March 18TH, 1958

Extract from Torchwood Files

I ALWAYS hate March 18th. It’s the day when he wakes up. For some reason he’s been my responsibility ever since I joined. Fergus used to have to do it but was only too glad to shift it onto me. Fergus would never say it. But I could tell that he creeped Fergus out.

I always get in really early on March 18th. Firstly cos I can never sleep the night before. I once tried waking him up on a hangover. It was not a success.

I went down to the vaults, down to the far corner, and then through into the special chamber. I type in the code on the key panel, unscrew a few clips and then go and put the kettle on while he thaws.

By the time I'm back, he’s awake and glad of the coffee.

He’s quite striking really. He's handsome, looks to be early thirties, with piercing blue eyes and a broad grin. He looks out of place here, sat in this tiny little cryogenic cell, wearing a one-piece thermal suit.

“Your hair’s grown,” I tell him.

He shrugs. “A bit, I guess. Might need to get it cut in another 20 years.”

“Today, I tell him, is March 18th, 1958.”

He paused, breathed in deeply then sighs and shakes his head. “Doesn’t ring any bells with me, I’m afraid.”

I hand him a pile of the day’s newspapers and he looked at them. He chuckled at one name. “Harold Wilson?”

“Do you recognise it?” I ask.

“Not really. I think I’ve heard of him. But..” his face falls.

“In a historical sense.” He sighs. “We could be hundreds of years off.”

We both go quiet and sip our coffee.

The stranger has been with us for 50 years now. He fell through a hole in time from the future, with no memory, Torchwood took him into protective custody, and once they’d established that he wasn’t an alien threat, we brokered this deal with him.

He could either live out his live in the wrong time, or we could wake him up, once a year, to see if it was the right time, there will, we assured him, always be a Torchwood. So it’s just a matter of time.

And for the moment it seems to suit him. He never complains. He just sits there, looking blank, and a little wry, reading the year’s headlines, and sadly shaking his head.

We always let him go outside for a trip.

“What’s it to be this year?” I ask.

He scratches his chin. “Have the movies got any better?”

I shake my head.

“The theatre?”

A particularly bad farce is playing at the New Theatre at the moment.

Rationing is over, isn’t it?” he asked


In which case, how about some shopping this morning, and then dinner and dancing in the evening? Get me back before 12, or I’ll turn into a pumpkin.”

I smile broadly, although it’s breaking my heart. He’s just so nice. It just seems a heartbreaking way to spend a life.

“Sure. I’ve got some work to do. Shall we go shopping at 10? Charlie’ll send you down some breakfast.”

“Not a problem.” He grins, picking up his book. “I feel as thought I've been reading this for a lifetime. I'm tempted to skip to the end to find out who really murdered Roger Ackroyd.”

We go shopping. It’s a windy day, but he seems delighted to be out in the sun.

“You know,” he says as we sit in a tea room. “I could just run away. Get on with my life.”

“We’re not stopping you. You’re not our prisoner.”

He smiles. “I’m time’s prisoner. It’s strange. No one is missing me, because I’m not missing yet. The people who would miss me might not even be born. And even when I do go missing, they’ll never know, as I’ll just turn up as soon as I go missing. The greatest thing that’s happened to me is something that only I‘ll ever care about.

I put my hand on his arm. “Not just you.”

He looks at me, amused. “Why thank you, Ma’am” I feel vaguely insulted. But he doesn’t seem to notice.

“It’s good of you to be around,” he continued. Fergie didn’t like it at all. And you couldn’t go dancing with him.”

I giggle. A bit girlish. I rather fear I've got a pash on him.

He stops, mid-thought. “My memory is coming back, you know. Gradually. Just not coherently. It’s nice seeing the name Harold Wilson. I guess it means that from here on in there may be more and more facts, each one triggering something. If I did know the future, though, what would happen to me? Would you lot drain it out of me?

I start to shake my head and then stop. It depends if the information in your head is in the national interest.”

He draws away from me, and shakes his head. “Thanks for that. I think it’s best if I stay vague right up until I realised I’m baked.”

I smile, slowly. “Perhaps you’re right.”

Hours later, we’ve dined, we’ve danced and we’ve drunk. We pause at the entrance of Torchwood, just to grab a saveloy from Charlie’s fish n’ chip shop, then we take the lift down to the vault.

I stop at the door.

He settles down, tucking himself up in bed.

He looks up from the pillow. “Thanks for today he says, sipping the last of a glass of champagne. See you next year for the hangover.”

“Yeah, I say, keying in the cryo unit. “See you next year.”

I hate March 18th.


Toshiko closed the PDF file with the handwritten extract from a past Torchwood agent’s personal journal. She wished there was more. There was an official record of this day every year since 1908 when the stranger first took up occupation of the cryo unit. But they were so impersonal. They recorded things like his weight, body fat, BMI index, and notes, very sparse ones, of what he thought he remembered. That one journal entry from exactly fifty years ago was the only thing that felt in any way personal and warm and real about him. And it was just that one entry. In other years the same writer had resumed the formal notes. Toshiko wondered why. Perhaps the boss had seen the bit about her having a bit of a ‘pash’ for him and told her to keep it professional. Perhaps something had happened to cool the ‘pash’. Who knows.

