4 June 2008
Ianto sighed, running his scanner over the railing of the Cardiff Bay Barrage, the bleeping noise sounding loud to his ears as he traced the negative Rift spike that had taken place there not that long ago.
The wind blew his jacket open, but he ignored it, using both device and senses to find the exact position where the spike had manifested. The dragon hated the negative spikes. If the positive ones were like stormfronts, then the negatives felt as if the Rift were more of a black hole, the absolute absence of power sucking everything around it into its inescapable depths. They didn’t feel natural, and Ianto dreaded them, not because of the sensations they entailed, but because of what they meant to the poor souls caught up with their implacable grip.
This one, he knew. He’d met the once-young man, Jonah Bevin, when he and Jack had found him a couple of years ago. The Rift had deposited him back long before he’d been taken, in a paradox that had now resolved itself, leaving him a shell of the teenage boy he’d been.
He wished Jack was there.
But his mate was gone, and had been for four months.
Ianto climbed into his car, and headed back to the Hub.
The Hub was far too quiet.
Everyone had gone home. Toshiko had powered down everything, and the main area was all shadows and gloom. Ianto made himself a cup of tea by darkness, then made his way down toward his hoard room, his shoes making very little noise on the cold stone of the floor.
The dragon had taken to staying in the Hub, since Jack had left. His house just didn’t seem like home anymore, not without Jack to share it. He’d been surprised as just how quickly his place had taken on a cold and desolate air, not realizing just how much of Jack’s personality had filled it.
Ianto missed his mate terribly. When he’d encouraged Jack to go with the Doctor, he’d had no idea he’d be gone for so long. He’d gotten into a couple of arguments with Gwen on whether Jack was coming back; he knew she blamed him for Jack’s leaving, and yes perhaps it was partially his fault. But there was no way he was going to hold Jack back from getting answers about his seeming immortality. He’d waited so long, and Ianto had confidence that his lover would be back.
It was just depending on when.
Ianto unlocked the hoard room door by touch, then entered. The small nightlight he usually left on lent the place a soft glow, the gold and jewels reflecting the tiny brightness around the room. The place felt as empty as his loft at home, but it was easier to deal with here.
The dragon turned on the television that he’d also set up in the room; it looked somewhat innocuous on the antique oak table he’d put it on. Alien tech gave the telly power and signal, and Ianto set his tea down beside it, in order to remove his suit and to hang it up in the wardrobe he’d co-opted for the clothing he’d moved in with him there at the Hub. He’d drink his tea then transform for the night, sleeping on cushions that were too cold without his mate to share them.
Now, it looked as if Ianto was going to be stuck dealing with him more often.
That was a lovely thought.
He finished his tea, turned off the television, then changed into his dragon form. Sinking down onto his bed of pillows and quilts, curling up so that his snout was under his wing, the dragon fell asleep.
A strange noise awoke the dragon from a restless sleep.
He just didn’t sleep as well without Jack, and if his mate had been there the dragon doubted the slight noise would have penetrated his dreams. As it was, it did wake him, and at first he thought that perhaps someone had come down to get him, and that he’d somehow overslept.
Raising his head, he looked around the hoard room, trying to find the source of the slight scuffling sound, but saw nothing. Sighing, he lay his head back down, and was just dozing off once more when the noise happened again.
This wasn’t just an anonymous noise from the Hub; the dragon was familiar with those, and besides down this far it was completely quiet, and there were times when he could swear he could hear the very Earth breathing around him. No, this was a deliberate sound, as if someone was making it purposely in order not to startle him and doing a piss-poor job of it.
His head swung away from the door…and noticed that one of the mating posts was glowing.
The dragon’s heart beat faster, and he sat on his haunches, checking to see if any of the others were doing the same.
He could feel the sudden prickling of power against his scales. It wasn’t the Rift; well, not all of it; this was all part and parcel of the ancient power of the world, and the dragon waited to see what was going to happen next.
The light from the posts was eclipsed by shadow and fog, and the smell of fresh earth and rain filled the hoard room. The temperature seemed to go up, and a wind caused a set of crystal chimes that Toshiko had given him for his last birthday to sound melodiously.
So, it was all four. That surprised him; he’d been led to believe they didn’t have the power to manifest like that any longer.
The dragon bobbed his head in respect as the Earth Dragon grew from shadow into a large, dark silhouette against the stone of the wall. He was followed by the other three Dragons: Air, Water, and Fire, all curving around their corresponding posts, their heads turned inward to pin the younger, physical dragon with their ancient gazes.
He didn’t speak; he knew the Dragons would say what they wanted to, and it was bound to be fairly cryptic.
“Sorry to interrupt your rest,” the Earth Dragon said by way of greeting, “especially since you shall need it before the trials that are ahead of you darken this world.”
This didn’t sound good at all. The dragon once again felt the loss of his mate, and hoped that Jack would be home soon.
“Your mate shall be home,” the sweet voice of the Water Dragon said, as if reading his mind, “however you shall not see him for a time yet.”
“He is tied up in the troubles ahead,” the Fire Dragon added. “There are things that need to occur, and your Jack is involved too deeply to be free yet to come to your side.”
“Is he all right?” the dragon asked worriedly. What they were saying was ominous indeed, and he needed to know that Jack would be fine.
“He shall suffer as you will,” the Earth Dragon answered. “But, unlike the Card Reader, we offer light in the darkness."
“We are calling the Dragon Friends home,” the Air Dragon said. “They will be needed in the dire times as well, and will best serve the light in Ddraig Llyn.”
“Can’t you tell me what’s going to happen?” the dragon asked, sounding petulant to his own ears. He knew that calling the Dragon-Friends to Ddraig Llyn meant that they would basically be going into hiding, and while that might be for the best for them, he needed to know what to expect in order to deal with it. He also didn't like the idea of Jack suffering, and wanted as much information as he could get in order to prevent that if possible.
“We are not completely certain of that,” the Earth Dragon answered. “Even the Fae cannot see beyond the days ahead. They have retreated to the Lost Lands, and will not emerge until all is well again.”
The dragon frowned. “Then this isn’t anything that will affect the Pacts?”
“No. What comes is not of man’s making, of that we are certain.”
If he’d been in his human form, the dragon would have been chewing on his thumbnail. As it was, he absently clicked a claw against one canine, the sound like nails being driven into the world’s coffin. His imagination was running rampant. What could be coming that was so bad, and yet not of man’s making? Being Torchwood that, to the dragon, could only mean one thing.
“Is there nothing we can do to stop it?” he asked. Perhaps with foreknowledge…
“Certain things need to happen,” the Air Dragon answered. “This is one of those things. No one can know how this will affect the world or humankind, but it is important to the way things are.”
“We call the Dragon-Friends home,” the Water Dragon reiterated.
“But you must stay,” the Fire Dragon said. “You will be needed.”
“I would never think of hiding,” the dragon put in fiercely. “And I won’t abandon the world while my mate is in it, no matter where he is.”
“That did not need to be said,” the Air Dragon chuckled. “We know how loyal you are to him, as he is to you.”
The dragon drew himself up. “I am, and I shall remain so even if there’s no true mating for us.”
“We cannot see much past the coming darkness,” the Earth Dragon said, “but we can see that. Be patient, our child, and you shall one day have what you wish.”
The dragon’s heart warmed at that news. He really did want that one true union with Jack, and he would wait for as long as it took, if it meant they would be able to sing the Song of Eternity together.
“You and your Jack are destined,” the Water Dragon agreed. “He may not yet believe so, but you have seen the vision of your mating, and you know the truth of it. Be assured that your loyalty will be rewarded.”
“I would rather have him love me by his choice, than because of some sort of destiny.” He knew the power of destiny and that was the last thing he wanted to put either of them through, the Tarot Girl’s reading foremost in his mind.
“He does, have no fear of that. But the coming times will test you both. There will be moments when you will doubt, but as we have said, there is light within the coming darkness.”
And the team would be one person down – two if he counted Kathy – when the Dragons called the Dragon-Friends to Ddraig Llyn.
At least Toshiko and Kathy would both be relatively safe.
“How quickly is this going to happen?” he asked, already trying to come up with a mental list of things they would need at the Hub in order to deal with a serious invasion. He’d also need to call UNIT and warn them, as well as the Home Office…
“Within days,” the Air Dragon answered. “Events are already in motion for the end of the world as we know it.”
The dragon shivered at that proclamation. “That soon?”
“Darkness will roll across the world and there truly is no way to be ready,” the Earth Dragon said. “But be as prepared as you can, and know that it will all end as it should.”
With that, the Dragons began to fade away. It took only seconds before the hoard room had returned to normal, leaving the dragon still fairly confused but determined to do what needed to be done.
He changed back into human form, and Ianto left the room, heading up into the main Hub in order to try to figure out what was about to happen…and how the best to survive it.
4 June 2008
“No,” Toshiko said, resisting the urge to stamp her foot and descend into sheer childishness. “I’m needed here."
She tried to stare down the Earth Dragon, but that was difficult when said Dragon was nothing but a shadow looming over her. He couldn’t honestly be asking her to leave, not when there was danger coming?
“I’m not going to abandon my teammates on your say-so,” she went on. “When I became a Dragon-Friend, it was to help support Ianto and Jack. I might not be able to do that with Jack at the moment, but Ianto needs me. He’s going through enough without me leaving him like that!”
She’d been honored when the Great Dragon had appeared, even thought he’d awakened her out of a sound sleep. But, that had swiftly turned to anger as he’d explained that she was being called to Ddraig Llyn, just when she’d be most needed by her friends.
“Your loyalty does you credit,” the Earth Dragon replied, “but you are needed for a bigger purpose.”
“I’m sorry, but there’s no bigger purpose than standing by one’s friends.”
The Earth Dragon sighed, and Toshiko took a perverse pleasure out of knowing that she was frustrating the spirit being. “Toshiko, we need you at Ddraig Llyn. The valley cannot become the sanctuary it needs to be during the darkness without you. All four Dragon-Friends must come, or the valley will be lost. Will you condemn innocents with your stubbornness?”
“Why can’t I protect people here, doing what I do, with Torchwood?” she asked, feeling herself begin to cave just a little.
‘We cannot see far beyond the next days,” the Earth Dragon answered. “However, the one thing we see is devastation; the Earth in ruins. Humanity needs a haven, in case things go far worse than what is apparent. Even the Fae are leaving this world behind. I can understand and appreciate your need to stand by my son and your adopted family, but there are times when we must take the path that would be personally distasteful to us. But know this: if things travel on the path that we do foresee, then you will all be reunited at the end of the darkness. If that path is not taken – if one thing is out of place – then the darkness could extend past this world and to other worlds beyond this one. What you decide here will have repercussions far greater than just on Earth.”
Well, no pressure then…
Toshiko sighed. As much as she wanted to stay, the Earth Dragon wasn’t leaving her much choice. “I can’t believe this,” she sighed, tugging her robe closer about her. “The one time Ianto really, truly needs me…and I’m forced to turn my back on him.”
“If it makes the decision any easier, my son already knows that we are calling all the Dragon-Friends home. He accepts it.”
She threw up her hands. “Of course he does! He’s your loyal soldier; he’ll go along with anything you say. And it doesn’t help that you’re dangling his true mating with Jack over his head like some sort of obscene carrot.”
“Do you think so little of us, that we would promise something we could not make good?” The Dragon’s deep voice sounded surprised.
“Of course not,” she answered, feeling slightly guilty. “It’s just…he and Jack want this so badly, I don’t want them disappointed.”
“Toshiko…dearest daughter, their mating will take place, if we do see the end of these dark days ahead. It is our wish that they, too, be mated. They each could have a great destiny, if only they make it that far. Unfortunately, from what we did see before the darkness closed off the future, there are trials they must go through before that can happen, and certain conditions must be met. However, if they remain on the path – and those around them as well – then there will come a time when a true dragon mating will take place. I swear this to you.”
She believed him. “All right,” Toshiko said. “If my going to Ddraig Llyn will somehow lead to my friends being happy, then I’ll do it.”
“Thank you. There is one thing you need to do before you leave.”
Why had she thought it would be easy?
“Another will be accompanying you,” the Earth Dragon continued. “While she is not one of the four Great Dragon-Friends, she is a Named friend of our son. She also means much to Jack, and if things continue on the path they should, she will play a part in the upcoming mating. I simply ask that she accompany you.”
“Estelle Cole,” Toshiko guessed.
“Yes, daughter. Will you take her with you?
“Of course, if she wants to go.” Toshiko wasn’t averse to it; getting to know a friend of her two best friends was no price to pay at all. The only time she’d only met the woman had been during the mess with the Fae, and looked forward to company on the trip. “I take it Kathy will be going by herself?”
The Dragon chuckled. “I am not against…what do you call it? Carpooling?”
Toshiko laughed as well. She also wasn’t against Kathy Swanson traveling with them; she and the detective had gotten along quite well ever since they’d discovered that they had Ianto and the Great Dragons in common. They spent much of their off time together, either just getting to know each other or in conversation with Rhiannon Davies in Ddraig Llyn, learning more and more about dragon-lore. In fact, Ianto had once teased her about becoming the new Torchwood liaison, since she and Kathy got along so well.
