It was late. Everyone had gone to their homes. Gwen to the flat and Rhys’s special hot pot, Toshiko to the house she inherited from her parents, Owen to his bayfront apartment. Ianto…
Jack looked up from his desk and noticed a movement among the workstations. He stood and leaned against the doorway as he watched Ianto sorting out the pizza boxes and coke cans from things that actually were important on Owen’s desk.
“Leave it,” Jack said after he had watched quietly for a few minutes. “Come and have a drink with me.”
Ianto looked at him for a long moment then he dropped the bin liner and stepped into the office. Jack closed the door and went to the cabinet. He poured two glasses of good quality Scotch. He turned to see Ianto sitting in front of his desk, looking diffident and shy as he always did. He passed him the glass and perched on the edge of the desk front, close to him.
“How are things with you?” he asked him.
“Ok,” he answered.
“You’re not seeing Beth tonight?”
“No,” he said.
“Are things ok between the two of you?”
“I think she’s getting to like someone where she works,” Ianto said. “His name is Bryn. Practice manager.”
“Sorry to hear that,” Jack told him.
“No,” Ianto continued. “It’s better that way. She can have a normal life with him. And no secrets. Sooner or later it WOULD have been a problem.”
“Doesn’t make it easy for you, though,” Jack noted. “I’ve been there, you know. Giving somebody up for her own good. Because sooner or later my life would cause her too much hurt.” His eyes flickered momentarily to a picture among the assorted memorabilia on his desk, of a young woman in an austerity dress from the early 1940s. Ianto missed the moment. He was meant to.
“We’re a bit pathetic, aren’t we, sir,” Ianto continued. “Friday night and both of us down here. Up above, ordinary people are having a good time. Drinking, eating out, going to the theatre. And here we are…”
“Totally pathetic,” Jack agreed. He reached out his hand and stroked Ianto’s cheek. He blushed. Jack smiled. Every time they were alone together, every time he made a move on him it felt like he was at the hotel room door after a first date, hoping to get across the threshold.
And that actually made it all the more exciting. Because persuading him to while away a few hours in horizontal pleasure took time and effort, made it worth trying. It was like that advert for Guinness. It really WAS worth the wait.
“I really ought to finish tidying up, sir,” he said.
“I ought to make the lazy slobs tidy up for themselves,” Jack answered. “It’s not fair on you.”
“It’s my job.”
“It shouldn’t be. You’re a Torchwood agent like the rest of us. But anyway, it’s Friday night and we should both be off duty. He reached and lifted him up so that he was perched on the edge of the desk, too. He put his hand around Ianto’s neck and drew him into a kiss, savouring the taste of second hand whiskey on his soft, yielding lips. Maybe neither of them needed to be alone tonight.
The telephone rang insistently, ruining the mood. Ianto stood up, practically standing to attention as Jack slid around to his own chair and answered the call.
“Our old friend, DCI Swanson has a bone fide alien in her cells,” Jack reported a few minutes later. “And she thinks it’s a real laugh that I’m manning the phones on a Friday night.”
“She’s on duty as well,” Ianto pointed out.
“That’s TRUE,” Jack noted with his toothpaste advert smile. “Come on then, let’s check this out.”
“Just the two of us?” Ianto asked. “Shouldn’t we call the rest of the team?”
“It’s just one solitary alien. We can manage. Like I said, you’re a Torchwood agent, and come on, this is more interesting that cleaning Owen’s desk.”
“Not as much fun as what we planned to do for the evening though,” Ianto answered and Jack smiled appreciatively.
“If we wrap this up quickly we might still pick up where we left up.”
“Promises, promises,” Ianto said with a cheeky grin. Jack hoped it WOULD be cleared up quickly.
DCI Kathy Swanson didn’t enjoy being on duty on Friday night. Nobody did. And the Shadenfreude she felt from knowing that “Captain” Jack Harkness was also missing out on the start of the weekend wore off even before the desk Sergeant buzzed her to say Torchwood were on their way up to her office.
