18 September 2009
As opposed to Thames House, everyone in the secondary Hub was silent, as if too stunned to say anything at all about what the 456 were demanding. Alice knew she was; what she’d heard was inconceivable, that an alien race would threaten the Earth in order to get what they wanted...their children. And seeing that poor boy tied some way to that hideous alien…it was horrible, too horrible for true words.
She thought of Patrick’s comment, about the 456 not killing what they were demanding, and while a part of her thought he was being a bit naïve about the whole thing, Alice was truly hoping he was correct in his assessment, that the 456 would want the children too much to destroy what they most wanted. It would make sense, but how did one know what an alien thought was sense?
And then her Tad, stating that he wanted to see if they could save that poor child…could they really do that? Could Ianto arrange to rescue that boy from whatever it was the 456 was doing to them?
She hoped so. She truly did.
“What are they getting from those kids?” Owen growled, staring at the screen as the people on floor thirteen in Thames House all left, the room bare once more, illuminated by the sickly glow from the tank.
It was something Alice wanted to know, as well. “That little boy was hooked directly into the 456,” she said. “Why would they do that?”
“And why children of a certain age?” Deborah added.
“It has to do with hormones,” Owen mused. He was lost in thought. “I mean, we already know that whatever those bastards use to talk through the children uses a combination of brain chemistry and hormones. Maybe there’s something in those hormones that do something? It could be why that poor kid wasn’t physically any older than he’d been when he’d been given up, back in 1965.”
“Is it using those kids for some sort of high?” Patrick asked, disbelief in his voice. “Is it something in them that…I don’t know…does something for them?”
Owen glanced at him appraisingly. “You might be onto something there, mate. We won’t know unless we get our hands on one of the aliens and do some testing, but I can’t honestly come up with any other reason to hook yourself up to an alien child and then prevent them from growing up.”
Alice shivered. It had been bad enough when the 456 had made their demands, but if Patrick and Owen were correct…it was horrible. No, it was beyond horrible. There wasn’t a word strong enough to describe it.
“They can’t get those kids,” someone from the back of the room vowed.
“There has to be something we can do!” Rhiannon demanded, and Alice knew the expression on her face had to match Alice’s own. Rhiannon had her own two children, and Alice could see in her the fierceness of a mother’s desire to protect them from anything.
“We’re working on it,” Toshiko joined the conversation. She’d minimised the window with the signal from Thames House, and the one in Martha’s house was empty.
“We know you are, love,” John Ellis said, and he favoured her with a sympathetic smile. “If there’s something we’ve all learned it’s that Torchwood will always do its best, no matter the situation.”
There was a rumble of assent from the rest of the room, and Alice realised these weren’t empty words. These people trusted Torchwood; trusted the team to do what was right, and if they failed there would be no shame in it, because they’d done everything they could in order to protect this planet and its people, to the very death if needed.
This was so unlike her mother’s version of Torchwood that Alice was glad that her dads had changed so much about the organisation that had once practically held Jack Harkness prisoner to its whims and had forced him to give up twelve innocent children to the aliens in the first place.
“Come on,” Johnny Davies called out over the crowd, “let’s let them all get back to work, alright? They’ll let us know when something else is happening.” He began to usher the villagers out, and Alice was very grateful to him for it.
She felt a touch on her hand. Looking down she saw Patrick’s fingers tracing lightly over the back, and Alice turned her hand around and grasped his. She met his gaze and saw a faint blush at his ears, but the fierceness in his eyes told her everything she needed to know: he would stand beside her, and protect the family that he’d found himself pulled into when he’d accepted the position into the team.
Eventually everyone had gone, leaving the team standing around the monitors. Rhiannon had commented that she’d be bringing food with her in a little bit, and Alice hadn’t realised she was hungry until her fellow Dragon Friend had mentioned it.
Toshiko looked exhausted, dark circles under her eyes. Alice knew she’d been working almost non-stop since they’d arrived, only being chivvied off to bed by her Tad and then by Rhys. Owen rested a hand on their technician’s shoulder, and she visibly leaned into the comfort of that touch.
“What can we do?” Alice asked, wanting to take some of the burden from the pair of them. In this Toshiko and Owen were on point; they were the ones who had the most to do, trying to figure out how to block the 456 from getting to the children, and to somehow get the aliens to back off.
Toshiko rubbed her forehead. “I’m still working on hacking the Archangel Network, and I guess this time I have a bit of a head start, since we got some of the schematics from when it was shut down, but still…it’s such a mishmash of human engineering and Time Lord technology it’s like trying to read a novel in a language I’ve never learned.”
“You know what you should do?” Rhys asked. “You should call Kathy and talk to her for a minute. We know you’re missing her.”
She shook her head. “I don’t have the time –“
“You should take the time,” Alice encouraged, agreeing with Rhys completely. “Get your mind off things at the moment. We have until noon, before you need to get into the Downing Street systems…”
“Not that I can,” Toshiko answered. “Well, I can into some of the building, but there aren’t any security devices inside the Cabinet room to hack into.”
“Then you don’t have to worry about that,” Deborah joined in.
“Yeah, Tosh,” Owen said, “call Kathy. She needs to know you’re fine, and it’ll clear your head for a bit. I can make it an order if you want, since I’m in command when both Harkness and Dragon Boy are out in the field…”
Toshiko sighed, a smile tugging her lips upward in what had to be an involuntary smile. “You just want to throw your weight around, Owen.”
