18 September 2009
Toshiko sat, stunned, as information began scrolling across her screens.
It was everything that had been recorded about the Archangel Network, including what looked like Saxon’s very own notes on the project.
When Rhys had called her back to the computers, she’d thought it was just something that her search programs had located. Not this…wealth of information coming from she didn’t know where, and it gave her hope for everything turning out alright.
“What the hell is that?” Rhys asked, from the chair next to hers.
“It’s what I’ve been trying to find,” she answered faintly, as a huge grin spread across her face. She turned to look at him. “I think we might actually have a chance now.”
Her friend returned the grin. “That’s great news! D’you think Jack and Ianto had anything to do with it?” He might not have any clue as to what she was talking about, but his very faith in her being able to decipher it was staggering.
“I’m sure they have.” It made sense, since the last thing she’d known the pair had been going to Downing Street to crash the Gold Command meeting. “Can you find Owen for me?”
“You got it.” Rhys rose, resting a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll have him back here in a tick.”
Toshiko heard him leave, and she went back to simply staring at the information that now filled her screens. She shook her head incredulously, knowing that her friends were responsible for sending this on to her. She used her mouse to navigate through the influx of forms and schematics that kept popping up, and she couldn’t help but laugh.
By the time Owen appeared – along with the rest of her team, curious to know what was going on – Toshiko had become absorbed in the intricacies of the Archangel Network. It truly was a thing of beauty, a combination of human and alien technology created by an insane Time Lord bent on destroying the universe. She’d lived through the paradox year, and yet she could truly appreciate what the Master had done with the resources he’d had. This very network had subtly controlled their entire planet for an entire year, and would have gone on doing so if not for the Doctor and Torchwood.
At the time, she hadn’t been all that interested in seeing what had gone into building it, and had left it mostly up to UNIT, the Doctor, and the Ministry of Defence to shut things down and gather every bit of paper on the project, locking it away from prying eyes and only using bits of programming to improve the subwave. Now, she could see that she’d made a mistake, that she should have taken much more interest in the Archangel Network. Toshiko could have done so much with this…Torchwood could have had its own secure mobile network all along, and MI5 could never have accessed it so easily.
After everything was done, she was going to speak with Jack about using the network for their own purposes. Quite honestly, she was surprised that no one had done it already instead of leaving it shut down, the satellites mostly inert.
“What’s up, sweetheart?” Owen’s voice interrupted her perusal.
“Jack and Ianto seem to have worked a miracle,” she answered, not bothering to hide the awe in her voice. “They got me everything on the Archangel Network.”
“Bloody hell,” the medic murmured. “I’ll never underestimate them again…only don’t tell them that, okay?”
“No promises,” Patrick answered, his own voice full of the smile Toshiko couldn’t see, with him standing behind her.
“Can you make it work?” Alice asked.
Toshiko nodded slowly. “I think so, yes. We managed to get all sorts of readings from the last set of chanting, and we have a pretty good idea just what the signal they’re using entails.”
“I’ll get what I have,” Owen said, moving away. “We can get the algorithms started.”
She worked her way through several of the schematics, with Patrick’s help when he suggested she send some of the windows to one of the other screens so he could see what he might make of them. The rest of the team hovered, especially when Owen got back with the medical information they’d managed to glean the last time the children had been taken over. He commandeered the third screen that had been set up, and Toshiko got the readings up and dedicated an auxiliary keyboard for Owen to use.
The Archangel Network was beautiful. There was no other word to describe it. Toshiko knew that the Master had been insane and evil but she couldn’t help but admire him, just a little, while she sorted through various files and notes on the actual network. What the Time Lord had created should have been used to improve the world, but instead he’d used it to conquer and destroy, which was a shame.
She didn’t know how long she’d been examining what she had on her screen, but Toshiko was eventually interrupted by Patrick calling her name. She acknowledged him without turning in her chair, but what he said had her spinning and looking over his shoulder at the screen he was working at.
