Sunday, 22 December 2013

Fans Fiction Heaven & Nature Sings by Echo Fain


Heaven & Nature Sings

By Echo Fain

 Prologue:

When he dreams, he dreams of how he could've changed it.

He dreams of telling the immortal ex-Time Agent 'I know what's going to happen tomorrow and the next few days after that and I can't tell you what I know but I need you to trust me. If you trust me and don't question my choices, you and yours might survive to see better days. Will you trust me, Jack?'

He dreams of it and knows that would be an empty promise. He can't imagine what would've happened if he'd chosen to step out of Flat Holm into a bright summer Sunday with the sole purpose of saving Earth, Ianto Jones, and Jack's grandson Stephen---at the cost of his own life. He couldn't predict how those events would change what happened afterward. One change was all it would have taken to alter the future he knew of. 

But, changing a fixed event required certain things.  Death must be reciprocated, life for life. 

He wouldn't have minded, really.  At least he wouldn't still be here.

Maybe Ianto would've died, anyway, in a car accident or shot by soldiers while protecting his sister's family. Maybe Stephen would've fallen down a flight of stairs and broken his neck. Maybe, maybe, maybe.  Maybe he would've walked out of Thames House still alive, having cheated.  Having found another to die in Ianto's place.

What then?

Trying to imagine the outcome was like trying to remember what Pooshian Ceylon tasted like.

When he dreams, he dreams of telling Jack the truth. He dreams of telling Jack 'Our home life was the whole and best of my world and I lied to you for years about what I was doing until I couldn't lie anymore. I lived in terror every day---for years---that I would screw up and cause our lives to unravel and disappear and leave me holding nothing. I feared it so much that I had an affair, lied about my work, and ruined my health to be home every night for tea even when it meant I bent time itself to be there.'

He dreams of telling Jack about beautiful Charley and how she came to be, of how he returned home after being gone for so long---so many years of his life had been spent traveling, looking for a way to win a war against the Daleks---to find that his family had decided to give him a child using his stored DNA, because the loss of him was enough to break their hearts. For them, he'd been gone six years and Idris had grown to be a gorgeous young man with a chip on his shoulder. He dreamed of telling Jack of what it was like to see his daughter for the first time---dozing in Ianto's arms---and how his life had suddenly shrunk down and become an infant-sized treasure with the terrible power to destroy his ironclad self-control.

He dreams of the exo-shield hanging blue and green above the clouds.

When he dreams, sometimes he dreams of the Time War, of the human Dalek puppets and their hoverboards dropping from the sky to release nanogenes that would convert the population of his homeworld into slaves. He dreams of how he inoculated his family with the immunity chips and then cried like a wounded child at the knowledge that he didn't have enough of the tiny devices for every last boy and girl, every last man and woman. He dreams of Chiaroscuro, of that young familiar face gleaming gold with artron energy, speaking words of doom with statistics of how long the exo-shield would last before the Daleks' main force broke through. 

He dreams of Her Majesty being converted, of how she hurt Jack and made him watch at Ianto's side, their children safely hidden away in the northern caves with their strange Celtic carvings of Terran dragons and a blue telephone box like the kind found on Earth in the mid-20th century. He dreams of killing the woman he owed his allegiance to, of shooting Jack to release him into death with the hope that the immortal would come back whole once more.

But, he also dreams of the Doctor and Professor Song.

No, of Melody Pond. He didn't know her as Professor Song yet, not then.

When he dreams, he sometimes remembers what it was like to stand on the flightdeck of the refugee ship and watch his homeworld burn, taking John away forever. He had stood there, even as the ship pulled up from the planet's gravity and headed past the moons, building energy for a space-jump. He had watched, dry-eyed, until Ianto had come and put Charley in his arms and then he'd fallen apart. He'd collapsed to his knees and sobbed for all that he'd done, all that he'd lost. He still had his family but at what price? He was a war criminal, wanted for punishment by what remained of the Crown's government, wanted by both Empires---human and Dalek---for what his mind could give them. He was going to run for the rest of his life and because they loved him and wanted to protect each other, his family would run, too. 

When he dreamed, he remembered how Jack didn't mind and forgave him without needing words---and why wouldn't Jack and Ianto be okay with it? They had a potential forever, while he had only a bio-stasis chip that couldn't last more than another century, maybe two. It was, he supposed, easy to forgive someone you love when their lifespan was so much shorter than yours. Why waste time being angry and disappointed when you might not have even one more day together?

When he dreamed, there was another heartbeat in his head and in his chest, a reminder of the bond he shared with a man whose new life he'd pulled from a stone cauldron bio-loom as if the old Welsh myths were real, hidden on a distant world tens of thousands of years in the future.

The heartbeat wasn't there anymore when he was awake.

Lyn Baskerville didn't like to dream. 

It gave him reasons to remember the man who'd fallen to Earth.

***


Part One:

1 November 2011; Monday; 0037 hours

Of course he'd said yes to Sunday visits. What the bloody hell was he supposed to do? Say no to a man whom he could never refuse in all those things which truly mattered? He'd walk through hell with a grin for Jack. That never changed, no matter how much he wished and prayed and struggled. He still had all of his memories and experiences, remembered days of anguish and weeks of contentment...and the commitment was one-sided now, could be only one-sided because Jack hadn't lived those years. Not yet.

And now, because of some fluke in the causal loop, maybe he never would.

He might be in a temporal dead-end, the result of an alteration beyond his control.

How long did he have before he caused a paradox that wouldn't heal itself? How long after that before he blinked out and changed, disappeared from this world and perhaps from everywhere? How many minutes hours days weeks years---gods, let it be years! let it be decades!---would he have Jack for this time? It didn't matter that things weren't the same, that he wasn't the same, that he couldn't ever be the same. It didn't matter that Jack looked at him and saw an aging cripple---and hadn't he once feared just such a thing?---it just didn't matter. Jack looked at him and there was trust, an understanding, and that was all he needed. 

The bio-stasis chip wasn't meant to last so long, not in its damaged state; he might have a century or two left. He was aging slowly, but definitely growing older.  By the time it failed, he would be a twisted-up old man, gnarled and frail.  The aches and pains were worse, but he could still run like a flushed rabbit---he'd proved that beyond all doubt just today. 

Why the fuck had he said yes? Couldn't he be happy alone in London? Why would he want to breathe the same air as Jack Harkness anymore? Hadn't he done that long enough? It had cost him everything. He'd given all he could and his last attempt at protecting his family had brought him here. He'd thought he would draw the Jubal Earlys away, keep the family safe, take his enemies with him into hell. He didn't even know if he'd succeeded. He would never know. 

He was here, on Earth, and...he was with Jack again. 

He hoped time would smooth over the paradoxes, prevent Jack from changing the future because of foreknowledge. He'd lied, saying he hoped his memories could be erased. He didn't want that. He wanted to always remember the truth, the reasons why. 

He knew it would be too easy, falling back into the same patterns of give and take, because Jack was essentially the same man with the same foibles and habits and bad jokes and lovely sensitivities. He didn't want it to be easy, but it was. 

Earlier, looking at the other man, Lyn knew he was making the right choice. Jack's expression was raw and unguarded and so full of relief. The look in Jack's eyes was irrefutably the most wonderful thing he'd seen since...well, it didn't do to dwell on his past. 

