Gwen and Toshiko looked at their two men and sighed. A double date seemed like a good idea when they thought of it. Gwen and Rhys, Toshiko and Geraint, her latest flame. Rhys and Geraint were getting on like a house on fire, talking about rugby, soccer, cars, and just about every macho cliché possible, while they had very little to talk about at all. Their work wasn’t something they COULD talk about in public.
“Do you fancy another drink?” Gwen asked her friend. “They seem to have forgotten about us!”
“I’ll come up to the bar with you,” Tosh answered. “For a change of scenery at least.”
The men hardly even noticed them leave. They went up to the bar and waited to be served. The club was busy. It was cabaret night and there was a comedian on at the moment. Earlier there had been a woman singer in a very skimpy outfit and the men had made their drinks last through her set, but now they wanted a drink.
“He’s quite good looking,” Gwen said, referring to Geraint.
“Yeah, but he is boring.” She sighed. “Maybe I should go back to being a lesbian.”
“At least we’d have somebody to talk to,” Gwen said with a laugh as she looked at the two men. “Bloody men. I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t try it, too.”
“Lesbianism?” Tosh looked at her work colleague and friend and smiled. “No, I don’t think it would suit you. You’re too straight, conventional.”
“I’m not THAT conventional. Or I wouldn’t have had that fling with Owen.”
“You had a fling with Owen,” Tosh pointed out. “That’s a conventional fling. If it had been me, that would be breaking the mould.”
Gwen looked around at their men and giggled.
“If we slipped off to try it, do you think they would notice?”
Tosh laughed. It was a tempting idea.
“Wouldn’t work,” she said. “I don’t really fancy you.” But she said it in a joking way and Gwen wasn’t offended. They took their drinks and drank them at the bar and ordered a second round. They eyed up the men either side of them and briefly considered a bit of flirting, just for fun, just to remind both Rhys and Geraint that they WERE attractive young women and couldn’t be taken for granted.
The two men either side of them seemed to get the idea and began chatting with them. Rhys and Geraint hadn’t even noticed. Gwen kept her man to small talk but it looked as if Geraint could end up being the gooseberry later when the show was over and they went home.
“What’s that now?” Gwen asked as she looked at the stage where the cabaret performers had been doing their stuff. There had been another scantily clad girl singer and now the lights turned right down, so that the stage was in darkness and even the tables near to it were in purplish black shadow. A stirring tune with lots of bass in it struck up and a spotlight revealed a masked man dressed in black with a wide cloak that he swirled around him for dramatic effect. He raised his arms and fire appeared to come out of his fingers. He proceeded to swallow the fire and perform a routine of ‘magic’ tricks that involved fire and smoke and lights as he moved around to the rhythm. Gwen found herself interested despite herself. She had never liked magic acts, on TV or live. But she found herself interested in this one. The music was almost hypnotic, and the way the masked man was moving his body and the swirling fire brands and colour entranced her.
Tosh looked at Gwen and wondered why she had gone so quiet. She looked around and noticed that almost everyone else around her was equally entranced, male or female. Even the barstaff and the waiters bringing food to tables from the kitchen were working as if on autopilot while watching what was happening on stage.
This is weird, she thought.
Our kind of weird?
She reached for her mobile phone and hit the speed-dial button that would reach Jack wherever he happened to be tonight. She vaguely thought he had mentioned a club he was going to try ‘pulling’ in.
The call went to his voice mail. Perhaps he had pulled already! She began to leave a message and as she did so her eye was caught by what was happening on the stage. Her message stopped mid-sentence as she forgot what it was she was saying and who she was saying it to.
Jack reached the cabaret club on foot at the same time Ianto and Owen arrived in the SUV. They flashed their Torchwood ID to the police officer on duty at the door and carried on inside. They found the club almost empty. The last of the victims of the unexplained incident were being taken away by paramedics.
“Like hell it was gas,” Owen said as they did their own cursory examination of the scene and immediately dismissed the prevailing theory. “There are gas cookers in the food preparation area. If there had been enough gas around to knock everyone out the place would have been an inferno. They’d have been hauling out charred bodies.”
All the same, he and Ianto took samples of the air from different parts of the club for analysis later.
“So what else could knock out hundreds of people?” Ianto asked he took the driver’s seat of the SUV and Owen dived into the back seat. Jack buckled up in the passenger seat as they slipped in behind the last ambulance. The strobing blue light strips on the windscreen of their black custom made all purpose vehicle were a counterpoint to the flashing light of the emergency ambulance.
“We’ll find out later. First let’s make sure Gwen and Tosh are ok,” Jack said.
He knew there was a bigger picture here. Gwen and Tosh were only two of the victims. But they were the two all three of them cared about as friends and colleagues. They would get to the bigger picture later.
Jack played back the voicemail message. Tosh’s voice, calm, steady, but distinctly worried, telling him where they were, and that she was sure something funny was going on.
He hadn’t noticed it the first time. As soon as he heard the message that trailed off mid-sentence as if she had fallen asleep or been strangely distracted, he had called the other two and took off on foot. But now he listened carefully. And he noticed something odd.
