Three hours before the incursion.
"Wait," Owen says, "I'm confused."
Ianto rolls his eyes. "Really? You hadn't mentioned."
Owen swipes his hand vaguely in Ianto's direction but it's half-hearted at best. Gwen still tuts at the pair of them and she and Tosh share a conspiratorial smile.
Across the room, Jack is talking to the man in the nice suit. Ianto takes a brief moment to appreciate the cut of the tailoring before his eyes are drawn, again, to the eagle on the carpet. It looks more real than real, like a film-set. Ianto has seen some extraordinary sights at Torchwood, but this is still causing him a slight mental block.
Owen hasn't stopped talking. "He wasn't President before."
This is true. Where they are from, the current incumbent of the Oval Office is not an attractive blue-eyed man with the unlikely name of Sam Seaborn. (Like Jack Harkness, almost too American to be true). But Ianto has already moved past 'shifted in time and space' to the very real possibility of 'shifted realities'. Then, he's always adapted better than Owen.
Two hours, thirty minutes before the incursion
Sam says, "No, I'm really pretty sure that aliens qualify as national security."
"And I'm pretty sure they don't. Given that, you know, there's no evidence of the alien thing. So we're just entertaining a bunch of nut-jobs in the Oval Office for no particular reason. Speaking of which, I want to up your security."
Toby says, "This is Andrew Jackson's fault." Everyone looks at him. "Leo and his big block of cheese. He introduced Sam to the 'truth is out there' people. What was his name?"
Sam smiles. "Bob. He would love this. I should look him up."
Josh looks at Sam, and gingerly takes the phone away from the desk. Just in case.
Two hours before the incursion.
Tosh asks, "Why do they think we're here?"
Jack has come back to stand at the side while President Seaborn and his advisors discuss what to do with them. He shrugs. "To see the President? He is a pretty-."
"Jack!" Gwen protests. There's something not quite right about the way he's looking at the leader of the free world.
Tosh says, "Why can't we just show them?"
"It's sorta hard to prove that you've been tracking an alien probe across time and dimensions from your base in Cardiff."
Tosh opens her laptop. She's still running the programme: 1:57:30. Long-range scanners show the distance of the alien ships. "Not really."
One hour, thirty minutes before the incursion.
Donna grins. Technically, she has told Sam that calling her in on these things is a little underhanded. She also said that he should do it anyway. And besides, Charlie is in the room and as she is the Vice-President's Chief of Staff, she should be here. Whether or not Josh is glaring at Sam for dragging in forces more likely to be on the side of the great conspiracy. She and Sam are the only ones not totally surprised. They believe evidence when it's in front of them.
Charlie says. "Aliens."
"Yes," Donna agrees.
Donna likes being Charlie's Chief of Staff. She loves Josh, but she doesn't think she could deal with his particular level of hysteria on a twenty-four hour basis. Charlie is much more relaxed.
Donna says, "Look: we coped with Josh managing to insult the voting members of New York and California, as well as all the female democrats in a hundred mile radius, and that was sixteen hours before election day. I think we can cope with aliens."
One hour, twenty minutes before the incursion.
Gwen corners the Vice-President (who definitely wasn't the Vice-President back home) and tries to persuade him. "And you're sure, are you, that there's definitely no aliens here?"
Vice-President Young looks at her. "Pretty sure, yeah."
"Nothing strange ever happens? No unexplained disappearances, crop-circles, flashes up in the sky, nothing like that?"
"We have those. I just don't think they're aliens."
"No spaceships appearing over your major capitals?" she asks hopefully.
His eyes widen. "No. No, I think we'd have noticed that."
"Jack!" she calls. "This is definitely an alternate history. What are we supposed to do when-?"
"Look," Jack says. He bangs his hands on the desk and generally looks a little more worried than she's comfortable with. "I haven't had as much experience with alternate universes as you guys clearly believe I have! Things aren't supposed to just fly out of one universe and reappear in another. There are rules!"
That's when the alien appears.
One hour before the incursion.
It's small and purple, and has teleported right into the Oval Office. Toby had really just come down here this evening because Sam wanted to bounce some ideas off him for the State of the Union. He's supposed to be guest lecturing tomorrow morning over in Georgetown. The topic is Free Trade and International Cooperation. This puts something of a different spin on it.