There was nothing he could do about it now. 

Lyn was almost asleep, curled up on his side in the single bed, when his mobile beeped a text alert. Heaving a deep sigh, he flipped over under the quilt and reached for the annoyance, his fingers brushing over the photograph of his family. Couldn't be many people, at this time. It was after midnight already.

At a bleary-minded glance, his face nearly lost in the pillow, he gave a sad smile. Jack was on the road back to Cardiff, but it seemed that their conversation---the godawful confrontation he'd never, ever wanted---was still on the blue-eyed immortal's mind.

'Happy birthday, Lyn.'

With slow, scarred fingers, he managed a response.

'Ta, Jack. Goodnight.'

Why was he doing this to himself? It could never end well.

He put the mobile back down on the bedside bureau and nestled into the quilt. He was drifting, his mind full of them---those whom he could never embrace again---when the sharp, jarring ringtone made him jerk fully awake.

Lyn groaned and reached for the noisy device, rubbing at his sore eyes with the palm of his right hand. He didn't look at the screen as he answered. "Jack, this won't work---"

"Mister Baskerville, I believe it's time we had a conversation. There are two men and a car waiting for you on the street. Please join them now." The voice on the other end was rich, heavy, and cold.

His eyes flew open as he shoved upwards in the narrow bed's confines. Staring around the dark garret, he stammered a demand. "W-who the hell is this?"

"Get dressed, Mister Baskerville, and go down to the car. Don't make it necessary for the gentlemen to come in after you. I'm sure you don't want Mrs Goldsmith's sleep to be disrupted."

His heart raced as he tried to decipher what could be happening.

The calm, chilly British voice spoke again. "You have five minutes."

***

He moved on autopilot, as if no time had passed at all; as if he was still accustomed to swift evacuation. He could, in this moment, almost believe that he was hustling to get his children up and running, always a step ahead of the bounty hunters. Instinct made him turn and speak to Ianto, to ask if Jack was awake yet, and he hissed a breathy growl at himself when he remembered.

No.

He was alone---and he was going to run alone.

Lamp clicked on, he hurried across the garret to get the messenger bag from the wardrobe floor, gathering what he needed most. 'No idea where or why or who. No idea if I'm coming back. Clothes, quick---jeans, thermal, flannel, hoodie. Socks, boots, hurry, hurry---what will they do to Pamela when I don't show my face? Will they just wake her by knocking? Will they do damage? Six hours to hide, six hours and then, the train---wait---'

He jerked his clothes on, hoping five minutes was a suggestion. Rubbing a hand over his scarred face, Lyn Baskerville scrambled to pull things together. He wrote a shaky note in Shannan and left it on the table by the teapot, hoping it went unread. The train to Cardiff would see him out of London, but could he hide until then? What if the closest stations were being watched?

'Who is this? Alien or human? Sounds English---Earther or some derivation? Enforcer, bounty hunter, or a Terran---? Surely not Alfie's brother---we settled that---has Jack led someone to me? Unplug phone, take the charger---just in case, always in case---photo, yeah, take it and the MSU4, might need a reminder of why you're still alive, lad---'

He stopped moving suddenly, at a realization.

A thought dropped into his frightened head and made him cold.

Why was he running to Jack? There was no denying it. That was exactly what he was unconsciously planning to do. London to Cardiff and why? No, absolutely not. Less than a day back in his life and already the primal part of him was prepared to rely on this timezone's Jack Harkness? He'd go swimming in the Thames first.

But, if not a train to Cardiff, where?

Did he need to run at all? What threat did the mysterious caller really represent? He hadn't even gotten out the door yet. He knew nothing of what to expect. In the glow of the bedside lamp, Lyn scrubbed at the top of his thinning, grey-blond hair and thought it through.

His mobile rang from within his hoodie pocket. He fumbled it out and answered, nearly dropping the device in his haste. "Hello?"

"Mister Baskerville, if you understood the severity of your situation, you would be moving much faster." That same voice, with its ice-laden tone.

He bit off a curse. "Give a man some time. I'm not exactly alone in here, yeah?"

"That is exactly what you are, Mister Baskerville." The words clipped crisply at him. Poshy accent. "Captain Harkness left London some time ago. He's just passed a traffic officer near Bradfield, on the M4."

Lyn steeled his jaw, clenched his free hand into a fist as he stepped to the window's side and peeked out into the darkness below. There was a car waiting, just as promised. "Could be. And maybe you're bluffing, yeah? Who is this? UNIT? An Enforcer? A Jubal Early? What will you do if I don't come out?"

"Mrs Goldsmith will be arrested---oh, mistakenly, of course, but she'll be very uncomfortable while in custody and it could take a very long time for the error to be discovered."

He had no intention of blithely walking out into the hands of someone who could wield even that tiny power. Pamela Goldsmith had done nothing wrong, but the threat sounded real.

"Mister Baskerville, please do as you have been instructed." The voice went on.

He could not respond, deep in high-speed thought.

A half minute ticked by before the voice tried again. "Mister Baskerville, we understand that you are hesitant to talk with any form of authority. Consider yourself a guest of the nation, please, and make this easy for yourself. If we have to use force, you might suffer physical---"

He clicked the phone shut and decided.

His bloody stupid pride was in the way again. Jack would help.

He went downstairs, being as silent as he could, and reached the back door without waking his elderly landlady. He had no way of knowing if the garden was being watched, but there was only two ways out and he was choosing the one most likely to get him to the Heath, where he could hide for a few hours.

If he could get out of the trap, he'd try calling Jack.

Through the back gate he crept and was immediately spotlighted by two cars, on either side. Black, sleek, deadly. He squinted through the light-blindness to see a man---a tall man in a suit, with an umbrella---standing at the driver's side to his left.

In the night's darkness, in a neighborhood starting to respond sleepily to the dogs that barked at the invasion of headlamps and poshy civil servants, this man was out of place. He might look like a civil servant, but he was far more than that and he didn't belong here. 

Lyn could sense the stranger's calm and stoic heart and knew he was in far more trouble than he'd first imagined. Jack had led this man to his door and Jack had no power to protect him.

'Bloody hell.' He thought, gripping his messenger bag's strap against his chest.

"Mister Baskerville---" Said the voice, easily heard over the nearly silent engines.

Lyn, his bag bouncing at his hip, ran. He caught the top of the wall opposite and scaled it in two steps, his boots finding purchase in the falling mortar-work. Then, he was in the neighbor's garden and running and the chase had started.

***

His headset beeped and he frowned, putting it on while keeping an eye to the road. "Go ahead."

In his ear, Gwen Cooper was quiet but steady. "Jack? Can you get onto Scratchface Lane going north?"

Not on the M4. And she knew it. On her end, she would know exactly where he was and how far that was from any likely exchanges. She was probably watching the Rover's little red dot move along westward on the map.

The fact that she was in his ear and not asleep beside her husband suggested something was very wrong. Wrong at the level of nine on a scale of one to ten. "I'm almost at the flyover. If I cross the dividing line and take the woods. Why? Did I lose something out here?"