“Where’s the rest of the crew?” she asked as she met them halfway and took in that Harkness was accompanied by the one she had always taken to be the Torchwood equivalent of a desk sergeant, the dull but reliable one who did filing and made coffee.
The way Harkness stared at her she could almost believe he had read her thoughts. When he spoke she was sure of it,
“We can handle whatever it is you’ve got,” he told her with an unusual coldness. She was used to him being sarcastic, making jokes at her expense, even the tired old thing of calling her Gloria. Like she hadn’t heard THAT one a million times. But usually he was more friendly.
“Come on then,” she told him. “See what you make of this.” She turned and led them to the custody suit in the lower level of the station, known as the proverbial “place where the sun doesn’t shine” because it was below ground level with NO windows whatsoever.
“He was found on a construction site near Plantagenet Street, stark naked, with blood on his hands and face and the remains of one of the guard dogs strewn around,” Kathy reported.
“He ATE the DOG?” Jack exclaimed. Ianto swallowed hard.
“It’s Friday night in downtown Cardiff,” Swanson answered. “Weirder things have happened.”
“Yeah,” Jack countered. “But usually I’m around to witness them.”
“Usually you’re around to CAUSE them,” Swanson countered. “If you ask me, this one should have gone straight to you in the first place. Our cells are for Humans.”
Friday night’s collection of pissed up street brawlers and general prats in the place where the sun didn’t shine didn’t know or care if it was day or night, mostly. The rapist in cell thirteen deserved never to see the sun shine again as far as Kathy Swanson was concerned. But they WERE all Human. The thing in the cell next to him was another matter entirely.
Wasn’t there a time, Swanson recalled, when Cardiff had been a sleepy market town where nothing happened? If she had a time machine, she’d go and take some r&r there.
Again, as that stray thought crossed her mind, she had the strangest feeling that Harkness knew what she was thinking. Maybe he did. The stuff they had at Torchwood. A mind reading device was probably child’s play. They probably had a time machine, too. Or was that all just rumour and the over-active imagination of every copper who knew Torchwood existed and had never had more than an envious glimpse of what they do?
“This is the one,” she said, nodding to a closed metal cell door. On the chalk board where the name of the detainee should go the custody sergeant had just put a big question mark.
Jack opened the observation panel and looked in. He jumped back as the creature within attacked the door. He had a flash of bared fangs and yellow, maddened eyes and flesh that looked like red leather.
“Ianto, the tranquilizer gun,” he said as calmly as he could muster and Ianto passed him it from the box of equipment he brought in with them. It wasn’t ESP or precognition, just a very excellent operative who knew which tool he was going to need without asking.
Jack opened the panel again and got ready to fire.
And saw what seemed to be an ordinary man curled up in a foetal position on the thin mattress of the narrow cell bunk.
“What the…” Jack exclaimed. “But…”
“He’ll be like that for about ten or fifteen minutes, tops, “The custody sergeant said. “Then it’s back to ravening monster.”
“Jekyll and Hyde,” Ianto commented. Jack nodded. He had put his finger on it.
“Open it up,” Jack said. “Let’s get a closer look while we can.”
“Like I said, ten, fifteen minutes, max,” the custody sergeant said as he opened the door with a rattle of keys. “On your own head be it.”
“Don’t expect your tranquilizer to work, either,” Swanson warned them as they stepped inside. “The duty doctor was in earlier, looking after one of the pissheads who forgot he was diabetic and went hypo. He gave chummy there enough sedative to put the whole custody suite to sleepy bye for the night. Doctor Jekyll was good as gold. But then Mr. Hyde came back and…”
“And?” Ianto queried with just a slight nervous shiver.
“And the duty doctor is in emergency surgery now. They MIGHT save his arm.”
Jack and Ianto exchanged glances but they stepped forward anyway. Again Ianto passed Jack the right tool even before he asked for it. He extracted a sample of blood with the syringe and looked at it curiously.
“Brown blood? That’s different,” Jack noted. Ianto just raised an eyebrow in understated curiosity.
“Brown blood and morphic ability. Superhuman strength, and an evil temper,” Jack noted. “I don’t like it.”
