"Damn! He's up again!" a soldier snarled. His companion didn't respond beyond raising his pistol and shooting Ianto dead again.
"Wonder where he's from?" a third one mused.
"Don't matter. Dr. McIntyre will be interested in it and that's that. Don't ask questions," the second man instructed before leaning against one of the still-standing walls and lighting a cigarette.
The first soldier crossed his arms and tried to appear as casual and nonchalant as his compatriot. Lise bit her lip to keep from protesting their treatment of her teacher, knowing that if she was going to get him out of this, she needed to have as much information as possible to pass on to those who could help her.
Knowing this didn't make it easier to stay silent. She wanted nothing more than to collapse and have a good cry over a day that had started out so promising only to descend into chaos and heartache and horror. What had seemed a dream job had turned into a nightmare. So many killed by the Ghost Shift and now this: UNIT soldiers picking through the ruins of the Tower searching for objects and artifacts they could use, not really caring for the wounded Torchwood employees they found. Or at least not those who had delved deeper into the Tower's levels.
It sickened her and yet she could do nothing more than remain hidden and shadow this particular group who had found Ianto and observed his return to life. If only she hadn't convinced him to join her in trying to find survivors! He wouldn't have been killed by a falling support beam and then found by the soldiers before she could drag him to safety.
'Pay attention, Lise!' she told herself as she saw the other two members of this particular group return to their fellows.
"We parked the van where you said. We should move it now, before anyone notices we've been missing. I heard that that Captain from Cardiff is here," one of the newcomers warned. It seemed enough impetus for the others to move out and after securing Ianto so that he could not escape should he come back to life again, they moved towards the exit. Lise followed behind them, taking care to remain as hidden as possible from them. Given their actions, she was certain they would have no compunction with killing her if they found her shadowing them.
They left the Tower by a side exit, the van they planned to use as transport hidden by the building's shadow. The chaos that had erupted in the aftermath of the battle only served to aid the subterfuge as no one gave the black van plastered with a UNIT identification a second glance. The squad of soldiers stuffed Ianto into the back and drove away, confident that no one was paying attention to them; the group of people milling about seemed more concerned with trying to locate and medicate the survivors than anything else.
She watched as the van drove away, her hands clenched into fists as they were simply let past the barricade and not even searched. It frightened her that her teacher had just been taken like that; her mind refused to even consider what gruesome tests this so-called 'Doctor McIntyre' would put her teacher through. Closing her eyes, she forced herself to relax. She needed to keep her head and not panic. If she wanted to help Ianto, she needed to get more experienced help and that meant getting to one of their safe houses.
After repeating several of the calming exercises Ianto had drilled into her over the decades, she made her move. The general chaos of trauma respondents and ordinary citizens wondering just had happened in such an ordinary office building like this enabled her to slip past anyone who might want to question why she didn't need medical attention, given the state of her clothes and skin. Drying blood - hers and others - made her skin itch and she wanted nothing more than to take a shower. A luxury she would have to wait to take, she decided as she quickly made her way to the flat she shared with Ianto.
Her luck held in that she saw no one loitering near their flat. Not that she really expected it. She knew the UNIT goons hadn't identified Ianto which meant they hadn't pulled up his records. She, on the other hand, would be listed as missing in action and eventually, presumed killed, once whoever was in charge finished identifying the bodies left behind by the Daleks and Cybermen. Hopefully, no one would bother to check out their flat for another few days.
She planned to be long gone by then.
Despite her desire to linger in the home she and Ianto had made, she quickly changed into clothing that wasn't torn or bloodied, wiped off her skin and grabbed the two emergency bags they had prepared in case they ever had to make a quick exit. Lise had always thought Ianto was being paranoid when he insisted on preparing them, but clearly he had been right.
He usually was. Probably why he had lived for so long.
Trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible, Lise hurried away from their flat. She had a lot to do if Ianto was to be rescued before it was too late.
'Well damn,' Lise thought to herself as she re-read the politely worded email from a General H. Landry informing her that Dr. Daniel Jackson was currently on an extended mission and would be unable to contact her for the foreseeable future. She had hoped that Daniel could help her but if he was away, she could only assume that the war with Ori had heated up again. It meant she would need to find someone else to help her.