It was chilly out but not inclement and he had his coat. He also had all the equipment he might need for a look into anything which would make Gwen call him like this.

"There's Rift-like activity at Burnt Hill. Data suggests something came through there maybe five minutes ago."

He sped along under the flyover and then eyed the opposite side of the road.

He still had a few toys. On the Rover's console, he pressed a button and sent the signal which made the median rail ahead slide open. He followed it with a click of the blue lights. Now taking on the appearance of an official vehicle, he crossed traffic and whipped around to head towards the flyover once more. Traffic was sparse this time of night but he maintained a reasonable speed, his eyes moving along the road's wooded edge.

If he could squirm a way through the trees and scrub, he might find his way quickly to Scratchface Lane. Flicking his gaze back and forth between the console and the road revealed by his headlamps, he turned on activity monitors and radar scanners.

"Jack? Are you still there?"

He hadn't forgotten. Jack smiled at the concern in his friend's voice. She was like a mother hen sometimes since he'd come back to Earth. Not always, but where her family was concerned, the green-eyed Welshwoman was a force to be reckoned with. Mother hen sometimes behaved like a sharp-toothed predator.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm here. Just getting myself headed in the right direction." He pried for more information. "So. Rift-like activity. Really. That's not good. This far from Cardiff, but not on the Thames---"

"I know. But this was a very big surge, Jack. It behaved just like the Rift and the energy traces are almost identical in type. Whatever came through, it moves fast and leaves a signature we can follow. It might even be on the ground by now.  Feel up to a chase?"

"Always." He laughed.

"I'm sending you the coordinates now."

He spotted what he needed---the wide spot without a guard rail. He was going through the woods after all. "I've got this, Gwen. You go back to sleep---you need your beauty rest. Harkness out."

He took the Rover off-road, moving slowly from asphalt to trees. 

Well, there went his concern for icy conditions.

He laughed to himself, glad for the distraction. He hadn't gone off-roading in the Rover since before the Hub was destroyed. He'd missed this.

***

Lyn ran through the trees along the jogging path, his breath coming in stutters.

He'd crossed the neighborhood and the tracks at a sprint, avoiding the main roads where traffic could reach him. If he could get to the woods by the Hampstead Bathing Pond, he could go further along into the forest and hide on the Heath for a while. Get Jack on the mobile. Come up with a plan for escape.

He knew he didn't want to talk with the man who'd called him. He didn't want to get in a black car. People could disappear that way. He wasn't in the mood to disappear.

His mobile rang again. He checked its screen and doubled his speed.

If it wasn't Jack, he wasn't going to answer.

Could he get to Cardiff on the train at dawn? He suspected he wasn't dealing with thugs. This looked like government and government always knew how to close a trap. This had been carefully planned; three cars, from the look of things. Three black shiny cars and a man whose mind and heart were dangerously sharp. 

The night had turned off bitterly cold; he barely felt it in three layers of cotton, but the rush of air on his face as he ran seemed to bite into his exposed flesh.  Once, this wouldn't have bothered him, but he didn't have a natural temperature resistance anymore.

He didn't need to know how it had happened, but the truth was evident in what he'd seen within the stranger's heart. These were humans, Terrans, and they really believed him to be a threat...a threat they could use. 

Jack had done this, had called attention to him. 

He was alien to this world. A couple of medical scans and a blood test would be all it took to prove that. Of course there were people interested in him and he'd gotten cozy here in London, right under UNIT's nose, thinking himself safe in the crowd. Wrong, wrong, and he should've known better. How was this any different than what had happened on Promes II or Zenon?

Well, he didn't have his children running along in front of him, for one. Jack and Ianto weren't circling around behind to shoot the pursuers. But---and he grinned viciously at the thought---he wasn't putting anyone's life in danger but his own. Just the way it should be. 

If he could get out of London, maybe Jack could help him track down John Hart. John was here on Earth in this timezone, too. He could fix the younger Time Agent's wriststrap and get them the hell off the planet. He could coddle John along until he had exactly what he wanted. John would bend to him---John always bent to him---all he needed was an appropriate carrot.  Knowing John, he wouldn't even have to explain who he was; the right incentive would pay his way.

He'd never tried to find John in this timezone, before.  For the sake of temporal continuity.

And because, well...it was John.  If the younger version of Jack was difficult to accept, a younger of version of John Hart would be simply impossible.

He had to think of something.

Clutching his vibrating mobile, Lyn ran on through the darkness, ignoring the bone pain in his right thigh.

***

They were waiting for him when he stumbled onto the cul de sac of South Hill Park.

Lyn stumbled and whirled around to go in the other direction as the cars closed in. In the rush and panic, it seemed that before the vehicles had come to a complete stop, five suited figures were standing in front of him with drawn weapons. Guns. 

Bloody hell, he had nothing to fight with. Not a single thing.

With his heart thundering away out of control, he closed his eyes and stood still, raising his arms very slowly. 

The best he could hope for was that he wouldn't be tortured. Humans on this world were so evil to each other. What would they make of him? If UNIT got their hands on him, it was over---an examination of his body would reveal his hybrid status.  UNIT would know exactly what they were looking at, even if Torchwood never had.

The run was over---he'd gotten very close to the bathing pond, but not close enough. They were in a residential area and innocent civilians slept in the houses which lined the street. There was nowhere left to go unless he wanted to dodge between the houses. 

They would follow him, he knew.

He gave a breathless smile to the suited man who approached him in the crossed headlamp beams. "Good evening."

This wasn't the man who'd spoken to him in the alley; this man's heart was full of terror right now. The information given about their suspect made this man afraid; the gun aimed at him was quaking.

His scarred face, distorting in the glare of light, seemed impossibly alien to this one.

He tried again. "Please put away your weapon. I'm not armed and I'm not running. I don't think this should end in bloodshed...do you?"

There was no sign of the man who'd called him. The man from the alley. He went willingly at the end of the small carbon-dark gun, his hands raised in clear sight. The mess of his face was turning stomachs, ratcheting fear among hardened operatives. Their emotions were like a flood in his mind and he did as he was told. He got into one of the cars.

Inside, settled, he found himself sitting beside a beautiful young woman with long dark hair and an expensive suit. She held an equally expensive mobile in her hands, was texting with fast fingers. He stared at her in the glow of overhead light.

She raised her face, glanced at him, and gave a smile. She had dimples. 

"Be a dear." He raised a brow and nodded at her mobile. "And ask him to put the kettle on, love."

Her smile turned, became a bemused admiration. 

She felt he was being brave on purpose.

It was all he could do to keep from laughing at her.

Lyn turned his eyes to the window at his shoulder and watched the darkness become a series of streetlamps coming and going at speed as the car moved away from the cul de sac and out into the night.

He made a decision, holding his messenger bag on his lap. He wouldn't be intimidated and he wouldn't allow them to know he could read their emotions. He had been so careful since arriving in London; he'd done nothing that could be construed as a threat to anyone. Now, with one visit from Torchwood's leader, he was in stir.

He could feel the damaged bio-stasis chip tingling under his skin. He rubbed his left shoulder blade against the expensive leather seat. Through the layers of cotton, under the ink, he could feel how the thing buzzed. It was a reminder of how fragile his life was. 