“Toshiko, I understand you feel as if you are abandoning your friends and family. When human-kind began to murder the dragons, we felt as if our own family was being destroyed. The dragon known as Ianto Jones is special to us, and we would not willingly let him come to harm if we could possibly avoid it; this also means assuring his Jack’s safety, for as of now they are as connected as they can be without the official mating. However, all living things have free will, and can decide that they do not want to follow the paths that would be best for them. The future is a fluid thing, and our powers are not nearly as strong as they used to be. We are unable to penetrate the darkness to come, only to extrapolate the path we did see before our sight was obscured. If we have set the proper people on the proper path then that path will continue past the dark times ahead. However, as I have said…there is free will. I can only try to convince, and hope that you will believe.”
That was quite the most Toshiko had heard the Earth Dragon say at one go. She still didn’t want to leave, but she could see no choice, not if she wanted Jack and Ianto to get the ending they truly deserved. She was going to make that possible, even if it meant a temporary abandonment now.
“All right,” she said. “I’ll go.”
5 June 2008
The drive up to Ddraig Llyn was uneventful, although some of what Toshiko heard on the radio disturbed her.
She’d known that Ianto hadn’t trusted Saxon, and hadn’t much liked to deal with him. She, personally, hadn’t seen anything wrong with the man; he’d had lofty ideals, and wasn’t afraid to say pretty things in order for people to accept them. In other words, he was a carbon-copy of most politicians she’d seen.
Kathy, though, had voted for him, as had Estelle; although neither woman could come right out and explain why. Toshiko hadn’t made up her mind until she’d set foot into the voting station, where at the last minute she’d decided to vote for Saxon as well.
And she wondered if she’d done the right thing when Saxon announced that there would be First Contact the very next day.
Toshiko almost turned the car around when the high-pitched alien voice began to speak. It sent a shiver through her, and she wondered how Ianto and the others were handling things back at the Hub. Would Ianto be on the phone now, trying to get into whatever venue First Contact would be at? Would he be trying to call the whole thing off until there could be proper security, or at least an investigation?
It didn’t escape her what the Earth Dragon said.
“This is it,” she said, her hands clenching on the steering wheel. “I’m willing to bet my next paycheck that this is the beginning of the darkness the Dragons talked about.” It made too much sense. An alien race comes to Earth, just before the darkness that the Dragons had seen was about to fall…no, this wasn’t a coincidence. “It’s going to be an alien invasion.”
“Isn’t there anything that can be done?” Estelle asked, stroking a relaxed Moses in her lap. The cat had started out in a carrier, but he’d howled so loudly Estelle had finally taken him out and held him. He was quite content to stay there. “Certainly there are agencies that fight off invasions.”
“Torchwood, of course,” Toshiko answered. She’d learned very early into the journey that Estelle Cole knew a lot more than she was supposed to, especially when it came to Jack Harkness. “There’s also UNIT; they’re almost like the regular army, only they specialize in alien incursions.” She didn’t volunteer information about her own dealings with UNIT; she hated talking about it.
Kathy snorted. “Yeah, had to deal with some UNIT colonel once; he had more of an entitled attitude than Himself does on a good day.” Kathy had been livid when she’d found out that Jack had left, and it had taken all of Ianto’s assurances that he knew where Jack had gone to finally calm her down. Still, she used any opportunity to take a dig at Jack, and in a way Toshiko couldn’t blame her, even though according to Ianto he’d practically pushed Jack toward the Doctor’s TARDIS.
Jack hadn’t had to go, nor did he have to be gone so long.
The mountain road they found themselves driving along finally wound its way into the valley of Ddraig Llyn. The pristine beauty of the place silenced each of them, and it was all Toshiko could do to keep the car on the pavement. It had seemed that the longest part of the trip had been through the mountains; as if the peaks had grown up to purposely hide the secluded valley…which probably did happen, if Toshiko knew the four Great Dragons at all. It really would be a perfect sanctuary for the troubles to come.
The lake that gave the valley its name spread out before them, glittering in the sunlight. The snow-capped mountains were reflected in its placid surface, and Toshiko almost pulled over in order to get a better look. It took a lot of control for her to follow the road toward the village, which spread out along the lake and into the foothills, the homes and businesses built of native stone and looking to be hundreds – if not thousands – of years old.
The Green Dragon Inn was identifiable from the large wooden sign that hung over the main door. It really did resemble a country inn, Toshiko mused silently as she pulled up in front of it. She parked and got out, stretching her tired muscles.
She couldn’t help but notice the looks the three of them were getting. Toshiko knew from Ianto’s stories that they didn’t get that many visitors to the valley; the odd tourist and mountain climber, but beyond that the place was fairly isolated. But when she got a second look, she realized it wasn’t because they were strangers; these were expressions of awe, and Toshiko knew it was because they were Dragon-Friends, and not because they were strangers.
Toshiko turned at the familiar voice. Rhiannon Davies stood on the threshold of the inn, a large smile on her face. She couldn’t help but smile as well. “Rhiannon,” she greeted, moving around the car to hug her friend.
“Good to see you again,” Rhiannon enthused, hugging her back. They hadn’t seen each other in person since February, when Rhiannon had come down to Cardiff to talk to her about being a Dragon-Friend.
“Rhiannon, this is Estelle Cole,” Toshiko introduced, once the embracing was done. “The Earth Dragon asked me to bring her. Oh, and her cat, Moses,” she added, motioning to the cat in Estelle’s arms.
The innkeeper laughed. “And I thought that cats being familiars was a cliché!”
Estelle grinned. “I’m not a practitioner,” she corrected lightly. “Although I have been known to dabble a bit.”
“Ianto’s told me about you,” Rhiannon answered. “It takes a power to recognize a dragon in human form, and you were able to do that.”
“My mother had the power,” Estelle said. “I did get a bit, but I don’t truly use it.”
“Then maybe it’s time you did!” Rhiannon waved them inside. “Let’s go in and have a cuppa. I think we have a lot to talk about. Don’t worry about your things; Johnny can take care of them, if I can find the lazy lump,” she groused good-naturedly.
The interior of the inn was homey, and Toshiko felt as if she belonged there. Rhiannon steered them all toward the dining room to the left, and they passed through a cozy lobby to get to it. The large panoramic window showed off the lake and the mountains to fantastic effect, and she would have stopped to stare if she wasn’t alone.
“I never would have known this village was even here,” Kathy proclaimed, seemingly not ashamed to stare like a tourist. “Ianto’s told me about it, but this doesn’t even compare to his stories.”
“I hope this means you’ll think of this as a home,” Rhiannon answered, ushered them to a table by the large window. “Be back in a sec; I had the tea ready to pour for a bit now. Hope it’s not too strong!’ She vanished through a discreet door that must have led to the kitchen.
“This place really is amazing,” Estelle murmured, her gaze on the view outside, Moses happily purring away in her lap. “There can’t be many villages like this left in Wales.”
“I can see why Ianto loves it so much here,” Toshiko added.
“Can you imagine growing up here?” Toshiko went on.
“It’s a quiet village,” Rhiannon interrupted, setting a tray down on the table. “Some of the younger folk don’t understand why we love it here, but it takes a special sort to appreciate the magic of Ddraig Llyn.”
“Five cups?” Kathy noticed. “Is the other Dragon-Friend here then?”
“Not yet,” Rhiannon answered, sitting and being ‘Mother’. “Although I expect them soon.”
“You haven’t heard from them then?” Toshiko asked, taking a sip from her cup. It was very good, although Ianto made it better.
“Not a thing,” Rhiannon said. Her gaze went out the window. “But I suspect that’s her…”
As one, the three others turned to look. A car parked next to Toshiko’s, and a woman got out of the driver’s seat, accompanied by a boy who looked to be about nine. She had dark hair, and Toshiko frowned, certain she’d seen this woman and son somewhere before.
Rhiannon got up and headed toward the lobby, and the two other Dragon-Friends and Estelle also stood to meet their final member. Toshiko heard Rhiannon’s joyous voice greeting the new arrivals, then she brought them into the dining room as well.
“I’m Rhiannon Davies,” she introduced herself as she motioned the woman and boy forward. “I’m the Dragon-Friend of Water. This is Toshiko Sato, she’s Earth; and Kathy Swanson, and she’s Fire. This is Estelle Cole, a good friend and descendent of priests. Welcome to Ddraig Llyn.”
The woman looked wary, but she nodded at each introduction. “Hello,” she said, after Rhiannon was done. “I’m Alice Carter, I’m Air; and this is my son, Steven.”
5 June 2008
Ianto had been working non-stop for several hours before the cog door opened, heralding Owen’s arrival.
He’d gone through every piece of Rift data they had on file for the last several months, hoping to find evidence that something had come through the Rift. He needed some clue to back up his guess that the Dragons had been intimating that some sort of alien invasion was about to occur. When he’d exhausted what information Torchwood had, he used Toshiko’s backdoors into the servers at UNIT to see if anything had been recorded there.
It really was the only explanation. If it was something that humanity was about to do itself, then it would most likely have raised the ire of the Fae, especially if a possible Chosen One was involved. The very fact that they were retreating to the Lost Lands meant this was something dire, and that it wouldn’t break any of the Pacts that were in place. Something beyond this planet, though…that would have nothing to do with human-kind, yet would be bad enough to retreat.
As for the Great Dragons…a part of Ianto was glad that Toshiko and Kathy would be safe, but he had to wonder just what the Dragons could do to protect the valley from any sort of attack. He was very much aware that their powers were greatly diminished; he’d heard stories in the past, of the Great Dragons being able to mold the forces of this planet to their wills, with the help of their Dragon-Friends. Ianto doubted that they’d be able to do such again, and really doubted that they could, ever. If that had been possible, then they would have found a way to save his people from genocide.
For hours, he pored over anything he could find, and in the end he had to accept defeat. He could find nothing that would help head off any sort of invasion. Whispering curses in several different languages, he leaned back in Jack’s chair, rubbing his neck in an attempt to get some of the stiffness out. His eyes felt gritty from staring at the computer, and he blinked them tiredly.
He looked up as the alarms went off, and saw that it was Owen. Ianto got up, and headed out to meet him.
Owen got the first word in. “You look like shit, Dragon Boy. Did you sleep at all last night?”
Yes, Owen may be a prat, but he did care about his teammates.
“A little,” he admitted. “But something’s come up.”
“Very much so. Gwen should be in shortly, and I’ll explain it all then. In the meantime, I’d like you to check the drugs inventory, and see if there’s anything you need. I want enough supplies in case of a siege.”
“We expecting something big then?” Owen asked as he headed toward the autopsy bay.
“Pretty big, if the indications are true.” Ianto turned back toward the office.
“Oi!” Owen’s shout spun him on his heel. “Where’s Tosh?”
“That’s another thing we’ll talk about when Gwen gets here,” Ianto answered. “Get that inventory done, yeah?”
Owen gave him a jaunty salute then disappeared into the bay.
Ianto found himself calling UNIT next, after making certain they wouldn’t have noticed his poking around their files. He’d found himself on hold as they transferred him to Colonel Mace; Ianto respected the man, and hoped he might be able to convince him without giving too much away…
It ended up being a fruitless conversation. While Mace had been polite, he’d also been dismissive; without any real proof, Ianto wasn’t going to get anywhere with UNIT. He put the phone down a little harder than was strictly necessary, out of frustration. He’d have to try the Home Office next; and that was something he wasn’t looking forward to. Of all the people he liaised with, John Frobisher was the one he really didn’t care for, besides Harold Saxon. It wasn’t that the man was offensive or anything; Ianto thought it was simply because he was a consummate politician, and if he was honest with himself he did hold Jack’s opinion that politicians were a necessary evil. He was just able to hide it better.
The door opened again, this time ushering Gwen into the Hub. He could put off calling Frobisher for the time being.
He got up, and called out, “Owen! Gwen! We need a meeting in the boardroom in about five minutes. And yes Owen…I’ll make the coffee!”
“Bloody well do!” came the answering shout.
Ianto did so, and while the routine usually soothed him, this morning it didn’t. All he could think of was how much he missed Jack, and that how he wished his mate was there to lead them. Ianto was afraid that this would be too much for his skills, but he didn’t have much of a choice.
Just as he was pouring the coffees, the office phone rang.
Hoping it was UNIT having second thoughts, Ianto left the kitchen, running up the steps to Jack’s office. He grabbed the phone off the receiver, barking, “Jones,” even before the handset was to his mouth.
“Ah, Mr. Jones,” the somewhat smarmy tones of the new Prime Minister, Harold Saxon, greeted him. “We’re up early this morning. Just the way I like my public servants: bright-eyed and bushy tailed.”
Ianto found himself trying very hard not to grind his teeth, since it might be heard over the phone. “The Cardiff Rift never sleeps, Sir.”
“Very true, Mr. Jones. It’s good to see that our civil servants are so diligent. But, to business! I’ve just received a very interesting report about some very strange activity in the Himalayas that I thought would be right up your alley.”
Ianto felt his eyebrows raise in disbelief. “The Himalayas are a bit out of our jurisdiction, Sir. I think you might get better results through UNIT.”
“I would think Yetis would be something Torchwood would be intensely interested in, all that ‘phantasmagorical’ stuff in your charter.” He sounded a bit put out that Ianto would even be questioning it.
“I respectfully disagree; Yetis are more in UNIT’s purview, since they’ve dealt with them several times in the past, usually in context with the Great Intelligence. They have extensive files they can refer to.”
