19 September 2009
“I can’t talk long,” Kathy said over the computer. “We got hell breaking loose in Cardiff, and I’ve got every officer on the books out there trying to get things back under control.”
Toshiko actually had the window with Kathy’s office computer on it minimised, but that didn’t really matter. She knew her spouse was moving around; she could hear Kathy bustling about, and Toshiko wished she could be there to help.
“The government and UNIT are going after the children anyway,” she said as she worked her open window, lines of code flying past as she manipulated the Archangel Network’s neural relays into a form that would be compatible with the signal they needed to feed into it.
“Yeah, the Army’s trying to tell everyone that it’s some sort of inoculation programme, to stop the children from chanting. No one’s buying it, though, and it’s causing trouble in the streets. We’ve already had reports of rioting and the A&E’s are getting ready for casualties. Parents aren’t about to give up their children…no way, no how. They’re fighting the Army every step of the way.”
‘Good for them.” Toshiko wished she could be there, but Kathy was the best copper she knew – even if she was just a bit biased – and could handle things just fine.
“Cardiff’s used to weirdness.” Toshiko heard the unmistakable sound of a gun slide being pulled back; Kathy was only one of two on the regular force that were authorised to carry weapons, and it had been allowed because Torchwood had asked. Jack had argued that both Kathy and Andy, being Torchwood’s liaisons, would most likely see some of the most intense action, and he’d said that he’d only feel safe if they were able to take care of themselves. Both Jack and Ianto had seen to their training, not that Kathy had really needed it, and had been certified under Torchwood’s strict guidelines.
“Be careful, okay?” Yes, she knew that Kathy was perfectly capable of doing her job, but she still couldn’t help but worry…just as Kathy would worry about her.
“I will be. I had a meeting with the Lord Mayor and he’s given me carte blanche to kick the Army out on their arses. No one’s declared martial law, so they really don’t have the right to be in my city. I know he went directly to the Prime Minister and got blown off, so he’s not at all happy.”
“Let him know we think we might have a plan. Hopefully we’ll know soon whether or not it’s going to work.”
“You got it. Now get back to work, and I’ll go and save the city from anarchy.”
Kathy said that last part in such a dry tone that Toshiko had to laugh. “Yes, go and be impressive, and we’ll kick alien arse.”
“That’s my Tosh! See ya when this is all over. Love you.”
“Love you too.” She didn’t bother shutting down the connection. If this went as they all hoped, she’d want to let Kathy know as soon as possible.
“How’s it going?” Jack’s voice didn’t startle her, and she smiled as a warm hand rested on her shoulder.
“The recalibration of the network is just about done,” she reported, still working. She quickly found an error in the programming and corrected it with a single keystroke. “Then I can send the signal that Owen and I created.”
“Good. Everyone’s about ready, and if Patrick’s calculations were correct we should be expecting company anytime now.”
Toshiko hadn’t really listened to the planning, too caught up in what she’d needed to do in order to stop the 456. But she trusted her team, and would trust in their plan.
“Kathy says the residents of Cardiff are resisting the Army and UNIT.”
“From the radio at the inn, it’s the same all over the country. Ah…I love the smell of anarchy in the morning.”
Toshiko rolled her eyes. “It’s the afternoon, Jack.”
“It has to be morning somewhere!”
She shook her head in disbelief. No matter how bad it got, they could always count on someone to make any kind of joke.
Then Jack’s voice turned serious. “Toshiko, you have been amazing during this crisis. What you’ve managed to do has been beyond anything we could have hoped.” She felt him press a kiss into her hair. “Thank you for everything you’ve done.”
She turned her head just enough to look him in the eye. “Then I expect to be able to sleep for at least a week after this is over, okay? I’m knackered.”
He laughed. “Yes, ma’am.” He moved away from her chair, his borrowed boots clomping against the floor. He stopped at the door. “Keep yourself locked in, alright? Owen’s going to be in here with you, but I don’t want any of the troops coming to be able to get in, not easily. You’re the heart of the plan, Toshiko. Besides, we’d really hate to lose you for any reason.”