He focused on what he might have to do, to survive this and if he should even bother trying. He hadn't needed to think in these terms since he'd crashed into the planetary prison which this timezone represented for him. He had no tools, no weapons, and none of the emotional calluses which had once made his duty possible.

He was very alone. The man on the mobile was right about that.

Alone had kept him safe.  Until now.

***

Jack, behind the wheel of the Rover, clicked his headlamps down to low beams and pressed on the brakes, slowing as the black military lorries passed him on Scratchface Lane. 

UNIT. Three UNIT lorries and a mobile research lab trailer.

Damn. They were headed in the wrong direction, which suggested he was too late.

He frowned and clicked on the high beams again.

***

The car had been moving for what his internal clock said was close to an hour. He'd spent that time watching the dark countryside and listening to the human hearts around him; two men and one woman. He smiled quietly to himself, using his fingertips to play with the string on his hoodie. 

He contemplated sending Jack a text message. 

What would he say? 

If he pulled his mobile out, would they take it from him?

Even if he'd made it onto the train, chances were excellent that he would've gotten caught before he reached Cardiff. This Jack---here and now---didn't have the power and strength to help him. This wasn't the Eye of Orion. He was a long way from home, a long way from his family. He was alone and that was okay.

Would he survive the night?

The driver was thinking about a sick cat and a vet's appointment.

The other man, in the front passenger seat, was thinking about the driver.

The woman at his side had a name she kept hidden, but he could see it burning in her heart. The only other person who knew it was her boss, the man with the umbrella. She was an orphan, had started out in MI6. Most days, she was Anthea. 

He wondered how she would react if he reached to touch her hand where it held the mobile. Just the back of her hand, a light stroke of skin from thumb to wrist, along the outside. 

Lyn smiled to himself, remembering the first time he'd done that to Ianto.

Dark-eyed Anthea's heart was a living coal under a carefully constructed shell of self-control. He knew he had the ability to take that self-control and remake it into whatever he could want. But, he didn't want that. He just wanted this to have been a nightmare he would wake up from in the morning, back in his own bed.

And then, she spoke. "You're very good. How long have you been there?"

She knew he was reading her. Lyn blinked, glanced around with raised brows. "What? There? What do you mean, there?"

"You've got an unusual gift. There's only a few people like you on the planet."

The game was up, it seemed. He gifted her with a crooked smile. "You being one of them, I take it. Telepathy." He nodded at the mobile she held. "He gave you permission to tell me that when you texted to inform him I had my fingers inside your heart. That's why I'm with you instead of him."

She smiled back, but hers held only sympathy.

He tilted his head. "Does it bother you that I know your name?"

"Does it bother you that I know yours?" Anthea mocked.

Ah. That wouldn't do.

He reached out gently to stroke the back of her hand just as he'd imagined he might, and murmured. "I don't mind. As long as you promise to think of me when he gets you off later."

And there...the little twist of horror. She could play a game with him, but the mere idea of his damaged flesh was sickening to Anthea. He felt justified, now.

With his fingertips still moving over her hand, he kept his voice low. "I could break your neck before either of them had any idea of it."

Her smile was knowing as she looked him over in the dimness of the car. "It's not something you've ever done before. What makes you think you've the physical strength or technique for it?"

So. She was that good.

He let his smile curl up sharp. "Well...you're right about that. But I could use your phone to do upsetting things to the planet's satellite systems. Do you have any idea what humanity would be like if you suddenly turned off all the lights?" His fingernail drew along the edge of her knuckle, a threat. "You're nothing but howling apes behind the angel's mask."

The young brunette hesitated on the inside. She knew he wasn't from Earth and was quite likely from outside this timezone, but she wasn't sure how advanced he might be. And she played her role well. "You're such a flirt, Mister Baskerville."

Lyn shrugged and dropped his hand away from hers. He went back to looking out the window, muttered. "Just a trick I learned from my husband."

"Which one?" She was actually teasing.

He grit his teeth and ignored the gibe.  She could see the details of how different marriage was, a thousand years from now and felt it was amusing.

Bloody telepaths.

***

He was almost to Thatcham before he found the crash site. The woods ran northeast of the road and to his left sat a black emptiness the GPS said was meant to be an athletic field. It was too dark to verify that, but the woods were obvious; his headlamps played against the thick trees, showing him that the off-roading part of the jaunt was done. He wouldn't be taking the Rover into the forest here.

The trees were broken. He stopped the Rover and looked at the ruined patch in the double beams of light, frowning at the smoke still wisping up from spots which had been burned by a falling object, something that had come down at an angle and sheared into the treeline with prejudice.

There were tire tracks, evidence of UNIT's presence. 

With a torch, he got out of the vehicle and walked into the forest.

Whatever had come down here, it was gone. There were boot prints, too. 

The energy sensors showed the peaks and furrows of chronotic reaction. Artron energy, among others. Including a heavy trace of dalekanium. Gwen was right; something had come through the Rift here---or had created a Rift-like tear in the fabric of space-time. He suspected he knew what they were looking for, too, and it wasn't a reassuring thought. For a moment, as he studied the crash site, he wondered if the Doctor was on Earth now.

His breath puffed with the cold as he dialed his mobile and patched it into his ear piece, knowing that Gwen Cooper was not sleeping despite his earlier suggestion. 

Her voice was the embodiment of concern. "Jack?"

"Something crashed here, Gwen, but it's gone. UNIT passed me on the road with a mobile lab trailer. Whatever it was, they've got it now." He raised his eyes and torch to examine the shattered trees. "Energy levels suggest something I don't even want to think about. I'm gonna contact Martha. If UNIT's picking up Daleks out of the English countryside, I think we ought to be involved."

"Daleks!?" Gwen's voice went sharp. "Are you sure?"

"I'm picking up energy signatures for dalekanium. Yeah, I'm pretty sure." Jack huffed a heavy breath and turned to walk back to the Rover. "Anyway, this place is empty. And cold. I'm coming home."

"Hey, Jack---" She said quickly, as if trying to catch him before he ended the call. "Did you have a good time in London?"

He stopped in his tracks and lowered the torch. The memory of all he'd learned came back and made him smile. "Yeah, I did. It was a nice day off."

Better than nice. But, Gwen Cooper didn't need to know the details.

"I'm insisting on some juicy gossip when I bring coffee and bear claws tomorrow. See you in the morning, Jack, bright and early." His second in command was grinning at him from Cardiff. 

Back behind the wheel, he held his hands under the heater's vent and wondered about what UNIT might be trying to do. Why would they have been out here? They'd arrived on the crash site too quickly to have driven in from the closest base. Which meant they might've been watching for a spatio-temporal rip over southern England. This spot. Could they have predicted one? How?

They must've been on location when the Dalek came through the rip in space-time. 

He needed to talk with Martha.

It was late, too late for a phone call. He sent her a text message, something provocative that might lure her to talk even if she was under orders to say nothing to him about tonight's capture of an alien.

'I found him.'

Back on the road towards Cardiff, Jack played the radio and let himself enjoy the memory of what he had discovered in London. Until he spoke with Martha, there was no point in worrying himself needlessly about a possible Dalek lurking on Earth. 

Sometimes, patience was more than a virtue; sometimes, it became a sanity-saver.