“I wasn’t suggesting you take it for a night on the town,” Swanson commented.
“No kidding,” Jack responded. “What DO you want me to do with it?”
“I’d REALLY like you to get it out of my police station,” she answered. “Did you by any chance bring a big cage to put it in? Some kind of stasis gun, that kind of thing?”
“Stasis gun?” Jack grinned. “Gloria, this is real life, not Star Trek.”
“I don’t believe Star Trek ever used a stasis gun, sir,” Ianto pointed out as he passed him what they DID have, the ‘portable cell’.
“Seems like the stuff works on him when he’s in ‘Human’ form,” Jack noted as he pulled back the eyelids and noted the usual dilated pupils that were signs of a sedated Human. “But not in whatever he really is.”
“He really IS an alien?” Swanson asked. “Like it ISN’T some sort of Human experiment gone wrong?”
“Cardiff, as far as I know doesn’t have many mad scientists doing Human DNA manipulation experiments in the yellow pages,” Jack answered. “It IS, however, on the RIFT. This must be yet another piece of space detritus landing in our back yard.”
“We’ll need to get Owen to analyse the blood sample,” Ianto said.
“Yeah,” Jack replied, holding up the blood sample he had transferred to a sealed phial. “But that’s just for the paperwork. At a glance I’d say this IS an alien that took on Human form to hang out on our planet. But something went wrong and he keeps going back to his alien form, which is not a nice person to know at all.”
“Er… Boss…” Jack noticed that Ianto had his trusty stopwatch in his hand. He was timing their examination of the alien. “Coming up to eight minutes. Detective Swanson said ten to fifteen…”
“Ok, let’s assume ten is the absolute safety. I want to get a reading of…”
As he stepped close to the alien prisoner again, though, it stirred and uncurled itself. The transformation wasn’t gradual like it was with a werewolf. Jack had seen one of those once. It took a good few minutes of painful mutation of the limbs and it was the optimum time to take one, alive of dead, because it was totally helpless until the transformation was complete. But this happened in a matter of seconds. The skinny arms and legs turned to muscles Arnold Schwarzenegger would kill for, and the skin turned from ordinary pinkish flesh to a deep red leather. The eyes opened wide, bloodshot and yellow with nothing but animal madness in them. The mouth opened with a fanged snarl and a clawed hand reached out, missing Jack by a millimetre. As the creature sprang from the mattress he backed away, aware that the others were backing away behind him. He threw down the ‘cell’ and its blue, glowing energy bars enclosed the creature…
… for all of about twenty seconds before it stepped right through them.
“Oh shit!” Jack cried.
“I very nearly did,” the custody sergeant answered him as he slammed the cell door shut.
“TMI,” Jack responded. Then he screamed as he saw the cell door bulging out and the hinges snapping. His shocked brain tried to calculate just how heavy that sort of door was, how strong the hinges and how many levers were on the lock. Whatever the answer was, the creature went through it as if it was no more than the internal door of an ordinary house.
“Move!” Jack yelled, having gathered his composure and grabbed the custody sergeant by the shirt collar and pulled him away from the collapsing door. “Run for it.”
They ran for it, along the corridor and through the main security door that locked behind them with an automatic electronic system as soon as they were through. They all automatically, looked up at the video monitor above the door that showed the corridor within. They saw the creature emerge from the cell. They didn’t hear its roar. The custody suite was self-contained and sound-proofed. They did hear alarm buzzers go off from those few cells where there were prisoners who were awake and relatively compos mentis. A lot of the others were still sleeping it off blissfully unaware of the danger.
The custody sergeant went to his desk and pressed the buttons that alternated between the corridor and inside the rapist’s cell. He had been designated ‘suicide watch’ and the camera in his cell was switched on. The man was screaming in terror and pressing his buzzer desperately as the door was wrenched off. He backed away, his arms raised defensively as the creature stalked towards him.
Everyone looked away. Nobody, not even Jack, and he had seen some things in his time, had a strong enough stomach to watch. If there WAS sound, it would have been a sort of wet tearing and ripping.
“It wanted food?” Ianto asked.