The Secret Service agents leap into action and the guy in the greatcoat has his hands in the air shouting. "Stop. Wait. Freeze!" They do; Toby's not sure whether or not that's a good thing. It seems like, in general, the guys paid to protect Sam's life shouldn't stop just because they're told to. But it hasn't moved since it got here.
The… there's no other word than alien, really, and Toby refuses to say 'purple thing'. It lacks precision. So: the alien whistles.
Harkness tilts his head to one side and nods. He says, "Tosh," and steals the laptop. He taps at the keys and frowns. "Okay, Tosh, maybe you would be better at this." She takes it back with a smile and a few moments later the computer reproduces a reasonable facsimile of the whistling. The alien responds. Harkness says, "He says their fleet is massing."
Twenty-five minutes before the incursion.
The blonde woman – the wife of the guy with the receding hairline and the stress riding on his voice – turns to Owen. "Maybe this is a dumb question. Massing for what exactly?"
Owen blinks. "Actually that's a bloody good question. Jack?"
Twenty-four minutes before the incursion.
Whatever Donna said, it provokes a furious chorus of whistling between the alien and the computer. God. Josh had known that something huge was going to happen during Sam's presidency. He had just really been hoping for something like, say, a massive reform in education. Or a cure for cancer. Not aliens. He would have bet against aliens.
Twenty-two minutes before the incursion.
The appearance of the alien had, obviously, settled the fundamental issue of alien existence as a whole. Charlie still feels obliged to ask, "So what do you guys do exactly?"
"Oh," Toshiko says. "We… protect people, mostly. Sometimes from themselves. Or us. Or the government. But mostly aliens. Or, well, the effects of aliens. They don't all want- oh. Jack."
Five minutes before the incursion.
President Seaborn asks again, just to be sure. "They want to watch?"
Jack smiles. "A star being born. Millions of light-years away. It's where they come from, in a roundabout way."
Seaborn looks at Jack patiently – a man already used to his questions being answered.
Jack explains. "The star's already dead. They hopped universe before it happened. Black holes intersecting, all that jazz. But this is where they came from. They just wanted to see how it happened."
"So why- why did you follow them?"
Jack shrugs. "We didn't know. They could have been doing anything and they came through our rift. Our responsibility." He doesn't know, now, if they would have followed knowingly, if someone has asked first 'do you want to jump universes with no guarantee of a route home?' To save people you'll never meet in a reality you didn't know existed before now. But he wants to be the kind of leader who would have done it. And the consequences are the same.
Sam asks the question the others haven't thought of yet. But Jack always has the issue of transport on his mind – he's been stranded before. Sam asks, "Can you get home?"
"Believe it or not, the Pertchi have been kind enough to offer us a lift. We'll be out of your hair in no time."
Sam laughs. "Not that I'm not glad to have you here, but that's…"
"Yeah," Jack says, "this is one of the good days."
"For us too."
Jack hates to say it but: "Tomorrow won't be. An alien fleet is about to jump into your night sky. Doesn't matter that they're just here for the show. Your people are going to-."
Sam smiles, close-mouthed with his head down, and then right at Jack. "People have phenomenal capacity. We'll adapt. And we'll do it better next time."
Jack wonders if he can put his arm over the President's shoulder without getting shot. He decides to risk it – the worst thing that happens is he resurrects on the floor of the Oval Office. Which will at least be new. He does it and says, "They picked the right guy this time. Now, do you want to go and watch?"
Sam walks into the Rose Garden. The ships drop into orbit around the earth; they make a ribbon of bright light against the sky.
Somewhere out there, a pinprick of light is coming to them from a star which is already gone. They can't see it properly from here without telescopes and the star is still relatively near the beginning of the long process of true formation. But these people come in their ships to get a view of the beginnings of their world being born out of nothing. Sam wonders if his own people would be so eager, if they could know how it ended.
The telephone is ringing in the office. He is being called. "Mr President." Toby is saying something about needing to rewrite the State of the Union.
Jack still has his hand on Sam's shoulder. He says, "Are you ready? Do you know what this is?"
"Yes, I know. This is what's next."