***

1 November 2011; Monday; 0402 hours
Scarman Estate

"My new bedsit." He said dryly, looking around.

Lyn Baskerville stood in a small space which looked like nothing so much as a cheap hotel room.  Anthea gave him time to see everything before she spoke.

"If you need something, please let us know. There will be guards at either end of the corridor."

"And you think I need to hear that. For my own safety's sake." He smiled at the single bed and its attendant card table. "So that I'll know it's pointless to try escaping. Aren't you precious?"

Then, as the door closed and the lock clicked, he knew himself to be alone.

Well, as alone as he could be, under the circumstances.

It was amusing, in a way.  How many years since the last time he'd gotten caught and locked up by some form of authorities?  He couldn't remember.  He'd been with the Doctor and Melody, then.  A Doctor too young to have met Jack yet.  Had that last arrest been on Octopius III or...Earth?  No, not Earth.  After what had happened to him here in 1666 on that horrid little adventure with the Corsair?  Not Earth.  He'd wanted to avoid Terran humans after that.

He slowly shifted to drop his messenger bag on the bed and sat down heavily to pull at his boots. He wasn't going anywhere and there was a world of good to be done by pretending he didn't notice the security cameras embedded in the cinderblock walls.

There was a toilet behind a curtain, a sink hanging on the wall by its pipes. The bed was just barely long enough for him. It had blankets and a pillow. On the card table sat a small collection of toiletries. New toothbrush, toothpaste, safety razor and shaving cream. An unbreakable mirror. A plastic cup and a plastic jug of water.  A towel, a flannel.

There was no knob on this side of the door. 

The table had a chair. He stared at it as he unlaced his boots and pulled them free. It was wooden, like the table. He could take it apart and use the pieces to set a fire, forcing a confrontation. But, there was no window and the door was well-sealed. Smoke from a fire would become overwhelming for him before it could ever reach the outside.

They'd planned for him, it seemed.

Pushing his boots under the bed's side, he dug into his hoodie pocket and came up with his mobile. No new messages and no signal. 

He should've texted Jack while he had the chance.

But, what if that's what his captors had wanted? 

He opened the messenger bag and pulled out the charger. He plugged it up and connected the mobile, laying it to the side. He followed it with his field journal and pen, the MSU4 and the photo Jack had brought him. Done, he pulled off his hoodie and laid it on the bed at his side.

He was going nowhere for now. He might as well be well-rested.

Lyn lay down on the bed, pushing the pillows up behind his back. Then, knowing he was watched, he picked up the MSU4.

All these years and he'd believed he would never see his world come alive again and he didn't care who saw the pleasure of this private moment. He wouldn't be denied anymore. He needed to see them.

He used the DNA-scanner and turned the device on, finding his way into the file system. Knowing that his captors had telepaths didn't bother him. Who cared what they could see in his head or his heart? It had been too late for a while.

With scarred fingers, he pushed under the collar of his thermal shirt and rubbed over the tattoo on his shoulder blade. He could feel the lumps where the three chips were embedded and he pressed down on one, trying to make the buzzing ease off as the first set of videos loaded.

In his head, he began reconstructing walls he hadn't needed to use in fourteen years as a hologram of Jack moved from left to right in front of him, only twelve inches tall. His Jack, going speckled with grey and with wisdom in the crow's feet lines of his handsome face.

It was still easy to compare his Jack to the man who'd found him in London. This timezone's Jack---now, after Thames House---was closer to the immortal he knew, but still not the same. Gun not on his hip, but in the coat pocket. Wriststrap, watch, the jeans and teeshirt. Honest emotion in a younger face. Honest emotion, more than he'd ever seen in nine years at Flat Holm. In Flat Holm, he'd ached to get away from this timezone's Jack because of the man's fake smile and obvious discomfort at the knowledge of his masked scars. 

He'd had an afternoon and evening with a Jack who understood him, who smiled with honesty at his bare face and who really did want to be his friend. They were so similar now.

He'd given his number to Jack, said yes to Sunday visits. If Jack tried to contact him and he didn't respond, would the immortal ex-Time Agent come looking? Would Jack give up, thinking that he'd run from the connection?

He flicked through the video files and played the ones which showed the family he'd left behind. Jack, Ianto, Idris, Charley, John and Orchid, the Queen, his parents, his brothers. All the people who had believed in him for so much of his life. People who knew---or had, once---that he was as human as the next man and capable of terrible mistakes and worse crimes.

People who didn't know why the Daleks wanted him.

For a while, the hologram videos played and he was home again. His family was safe in his heart and he could live with that. Here and now, he could not know yet what reasons he'd been captured for, but if it meant harm to Torchwood and Jack in this time and place, he would stand firm in his resolution to protect those whose memory he honored.

It steeled his resolve. 

***

1 November 2011; Monday; 1023 hours
Cardiff

They used the ground floor of his house as Torchwood's base of operations. It was an ideal location in the absence of a dedicated site. His dining room was full of computers, as were his kitchen and sitting room. Each set was hooked into the server and information from any of them could be pulled up on the handhelds that he and Gwen carried. The Rover's computers, too. In a pinch, their mobile phones would also give them access to the mainframe, but the connection was a drain on battery life.

For team meetings, his study was the place; he'd had the big screen monitor installed on one side, behind his desk. Today, he felt the need to give Torchwood's unofficial members some introduction to what might've arrived in Berkshire last night. Over coffee and donuts.

"This is a Dalek." Jack bit into the bear claw he held between his fingertips, nodding sideways at the screen. He talked around a mouthful of sweetness. "Gwen knows some about them, but it's time you two---" Meaning Rhys and Andy, overlooking Anwen. "Were brought up to speed. This is one of the big scary things out there. You've been told these are just drone machines used by terrorists in conjunction with psychoactive drugs to convince us that we were under alien attack."

Dark-haired Gwen looked grim. Probably remembering the Hub's defense system and how it had protected her and Ianto from being killed.  They no longer had a secure location.  Rhys looked perturbed, but then Rhys had believed the official story touted by the government's rumormongers. He knew about that. Andy, on the other hand, didn't look very surprised.

Coffee in hand, the blond police officer stared at the picture he'd put on-screen, larger than life and upsetting to the human mind in its essential wrongness. Andy frowned, said. "Back to this lot, then. That's my week shot to hob."

With a fingertip on the laptop's keyboard, Jack flicked through pictures and started into the CCTV footage recovered from the Ministry of Defense and UNIT in the aftermath of the Dalek's attempt to unravel reality and the universe with it. He watched his team's faces as he talked, explaining what the Daleks represented. He didn't tell them of his own fatal encounter on Station 5. He did, however, mention the Time War in a way which reminded him of the few things Lyn had revealed to Robert Youngston.

"There are stories of them tearing holes in the fabric of time in order to conduct raids and invasions, and they're very good at it." He changed gears with the image on screen. "This is---"

"A bug-eyed monster." Rhys said softly, in a tone of awed disgust.

Jack chuckled, lifting his coffee for a drink. It steamed near his cheek. "The gooey badness at the center. That is the Dalek, outside of its armor. Supposedly, they used to be humanoid. Some of them are scary geniuses, some are insane, some become leaders...even emperors. I imagine that some are even ordinary, average. Whatever passes for ordinary with them, anyway. But they all hate life that isn't Dalek. If they don't need to use you, your death is a foregone conclusion. They built an empire on the backs of humanoid slaves, some alive and some dead."