Toshiko wondered how she was going to cope with the ‘duty’ this day when the responsibility fell on her. Last year it was Ianto. Before then it was Jack, and Owen before him. Suzie had done it the year before that. And Jack several times more. Before then it was other people whose names she didn’t know.

Funny to think of it, really. How there had been a Torchwood here for over a century, the team members changing all the time. Even in the past few years it had changed. Suzie, Owen and Jack had been here when she arrived from London, recruited after the Alien in the Thames incident. Ianto came as a sort of refugee after Torchwood London was destroyed, though somehow he had a way of seeming like he had always been a part of the scenery that made it seem longer. Then Suzie had died, and Gwen had taken her place. Sooner or later, one or more of them would move on, and somebody else would take their place. The people changed. But Torchwood remained. There will always be a Torchwood, as they said in 1908.

There were only two exceptions to that rule.

Jack, who SEEMED to have been there forever.

And the stranger, who HAD been there forever.

She was curious about him. A little excited. More excited than the woman who wrote the 1958 journal was. She wasn’t scared or repulsed. She really rather wanted to meet the mystery man.

Who knows, this might be the year that it all came together and he could end his vigil.

She looked around. Ianto was standing there quietly, diffidently. As always. She was sure if she looked up ‘diffident’ in a dictionary it would say “See Ianto Jones for practical example”.

“You don’t really need to be there,” she said. “I can manage. Everyone else has all these years. Its not like he’s violent or something.”

“The Boss said I have to open the cryo unit. You’re not to be involved. Just in case.”

She wasn’t sure whether all these little things the Torchwood men did for her, ‘just in case’, pleased her or irritated her. Jack had gone through all the things they did at Torchwood that were harmful to the baby, and assigned her work that was safe. That was just as it would be in any responsible workplace. But she was sure in any other office or factory she wouldn’t have quite so much personal attention.

“I really COULD manage, you know,” she added. “But thank you.” She stood up and walked with Ianto to the lift that took them down a further floor to the cryo unit. Most of the sealed doors here contained dead bodies, alien and Human. Suzie was one of them, she remembered with a shudder. So was the sad shell of Ianto’s girlfriend, Lisa, still with the cyberman augmentations grafted onto her flesh. Her brain was in a separate, smaller unit, almost as if they were afraid to put the two together. There was also the two parts of a medieval soldier in full armour who once fell through time just after he was decapitated in battle, and all kinds of things that would give anyone of a nervous disposition nightmares.

But people of a nervous disposition didn’t work at Torchwood.

One of the largest cryo units was the one the stranger occupied. The door was tall and wide like a walk in cold storage in a commercial kitchen. Ianto told her to stand back as he keyed in the code that unlocked the big metal door and pulled back the spring loaded bolts. There was a satisfying hiss as the seal was released and the door opened automatically. She felt the cold even where she was standing. As the mist of sudden condensation cleared, she could see the figure inside. He was lying in a bed. He actually had pillows and blankets. They made it comfortable for him before he was frozen. They made it normal. She had sort of expected something like an execution chamber, with him strapped down to a table. This almost looked civilised.

“There’s a special system built in,” Ianto told her. “When he’s ready, he self-administers an anaesthetic, and the cryo-unit doesn’t come on until the sensor indicates that he’s fully under.”

“So it doesn’t hurt? He doesn’t feel anything. That’s good.”

“Yes. Well, I’ll leave you to it. There’ll be coffee brewing. He likes a cup of coffee when he wakes up.”

Toshiko nodded. She waited, leaning against the railing, and watched the still, quiet figure in the bed inside the cryo unit. There was a sort of hairdryer sound and smell as the unit slowly warmed up.

Then she saw him move. He sat up, pushing the blankets back and swung his legs over the side. He stood up unsteadily. He was wearing a sort of all in one cryo suit of metallic fabric that reminded her of a 1970s glam rock performer. He took a couple of steps and grabbed the doorframe. Toshiko moved forward to help him.

“I’ll be all right in a minute,” he said. “I always feel a bit unsteady at first. Are you the one chaperoning me today?”

“Yes,” she answered. “I’m Toshiko. There’s coffee in the rest area. Then you can shower and change and I’ll take you out for some breakfast. Apparently you need about an hour before you can fully digest food…”

“That’s right. I tend to be ravenous once everything DOES thaw out, so no nouveaux cuisine restaurants, if you please.”

“I think I can find something to satisfy you,” she promised.

She brought him to the St. David’s hotel, just across the bay from Roald Dahl Plas. She had booked breakfast for two there last week when Jack had given her this assignment. He ordered a large cooked breakfast, as well as grapefruit and prunes to start and several rounds of toast and coffee.

Toshiko ate a few pieces of lightly buttered wholemeal toast and drank a cup of tea slowly.

“You’re not eating much,” he commented. He looked at her and smiled wryly. “Well, you’re obviously not Irish. So it can’t be the morning after a St. Paddy’s night bash?”

Toshiko found that comment irritating, though she couldn’t think why. He was only trying to make light conversation.

“You don’t have to be Irish to enjoy St. Patricks,” she said. “But in any case, I’d never come to work hungover. It wouldn’t be professional.”