“I think I’ve found the telepathic circuitry,” was what he said.
Patrick was their weapons expert, and he was very good at what he did. He had an instinctual flair for finding out what various weapons did, even if something was one or not, but that didn’t translate really to anything beyond guns and bombs and such. But he could tell what was alien and what was human, and what he was staring at was obviously alien.
But what gave away that these were the telepathic circuits… “Owen,” Toshiko said, her own eyes not wanting to accept what she was looking at, “are those brain cells?”
Owen joined them at their perusal of the screen, and the medic swore, although the tone of the swear contained a heaping spoonful of awe. “Yeah,” he confirmed, “looks like it, but are they biological?”
Patrick shook his head. “I have no idea.”
“It would make sense if they were,” Toshiko replied. Her eyes tracked along the precisely lined-up rows of cells, creating a network of its own across the screen.
A chair squeaked, and Owen was practically leaning over Patrick’s body to get close to the monitor. His finger traced the cellular structure as he read what the schematic said. “If these are artificial, then it’s science way beyond anything we’ve seen.”
“It’s Gallifreyan,” Toshiko pointed out.
“But that wasn’t the Master’s specialisation,” Owen pointed out. “At least that’s what the Doctor claimed…unless he lied about it.” He frowned. “I have no idea what Time Lord neural cells look like, but I’m willing to bet it’s not this. These are human, but they’ve been augmented in some way.”
That made sense, since the telepathic signal had been meant to control the human race.
“There are sensory neurons here, too,” Owen went on. “That doesn’t make sense, since there’s nothing for them to feel…yeah, the axons have been truncated, but why have the afferent neurons included unless…” Owen’s voice faded out, and Toshiko could have sworn her friend had stopped breathing.
“What is it, Owen?” Patrick asked quietly.
Owen was silent, and Toshiko was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to answer, when he finally said, “These aren’t artificial. They had to have been harvested from someone. Whoever built this wouldn’t have need for some of these if they had been created in some sort of Time Lord test tube. These brain cells were taken wholesale from a donor.”
Toshiko felt ill, and she could tell that both Patrick and Owen felt the same way. The Master had taken human brain cells and used them to create this network. What had happened to the so-called donors? Had they been killed? Knowing the Master and his contempt for humanity, that was most likely the case. It was just one more crime to lie at the evil Time Lord’s feet.
Well, at least these poor souls could now help them save the Earth’s children.
“There’s gonna be a problem,” Owen said, cutting into her relief.
“What?” she had to know.
“There’s no telling if these…circuits,” there was a slight hesitation that only someone who knew Owen would catch, “are still viable. Since they’re genuine neurons, they most likely would have degraded once the network was shut down. Whatever had been used to keep them…fresh…would have been shut down as well.”
Which meant that the very thing they’d need to create their blocker could be dead.
“We’ll just have to reactivate the network and see,” Toshiko said firmly. If they were, indeed, still active then after everything she would make certain they were…given the respect the victims deserved. If not…then she could only pray that their donors hadn’t suffered.
“Can you turn it back on?” Patrick asked.
“Yes, I can.”
With those words, Toshiko turned back to her computer. She’d been checking over the activation protocols when Patrick had brought the neural network to her attention, and it was relatively easy to configure the codes that would bring the Archangel Network online. It would only take her a short time to do what needed to be done…
There was a chime from her terminal, and without looking Toshiko sent it to Patrick’s open screen. She heard him greet Jack as she worked, creating the special logins needed to gain access to the network and to start it up once more. Then she could make what changes she’d need to counter the 456’s signal.
“I take it you received all the information on the Archangel Network?” Jack’s voice was tinged with laughter.
“How could you tell?” Patrick bantered back.
“Jack,” Owen put in, “we got it, but there might be a problem.” Toshiko heard Owen explaining about the human neurological material they’d discovered was a part of the network, and how it might no longer be viable. The disgust in his tone was plain.