“Looks like it,” Jack answered as he dared to look back. “It seems to be calming down now.” They all looked as the creature lay down on the floor among the pieces of what had been the luckless prisoner. Again, when it was quiet it reverted to a Human appearance, curled up in a tight ball.
“We have to get the rest of the prisoners out of there,” Ianto pointed out. “Before it wakes and wants seconds.”
“Bugger them,” the custody sergeant said. “They’re just pissheads and wife beaters and petty thieves.”
Jack, DCI Swanson and Ianto all turned and looked at him with an expression of disgust. It was Ianto, though, who reacted the most extremely. He grabbed the sergeant with almost as much ferocity as the creature in the custody suite.
“Don’t you ever bloody well say that,” he raged. “Nobody deserves to die like that. Life is important. All life. Don’t you GET it? That’s why we do what we do.”
Jack pulled him off the man.
“Morality can wait. We have to move fast. The creature is sleeping less each time. I don’t suppose this is the sort of cell block that has a central locking and unlocking system? Can we open all the doors at once? So that those who can stand up on their own two feet can run for it?”
“Yes,” Swanson replied. “But I don’t know how many can do that. It’s Friday night. We have a hell of a lot of ‘pissheads’.”
“Get the doors open. Get THIS door open. I’m going in. Ianto…”
“With you, sir,” he replied. Jack looked at DCI Swanson and the custody sergeant. Swanson followed. The sergeant hung back.
“Ok,” Jack said to him. “Man that console. When I say LOCKDOWN, you get all the cell doors locked up again and you get ready to lock this one as soon as the last man is through. That will be me, by the way.”
The sergeant released the main door, and as they stepped into the corridor they heard the metallic sound of doors being released all the way down. A few of the prisoners pushed their doors open and popped their heads out tentatively.
“Run,” Jack called to them. “Run out of here, keep running till you’re outside the station, keep going till you’re home, if you can remember where that is.”
Five prisoners took him at his word straight away. A half a dozen more got the message when they heard the sounds of running and shouting.
“There were thirty-six occupied cells,” Swanson told Jack as they pulled doors fully open and urged the occupants to move it. They each grabbed the first comatose drunk they came to. Jack was only slightly surprised to find that his one was a woman. The ladettes of Cardiff could get themselves in trouble as easily as the lads. He had lived there long enough to know that.
His ladette started to come around as he half carried her. She seemed surprised but not displeased to be in the arms of an attractive man. She tried to kiss him and her hands reached down for a grope.
“Hey, big boy,” she crooned.
“Yeah,” Jack answered. “As a friend of mine once said. There’s a time and a place. Come on, put your feet one in front of the other fast, or you won’t have a chance to regret anything in the morning.”
She wasn’t putting one foot in front of the other. He was more or less dragging her. And time was ticking. The cell where the creature was sleeping off his last meal was between them and the safety door when he heard the tell tale roar. Swanson and her charge had made it through. Ianto, helping an equally slow prisoner, was almost there. He looked back.
“Keep going,” Jack yelled. “Tell your man there to LOCKDOWN. Lock the doors NOW. It’s too late. Get yourself through and lock the doors.”
He, meanwhile dragged his ladette into the nearest open cell door and pulled it shut. He heard the electronic lock engage and tested the door to be certain. He was locked in.
Jack had been locked in cells a few times in his life. Not all of them on Earth. This was the first time he had worried if the door was strong enough to keep him in, and the first time he HADN’T tried to escape.
“Wha….” He looked around and saw that there was already a ‘guest’ in the cell. Another woman, looking even rougher than the one he had dragged in. This one, he thought with as much gallantry as he could muster, couldn’t have been much to look at to begin with. A few pounds heavier than the backless strapless bodice was meant to fit, thick thighs that didn’t go with a tight mini-skirt and far too much make up. She wasn’t even especially young. Mutton dressed as lamb on a Friday night, drinking enough not to care what kind of man she managed to pull by chucking out time.
