Susan Pevensie walks into the Torchwood office on a cold winter’s day. Ianto is in the Hub, the door to the tourist office has been locked, and so it comes as a surprise to everyone when the doors roll open and she casually steps through, looking entirely unruffled and professional.
“Who the hell are you?” Jack demands, gun out, and Susan looks at them all and holds out an I.D. card in her hand. Gwen and Owen raise their guns with him as Tosh pushes her chair subtly away. Ianto sets his coffee tray down and raises his eyebrows.
“Susan Pevensie, Torchwood One,” she says calmly. “I’m here to speak to you about an interesting situation that’s come up, Mr. Harkness.”
“It’s Captain,” he says.
“I’ve never liked people stealing titles that aren’t theirs,” she says.
“I didn’t steal it,” he says, irritated, but he takes her card and inspects it, frowning.
“I don’t like people who lie to me, either.” She steps forward and runs a hand over one of Tosh’s computer servers, hmm-ing in an interested fashion, from her demeanor apparently completely unconcerned about Gwen and Owen’s guns still on her. “As you’ll see, Mr. Harkness, my credentials are entirely in order.”
“They can be faked,” he says. “Torchwood One’s been gone for a while now. Give me one good reason I shouldn’t throw you in a cell right now.”
“Torchwood authorization 1 7 1 N E,” Susan says. “Torchwood One’s visible HQ was destroyed, that’s true. Most of our operatives were killed. But we were never stupid enough to put all of our eggs in one basket. Your office and Torchwood Two aren’t the only other places we had. Torchwood Prime is located in a donut shop in Soho.”
“Code checks,” Tosh says.
“I know,” Jack says slowly.
“Your computers are linked to the main Torchwood database,” Susan says. “We see everything you see. We’ve been monitoring you, but we really don’t have enough people to be constantly overseeing you, despite the frankly abysmal quality of your work.” She clears her throat, ignoring Jack’s offended exclamation. “However, a situation has arisen that we cannot handle by ourselves but clearly cannot trust you to handle without supervision.”
“We’ve been doing as well as we can by ourselves,” Jack says, angry, and Susan sits down at a desk, crossing her legs neatly and looking up at him.
“I couldn’t care less,” she says. “Now kindly be quiet while I explain.”
The authorization code is a deep one, indicating full and unreserved access to all Torchwood operations. It’s second only to the level Yvonne Hartman had before she died. Jack’s only heard two other people use it before.
He sits down and shuts up for the moment.
The briefing is minimal, Susan giving them what seems to be the bare minimum. She says that there is an ally of theirs arriving who has a group of unsavory aliens on his tail and will need the entire team to help get him and an item of great importance he is carrying to safety. Afterwards, Jack asks Susan to step up to his office.
“What if we choose not to come along?” he asks, offering her whisky. She takes the glass and knocks back the shot.
“My brother and I would manage it on our own somehow, I’m sure,” she says. “But it would take a great deal more effort and the odds of one of us getting injured increase dramatically.”
“He’s your brother?” Jack asks, and she nods.
He pours out a shot of whiskey for himself and drinks it slowly. “I’ve met you before,” he says finally.
“Have you?” she says.
“You were an undersecretary working for the then head of department Adam Sands,” Jack says. “We never talked. My memory’s a lot more fuzzy nowadays, or I would have remembered you sooner.”
“I was never an undersecretary,” she says.
“Adam Sands was head of department in 1949,” Jack says. “It’s funny. You don’t seem to have aged a day.”
“And you have?” she says.
“Probably about three days since then,” he says. She snorts.
“As far as I can tell, I won’t ever age,” she says eventually. “My brother and I were involved in a problematic situation with alternate timelines or lives or whatever you want to call it. Goodness knows no one in Torchwood knows what to call it. We can be killed. We can be hurt. But we won’t age.”
“I know a guy who might be able to help,” Jack offers, and she shrugs.
“The Doctor muttered something cryptic at me and then invited me onto his spaceship,” she says. “It was quite an interesting ride, but I’m afraid he offered no more solutions than you would be able to.”
“You know, I’m starting to believe you when you say you were never an undersecretary,” he says.
“Good.” She takes the whiskey bottle out of his hand and puts it away. “It’s time to go. The package will be landing in twenty minutes.”
Susan’s instructions had been clear and precise. Her brother will come through at a specific spot. Jack is to immediately take him and run, heading for Torchwood and the relative safety of the Hub, while Susan, Gwen, Owen and Ianto wait for the aliens to follow him through. Susan has a trap she says they can use on them, but she’ll need some time to activate it.