“I’m sorry,” he answered her. “You know, I forgot that it IS just work to you, accompanying me for the day. I really don’t want to be a burden.”

“If you must know,” she said, mellowing a little. “Eating this early in the morning makes me queasy because I’m pregnant.”

“Ah. Well. Congratulations.” His eyes focussed on her hands. “No wedding ring. Perhaps NOT congratulations?”

“I would rather not talk about it,” she answered. “We’re not supposed to talk about me, really. We’re supposed to talk about you, and try to figure out your mystery.” She passed him the collection of newspapers. He looked at the headlines and sighed.

“They’ve still not sorted out the Middle East. I keep on thinking one of these days I’ll wake up and see something different in the news.”

“Sorry,” Toshiko apologised, though she wasn’t sure why she thought she had to.

“It DOESN’T stir anything much. Except I know, somehow, that it IS going to take a lot longer yet before they do get lasting peace. I suppose that’s no surprise to anyone though. It’s not something for Torchwood to worry about. Nothing immediately dangerous to national security.”

“No, it’s not. And it’s not a lot of help to you, either.”

“Never mind. There’s always next year. I suppose… I wonder if it will be you looking after me next year. You might be on maternity leave, perhaps.”

“I suppose I will be. I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. Do you prefer to have women keeping you company? I noticed that you had a woman looking after you through most of the 1950s. It’s in the official records, of course. She seemed to have looked after you well.”

“Connie,” he said, then he sipped his coffee before continuing. “She looked after me very well. Perhaps TOO well.”

“Connnie?” Toshiko thought of the signature on the official reports. C. Myers. Connie sounded nicer. Much more personal and Human.

“Connie.” His voice trailed off. Toshiko drank her tea and waited for him to speak again.

“You have to understand,” he said. “The past century, a hundred years. It’s only a hundred DAYS for me. I’ve only AGED about a year in the cryo unit. Long enough to have my hair cut four times. And I can only remember 100 days. That’s my life. 100 days. One per year. And seven of them… Seven of them were wonderful. One of them was VERY wonderful. But then…”

“It’s ok,” Toshiko told him gently. “You can talk about it. Or if you don’t want to… you don’t have to…”

“I fell in love with her the first day. But I played it cool. It was two… three years… before I actually told her how I felt. 1959. That was a beautiful day. We spent most of it holding hands, kissing. It was hard to leave her behind at the end of the day. I almost thought of staying. Forgetting about it. But I didn’t. I went to sleep. I woke up a year later. And… she had waited. She had waited patiently. A year for her... What FELT like a night’s peaceful rest for me. But we loved each other just as much. And… we…”

“You slept together?”

“Sleeping wasn’t on the agenda,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “It was a big deal to her, of course. In the 1950s. Women didn’t… But she knew that our time was so limited. She grasped the opportunity. We booked into a hotel and… It wasn’t just sex. There was love in it. Great sex, real love. A lifetime in one afternoon. I know that sounds like a cliché, like something from a film. But it WAS just that.” He smiled as he remembered. And then his smile faded.


“And I went into the cryo unit again. We held each other so long, kissed one last time. She promised to be there when I woke, But…

A catch came to his voice. And Toshiko saw him blink back a tear.

“The next year… what FELT like the next DAY to me… It wasn’t her who was waiting. It was the guy who was in charge of the place, Fergus. He was really apologetic. He told me she had left Torchwood. He had a letter from her. She said she loved me, but she couldn’t go on this way. She couldn’t keep waiting. And it was better if she left.”

“Oh fuck,” Toshiko said. “Oh, I am sorry.”

She’d had dates like that. The sort that felt like the real thing. That felt like forever. She had given herself body and soul to somebody who felt right. But the next day, the text message or the voicemail - “Can we still be friends”. She knew how it hurt. She understood how he felt.

But she didn’t have anything she could say that would make it better. There was nothing you could say that made “can we still be friends” hurt less.

“There have been a couple of other times… especially more recently, in the ‘permissive’ decades,” he continued. “When sex was a part of the package. There was one in 1974, called Non. She… brought a friend. That was an exhausting day. But it wasn’t love. Then there was….” He paused. His expression was hard to gauge. “Three years back….”

“Jack!” Toshiko guessed. “Oh, he would. He is... incorrigible.”

“That’s a word for it. To be honest I’m not bothered whether there is sex involved or not. I just… want to make the most of the day.”

“Sure,” Toshiko agreed. “What would you like to do?”

“I’d like to… I want to… I want to…” He paused for a long, long time. Then he spoke in a decisive tone. “If it really IS up to me, if we’re talking about what I REALLY want… I want to see Connie. I want to talk to her. I want to KNOW why she didn’t… why she…”

“Oh shit,” Toshiko thought. An afternoon of sex would have been easier.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea? I mean… after all this time. I mean, it’s been fifty years.”

“For me it’s been fifty days. That’s the problem. I need… I need to get perspective on it all. And… I don’t care what she looks like. I just want to see her.”

“Well…” Toshiko picked up her lightweight laptop and opened it up. The hotel was in a wi-fi hotspot and it was easy for her to access the Torchwood personnel records and find Connie Myers. There was a date of birth and national insurance number in the file. And from that she could get her pension details. Torchwood looked after their former employees, those who survived to retire.