"How could a dead human---I mean, humanoid---be of any use?" The heavyset Welshman asked, brows knotted up in consternation. 

"You really don't want to know."

"Last night, there was a burst of Rift-like activity over Thatcham, in Berkshire, England. Burnt Hill." Gwen used the uncomfortable silence, carrying them up to speed. She bent at the waist and gave Anwen half a peeled banana and a kiss on the brow. "Something came through and straight into UNIT's arms. Jack found traces of Dalek energy at the crash site." She met his eye with a nod that gave him the floor again.

"UNIT was there very fast." He finished the last bite of his bear claw and, chewing, spoke around the wad of pastry in his cheek. "They may have been able to predict the ripping of space-time itself, using equipment similar to what we had in the Hub. I've already contacted Martha. If there's something going on that we need to know about, even if UNIT doesn't agree, she's the one to ask."

"You say that like UNIT might refuse to share." Rhys rolled his head around to look at him from over one shoulder with narrowed eyes and a thin-mouthed scowl. 

Gwen, who'd come to perch on the desk's edge, made a face. "Well..."

"We're re-instated, but we haven't been earmarked for funding yet and the other agencies, like UNIT, still don't wanna play nice with us. When they want, they can say no to our requests for information." He sucked a deep breath in through his nose and let it out, forcing his own irritation away. Jack tapped his fingers on the cup he held. "Doctor Martha Smith-Jones is UNIT's best hopes for a living Dalek expert, so she'll be involved. She's probably the only way we've got of figuring out what happened last night."

"Would Doctor Smith-Jones keep us out of the loop if UNIT tells her to?" Andy, who stood near the windows, put his cup down and came towards the desk, folding his arms in a defensive posture. 

"She would convince them to bring us on board, if it looks like there's something we need to be involved in."  She hadn't responded to his text message yet, but he held out hope that she was in the country and able to answer.  She'd said she wanted to meet Lyn and he didn't think Lyn would mind too much---he suspected, although he had no proof, that all he would need to do was tell the greying alien human that Martha was a companion to the Doctor.

"So, no case to work right now."

"I didn't say that. What we need is data and we have to gather it without the technology that UNIT has been using. The good thing is that Gwen and I both remember what the Hub computers considered as variables in predicting Rift activity."

"We do?" Gwen looked startled.  "Jack...that was the sort of thing Ianto and Tosh were good at. Noticing the way weather patterns behaved and correlating it to a matching pattern of Rift energy fluctuations. I can look at the numbers, but without a Rift energy predictor, they're not going to mean anything to my eyes."

"Tosh could see it in the numbers. Ianto used graphs and intuition---" She smiled encouragingly at him, but Jack looked away and went on after a pause. "The data can be viewed in physical terms. I'll show you how. Gwen, you'll be looking for similarities in activity across four or five physical measurements. It's a stand-back job. Rhys, you're going to drive to Berkshire and talk to people who might've noticed last night's fiery crash and military incursion. Andy---check the police reports for the last year on Dalek sightings, even the cranks. Not just Wales, either. The whole island. Anything to do with UNIT, too."

"What about you? Babysitting duty?"

"Sure, why not?"

***

1 November 2011; Monday; 1315 hours
Cardiff

With Anwen down for her nap, Jack found himself with time on his hands.  He didn't often play babysitter for Gwen and Rhys, but he enjoyed it when given the chance, as long as things didn't get too messy.  His team, official and unofficial alike, were tackling the angles of their Dalek investigation. 

Alone in the study, he texted Lyn just after lunchtime had come and gone.

'Thank you again for yesterday.'

He swung back and forth in his chair, boots planted wide, and flipped through a glossy magazine.  Occasionally, he glanced at the silent mobile where it lay on the desk's paper-littered wooden surface. 

It took Lyn twenty minutes to answer.  'It should be me thanking you, cariad.'

Not what he'd expected.  Since when did Lyn use Welsh endearments with him?  He'd heard the other alien human call the nurses at Flat Holm 'love' and 'dear', but not a single word in Welsh.  Well, maybe Lyn was being especially affectionate with him.  Just because he'd never had that word from the other man before didn't mean anything; in the distant future---at an earlier point in Lyn's life---it would probably be common for them.

He grinned and quickly tapped in a thought.  'Was thinking we could grab a Chinese take-away after your concert in the park. My treat.'

Again, long minutes passed before the mobile beeped.

'Solves the question of what to have for tea.  Did you have any requests for the concert?'

Jack settled back deeper into the chair and pushed his feet outwards under the desk and let himself remember how odd the concert had seemed to him at the time.  He had been nearly as mesmerized as the others in the crowd.  And what about the two men who'd spoken to him, afterwards?  Would they appear again?  If so, would he get a chance to speak with them?  Did he want to?

He could remember the sound of Lyn's violin, how it had made the chilly, damp autumn air seem to go crisp.  Why would the alien human choose a plague doctor's mask to hide behind?  Was that a one time thing?  It hadn't seemed to surprise the audience...

He didn't know much about classical music, but apparently Lyn did. 

Tap, tap, tap.   'Let me think about that and get back to you.'

Lyn sent him a smiley face.  :)

The mobile in his hand rang.

It was Andy.  "Seems last night wasn't an isolated incident."

"Yeah?"  Jack sat up; the chair under him shifted violently.

"There've been six civilian reports of UNIT activity in the last month, all at night and all in the countryside between London and Hampshire."

Which meant that the boys and girls in the red caps hadn't been trying to cover their tracks.  "Any Dalek sightings?"

Andy Davidson's Welsh voice over the mobile came across hollow but clear.  "Not a one.  Until last night.  There was a report filed in Berkshire. Just before the sun came up this morning, a farmer talked to the local authorities.  Said that a few big UNIT trucks sat on the edge of his property for an hour and then drove away.  Nothing taken and nothing damaged.  They were even considerate and used the access road.  He was concerned mainly with the fireball that came down in the woods nearby, ripped up trees and scared the sheep.  He described it as...and I quote...a flaming pepperpot."

"That's what we're looking for."  A thought.  "He mentioned UNIT, huh?"

"Seems so.  He knew what they were.  The trucks and soldiers had him a bit spooked."

"Are you on duty tomorrow?"

"No.  Not even on call.  Perogative of rank.  I get my day off unless it's a real emergency."

"Wanna go talk to the others?  The ones who've reported seeing UNIT skulking around after dark?  We'll make a day of it."

"What about the man in Berkshire?"

"Rhys is out there today.  Let him handle it."

"Want me to call the details in to Rhys?"

"Do that.  If you get anything else..."

"Yeah."

Jack tucked the phone into his trousers' pocket and went to the dining room. 

There, Gwen stood in front of a 46" flatscreen TV which showed a wide map of the United Kingdom.  With a wireless mouse pressed against her upper jeans' leg, she zoomed in and out, examining the waves and spots of color which represented temperature variations for what looked like a week's span of time.

