3 February 5193 (Earth Standard Date)
Ianto couldn’t tear his eyes away from the newsfeed of the damaged Imperial Palace, and of the towering pillar of ice that seemed to be the only support keeping the structure intact.
Phillip had never been that powerful. It looked as if that middle tower was only still standing due to the ice that had formed about the obvious bomb damage and up one entire side. Ianto saw that and wondered if this boost of power had to do with the dark magic that had infused him, and had nearly killed him not that long ago.
He knew that, despite the front his son-by-mating had put on, that Phillip hadn’t really recovered completely from his brush with death. That the nightmares he suffered had been bad enough that he hadn’t been sleeping all that well. Add to that a new baby, and Ianto was aware that Phillip had been running close to empty for a while now. Clint had expressed concern over it, and had been glad that they could stay at home for a bit…until Phillip had been summoned to Throneworld.
The dragon was frankly worried for Phillip, and that was before he seemed to have somehow gained enough magic to keep a large building from collapsing.
“Tad,” Anwyn whispered, her hand on his arm.
She was just as worried, perhaps even moreso. Phillip had been like an uncle to Anwyn when she was child, before he’d become her brother by being Clint’s mate. It had been her idea that he be asked if he wanted to take over Torchwood. So, seeing that on the screen…yes, his eldest daughter had to have been frightened nearly out of her mind.
And yet, they had an audience. The rest of the police officers of the Second Precinct were gathered around, watching as events spooled out onscreen. Ianto knew that his child wanted to run to Throneworld now, but wouldn’t let herself cave under that pressure, not when they had things to do themselves.
Ianto wanted to do the same, but they had to trust the rescue services to their jobs. Even as they watched, he could see activity around the damaged tower. Someone was setting up a mobile command post, blocking off traffic about the Palace in order to keep the gawkers out.
And then, he caught sight of Nathan.
His grandson stood out, with his half-human, half-Margath, features, his white hair a beacon in the crowd. Ianto’s shoulders slumped in relief that Nathan hadn’t been within the Palace during the attack; the Shieldsman that accompanied him into the temporary headquarters must have been his escort, he’d most likely been out sightseeing while Phillip had been in front of the Imperial Council.
He heard Anwyn let out a breath, and both Robyn and Alyce looked equally relieved to see their nephew safe. He reached over and clutched the hand that Anwyn had grasping his bicep, in order to comfort and to be comforted in return.
It seemed like only seconds before Nathan was once again out of the command post. As they watched, he took on his dragon shape and launched himself into the sky; the person holding the camera must have thought that was an interesting occurrence, because the shot tracked Nathan’s route across the sky and toward the ruined Palace, his dark scales obvious against the glittering ice.
One of the Star Dragons is on the scene…son of the Director of the Torchwood Institute…
It wasn’t exactly a secret that Nathan was Phillip’s adopted son, but Ianto was still surprised that the newsfeed had picked that particular item up to broadcast.
“Who could have done that?” he heard someone – most likely one of the coppers – asked softly, in as much shock as anyone else.
“I wanna know about what’s holding up the wreckage,” another voice added.
“It looks like crystal.”
“More like ice,” Detective Walsh’s voice entered into the conversation.
Ianto thought that was a rather astute observation, but didn’t say anything.
The entire room was silent. Ianto couldn’t keep his eyes from the screen, knowing he should have been doing something but also realising he was too far away and without the override codes he would need to even get onto Throneworld through the transmat shield. Yes, they could have arrived on the orbital station, but at this point he was afraid they’d just be in the way of rescue efforts.
He wondered if Jack was seeing this, or if he was away from any sort of communications. If they were still in the TARDIS heading toward Trafusis, then it wouldn’t be until they arrived, and even then if they were focussed on their mission he might not notice any sort of newsfeeds right away.
Torchwood had to be seeing this, however. Melinda would have been alerted the moment anything happened on Throneworld, and was most likely mobilising relief efforts. That meant that, at the very least, Clint knew as well, and Ianto couldn’t see his son staying away when his mate was in danger.