Warmth bloomed in her chest. “I’d hate to be lost,” she quipped.
Jack winked at her, and then turned and left the secondary Hub.
“Jack,” Estelle said, her eyes glowing faintly gold, “several large vehicles have just crossed the wards I laid on the road into the valley.”
“Thanks, Estelle.” Jack put a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently. He reached into the pocket of his borrowed trousers and pulled out the walkie-talkie that one of the residents of Ddraig Llyn had had in his cellar, clicking the button to gain everyone’s attention. “They’re on the main road,” he said into the transmitter. “They’ve just passed the wards.”
Several versions of, “Copy that,” came back to him, some of them in Welsh.
Jack took a deep breath. He hadn’t led a battle in years, and this one was depending on civilians with hunting rifles and various other types of ancient weaponry. His own team had their parts to play, and not for the first time he felt the very real terror of sending them out into danger, where they could be hurt…or killed.
He glanced up toward the mountains, knowing his mate was up there, on the trail leading to the cave where the kids had been hidden. The path to the nest had been made human-sized, so therefore Ianto had been unable to make it up there without use of his wings. He was then keeping watch from the very perch where Jack had met him, curled up on the sun-warmed rock, dozy from concussion and the dragon-sized dosage of painkillers Owen had given him when they’d reset his damaged wing joint. It had taken several torn sheets to make enough bandages in order to bind the wing down.
Jack desperately wanted to forget the awful grinding sound of the joint being forced back into place, and the roar of pain that had echoed over the village. He shivered just thinking about it.
He set his shoulders under the borrowed shirt he was wearing. It wasn’t his usual style, but it would do, as would the hunting rifle resting on his shoulder. He considered his clothes and Webley that UNIT had taken from him, and vowed to retrieve them, as well as his coat and his wrist strap, when this was all over.
Then he got his mind back on business.
The plan was simple: stall or stop the troops on their way into the valley, giving enough time for Toshiko to finish the upgrades to the Archangel Network and to broadcast the signal she and Owen had come up with to incapacitate or destroy the 456. Even if she didn’t manage to do that – and Jack had complete faith in his genius – they would keep UNIT and the Army from taking Ddraig Llyn’s children. Nothing would get past them.
“They’re coming up the road,” the unmistakable voice of John Ellis said through the walkie-talkie. “There are two military trucks and a school bus.”
“Are there any other kids in the bus?” Jack asked.
“I can’t tell…no, the bus is empty.”
Jack felt a sudden burst of relief at that. The last thing they would need would be to have any other children involved, although there was no guarantee that these soldiers wouldn’t have picked up any others once they were finished with Ddraig Llyn. After all, they hadn’t been able to come up with the criteria that the government was using to select their chosen children. It had been a stab in the dark during the Gold Command meeting that they would choose kids who the Cabinet thought wouldn’t be a use to mankind, but it made sense. But why then choose the kids here? Although Jack had no real idea, he thought the children in the area had the best education possible, with grades in the upper tier for schools in the UK.
He supposed it didn’t matter. The government was actually going to go through with this, and even if it would be a temporary measure, since Jack was fairly certain they would get rid of the 456 eventually, it needed to be stopped.
The rumble of heavy engines began to come closer, and Jack turned, looking down past the village green to the road that came into Ddraig Llyn. It was one-laned, with mountains on one side and the lake on the other, making it difficult to navigate down. Jack could see the grill of the lead truck as it came around a corner about a half a mile down the road, taking up the entire width of it as it made its way toward where Jack was standing in the middle of the roadway.
The sound of air brakes sounded as the driver must have caught sight of the human-sized road block with the rifle propped up on one shoulder. Jack found himself missing his greatcoat, knowing it would have made him look that much more dashing than the trousers and roll-neck sweater he’d had to borrow. It was better though than standing there with bare feet and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit.
A soldier wearing a bright UNIT beret climbed down from the driver’s cabin, leaving the passenger side door open as if prepared for a quick retreat. He walked toward Jack calmly if warily, and Jack could see by the insignia on his uniform that he was a major.