He stopped at her shoulder for just a moment and then, when she glanced around at him, he smiled and moved backwards and turned to pour himself a coffee from the carafe on the heavy, polished table. 

Sitting, he put his feet up on the surface and ignored her frown.  "Tell me what you've found so far."

His second in command tapped a thumb against her teeth and sighed, her green eyes troubled.  "From the Severn Bridge to the eastern coast parallel with London, there's been a number of temperature fluctuations over the last month.  Strange patchy warm...zones.  Like the kind we used to see here in Cardiff when the Rift was acting up.  I'd say there've been little pockets of Rift activity all over the lower half of the country.  Remember how Tosh said that the other side might be a different temperature and that when the Rift opened, it caused a sort of...homeostasis?  Maybe UNIT has figured out a way to predict the heat signature rising.  Maybe they've been watching these shifts for a while and..."

"You think they finally got lucky last night?"  Jack sipped at the cooling brew, raised a brow.

"Better them than us.  Would we have been ready for a Dalek?"  Gwen looked at the screen again.  The zoom went in on one spot and showed that what seemed like just a shade of orange was, in fact, yellowish-orange.  The amber was bright, centering in on a very small area.  At the center of the yellow was something intensely red.  "That's what happened last night.  There was a spike in temperature at the point where the Dalek came through a rip in the space-time continuum.  It didn't last long, only a few minutes, but long enough to register.  UNIT must've been watching, prepared against anything that might show up."

"Doing our job."  He mused to himself.  "On one hand, I'm a little peeved about that.  On the other...we can't be everywhere all the time.  If they're predicting it, they're doing a great job.  They were in that spot an hour before the Dalek crashed through."

She looked at him again, this time with surprise, and he explained what Andy had said on the mobile.

"Here, look at this."  She used the mouse to flip through several maps of temperature.  In each of them, the same places had similar shades of yellow.  "That's a weak spot.  The temperature has remained too warm in Berkshire for the last month.  The same length of time that Andy gives for civilian reports of UNIT activity.  What we're seeing---I think---is a weakening of the fabric of time and space over southern England.  Like paper, when you hold a match under it at a distance.  The burn comes through slow, heats up and darkens in patches before bursting into flames."

"Wait."  Jack swallowed coffee and shook his head in disagreement.  "I was there last night.  It was cold.  There was nothing unusual about the temperature in Thatcham."

"Not at the ground level, maybe, but...about twenty-one meters above?  That's not even as high as we've seen Rift activity here, at the Bay.  Was it raining by the time you got there?"  She raised a brow.

Atmospheric excitation.

"No."  He made a face.  "It was just cold and damp.  Nothing surprising there for November.  No surprise snow, no sudden rain.  But you're saying there's an area of warmth above the ground, just...hovering."

"I think that's what I'm seeing."  She agreed.

"A weak spot.  And a Dalek just...came through.  Something tells me that it's not an accident.  What if there's more out there, trying to reach Earth from another...time zone?  Causing those areas to stay warm."

"Then, we're in trouble."  Gwen's brows went up as she put the mouse on the table beside his boots and sat down heavily in the chair facing him.  "Jack, if UNIT predicted a weak spot and captured a Dalek, then maybe---and I can't believe I'm saying this---maybe we ought to offer them our help.  Work with them.  This could be huge.  We might be under attack from...out there."

It made him think of Lyn's history.  The things that he'd heard on the audio cassettes recorded by Robert Youngston.  Lyn had talked of a Dalek invasion, of Daleks breaking through a shield of some kind.  Lyn had described, while wonky on painkillers and sedatives, how the shield worked.  He'd gotten the feeling, listening to his injured friend's description, that Lyn might've had something to do with the shield's design. 

They couldn't build a shield around the planet.  That would alter history as he understood it.  But, maybe there was some other way to handle the weak spots.  If he got Lyn to work with him on this---

Which made him realize that now would be a good time to discuss an idea or two with Gwen.  He swished coffee around inside the mug he held in both hands and tried to sound nonchalant.  "I might've found us a scientist.  He's at least as smart as Tosh, might be the second smartest person I know, right behind the Doctor.  He'd know what this is, and probably have some way to stop it."

She stopped in the process of pouring her own cup of coffee and gave him a gap-toothed grin that was part-exasperation and part-bemusement.  "Well, why isn't he here, doing this?  Put him on the payroll, Jack.  Or is he still trying to get his head around the idea of aliens and space-time Rifts?"

"Oh, he gets it.  He's worked for Torchwood before."  Jack grinned back, lopsidedly.  "He's just shy and doesn't want to leave London."

Her delicate brows rose.  "So, that's why you went to London yesterday?  Looking for recruits?  I thought you might be...you know...dating."

"More like I went to see an old friend and decided that he's just what we need."  Jack held out his cup and let Gwen refill it for him. 

"Just what you need?  Or just what Torchwood needs?"  The smile returned, was deprecating; the sable-haired Welshwoman knew him well, knew that he would mix business with pleasure when possible. 

It would be better than nice to have Lyn working with Torchwood; with Lyn in Cardiff, he'd always have someone who understood what it meant to be truly alone on Earth.  Someone who didn't need explanations from him.  He could imagine what the team might say, meeting the alien human who had lived at Flat Holm for so many years.  The scars on his friend's face couldn't detract from the intense intelligence which lived within the older man's dark grey eyes.

If he could talk Lyn into it.  He wondered how long the aging blond would hold out.  He'd recognized the weakening of will yesterday.  Lyn wanted to give him what he'd asked for but was determined to stay alone, away from Torchwood and away from him.  Maybe what he needed to do was take Gwen to London, to meet his old friend.

But, was that a good idea?  Lyn said that it was dangerous for them to spend very much time together.

Torchwood, however, might really need Lyn Baskerville.

He shook his head at the idea of dating, explained better.  "Torchwood's my priority here.  If he was a different kind of friend, I wouldn't want him on the team.  And he respects that.  In my place, I think he'd do it the same way."

Would he?  Lyn was from a Torchwood of the future.  Torchwood Orion, from what he'd read in the flyleaf of the field journal that he and Martha had examined.  Wherever that was, maybe life as an operative was safer.  Maybe, by that time, Torchwood had become more of an archive, the way he remembered it from his days as a Time Agent.  As he could recall, the things he'd heard about Torchwood as a younger man---back when he was a hotshot who thought nothing of cramming six months of mission into a handful of days---the Archives had been full of scientists and researchers, not gatekeepers and alien criminal investigators.

"He'll be cute, of course."  Gwen's dark green eyes twinkled at him over her mug's curved lip as she lifted it for a drink.

Cute was not the word he'd use.

Jack gave a chuckle, thinking of how the team would react to Lyn.

"Absolutely one of a kind."  He said.

***

He texted again, barely hiding his grin.  'Gwen thinks you should come to work and stop pretending you don't belong here.'

Lyn was quick to answer this time.  'Gwen thinks so?  Let me pack my bags then.  I'll call you when I get to Cardiff.'

Hmm. 

'If you're serious,' Jack responded, his thumbs moving on automatic as his smile rose and bloomed, escaping.  'I'll come to London for you.  No need for the train.'

'Let me think about it, cariad.  It sounds intriguing.'