“Not that you have much weight to throw around,” Patrick teased.
“I’m wiry,” Owen snarked. “I don’t have to be built like a brick shithouse to kick arse. Besides, I’m not the one who needs to watch the pastries, Delaware.”
Patrick spluttered, and Alice couldn’t help but laugh. This was her family, and while they had a tendency to drive her crazy she would be forever grateful they were in her life.
The forest wasn’t old, not like Roundstone Wood, and there was none of the sense of power and agelessness that Ianto got whenever he went there. No, this small park had been planted perhaps fifty years previously, maybe to replace something that had once been there but had not survived the Blitz, but it would do.
He made his way deeper into the trees, the unnaturalness of the landscape at odds with the magic he was drawing around himself. Ianto could feel Jack, Martha, and Tom flanking him, and he welcomed their company as he walked, letting the change from human to dragon overcome him as he moved.
The dragon spoke the Word of Power, and the ages of the Earth surrounded him, from young trees to blasted-out landscape, from fire to flood to ice to bare rock, time spooling backward and forward as he called the Lost Lands to him, called to the Fae who would not be able to resist his summoning.
The dragon moved assuredly between the trees and the ages, until he came to the centre of the woods, and there was yet another of the stones of creation, much like the one from Roundstone Wood, only this one existing on a different, physical plane than the one he was familiar with.
This was a different tribe of Fae, one that he did not know, but one that would be as aware of events as their cousins were. They stood surrounding them, and the dragon bowed his head to their leader, a Fae larger than the rest, wearing an ancient sword at its waist. “Ancient One,” the Fae greeted him. “You are far from home.”
“With good reason,” he answered.
“We know much, and the reason for your presence,” the Fae answered. It waved a hand, and Jasmine Pierce appeared beside him, still looking much like the school girl he and Jack had had to give up a couple of years ago. “This one has told us. What do you here, you and these humans?”
“We have discovered one of the stolen children,” he said, going on to explain what they had seen in Thames House. “He appears to be attached to the alien, and still a child even after all the years that have passed. If you had access to him, could you save him?”
The Fae considered him. Ianto knew it was a risk, but anything was better than leaving that poor boy to his fate. He heard Jack gasp behind him, and knew that his mate was realising what Ianto was offering.
“We cannot get to the child,” the Fae finally answered. “The creature’s presence is anathema to us.”
Ianto’s heart sank. It had been a long shot, and promising a child to the Fae would have most likely backfired in some way, but it had been a far better fate than whatever the 456 had done to him.
“But if you had access,” Jack pressed, stepping forward. “If we could somehow get you into that tank, past that shit the alien calls air, then could you do it?”
There was such hope in his voice, and the dragon turned to look at his mate. Jack’s face was stern, and yet his eyes were practically glowing. Jack knew what they were suggesting, to hand over yet another child to the Fae, but this was indeed the lesser of evils for them. It was redemption of sorts for Jack, and Ianto was grieved and yet at the same time glad that he was accepting of this compromise.
“You sing a different song now, undying one,” Jasmine said, staring at him shrewdly.
Jack straightened. “Look, I might not agree with what the human race did when it offered you their children,” he said, “but I understand why they did it. I also might not agree with your methods in bringing your Chosen Ones over. But I do know that the children you do take are ones that will have more of a life with you than they will in their very own homes, and that the ones we handed over to the 456 might have once even been picked out to join you. That child has been used in some way that is far worse than the freedom you offer, and if you can take him away from what he’s going through now you’re only doing that poor kid a favour. He doesn’t deserve what happened to him.”
The Fae leader hopped closer to Jack, and Ianto was proud of his mate for not taking a step away from the imposing creature. The dragon knew what this was costing Jack, how much his mate disliked the Fae and what they’d done to earn that dislike, but this was the only true way of saving that child hooked up to the 456 like some sort of inexplicable parasite. The Great Dragons alone knew what they’d done to that boy, or even if he would survive being disconnected from the alien, and this was the only chance he would have to come out of it somehow intact.
“We can but try,” the Fae answered. “There is no guarantee. However, try we shall.”
“Thank you,” the dragon bowed once more. “How can we signal you when we’ve achieved this?”
“I am still Named the Witness,” Jasmine replied. “I see everything that you do. I can inform my brethren of your success…or failure.”
“You have still to stop the Breaking,” the leader reminded them.
Ianto knew now what had been meant by the Fae’s warnings of the Breaking, having heard the 456’s ultimatum. Patrick may have been right about the alien not killing what they were demanding, but there was still the chance that they would let loose something upon the Earth that would destroy everything. And, once they got the children, they would have plenty of breeding stock and would most likely not need the Earth any longer.
“We’re working on that,” Jack said. “We’ve been given a time limit – the 456 are demanding the children tomorrow. That gives us some time to stop this from happening.”
He sounded so certain…just like his mate should. It was as if the chance of saving at least one of the children he’d given up on 1965 had revived Jack’s spirit, and the Captain of Torchwood was quickly coming back to the fore. Ianto felt his heart swell for his mate, for the return of the confident man he’d bonded himself to.
They would have a chance to make things right after all.