“She has an address in Pontprennau. It’s nice there. Nearly in the countryside. Good place to retire too. And if we don’t find her, we can take a nice walk in the woods.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Because a walk on the woods is just what I want.”

Toshiko was still not entirely sure it was a good idea. But it was what he had asked for. And it was her job to help him to do whatever he wanted to do, within reason. But visiting a woman who had just celebrated her seventy-fifth birthday two weeks ago and dropping a bombshell like the Torchwood stranger on her was possibly a little bit beyond her remit. She was glad Jack wasn’t around today. She didn’t want to tell him about this, and she didn’t want to tell him a direct lie to his face. She could be vague enough in the report. Connie had been, after all. There was no mention of a day of hot sex in the report from 1959.

In the end, it was easier than she expected. The elderly Connie didn’t drop dead in shock. Nor did she slam the door in their faces. She burst into tears as the stranger presented her with a bouquet of flowers that he had insisted on them buying on the way to Pontprennau.

“I never bought you flowers before,” he said as she took the flowers with one hand and embraced him around the neck with the other, kissing him through her tears. “Connie….”

“Michael…” she whispered hoarsely. “Oh, my love. Forgive me.”

“Of course I forgive you,” he answered her. He was crying, too as she brought him to her drawing room. They sat together, holding hands, crying, kissing, saying each other’s names. Toshiko picked up the flowers and found a vase for them and then found the kitchen and made a pot of tea. She was surplus to requirements for the moment. When she returned with the tea tray they turned and looked at her, wet-eyed and still clutching hands, but smiling.

“Thank you, my dear,” Connie said. “For bringing him back to me. I… I thought of him this morning, it being the 18th. I think of him every year on the 18th. But I never hoped…”

“You called him Michael?” Toshiko said as she let the lady of the house pour the tea. “But I thought he didn’t….”

“I don’t,” he explained. “But Connie was a good girl. She wouldn’t go to bed with a man whose name she didn’t know. She decided to call me Michael. The only day in the past century that I had a name.”

“It just seemed to fit him,” she explained. “Don’t you think so? He looks like a Michael.”

“Yes, I think he does,” Toshiko agreed.

“But Connie…” Michael said, after they had drunk the tea. “What I don’t understand…”

“WHY wasn’t I there the next year?” She sighed deeply and took a long time answering. “I was dismissed,” she said at last. “They allowed me to keep my pension rights and everything. But they told me I couldn’t work for Torchwood any more.”

“Because you had sex with… Michael?” Toshiko asked.

“Had sex?” Connie smiled. “The way I remember it, we made passionate love. To call it sex doesn’t begin to describe it.” She shook her head. “No, my dear. I was dismissed because they had no provisions for maternity leave in the 1950s.”

“Maternity?” Michael and Toshiko both echoed the word. And they both realised at once what she was telling them. She stood up and went to a bookcase. She took down an old leather bound photograph album and brought it back to the sofa.

“When it became obvious that I was expecting, Fergus, the boss back then, he was very angry. He told me I had acted unprofessionally and that I could never see you again. I begged him to let me see you just once, to say goodbye. But he said it was out of the question. He said… that you had a role to fulfil somewhere, some time in the future. And that… if you knew, you might want to leave the cryo-unit and be with me.”

“Yes,” Michael said as he looked at the pictures of Connie’s child, a baby boy, born in December of 1959, just before Christmas. “Yes, I would have. They should have given me the choice. They had no right to decide for me.”

“Fergus said that you might have a family of your own, somewhere, in the future. And that you couldn’t abandon them just because I seduced you one time.”

“Seduced?” Michael smiled wryly. “I think I seduced YOU. And even if it IS true… he still had no right to decide. Maybe I DON’T have a family in the future. Maybe I’m a loner with no friends or family at all. And this could have been my chance of happiness. Damn him. He had NO RIGHT. You said it way back then. I’m NOT Torchwood’s prisoner. I CHOSE to live this way. And I should have been allowed to choose when and how to END the arrangement. Is he still alive?”

“Fergus?” Connie looked puzzled. “I don’t know. Apart from the pension checks I have no connection with Torchwood.”

“No, not Fergus,” Michael said. “Your… our son. Is he still alive? Could I… could I meet him.”

“Michael,” Toshiko said quietly. “That’s maybe not a good idea…”

“I think right now,” Michael answered her with real anger in his eyes. “I think right now it’s not for anyone from Torchwood to decide what is or is not a good idea. They lost that right in 1959.”

Toshiko accepted the rebuke. He had a point. But there was bad news. Connie’s hands trembled as she put aside the album of past memories and faced the present.

“No,” she said. “He died. Three years ago. He was working in London. There was a bomb on the underground…”

“Oh, no!” Toshiko exclaimed. “Oh no. I’m so sorry. I…I was in London then, too. I… I lost a good friend that day. I’m sorry. For you both.”

Connie nodded in understanding. Michael looked as if he couldn’t decide what to feel. A son he didn’t know he had was killed in a tragedy that happened when he was sleeping his slow sleep of ages. There was grief. But he didn’t know how to express it. He clutched at Connie’s hands and again Toshiko found herself surplus to requirements as their world became a small, private place for a while.