“I don’t want to ask UNIT,” Saxon said, petulantly. “I want Torchwood to go.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but I must decline,” Ianto said, keeping his tone polite. “Torchwood’s remit is for the United Kingdom only; we have no jurisdiction outside the kingdom or its satellites. The Himalayas are not within that remit.”
“I am hereby ordering Torchwood to go to this mission.”
It was like dealing with a child who wasn’t getting his way. “I’m sorry, Sir, but the British Government cannot order Torchwood to do anything. We are above the government; only Her Majesty can order us anywhere. You will need to take it up with her, if you wish us to take on this mission. Otherwise, your only recourse is to contact UNIT. Now, I do apologize, but there is a Rift alert and, as you are no doubt aware, we are currently short-handed. Congratulations on your election, and good day.” He hung up the phone, ignoring the spluttering noises coming from the handset, not caring that he’d just lied to get off the line.
Ianto sighed, leaning resting his arms on the blotter and then laid his head on his hands. The headache that he’d been nursing since earlier that morning was now banging away, and the dragon desperately wanted to go back to bed.
He sighed, raising his head to look at Owen, who was standing in the door, concern on his sharp features. Ianto stood, tugging his waistcoat down. “I’ll explain in a bit,” he said, “let’s get things started before the coffee gets cold.”
“Cold coffee is a crime,” Owen concurred. He turned and left and Ianto followed, stopping off at the kitchen to fetch their mugs.
Owen had taken his seat by the time Ianto arrived. Gwen was sitting in her chair, smiling when a mug was set in front of her. “Thanks,” she murmured, taking a small sip.
At least she was thanking him now.
“Let’s get started,” Ianto said, settling into his own chair. By tacit agreement, no one sat at the head of the table; that was Jack’s place. “I was contacted last night by the Great Dragons.”
Owen spluttered into his coffee. “Warn me before you’re gonna bust out stuff like that!”
Gwen was obviously confused. “What are the Great Dragons?” she demanded. “I thought you were the only one left!”
“I am,” Ianto answered. “The Great Dragons are the spirits my people worship. They brought us up out of barbarism and helped us to become a civilized people. There are four of them: Air, Water, Fire, and Earth.”
“Is that why Tosh isn’t here?” Owen asked. “And is that why you have me inventorying the medical supplies?”
“It is.” He recounted what they’d said last night, about the coming darkness. “The only thing I can come up with is some sort of alien invasion,” he concluded. “It makes the most sense, given the very little information they actually volunteered.”
“I don’t get it,” Gwen said disbelievingly. “Why are you even taking this seriously? How do these Dragons even know what’s going to happen?”
“The Great Dragons aren’t bound by time,” Ianto tried to explain. “They can usually see certain things, but the future has gone dark for them. They’re like the Fae, in a way: where they can move back and forth through the past and future, but the Great Dragons’ own power has diminished over the centuries. But, if the Fae are retreating – “
“Good riddance!” Gwen exclaimed.
“This means whatever is causing the darkness isn’t something of human making. The only thing I can think of is alien invasion.”
“But what does this have to do with Tosh?” Gwen asked. “Why isn’t she here?”
Ianto knew this explanation was way overdue, but he simply didn’t know how Gwen would react to things. So far, she was doing fairly well, even though she really didn’t look as if she believed a word of it.
“Tosh was Named a Friend of the Earth Dragon,” he said. “Back when I was young, being a Dragon-Friend meant certain things, but once again the Great Dragons’ power has weakened considerably, and it might not mean the same anymore.”
“What was that?” Owen asked, curiously.
“A Dragon-Friend could tap into the power of the Dragon that had Friended them,” he answered, glad that he’d spoke to Rhiannon and had gotten his facts straight. He’d thought that the power had come from the Dragon-Friends themselves. “Although, I haven’t seen any sign of that with Tosh.”
“You mean Tosh has been…influenced, by an alien presence?” Gwen asked, sounding outraged. She pinned a sharp gaze on Ianto. “I thought she was your friend!”
Before Ianto could say anything, Owen had jumped in. “It was Tosh’s decision,” he snapped. “She’s proud of being a Dragon-Friend. And she did it because she loves both Ianto and Jack, and would do anything for them. So don’t you even think of belittling what she’s done, Gwen.”
“I’m not!” Gwen denied hotly. “I’m just questioning the fact that people around her put so much faith in dragons and spirits of dragons, when they’re nothing but another alien race! Isn’t it Torchwood’s responsibility to protect humans from that sort of thing?”
“Gwen,” Ianto put in, grateful for Owen’s support, “as I have often explained, dragons have been on this planet a lot longer than humanity; in fact, we evolved here first. And what you’re even saying is beside the point. We’ve received a warning that something is going to happen, and happen soon. Toshiko was recalled by the Great Dragons, as well as the other Great Dragon-Friends, and whatever is coming they will have a part to play in it, just as we will. We don’t know what’s coming, so we need to prepare. Unfortunately, we’re on our own.” He explained about UNIT fairly dismissing his concerns, which led Owen to call them something uncomplimentary.
“And UNIT is…?” Gwen asked, looking confused.
Once again, Ianto was glad that Jack had changed his mind about making Gwen the Torchwood liaison. “UNIT is in the same business: protecting the world from alien intervention. However, they’re military, and often have a ‘five rounds rapid’ policy. However, they’re very useful in a fight, and when the odds are way against us. Which, if this is an invasion, they would be.”
“Wait,” Owen said, “weren’t specific protocols put into place after Canary Wharf? Just cause UNIT didn’t believe Jack when he tried to tell them the ghost shifts were something dangerous?”
Ianto nodded. “The Bambera Protocols, yes. I tried to enact them, but Colonel Mace is being particularly obtuse. My next step is the Home Office, but that means Frobisher, and I share Jack’s opinion on him, which is that I won’t get very far with him.” He sighed in frustration. “If only Sir Alistair hadn’t retired! I also tried Winifred Bambera, but she’s unreachable…she and her husband are having their third child, and her adjutant flatly refused to put me through to her.” It had been a high-risk pregnancy, so he honestly couldn’t blame the UNIT corporal who’d shut him out.
“What about Whitehall?” Gwen asked, sounding somewhat belligerent. Ianto wondered if that was somehow her default setting.
“I was going to bring it up to the Prime Minister before he called this morning,” Ianto admitted. “But he thought it would be a really good idea to try to order us to go to the Himalayas and chase Yetis.”
“Fucking hell,” Owen groaned. “Please tell me we’re not going!”
“But it’s the Prime Minister!” Gwen argued.
“Torchwood isn’t under the orders of the British Government, “Ianto reminded them both. “So no, we’re not going. Besides, it’s more UNIT’s bailiwick than ours, which I kindly pointed out to Mr. Saxon. He didn’t seem to appreciate it.”
“I bet he didn’t,” Owen chortled.
“It’s disrespectful!” Gwen exclaimed. “You can’t just turn the Prime Minister down like that!”
“Yes, I can,” Ianto countered.
“That’s probably why you had your head down when I came to get you,” the medic said.
Ianto turned to Gwen. “Gwen, I need you to run a supplies inventory; we need to know just what sort of food and materiel we have in the Hub. If we need to take on survivors in the Hub, we’ll need to have enough to get by.” Gwen also stood, although she didn’t look happy.
The dragon didn’t care.
“I’m going to take care of weapons and technology,” he said. “But I want everyone to keep an ear on the news and police bands. I spoke to Kathy this morning before she and Toshiko left – “
“Kathy Swanson went with Tosh?” Gwen asked incredulously.
“Yes; Kathy is the Dragon-Friend of Fire,” he answered calmly. “She contacted DCI Henderson, and he’s agreed to cooperate with us when it comes time. If anything, Cardiff will be prepared as best it can be.”
They’d have to settle for that, for the time being.
Ianto was down in the armory when Owen’s shouting into his comm. brought him running.
“What is it?” the dragon hit the main Hub at a run, almost skidding to a stop next to Gwen; she and Owen were intent on one of Toshiko’s terminals, watching as Harold Saxon finished a speech and stepped down from a podium.
Owen looked furious, and Gwen was pale as milk. “What happened?” Ianto demanded of his teammates.
“Bloody hell,” Owen swore, reaching over to punch some keys on the board. “I’m backing this up; you need to see it.”
The screen snowed out, and in seconds Owen had the video queued up. Harold Saxon grinned out of the screen, looking just as smarmy as he sounded on the phone.
Owen started the speech.
“Britain, Britain, Britain,” the Prime Minister began, “What extraordinary times we’ve had. Just a few years ago, the world was so small. And then they came, out of the unknown, falling from the skies. You’ve seen it happen – Big Ben destroyed, a spaceship over London, all those ghosts and metal men.”
Ianto shivered, he couldn’t help it. Saxon was purposely playing on the fears of the people for his own purposes.
“The Christmas star that came to kill,” the man went on. “Time and again, the government told you nothing.”
What did he hope to gain in raising the fear levels of innocent humans?
“Well, not me! Not Harold Saxon! Because my purpose here today is to tell you this – citizens of Great Britain…I have been contacted. A message, for humanity…from beyond the stars.” He signaled someone off camera.
When the sphere floated into view, Ianto knew this was it.
This was the invasion.
This was what the Great Dragons had warned about.
And they were called the Toclafane.
5 June 2008
Toshiko really couldn’t shake the notion that she’d seen Alice and Steven Carter before.
The fourth Dragon-Friend looked just a little suspicious of them all, and Toshiko couldn’t blame her. Here were four strangers, staring at her with various degrees of welcome and curiosity, and from what she could gather Alice really didn’t have any idea what was going on. The woman clutched onto her son almost convulsively, until the boy wriggled out of her grasp with an irritated, “Mum!” and it broke Alice out of whatever she’d been thinking about, seeing them all sitting around the table.
“Tea?” Estelle offered, trying to ease the tension.
Alice nodded, and everyone seemed to relax just a little
“My son David is about your age, Steven,” Rhiannon said. “I bet the two of you will get along just fine, although I hope you like video games.” She grinned. “Sometimes getting him off that game console is like pulling teeth.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Steven answered, returning her grin.
“It’s Rhiannon, dear,” she offered. “Or Rhi, if that’s easier for you.”
Steven nodded. “Okay, Rhi. Yeah, I love video games.”
“Then, if your Mam is okay with it, let me show you where David is.” She looked at Alice expectantly. “It’s perfectly fine. Everyone’s a friend here, and we all look out for each other.”
Alice’s eyes darted to each person at the table, and then back to Rhiannon. She turned Steven to look at her. “Don’t beat David too badly,” she cautioned, a small smile on her lips.
“No promises, Mum,’ Steven answered brightly.
“Come on, you,” Rhiannon laughed. “And don’t think you’ll be finding my David an easy target, young man…” She led him away, out of the dining room and around the corner, toward the stairs.
“Please,” Estelle encouraged, “have a seat and let me pour you a cup.” She juggled Moses slightly, who didn’t seem all that fussed about it, and busied herself with the tea things. Soon, everyone had their own cup, and Rhiannon was rejoining them, slipping into her own seat.
“They’ll be fine for hours,” she predicted, picking up her own cup. “They’re just in the office, which is under the stairs,” she reassured Alice.
“Sorry,” Alice said, sighing. “I’m just not used to trusting strangers.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Rhiannon said.
“Yeah,” Kathy added, “and I’m sure it’s not helping that it’s obvious we already know each other fairly well. Although, I just met Estelle today.”
“And I’ve just met Kathy and Rhiannon,” Estelle replied. “I don’t know Toshiko all that well either.”
“Maybe we should tell each other a bit about ourselves,” Toshiko suggested. “Just what we feel comfortable with.”
“That sounds like an excellent idea,” Rhiannon said. “Besides, I’m sure Alice is pretty confused about the whole Great Dragon thing.”
“That’s not exactly true,” Alice answered. “I’ve known the Air Dragon since I was about fifteen, and she was always telling me stories about the Great Dragons, and dragon history.”
“I’ve only known for about five months,” Kathy rolled her eyes. “And what I know, I learned from Tosh and Rhi.”
“Well,” Rhiannon said, “I’m descended from the priests and the dragon-friends who’ve always lived in Ddraig Llyn, so I’ve been around dragon-lore all my life. And Ianto, of course.”
“Ianto?” Alice queried, brows drawing down in a frown.
“You might have heard him referred to as the Last Dragon,” Rhiannon answered, somewhat sadly.
Alice nodded. “Yes, the Air Dragon did mention him. You know him?” She sounded almost eager.
“My family was the one who took him in when his family were massacred, and he ran this very inn for centuries. When he left the valley he made me caretaker here.”
“Ianto is one of my best friends,” Toshiko said.
“And mine,” Kathy added.
“As well as mine,” Estelle piped up.
“Kathy, Toshiko, and Estelle are Named as his dragon-friends,” Rhiannon said. “Which is a bit different from being Named by the Great Dragons.”
“I’d love to meet him,” Alice said.
“You will,” Toshiko assured her. “But he’s back in Cardiff, and I think he’s hip-deep in a possible alien invasion.”
Alice suddenly stiffened. “What do you mean…alien?”
“Did you hear the announcement over the radio?” Toshiko asked. “The one where Harold Saxon claims to have made First Contact?”
“No,” Alice shook her head. “I had a CD in for the trip up.”
“And you think this First Contact thing is what caused the Great Dragons to call us here,” Rhiannon said, understanding dawning.
