Alun and Ianto knocked at Toshiko’s front door anxiously. There was no answer. They knocked again, harder. The next door neighbour looked out of her door and scowled at them before going back inside and slamming the door behind her.
“Probably thinks we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Alun concluded. “Two men in suits.”
Any other time it would have been funny. But just then neither of them were laughing. They both felt sick in the pits of the stomachs as the door to Toshiko’s home stayed closed.
Ianto touched the button on his earpiece.
“She’s not answering the door, Gwen,” he said. “She’s not here.”
Gwen swore softly, then over her voice came one that wasn’t soft.
“Shit, shit, shit, fucking shit!” Owen swore. “Break in, for fuck sake. Make sure she’s not lying on the floor, injured… the baby… Fuck it, I don’t need to spell it out. Break in.”
Alun was already doing it. Toshiko’s front door was much stronger than it looked and the locks were far from the bog standard ones sold at Do It All. It took a good thirty seconds for the alien lock picking device to finish the process. Even then, there was security chain that held the door. Ianto pulled a small, discreet tool from his bag and cut through the chain.
Owen needed air. He walked through the hospital corridors until he found an exterior door and yanked it open. There were a half a dozen people with hospital ID passes standing around smoking, as there always were outside any public building these days. He brushed past them and kept moving across the car park until he found the clean air he needed and breathed hard and deep several times. If anyone had looked close at him, they might have seen that his eyes were glassy. The deep breathing helped him contain his emotions. He wasn’t crying. Nobody could accuse him of anything that soft.
But he felt like shit. His stomach ached with fear, the uncertainty twisting in him like a knife.
What WAS certain twisted the same knife around a little further and dug in deep. What he had seen here in the hospital mortuary had made him want to throw up. Except he was a professional, a doctor. He couldn’t do that.
His mobile buzzed. He had broken the hospital rules twice, by wearing his earpiece communicator and by not turning off his mobile phone. But he didn’t care.
“Boss,” he said. “Are you back from fucking Glasgow yet?”
“I’m ten minutes away,” he answered. “I pulled some strings and U.N.I.T. are flying me down by military jet. I’m going to go straight to check out the victim’s home, see what I can find there.”
“Clutching at fucking straws,” Owen said. “We have a dead woman and four missing ones, Toshiko included. And you know there’s no fucking way this is coincidence. You know WHO is behind this.”
“Owen, I KNOW,” Jack told him. “I’m doing my best. We have to look at every possible angle, just like any other case.”
“We should have protected them, Jack. We should have done something. We should have known… expected something like this. We should have been ready to protect them.”
“We couldn’t have foreseen this,” Jack answered. “Owen, don’t punish yourself. Focus. Innocent lives are at stake, and the clock is ticking. Get back to the hub with the body. Do your autopsy. Let me know what you find straight away.”
“Ok, Boss,” Owen answered. He ended the call and breathed deep again before he stepped back into the hospital ready to pull the sort of strings that let him take a recently dead body out of the mortuary to conduct the autopsy in his own laboratory.
Toshiko wasn’t in the house. It didn’t take them long to work it out. What they couldn’t work out was how she had left it. The doors and windows were all locked from the inside.
“The bed WAS slept in,” Ianto noted. “There’s no sign of a struggle. She HASN’T gone to hospital. Her suitcase is still there. In any case, the door….”
They both looked at the suitcase at the bottom of the bed. It was ready for when she had to go to the maternity department. She was on official leave now, with less than a week to the birth date they had been able to pinpoint to the very day forty weeks after conception. Owen had been to see her in his medical capacity daily. The others, especially Gwen and sometimes Jack, had dropped in as friends to talk to her and keep her up to date with Torchwood news. Not that she had completely stopped working. In her study the computer was running one of her alien text translation programmes still. Neither Alun nor Ianto had wanted to shut it down. That would feel as if Toshiko was not coming back to finish the work.
Ianto checked every room once more just in case. Especially the bathroom. It was always possible, in her condition, that she could have fainted or something.
But that really WAS clutching at straws.
“We’d better get back to the Hub,” Alun said in a resigned tone. “There might be something we can do.”
“There’s GOT to be something we can do.”