They were disturbed by the sound of the front door opening by somebody who had a key and came in as if he had the right to be there.

“Gran,” the young man called from the hall before he stepped into the drawing room. When he did he looked at the visitors with surprise and then alarm as he saw that his grandmother was crying. “What….”

“It’s all right, David,” Connie said. “This young man came to see me because he’s tracing his family tree. It turns out that we are related. I got a bit emotional showing him pictures of your father.”

Toshiko breathed out slowly. Connie had left Torchwood in 1959, but she was still as sharp thinking as she would have had to be when she was an agent. That was a terrific cover for their presence.

“I’m a silly old woman,” she added, wiping her tears and smiling weakly.

“No, you’re not,” David Myers said as he reached and kissed his grandmother’s cheek. He reached out his hand in greeting to Michael. “I can see the family likeness,” he added. “You look a lot like my father.”

“Yes,” Connie said. “That’s what made it so difficult. But I think we understand each other now. David, my dear. What brings you to me today anyway? I thought you were busy with the preparations for this afternoon.” She smiled proudly at Michael. “David works for the government, you know. At the Sennad. He’s in charge of today’s big event.”

“What big event?” Michael asked. “Sorry, I’m a bit behind with current affairs.”

“The Prince of Wales is attending a sitting of the National Assembly of Wales,” David answered.

“Of course he is,” Toshiko said. “You only looked at the National papers, Michael. But the big local news is the prince coming to visit.”

“He’s at Caernarfon this morning, visiting the place where he was invested as Prince of Wales,” Connie said. “And at four o’clock this afternoon he is the honoured guest of the National Assembly.”

“And here’s your VIP pass, gran,” David said. “I’ve arranged for a car to pick you up. So put on your posh frock and your best hat. Might even get presented to his royal Highness.”

“I just hope they don’t talk too much nonsense,” she told him. “I hate boring political programmes on TV.”

“So do I,” David answered with a smile. “Anyway, Gran, I have to get going now. I just popped in to bring you that. I still have a lot of work to do.” He kissed his grandmother again and turned to Michael and Toshiko. “It was wonderful to meet you both. Do keep in touch, won’t you, now that you’ve found us.”

“That I WILL,” Michael promised, shaking hands with his grandson warmly. “Goodbye, David.”

David let himself out of the house. As soon as he was gone, though, Michael’s mood changed. He grabbed the South Wales Echo from the sideboard and stared at the massive front page story about the impending royal visit. His hands shook as he read and his face was pale.

“Connie,” he said at last, in a chilling voice. “Don’t go this afternoon. And… find a way to stop David going as well. Please…”

“Michael? What is it?” Connie asked. “What’s the matter?”

“You know something,” Toshiko guessed. “Something about the Royal Visit triggered a memory.”

“I remember… I… You know that it’s not my time yet. I’m still from the future. But I don’t think it’s that far now. I think it’s only about twenty or twenty-five years now. Because I remember… watching TV, as a boy, maybe ten, watching the news, being shocked by it. As everyone was. A gunman opening fire on the Prince, on members of the Assembly. Hails of bullets, dozens of people killed. He even turned on the public gallery. Ordinary people cut down at random, before he turned the gun on himself. Connie… that’s why you mustn’t go. You could be one of his victims.”

“Oh, HELL!” Toshiko cried out as Connie stared at Michael in astonishment. “You seriously remember THAT from your own past?”

“Yes,” he said. “I don’t remember anything else. I still don’t know who I am. I don’t remember anything about my family or my life. But I remember that. It’s not… It’s not the reason I’m here. It’s not what I’ve been waiting for. But it’s important.”

“I don’t think I can stop David going,” Connie said. “He’s been excited about the visit for months. There’s nothing I could say. Apart from the truth and you would never allow me to tell him that.”

“It’s not about David not going, or you, Connie,” Toshiko told her. “It’s about stopping everyone going. It’s about the Prince of Wales and The Assembly – about the fabric of government and constitution in this country. THIS… Michael, even if it isn’t your reason for being here, this IS about national security.” She stood up, pulling on her coat. “We’d better get back to the hub. I need to call people. You need to be properly debriefed.”

“I’m coming too,” Connie insisted. “I want to be with him.”

“That’s not a good idea,” Toshiko answered.

“Please,” Michael begged. “She’s a former Torchwood agent. There’s nothing about the hub that’s new to her – except maybe the hand in the jar and the Pterodactyl.”

“I can help him,” Connie added. “I’ve spent more time with him than you have, young lady. Not all of it in bed. I DID my job of trying to help him remember himself for seven years. I understand him completely.”

Toshiko looked at Connie and fully conceded THAT point. She had been treating her as a civilian, and an elderly one at that. But Connie was far from that. She was in on one of the greatest secrets on the planet.

“Ok,” she decided. “But we have to move fast. Come on.”

Connie and Michael held hands in the back seat as Toshiko drove back to the hub. She parked her car in the usual space near the Plas and they walked up past the Millennium Centre. They all paused and looked at the Assembly Building, not so very far from there. And they all thought the same thing.