“Well, they can’t see what’s beyond this darkness,” Toshiko posited. “And from what the Earth Dragon has said, it’s happening soon. An alien race seems to have come along and thought it was a really good idea to contact the British Prime Minister. Also, the Fae are withdrawing from this dimension and going back to the Lost Lands, which means what’s going on either isn’t caused by humanity, or doesn’t affect any of the Pacts they’ve made. Sorry, I don’t believe in coincidence; I’ve seen too much to even consider it.”
Alice looked confused. “Fae?”
‘There are many powers in this world,” Estelle supplied, “and the Fae – or fairies, as I’ve always known them – are just one of them.” A sudden fierce look crossed her friendly face. “I know it has to be bad if they’re gone, but after what they did to me and mine I can’t say I’m sad to see them go.”
Toshiko couldn’t blame her one bit.
“If I hadn’t seen the Air Dragon and heard her stories,” Alice snorted, “I’d be saying you were crazy to think that fairies exist.”
“They exist,” Toshiko said. “I’ve seen them myself.”
”You’ve tangled with the Fae?” Rhiannon asked, intrigued.
“Wait,” Kathy said, “I think we’re getting a bit far afield here. If these Fae don’t have anything to do with what’s going on, let’s just table that subject for a bit and try to figure out what’s going on.”
“Good idea,” Alice said. “Please don’t confuse me any more than I already am.” She turned to Toshiko. “You’re awfully sure that there’s some sort of aliens out there. What makes you think that?”
Toshiko paused. She had no reason to hide anything; everyone at the table except Alice knew about Torchwood, so clueing her in made sense. “I…work for an organization that deals with alien races on pretty much a daily basis – “
Alice suddenly stood. “You work for bloody Torchwood!” she hissed angrily.
Toshiko’s mouth fell open. “You know about Torchwood?” she asked, her mind going back to the idea that she’s seen Alice and Steven before. Had it had something to do with a Torchwood case?
Alice didn’t answer. Instead, she stepped away from the table. “I’m getting Steven and we’re getting out of here. I should have known he’d have something to do with this! He probably sent the Air Dragon to find me!”
It then occurred to Toshiko just where she’d seen Alice before. “You know Jack!” she exclaimed. “That’s where I know you from!”
“What do you mean, you know me?” Alice demanded, stopping her backward flight.
“I work for Jack Harkness,” Toshiko answered. “A while back, we had a case where we were all being stalked by a time-walking alien being who was trying to get access to our base.” She didn’t add that Bilis Manger had, indeed, managed to fool them all just long enough to get into the Hub. “He had the entire team under surveillance, and had taken pictures of us…and you and Steven were in a couple of pictures with Jack.”
“That bastard,” Alice swore. “He put me and Steven in danger!”
“He didn’t know,” Toshiko tried to calm her down. “None of us did, until we found them. He didn’t even tell us who you were.” In fact, Jack had confiscated those particular photos and hadn’t said a word about them. She wondered if he’d confided in Ianto at all.
“Besides,” Kathy said, “Harkness didn’t even know about the Great Dragons until recently, and he didn’t meet Ianto until 2000. There’s no way he would’ve been able to send the Air Dragon to you at all. Now, why don’t we just calm down and talk calmly about this?”
Estelle had a serene smile on her face. “You do look very much like your father, dear.”
Now Toshiko could see the resemblance to Jack in her; in her cheekbones and jaw line, and the stubborn look in her eyes. That made sense; Jack had been on Earth for a very long time, there were bound to be offspring out there somewhere.
Although, it seemed a bit out of character for her captain. He’d been waiting so long for the Doctor to arrive, and he‘d been willing to push his soulmate away in order to be ready. Why had he even thought about having children, knowing that one day he’d leave them? It just didn’t seem like something Jack would do, what with his abandonment issues.
Kathy snorted again. “Trust Himself to be spreading it around.”
“Kathy,” Estelle said sharply. “Don’t pretend to know Jack. He’s been around for over a century, and if he got lonely and met someone he wanted to be with, I can hardly blame him. And if anyone had the right to pass blame, it would be me.” She smiled up at Alice. “Your father and I were lovers during World War 2. We were going to get married…but fate came between us.” She laughed. “He came back into my life claiming to be his own son. Really, I do think he could have come up with a better story that that!”
Alice looked surprised by Estelle’s confession. “You…you’re not angry at him for leaving you?”
“Of course not,” Estelle answered. “Have you ever thought how hard it must be for him, living while everyone he loves dies around him, while he stays the same? How much heartbreak has he suffered because he can’t live a normal life? I would never blame him for leaving, when it hurts him so much to stay.”
Toshiko felt warmth spread through her at Estelle’s words. Here was a woman who had touched Jack’s life and had been content to be just a small part of it. She truly understood what Jack went through when he lost his loved ones. She reached over and hugged the older woman with one arm, feeling the tears prickling her eyes. “Thank you for that,” she whispered.
“No need to thank me,” Estelle answered, embracing her in return and trying to keep Moses in her lap. “You and I…we know what our boys suffer, and we support and love them anyway.”
She pulled back, smiling. Toshiko was so grateful that Estelle was there, so grateful that the Earth Dragon had asked her to bring the older woman with her.
Alice sank back down in her chair, looking back and forth between Estelle and Toshiko incredulously. “I can’t believe you trust him.”
“I trust Jack with my life,” Estelle said, “and with my heart. As does Ianto.”
“Your father,” Rhiannon said to Alice, “is the chosen mate of the Last Dragon. They will be together for all eternity.”
“It wasn’t always good between them,” Toshiko added. “Believe me; I’ve seen their relationship at its worst. But now…it’s different. Completely different.”
“Then why did Harkness run off?” Kathy challenged.
“Because Ianto let him go,” Toshiko answered. “Because Ianto trusted Jack to come back…and he will.” She sighed. “He needed answers. He needed to know just why he can’t die. I don’t necessarily agree with Jack leaving like that, but I do understand the need to know why you’re the way you are.”
Alice was shaking her head. “You all have no idea about my father…”
“I think,” Rhiannon said, “that you’ll find you’re the one who has no idea.”
“The Great Dragons knew Jack and Ianto were going to meet even before they actually did,” Estelle said. “The Air Dragon chose you as a Dragon-Friend in preparation for their union.”
“I feel like I’ve been used all this time!” Alice nearly shouted.
“No, not used, Alice. You chose. You could have turned the Air Dragon down, but you didn’t. Does it really make a difference now that you know your father has a destiny ahead of him, much like you do? If you’d known back then what you’ve found out today, would you have said ‘no’ when the Dragon asked you to become a Named friend?”
Alice looked thoughtful at that question, but didn’t answer.
“The Great Dragons gave Ianto a vision,” Toshiko went on, hoping she wasn’t breaking a confidence, “back when he was only about four hundred years old. It was of his future mate: a blue-gray dragon with laughing blue eyes. The dragon was the exact same shade as Jack’s RAF greatcoat, and now we know – from the Earth Dragon himself – that the dragon in the vision was Jack. Now, if the Great Dragons knew all that long ago, can you honestly saw that Jack was behind any of this?” She wondered why Alice didn’t trust Jack, and was hoping that the woman would share that reason at some point.
“All right,” Alice sighed. “I know my dad didn’t send the Air Dragon to me. But I still feel like I’ve been set up, just because of who my father is.”
“Of course that’s why you were chosen,” Rhiannon replied. “Look at us: there’s me, who could be considered Ianto’s only family, dating back to when the Joneses adopted him. Then there’s you; Jack’s daughter. We’re the two who are most closely related to the Last Dragon and his Mate. We were chosen on purpose because of our relationships with them, plain and simple. Who better to be Dragon-Friends than us? I only wish that I’d known about you sooner, because I would have contacted you directly.”
“You’re family,” Estelle pointed out. “Rhiannon, you and Alice…you’re family because of your connections to Ianto and Jack.”
“I’ve always wanted a sister,” Rhiannon grinned.
Alice looked completely overwhelmed, and Toshiko couldn’t blame her. “Look,” she said, “we need to figure out what the Great Dragons want us to do, because I really do think these Toclafane are the reason we’ve been called here. And, personally, I would rather be with Ianto and the rest of the team. No offense.”
“None taken,” Rhiannon said. “Your loyalty is one of the reasons the Earth Dragon Named you. But you’re right; we need to be ready, whatever’s going to happen. And I’m with Toshiko; I think it’s with whatever Harold Saxon has gotten up to.”
“Recriminations aren’t going to accomplish anything,” Estelle replied. “I think we’ll have plenty of time later to find out more about each other.”
“Yep,” Kathy agreed. “I personally want to know what the Dragons are up to.”
“I think we’re about to get your wish,” Rhiannon pointed out the window.
All of them turned to look outside.
The window opened out onto a beautiful view of the lake. The sun was glistening on the water, and as they all watched the view was blocked out by four mighty shapes, lying on the grassy bank, their vibrant wings curled against their backs.
The four Great Dragons had finally arrived.
5 June 2008
“The question is,” Owen said, bringing Ianto back to himself, “is Saxon their unwitting dupe…or is he in it up to his manscaped eyebrows?”
“He’s the Prime Minister!” Gwen exclaimed. “Certainly he wouldn’t be involved in an actual invasion!”
“No,” Ianto interrupted her, “Owen’s right. The Toclafane are obviously what we’ve been warned about; we just have to work out if the Saxon needs rescuing…or stopping.”
It was horrible to contemplate the idea that one of the most powerful men in the United Kingdom could be responsible for bringing about an invasion from space, but Ianto hadn’t truly trusted Saxon almost from the beginning. It was too easy to read too much into that one announcement.
They needed more facts…
“This could also be why Saxon wanted us to go to the Himalayas,” Owen pointed out, “to get us out of the way so he could bring in these Tocla – whatevers and take over.”
“You’re being overdramatic,” Gwen scoffed. “Harold Saxon is our duly-elected Prime Minister. There’s simply no reason for him to bring about an alien invasion!”
“On the face of it,” Ianto answered, “Gwen’s right. Harold Saxon is in a position of trust. Bringing down unknown aliens on the planet just doesn’t make sense.” And yet, the feeling that, somehow, either wittingly or unwittingly, Saxon would be responsible for the coming darkness. “But Owen’s right as well. I, personally, don’t believe in coincidence, and it would be a very big one indeed of Saxon’s ‘request’ that we go to the Himalayas comes just before this supposed First Contact. He knows very well that Torchwood would have wanted to be there.”
“So, he’s freezing us out,” Owen said. “No pun intended.”
Ianto grinned sharply. “I think you can take that as a given. No matter what his motives are.” He put a hand on Owen’s shoulder. “Our plans need to change. Saxon knows we didn’t go to the Himalayas, which means he’ll be aware we’ve seen the broadcast. We need to prepare for any sort of…repercussions.”
He broke away from his teammates, and began to pace. “The Hub may no longer be safe. When Jack and I first took over Torchwood Three, there were times when Yvonne Hartman would try to wrest control from us. We set up a contingency plan for a potential attack on the Hub, and it looks like it’s time to put it into effect.”
He turned to look at the pair of them. Owen looked ready to go out and punch something, which meant he’d do what needed to be done; Gwen still looked dubious, but Ianto could tell that she was at least taking into account the possibility of Saxon’s culpability in what could be an invasion of Earth.
“This plan consists of a complete and total lockdown of the Hub,” Ianto went on. “This means we become totally cut off from the outside world: no one gets in, and no one gets out, until a certain set of codes is input into mainframe. Only Jack and I know the codes.”
Owen was nodding. “Then we get the Hub kitted out for a siege.”
“And we leave the rest of Cardiff to fend for itself?” Gwen asked incredulously.
“I didn’t say that,” Ianto snapped. “We have an escape route…through the sewers.” It had been the same way Ianto had brought Lisa into the Hub.
“Oh joy,” Owen said. “We get to play dodge ‘em with the Weevils then?”
“I think it would be better that than with whatever those Toclafane are,” Ianto answered.
“Too right, mate.”
“I don’t think it’s right, we should be hiding away,” Gwen argued. “We’ll be needed if this invasion really happens.”
“And if the Hub is breached and these Toclafane get in?” Ianto challenged. “We need a safe place, here in Cardiff, where we can fight; if what we’re thinking does occur.”
“And if nothing happens?”
The dragon shrugged. “Then you have permission to tease me about being paranoid.”
“Count on it,” Owen snarked. “You’re never gonna hear the end of this if the aliens really come in peace this time.”
“Well, Jack’s fond of saying the 21st Century is when it all changes,” Ianto added, shrugging. “This could be it…but I doubt it. I really do think this is going to be bad, and unless we find a way to stop it…”
“Can we try to find out where First Contact is going to be?” Gwen suggested. “If we can get into the actual event…”
Ianto nodded. “You’re absolutely right. I think it’s time I called Her Majesty.”
Ianto barely refrained from slamming the phone down.
Usually, when he called the Queen, she made time to talk to him if she could. She and Ianto got along quite famously; Her Majesty was very proud of the fact that she had a dragon working for her Torchwood, and would often call him Her Welsh Dragon. Ianto thought Her Majesty was one of the nicest ephemerals he’d had the pleasure of meeting, and he respected her kindness as well as the steel backbone she would show on occasion.
But, today…Ianto didn’t even get past a lowly equerry who claimed that Her Majesty was away on family business, and could not be disturbed.