She pulled out the list - helpfully titled as 'People to Contact if Things go FUBAR with Torchwood and/or UNIT' - and tried to decide who on it could provide the best help. It frustrated her, because while the list was all very well and good, it didn't really provide much more than a list of names and contact information. She hadn't met the majority of those named and didn't even know if they knew of her or under which alias Ianto had met them.
Lise thanked God that Ianto had found her when she was newly Immortal and that he had agreed to teach her. He was a terrific instructor; he just never seemed to remember that she couldn't remember every little detail about friends or acquaintances he had mentioned once or perhaps twice in their long association. It meant that in situations such as this, she had to rely on her gut instinct.
Hopefully, she'd choosen correctly.
Methos twitched perceptibly before drawing a deep breath and reminding himself that nothing bad was about to happen. It only sort of worked to calm him. Ringing the bell, he fought not to fidget; the person he needed to see saw more than most and he didn't want to start at a disadvantage.
Never mind that just by showing up here and asking for her help, he had already given her the higher ground; he didn't want to show all his cards to her. On the other hand, she might appreciate owing him one less favor. He could never tell with her.
"Adam?" Sarah Jane greeted him with a frown but also a welcoming smile. "I didn't realize you were back in Britain."
"As lovely as ever, my dear Sarah Jane," Methos adapted his Adam persona like a comfortable skin. He slinked into the house, arms stuffed into his jacket and tried to look as unassuming as possible. She just looked at him knowingly, not at all fooled by his casual manner.
"Why are you here?" she asked, watching as he slouched into a chair, his long legs stretched before him and his body sinking into the cushions. "Please, take a seat," she invited, her tone only slightly ironic at his presumption.
He gave her a smile that screamed innocent and gathered his thoughts. "What do you know about Torchwood?"
She frowned, arms crossed as she looked at him. "Enough to know I don't want to get involved with them," she finally answered. "Arrogant bastards who think they're above everyone else," she continued.
"True," he nodded. "Or at least they did. I think they're down to about six active officers in the U.K."
"The Cardiff and Scotland branches?" she asked. It didn't surprise him that she would know that, so he nodded. "What happened at Canary Wharf was…" she shook her head in sadness. "It was terrible, Adam. So many dead! And Cybermen and Daleks were almost unleashed on Earth. That was Torchwood arrogance."
He wanted to ask how she had known about the Daleks - he didn't think they had really gotten outside the Tower, unlike the Cybermen - but he decided the answer likely laid in the same direction as to why he was here.
"That's not why I'm here. Well… not directly, at least. You know UNIT was sent to help with the clean up," Methos hinted. He needed to know how much she knew.
"I had heard," she answered. She looked at him sharply. "Really, Adam. Stop hedging. I can only assume you are here about something that concerns Torchwood and UNIT. What do you need? You know I won't say no."
Methos gave her a small smile. "I never could bluff around you, Sarah Jane," he admitted. "Very well," he straightened in his seat, becoming more commanding, something Adam Pierson rarely showed, but Sarah Jane had managed to ferret a number of secrets out of him when they had met over two decades ago and she knew that he had lived for several centuries. "One of my… compatriots worked for Torchwood. Unfortunately, he revived in front of a UNIT squad, who promptly killed him again and then secreted him to some lab somewhere." He continued to tell her what Lise had related to him and watched with some satisfaction the horrified look in her eye. She would help and Ianto would be saved. At least he hoped so.
And then, he could find out just what had happened to his friend - and how the hell he had known how to contact him.
The last thing Sarah Jane expected when she opened her door this afternoon was to see her erstwhile friend, Adam Pierson; of course, he probably no longer went by that name and she really didn't know if she could count him as a friend. Acquaintance certainly, but more than that? Perhaps once, but not since she discovered his secret.
Immortality. She didn't know how old he was, more than a few centuries for certain but she had long ago decided not to push him on that, fearing that he would take action against her did she do so. Convincing him not to disappear after she had actually discovered he couldn't die had taken a great deal of skill and fast talking. After that, she had never brought it up again and in return, Adam hadn't totally disappeared from her life. He had even warned her when he had changed his identity again; a letter from 'Adam' saying he was going abroad for the foreseeable future and he would let her know if he ever returned.