How COULD a gunmen get in there even on an ordinary day, let alone such an important occasion as this?

“I don’t know,” Michael admitted. “I don’t remember those details. Only that he DID do it, somehow.”

“Ok,” Toshiko said. “Let’s get inside.”

She brought them to the tourist information office entrance under the boardwalk. Connie smiled, despite the seriousness of the situation.

“In my day it was a fish and chip shop,” she said. “Charlie used to send us down food all the time. Dreadfully bad for the figure, of course. But his rock salmon was hard to resist.”

“The restaurant was too popular,” Ianto said with a warm smile as he greeted them. Toshiko had phoned ahead, of course and contacted the team. He put the closed sign on the office door and locked it before operating the secret entrance to the hub. “Too many people going in and out. Hardly anyone comes into THIS place.”

“Ianto is the worst tourist office manager in Cardiff. But he’s a very good Torchwood agent,” Toshiko said. Ianto blushed at the compliment as he followed them down the echoing corridor into the heart of Torchwood.

“Jack’s still in London,” Gwen reported as Toshiko brought the two guests to the conference table and sat them down. “He’s gone to talk to MI5. This is really more their ballpark, after all. Terrorist threats to the royals etc. We’re hoping to get him on video feed in a minute or two.”

“We’re just handing this over to MI5?” Owen looked and sounded dismissive of HM Secret Service. So did Connie. They both seemed to think that Torchwood could do a better job of this.

“Is there anything else you remember?” Gwen asked Michael. “How many terrorists were there? Do you know how they did it?”

He shook his head.

“I’m sorry. These are just the memories of a ten, maybe twelve year old boy watching the television news. I only know what was broadcast.”

“But there must have been more than one broadcast,” Gwen insisted. “There would have been follow ups, Panorama specials on what went wrong, who’s to blame? I mean, there was a programme about Princess Diana’s death last week and it’s been eleven years. Surely…”

“I don’t know,” Michael told her. “I suppose I must have seen things like that. But all I remember now is the one memory of when it happened.”

“Eidetic memory,” Ianto said. “Like the thing about everyone remembering where they were and what they were doing when Kennedy was shot or 9/11 and all that.”

“I remember where I was on 9/11,” Toshiko said. “And 7/7. What I don’t remember is where I was or what I was doing the day before. But this time… It’s not the day before. But it’s not even twelve o’clock. We have four hours. We have a chance. We have to… We’ve GOT to…”

“I’m not sure we DO have to,” Owen said in a slow, careful voice. “Has anyone thought… THIS happened. In Michael’s memory, it’s history, just as 9/11 is in our history. I don’t think… changing it is changing history. History that hasn’t happened yet for us, but it HAS for Michael.”

“We HAVE to do something,” Connie insisted. “I lost my son in a stupid act of violence. I won’t lose my grandson. Or anyone else.”

“Damn right we do.” Everyone turned at the sound of Jack’s voice, on the video conferencing screen, sitting in an office somewhere in London.

“I remember you,” Connie said, looking at him. “You used to be the tea boy when I worked at Torchwood.”

“Ma’am,” Jack answered with a bemused smile that gave away nothing. “I have NEVER been a tea boy anywhere. I can assure you of that.” Then his expression changed. He looked annoyed. “MI5 think we’re taking the piss. Even if they believed me, they insist that they’ve ruled out every possible terrorist group that might be considering an attack and the security at the National Assembly is airtight.”

“That’s what they said about the Titanic,” Owen commented.

“Yeah, I told them that.” Jack replied.

“So, it’s up to us?” Gwen asked.

“It’s up to us. I’m heading back as fast as I can. Meanwhile, do what you have to, guys, but be careful. This is outside our usual remit. But… I don’t know. I don’t have a plan. We have very little to go on. We’re winging it, people.”

“Winging it is what Torchwood always did,” Connie remarked as Jack reached and switched off the video at his end. “And he WAS the tea boy.”

“Well, he’s OUR boss now,” Toshiko answered. “And he told us to do what we have to do.” She stood up and went to her desk. A few minutes later she returned with a set of cards.

“VIP passes to the Assembly on the occasion of the visit of HRH Prince of Wales,” she said as she passed them around. “We’re going to be there to STOP it happening.” She gave one to Michael, too. “You might remember something when we’re there.”

“Ok,” he said. “But what about…” He looked at Connie.

“I’m going, too.” she said. “I already HAVE my pass.”

“No,” Michael told her. “No, you mustn’t. It’s too dangerous.”

“He’s right, it’s dangerous,” Toshiko added. “Connie you really should stay here.”

“When I was your age I had faced a Kraken rising out of Cardiff Bay, alien robots, giant worms, huge amoeba things that turned their stomachs inside out and enveloped men whole to digest them…” She stood up and took Michael’s arm and that seemed to settle the matter.

“You realise,” Owen pointed out as they walked up the steps to the modern plate glass entrance to the National Assembly of Wales. “We’re going in here UNARMED, to stop an ARMED terrorist.”

They were body searched and their VIP passes were checked twice just for admittance to the public area on the entry level of the Sennad building. There was a whole extra round of security before they were directed to the public gallery of the debating chamber.