Almost as if summoned, a group of dragons touched down outside the command centre. Ianto felt a bit of relief flood him as his recognised Arthur, Lisa, Clint, and Nicole, with Nathan with them as well as Merlin, who slid off Arthur’s back with the ease of practice.
More Star Dragons have arrived…One is Arthur Pendragon, former Director of the Torchwood Institute, also known as the Once and Future King…With him is his mate, Merlin Williams-Song, founder of the Magic School on New Avalon…The purple dragon must be Clint Jones-Coulson, mate of the current Director of Torchwood, Phillip Coulson…This lends credence to rumours that Phillip Coulson was in the Palace at the time of the attack…No word on who the black dragon is…Returning is Nathan Jones-Coulson, and it is believed that this is his twin, Nicole Jones-Coulson, although this is the first time her dragon form is on display…No word as to what’s going on within the Palace yet, but with Torchwood on the scene it is assumed they will be aiding rescue efforts…
As he read the newsfeed that scrolled across the bottom of the image of the damaged Palace, Ianto felt himself relaxing little by little. Still, he wanted to be on site with the rest of the members of his family, even though he knew he could trust them to do what needed to be done.
Still no sign of the Imperial family, and it is believed they were also in the Palace at the time of the explosion…No one has come forward to claim responsibility for this heinous attack…
It was HYDRA. Ianto was certain of that. It was proof that they, somehow, had someone close enough to the Imperial family to actually plant a bomb; although, the dragon had to wonder why now, when they would have had plenty of opportunity to do so before.
“Hey!’ Someone exclaimed. “That guy looks like Walsh!”
Walsh didn’t say anything, but then he most likely was just a bit distracted by events.
“This is them, isn’t it?” Shraeger said, so close to Ianto’s ear that he jumped a little. She’d managed to sneak up on him, but then he was just a bit distracted. “This is HYDRA.”
“I’m positive it is,” Ianto murmured.
“But how? Everyone knows the Palace is shielded and warded against attack…” Shraeger’s voice faded out, as if she was reconsidering her words. “You think it was an inside job?”
The dragon was impressed by her leap of logic. “It’s something we’ve been considering…that HYDRA might have found someone within the Palace and converted them to their cause. I think this confirms it.” Or found a reincarnation and had awakened their memories, which he didn’t say aloud. He knew that Gareth had explained that to both coppers, but he wasn’t certain if that had strained their incredulity too much.
“We want in,” the detective said. “Walsh and me…we want in.”
“I think you’ll find that you’re already in it, if the attack on you is any indication. And I’m sorry for that, Detective Shraeger. When we suggested that you keep investigating we honestly didn’t think you’d find anything, even though we’d hoped. And now, you and Detective Walsh are targets as well.”
This really had been the last thing anyone had wanted. Walsh and Shraeger were innocent bystanders, being targeted now simply for doing their jobs. Ianto felt incredibly guilty that he and Jack hadn’t thrown their weight around and gotten them off the official investigation, but this hadn’t been a Torchwood matter so there really hadn’t been a reason to. And, to be honest, Ianto hadn’t even considered they’d find anything, even though he’d been hoping they would.
Admitting to himself that they wouldn’t know about the reincarnation of one of the knights that had murdered his family and had attempted to kill him was somehow behind this without the detectives was hard to do, but it was true.
If anything happened to either of them it would be on Ianto’s conscience. He was sure he couldn’t handle that knowledge easily.
The dragon turned to look at the detective. Shraeger was so unbelievably young compared to anyone else in his family, and painfully determined and sincere. In many ways, she reminded him of Anwyn, and he gave her a small smile as he gazed into her dark eyes. “I’m going to approve for Robyn and Alyce to stay behind here when Anwyn and I leave. They’ll be your liaisons with the family, as well as back-up in case HYDRA comes calling again.” Her eyes narrowed and she looked as if she was going to argue, but Ianto said, “I’m not doing this because I think you and your partner are helpless, Detective Shraeger. I’m doing this because HYDRA will not stop, and with Robyn and Alyce around they can take steps that you and Detective Walsh are constrained by human and Imperial law from doing if it comes down to it. My daughters will be following dragon law, and there are certain things they can do that they can claim under their Vows and Pacts to family and vengeance.”