It was a club full of people. But none of them were talking. The only background sound to Tosh’s voice message was the music of the cabaret.
What did that mean? He hadn’t a clue. Maybe Tosh could tell them.
Tosh couldn’t tell them anything when they reached the hospital. She was still unconscious. So were at least half of the victims. Owen discovered that from the triage nurses by using the fact that he was a bone fide doctor as well as a Torchwood agent. Some had begun to come around in the ambulances. Others recovered in the hospital. But a lot were still unconscious yet and causing concern.
Gwen was one of the lucky ones. Jack found her sitting on a chair in the curtained off bay next to where Tosh was. Rhys was the unconscious patient in the bed. She looked tired and worried but her face brightened when she saw Jack.
“Thanks for coming,” she said as he hugged her gently. “It’s so weird. Did you hear anything more about it? They said it was gas, but that’s just silly. I mean, look at Rhys. He looks just like he does in bed every morning before the alarm goes off. Just asleep. If we’d been gassed, he’d be blue and really, really sick. I was at a house once where a man had tried to kill himself and his family by turning on the gas and shutting all the windows. When the paramedics brought them all out their lips were blue and they were pale and clammy.”
“You’re right, Gwen,” Jack agreed. “It wasn’t gas. That was totally lame.”
“We’d have come up with a better cover story than that!” she managed to joke. Jack laughed with her.
“Damn right we would.”
“So what DID happen to us, Jack?” Gwen asked, and in her eyes was an expression Jack understood well. It was trust. She trusted him to either know already or to find out very soon.
“I WILL find out,” he promised her.
“I believe you, Jack.” She answered. “And I’m glad.I’m glad you came. I felt so…”
She didn’t quite know how to explain how she felt. Not to Jack, anyway. But she had explained it to a nurse a few minutes ago and she appeared then with a small pill box with Gwen’s name printed on the computer-generated label. Jack didn’t see what else it said because the nurse’s thumb was over the proprietary name of the drug.
“Here you are,” the nurse said. “The instructions are on the side. And if you feel any side effects or you’re worried at all about it not working go to your GP straight away.”
“Thank you,” Gwen said quietly and put the pill box in her pocket.
“Hey…” Jack followed the nurse out of the cubicle. “What was that you gave her? What side effects?”
“I’m sorry,” she answered. “But I can’t discuss a patient’s medication with anyone. No, not even TORCHWOOD. I’m sorry.” She turned from him and his ID wallet held in front of her face and hurried away, Jack DID notice that she had an identical prescription for another patient in another curtained off cubicle.
“It’s the morning-after pill,” Owen said as he stepped away from the computer at the nurses station where he had been working so quietly and unobtrusively that none of the busy staff had thought to question his right to be there. Even Jack had not noticed him until he spoke.
“It’s… WHAT?” Jack looked around at the curtain between him and Gwen and stepped towards Owen, gripping his arm tightly. “You mean she…”
“Nearly all the women have requested it. The duty doctors said no at first. There’s no evidence to support the need. But so many of them were getting upset and convinced something had happened that they decided to give it to any of them that asked as long as they had no contraindications in their medical history.”
“But Owen,” Jack’s usually cool voice had a slight note of hysteria in it himself. “They think that they were… ALL of them?” His expression was one of horror. “But… Oh my God! Gwen…” He turned and ran back into the cubicle. Gwen was still sitting there. She must have heard at least some of what was said. There was only a curtain between them.
“I don’t know for sure, Jack,” she told him before he could say anything. “I don’t feel as if I was raped. And there ARE no physical signs. I don’t feel bruised or anything. And my clothes were all untouched when I woke up. But I felt… emotionally… as if I had been violated. I just felt I wanted to… to be certain that nothing…” She glanced at Rhys. He was still the same. Jack reached and lifted his eyelids and saw the dilated pupils of somebody deeply unconscious. She nodded. It was safe to talk. Even so she whispered as Jack knelt by her side, his arm on her shoulder reassuringly. “I was worried about what Rhys would think,” she admitted. “If I was… Because we decided the time wasn’t right yet for a baby. And I always use my diaphragm when we… you know.” She blushed delightfully as her eyes filled in the blanks of her sex life. “I wouldn’t want him to think I’d been… I haven’t. Not since Owen. That was a mistake and I would never… again. But Rhys. He’s not… he’s not a very sophisticated thinker. He’d jump to conclusions. And I love him and I don’t…”
“I understand, Gwen,” Jack said, and those three words seemed to make a huge difference to her. She stopped looking anxious. She leaned her head on his shoulder, seeming to find the smell of his old RAF greatcoat comforting. He hugged her tightly and hoped Rhys wouldn’t wake up right now with an unsophisticated judgement about the most innocent cuddle Jack had ever indulged in his entire colourful love life.
“When Rhy wakes up,” he said, standing up at last. “Tell him from me he’s a lazy slob who doesn’t deserve it, but you can have the day off tomorrow to mollycoddle him.” She smiled warmly at that and he turned and looked at the partition curtain. They could both hear voices coming from the other side.