“I should be staying to fight with you,” Jack says.
“There’s a possibility some of the aliens came through ahead of him,” Susan says. “Whoever I send with Edmund, I expect to guard him and the package with their life. Would you prefer it was a member of your team who can actually die?”
“Fair enough,” he says after a long silence.
The warehouse is large and quiet, and they’ve been waiting close to three hours when there’s a crackle of lightning and a man staggers out of it, hand tight across his stomach as if he’s holding something. Jack can’t make out anything that looks like a package.
“Who am I going with?” Edmund asks Susan, and at her nod he looks at Jack and starts walking. “We’ve got to move fast, they’re close behind me.” Jack hurries to catch up to him.
“I can carry it for you,” he says, and Edmund shakes his head, holding up a hand slick with blood.
“It’s in a pocket in my jacket,” he says. “They shot at me, I didn’t move fast enough. Don’t let Susan know.”
“We’ve got a medical bay in the Hub,” Jack says, and Edmund nods.
“I know,” he says, gritting his teeth. “Can we move faster now, please?” Jack matches his pace to Edmund’s, eyeing the spreading patch of blood on the other man’s shirt with worry.
“What is this thing that’s so important?” he asks, and Edmund half laughs.
“None of your business,” he says. “I just need to get it somewhere safe for the moment, and then once Susan’s taken care of the aliens she’ll take it home and destroy it, and the world will be a lot safer for it.”
“If it’s that dangerous, won’t Torchwood Prime try to figure out how it works?” Jack says, and Edmund shakes his head as he breaks into an almost run.
“They’ll destroy it,” he says. “Susan will make sure of that. We’re being followed.”
“How do you know?” Jack says, and Edmund pulls up the sleeve of his coat to reveal a Time Agent’s wrist strap. There’s a blinking light on it, the display in a language Jack has never seen. “Where did you get that?” Jack demands, stride lengthening as he tries to keep up with Edmund.
“From my superiors, of course,” Edmund says. “Down this alley. I’m going to go sit behind this trash can and try to stop myself from bleeding to death. You shoot any alien that shows it’s face.”
“What if I want to try to run a gentler and kinder Torchwood?” Jack says, but he flicks his safety off.
“I hope you enjoy getting shot, then,” Edmund says. “God knows I don’t.”
By the time his team makes it back to the Hub with Susan, carrying a shining cube she says now contains the trapped aliens (a statement Gwen backs up with a slightly bemused tilt of her head), Edmund’s temporarily patched up and looking perfectly fine, sitting at the conference table laughing and sharing coffee with Jack.
“This coffee is excellent,” he says, grinning up at Susan. “I think it may be the best coffee I’ve ever had.”
“Come on, Edmund,” she says. “Let’s get you to Torchwood Prime and that package delivered.”
“I got shot,” he informs her, almost enthusiastically, and Jack hides a grin at the sudden fury on her face. He’d given Edmund some pretty good painkillers, and he didn’t regret that particular decision in the least. “Before I came through, don’t murder Jack.”
“Get that teleporter of yours fixed,” Susan says. “I am really tired of cleaning up your messes, and of them invariably including you getting shot. There’s an emergency kit with a dermal regenerator in my car.”
“Awesome, I’ll go finish fixing myself up,” Edmund says, but he tilts alarmingly when he stands up, still smiling that incredibly goofy smile, and Ianto catches him.
“I’ll take care of it,” Ianto says, and Susan hands Edmund her keys and waves them both away, her hand over her eyes.
“I think you all deserve a drink,” she says. “Let me get my vodka out.”
“Now that’s a celebration of victory I can get behind,” Jack says, grinning brightly, and Owen looks almost cheerful for the first time.
“It’s Wednesday?” Tosh says when she wakes up, staring at the calendar on her computer and its gentle pinging as she peels her face off her desk. It feels like she’s been sleeping there for days. “That can’t be right, it was just.” There’s a long pause, and then Jack wakes up slowly and looks around.
“Please tell me this is not the familiar ache of retcon going through my system,” he groans, and Tosh shakes her head, already checking through the security footage.
“Sorry, boss,” she says. “At least it was just one day this time, I guess. It looks like almost all the footage was wiped.”
“How the hell do we keep getting played at our own game?” Jack complains, and Tosh hands him the card she’s just found on her desk and points to a single frame of security footage left from the past 24 hours.
On the screen a dark haired woman looks up at the security camera, a pleased grin on her face as she waves.