She rolled over on the mattress and he couldn’t fail to notice that she wasn’t wearing underwear under the skimpy outfit. As her bleary eyes focused and then lit up at the sight of a man in her cell he mentally christened her Lena Hyena. He wondered if it would help if he told her he was gay. Ladette was groping him again as well. He slapped her hands as she tried to undo his fly button.
“Seriously,” he said. “There IS a time and a place.”
Besides, he had much bigger problems than the amorous intentions of two drunk and disorderly women. He could tell by the sound effects outside that the monster was prowling again. It was hungry again and there were still a dozen occupied cells.
It was Russian roulette with cell doors. He heard the creature roaring. He heard a door breaking down. It must have been an empty one, because it roared again and another cell door crashed in a few minutes later. This one much closer to them.
And another one. And Jack realised he was actually praying for the creature to find an occupied one before it reached them. He didn’t want to get ripped apart. And he knew if it killed again and slept it off they had a chance of escaping to safety.
But that meant an innocent person would be sacrificed. And that was a terrible thing to hope for. They WERE just pissheads and idiots. But they didn’t deserve that. And it was his job to protect them. Only right now he wasn’t sure he could even protect himself. His hand went to the gun in his shoulder holster, and for once he really wished he had a modern automatic instead of the old fashioned World War II revolver that he loved to feel the weight of in his hands. He had a feeling he would need more than six bullets if the creature broke through that door.
There was the old thing about saving a bullet for himself. With his ‘special’ abilities he wasn’t sure that would even work. He’d probably recover from the bullet in the head to see himself being disembowled by the creature.
Of all the ways he had thought about FINALLY dying, that wasn’t how he wanted it to be. Bile rose in his stomach at the thought. He was more than a little bit scared right now.
Lena Hyena and the Ladette were cringing in terror, trying to make themselves look small on the bunk. He wondered if he ought to consider two of those bullets for THEM at least. It would be a better way to go.
Then he heard a door pulled apart VERY close. The cell next to their one, it had to be. He heard somebody scream in terror. He felt sick. His ‘prayer’ was answered in the worst possible way as the scream cut off abruptly. He couldn’t hear the sounds of the creature gorging itself on Human flesh. Neither could Lena and Ladette. But their imaginations were filling in the blanks.
A couple of minutes later he heard the thunk as the electronic lock opened. He pushed the door tentatively.
“Come on, girls,” he said, turning to them. “Quickly. Look straight ahead. Don’t look into any of the cells. Take my word for it, you DON’T want to see.”
Ladette took his word for it. She ran for the door at the end of the corridor as Ianto and Swanson with reinforcements came the other way and began to clear the remaining cells of live prey. Lena, though, paused and looked in the cell next door.
“I told you not to look,” Jack told her as what was left of her stomach contents made a nasty mess on the floor. “Come on. Move.” He scooped her up over his shoulder, literally kicking and screaming, and still retching down the back of his jacket and ran for it.
“I think that’s them all,” Ianto said as he came through the door last of all, despite Jack’s promise that he would be the last. “We checked every cell.”
“What now, then?” the Custody Sergeant asked as he locked the door.
“Now,” Jack said. “We get the station evacuated of all non-essential people. Non-essential is anyone not trained to use a gun. Gloria, get weapons issued. Quickly.”
He drew his own gun and took up a position in front of the door to the custody suite. Ianto moved beside him, his stance matching Jack’s, his face set in determination not to let his Captain, his friend, his sometimes lover, risk his life alone.
“You realise that door isn’t going to hold it in for long,” Jack told him without moving a muscle from his defensive stance.
“I know,” Ianto answered.
“You’d be safer….” Jack began.
“You said everyone trained to use a gun. That would be me, sir.”
“I don’t want to see you hurt…”
“I don’t want to see YOU hurt,” he replied. “But we have a job to do. Personal feelings don’t come into it. You know that, sir.”
It was quiet behind the door, and Jack felt as if somebody ought to come up with that crass expression about the waiting being the hardest part. He’d been in enough battles to know that wasn’t true. The worst part was definitely when the shit hit the fan and the fight was on.
His thoughts went back to the Gamestation, to the battle against the Daleks.