“Tosh…” Gwen said.
“You stay with Rhys,” Jack told her. He’s your first concern. Be there for him when he wakes.” Gwen nodded and reached out her hand to her still slumbering boyfriend. Jack slipped through the curtain.
Owen was with Toshiko. She was starting to come around, but it seemed to be a struggle for her. She was calling or Jack.
“Hey, Tosh, I’m here,” he told her. “It’s ok. You’re in hospital, sweetheart. You’re all right.”
“Jack,” she murmured. “There’s something wrong here. Please come. I think we need help.”
It was the message she left on the voicemail. The last thought she had before she blacked out was fixed in her mind.
“Who did it, honey?” he asked as he reached out and held her gently. “Who did it? What was it?”
“Masked man,” she murmured. “He had a light. It… It split into little lights. One came towards me. I couldn’t…”
She fainted in his arms and was quiet. He laid her down in the bed again and a few minutes later she woke, suddenly this time, her eyes snapping open as she struggled to sit up.
“How did I get here?” she asked looking at the medical gown she was in and her clothes folded by the bedside. Then she looked at Jack and Owen. “Why are you here? Oh… I suppose the hospital must have called you. Torchwood’s number is on my next of kin number on my SOS bracelet.”
“Yeah, that’s it,” Jack answered her. “But what do you remember now? What happened, Tosh?” He didn’t know why, but some instinct told him not to mention any masked man with lights. She seemed to have woken up with different thoughts in her head this time and he didn’t want to confuse matters.
He was right.
“I was at the bar, talking to a man called Drew. He was nice. And I was thinking of dumping Geraint and going off with him. I didn’t want to lumber Gwen and Rhys with him though… Geraint I mean. I remember… There was a rubbish singer on the stage. Cheesy, boring R&B pop stuff. And that’s it. That’s all I remember. “I feel… like I suppose people must feel when we’ve Retconned them.”
“You weren’t Retconned,” Owen assured her. He had her medical notes in his hand and was studying it carefully. “No Retcon, no Rohypnol, no carbon monoxide, no natural gas either. And it wasn’t ether, morphine, any known substance that could cause unconsciousness and amnesia.”
“That it’s an UNKNOWN substance,” Owen guessed. “And the question is, where was it? In the air, in the food, drinks, the ice cubes? Tosh, I’m going to take a blood sample from you. I’ll do Gwen and Rhys, too. And then I’m going to get back to the club and get some more samples. I’ll run every test I know to find out what the fuck happened here.”
“Ok,” Toshiko agreed. “This is so… I hate it. I hate feeling so… vulnerable. It’s weird. OUR sort of weird. The sort of thing WE usually investigate. I don’t like being a VICTIM of it. Because I KNOW just how much weirdness is out there. And I CAN’T be told this is just a gas leak or carbon monoxide. I know better… and it SCARES me.”
“Don’t be scared, Tosh,” Owen told her. “We’re on the case. You can trust us.”
“Look on the bright side,” Jack told her. “You get tomorrow off. Official sick leave.”
“Just the one day?” Toshiko grinned at him. “Scrooge or what?”
“Less of the lip or I’ll make it half a day,” he answered with a grin. “And I won’t send Ianto with the SUV to take you home in the morning when they release you.”
Toshiko grinned at him. He kissed her on the cheek and stepped away as Owen began to take the blood sample. On the other side of the curtain he could hear Rhys’s voice. He was awake and swearing like a Welsh rugby fan and demanding to know what was going on. Gwen was answering him in that patient mother hen tone of voice that Jack imagined she always used when Rhys woke with hangovers on a Sunday morning.
He knew he wasn’t needed in there now. He walked away through the emergency ward, through triage and the waiting room that was filling up with the regular sort of late night casualties who were mostly glaring at the scrolling electronic message board telling them that it would be at least two hours before they would be attended to. He kept on walking out into the car park and sat quietly in the passenger seat. Ianto said nothing. There was nothing to say. Jack said nothing. Because the only thing he could say was “I don’t know.”
What happened? I don’t know.
The question and the useless answer hung in the air, and they both irritated him. Because he could find no better answer to the question.
Owen was irritated by it, too. He said nothing as they drove to the club, by-passing the police again as they went inside. He said nothing there except instructions to them both about the samples he wanted collecting.
Again, on the way back to the hub he was quiet. They all were. Jack knew why. He didn’t need any of the mind reading gadgets in the archive to know what that he, Owen and Ianto were all thinking the same thing, all feeling the same thing.
Gwen and Toshiko were their work colleagues, part of the team. And they were equals in the team. They weren’t just secretaries or tea girls. Sexual equality in the workplace was par for the course at Torchwood.
But all three of them right now felt like men who wanted to protect their women in the old fashioned way. They felt all the rage and grief and impotency of the husbands of women who were raped. They felt for their women. They wanted to love them and reassure them.
And they wanted to beat the crap out of those responsible.
