?"
"He's not awake yet, but he's getting better." Turning deliberately to the woman, he added, "Hi, I'm Clyde."
"Right. Clyde, Lois, Lois, Clyde." Gwen was already vanishing into the sitting room before she'd even finished.
"Oh, yeah. You had the contacts, I saw some of that. What were they like?"
"Kind of weird, honestly. And completely terrifying. Um..." She glanced around.
"They're probably in the sitting room." He hesitated before blurting "Did you get in trouble?"
"I got arrested," Lois told him. "High treason. Then all of a sudden, I was being released and they're talking about compensation and a new job! And then Gwen whisked me off. She said Torchwood had dibs."
"Dibs? Really? She said dibs?"
"Well, she used longer words, but that's what it boiled down to. Is this a Torchwood house?"
"No way. This is Sarah Jane's house. She's in charge of us; Rani and Luke and me, she's Luke's mum. But we're not Torchwood. If she ever heard you call us that..." He shuddered deliberately. "She gets this really disappointed look. It's terrible. And then sometimes she shakes her head and says your name."
"Clyde!" Jack yelled. "Stop boggarting the new girl!"
"You're so old," Clyde moaned. Lois looked a little less overwhelmed and he mentally chalked up another win as he showed her into the sitting room. Most of the Torchwood computers had been packed away and the room was slowly returning to normal. "Lois, Jack Harkness, Ianto Jones, and that's Rani."
"Captain Jack Harkness." Jack smiled at her.
"Careful, sir," Ianto said, sliding a computer monitor into a box without looking at them.
Lois focused on him, blinking. "But you're dead," she protested. "You were in Thames House when the poison was released."
"We were able to save all the Thames House victims," Jack said blandly. "No one told you?"
Clyde started to protest – Luke had saved them – but Rani elbowed him before he could say anything.
"That's amazing. How..."
"The usual way. Got a look at the virus and figured out a cure."
"But how did..."
"Tea! Who wants some?" Rani sprang to her feet. "Tea all around? Clyde, give me a hand."
"Nah, I'm comfortable." She stomped on his foot and he bit back a curse, adding, "on the other hand, tea! Yay! Let's go. We definitely haven't had enough tea lately."
"You're not funny," Rani said as soon as they were safe in the kitchen. "Or subtle."
"I'm not the one stamping on people! What was that for?"
"Jack's trying to keep Luke's name out of it. He's putting it around that Torchwood came up with the cure and Luke just happened to be the one administering it. First person they could get their hands on."
"A room full of soldiers saw him do it."
"Yeah, but they won't believe some fifteen year old kid came up with that cure. They'll believe the story, Jack says, because it makes more sense."
"Why keep him out of it? He saved lives."
"Yeah, with his super alien brain. You know Sarah Jane's always been worried what might happen if someone figures out what Luke can do. That was about the most visible thing he could have done. Jack's doing his best to turn aside any interest anyone might have in the teenage genius."
"Right." Clyde stared at the sink for a minute before turning. "So, tea? Although personally, I drink much more tea, I'm likely to float away. Seems like all we've been doing since Torchwood got here is having tea."
"In between all the running around and nearly getting killed, of course," Rani agreed.
"Well, I don't really notice that anymore, it's been going on for so long." Clyde searched through the cupboard. "We're running out of snacks."
"We have been housing Torchwood for nearly a week."
"True," Clyde agreed. "Well, they're having fig rolls, and if they complain they can go buy their own snacks."
"Why does Sarah Jane even have fig rolls? Who likes fig rolls?" Rani unearthed clean cups, sighing at the pile in the sink. "Someone's going to have to clean up pretty soon."
"Hey, I cook, I don't clean." He held up under her glare for almost ten seconds, finally muttering, "Fine, I'll clean."
"Good boy," she said, satisfied, lifting the tray and heading for the sitting room. Clyde made a face at her back, bringing the fig rolls and cups behind.
"Oh, fig rolls," Lois said happily. "Brilliant. Thanks."
Clyde bullied Sarah Jane to her own bed that night, setting himself up on the camping mattress in Luke's room. Jack sent the rest of his team to a hotel and Rani, reluctantly and after a lot of arguing, went home. Martha checked on Luke and then settled into the guest room.
When Luke woke he went from perfectly still to moving in the space of a heartbeat. Clyde woke to yelling; when he flipped on the light he realised Luke had managed to twist the blanket around his legs and was trapped, thrashing to try and get away.