He remembered facing them, the greatest enemy of mankind, of creation itself. He remembered staring down their eyestalks. He remembered killing some of them, but his ammunition had been running low and he knew that he was just holding off the inevitable. He remembered the burning heat of the death ray enveloping him. He didn’t remember hitting the ground. He was dead by then.
And then he was alive. And even though it had been explained to him now, it was still the strangest thing. He knew he HAD been dead. He knew he shouldn’t have been alive. But he was. He lived to fight another day. He DID fight many days. He fought in the Indian Wars, the Boer War. He had waited for dawn to break at Paschendale. He had waited to scramble aircraft in the Battle of Britain. Running Torchwood had given him plenty of moments like this before, too.
He hated it. He hated frontlines. He hated being the last man standing as good people died around him. He hated being a warrior, a fighter. But it was what he knew best, and did best. And as long as there were people who needed to be protected, he did it.
He stopped himself before that train of thought derailed into a bunch of Saturday morning cartoon hero stuff. He looked up at the security camera and his heart thudded as he saw the creature bearing down the corridor, towards the door. It knew its supply of immediately accessible food was used up. It had to come through the main security door.
He wondered if it had any built in way of detecting Human life, or was it just acting on instinct.
If they managed to kill it, he could get Owen to dissect it and find out, he thought.
“Boss,” Ianto said. “Is it me, or does it look bigger to you?”
Jack looked. On the screen he tried to measure the height of it against the height of the doors. Ianto was right.
“It’s killed and devoured two people and assimilated the protein into its body.”
“Wow.” Ianto murmured. “That’s one hell of a metabolism.”
“Yeah,” Jack answered. “Something else for Owen to analyse when we take its goddamned carcass back to the Hub. Right now, let’s make sure it doesn’t have either of us for dessert.”
One thing he was sure of. THEY had to kill it, or it would kill them. There was no question of bringing in a live specimen.
“Get ready,” he said as he saw the creature’s attention turn towards the door. There was no need. Ianto was ready. As the hinges screamed and the thick steel door bulged in and broke, they both steadied their hands. They fired, both aiming for the head.
The bullets bounced off the leathery forehead. It almost certainly WASN’T leather, Jack noted mentally. Leather didn’t stop a bullet.
They fired again, moving back slowly, putting the custody desk between them and the creature. Jack poured all of his bullets into the creature. Ianto kept firing as DCI Swanson came down the stairs.
“Here,” Swanson said and Jack turned long enough to catch the MP5 assault rifle she threw to him. He cocked it, snapped off the safety catch and fired. The creature was caught in a hail of bullets. He saw some of them penetrate the leather skin. But the damage was superficial. It wasn’t stopping it.
“Move back,” he ordered. “To the stairs. Are you the only armed officer in the building?”
“The armed response unit are on their way back to the station. They were called out. It’s Friday night. We had a nutter with a shotgun in the Red Dragon Centre.”
Jack remembered that he LIKED the fact that British police officers didn’t carry guns. Right now, though, he rather wished the rift that torchwood three was built on had been in Belfast instead of Cardiff.
“I’m not sure what use they’re going to be when they get here, anyway?” Swanson said as the three of them kept firing from the stairs. “We don’t have armour piercing bullets. And whatever that is… its skin… it’s tougher than Kevlar.”
“Owen can analyse it tomorrow,” Jack said. “Get up the stairs. Move.”
They moved. Jack kept firing as Ianto and Swanson ran up the stairs. Then they covered him as he retreated. From the top of the stairwell they fired down on the creature but still they couldn’t stop it.
“We’re just wasting bullets,” Jack said. “There must be something…”
“At the hub,” Ianto said. “We have stuff in the archive…”
Jack glanced at him as he turned and started to run.
“Just be alive when I get back,” he shouted back.
DCI Swanson looked at him and then reached for her radio.
“I want a motorcycle escort for the Torchwood SUV,” she said. “If so much as a red light delays that car we’re dead.”
As she glanced around to see Jack nodding in agreement she reflected that she wasn’t even sure where the Torchwood HQ was. It could be right around the corner or the other side of the city.