“No wonder Gwen didn’t want Rhys to know,” Owen said quietly as Ianto parked the SUV and he got out of the back seat, dragging the metal case of evidence with him.
As soon as he got to his workstation he started working, even though it was gone midnight. Ianto kept him supplied with strong coffee as he worked. Jack and Ianto, between coffee making, hacked into the police database as they did on a regular basis and went through the witness statements as they came in. The statements were more or less the same. None of the people who had collapsed remembering anything much apart from a bad r&b singer on stage and everything seeming normal. The manager in his office and the doormen had not been affected, and were alerted to the problem by the smoke alarms going off when a pan started to boil dry in the food preparation area. They could tell the police nothing except of finding everyone unconscious.
Which at least disproved the idea of gas, since the manager and doormen were unaffected. But it told them nothing more. Jack and Ianto put their faith in Owen’s skills, certain he would come up with something.
But as dawn broke above Roald Dahl Plas Owen sighed deeply and admitted he was stumped.
“All I can conclude is that nobody came to any harm by what happened, apart from a couple of scalds and burns in the kitchen area and a barman with cuts from dropping a glass as he fell, everyone is completely unscathed. I can find no trace of anything that would cause any long term physical or psychological problems.”
“So they’re all right,” Ianto said with a sigh of relief.
“That’s what I just said,” Owen responded with the hint of tetchiness of somebody who had been up all night running on adrenaline and strong coffee. Ianto diplomatically said nothing in response.
“Take a break,” Jack suggested. “Let’s all of us take a walk in the fresh air, get some breakfast. And then look at it again. I’ll go over the witness statements. Maybe we’ll see something we didn’t spot the first time.”
Owen agreed to that idea. But when he came back to his desk he still had no more ideas.
None of them had.
“What do we say to the girls tomorrow when they come back to work?” Owen asked when the three of them shared a drink in Jack’s office and wearily admitted that they could do no more and might as well go home.
“Well, Tosh has a backlog of suspect UFO sightings to catalogue and Gwen can carry on processing the latest weevil sightings and we’ll get on with business as usual. The girls are… well, they’re not girls. I tell other people off for calling them that. They’re part of the team and they’re professionals. We’ll show them what we’ve found today. Such as it is. Because they have a right to know. But unless they want to talk about it, we don’t.”
And it seemed as if Jack was right. Owen showed them his findings – or lack of them. They DID seem reassured that Owen found no long term issues. They had both been told that at the hospital anyway, but when it came from Owen they believed it. After that both set to work on the assignments Jack had given them. After lunch the whole team went to investigate the only bone fide UFO landing in the batch Toshiko processed and that kept them busy for the rest of the week. There wasn’t really time to brood over experiences outside of work.
Even at home, Gwen found that normality resumed a lot faster than she expected. Rhys contacted one of those injury compensation experts that advertised on Channel 4 in the mid-afternoon to find out if they could get anything out of the club. But an incident in which nobody was physically injured and there was no evidence of trauma of any kind was beyond their terms of reference. He was loud and annoying about it at breakfast when he got the letter back from them, but he never did get around to writing directly to the club owner and demanding damages for ‘psychological injury’.
Weeks slipped by and the incident was forgotten. Jack noticed as he drove by on a different errand that the cabaret bar had turned into an all you can eat Chinese buffet restaurant. But that was nothing unusual. The clubs and pubs of the city centre tended to change hands, change style, change name on a regular basis.
It was seven weeks later, on a quiet morning that was about as routine as it could get working in the secret, underground hub of an organisation that investigates alien activity on Earth. Jack looked up as Ianto came into his office and closed the door behind him.
“Boss,” Ianto began hesitantly. Ianto ALWAYS sounded hesitant when he spoke, so that didn’t really alert Jack to anything unusual. It was more the fact that he had closed the door that made him pay extra attention. “I was cleaning the bathrooms. And I found THIS in the bin in the ladies.”
He put a small object down on the desk. It was a sort of flattened white tube with a small panel in it.
“A home pregnancy test?” Jack and Ianto were both single, but they knew what they were looking at. The panel was showing a faint blue colour. “That’s positive, isn’t it?”
“I think so,” Ianto answered him. “I’ve seen the adverts on TV.”
Jack looked out through the glass panelled door at Gwen as she worked at personal profiles of the victims of a blood-sucking alien that seemed to prefer snacking on middle aged overweight men. She had mentioned on more than one occasion that she and Rhys might want a baby some time, but not yet. She enjoyed her work here and she knew she would have to give it up, at least temporarily.
A home kit. That was, Jack had always thought, the sort of thing women use when the pregnancy is unplanned. Especially when it is the result of something outside of their normal sexual relationship.
Had Gwen been playing around then? He glanced at Owen. But he was pretty sure that relationship had burnt out long ago. It could have been someone outside of work, of course. Though he wasn’t sure Gwen’s social life was the sort where she would meet anyone else. She always talked about going out with Rhys, never anywhere on her own, or with female friends, where she might ‘pull’.