So no, perhaps not a friend but more than an acquaintance.
Frankly, she didn't know what to do with the information he had given to her. She hadn't bothered to ask where he had found out what he had; he wouldn't tell her, even if she pressed. It bothered her though, that UNIT would do something like this; it was something she had come to expect from Torchwood but not UNIT. The Brig would never have allowed it.
It seemed that more than the brass had simply changed at UNIT. It saddened her immeasurably, like something important and precious had fallen to the wayside. A part of her wanted to insist that UNIT was so closely entwined with the Doctor that no one involved would even dream of capturing someone for a remote lab. The more realistic side of Sarah Jane knew that it was a quixotic view.
All of this left her with little choice. She couldn't in good conscience, leave any sentient being to the not-so-tender mercies of experimentation. Time to call in a few favors.
Ianto gasped back to life, pain filling his entire being. He moaned as a clinical voice calmly recorded his reactions and vitals. Here, he did not have a name, merely a designation; no better than an animal and certainly not granted any mercy. He had long since ceased attempting to reason with his captors - it brought him nothing.
He clung to the hope that Lise had managed to elude a similar fate. He didn't feel her buzz, so unless they had placed her in a different location, she should have escaped Canary Wharf and the utter destruction that had led to his current predicament.
Sadly, this wasn't the first time he had been tortured for his abilities. And the UNIT scientists and soldiers didn't even come close to the creativity others had inflicted upon him. He wished he could say that humanity changed and evolved but when it came down to it, they really didn't. Oh, different mores held supremacy over others, but humans were inherently selfish and immortality, something they all wanted.
He couldn't remember a time when he wasn't Immortal. Actually, that was a lie. He had vague memories of parents, of falling through the Rift, of the first tribe of people who took care of him. Of dying that first death and being reborn into who he now was - a true Gift from the Gods, proof that the Gods loved and cared for the people.
Time changed the beliefs that defined a group's culture. Ianto was no longer a Gift from the Gods, sent to protect and look over the people. Now, he was an oddity, something to be studied and taken apart, to answer scientific curiosity. He preferred the former - and who could blame him?
"Has he said anything?" one of the so-called scientist's asked of his colleague.
"Nothing, sir," came the reply.
"Pity. It would be so much more helpful if he would answer our questions." As if Ianto would, even if he knew why he was Immortal. But then, they didn't care what he thought; any 'answers' he gave them would simply be brushed aside as untrustworthy.
"Should I put him back in his cell?" one of the attendants inquired.
"Yes, I am done with him for the day. Doctor McCullough wishes to try something new with him tomorrow, so bring him to her lab in the morning."
Ianto tensed as he felt the orderlies near him. One unstrapped him from the gurney on which he lay as the other injected him with a sedative. They all knew he'd metabolize it by the time he got to his cell, but he rather they drug him than kill him during transportation. He didn't bother fighting to get free, knowing from earlier experience how futile it would be. The more he fought, the more they 'experimented' on him.
It didn't take long to be dragged to his cell. The orderlies dumped him on the thin mattress that served as his bed, not bothering to spread the close to thread-bare blanket over his body. The door clanged shut behind them, a quiet electronic beep confirming that it had locked. He waited for the sedative to finish wearing off, blinking blankly at the wall and finding patterns in the brick to occupy his mind. He tried to tell himself it wasn't too bad, that he could handle this - had done so before - and someone would rescue him or he would find a chance to escape.
He didn't really believe that. Not based on what he saw of the others held at this facility. UNIT brass might have complained about Torchwood One policies, but their own weren't much better.
Curling up into himself, he dragged the blanket over his body, desperate for some amount of rest before the torture began again.
Lise paced, full of nervous energy as she waited for something - an email, a phone call, even a telegram! - to arrive and relieve her anxiety. She had hardly left the safe house since she had arrived for fear of missing some type of news about Ianto, even going so far as to ask the local shops to deliver her groceries. Unfortunately, the only email she had gotten was from an 'Adam Pierson', who had informed her that he had contacted one of his friends who had agreed to help.