He scrambled out of bed, leaning over to try and tug the blanket free. "Luke, mate..."
Luke pushed him away, knocking him to the floor, panic lending him strength. Clyde didn't bother trying to get up again, just yelled for Sarah Jane as loudly as he could.
Martha almost fell over him when she pushed the door open, followed in quick succession by Sarah Jane and Jack. Sarah Jane pushed all of them aside to drop onto the bed next to Luke, catching his face in her hands and forcing him to look at her. "Luke. Luke! Look at me. It's all right. You're safe."
Luke gasped in a breath; it took a moment before he could focus on her. "Mum..."
"It's all right," she said again, brushing his hair back with trembling hands. "Calm down. Are you hurt, do you hurt anywhere?"
"Good." She pulled him into a hug; Luke's hands fisted in her jumper, holding on tightly. "It's all right, Luke, we're right here." Glancing over her shoulder, she added, "Clyde?"
Clyde tugged the blanket loose, freeing Luke's feet. He immediately curled against Sarah Jane. "Better?"
"Yeah." Colour was returning to Luke's face and he smiled. "Much, thank you." Looking over Clyde's shoulder, he frowned in confusion at Martha before focusing on Jack. "Captain! Did..."
"Worked perfectly," Jack cut him off. "Are you all right?"
"I got stuck. On the other side of the wall, I was all tangled up with them when the machine hit them and I got dragged out. I couldn't get back, I was..." He grinned at Clyde. "Out of my mind. Literally."
Jack frowned. "You just broke into your own mind?"
He smiled tiredly. "I build good walls."
"Jack," Sarah Jane said warningly, and he immediately took a step back.
"We can talk about that later. Do you know Martha?"
"I saw her. On the Subwave." He freed one hand from Sarah Jane's grip to wave. "Hi."
"Hi," Martha said, grinning.
"Martha's a doctor," Clyde said. "She's been looking after you." Martha slipped past Jack, kneeling and taking Luke's hand to check his pulse.
"How long was I gone?" Luke asked.
"Day and a half or so." Clyde eyed him. "Mr Smith thought you'd be longer. Should have known you'd beat the odds. Was it longer or shorter where you were?"
"I...there wasn't really a way to tell."
"Luke, look at my finger," Martha said quietly. Luke obediently followed her finger as she waved it around. "Looks good."
"Good, then we can let him get some sleep," Sarah Jane said firmly. "Clyde..."
"Course I'll stay. Hardly going to go home now." Clyde dropped onto his bed, smiling innocently up at them.
"That is a very dangerous boy, Sarah Jane," Jack said with a grin. "Dr Jones, I think we've been ousted."
"It does seem that way. Have you been giving him tips?"
"No, he's just naturally very good." He gave her a hand up. "Luke, you want a drink or anything?"
"No. Thank you." He glanced at his mother. "I'm fine, Mum. Please, go and get some sleep. I promise, we'll call you if anything happens."
She nodded, pulling him into another hug before rising. She paused in the doorway for a long moment. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again,” she said tightly before leaving the room and closing the door firmly.
"You're in trouble," Luke said softly.
"Yeah, well, she'll get over that. You're awake, I don't think anything is going to annoy her much for a day or two."
Luke was silent for a moment before asking "Was she really worried?"
"Uh, yeah. Obviously. Martha was, too. You weren't showing any sign of brain activity. Jack thought he'd burned you out."
"I was just stuck. On the other side of my own wall."
"Next time maybe put a door in?" Clyde suggested lightly.
Luke was still laughing softly as he drifted off to sleep.
Martha ran a full set of tests the next morning, including hauling him up to Mr Smith for a scan, but she finally announced that he seemed perfectly well recovered. Clyde used most of the remainder of Sarah Jane's food, and several things he 'borrowed' from Haresh's kitchen, to cook a celebratory breakfast. Luke looked frankly bewildered when he sat down to it, but he made a good effort, and Rhys arrived with the others a few minutes later and helped him to finish it off.
"Lois, you haven't let him talk you into Torchwood, have you?" Sarah Jane asked, leaning against the counter. There really wasn't room in here for everyone, but Clyde and Rani kept ignoring her hints that they should leave and she couldn't throw anyone else out.