Of course it might be that she didn’t want to tell Rhys until she was sure. Or she was planning to terminate the pregnancy without Rhys knowing because she wasn’t ready yet.
Whatever the story, he was going to have to talk to her about it. As her boss, and as her friend, he felt he had to.
He was so busy looking at Gwen that he didn’t even notice Toshiko get up from her desk and come towards the office door with a paper folder in her hands. She had stepped inside and approached the desk before he snapped his mind back to the present moment, and by then it was too late.
Toshiko looked at the pregnancy test kit he was still holding in his hands and drew in an audible breath.
And then burst into tears.
“It’s you?” Ianto expressed what both of them had thought in that instance. “I mean… Tosh… Um… Here… Sit down.” He pulled out a chair and sat her down. “Can I get you anything? A cup of coffee… tea?”-
“No, nothing,” she answered in an irritated voice at first, then she softened as she looked at Ianto’s honest, open face and realised he was only trying to be kind to her. “Yes, please. A cup of tea would be nice.”
He turned to do that for her and saw Gwen and Owen both standing by the door, wondering why Tosh was crying. They, too, had seen the white stick in Jack’s hand and put two and two together.
“Tosh?” Gwen said. “That’s… unexpected. Why didn’t you tell me? I didn’t even know you were seeing anyone. You never even called Geraint after that night…”
“That’s the thing,” she said with a fresh sob. “I haven’t been seeing anyone. I haven’t had sex… not with a man anyway… for at least six months. And if you make anything of that, Owen Harper I’ll swing for you, I will.”
“I’m making nothing of it,” Owen answered her. In fact he was far from joking as he took the pregnancy tester from Jack and looked at it closely. “Except… The earliest these things are accurate is about six or seven week’s after conception. And that would be…”
“That night in the club…” Gwen did the maths before anyone else. Tosh was a moment behind her, letting out a frantic gasp and forgetting even to cry as the implications hit home with both women. “We WERE raped. We weren’t just being paranoid or stupid. But…” She looked as Tosh with wide open eyes. “But Tosh, why didn’t you take the morning after pill?” Gwen asked. “I thought they gave it to everyone who asked for it.”
“I DIDN’T ask for it,” Toshiko answered. “I may be a long way from the traditions my parents cherished. But some things matter. I don’t agree with abortion. But…”
“Wow!” Owen said, suddenly. “Village of the Damned.”
“What?” Everyone looked at him and wondered what that had to do with anything.
“It’s a film… there’s a book, too. About a village where everyone gets knocked out for twenty-four hours and when they wake up all the women are knocked up!”
“Yes,” Jack said. “We all work in the field of alien incursions. We’re familiar with the fiction on the subject. But….” Then it clicked with him. As it did with everyone else.
“I’ve been raped by an ALIEN?”
Nobody could blame her for sounding a bit hysterical at that point. Jack reached out to her, but Owen was there first.
“Nobody was raped. The tests all came up negative. But let’s make sure this isn’t a false alarm before we do anything else. These home kits aren’t always 100%. Come on down to the lab. I can run some tests.”
“They won’t hurt… I don’t want… Even if it IS alien… I still don’t hold with abortion. Don’t…”
“Trust me,” Owen told her. “I AM a Doctor.”
“Yeah,” she agreed with a smile through her tears. “But most of the time I don’t trust you as far as I could throw you.”
“Course you don’t,” he replied. “But now’s the time to start.” He lifted her to her feet gently and held his arm around her as he walked her out of the office. Jack, Gwen and Ianto looked at each other and all tried to find something useful to say.
“Owen!” Gwen said at last. “How is it he can be such an insensitive shit most of the time, but then he was so sweet to Tosh just then?”
“There’s more to Owen than insensitive shit,” Jack answered. “Apart from anything else he’s a very good doctor. And we all need one of those in our lives. Meanwhile, assuming we’re right about this, and assuming the test is correct…” He paused in thought for a moment, tapping the table unconsciously. “Gwen, take Owen’s workstation and pull up all the patient records from that night. See just how many of the women took the morning after pill, and how many of those that didn’t have gone for pregnancy tests.”
Once Gwen would have protested hotly at the huge breach of patient confidentiality that represented. But she had learnt not to question anything Torchwood did any more. She only pointed out that seven weeks was quite early and most of them probably hadn’t seen a doctor yet. They would be buying test kits like Tosh had done and doing it secretly in the office loo.
“Good point,” Jack conceded. “But look anyway. It’s a place to start.”
“I think we ALL need that tea,” Ianto said and turned to go to the kitchenette where he kept the team stoked up with hot beverages on the average working day. Gwen went to the workstation and when he returned with a tray and passed her a cup she was hard at work. He gave one to Jack and left the other two cups on the table in the rest area where the team relaxed and ate meals sometimes, or actually took a coffee break away from their workaholic workstations. As he looked at the jumble of newspapers and magazines he hadn’t yet tidied up he thought of something. A quick rummage found what he was looking for. A story he had passed over as nonsense that suddenly took on a new importance.