She really wished Daniel wasn't off world somewhere and incommunicado. She knew him best of all Ianto's students and it helped that he actually knew about aliens. None of the others did, so she hadn't bothered to contact them yet. Yes, they could offer her support, but little else and she didn't want to risk them unnecessarily.
At least she hadn't read about a massive power outage yet. It gave her hope that Ianto still lived. She was positive that if he had lost his head, the Quickening power alone would destroy those who had taken him.
Vengeance would be his, but she would rather have her teacher back.
Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, affectionately called 'The Brig' despite having retired several years ago, frowned at the papers in front of him. This was an outrage! He could scarcely believe that UNIT had fallen to such lows. In his days, it certainly wouldn't have.
But perhaps, that was the difference; like he, many of the soldiers who had served with the Doctor had retired or died. Far be it for him to deny the Doctor his due: his morals had certainly guided UNIT after its formation but clearly his lessons had not remained with the upper echelons of the organization.
He doubted it was the entirety of the command, but even just the one or two who looked the other way or encouraged such experimentation - people more focused on what aliens and alien technology could give to them instead of protecting Earth and fostering good relations with others of the universe - was dangerous enough. Hadn't they proved it with what they consented to fund in their black projects?
Questions of morality haunted his years as a soldier and he did not like that it continued to do so now that he had retired. He had frustrated the Doctor with his tendency to shoot first rather than try for the peaceful solution, but he had also learned from the Time Lord and eventually curbed his more militaristic tendencies. He had left UNIT in good hands, or so he had supposed and to find it had fallen to such depth caused him despair.
Sadly, his status as a retired officer afforded him little actual leverage. UNIT would not act against their own, not without incentive. And he knew just who to call for help. He just hoped the man's notorious dislike for Torchwood One would not prevent him from aiding one who needed his aid.
Ianto lost time after a while, his mind retreating to protect his sanity. He died multiple times a day, all in the name of science and each time that he came back to life, they moved onto a new method of testing the limits and extent of his Immortality. 'Scientific study' they called it, when it was anything but. A part of him wondered how much longer they would continue with their torture, when they would grow tired of not finding any answers.
Perhaps then they would simply lock him up in a cell and ignore him except for the occasional test.
His mind drifted, lost in the past, remembering other occasions when his secret had been found out and he had not evaded capture in time. Or times when he had ended up a prisoner of war and his jailers had seen him simply as an enemy who was unusually hearty. He had survived those occasions and he would survive this one. He hoped.
The last thing Jack expected when he answered his phone was to hear the voice of Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart (retired). "Alistair! What a surprise! How is your lovely wife?" he greeted.
"Captain Harkness," the Brig replied in turn. "Doris is well. She sends her best." He seemed to hesitate over the line and Jack leaned back in his chair, wondering what would cause the retired UNIT chief to ring him. UNIT didn't particularly care for Torchwood, even if he ran his branch in a manner completely unlike any of the others.
"I'm sure you realize this isn't a social call, Captain," the Brig finally said. "I… discovered some disturbing information and need your help."
Jack could feel his eyebrows rise in surprise. "And why would UNIT want my help?"
"I'm not asking on behalf of UNIT," the Brig confessed. "This is a… personal matter."
That threw Jack for a turn. What could the Brig want that he couldn't ask his former compatriots? Or perhaps he had already done so, only for them to meet with failure. "Now, why would you come to me?"
"Come now, Jack," the Brig huffed. "Stop being so obtuse. I wouldn't be ringing you unless I felt it necessary."
"Why should Torchwood clean up your mess? I assume it's a mess," Jack countered. Despite the destruction of Torchwood-London – or perhaps because of it, he refused to let UNIT attempt to derail Torchwood's independence. He would protect his people as he saw fit and that meant keeping them away from UNIT. Poor Tosh had already been the subject of the tender mercies of the organization.
"Because, confound it, it is Torchwood business!" the Brig announced. Jack gasped into the receiver; fortunately, the Brig continued with his explanation. "I was contacted by an… associate of mine, who had received viable information that an employee of Torchwood had been found by a UNIT squadron in the ruins of Canary Wharf. Jack, this person… he's like you. He can't die. And UNIT has him squirreled away in a base doing God knows what to him."