“Now this is puzzling,” Gwen said as they walked around the gallery. She pointed to the sloping glass windows that rose up from behind the balcony, screening the public area from the chamber below. “That’s got to be bullet proof. So how…”

“We’ve got plenty of things in the archive that can go through bullet proof glass,” Ianto pointed out.

“Yes, but you confiscated them from aliens. Why would aliens be interested in shooting up the Welsh National Assembly? This is ordinary Human stuff, surely?”

“If you lot can collect that kind of thing, why can’t anyone else?” Michael suggested.

“No-one else should,” Owen answered. “We spend a lot of time making sure they don’t.”

“This is a big gallery,” Connie pointed out. “Michael, have you any idea where exactly the trouble began? Because if we’re on the other side when it starts, we might as well not be here at all.”

“The gunman was behind the place where the Prince was addressing the Assembly. So that would be over that way.” He pointed to the opposite side of the public gallery, above the raised dais where the crest of the Prince of Wales had been fixed in honour of his arrival. They walked around until they were in position. The gallery was starting to fill with guests by then and they could do nothing more than take up seats. Toshiko sat with Connie and Michael on the bottom row of seats, she on the aisle seat where steps led up to the back. Owen was on the opposite aisle seat. Gwen and Ianto were in the top tier aisle. They carefully watched everyone who took places around them, but none of them looked as if they were armed with the kind of weapon that would go through those thick glass panels and kill people below.

The Assembly Members filed into their places below in the two concentric circles and a half circle in the middle. Then everyone stood respectfully as the Prince of Wales entered, flanked by the First Minister and his Deputy, and two CPOs close behind. The British National Anthem played over the pa system before the prince took to the podium and paused before beginning his speech to the Assembly.

Then it happened. The last thing even the Torchwood agents were expecting. In the aisle between the rows of seats the air shimmered and the figure of a man appeared out of nowhere. He was in a silvery grey all in one jumpsuit and he was carrying a very sophisticated looking rifle. As soon as he had fully materialised he raised the weapon and shot at the plate glass in front of it. It felt, to Toshiko as she stood, as if it was all happening in slow motion. She saw out of the corner of her eye Gwen, Owen and Ianto also jumping to their feet. She felt Michael move beside her, too. And all of them seemed to be moving slowly, as if the air was thicker than it should be. The shards of broken glass seemed to be falling slowly, and the sound of them was like a sound effect played at the wrong speed on an old fashioned tape recorder.

The gunman wasn’t moving slowly, though. He stepped forward in order to get a clear shot of his target below in the chamber, who was only slowly looking up in astonishment at the sound of the glass breaking.

“Some sort of time dilation,” she heard Owen say in a slow voice as he moved down the steps. “Tosh… look out…”

Tosh had reached him. She grabbed the barrel of the rifle and at the same time brought her knee up to connect with the gunman’s groin. The slow time seemed to snap back to normal as she did so, and he gave a pained ‘oof’ and swore at her in a voice an octave higher than he might have otherwise. But he wasn’t giving up that easily. Bruised testicles were not slowing him down. Neither was Owen’s arm tightening around his neck as Toshiko fought to push his arm up and stop him shooting anyone while Gwen tried to grapple the weapon from his hands. There were shouts all around now, the loudest from Connie. Michael and Ianto, too, were trying to restrain him. He seemed to have more strength than the lot of them put together.

Where he got that strength from, nobody knew, but he wrenched himself free of Owen’s armlock and knocked Ianto down. Michael yelled out as he lurched forward, lifting Toshiko’s suddenly fragile looking body and throwing her as if she was weightless.

“No!” Owen screamed as he saw her slammed into the unbroken glass panel next to the one blown away by the gunman. Her head impacted on the glass with an audible thump and she was already unconscious as she slid down the pane and was thrown forward against the balcony before falling sideways into the narrow ‘v’ shaped space at the base of the balcony and the sloping glass wall, her head perilously close to the broken panel and a fatal fall to the chamber below.

Owen looked around once to see Ianto and Michael bring the gunman down at the second attempt, his weapon clattering to the floor to be retrieved by Gwen. Then he climbed into the space and reached for Toshiko. He lifted her up gently and passed her to two civilians who came forward to help. He was kneeling by her side, checking her vital signs as the door to the gallery burst open. He was only slightly surprised to see Jack running ahead of a group of security guards who poured in.

“Ok,” Jack said, taking command of the situation. “Owen, there’s a helicopter on the plaza outside. It’s how I got here so fast. Take her to hospital in it, NOW.”

Owen lifted Toshiko into his arms again and left without a word, escorted by one of the guards. Jack turned and watched him go before he turned back to where Michael and Ianto still had the gunman pinned down. He looked at the weapon Gwen was still gingerly holding and drew in breath sharply.

“It’s another goddamn 50,000 series Heckler and Koch! How many more of those fucking things are there in this town?”

“I don’t think this one came from the same source,” Ianto told him. He pulled up the gunman’s sleeve to reveal something Jack recognised at once. He looked around at the startled civilians, the dumbstruck security guards. “Ok, my guys are handling this. He’s our prisoner. You go and tell his Royal Highness he can carry on his speech in five minutes. Just as soon as we’re out of here.”