Jack made a mental note to invite the motorcycle escort for a drink tomorrow and slip them some Retcon, because otherwise DCI Swanson was bound to ask them about where they went.
Ianto had thought the police motorcycle outriders excessive when he first hit the road, but as they approached the city centre he was glad of them. Not only did they stop the traffic at every junction and cleared his way through red lights, but they proved very useful as they approached the pub and club area where Cardiff’s young and free spent their disposable income on a Friday night. The sight of a speeding car with blue lights flashing either side of the windscreen made them suicidally curious. Twice he had to swerve to avoid idiots who jumped into the road, waving maniacally.
The armed response unit reached the station. Jack and DCI Swanson pulled back as they moved forward, taking up firing positions as the creature burst through the doors at the top of the stairwell and crashed through the open plan office, knocking computer terminals to the ground, overturning desks. The creature was not only bigger now, far bigger than an ordinary Human being, but the body seemed to be changing rapidly. The legs had lengthened and changed shape, looking more like a dog’s legs and the face was lengthening, too. The fangs fitted into a jaw that resembled a dog.
“It’s reverting to whatever it started as,” Jack noted.
“How big is it going to get?” Swanson asked.
“Very good question.” Jack answered her. “Wish I had an answer. But we have to keep it contained. If it gets out of this station, nobody in Cardiff is safe.”
“I agree. But about the only way we can stop it is by providing it live meat and hoping it takes another nap.”
“That’s not funny,” Jack responded. And a moment later it became even less amusing when it became true. One of the armed response team screamed as the creature reached its head forward on a neck that was no longer even pretending to be Humanoid. Jack took aim and fired, not at the creature, but at the upper half of the man whose body had been torn in half by the slashing claws. He could only have lived a few more seconds anyway. And they would have been agonising seconds.
The SUV was racing down Adelaide street towards Bute Street. The outriders were still clearing the way for it. Ianto put his foot down on the accelerator and it sped forward, leaving them behind. He turned into Bute Street and then jammed on the handbrake, skidding the SUV around ninety degrees before reversing into what was, until the very last minute, a closed garage door. He slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the car as the door closed again. He keyed in the alphanumeric code that opened the back door of the Torchwood hub. He raced along the semi-dark corridor coming out near the secure storage section they called the Archive. It had a lot of weapons in it. Huge alien knives and swords which could probably go through the skin of the creature, if anyone could get close enough to stick them in. There were all kinds of stun guns and ray guns.
But he knew which one he was going to take. He knew which one would kill anything. The one that had killed so many people.
It was one of the first things he placed in the archive when he arrived from Torchwood London, along with a whole collection of alien artefacts that had to be relocated after the destruction of Canary Wharf. He shivered as he looked at the weapon and remembered the devastation such firepower had caused, how many innocent people had died.
This time, it could save innocent lives.
He ran back to the car, doors closing automatically behind him. He raced straight out of the garage and turned onto Bute Street. He caught up with the outriders who were waiting, having reported that they had lost the SUV. They turned and raced to catch up with him.
The crowds of Friday night people were as bad as ever. Twice he missed drunken idiots who wanted to play chicken with an SUV that was already breaking the speed limit for a built up area.
The third time he hit one. His heart skipped a beat as he felt the thud of a body bouncing off the passenger side of the SUV. He glanced around and saw one of the outriders pull up to deal with the victim, but he couldn’t afford to stop. Jack, DCI Swanson, and so many others were at risk of a grisly death.
Maybe it was already too late? He shuddered as he thought of what he might be returning to. A scene of carnage. Ripped body parts, unidentifiable, and the creature stalking the streets looking for new victims.
The thought of Jack among the victims hurt him deeply. He cared for him on so many levels. As his boss, his captain, friend, lover.
“Jack,” he whispered. “Hold on, please.”
Jack was holding on, but only just. He and Swanson and what was left of the armed response unit were hunkered behind a barricade of desks and office furniture, just about keeping the creature at bay with a constant hail of gunfire. Its leathery skin was pocked with bullets but underneath there seemed to be something harder, almost exactly like the Kevlar panels inside regulation bullet proof vests.