"What?" he asked. "But…" He was stunned. He had searched for decades and had never found anyone like himself. It was why he stayed in Cardiff, remaining with Torchwood and just waiting for the Doctor to stop by again so he could get his answers. Who was this man?
"I didn't believe it at first," the Brig continued, "but then I did some digging. What my man found is frightening and disgusting. By Jove, man! UNIT is not supposed to act like this! Unfortunately, no one in the current UNIT administration cares enough to shut down this project. It's regrettable, I'm told but without proof, they're content to ignore the lab and the rumors that surface about it. They don't know what's going on there, just that it's some sort of lab that every so often makes some sort of breakthroughs from which UNIT can reap the rewards."
"Typical," Jack snorted. "And you guys hate Torchwood for the same thing."
"I know, Captain Harkness. Believe me I do. I don't know what the Devil is wrong with them! But there it is. Will you help?"
Jack pinched the bridge of his nose; he was loath to help out UNIT or Torchwood-One, but was it really helping? From what little the Brig had revealed, it seemed that he wouldn't so much be helping UNIT as preventing them from further tarnishing Earth's reputation out among the stars. And could he in good conscience simply leave some poor person – even if he had worked for London – to their tender mercies?
The answer, of course, was no. Perhaps once he would have blithely ignored the information but he had changed. Rose and the Doctor had seen to that and even if they had abandoned him, leaving him without any explanation as to what had happened to him, he could not simply ignore the plights of others when he could help.
"Send me what you have," Jack finally answered. He wanted to know what exactly was going on before he committed his team for a rescue mission.
"Thank you, Jack. I'll send my man directly," the Brig said. "And since the base isn't supposed to exist, if it should… disappear, you'll not hear anything about it. I'll give you the number of a nearby UNIT squad that can take any of the personnel off your hands," He rang off, leaving Jack with a lot to think about.
He was the first to admit that he was, inherently, a selfish man; it was what had made him such a successful conman. He had started working for Torchwood because it provided him with a source of income while allowing him to remain in the same area of the Rift, not because he believed in its mission. He full-heartedly believed that one day the TARDIS would return to refuel and when that happened, he planned to get his answers. It was for that reason and that reason alone that he had fought to remain head of Three when Alex had decided to celebrate the Millennium by killing the rest of his team.
Getting involved in a political upheaval at UNIT was not a good idea. It was something to watch from the sidelines, something of which to take advantage. On the other hand, the very person Alistair had asked him to rescue could very well have the answers he sought. Another part of him, the part that Rose and the Doctor had touched, squirmed with distaste at the idea of leaving someone who apparently couldn't die, in the hands of UNIT scientists intent on dissecting that reason out of him. The organization had certainly tried to "borrow" his services from Torchwood enough times for him to have a good idea of what treatment the poor sod had received.
In the end, it was simple: he wanted answers. He had never met anyone else who couldn't die. He'd be a fool not to find what information he could.
It didn't take much to convince Methos to play messenger boy for the Brig. Not that the Brig knew who he was; Sarah Jane had merely mentioned that she knew someone unconnected to everyone involved who could bring the information to Cardiff and Captain Harkness. It had taken longer than Methos had thought to fully investigate the situation and Lise had started growing restless. She was a good kid and he could see why Ianto had decided to teach her. Fortunately, she had yielded to his insistence that she remain hidden and leave the rescue to others. And all his arguments hadn't kept her from following him to Cardiff to keep an eye on the local Torchwood base with him. He didn't know if she realized that while they might physically rescue Ianto, he might not be the same person who had taught her for some many years.
Torture could drive even the kindest of men insane.
He didn't want to get involved, at least not more than he already was. Babying a mad Immortal was not high on his list of favorite activities – there was a reason he had opted to leave MacCleod and his merry band of hanger-ons behind with his persona of Adam Pierson. Couriering the information packet to Torchwood therefore played a dual purpose: (1) he actually made sure it arrived and (2) he could ascertain whether the people affecting the rescue could properly care for Ianto. The last thing he wanted to do was have to spirit a newly liberated Ianto from a new set of captors.