She was scrutinising him closely, and Ianto held her eyes, needing her to see the truth of his words in them. Yes, he did want to protect the partners, but at the same time what he was telling her was honest. His children would be able to take actions within dragon law that weren’t on the Imperial books, and he needed to know that they would be free to act within those laws.
There was a small voice at the back of his mind telling that, another reason for this was to get Alyce away from Merlin for a bit; while she’d quit bothering him about bringing out her dragon form, Ianto knew it would only be a matter of time before she mentioned it again, and they still weren’t certain there would be any lasting effects in Nicole.
“Alright,” she finally capitulated, just in time for Anwyn to regain his attention by calling to him.
His eyes flickered over to his eldest; the grasp on his arm had gotten tighter, and he turned back to the newsfeed playing on the screen.
It showed the family members on Throneworld coming out of the command post that had been set up. As everyone watched, everyone with a dragon form transformed, and Ianto was surprised to see Merlin climb up onto Lisa’s back instead of Arthur’s. Then it came to him: they were most likely going to be using magic to help Phillip and to rescue those people still in the upper floors of the Palace, so it made sense for his grandson to be with Lisa, who was still uncertain in her magic, than with Arthur, who Ianto surmised had a plan in mind for himself and the other non-magic users there.
It seems as if there might be some sort of rescue plan in place…The Star Dragons are leaving and heading toward the Palace…It remains to be seen just what that plan is…
The camera followed the dragons as they arose into the air, but dragged back downward to show several Shieldsmen arrive; Ianto recognised Valentina Fosse, Steve’s Second, at the head of the group, which was carrying with them various pieces of rescue equipment: ropes, excavating devices, and one very large medical kit with the eponymous red ‘X’ on it.
The Imperial Shieldsmen’s Second-in-Command, Valentina Fosse, has arrived on scene with a dozen personnel…We shall see what sort of…There is movement around the tent, as several other Shieldsmen have joined their brethren…It seems as if a conference is going on…
The so-called conference didn’t last long. One of the Shieldsmen that had come out of the command centre spoke a few words to Second Fosse, who nodded in agreement. With that, every single one of the Shieldsmen headed toward the entrance to the Imperial Palace, a set of ornate doors that appeared undamaged, but wide open, most likely from the panicked exodus from inside when the explosion had rocked the building. They disappeared inside.
The camera view changed, angled upward to give the best view of the dragons working around the wrecked areas of the middle tower. Roaring could be heard over the feed, and Ianto could make out Clint and Arthur, telling whoever was in the tower to head to the roof as soon as they possibly could.
Nathan hovered near one of the broken windows just over the explosion area, and it was obvious he was speaking to someone within. One of the main benefits of not having wings was that it made Nathan that much more graceful in flight, and able to hover almost motionless for long periods of time. Ianto was able to hover himself, but it was usually somewhat turbulent as his wings still needed to move, and he couldn’t stay in one place too long.
Nicole didn’t look as graceful as her brother did, but then she’d only had her dragon form for such a very short time. Still, she was trying admirably, darting about Lisa as his daughter took her own place close to the largest section of ice: the one caking the hole in the Palace, where it was apparent the blast had taken out one entire area of the Palace, and the very place that was the most in need of support.
Merlin was speaking to both of them, and as Ianto watched his grandson-by-mating raised his hands and called upon his magic.
Nicole joined him, as did Lisa, and Merlin took the magic they were using and wove it into something stronger, golden light appearing around the ice patch, crawling up the side of the building.
“What are they doing?” someone asked, their voice hushed.
“They’re using magic to take some of the weight of the tower away from the ice that’s keeping it from collapsing,” Ianto answered.