This had happened before; but the day before First Contact? No, Ianto automatically assumed that she was being kept from talking to him…or at least from getting his calls. The dragon didn’t think Saxon would actually resort to holding Queen Elizabeth against her will, but to have someone screen her calls…yes, that was very possible.
He was quite worried about her.
Ianto picked up the phone once more, thinking perhaps he should beard the lion in its den, so to speak, and contact someone in Saxon’s entourage. He did manage to get ahold of a very nice young lady named Tish, who claimed that the Prime Minister was in a meeting and could not be disturbed. He tried to pump her for information about the Toclafane, but she apparently didn’t know a thing about them, which Ianto had thought very interesting indeed.
That left the Home Office…and John Frobisher. Who seemed quite fine with the idea that aliens were going to be arriving tomorrow and that Harold Saxon was quite capable of handling it himself, without interference from either Torchwood or UNIT.
Ianto couldn’t help but feel as if he – and the team – were somehow being persecuted.
Then he cursed himself silently, thinking he needed to quit with the pity-party and get on with things.
He left Jack’s office, wanting to check on the preparations for what could be a lengthy stay within the Hub. Ianto had already done a partial lockdown, shutting off the Tourist Office from the rest of the base and deadbolt-sealing the cogwheel door. The invisible lift and garage entrance were still open, although Ianto had updated the security protocols on both, making certain that no one could force their way in without the hub going into complete lockdown.
Owen had already gone out, to collect what he could from their medical suppliers. Ianto had several accounts set up in various warehouses across Cardiff, and he was hoping Owen could get what they would need at such short notice.
Gwen was at her desk, inputting everything she’d managed to inventory into the mainframe. Normally, a lockdown like this would shut most of the Hub down; the one that he and Jack had set up would be different, allowing them to run Torchwood as well as being blocked off from the rest of the city. Toshiko had also done her part with developing a way to shunt power from the Rift to keep things going while taking them off the Cardiff power grid. Jack hadn’t liked it, and Ianto hadn’t either, but it was the only way to make the Hub totally self-reliant in case of catastrophic invasion.
Gwen looked up as he approached. “I want to bring Rhys to the Hub,” she challenged.
Ianto considered, then nodded. “If it looks like things are going to go to hell tomorrow, then yes. But not until we have absolute proof that there’s a reason.”
She looked surprised by his quick capitulation. “You’re really going to let me bring Rhys here?”
"I’m not the heartless monster you seem to think I am,” Ianto answered quietly. “I do understand how important he is to you, and I would never stand in your way of trying to keep him safe.” In the months since Jack had left, Ianto had seen a side of Gwen he didn’t think existed: the caring girlfriend, the one who actually loved Rhys Williams as she’d always claimed. She’d even accepted Rhys’ marriage proposal, and that night the dragon had sung the Song of Commitment and dedicated it to Gwen and Rhys, and to their future happiness.
“Thank you,” Gwen said, smiling.
“You’re welcome,” Ianto replied. “Now, how about a briefing on what we have ready?”
She nodded, turning back to her computer. Before she could go into anything, however, a small alarm went off at Toshiko’s work station. “What’s that?”
Ianto headed over, saying as he went, “I set up an alarm for any sort of official broadcasts, not wanting to miss anything.” He woke up the main monitor, scanning the channels until he found what the mainframe had warned him about.
And his heart began to race.
“– they are known to be armed and dangerous,” the BBC presenter said, even as pictures of a dark-haired man, a pretty black woman, and Jack were flashed on the screen.
Jack was back on Earth.
It was the only explanation for the bulletin.
“What the hell?” Gwen exclaimed.
Ianto couldn’t stop staring at the screen; he wasn’t even listening to the story. Jack was back on Earth. He had to assume that the other man was Jack’s Doctor, and the woman the Time Lord’s current companion. On an off chance, he snagged her image and began running the recognition software, to see if he could find out who she was.
“Does this mean Jack’s back?” Gwen demanded. “And if he is, why hasn’t he tried to contact us?”
That was a good question. Ianto couldn’t imagine Jack being home, and not attempting to call the Hub…to call him. “I don’t know,” he confessed. “Unless something’s keeping him from it.”
“What has he supposed to have done? All it would say was ‘acts of terrorism’.”
“Damn,” he muttered after a few minutes, “there’s nothing.”
“Nothing?” Gwen asked, incredulously. “You can’t just declare someone a terrorist without evidence.”
“The order comes directly from the Prime Minister’s office,” Ianto growled. Another nail in Harold Saxon’s coffin.
“Who are the other two?”
“I’d have to say the Doctor, and whoever he happens to be traveling with at the moment.” A soft ping announced a hit on the facial recognition software. Ianto opened the window. “Ms Martha Jones, a medical student,” he read from the picture identification that shower up onscreen. He scrolled through the information brought up. “She was involved with that vanishing hospital. I’m guessing that’s how she met the Doctor.”
“You mean Jack’s Doctor? The one he left us for?” Gwen snorted. “No wonder he didn’t reach us then.”
Ianto barely managed to keep from rolling his eyes. “He still would have called if he was able to.”
“You have a lot of faith in Jack.”
“Yeah, I do.” He smiled slightly, believing in Jack when he said he’d be back.
“I wish I had that sort of faith.”
Ianto glanced away from the screen, giving her a knowing look. “Jack cares about us all, Gwen. He only left because he had to. Yes, it’s been a long time, but I doubt he meant to be gone this long. He’ll be back, I guarantee it.”
She didn’t look convinced, but at least she wasn’t arguing with him.
Perhaps rumors of a possible alien invasion could iron out some of their differences.
The Hub was quiet.
Ianto stood by the water tower, looking out over the darkness that had descended over the place that could very well become their living space as of tomorrow. He’d sent Owen and Gwen home, for perhaps their last bit of peace in the coming days.
It was as if everyone was against them. No one would answer him about where the First Contact was going to be; the only clues he’d been able to find were some chatter on the UNIT channels and the sudden routing of Air Force One to London. There was also a single comm. call saying that the Valiant was also enroute to London, and to Ianto’s mind that would be the perfect place to hold a First Contact scenario.
It would also explain why UNIT was bulldozing him; the notion of being onsite for First Contact had to be a tempting one, and with the long-standing rivalry between UNIT and Torchwood the dragon could see UNIT wanting to get the upper hand.
He would be heading to London early, in order to see if he could get onboard the Valiant. Torchwood needed to have a presence there, and Ianto was the head of the Institute as long as Jack was on leave.
As for his mate…Jack was out there somewhere, and Ianto was willing to bet he knew more than the dragon did about what was going on. He’d come to realize that another reason to get them out of the way was that Saxon had somehow known about Jack’s involvement and had wanted to get Torchwood out of the way in case he appealed to them for help. Had Jack somehow become convinced that they were out of his reach? Ianto was willing to bet that was the case.
He sighed. He missed Jack, and knowing he was out there somewhere, and in danger, hurt. Ianto had no idea where he was, or how to get in touch; he’d tried Jack’s mobile, and had gotten a weird warbling tone in his ear for his troubles.
The dragon was about to head down to the hoard room in order to get a little rest, when Toshiko’s computer chimed, signaling an incoming email. Heart hammering, Ianto practically raced to get it, hoping against hope that it was Jack and that he’d found some way of getting in touch…
Only to find an encrypted message waiting for him, from someone named Vivian Rook.
It took no time at all to decode, and Ianto let it play, trying to recall who she was. He thought she was some sort of journalist, and that was confirmed in her message.
“If I haven’t returned to my desk by 2200, this file will be emailed to Torchwood. Which means, if you’re watching this, then…” The older woman on the screen cleared her throat. “Anyway, the Saxon files are attached. But take a look at the Archangel document…that’s when it all started. When Harry Saxon became Minister in charge of launching the Archangel Network…”
Ianto pored over the attached documents, worry growing. Saxon had wanted Torchwood to implement the Archangel Network into its systems, and Jack had flatly refused, insisting that their encryption programs were the best there could be, and it would be a cold day in hell before he had them integrated into a public network.
By the time he was finished, Ianto knew that Jack had to have these documents. He chewed his lip, wondering just how he was going to get them to his mate…
And when he finally realized how, he grinned. And then was pissed off at himself for not thinking about it before.
Ianto made copies for mainframe, and then gathered them all back together under Vivian’s original encryption. He logged into Jack’s personal files – he’d been given the password when Jack had told him he was waiting for the Doctor – and scanned through the files for the one he needed.
The one for Jack’s Vortex Manipulator.
There wasn’t a lot of information in the actual file. Jack himself had claimed he didn’t know much about Manipulator maintenance, but Ianto took that with a grain of salt, only because he was well aware of just how much Jack did know about future tech. However, the dragon had been willing to accept that Jack couldn’t fix it now, simply because of the knowledge that his mate wouldn’t have hung around on Earth if he could go anywhere and anytime.
There were times when Jack developed a strange sense of humility. It was usually when he didn’t want to admit to knowing something.
However, as little information as there was in the actual file, there was the one thing he needed to know.
The communications frequency.
Ianto was grinning and not even realizing it as he input the frequency. He suddenly stopped, knowing he couldn’t send this on without letting Jack know they were all right.
So, after typing in a quick message, Ianto attached it to the files and sent it on, hoping he got everything right.
And somewhere in an alley in London, a certain Vortex Manipulator beeped.
5 June 2008
The four Dragon-Friends and Estelle left the inn, walking as a tight group toward the lakeside. Out of the corner of Toshiko’s eye she could make out the villagers of Ddraig Llyn accompanying them, and she wondered if any of them had ever seen the Great Dragons before. Then she dismissed it, knowing that Ianto had once said he hadn’t since his sister’s mating ceremony, and that he’d lived almost his entire life in the village.
She’d only seen the Dragons before in a half-formed state, although the Fire Dragon had seemed a bit more solid than her dealings with the Earth Dragon. Now, though, the four appeared as solid as Ianto did, although very much bigger.
The Air Dragon was a vibrant blue, with a single white horn protruding from her scaled forehead, almost like a unicorn’s. Her calm gray eyes watched as they approached, and a sudden twitch of her wings caused a sudden breeze to flutter their clothing.
The Fire Dragon sat coiled beside the Air Dragon, her orange-red scales seeming to dance with small, internal fires. She was different from the fiery creature who had appeared in Toshiko’s lounge, but she could feel the heat the Dragon was radiating against her face. Laughing green eyes crinkled and she lifted a giant hand in greeting, a puff of steam rising from the white claws.
Next was the Water Dragon, glittering aquamarine scales shimmering in the sunlight. He nodded, his eyes rippling like wind-whipped water. He smiled, revealing teeth as long as Toshiko’s forearm, and a rich laugh echoed over the gathering.
And then, there was the Earth Dragon.
The enormous brown and green dragon was the largest of the Four. Eyes as dark as the underground regarded them all closely, and a horned head – with actual moss growing from the horns – nodded in welcome. He gestured with a powerful forelimb for them to come closer, and Toshiko found herself smiling as she did so, coming up to stand right in front of the Dragon who had asked her to become his Friend.
“Welcome, Dragon-Friends,” the Earth Dragon said warmly, his voice sounding as if he were speaking through an avalanche. “Welcome to Ddraig Llyn. I would hope that, in some part, you would enjoy your stay here, but with the darkness coming that may be uncertain.”
His gaze met each of the Dragon-Friends, and Toshiko for the first time truly felt the sheer timelessness of the Great Dragons. These beings had existed on the planet for millions of years, before even the extinction of the dinosaurs. She wondered what it would be like to see the turn of all those years, and it suddenly struck her that Jack and Ianto would, someday, be as old as these Dragons were now.
It about broke her heart.
“In days long past,” the Earth Dragon went on, “the Great Dragon-Friends were chosen with care, for they would share in our power. You were also chosen with great thought, but the reasons have become a bit different. While our powers have faded greatly over the millennia, you four have been granted such small gifts as we can afford. However, that was not the main purpose of our choice.”
“It’s because of who we know,” Toshiko surmised.
The Air Dragon laughed. “You would be correct, Child of Earth. You are all connected in some way to our only living son, and his mate.”
“If I’d known you came to me because of my dad,” Alice spat, “I never would have agreed to it.”
“I am sorry you feel that way, Child of Air,” the Earth Dragon answered sadly. “Your father is a great man, who has a horrifically long life ahead of him. Humans were not meant for immortality, and without support he would go mad. Do you want that for him?”
Alice’s anger seemed to part for a healthy dose of confusion. “Of course not! But he’s hardly a great man. Just because he doesn’t die, doesn’t mean he’s anything special.”
“That is not the reason Jack Harkness is special,” the Water Dragon answered. “It is what he is going to accomplish that makes him great.”
“You see a flawed man,” the Fire Dragon continued. “We see that as well, but we also see what he will aspire to.”
“You see the man who is blamed for all of your troubles,” the Air Dragon said. “Surely even you know there are two sides to every story?”
Alice didn’t look very convinced, but she was quiet.
“Darkness is coming,” the Earth Dragon reiterated. “It comes quickly, and we need to prepare.”
“It’s an alien invasion,” Kathy said. “We heard on the radio on the way up here that there’s some sort of alien race coming tomorrow.”
The Fire Dragon nodded. “While we could not make out the nature of the darkness, this indeed makes sense, with the Fae choosing to leave for the Lost Lands.”
“Why did you summon us here?” Toshiko challenged. “You never really gave me much of an answer.”