He didn’t say anything yet. But an hour later they were all gathered around that same table. He made a fresh pot of tea and they all hugged cups as they brought their various findings to discuss together. Gwen reported that there were just four women who hadn’t asked for, or who had refused, the morning after pill, but the other three had not yet gone to a doctor.
Everyone turned and looked at Owen.
“Tosh IS pregnant. But she’s NOT having an alien baby,” he said. “She’s having her OWN baby. I did an amniocentesis test. I ran the usual tests to prove paternity and a couple of UN-usual ones. And the tests say that there is only one parent – Tosh. The baby’s DNA is a duplicate of hers. It’s as if she had conceived asexually.”
“Bloody hell,” Ianto swore. Jack said something a little stronger. Gwen said nothing but she reached out to hold Toshiko’s hand. She managed a weak smile.
“There was a similar situation involving captive sharks a few months ago,” Owen added. “They were in a zoo in Nebraska. An all female group and one gave birth without a male involved. The technical term is Parthenogenesis….” Owen stopped talking as his colleagues all turned away from looking at him and looked at Toshiko instead. He knew he had lost a few of his ‘sensitive man’ points by getting too technical about what a very emotive issue for her.
“It’s still creepy,” Tosh said in the silence that followed. “But if it IS a Human baby and not some… I was scared it was a weevil or something…”
“But how can it happen?” Gwen asked. “Never mind the bloody sharks. How can it happen to humans? I mean even an alien can’t… can they?”
“It’s a new one on me,” Jack admitted. “It’s never happened before as far as I know.”
“I think it HAS happened before,” Ianto contradicted him and he opened out a newspaper. It was the Daily Star from a couple of days ago retrieved from the bin. On page six was a story about a pub quiz team of six women who had all become pregnant at the same time. They were all pictured in a line, wearing maternity dresses and holding knitting needles with half made baby bootees while grinning manically.”
“They’re all twelve weeks on,” Ianto said. “And then there’s THIS.” He opened up a magazine. The Fortean Times. There was usually a copy around the Hub. Those who KNEW for certain that aliens DID exist generally laughed at the conspiracy theories and made fun of them. But Ianto turned to a story with the heading “Immaculate Conception” about a woman who was pregnant and still a virgin, this fact confirmed by several reputable doctors, the article claimed. Her own story was that she had been at a concert in Margate and had fainted. She claimed that while she was unconscious an angel dressed in black had brought a bright light that impregnated her.
“Dressed in black?” Tosh looked puzzled. So did Gwen. Jack looked startled by the same revelation. His memory of that night was stirred.
“A man in black…” Gwen said, pressing her hand to her head as she tried to remember. It was a bit like the time when she had been Retconned and something triggered one of the forgotten memories. “Wait a minute…”
“There WAS a man!” Tosh exclaimed. “I remember now. A masked man in a black cloak. I wouldn’t call him an angel. Way too weird looking for that. It was a magic act. How did I forget it?”
“I forgot, too,” Gwen said. “There must have been about half an hour missing from our memories.”
“You were meant to forget,” Jack said. “It must have been some sort of mass hypnotism. That’s why nothing showed up in the blood tests.”
“Nobody WAS raped,” Owen insisted. “Although making a woman pregnant against her will, whatever bloody way he did it… I’d still like to smash his bloody face in when we catch up with him.”
The other two men agreed with him.
“So LET’S catch up with him,” Jack said. “Ianto, you go and see the Immaculate Conception of Margate and get more information. Owen, you and me are going to…” He looked at the newspaper again. “Dudley, apparently. Gwen, Tosh, this is not male chauvinism. It’s practicality. Tosh, you should be on desk duty anyway. That’s a health and safety requirement in your condition. And Gwen, you’re able for anything. I know that. But I’m not going to risk him having another go at you.”
Gwen accepted that. So did Toshiko.
“Tomorrow, I’ll go through those health and safety issues in more detail,” Jack promised her. “You’re excused cleaning Myfanwy’s nest, anyway, for starters. And you should probably avoid handling anything on or near Owen’s desk.” He smiled warmly at her as he slipped on his coat and made ready for an unplanned road trip.
An hour and a half into what was a two hour drive even with a useful alien gadget that made red lights turn green ahead, they had lapsed into silence after talking over every possibility. Jack’s mobile rang and he saw that it was Gwen calling.
“Is everything all right?” he asked anxiously.
“Yes,” she answered. “But I think you should forget Dudley and keep on going up the motorway to a place called Camelot.”
“Camelot?” Jack was puzzled. “Isn’t that…”
“It’s a theme park in Lancashire,” Gwen told him. “Me and Rhys went there once, first year we were living together. He got sick on the dragon flyers….”
Jack smiled at Gwen’s irrelevant digression. When she got back to the point though, he wasn’t smiling.
“I got back to the club where we were. Found out about the acts on the programme that night. There was a magic act called ‘The Great Chaulloachla.’ And I checked him out. He performed in Margate 18 weeks ago, and a club in Dudley 12 weeks ago. And TONIGHT he’s at Camelot.”