Of course, their luck could change and Daniel Jackson could return from wherever he was hiding and help them. Lise was oddly certain that he could have effectuated a rescue by now with little to no bloodshed and no one else the wiser.
Oddly enough, Methos found himself enjoying the subterfuge of bringing the information to Cardiff. It felt and looked like something out of a classic movie plot, perhaps one of Hitchcock's early thrillers. He was tempted to dress the part, with a well-cut suit, the dark trench coat, and fedora to hide his eyes, but decided it would call too much attention to him, especially since the Brig had sent a Sergeant Benton (retired) with a silver attaché case containing the information. He did have standards… but it was also so very tempting and appealed to his rather wry sense of humor.
In the end, the entire exchange of information was rather anticlimactic. Methos entered the Tourist Office located on Mermaid Quay; a tall man with a classic movie idol profile and looking as if he had stepped outside of the 1940s, waited for him, arms crossed against his chest. According to the dossier Methos had assembled with Lise's help, this should be Captain Jack Harkness.
"Is this it?" he asked.
Methos simply raised an eyebrow as he handed the case over to the other man. "With compliments from our military friend."
"Do you come with?" Harkness leered, angling his body against the counter.
"Not for you," Methos quipped. Perhaps in another situation he would have taken the man up on his offer, but he didn't want to get more involved than he had to – or answer any awkward questions.
"Well, if you change your mind…" he trailed off. "I'll let the Brig know I have the information," he continued, clearly dismissing him. Internally, Methos shrugged; gaining access inside the Torchwood base would have been helpful, but not necessary. Lise had arrived ahead of him and had made herself comfortable on the Plass so as to observe the comings and goings of the team. Methos planned to do the same after he changed his clothes and body language. No need to spook them unnecessarily.
It was almost like they didn't trust Torchwood to properly rescue and care for their wayward Immortal.
Jack decided to look over whatever the Brig had sent him before gathering his team. The courier had handed over the briefcase with scarcely any protest and had left as quietly as he had entered. A professional then and he wondered where the Brig had found the man. Too bad he hadn't wanted to indulge in a bit of a dalliance.
His good humor quickly deserted him as he examined the material he found inside. This was barbaric – akin to how Torchwood had first treated him when he had joined. He could still remember the sick pleasure Emily and Alice had derived from "questioning" him and other hapless aliens Torchwood had captured. How could UNIT claim to have the higher moral ground over Torchwood if they hid something like this in their black projects budget?
Inflamed with anger as he read and saw the so-called experiments performed on the poor victim, Jack vowed to get him out. He somehow doubted his team would object, especially if he showed them even just a portion of the file.
They had a lot of work to do if they were going to pull this off. Fortunately, the Brig had provided them with nearly everything they would need to do so successfully. Even more fortuitously, the so-called lab was located just outside Cardiff, something that infuriated him by their boldness. It also explained why they had found nothing at certain Rift alert scenes.
Jack gathered what he needed and called a meeting; he strode from his office, full of confidence that they could do this.
The day began like any other. Ianto, by this time, had long since ceased awareness of his surroundings. He woke when the orderlies banged open his door, submitted to their sedation of him, regained awareness upon a gurney, suffered the experiment du jour and died as often as was required, before being returned to his cell. If he was particularly bloody from the day's activities, the orderlies hosed him down. If he did not eat, they forced a tasteless mush down his throat. How civilized the world had become to allow their torture victims rest and food!
How much time had passed since Canary Wharf and his capture? He no longer knew. If Lise had evaded capture, surely she would try to gain his rescue, but Ianto also knew she was very young. He cursed himself for not introducing her to more of his Immortal friends and students, for allowing so many to believe he had lost his head and long ago. One of them, with all their centuries of experience, could have arrived at a plan for ensuring his freedom.
But alas! His penchant for isolation might very well prove his downfall and he despaired of his existence. Despite it all, he wished to live, wanted nothing more than to retreat to one of his estates and forget he had ever learned of Torchwood and their mysteries. Wanted to surround himself with the familiar objects of his past and recover from this outright torture.