“That’s ice?” a woman’s voice said incredulously. “How is that holding up that whole building?”
“Magical ice,” Anwyn spoke up. “That’s Phillip’s work. He’s trying to keep the Palace from collapsing.”
Ianto wasn’t sure it was such a good idea to admit that it was Phillip doing that. After all, they really hadn’t gone out of their way advertising that Phillip had magic, mainly because he was so uncomfortable with it.
“Phillip?” Walsh enquired, “as in Phillip Coulson, Torchwood’s Director?”
“Yes, that’s right,” Anwyn said proudly. Then her voice sank into worry. “But we’ve never seen him use this amount of power before. It can’t be easy for him.”
“Which is why the others are trying to remove some of the pressure off of him,” Ianto added. “They’re going to need to do that so he can actually leave the Palace without it collapsing entirely. He’s the only thing keeping it from doing that now.”
At that, the tension within the precinct ratcheted upward, but Ianto could tell it wasn’t in a bad way. Each and every one of them had to be considering what it would be like if Phillip lost control before they could get everyone out.
The camera that was showing events had to have had a really good telephoto lens, as it was able to zoom in on what was going on at the Palace, and Ianto was able to watch as Arthur, Nathan, and Clint all headed toward the roof, and the plan they had to have in place suddenly came in to focus. They wanted to get everyone up onto the roof, where the three dragons up there would ferry them down to the ground.
However, the camera was at the wrong angle to actually see what was going on up there.
The entire room held its collective breaths as Arthur began floating toward the ground. There were people on his back, and he set down onto the pavement gently.
As everyone watched, the Empress and her family, including Steve, slid down off of Arthur’s broad back.
The crowd erupted into cheers. As did every single person in the precinct.
Her Imperial Majesty, her Consort, and the Royal Heir all appear to be unharmed…Thanks to the Star Dragons for saving them…
Ianto’s heart was hammering fit to burst. He didn’t want to even consider what would have occurred if the Imperial family had been killed in the blast. It would have put certain protocols into effect, but there was a very real possibility that the Human Empire as they knew it would have ceased to exist.
It would have also invited their enemies to attack. Ianto was well aware that the Daleks and Cybermen were always waiting for any sort of weakness to show, as were various raiders and pirates who were only being held at bay by the might of Imperial forces. The might very well have been no way to easily recover.
It would have meant that someone would have had to step in to take command.
Ianto and Jack – and possibly Phillip, he wasn’t sure – had long known that the previous ruler had had a plan in place in case of a power vacuum. Danielle had kept to that plan.
That plan would have had Arthur assuming the throne.
As the Once and Future King, Arthur had always held a certain cachet among the Empire’s ruling family. In the beginning, when it had gotten around that Arthur Pendragon had been reborn and had taken up the reins of the Torchwood Institute, it hadn’t been a very popular decision. There had been a certain faction that had believed that it was simply a first step to Arthur taking over the whole of the Empire.
That hadn’t been Arthur’s intention at all. In fact, Arthur had made it plain – and had later proved – that he didn’t want to rule over anything, and that being the Director of Torchwood was the height of his ambition. Once he’d managed to soothe over that particular Emperor and the Council, Arthur had been left to his own devices, for the most part.
Yes, there had been attempts to put the Institute firmly under Council control, but Arthur had successfully fended off those attempts, swearing his only fealty to the Imperial Throne.
Over the centuries, he’d gained the trust of the Imperial family to the point that they’d come to recognise that Arthur would be the best chance an Empire in turmoil would have. And so, the Pendragon Protocol was enacted, with Jack and Ianto’s reluctant approval.
Arthur didn’t know. Neither did Merlin, or anyone else in the family except for Phillip. Arthur would argue against it, and while it was underhanded everyone involved had realised that not telling him would be for the best. If the time ever came, Arthur would step up if asked, but he wouldn’t like it, and sometimes surprise is the best way to do things. In that way, Arthur couldn’t turn it down if the time ever came.