Owen was already programming the GPS route finder on the dashboard. Another ninety miles of motorway. Jack turned to the seat behind him. There was a cooler bag with soft drinks and some sandwiches. Gwen, bless her heart, had provided for their trip, and as long as their bladders held out they didn’t need to look for the service stations. They were glad to keep on going, closer to catching The Great Chaulloachla and finding out what he was up to.
And maybe giving him the kicking he deserved for messing about with Toshiko and Gwen and all the rest of his victims around the country – maybe even the world.
Giving aliens a good kicking wasn’t exactly in the remit of Torchwood, Jack reflected. They were NEVER meant to be vigilantes. But there was a feeling that somebody needed to be punished and it WAS that feeling that spurred them on as a late afternoon turned into an early evening.
“Won’t the park be shut by the time we get there?” Owen asked.
“Yes,” Jack answered looking at the computer monitor he had pulled out in front of him. “But in the evening they have special performances for the guests at the hotel next door - medieval banquet and jousting exhibition, followed by mystical magic from you know who…”
“Whatever rocks your boat!” Owen commented in a tone of voice that suggested that he DIDN’T get excited about the prospect of a fake medieval banquet followed by fake medieval entertainments.
“We don’t have to take part,” Jack said. “We’re just going to go backstage and have a quiet word with The Great Chaulloachla.”
The Park was everything they both feared. Several acres of rides and performance areas on a very loose and historically inaccurate medieval theme. Most of it WAS closed by the time they arrived, but they collected the tickets Jack had ordered by internet on the way up and were directed to the banqueting hall.
Except they didn’t go to the banquetting hall. They slipped away behind the hospitality block and found their way to the performers entrance. They tried to look as if they belonged in a busy backstage area full of people dressed in medieval hosiery and funny hats and carrying juggling balls and clubs and the like.
“Can I help you?” asked a man dressed as a medieval king with a cheaply gilded crown.
“We’re looking for The Great Chaulloachla,” Jack answered, feeling slightly foolish abut asking.
“He doesn’t dress with us mere mortals,” the ‘king’ answered. “He has his own caravan with him. He insisted on being situated near to the performance arena. So they put him behind the stables.”
Everyone in earshot giggled at that. Clearly The Great Chaulloachla was not popular with the other artistes.
“We’ll catch up with him there, then,” Jack said and they backed out into the open air again. They got their bearings and worked their way around to the back of the stables where the horses for the jousting displays were kept. There was a caravan there. Or what appeared to be a caravan. Jack looked at his wristlet and frowned.
“If I’m not mistaken,” he said. “That’s a space craft with rudimentary chameleon circuitry.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Owen answered. “We’re going in?” He reached for his gun. Jack did, too. He was glad this was a more or less hidden spot. They didn’t need witnesses as they approached the caravan door with guns drawn. Jack reached into his pocket with his free hand and found the small but powerful tool Suzie had added to the archive before her death, the one that would open any lock, even a deadlock seal. He clamped it against the door and heard a click as it unlocked. He pocketed the tool and pushed the door open.
He was right. It WAS a spaceship. A small one, with basic hyperdrive capability, Jack guessed. You could get to the other side of the Milky Way in four or five days, anyway. It reminded him a little of the Chula ship he had knocked about in for a long while. It could almost feel like home if what other people called home didn’t amount to much for you.
The Great Chaulloachla was at home, anyway. He had his back to the door, and was speaking in his own language into what looked like a space age Dictaphone. Jack understood the language, of course. He heard him talk about the progress of his experiment.
“THAT’s what it was all about?” Jack cried out angrily as he crossed the floor and grabbed The Great Chaulloachla by the shoulder. “An EXPERIMENT. You used her… THEM… as guinea pigs.”
“Who are you?” The Great Chaulloachla demanded in perfectly enunciated English. “How dare you break in here. I will have you arrested.”
“Don’t give me that,” Jack answered as he pushed him to the ground and held him down with his knee while Owen pressed his gun against his head. “We’re inside your spaceship. I heard you speaking in your own language. I know you’re not Human. You’re not from this planet.”
“So?” The Great Chaulloachla answered him. “There are millions of non-humans on this planet. They have been coming here for centuries.”
“And Torchwood have been throwing them back for at least one century,” Jack said. “Now talk, chummy, or I’ll set this ship on autopilot and send it into the sun. I’ve done that before with a stroppy alien who wouldn’t behave. Don’t think I’m bluffing. What’s this experiment? And how many women have you used…”
“Raped…” Owen said.
“Yes,” Jack agreed. “Raped. Used against their will, manipulating their bodies for your own use. How many?”
“One hundred and fifty,” he replied. “But I don’t expect all the tests to be successful. The technique is still in the experimental stages. That is why I had to use females of this Human species. Such experiments are illegal on my planet. Here, there is no jurisdiction…. There is no authority to prevent me…”
“Oh yes there is,” Jack informed him, his knee pressing a little harder on the middle of the alien’s chest. “There’s ME. I’m the authority that says alien scum doesn’t experiment on Human women.”