Which was very different from what Lyn had said.  What could possibly change the scarred offworlder's mind?  He'd thought the no was emphatic enough, but he hadn't intended to give up.  Here he was, trying again, and being coy with it---and the answer was different.

'You told me no.'

'With good reason.'  And there it was, something more like what he'd expected.

Well, he'd try again.  Eventually, he'd convince Lyn.  One way or another.

***

2 November 2011; Monday; 1917 hours
Cardiff

Torchwood sat around the dining room's table, eating a late supper together.  Tonight, it was a home-cooked meal, something Andy's mother had prepared for them.  Anwen was in Swansea with Mary Cooper, who was tickled to have her granddaughter visit for a day or two.

Today, he and Andy Davidson had traveled all over the English countryside, talking with people who had reported late night UNIT activity in their little sleepy villages.  Together with what Rhys Williams had discovered while talking with Marty Gardener in Thatcham, Berkshire, they were building a profile of how the paramilitary arm of the United Nations had behaved over the last month.

He hoped that, very soon, they would have some evidence to back up their suspicions.

Yesterday, Marty Gardener from Thatcham had told Rhys the same things which had been reported to the police.  The overweight Welshman had, it seemed, toned down his accent and pretended to be a reporter investigating UNIT's odd activities.  Gardener had been more than happy to help at the idea of an article in the newspaper, even if said newspaper was a Cardiff rag that didn't even exist.  Photographs had been taken of the access road, the field, the wooded crash site.

A mobile phone had been found.  Jack, it seemed, had missed it in the dark.

The mobile lay on the table, a piece of evidence.  It was grey and black and forbidding in its meaning.  Jack couldn't imagine that it was an accident, the mobile being left behind. 

"Maybe we can use its network signal to track the UNIT lorries, the next time they go out."  Andy suggested, putting a forkful of macaroni salad in his mouth.

The mobile only had three numbers in its contacts list.  None of them were named and none seemed familiar to him, but he had a suspicion that the mobile had been left for him to find.

He was prepared to admit that this sounded like paranoia.

"Mmm."  He agreed, stirring his own utensil through a patch of gravy on his plate.  He'd finished the pie itself and was considering what to do with the bits left.  There were Yorkshire puddings on a rack in front of him.  "Sounds like Mister Gardener had more of a look at the soldiers than the others we've talked to."

He and Andy had compiled a list of similarities between the other incidents.  Most of the people they'd talked with had forgotten about the reports they'd filed with their local police.  Most were surprised to be hearing back from anyone about it.

UNIT had been busy, appearing in small villages and towns at night with lorries and soldiers.  The lorries, in each case, had sat on the edge of various roads and then, after a few hours, would leave again.  But, during the time the soldiers and scientists waited, nothing seemed to happen.  At least, that was how the reports went.  No one had seen anything that suggested Rift-like activity---no aurora-like lights or thunderish noise.

At each location, they had also taken energy readings and found fading traces of proof that the fabric of time and space had been ripped open.  As of yet, they had found no evidence of anything coming through, with the exception of Berkshire.

Kate Stewart had been described in detail by one woman, who claimed to have watched the UNIT lorries sit on a Swindon road for three hours.

So, Kate was involved.  That made it into something more serious.

As serious as a Dalek crashing to Earth.

No one had seen the Dalek actually crash.  Not even Marty Gardener, who had observed the flaming pepperpot come out of the heavy clouds hanging over his village.

Jack plucked a pudding from the rack and mopped it through the gravy on his plate and shrugged, voicing his opinion.  "If Kate Stewart's involved, and there's a Dalek, I'm of two minds.  She's very good.  Very cautious.  I've never worked with her directly, but word is that she brings a new life to the old regime at UNIT's scientific research department.  Like her father, I suppose.  If we need to, since we're not hearing back from Martha, I can call Kate and ask if she wants our help.  She's probably gonna say no, but she'll give it real thought."

"Like her father?"  Gwen's brows came together darkly.  "Another old buddy of yours?"

"Sorta."  He admitted, chewing.  "Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart.  When he ran things at UNIT's R&D, Torchwood got called in to assist frequently.  The Brigadier liked having a full picture of what he might be dealing with.  He had a long-term relationship with the Doctor, in fact, that's the stuff of legends around UNIT."

"Really?"  Andy Davidson was watching his own plate as he worked over the food.  "The way you've described him---not that you really have, you know---I wouldn't think anyone could have a long-term relationship with your friend the Doctor."

Over the last few months, Andy had become privy to a number of quiet facts in Torchwood's history.  As it was necessary. 

Jack couldn't resist a grin as he swallowed the gravied bread.  "The Brigadier worked with---as I count it---at least six Doctors.  Kate could probably give a different number.  She's kept the UNIT archive records where he's involved.  She has to.  When the Doctor shows up, you don't always have time to go through the introductions.  You're usually running for your life in under an hour."

"Well, isn't that wizard?"  Gwen's husband muttered, chuckling as he sat back from the table's edge and his own plate.  "Seems to me you'd want to stay away from an alien---good or bad---that can cause those sorts of trouble for you."

He laughed and nodded.  "You always think so until you're in the thick of it and then you're too busy to do anything but what's right in front of you.  It's exciting and scary, yeah, but worth it.  Most of the time.  For UNIT, it's important, sometimes, to identify the Doctor ASAP and that's not always possible, unless you know what his companions look like.  So, Kate keeps a wall the way her father did.  Pictures, stats.  Identifiers.  I'm up there.  So's Martha and Mickey, among others I've known."

"What about your friend, the one in London?"  Across from him, Gwen was looking at the mobile phone with worried eyes.  "You said that he's almost as smart as the Doctor.  Could he work for UNIT?"

"Who?  Lyn?  If he won't work for Torchwood, I don't think UNIT could ever turn his head."  Now Jack laughed outright at the idea. 

He didn't voice his thoughts on how possible it was that Lyn had been one of the Doctor's companions.

In his pocket, his mobile chimed.

It was Martha, finally answering his text message.  'I knew you would!  Introduce us?'

The other three sat in silence, their expectant gazes on him.

He carefully answered, after glancing at each of the team in turn.

'Yes.  Soon.  Anything stirring on your side?'

Her response was quick and made his guts clench up in frustration.

'Nothing we can talk about.'

Martha Smith-Jones was going to keep him out of the loop.  Orders from UNIT, no doubt, but disappointing nonetheless.  He'd thought they were closer friends than that. 

Jack turned his mobile off and laid it on the table by his empty plate.

"Well, that's it, then."  He frowned at the device.  At the woman who had, in her short message, given him the answer he was afraid of.  "She's not allowed to tell us anything, but she's involved."

His second in command spoke softly, defeat warring with a hint of hope.  "What now?"

He shook his head.

"Jack?"  She insisted.  "What now?"

"We go on.  We investigate what we can and then wait."  He lifted his eyes to meet her worried stare.  "And watch."

"For what?"  Rhys challenged.

That challenge was echoed in Andy's troubled gaze.

"For UNIT to lose control of the situation.  Or decide that they need our help."  He admitted.  "Whatever it is."  It was difficult.  "And hope it's not too late by then."

He could see, from their expressions, that none of his team were quite so willing to accept their defeat.

Maybe it was time he called on Kate Stewart.


******



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