Lois blinked. "I don't...think so? I don't think I've agreed to anything."
"Good for you. Take some time to think everything over," Gwen agreed.
"We need to get the Hub sorted out anyway," Jack said. "We'll be ready for you in a couple of months."
"Jack," Sarah Jane protested half-heartedly.
"What? I haven't offered any of your kids jobs, I think that's pretty restrained." Leaning across the table, he added in a stage whisper, "Although if you do ever find yourselves at loose ends, I'll probably still be hanging around in Cardiff."
"What's it like?" Clyde asked. Catching Sarah Jane's glare, he added hastily and far too loudly, "Not that I am interested, no sir. I would never ever take a job with Torchwood, not a chance."
"Yeah, me either," Rani agreed unconvincingly.
Luke just grinned, pushing some loose grains of salt into a pattern on the tablecloth.
Sarah Jane sighed, and Jack said more seriously, "I won't come looking for them, Sarah Jane, and I won't take them without talking to you first. How's that?"
"That'll do," she agreed, smiling faintly and toasting him with her tea cup.
"Oh!" Rhys jumped suddenly, digging a hand into his pocket. "Nearly forgot about this. Whatever it is, it worked. I spent ten hours sitting on that bench and no one even looked at me."
"Sorry about that." Gwen settled in his lap, dropping a kiss on his cheek and taking the key from him.
It went hand to hand across the room to Sarah Jane, who smiled as she closed her fingers over it. "Thank you. Luke, Jack's key is hanging by the front door. Can you get it for him, please?" Luke nodded, rising to his feet and slipping out of the room.
"Time we weren't here, boys and girls," Jack announced. "Lois, you coming with?"
"We'll drop you somewhere," Gwen promised, taking pity on her. "You can come with Rhys and me."
"Are you safe, now?" Sarah Jane asked as everyone began moving.
"Torchwood are heroes now. Johnson gave her report, said that we saved the world and the kids. Everyone loves us again." There was a bitter edge to Jack's smile.
"We liked you all along," Rani assured him, and he grinned.
"Such a sucker for a pretty girl," Ianto said, sighing mock-seriously. "Let's go. You haven't disgraced yourself too badly yet."
Luke was standing on the drive talking to Gita when they piled out. "Actually they're just leaving," he was saying. Glancing over his shoulder, he tossed the key lightly; Jack caught it without breaking stride. "Heading back to work."
"Oh, goodness. How sad. I was hoping we could talk some more. I'm very interested in Cardiff. I'm thinking about taking another holiday there, I was hoping you could give me some tips." She fluffed her hair without seeming to realise.
Jack winked. "Another time, beautiful."
"Captain!" Rani protested. He grinned, swinging into the car. Ianto, sighing, politely said goodbye to Gita before getting in. Martha was already in and they could hear her laugh at something Jack said as he pulled out, following Gwen.
"Rani, you come home now," Gita said. "Feels like I haven't seen you for days. You'd think a curfew would get them home," she added to Sarah Jane, who nodded helplessly.
"Yes, Mum." Rani hugged Luke, waving goodbye to Sarah Jane and Clyde before following her mother.
Clyde shoved his hands into his pockets. "I'm going to go as well. Haven't seen my mother for a couple days. I should probably go check in."
"Haven't you called her?" Luke asked.
"Yeah. She doesn't worry when I'm here." He saluted jauntily, heading down the path.
Sarah Jane wrapped an arm around Luke's shoulders, drawing him back into the house. "Do you really feel all right?"
"I really feel all right," he promised. "There's no trace of them anymore. And at least – there's the wall, now, if anyone else tries to get at me that way. I'm glad Captain Harkness was here to help me." Sarah Jane sighed, and he shrugged. "I know you don't like him, Mum, but without him..."
"I know. He does good work. Sometimes," she added hastily.
Luke grimaced, dropping onto the couch. "Do you think he really would have used Steven? If I hadn't volunteered?"
Sarah Jane settled next to him, thinking. "I think...I think I'm glad we didn't have to find out. There are some things no one should have to know." She squeezed his hand. "That was a very brave thing you did."
Luke grinned cheerfully at her. "I learned from the best."
They say 'what good have you done
By saving just this one?
It's like whispering a prayer
In the fury of a storm.'
And I hear them saying,
'You'll never change things.
And no matter what you do,
It's still the same thing.'
But it's not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me.