Jack gave him his best come-hither smile. “So, what brings a gorgeous group of soldiers out my way?”
“Excuse me, sir,” the major began politely, “but we need you to leave the road so we can continue up into the village.”
“And just what do you want in the village?” He settled the rifle a bit more comfortably on his shoulder.
The major tensed up a bit, not that Jack could blame him. After all, here was a single stranger standing in the way of two trucks and a bus, acting as if the gun he was so negligently carrying was just so much weight. Jack knew it wouldn’t matter how innocent he’d seem, the man wouldn’t believe that he wasn’t up to no good.
But then, of course Jack wasn’t. He was out to save lives, and in his opinion it didn’t matter what he was doing as long as no one was hurt or killed. There had already been enough of that.
“We have orders to collect the children of the village in order to implement an inoculation programmethat will stop them from chanting,” the major answered, sounding rehearsed.
Jack laughed in his face.
The major’s expression was priceless; it was a combination of ‘am I dealing with a raving lunatic’ and ‘how do I get by him without shooting him’. Jack actually found it vastly entertaining.
“Please, sir,” he said carefully, taking a tentative step toward Jack, “why don’t you put the weapon down and we can discuss this?”
Jack levelled a glare at him, his amusement suddenly gone under the weight of the soldier’s condescension. “Yeah, no. Don’t think so. You see, you’re not getting any closer to my home than this. We won’t let you take our children, and nothing you can say or do will change that. Because you see, we know exactly what’s going to happen to them if we let you find even one, and there’s no way in hell we’re letting the government get away with anything.”
The major stopped moving forward. “I don’t know what you mean, sir,” he answered, trying to sound conciliatory. “This is just a way to help your village’s children. Don’t you want them to stop the chanting?”
“We’ve already taken care of that. Although I’m not surprised Green and his sycophants are still letting this charade continue.”
Jack could explain. He could tell these men and women exactly what was going on; get the truth out in the open for everyone to hear. The problem with that was they’d most likely think him insane and drag him out of the way. Certainly, the UNIT personnel would understand about alien invaders and such, but the regular Army types wouldn’t, and it would behove UNIT to hide that sort of thing from the normal troops anyway. Because, despite the Earth being dragged to another part of the galaxy and Daleks raining death down from the skies, there were still too many people who were perfectly willing to believe whatever their officials told them to, and after the terrorist threats that had surfaced just since 9/11 had the very real danger of gas and poison attacks in the forefront of everyone’s minds.
It wouldn’t do him any good to be honest with these interlopers.
“Sir, you need to move out of our way before someone gets hurt.”
Jack looked the UNIT major straight in the eye. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not alone on this lonely stretch of road.” He waved a hand toward the side of the mountain that fell away from the road as it approached Ddraig Llyn, where stone ended and trees began. “The majority of the people here have learned to hunt before they could practically walk, so what they don’t know about stealth isn’t worth knowing. Right now, there are fifteen villagers scattered amongst the trees, and another dozen hiding among the rushes by the lake and in the crevasses of the hillside. If you make any further movement toward our home, they will not hesitate to stop you.”
The man before him paled, his eyes darting around, trying to find the hidden men and women concealed amid their surroundings. The villagers were just that good; even though Jack knew where to look, he couldn’t catch a sight of anyone. Estelle was somewhere among the bushes on his right, along with Patrick and Rhys, and yet there was no sign of them at all. Rhiannon and Alice were on the opposite side, at the lake, and while Jack had tried to convince his only daughter to stay out of it, Alice had insisted and Patrick had backed her up, pointing out that both Dragon Friends had power no one knew about and yet would be helpful if things got out of control. Plus Jack had heard about Alice’s actions back at her home when the MI5 agents had come, and he’d had been immensely proud of her for it.
“And then,” he went on, giving the major a grin that Ianto wouldn’t have hesitated at calling ‘shit-eating’, “even if you get past us, there’s still the rest of the village.” He made a vague waving motion over his free shoulder where the colourful buildings and homes of Ddraig Llyn stood, as well as the somewhat intimidating stone structure that was the Green Dragon Inn. “There are quite a few windows overlooking the road, so there are more than enough would-be snipers in those windows. Then there’s no guarantee in finding our kids, because we hid them. There are so many caves and hidey-holes in these mountains, and it would take months to search them all.”