Well, he could…but he was less likely to under that particular set of circumstances.
As everyone stood and watched, more people were ferried down on dragonback, and then the dragons would go back for more. Merlin, Lisa, and Nicole were using every bit of their power in helping keep the Palace upright long enough to get everyone out alive.
As they were getting the last of the people down onto the ground, the Palace shook. A chunk of ice broke off, plummeting to the ground and narrowly missing a squad of Shieldsmen coming back out of the wrecked building, carrying out several wounded individuals.
The crowd on the newsfeed screamed, and Ianto found himself holding his breath, not wanting to panic. Anwyn let out a small pained cry, as Robyn and Alyce echoed their sister. There was an audible gasp from the gathered police.
If Phillip was finally tiring…and honestly, Ianto thought he would have done so long before now. It had to have been the help he was getting from the three other magic users that had been allowing him to last as long as he had.
Instantly Clint, who had been on the ground after letting off his last set of passengers, roared in pain and anger and launched himself back into the air, powerful wings kicking up a stiff breeze that practically knocked a couple of people off their feet.
The magical ice seems to now be melting…There had not been any reason given for what had caused the ice to grow, but it had been holding up the Palace for several hours now, and it can only be assumed that, whoever was creating it, is now tiring badly…
From the reaction of Clint Jones-Coulson, it is now being assumed that the information we have just received is that the creator of the ice is Director Coulson himself is correct and, if so, is yet another mystery surrounding Torchwood’s current immortal leader…
Damnit, this wasn’t good at all, and the dragon had to wonder just who had leaked that bit to the press; or even, how they had discovered that fact. Ianto knew that Melinda was going to have to be doing some damage control at some point, but he was also hoping that Phillip using his magic to save the Imperial family would be a point in his favour.
HYDRA had just succeeded in completely outing Phillip. Ianto didn’t know if this had been their intention, or if it was just an accident and they hadn’t known what would happen if they had indeed arranged to have Phillip on Throneworld at the time of the attack. They might never know, unless they found the one or ones responsible for this terrorist attack.
“If it is Torchwood’s Director,” a voice popped up, “the guy deserves a Goddess-damned medal.”
The camera panned up toward the magic-users. Nicole was obviously flagging, the golden glow from her antlers flickering weakly. Nathan had moved underneath her, his back against her stomach, and he was saying something to her even as she was slumping against him. Carefully, he began to sink toward the ground, his body curled about his sister’s, and Ianto chewed his lip worriedly, hoping she hadn’t drained herself too much but knowing her she most likely had.
Arthur was buzzing about Lisa and Merlin, looking much like an enormous red hummingbird, very obviously worried about both of them. Ianto could tell that, while Merlin still seemed fine, that Lisa herself was getting tired, just from her inability to stay even close to one place long enough.
Another piece of ice cracked loose from the tower. This one was from the top of the buttress, and it looked as if it was falling straight toward Lisa and her passenger.
Clint, who was higher up, roared a warning.
Lisa had to have heard. She swerved to avoid the plummeting ice, but in the process knocked Merlin out of position too far, and the magic he was wielding sputtered out as he fell forward to wrap his arms about her neck, holding onto the jerking dragon.
Once the magic that was helping hold the tower intact was gone, the ice began to crack even more.
Ianto’s heart was in his throat. Phillip was still inside, and now the Palace was beginning to lean toward the three dragons still in the air and the wizard that was on the back of one of them.
Clint roared once more. He darted in toward the toppling structure, but couldn’t get close enough. Behind him, Ianto could hear one of the cops beginning to pray.
He began as well, to anyone who might be listening.
Phillip was still in that building.
Phillip was immortal, but not in the way that Jack and Henry were. Would he be able to survive the falling building? Being buried under tons of rubble, even if he did when striking the ground? Phillip could take an astonishing amount of damage, but he was weakened by using so much magic. How could he possibly come through that?
But, as he watched with bated breath, a single figure leaped from the crumbling structure.