And always, always in the back of his mind was the fear that he would lose his sense of self, that he would become again what he most feared. That someone – friend or foe or student – would need to put him down like a rabid dog.
The constant deaths pulled at his strength, each resurrection leaving him weaker than the one before. He wondered if the masters of his condition found that an interesting fact or if they were so lost in their own machinations as to not even notice. On particularly bad days, they didn't even allow him the courtesy to fully revive before killing him once again.
He had no idea that today would be any different from the countless ones before it. The soundproofing in the lab prevented the sounds of battle from reaching those inside so the scientists continued on blithely with their current experience, unaware that they would not live to see the next dawn.
Today's experiment included a vivisection; this particular scientist, a decidedly noxious man that UNIT had discovered languishing in Central America and tormenting various animals and the occasional native, wanted to see if his results varied if the subject remained alive through the process. It meant that he allowed Ianto to heal just enough to keep him from tumbling over the brink of death, all the while examining the various organs laid bare inside his body. His assistant, an equally horrible woman whose past remained shrouded in mystery to all but a select few, carefully made note of all the interesting viscera the other observed and wanted recorded for posterity.
When the door burst open and two people came through, the first looked up with annoyance that turned to fear, while the second dropped her notebook and hurried to a nearby desk where she had secreted a firearm. As for Ianto, he gasped as he was finally allowed to succumb to the siren's call of Angeu.
Owen Harper had seen a lot since becoming a doctor. Even before he had joined Torchwood, he had known, at least intellectually, the depths into which humanity could fall. Jack and Torchwood had expanded his horizons but he had mostly conducted autopsies on aliens who had not survived traveling through the Rift for whatever reason. He had treated people savaged by Weevils and Hoix, tended Blowfish who had indulged a little too heavily in the pleasures Earth could afford them, and helped to heal countless others who had arrived on Earth with broken bodies.
As an intern, he had once spent a summer in Africa working with Doctors without Borders. He had seen the savagery humanity could and would visit upon others just because they were different in some way but had not thought to ever see the same sort of thing in his home country. Bad enough the glimpses he had of the alien species freed from their cells, but this, this had the power to break him. He wanted nothing more than to go home, get very drunk and shag someone until he could no longer remember the scene on the table.
Maybe Jack would let him have some Retcon?
Jack and Suzie had taken care of the two responsible for the man currently laid out in such gruesome fashion on a gurney. Medical instruments held open the flaps of skin and muscle of the torso and he felt bile rise as he could see the glistening internal organs of the unfortunate sod on the table. He knew, of course, that the man could not die – and indeed appeared to have – but it didn't make him feel much better as he removed the various metal objects that marred the body.
"Should I sew him up?" he asked Jack, feeling uncertain and needing someone to tell him what to do. Uncharacteristic, yes, but Owen felt so far out of his depth that he craved a higher authority to bless his actions.
He was a bit taken aback by the fierce look on Jack's face and shivered in fear. He did not envy to whomever Jack had assigned blame for this. They would not have an easy time of it. Jack had claimed they were rescuing the guy because he was Torchwood and Torchwood took care of their own, never mind that he was Torchwood-One and Jack had eschewed all contact with that particular branch for as long as Owen had worked for him. Seeing the reality of the situation had only reinforced all of their initial disgust and anger.
"Wait!" Suzie called out, her head almost touching the man's stomach as peered at someone. "Look!" and she had such a tone of astonishment and awe on her face as she stared at something only she could discern. Owen obediently followed the direction of her finger and saw to amazement little blue lightening crackling along the precise surgical marks, the muscle and skin healing as if never touched.
"What the fuck?" he asked, having never seen such a thing in his life. He raised his eyes to meet Jack's and wondered why the other man had such a look of fierce disappointment on his face. So quickly did it flash across his visage that afterwards Owen wondered if he had perhaps imagined it. However, his attention was soon captured by the man on the table who suddenly gasped to life.
His limbs arched against the restraints that held him; he appeared used to such a resurrection since he did not attempt to loosen that which held him. Owen thought he was rather resigned to all that happened to him. He checked his pupils and noticed how dull his eyes were. Snapping his fingers in front of him, he waited for a response. "He's out of it," he commented as the man continued to just lie there.