Naturally occurring Kevlar! Owen was going to wet himself in the excitement.
“It has no weaknesses,” one of the armed response officers complained. I’ve shot it in the head, the stomach, the neck. NOTHING gets through.”
“We’re slowing it,” Jack said. “If we weren’t hanging on in here it would be down St. Mary’s Street having an all you can eat Human buffet.”
“But that’s ALL we’re doing,” Swanson added. “And we’re going to run out of bullets, sooner or later.”
“Keep going,” Jack told her. “Ianto will be back.”
“Great. Our lives are in the hands of the filing clerk.”
“Ianto is MORE than a filing clerk.” Jack’s voice had an edge when he spoke. Swanson knew it had been a faux pax she should not have made. She wondered just how such loyalty between the Captain and his subordinates came about. She had seen it reciprocated every time she had dealings with Torchwood.
“Forget it,” Jack told her. “I don’t go to bed on an argument. And I sure as hell don‘t want to die on one.” He snapped a new magazine into the MP5 and wondered how much more ammunition they had. He remembered the horrible moment when he was down to his last bullets and the Daleks were closing in on him. It was hard to kill a Dalek, but not impossible. He had got quite a few of them before the end. His last thought as their beams enveloped him had been positive. He had bought the time needed to defeat them. His life hadn’t been wasted.
But if they let this creature overwhelm them, not only would there be no miraculous coming back to life, but it WOULD be for nothing. He really didn’t want to die.
“Sir! Get down,” he heard Ianto yell as he burst into the room. He pushed Swanson down with him and what was left of the armed response team followed their lead moments before Ianto fired the alien weapon. The creature was bathed in what looked like crackling, arcing electrical energy, but it was more than just electricity. It was something that did what all their bullets couldn’t do. It hurt the creature. It roared with pain and backed off, stumbling. As he fired a second time, it actually lost its footing, and while it was still down he stepped forward and fired once more at point blank range.
Ianto stopped firing and stared at the body of the creature. Parts of its skin were blackened and burnt. It was bleeding brown blood. And it was VERY definitely dead. Those maddened eyes were blank and unseeing. He felt Jack at his side. He reached and touched his upper arm, pushing it down and sliding the forearm part of a cyberman suit, complete with deadly ray gun, off of him. Jack looked at the cold metal in his hand. He looked at Ianto. Unlike everyone else at Torchwood Cardiff, Ianto saw close up what the Cybermen could do. He was in the thick of the big battle.. He felt about them the way Jack felt about Daleks. They had taken what meant the most to him in the universe.
What it had cost him emotionally to put that thing on his arm, Jack couldn’t begin to imagine.
“I did what had to be done,” he said quietly.
“Yeah,” Jack said. “Yeah, you did.”
They got the carcass back to Torchwood and sealed it in the cryo-storage. Owen could work on it after the weekend. There might be something they could learn from it. That armoured skin, the morphic ability. Even if they could find out what it was, some idea of where it came from, then…
No, Jack caught himself thinking. No, the information they might gain did NOT add up to those lives. The prisoners, not exactly innocent, but not deserving of a death like that, the three police officers lost in the course of the fight. Nothing about this was the slightest compensation for the bloodbath they had lived through.
“We DID live through it,” Ianto told him as he followed him to his office. Jack poured fresh drinks in the glasses they had left what seemed far longer than a few hours ago. He pressed one into his hand.
“Yes,” Jack said. “We did.” He paused. “YOU did good.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Did you put it back in the Archive?”
“Ok, then. Job done. We’re off duty.” He took a sip of his drink. Ianto did the same.
“Boss…” he began to say. Jack laid a hand over his.
“Hey. I said we’re off duty. You don’t have to call me boss, or sir. You don’t have to call me anything….” He reached and kissed him. Ianto reciprocated willingly. “Except that fantastic Welsh word you call me in the heat of the moment. I love it when you talk Welsh to me.”
“I love to talk Welsh to you, boss,” he answered. Because some habits were hard to break.