The major was looking at him closely. “You really were expecting us.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes, we were.” Once again, Jack could give an explanation as to how they knew that the troops were coming, but he refrained. Personally, he wasn’t in the mood to cater to UNIT or to anyone, not after the last several days and especially after what had happened to his mate. “I probably should also warn you that we have a secret weapon.” Ianto would enjoy being called that. “Not that I’m willing to share anything about that, not with you and your stormtroopers.”
“Look,” the major said, respect in his eyes, “we’re only trying to help.”
“No, you’re trying to kidnap kids for the government. We have the entire scheme, and everyone involved with this will be going down once it all comes out. Now, I’m pretty sure none of your men really want to be implicated in something they don’t even have the security clearance to know about, so it might go better if you all turned around and headed back out of our valley.”
Jack thought he sounded pretty reasonable, all things considered.
“I’m sorry,” the man said, truly sounding apologetic, “but we have our orders, and it’s in the best interests of the children.”
“No, it really isn’t,” Jack replied, shaking his head. “Do you really want to face a village ready to protect its own? You won’t come out of this unscathed.” He didn’t want to hurt anyone, but there was no way he was going to let even one child be taken away. He’d done that before, and he’d regretted it, and they were living the consequences right now.
The major took several backward steps toward the truck he’d exited, and Jack knew he was really going to order his men to try to get through to the children, even though the troop wouldn’t get very far. Still, it would mean needless deaths, and it saddened Jack that the other man couldn’t see simple common sense. Didn’t they know what ends a parent would go to in order to protect their children? Did none of these soldiers have little ones at home?
Jack kept standing in the middle of the road. “You’re still going to need to get past me,” he said, pulling the rifle around and into both hands, racking the slide, the sound echoing out over the water of the lake. “And the only way you’re gonna move me is to kill me where I stand,”
Of course, they would have had no idea who he was, and that he would come back from whatever they did to kill him. Still, he’d hoped for some sort of sign that these men would have been willing to listen and show some intelligence.
“You should know,” Jack went on even as the UNIT major retreated toward his truck, “that we’re not the only ones fighting back. There are towns and cities all over Great Britain that are refusing to simply hand over their kids to a cover story no one really believes. What you do here will be a part of history, and you’re gonna be vilified for it. So be prepared for what happens next. You and your families won’t like it.”
The bushes on the side of the road rustled, and the UNIT officer turned toward the sound. There was nothing visible there, and Jack had to bite back a smirk. Making the man jumpy could have been fun, if he hadn’t seemed that way already. Nervous people with guns tended to act rashly and to be honest the last thing Jack really wanted was to end up dead. It hurt like hell and it would piss off his mate.
Army troops immediately began deploying out of the back of the parked trucks, their guns up and ready. They looked prepared for anything.
They really didn’t stand a chance.
Jack managed to count twenty-four soldiers before he was ducking several bullets. He dodged, but he returned to the middle of the road after he was fired at each time. He felt a distinct tingle against his face, and knew that Estelle was working her magic in order to keep him safe. Jack stood straight and watched as a couple of bullets ricocheted off something invisible in front of him, as if a personal force field had flared up between him and danger.
There were sporadic shots toward the convoy, but the villagers were, by and large, frugal with their ammunition. It wasn’t that there wasn’t enough; on the contrary, Jack knew that Patrick had scraped together every bullet, knife, and arrow in the village. No, it was because the people he had with him were respecting his orders not to be the aggressors, so that when this came out no one could be blamed for their actions. It would be self-defence, pure and simple, and there would be no extreme circumstances when it would be revealed that it had been soldiers shooting at them at the time. Especially when they were protecting their families and the Army were the aggressors.
The firing stopped and, into the silence, the mobile that Jack had borrowed from Martha rang.
The ringtone, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, was purely incidental.