Toshiko didn’t blame him at all.
As she worked, she once again wished she’d paid more attention to the Archangel Network after the Master’s downfall. She would have known about the human neurons before, and perhaps could have done something about it before it had come to this. But then, the telepathic circuitry was what they needed for this, to block the signal that the 456 were using to control the children.
The algorithm she needed was done before she even realised she’d finished, and she turned to glance over at Jack and Ianto, who were both looking out of Patrick’s monitor. Both of them looked tired, and Toshiko could relate. It had been a long few days for everyone. “I have what I need to reactivate the network,” she told her two friends.
“Do it, Toshiko,” Jack ordered. “We need to know if it works, and if we can use it to defeat the 456.”
She went back to her screen, and looked through her work once more. When she was satisfied that everything was accurate, Toshiko pressed the ‘enter’ key.
Lines of code began streaming across her monitor, almost too fast for her to make out. But Toshiko knew what was there, and she watched avidly as it made its progress from her system and up to the satellite network in the upper atmosphere.
Suddenly, the flow stopped, and her screen began pixelating out, until a stylised “A” filled the monitor. Toshiko couldn’t help the smile that bloomed across her face. “We’re in.”
Patrick clapped her on the shoulder, while Owen said, “Nice work, darling.” Jack and Ianto echoed the same sentiments as Toshiko began working once more.
She brought up the diagnostics for the network, frowning as she watched the readings coming in. “Powering up,” she reported. “Several of the satellites are reading as damaged, but they’re still holding their orbit. I can’t tell how badly things are, yet.”
“Keep at it, Tosh,” Ianto said soothingly. “Jack and I are heading into Thames House in a bit, but we wanted to make sure you had what you needed.”
“I’ll get it working,” she promised. Then she spun in her chair, facing her friends. “You both be careful. We don’t know what the 456 are capable of. You could be walking into a trap.”
“Of course it could be a trap,” Jack said cheerfully. “Which is why we’re gonna have Martha and Tom as back-up.”
Martha and Tom popped in over Jack and Ianto’s shoulders and waved, although Martha looked a little put out. Toshiko wondered if it wasn’t because of Jack’s flippant comment. She couldn’t blame her if it was.
“When things are back to normal,” Jack said, “I want an analysis on what it would take to get the network completely operational, minus the telepathic circuits. I don’t trust UNIT anymore, and the MoD is just as bad.”
“No problem,” Toshiko assured him. “We can also use the network to make our own mobiles completely secure. And…whoever the Master took the brain cells from, I want to make sure they rest in peace.”
Jack nodded. “Agreed. Do what you need to do, Toshiko. Ianto and I will back you one hundred percent.”
She’d had no doubt that they would, but it was good to hear it.
“Owen,” Jack continued, “if the telepathic circuit remains viable, after we send the 456 packing I want you to come up with some ways we can…deactivate that part of the network and to put them to rest. I know they can’t feel anything, and that the…donors are most likely long dead…”
“You got it,” the medic answered. “It’s just fucking wrong what the Master did, Jack.”
“It is.” Those two words were filled with anger, and Toshiko knew that her friend was remembering just what he’d had to suffer under the Master’s control. The Master had been evil incarnate, and while Toshiko would never usually think it, she was glad the bastard was dead.
“We’ll report back when we get back from Thames House,” Jack promised. “Although I’m sure you’ll all be watching the show.”
“Hopefully we can convince the 456 to leave us be,” Ianto said, “but I don’t see that happening. Still, we have to try.”
“Will the Fae be able to save that poor kid?” Owen asked.
“They’re going to try,” the dragon answered. “The air isn’t something they can breathe, but if they’re given the opening…”
Before today, the idea of giving another child to the Fae would have been something Toshiko would have disagreed with, but now…this would be the only way to rescue that boy, and she was willing to take it.
“We’re heading out,” Jack said. “Be back soon.”
If Toshiko had known what was going to happen in the next several hours, she would have begged them not to go.