The papers would be full of how the Prince, unshaken by the foiled assassination attempt, carried on regardless, British stiff upper lip etc, he thought as he removed what he knew was a Time Vortex Manipulator from the prisoner’s wrist and led him away. The press would probably be hoping for pictures of the gunman coming out under arrest, too. But they wouldn’t get them. When the spanking new Sennad building was constructed, amid all the furore about its unusual modern design, delays in completion, the drain on the taxpayer’s money, few people knew about the private lift with a code key to operate it. It went down to a tunnel built into the foundations. A tunnel that led directly to the back entrance to the Torchwood hub.

“We stopped a massacre,” Gwen said as they all sat and drank coffee and waited. “We stopped the assassination of the Prince of Wales and the First Minister and a whole lot of civilians.”

“Yes, we did,” Ianto said quietly. “I suppose we can call that a successful mission.”

But nobody FELT as if it was a success. They were all thinking about Toshiko, and how pathetically broken she had looked when Owen lifted her up. They couldn’t care about the Prince of Wales when Toshiko was in hospital. When…

Jack’s mobile phone rang. He looked at the incoming number and then put it into a docking unit with speakers.

“Owen…” he said. “We’re all here, we’re all listening.”

There was a background noise of ambulance sirens that suggested he was outside the hospital. Owen’s voice was steady, but in a carefully controlled way, as if he was holding in his emotions.

“Toshiko’s got a sprained ankle and concussion and some bruised ribs,” he reported. “She’s asleep now. But she’ll be ok…”

He paused. Around the table everyone expected the worst.

“Owen, what about the baby?” Gwen called out, unable to bear the pause that seemed to lengthen.

“The baby… is… ok,” Owen said very slowly. And the sob in his voice was one of relief. “It’s a bloody miracle. I thought the worst. But… They assumed I was the father because I was with her. The doctor came out and told me… the baby is just fine.”

Owen’s uncharacteristic display of emotion was drowned out by the cries of delight all around the table. Connie and Michael hugged each other. Ianto sighed with deep relief, his head in his hands to hide his own tears of happiness. Gwen, who stood and wrapped her arms around Jack’s neck thought of all the mean things she had thought about Owen at various times and retracted some of them.

Only some of them, though. He WAS still Owen. This sensitive mood would wear off eventually.

“I’m going to stick around for the night,” Owen said when he could make himself heard again. “They’ll be letting her out in the morning and she’ll need somebody…”

“We’ll ALL be there,” Jack assured him. “But you stay put for now. And… Owen, thanks for looking after her.”

He ended the call and looked around at the smiling, relieved crowd. For a long time nobody could think of anything to say.

“What WAS it all about?” Connie asked eventually. “The one who caused all this. What was he? Where did he come from?”

“He came from the fifty-first century,” Jack said. “He talked pretty fast once he saw our cells. Told me the whole story. He came with a personal time travel gizmo and a futuristic gun. He is a rogue agent trying to change the future by affecting the past. It WASN’T the Prince he was after. It was the Deputy Minister. Apparently his descendents are politically significant in the future.”

“So he came back to NOW to…” Ianto whistled. “Wow.”

“The first person to mention that bloody Terminator film gets a black mark from me,” Jack added.

“All the death and misery he would have caused… Lives ruined…” Connie sighed. “It doesn’t seem a good enough reason.”

“It’s the only reason he has,” Jack answered her. “Anyway, now I’ve debriefed him, he can go to an ordinary 21st century prison for a few years, and when he gets out I might consider programming his time travelling gadget to send him on a one way trip back to his own time.”

Straight back to the fifty-first century penitentiary on Barry Island, Jack thought as he put the vortex manipulator on the table in front of him and looked at it. He used to have one of those himself, but it got fried the last time he used it to travel in time.

He could use this one to take himself back to the time he came from. Back HOME.

He considered the idea for about ten seconds before passing it to Ianto to tag and bag and put into the archive along with the gun. He turned his attention to Connie and Michael.

“It’s getting near your bedtime,” he told Michael.

“I know,” he said. “But…” Connie clasped his hand.

“It’s a cold night,” Jack said. “But the sky is clear. And the moon is out. Why don’t you go take a walk down by the waterfront. Ianto will have a hot drink on when you get back.”

They said nothing. But they smiled at each other and stood up. Jack walked with them to the pavement lift and waved as they went up together.

They had their hour. They said what they needed to say to each other. Then they came back. They had a hot drink, then Jack, Ianto and Gwen all walked with them both to the Cryo-unit. They waited as Michael embraced his sweetheart and they shared a kiss. Then Michael went into the cubicle. He laid himself down on the bed. He smiled and waved at Connie as she stood by the door. She waved back as the door closed and Ianto stepped forward to key in the code that started the procedure.

“Next year,” Connie said as they walked away. “He’s going to come and see me. We’re going to spend the day together.”

“Good,” Jack told her. “That will save us having to think up ways of entertaining him. Now, let me take you home. It’s past your bedtime by now, too, I think.”

“Bossing me around are you?” She smiled. “And you just the tea boy.”

“I told you,” he answered, hardly daring to look at Ianto and Gwen. “I was NEVER a tea boy.”


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