“Yeah,” Kathy put in. “You four have made us drop our lives to come here. And what’s worse…you made us leave our friends. Both Tosh and I would’ve preferred to stay in Cardiff, where we’re needed. I might not be Torchwood, but I’m a copper who has a duty to the people of my city. And, if something bad is really coming, then we should be helping.”
Toshiko was glad that Kathy was backing her, but then she’d gotten an earful from the detective on the trip up. It was a bit different ranting at something not present, than to the actual person you want to rant at.
“As we have said,” the Earth Dragon answered, “our powers have diminished in the years since our children have all gone. But here, in this valley, is where we are the strongest.”
“We cannot stop what is going to happen,” the Fire Dragon said, “but we can work to make Ddraig Llyn a haven for people who need it during the dark times. To do that, we need your assistance.”
“How can we help?” Rhiannon asked.
“We have it within our slight power to make this valley undetectable to outside eyes,” the Air Dragon replied.
“Like a perception filter?” Toshiko asked, her mind ticking over the possibilities. A natural perception filter would make Ddraig Llyn the best possible place to plan any sort of resistance to invasion…there were things she’d need to bring in, but she knew from Ianto that there were such things as internet and mobile phone coverage in the village…yes, they could make this work.
“I am not familiar with that term, daughter,” the Earth Dragon said. “But I understand your meaning. Yes, it is like that. It will be as if the valley no longer existed.”
From the look on Kathy’s face, Toshiko guessed she’d come to the same conclusion that she had, and her words confirmed it. “We can run any sort of fight from here and no one would be able to find us.”
Something was bothering Toshiko, though. “But why would you have us come here, and not Ianto or the rest of my team? We have the experience to deal with alien incursions, and a safe base would be ideal for that.”
“They will be needed outside in the world,” the Fire Dragon replied. “While we cannot see much beyond tomorrow, that is something that we do know.”
“You’re just going to leave them out there, at the mercy of whatever’s coming?” Toshiko was growing angry, even though the Earth Dragon had told her pretty much the same thing when he’d come to fetch her.
“Some things must come to pass, in order for the future beyond the darkness to continue as it should,” the Water Dragon said.
“We cannot see if your family will not, some day, come to the valley as well,” the Air Dragon tried to soothe her.
“I’m sorry,” Kathy denied, “but that doesn’t cut it. Sure, you told us that you needed us here, and that we had to come, but you can’t expect us to just follow blindly. You also can’t expect us to forget our friends.”
“Wait a second,” Rhiannon interrupted, looking at her fellow Dragon-Friends. “Shouldn’t we be looking at the bigger picture here? Shouldn’t we be willing to protect the innocent, instead of thinking of ourselves?”
“I’m not thinking of myself,” Toshiko snapped. “I’m thinking of my friends, and how they’re on the front lines of a possible Armageddon!”
“But they can defend themselves,” Rhiannon pressed. “They know what to do when the darkness comes. The majority of the people out there won’t. Those are the people who’re going to be looking for a safe place, and it’s gonna be us who’ll be responsible for that.”
“That’s all well and good,” Toshiko argued, “and I understand the need to help those who can’t do it themselves, but I’m afraid hiding away in a secluded valley isn’t going to do much unless there are those out there who know this place is here. We’re not going to be able to do a lot of good if no one knows we’re here.”
“There is more to consider,” the Earth Dragon cut across the argument. “As I said before, you were all granted small gifts based on your Friendships with us. While you are not aware of them, they are much a part of you. However, those gifts have weakened us further, and we need you all here if we are to protect this place. This does not preclude you aiding those outside this valley as you are needed; you simply cannot leave until the danger is past.”
“Plus,” the Water Dragon said, “you are our Named and Marked Dragon-Friends. Our Pacts with you mean that we will protect you with all that we can. But we cannot do that if you are anywhere beyond this place.”
All right, it was at least some form of explanation that Toshiko could understand. She vaguely wondered what sort of power the Dragons meant. She certainly didn’t feel any different. “All right,” she said, “I’ll stop arguing about it. I do understand the need to protect people; after all, that’s what I do. And I also accept that my friends might be needed in Cardiff, even though I don’t like the idea that I abandoned them. But even you have to admit that you can’t protect anyone if they can’t find the place.”
“We understand your concerns, Child of Earth,” the Fire Dragon answered. “But we also trust you all to do what needs to be done, even if you cannot leave until the darkness is lifted.”
Toshiko nodded absently. She really did need equipment if she was going to be keeping an eye on the outside world…”I have to make a run out,” she said, “and I’m going to need finances to get a few things.”
The Air Dragon laughed. “I believe we can aid you there.”
“But hurry back,” the Earth Dragon warned. “As of nightfall, we must prepare. And Toshiko…?”
“Thank you for accepting what must to be done. We would truly do nothing to cause intentional harm to either our son or your friends. Your support of them does you credit.”
“I just can’t help feeling guilty about leaving them out there, to fend for themselves, while I’m stuck here in this valley.” She did, and she vowed that she’d help them as much as she could, from the valley.
There was no way she was going to let them fight on their own.
They barely made it back before the sun set.
Johnny Davies had lent Toshiko his van, and then ended going with her to help with lifting…plus, he knew the way to Bangor, which was a three-hour drive from Ddraig Llyn. It took them awhile to get what Toshiko thought she’d need to set up her own command center.
As for funds, the Great Dragons had been right; that was the good thing about having a hoard. The village was flush with cash, in many different forms, all of it something to do with what was left of Ianto’s hoard. Toshiko did wonder just how they managed to sell all that gold without it doing something to the market…
The sun was sinking below Pedair Dreigiau as the van made its way back into the village. On the trip Toshiko decided that she quite liked Johnny, and she was quite certain that a lot of Rhiannon’s complaining of him being lazy was just teasing. She also had time to think about her strategy, and the first thing she wanted to do was connect to the Torchwood dedicated server.
It would be easy; after all, she knew the backdoor into mainframe, and had set up the ability to go remote if needed. In fact, she had planned on going to Ianto and Jack – when Jack came back, that was – and to suggest setting up a remote site in case the Hub had become compromised. She was aware of the total lockdown procedure, of course, and she could assume that Ianto would be preparing to do just that. She trusted her Second to realize what was going on with the so-called Toclafane, and that he would have the team’s safety in mind. As bad as she felt about leaving, she knew Ianto would do everything in his power to protect them, and the innocents in Cardiff.
It was still hard to accept, though.
Johnny pulled up in front of the inn, where Toshiko would be setting up. Rhiannon had agreed that it was the best place, with the technical innovations Ianto had brought in with him during the time he ran the place. The dragon had also seen that things would be updated regularly, and Toshiko’s PDA had given her all the data she’d need to set up her in-exile network.
She and Kathy both felt that coordinating with Torchwood would be the best thing. Toshiko was certain that Ianto would have gotten more information by now, and once things happened then she’d still have her backdoor into mainframe. It did help that the detective felt the same as she did; Rhiannon had taken the big picture very seriously, but Toshiko knew that the big picture wasn’t always the best way to see things. The devil was in the details, as her university advisor had been fond of saying.
Her technical frame of mind wouldn’t let her disregard the details.
Saving people was fine, and Toshiko would always want to do that. But they needed information on what was going to happen, and being stuck in isolated Ddraig Llyn meant that getting that would be hit and miss until she could set up some sort of network.
You couldn’t save the people without knowing how to go about that.
Toshiko hadn’t wanted to argue with the Great Dragons, but at least it had gotten her what she’d needed. They needed to Dragon-Friends there, because of their power. Not that she felt like she had any power at all. In fact, she felt distinctly powerless as she and Johnny began to wrestle her equipment into the inn. The Earth Dragon could have said that in the beginning, instead of guilting her into coming there in the first place. She just had to accept that the Dragons were so used to speaking in riddles that it was too hard a habit to break.
“Let me help,” a familiar voice said.
Toshiko smiled as she saw John Ellis. “Thanks,” she greeted warmly. She grabbed her own box, and led John into the inn. “I heard about your son; I’m sorry.”
Ianto had told her that Alan had passed away in the spring, and she’d been deeply sad for the time-lost refugee. His son had been the only thing he’d had left, and to lose him so soon…
He smiled sadly at her. “We did get to spend some time together, and toward the end I think he did know who I was, so that was good.” He put the box he was carrying down amid the others that she and Johnny had lugged in. “Do you really think there’s some sort of invasion coming?”
Toshiko nodded. “I do, yes. That’s why I got all this, so we have some sort of chance of helping outside the valley.”
“If there’s anything I can do to help,” John said, “then let me know.”
“I will,” she promised, surprised at the changes in the man. He’d been so belligerent before, but now, it was as if his son’s death had settled him somewhat. Or perhaps it was being accepted among these people that had helped him come to grips with what had happened. Any way it was, she was glad to see it.
“The Dragons,” Rhiannon interrupted, coming into the lobby. “They’re back.”
Together, Toshiko and John left the inn, heading toward the lake. The Great Dragons, who had left after their announcement before, had reappeared, but this time they were in their wraith-like forms once more.
“It is time,” the shadowy shape that was the Earth Dragon said. “After tonight, the valley will be all but invisible to anyone who did not know where it was.”
The stars had come out, glittering coldly in the darkening sky. As soon as the Earth Dragon had spoken, swirling clouds had begun to form over the peak of Pedair Dreigiau, looking as if a storm front was forming over the mountain.
A song began to echo over the valley, the four Great Dragons singing their power into effect. Suddenly, Toshiko could feel something within her rising, and the mark on her shoulder began to itch, and she had to resist reaching back to scratch. Before she knew it she had begun to hum, and her other fellow Dragon-Friends as well, even though she didn’t know the tune that was coming from her mouth.
The clouds fanned out, cutting off the stars. Only the lights from the houses along the lakeshore illuminated the valley now, as Ddraig Llyn was magically cut off from the rest of the world.
The power thrummed along Toshiko’s nerves, and she felt a hand on her arm; turning, she saw John Ellis staring at her in shock, and she smiled at him reassuringly even as she continued to hum. She couldn’t stop though, not to give him any verbal assurance.
A hand slipped into hers, and she turned away from John to see Kathy standing next to her. She squeezed the other woman’s hand as they kept up the song, and her eyes looked up to see the last of the stars vanish behind the cloud.
The song faded away, as did the energy that the Dragons had called up. And yet, there was still something left, and Toshiko could sense it at the back of her mind, signifying that what they’d done had worked.
“We have done all we can,” the Earth Dragon said, his voice sounding weaker than usual. “We must rest, but we shall return when we can. The safety of us all is in your hands, Dragon-Friends. Thank you.”
With that, the Great Dragon vanished.
Leaving Ddraig Llyn under its magical shield, hidden from all eyes.
Toshiko hoped it would be enough.
Now, she had work to do.
5 June 2008
Jack was tired.
For him, it had only been about a day since he’d left Ianto on the Plass to jump onto the TARDIS and eventually end up at the end of the Universe. For him, it had been a day of non-stop action; he’d died twice, been in a chamber of radiation that should have killed him, run for his existence Goddess-knew how many times, and had traveled through time twice …once in the worst way possible, the other rougher than he’d recalled due to having two passengers. And he’d come back to an Earth where four months had passed, and it wasn’t even to Cardiff…it was to London.
Now, he was on the run from a power-mad Time Lord who’d somehow gotten himself elected Prime Minister. Seemed like Ianto had been right not to trust the man, after all.
He practically collapsed onto the crate he’d found in the dingy alley where he, the Doctor, and Martha had found a rough sort of shelter. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time he’d lived on the street, and there didn’t seem to be much difference in the experience today as there had been back in the 1800’s, except for the distinct lack of horse dung.
Jack wondered where Ianto and the team were. At least he knew they were still alive, if the Master had been telling the truth about sending them on some wild-goose chase to the Himalayas. The problem was, he didn’t believe it. He knew his Second; knew he wouldn’t just haul ass off to another country because Harold Saxon had said so. First because Ianto didn’t trust Saxon as far as he could throw the Hub; and second he wouldn’t accept anyone else’s control over Torchwood. If the Queen had ordered it, Ianto might have considered it, but Jack still doubted that Ianto would have taken the team out of Wales on something that would have seemed like a whim.
No, the only thing that would have gotten Ianto to leave Cardiff would have been in Saxon had dangled another dragon as bait…but the Master didn’t know what that would have meant to his mate, since he didn’t know Ianto’s history.
At least he was fairly certain he didn’t know Ianto’s history.
Jack twisted the ring on his finger, as he halfway listened to Martha saying she was going to try to get them something to eat. Jack had to admit, he was really hungry, and he hoped a little food would give him some of his strength back.
The Doctor was messing with the laptop they’d taken from Martha’s flat. Jack had tried to call Ianto from there, but for some reason it had gone into some sort of voicemail, one that he was certain wasn’t Ianto’s. But then, perhaps he’d changed it in the months Jack had been gone...
Jack wanted to go back to Cardiff. It was an impulse he could only control by telling himself that he needed to fix what had happened. He blamed himself for awakening the Master, even though the TARDIS had communicated that it had to happen, and that she knew it was supposed to occur the way it had. Jack could hear Ianto now, telling him not to wallow, but he couldn’t help it.