“What was the plan?” Owen asked. “When the babies were born were you going to take them away? To find out if they were what you expected?”
“Fucking hell,” Jack swore. “Is THAT the plan? To steal the kids once they were born, once the mothers had come to love them? You’d just take them…”
“They are MINE,” The Great Chaulloachla insisted. “My technique created them. They are mine to use as I please. MY experiments.”
“Like hell they are,” Owen said, kicking the alien in the side hard. “You can piss off back to where you came from and leave those women alone. The babies belong to THEM and if you come near even one of them I’ll rip your fucking alien head off.”
“You will stop me?” the alien laughed. “How? I can return to this planet any time, in any place. Your radar is pathetic. It cannot trace me. I will complete my experiment…”
“No you won’t,” Jack told him. “Because you’re going back with us and you’re going into the Torchwood cells until we can manufacture a charge to get you arrested and slung into an Earth jail for the rest of your miserable life. And this ship can fly into the sun like I said. You’ll be trapped here on Earth and powerless to harm anyone.”
Jack grabbed The Great Chaulloachla by the collar and hauled him up. He pushed him towards the door. He told Owen to take over marching him to the SUV while he went back and dealt with the ship.
It didn’t take long to reprogram the ship to fly to its own destruction. No more than a few minutes. And it wasn’t Owen’s fault, even though he was cursing himself for being a “careless twat” when Jack caught up with him, sprawled on the floor after being dealt a blow to the head that while not knocking him out completely gave Chaulloachla a head start.
“Be careful,” Owen told Jack. “He’s got my gun and there are innocent people about.”
The guests were getting ready for the medieval jousting display. And they didn’t pay to see a twenty-first century firefight with guns. This had to be quick and quiet. Jack knew that as he raced after the black shadow of Chaulloachla that broke cover and ran from the darkness towards the floodlit arena. Loud, dramatic music stirred the air and hid the sound of Owen’s gun as Chaulloachla paused long enough to take a pot shot at Jack. It missed. But Jack’s return shot, again masked by the heavy bass of the music that heralded the arrival of the king’s jousters didn't. He got him in the leg. But whatever planet Chaulloachla came from they made them tough. He kept moving, climbing a wall in his attempt to escape as Jack gained on him.
Jack launched himself at the wall, too, as Chaulloachla dropped down the other side. But unlike the alien fugitive he took heed of the old Earth adage, ‘Look Before You Leap.’
And he didn’t jump down in the path of a stallion horse charging along the practice paddock towards the gate to the jousting arena. The rider, a skilled stunt horseman, tried to stop what could only be described later as a tragic accident. Chaulloachla screamed once as the horse reared and the front hooves smashed into his face and chest as it came down again.
The gate was closed and the comic juggler ran into the arena to give the audience an impromptu display while the jousting was delayed. Grooms dressed as heralds in fanciful colours helped rein in the horses, but by the time Jack reached the body, with his psychic paper declaring that he was a paramedic, he was beyond medical help.
“What the fuck was that?” somebody asked as the sound of the spaceship taking off in cloaked mode distracted them momentarily from the dead man. The sound died away as quickly as it began.
Jack laughed. “Do you have any medieval aliens landing in the park?”
Making a joke of it dismissed the possibility from the minds of the witnesses. Meanwhile, Owen was backing the SUV into the paddock and only a couple of people had the presence of mind to ask how come the body was being put into a body bag and slung into the back of the car instead of calling an ambulance.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jack said to them. “The show must go on, remember. The people out there are going to be bored with juggling in a minute. I’ll be back in the morning to take statements and make an accident report. But nobody is to blame. The guy was suicidal. He was going to do it one way or another. Just be thankful he did it backstage and not in front of your audience.”
The rider of the horse that had brought the man down was only partially relieved by that. It was as traumatic for him as it was for the driver of a car that hit a pedestrian. But Jack didn’t have time to worry about him. He needed to get the body out of the way before anyone noticed that the humanoid Chaulloachla bled deep yellow blood. If the jousting continued now, the evidence would get nicely trampled into the ground. He was happy for everyone to forget there was a proper procedure in the event of accidents and this wasn’t it. Tomorrow he’d send a report in to Health and Safety. Something that wouldn’t have any comeback on the Theme Park. It wasn’t THEIR fault, after all.
But now they had a three hour drive back to Cardiff with an alien body in the back of the SUV. That was problem enough for one night. Tomorrow, he needed to have that chat with Toshiko and make arrangements to have all of the women impregnated by Chaulloachla secretly monitored. When the kids were born, it would be interesting to see…
No, it wouldn’t, he told himself. Chaulloachla’s plan had been to observe them, as guinea pigs in his experiments. Torchwood weren’t going to do the same to them. Let the Dudley quiz team knit their bootees, the Margate Virgin tell her story about black clad angels with lights to the Child Support Agency!
Toshiko had all of them as friends. She’ll be fine, he told himself. As he glanced at the roadsign telling him the M6 was up ahead he wondered idly if a Hub crèche was a practical possibility.