Suzie quickly unbuckled the restraints and together, they eased the man into a pair of scrubs. "Are we taking him back to the Hub?" she asked. Jack remained quiet and turning, the two found him flipping through the scientists' notes. He had quite a thunderous expression on his face and Owen wondered whether any of those captured by Torchwood would survive to see trial.
"Jack?" he prodded, wanting nothing more than to leave this hellhole.
"He's coming with us," Jack snapped. He stuffed the files into his coat and grabbed the two incapacitated scientists by the back of their shirts. "Let's go," he commanded as he dragged them out of the room. He ignored their protests at being manhandled in such a way, but no one particularly cared.
Together, Owen and Suzie managed to carry the one they had come to save with them to the SUV. They found Tosh already waiting for them, a grim expression on her face that turned to shock when she saw who they carried.
"Where's Jack?" Owen asked.
She shrugged in response. "The UNIT squad that was waiting for our call showed up and Jack is making sure they take charge of the prisoners."
"We're trusting UNIT to clean this shit up?"
"Jack apparently knows the guy in charge," she explained. "He said they would get what they deserve."
Owen exchanged a look of disbelief with Suzie. It didn't seem likely, considering UNIT hadn't exactly leapt at shutting down this facility, but maybe Jack knew something they didn't.
"Let's go," said boss ordered as he strode from the compound, coat flaring dramatically behind him. Like them, he seemed eager to get away from here. Owen trusted that he would tell them what they needed to know. Otherwise, he just wanted to forget about all that he had seen.
The Hub's medical ward was located in an inconvenient spot, which was why Owen – and many of the previous medics – had treated his teammates' injuries in the autopsy bay. This preference didn't meant that it wasn't prepped for immediate habitation, just that Owen rarely used it unless he and Suzie wanted to have a quick shag during work hours. Currently, the room held five people; the team and the one they had rescued. He had yet to rouse from the fugue into which he had fallen and Owen could only make an educated guess as to when he might wake.
"He's been stuck at that facility for close to three months," he tried to explain. "If even half of what we saw today occurred to him on a daily basis, well… he likely shut down to avoid his reality."
"Will he ever recover?" Tosh asked, biting her lip as she looked with pity on the man that lay resting underneath the sheet.
"Physically he already has," Owen admitted. "Mentally? Your guess is as good as mine."
"I don't want him left alone," Jack ordered. "Until he wakes, we won't know if he'll pose a threat and I don't want him running around the Hub unsupervised."
"I'll stay for now," Owen found himself volunteering. He didn't really know what drew him to the other, just that something about him did.
"Thanks, Owen. Tosh? I want to know everything you can find out our Torchwood London friend here," Jack said.
She nodded and scurried off to do as he had said. Suzie met his gaze with a sardonic grin and sauntered out after her. "I'll start cataloging the tech we found," she called out as she left Jack and Owen alone with the stranger.
Jack nodded absently and resumed staring at the man. "He looks so young," he murmured. "Any idea of how old he is?"
Owen shook his head. "His body seems to reset itself to this default state whenever it gets injured. He should have scars on his stomach from the… from what we interrupted." He took a calm and steadying breath and continued. "There's nothing. His skin is smooth."
"No scars?" Jack asked, eyes hooded with an emotion Owen couldn't read.
"He has a few, but they're odd. He gently pulled the sheet down to the man's waist and rolled him over slightly to show Jack what he meant. "Here, and here," he pointed to the oddly shaped scars. "They look like something punctured him through there. I took some blood, so we'll see what antibodies he has, but…" he shrugged, feeling helpless. "He could be hundreds of years old and we won't know until he wakes."
"Let me know if he wakes," Jack finally said, and clasped his shoulder before leaving. Owen smiled faintly before returning his attention to his patient. He had no idea what they were going to do. What if he awoke violent? They had already seen him come back to life – would Jack decide to keep him locked up forever? What sort of life was that?
"I hope for your sake you don't," he muttered before turning his attention to filling out the chart he had prepared for him. He found it strangely soothing to have such a mundane task on which to fall back after the horrifying labs he had seen during the raid: a nice slice of normal in an otherwise crazy day.