It didn’t help that his own self-worth had taken a serious blow by the one person he’d pinned his hopes on to make things better. Instead of helping, the Doctor had called him ‘wrong’ and had insulted him even as he’d used Jack as his own version of cannon fodder. His skin still tingled slightly from his exposure to the stet radiation.
Jack wanted his mate. He wanted to be able to curl up beside his dragon and draw comfort from Ianto’s unwavering presence. He wanted to trade barbs with Owen; talk tech with Toshiko; hell, he’d even take a roaring row with Gwen. Anything, as long as he was back with the family he’d created within Torchwood.
He’d been lost in his thoughts and almost missed Martha returning. The smell of normal, fried chips tickled his nose, and his stomach growled as he accepted the portion she handed him. “How was it?” he asked, reaching for his first chip.
Martha gave the Doctor his share, then took a seat next to Jack. “I don’t think anyone saw me. Anything new?”
He waggled his wrist so his coat would slide away from his Vortex Manipulator. “Got this thing set to official channels, but nothing’s really going on.” It had been one of the first things he’d done when getting back to Earth, but to be honest Jack didn’t expect it to pick up much of anything. Once Saxon has announced the coming of the Toclafane most channels had gone to radio silence, and the only thing he’d been able to pick up was a broadcast about a change in course for the Valiant.
“Nothing about my family then?” Martha asked, deflating.
The Doctor looked up from the laptop. “Just that the news says the Jones family was taken in for questioning. Nothing about Leo, though.”
“He’s not as daft as he looks,” Martha said, proudly. Then she snorted. “I’m talking about my brother on the run. How did this happen?”
Jack recognized a rhetorical question when he heard it. “Nice chips,” he decided to say instead. A part of him wanted to shovel them all in, but he could practically hear Ianto rolling his eyes at his table manners…or lack thereof.
“Actually,” the Doctor chimed in, “they aren’t bad.” He was busily eating his own chips with relish.
Martha bumped Jack’s shoulder, and when he looked at her she glanced at the Doctor meaningfully. Jack rolled his eyes; after everything, she honestly expected the Doctor to open up for him? “So,” he jumped in with both feet; after all, could the Doctor get any more dismissive of him? “Just who is the Master? How did the ancient society of Time Lords create a psychopath?”
“And what is he to you?” Martha added curiously. “A colleague…?”
“A friend at first,” the Doctor admitted slowly.
“I thought you were gonna say your secret brother of something!”
Both Jack and the Doctor stared at her, and Jack couldn’t help the snort that escaped him. “You’ve been watching too much TV,” the Time Lord accused almost playfully.
Martha laughed half-heartedly, and Jack could tell she’d taken the Doctor’s words too seriously. He felt sorry for her; it was obvious she had a thing for the Time Lord, and Jack knew from first-hand experience that it would never go anywhere.
Jack turned back to the Doctor. “But all the legends say Gallifrey was perfect.”
“Perfect to look at, maybe,” the Doctor answered. “And it was beautiful.” He leaned back in the chair he’d managed to scavenge, and began to describe his homeworld in such detail Jack could easily imagine it. It made him sad that such majesty had had to come to an end, and despite the anger and humiliation he’d had to go through since meeting the Time Lord again, Jack actually felt sorry for him.
He wondered if the Doctor and Ianto would find being the last of their races something in common enough to bring the two ancient beings together.
Then Jack selfishly decided he didn’t want them to meet at all.
“What about you?” Martha asked, spellbound, as the Doctor described the ceremony of the Untempered Schism.
“Oh, the ones that ran away,” the Doctor said, grinning widely. “I never stopped.”
That didn’t surprise Jack one bit, having been on the receiving end of the Doctor’s running.
He was about to make a comment on just that subject when his Vortex Manipulator beeped.
“Patch it through to the laptop,” the Doctor said, pushing the computer in front of Jack.
Well, this was about to get interesting…”As long as we’re telling stories,” Jack quipped, sending the files to the laptop.
The Torchwood logo began to spin on the screen.
“You work for Torchwood,” the Doctor accused, taking a step back as if Jack was going to morph into something nasty. “Everything Torchwood did…and you’re a part of it!”
Jack felt his anger rekindle. He glared at the Doctor. “I didn’t have a choice,” he growled.
“There’s always a choice.”
“Yeah, right,” Jack snarked. “I was found by Torchwood because of you, Doctor. They found out I’d traveled with you, and decided to grab me and question me. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Torchwood Lesbians found me right after I’d died. It was either work for them or be tossed into a cell to rot…and that was when I wasn’t being experimented on. It was all because you abandoned me on the Gamestation, Doctor. All because you ran away.” He knew he was being somewhat unfair; after all, it had been Jack who’d gotten drunk and had talked out of turn, but he desperately wanted to hurt the Time Lord in some way after the Doctor had hurt him. “I did stay, because I didn’t want to leave Cardiff in case you showed up. But I did manage to change things along the way, and when I took control I cut us off from London. Torchwood One fell to the Daleks and Cybermen, and I took over the entire Institute, and changed it in what I thought was your honor. But nothing I could ever do would make me right instead of wrong. Now I wonder why I bothered to live up to any of your ideals at all.”
Martha was staring at him in surprise, and yet at the same time she looked proud of him. The Doctor was equally as shocked, but his seemed to be more like when a dog that’d been previously friendly had bitten and drawn blood.
Jack felt a warm rush of victory, and turned back to the laptop to scan the files that he’d downloaded. There was a recording, which he played.
“If I haven’t reached my desk by 2200 hours,” the woman on the screen said, “this file will be emailed to Torchwood…”
As he listened, Jack could feel the Doctor slowly come closer, no doubt drawn by his curiosity in what had been sent. Jack wanted to sigh, but stifled it. He couldn’t understand now why he’d been so certain that the Doctor could help him. He should have just stayed home, stayed with Ianto. He hadn’t really needed answers when he’d had Ianto.
He perused the documents, while the back of his mind played with the thought that he really had no idea how the documents had been sent to his wrist strap. Yes, he’d often forwarded his phone to the Vortex Manipulator, but he’d never done it with email.
“What’s the Archangel Network?” the Doctor asked.
Martha pulled her mobile from her pocket. “I’ve got Archangel. Everyone does.”
“It’s the mobile phone network,” Jack explained. “And look…it’s gone worldwide. They’ve got fifteen satellites…even the other networks are carried by Archangel.” Suddenly he was quite glad he’d vetoed installing the Torchwood network on Archangel. This was bad…
The faint whirr of the sonic screwdriver sounded just behind Jack, and he turned in time to watch the Doctor poking around within the innards of Martha’s phone. “Ah ha!” he exclaimed. “It’s in the phones! Oh, I said the Master was a hypnotist!” He tweaked something. “Wait, wait, wait! Hold on…” He smacked it against the crate they’d been using as a table, and a beeping sound came from it. “There it is…that rhythm. It’s everywhere, ticking away in the subconscious.”
“Like mind control?” Martha looked and sounded appalled.
“No, no, no, no! It’s more subtle than that. Anything stronger and people would question it!” The Doctor began to explain his that hyper way he had, and Jack thought back to Ianto’s distrust of Saxon from the start. He wondered if that signal, after the Archangel Network had been activated, had made Ianto more convinced while everyone else just fell in love with Saxon. Jack knew he’d thought Saxon was a pretty good guy until Ianto had said otherwise. Now he knew they were just all being controlled in some way, but it hadn’t worked on his mate. “Is there any way to stop it?” Jack asked.
“Not from down here,” the Doctor answered absently, still messing with Martha’s phone. “But now we know he’s doing it…”
“We can fight back,” Martha declared.
The Doctor spared her a grin. “Oh, yes!”
The Time Lord plunked back down in his chair, happily taking Martha’s phone apart. Jack went back to the documents that had been sent to him, trying to find out anything he could about the Network. There was also proof that Harold Saxon didn’t exist before eighteen months ago; so, the Doctor had been right when he’d claimed that he’d jammed the TARDIS’ navigational controls as the Master had escaped from the future.
As he came to the end of the file, he found a note addressed to him.
When he saw who it was from, he couldn’t help but grin like a maniac.
We’re all fine. I know you’re with the Doctor and Martha Jones, and I know you’ll be trying to stop Saxon just as we are. We’ve had a warning from our favorite matchmaking friends, and we’re preparing. I’m initiating Protocol LD-Prime as of first thing in the morning. We’ll hunker down and help as many as we can.
I received these files, and thought you might find them interesting. Also, I’m certain that First Contact is going to be on board the Valiant. Been listening to the chatter to and from Air Force One, and it appears that President Winters isn’t happy about Saxon’s disregard of Security Council Protocols. On the home front though, things are very quiet. AF1 is due to arrive at Heathrow in three hours.
Be safe, Jack. I miss you. Come home soon. House and Hub are empty without you.
Jack was so relieved that Ianto and the team were all safe. He was glad that they were going to enforce the lockdown protocol in order to keep themselves and the Hub safe. And the information about the Valiant only reinforced his own belief that the airship would be where the so-called First Contact would take place. It was as close to neutral territory as could be found at such short notice; plus it could be guarded and full surveillance could be held on the occasion.
The term ‘matchmaking friends’ had Jack confused for a few seconds before he realized that it was code for the Great Dragons. He wondered just what they’d warned Ianto about, since the note didn’t actually reveal that part. Knowing them, it had been cryptic and couched in terms that could only be figured out after the fact…
“Is that him?” Martha’s voice broke into his thoughts.
Jack looked at her. “Hm?”
“The one you left in order to get your answers.”
With a sudden scraping noise the laptop was pulled in front of the Doctor, who examined the message over his black-rimmed glasses. He made a ‘humph’ noise then closed the laptop, flipping it over and using the sonic screwdriver to take it apart.
Jack wished he’d saved the message to his wrist strap. Instead, he recorded a quick message, sending it back along the same data track that the note had been sent on, hoping that Ianto would hear it.
He turned back to Martha. “Yeah, that’s him,” he answered. “Ianto. He’s my Second at Torchwood Cardiff. We’d only been together officially for a few months before I left, but we’d already decided to commit to each other. He gave me this,” he showed her the ring Ianto had gifted him the night before the Doctor had returned.
“I’ll need your TARDIS keys,” the Doctor interrupted.
Jack wondered just how Rose could have loved him, the insensitive prat.
Both he and Martha handed them over, then went back to their conversation. “It’s gorgeous,” Martha said, complimenting the ring. “So…how did you meet?”
“I met him nearly eight years ago, on the side of a Welsh mountain,” Jack answered, grinning. He trusted Martha, but for some reason he didn’t want the Doctor to know that Ianto was a dragon. “He ran an inn in a tiny Welsh village. I knew almost right away that I wanted him to be a part of my new Torchwood.”
He explained a little about Torchwood Cardiff, describing his team. “But it wasn’t until just after Canary Wharf, when Torchwood One fell, that I realized how much he meant to me. He was the one to encourage me to look for my answers. I just didn’t expect to be gone so long.”
“Once we get the Master sorted,” Martha said, “you can go home again.”
Jack hoped it would be soon. He wanted to be with his dragon again, more than anything.
“Here we go,” the Doctor interrupted once more, this time sliding their TARDIS keys back to them. Jack picked his up; there was a strange blob of technology welded to the key, and the Time Lord had looped a length of string through the hole. “Three TARDIS keys,” he announced, “three pieces of the TARDIS with low-level perception properties because the TARDIS is designed to blend in.” He paused, then shrugged. “Well, sort of. Anyway, the Archangel Network has its own low-level signal. Weld the key to the network, and…” He directed a smirk toward Martha. “Martha, you see me…yes?”
“Yep,” she answered, confused.
“What about now?” the Doctor asked, slipping the key over his head.
For Jack, nothing changed. He was too used to the perception filter on the invisible lift to really notice anything. But Martha apparently did, because of the confused look on her face.
“It’s like I know you’re there,” she struggled to explain, “but I don’t want to know you’re there.”
“And back again.” He removed the key. “It just shifts your perception just a bit. Doesn’t make us invisible, just unnoticed. Oh, I know what it’s like: it’s like when you fancy someone and they don’t know you exist. That’s what it’s like!” The Doctor grinned manically. “C’mon then; work to do!” He grabbed his coat and headed off down the alley, leaving Jack and Martha to simply stare at each other.
“Yeah,” Jack sympathized. “Used to be like that myself.”
“But you found Ianto,” Martha said.
“I did,” Jack agreed. “And, someday, you’ll find your Ianto too. And trust me, Martha…it’s not him.”
“I know, Jack.” She took a deep breath. “Shall we? Before he gets too far ahead.”
Jack offered her his arm, and she accepted gladly. Together, they followed the Doctor, slipping on their perception filters as they joined the Time Lord.
6 June 2008
Toshiko took her coffee and sat at her new workstation, the comforting hum of well-running electronics surrounding her.
The inn was dark, except for the one area her equipment had been set up in. Johnny had found a heavy-duty wooden table that he said they’d had in storage and had last been used for a local wedding. It would have usually seated six, but the two large flatscreen monitors took up most of the space, set on angles so she could between the two with little effort. One PC CPU was set up between them, while another happily warmed her feet. She wasn’t too fond of the keyboard, but it had been the better of the two that had come with the towers, and the mouse she’d decided on was quite nice.
It had taken her hours last night to get things set up to her demanding specifications. Yes, the processing power was no patch on the Torchwood mainframe’s but there wasn’t anything she could do about it. She was just glad that the funds were there for her to buy all this, because it would be a lot more difficult fighting an alien invasion with just her laptop.
Difficult; but not impossible.
Her own laptop was networked into the cobbled together system, and Toshiko knew she’d be relying on it more than the rest of the set-up. It had the codes and accesses that she’d need to get into the mainframe; but it didn’t have the processing power she’d need despite the upgrades she’d given it over the years.
Toshiko took a sip of her coffee, enjoying the quiet as she booted everything up. She’d worked well past midnight to get everything the way she’d wanted it, and it had taken the combined efforts of Kathy and Estelle to get her to finally go to bed. Toshiko felt refreshed, glad that she’d let her friends force her to rest for a couple of hours. But she was also used to working Torchwood hours, and was up before anyone else. She’d get everything networked to the Hub before anyone was up, and she’d be ready to go by sunrise.
Well, if there was an actual sunrise. The clouds that the Great Dragons had summoned blocked out pretty much anything, and it was only her watch that told Toshiko that it was still far too early in the morning for the others to be up and about.
Fingers moving between laptop and keyboard, the technician made and secured her connections, and before long the stylized “T” of the Torchwood server was rotating on all three screens. Grinning, Toshiko made her way deeper, using her codes to make a direct connection to the mainframe, the oddly twisting strands dancing across her screen in a familiar pattern that made her feel a little less alone.
The first thing she did was check her internal email; and sure enough, there was one from Ianto. It was time-stamped 0320; Toshiko glanced at her watch and saw that was a little under three hours ago. She was going to have to have words with him about getting more sleep…
She read the email, frowning at its contents.
I know you, and I know you’ll connect back to the server as soon as you can. I want to keep you updated, not being certain you know what’s going on.
There was mention of the press conference where Saxon had claimed First Contact would be happening; she knew about that, so skipped past it.
I’m certain this is what the Great Dragons were warning us about, and so I’m going to try to get to London to find out exactly what’s going on. I can’t get straight answers from anyone, and even Her Majesty seems to be incommunicado, which has me very worried. That, and the fact that Saxon obviously tried to get rid of us by sending us off the Tibet…well, if Owen can grasp what that means, then I’m certain you can, as well.
Yes, she could. Wanting to get Torchwood out of the way would be what she’d have done, if she’d wanted to lead some sort of alien invasion. While Torchwood wasn’t at all like UNIT, they’d beaten off incursions that would have made even the hardest UNIT solider freak out.
There’s something else: Jack is back on Earth, and he’s apparently involved with whatever’s going on with Saxon. He, the Doctor, and a young woman named Martha Jones have been declared public enemies, and are on the run.
I’ve attached some files that you might want to look over; they came from a journalist named Vivian Rook, who’d been investigating Saxon. I specifically want you to look over the information on the Archangel Network; it looks as if Jack was right about refusing to have mainframe connected to it when Saxon had asked.
She opened the attachment, her eyes scanning the documents enclosed. As the ramifications of what she was reading hit her, she cursed under her breath. No wonder Saxon had won the election in such a landslide, if this was indeed true…
Toshiko would have to definitely hack into the Archangel Network now, just to see how it ticked.
I did get these files to Jack via his Vortex Manipulator, as well as a message saying we were safe. He also managed to contact me, and from what little he’d been able to say it’s a foregone conclusion that Harold Saxon is going to lead an alien invasion this morning. According to Jack, Saxon isn’t even human. Ms. Rook does allude to Saxon’s mysterious appearance 18 months ago, despite all the information that’s supposedly online about his entire life, and that jibes with what Jack said.
He and the Doctor and Ms. Jones are in London now, and they’re also going to try to stop Saxon. Which is another reason I want to go: I miss him, Tosh. He’s my mate, and I need to help him. I’ve set up the Hub to go into Protocol LD-Prime precisely at 8am this morning, and Owen and Gwen both know how to get in or out when needed. Once I find Jack I’ll be going back to the Hub myself. Hopefully I’m just being horribly paranoid but I get the feeling that just stopping Saxon isn’t the answer. The darkness is still coming, and we have to be prepared.
Be well, Toshiko. I’m glad you’re safe, but I know you: you’ll be ready for almost anything.
I hope to see you soon.
Toshiko sighed. She desperately wanted to call Ianto and tell him not to go to London, but she didn’t dare; the Archangel Network had been set up to also be able to spy on calls, and she couldn’t take the risk of tipping anyone off to Ddraig Llyn or her friend’s plan. And, he’d already have left the Hub in order to get to London on time, so she wouldn’t be able to send a message that would be guaranteed to get to him.
It was obvious that Ianto would be walking into danger.
There wasn’t a thing she could do about it.
Sighing again, Toshiko pulled back up the files Ianto had left her, wanting to get a deeper insight into the person who was apparently their enemy.
“How long have you been up?”
Toshiko practically jumped out of her chair. She’d been so immersed in her work that she hadn’t heard Kathy approach, or smelled the fresh coffee the detective was carrying.
Toshiko relaxed, stretching her back. “Since about 6am,” she answered truthfully, accepting the offered coffee. "Thanks I need this.”
“It’s not a patch on Ianto’s but it has the requisite caffeine in it.” Once she had a hand free, Kathy pulled up another chair, joining Toshiko at the workstation. “Anything interesting?”
“You could say that.” She explained about Ianto’s message, and the files that he’d included. “I’ve done some snooping around, and that journalist was right: the Archangel Network does carry some sort of imbedded signal. It’s very subtle but it’s there.”
“Can you hack it?”
Toshiko shook her head. “I hate to say, but it’s beyond me. The network is very much alien-based technology, and I think at this point it’s up to the Doctor and Jack.”
“And Jones is going after Harkness.” Kathy sighed. “Look, I know you all forgave Harkness for running off, but I still have problems with it. Now Jones is off running into danger for him…”
“That’s what being in love means,” Estelle’s calm voice answered. The older woman came to stand beside Kathy, holding a mug of her own. “You help the one you love, no matter what.”
Kathy rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “I have been in love before,” she answered. “It’s just that Jones is walking straight into danger, even though he knows it, and he knows that Harkness can take care of himself.”
“Ianto can take care of himself as well,” Estelle said. “And yet, I think we can all honestly say we’d leave here to make our stand with him, if we could.”
Estelle had a point. Toshiko couldn’t help but nod. She’d had her disagreements with the Earth Dragon over just such a subject. “I thought about contacting him and asking him not to go, but by the time I found a message he would have already left, and I didn’t trust the mobile network.” He explained the story once more, and as she was beginning Rhiannon joined them, along with Alice.
“I heard on the radio that Saxon’s First Contact is gonna be broadcast this morning at 8am,” Rhiannon said, once Toshiko was done.
She nodded. “That’s when Ianto was going to trigger the prime lockdown of the Hub. Whatever’s going to happen, I’d be willing to bet that’s when it will be.”
“The best telly is in our lounge,” Rhiannon said. “It’s going up on time; we should head there to watch.”
Together, the four Dragon-Friends and Estelle trooped into the living space where Rhiannon, Johnny, and their family stayed. It was in an area behind the inn, with access through a discrete door from the office. A large-screen television took up nearly one wall in the fair-sized lounge, and Rhiannon motioned them all to sit on either the sofa or the chairs, while she stood against the wall, messing with the remote.
The TV turned on, and it just happened to catch the end of a news broadcast.
“– thirty seconds,” the newsreader was saying, “we’ll be going live for First Contact.”
She droned on, but Toshiko wasn’t really listening. Her heart was pounding fit to burst, and she nibbled on a fingernail absently. This was it…whatever ‘it’ was. Alien invasion, certainly; but just what would Saxon and the Toclafane do? She felt the anxiety and the worry build, until it was almost hard to breathe.
But, when the newsreader cut to the scene, it wasn’t Harold Saxon that greeted them: it was the President of the United States, and Toshiko knew she shouldn’t be surprised to see him there. She’d tapped into the air traffic control comms, and had known that Air Force One had diverted to Heathrow and that President Winters hadn’t been happy at Saxon’s handling of the situation.
“My fellow Americans,” the man began, and if a man could have been smarmier than Harold Saxon, it was the U.S. President, “patriots, people of the world…I stand before you as an ambassador for humanity, a role I will undertake with utmost solemnity. Perhaps our Toclafane cousins can offer us much, but what is important is not that we gain material benefits, but that we learn to see ourselves anew…”
“He’s talking a right bunch of bollocks,” Rhiannon scoffed. Alice snorted into her mug, and Kathy shook her head ruefully.
“He’s a politician,” Toshiko quipped. “What do you expect?”
Then she got a closer look at the screen, and her heart stopped.
Jack was there.
Toshiko could see him clearly, standing at the side of the room with a man and a woman, who had to be the Doctor and Martha Jones.
Estelle saw them too, judging from her suddenly leaning forward. “How are they not being seen?”
Her question brought everyone’s attention to the screen. Winters was still speaking, but Toshiko let it drone on, not listening anymore. Estelle was right; no one seemed to be paying any attention at all to the trio, as they made their way closer to the front of the room. Jack leaned over to speak to the Doctor, and the Doctor answered, Martha saying something in return. “Some sort of perception filter?” Toshiko mused, although she had no proof of that. It simply made sense, with the lack of noticing the crowd was actually doing.
“I don’t see Ianto, though,” Kathy pointed out.
“I don’t either,” Rhiannon said.
“He must not have been able to get in,” Toshiko replied. “I’m sure he would have tried to.” She only hoped his attempts hadn’t garnered Saxon’s attention. She was afraid of what he would do if he managed to get a dragon under his thumb.
“You are not the Master,” one of the Toclafane whined, in a creepy, child-like voice. The very sound of it made Toshiko shiver.
“We like the Mister Master,” another said, sounding just as petulant.
“We don’t like you,” a third complained.
The three Toclafane orbs bobbed around, one of them dive-bombing Winters, making the President duck hurriedly. “I…” he ducked again as another shot over his head, “I can be Master, if you so wish. I will accept Mastery over you, if it’s God’s will.”
Despite the horribleness of the situation, Toshiko couldn’t help but snort at just how inane that sounded.
“Man is stupid.”
“Master is our friend.”
“Where is my Master, pretty please?”
The childish tones took on an evil sound, and Toshiko was suddenly very glad that she was safe in the valley, watching this on television. There was just something so very wrong about the floating orbs, it made her nerves spark and her brain cringe away from what it was being forced to process.
The five women watched as Saxon identified himself as the Master, his own voice and features twisting into something insane, his words rambling and yet there was a horrific purpose behind it, and Toshiko found herself grabbing onto the nearest hand…which was Kathy’s, as the detective sat beside her on the sofa. Kathy’s own hand spasmed around Toshiko’s own, grasping tightly.
Everything happened so very fast.
Winters was murdered by one of the Toclafane.
The Doctor was captured, whatever that had been hiding him from the crowd obviously not working on Saxon.
Jack was killed…which drew a gasp from Alice, and Toshiko put her hand over her mouth to stop her own gasp.
And then, Saxon did something to the Doctor, and the once-handsome Time Lord was reduced to an ancient, crippled form.
Although Toshiko wasn’t paying all that much attention; everything she had was focused on her boss…her friend. She saw Jack revive, then pass something to Martha Jones. She shook her head, as if denying what he told her.
Three people were dragged in; Saxon identified them as Martha’s family.
And then, suddenly…
Toshiko recognized it as “Voodoo Child.”
She would never be able to hear that song, ever again.
Saxon gave the order for the Toclafane to attack.
A sudden squealing sound came from outside the room, making everyone jump. Toshiko was out of her seat at once, running out of the room and toward her computer set-up in the outer lobby.
She slammed into her chair, fingers dancing along the keyboard even before she was completely seated.
What she saw made her let out a single heartbroken sob.
“What is it?” Kathy demanded, her hand coming down on Toshiko’s shoulder.
“The computer was set to monitor the Hub’s systems,” she explained, swallowing yet another sob. “That includes the Rift Manipulator…” No, she didn’t want to say it. To say what she was seeing would make it too real, and Toshiko didn’t want to make it real…
The hand squeezed comfortingly. “Please, tell me.”
Toshiko looked up at her friend, unable to stop the tears that traced their way down her cheeks. “I don’t know what caused it,” she confessed. “But there’s a major Rift storm brewing…” She pulled in a large, whooping breath, then tried to speak again…but the words wouldn’t come. Horror choked her, and Toshiko shook her head, unable to continue.
“Just say it, Tosh,” Kathy urged quietly. “Tell me what’s happening.”
Toshiko looked into her eyes, taking the strength she found there. “Cardiff gets Rift spikes all the time,” she explained. “But this…this is unnatural. It’s a Rift storm so strong the readings are off the charts. It’s like…the Rift has been affected by…I don’t know what. Something has disturbed time and space, and it's generated a storm so powerful…Cardiff isn’t going to survive it.”
It felt like she was calling down doom on her home. But that was what the readings were telling her; that the Rift was about to sweep through Cardiff like a cyclone, and nothing was going to get through the disaster that was about to happen.
Arms wrapped around her, and Toshiko accepted the comfort Kathy offered. Then others embraced her, and within that warm cocoon of friendship Toshiko cried…for her lost home, for the lost innocents…
For the dragon himself, who’d gone to London to find Jack…and who’d obviously failed. Where he was, Toshiko did not know.
She had a feeling she wouldn’t know for a long time to come.