Toshiko was doing her best to stay calm. She was scared – very scared – but she was trying not to show it, if only because the other three women needed her to be the strong one.
After all, she was the professional alien hunter, who dealt with weird stuff every day.
Somebody was stirring. She looked around. Tina and Patricia were both sleeping on two of the narrow beds. Cally wasn’t. She was awake and looking up at the white ceiling of the room - cell – they were locked in. Toshiko stood up and went to her side. She saw the expression on her face and knew what was keeping her from sleep.
“You’re having contractions, aren’t you?” she said to her.
“No,” she insisted. “It’s just… a bit of tummy ache. The food they gave us…”
“That’s how it feels at that start,” Toshiko told her. “Like a grumbling stomach. I think you’re ready.”
“Oh, no, I hope not,” Cally whispered. “Oh, don’t let them know. They’ll… Oh, my God! They’ll kill me, like they killed Nerys.”
“We don’t know that Nerys is dead,” Toshiko answered.
“She must be. Why haven’t they brought her back?”
“Stay calm,” Toshiko told her. “Stay very quiet. If you panic it might bring things on faster. Stay still and quiet.”
They could delay the inevitable. But not for long. There was nothing stopping a baby being born once it was time. If Cally was the next of them to go into labour, then they could only hide it from their captors for a little while. A few hours, perhaps.
A few hours. It might be enough. Toshiko was the one among them with a scrap of hope. She knew that her friends, her colleagues, would not waste a single minute in trying find out where she was and mount a rescue.
Nerys had prayed. She had put her faith in God.
Toshiko put her faith in Torchwood.
“I never wanted to have a baby,” Cally said. “I don’t even know how… I mean, I’m not a slag. I don’t sleep around. Well, no more than anyone else does. You know how it is. Friday night. You hook up with somebody. Most of the time you don’t see them again. But I was always careful. Apart from anything else, there’s diseases. I never went with any bloke who didn’t use a condom. But I must have slipped up. When I found out I was too scared to get an abortion. But now… now I’m too scared to have a baby.”
Cally thought she’d got careless with some one night stand she pulled. Tina and Patricia both had steady boyfriends and assumed they were the fathers of their babies. Nerys was the saddest case of all. So much more pathetic. She was barely eighteen now. Nine months ago when she was only seventeen she had used fake ID to get into the cabaret club with a couple of friends who encouraged her to ‘live a little’. They had all been bored and gone on somewhere they said had a big screen video disco. She had stayed because she was scared to get caught using the ID again. As if any doorman in Cardiff really cared as long as she paid the cover charge to get in and downed enough drinks to keep the place in profit.
If she had gone to the disco with her friends, got so drunk she didn’t know who she was with and woke up in bed with a stranger and the mother of all hangovers, she would have been all right.
Toshiko was the only one who knew the truth. The five of them were victim of an alien scientist who hypnotised them in the cabaret club and used a method of parthenogenesis and presumably some kind of transmat technology to impregnate them. They had been his guinea pigs to find out if the method would work - because such experiments were illegal on his planet.
Five of them out of about a hundred women in that club. The ones who didn’t take the morning after pill, either because of religious reasons, as it was with Nerys, or conscience as it had been with Toshiko, or because it just never occurred to them to ask when the police and everyone else were saying they had just been victims of a gas leak.
It all happened in January. It would all have seemed a strange, surreal dream, except that now, nine months later, they were all within days, if not hours, of giving birth.
Nerys HAD given birth. They had heard the baby crying several times. But they didn’t know what had happened to Nerys. They were all convinced it was nothing good. Because it was perfectly clear that it was the babies their captors wanted. The results of the experiment. They didn’t need the mothers. They could be disposed of afterwards.
Gwen watched the autopsy from the gallery above, leaning on the rail. That is to say she didn’t watch what was being done to the body. Rather she watched Owen. He could, as she knew very well, be an obnoxious and uncaring bastard. But she also knew he could be a very good, very compassionate doctor. She thought it a shame that he spent so much time among the dead. She and Toshiko had been his living breathing patients and both knew the other side of him.
But mostly he did autopsies, and he did them dispassionately and efficiently.
He was still being efficient, but he was certainly not dispassionate. His face was a picture of grief as he worked. As he spoke into the recorder, noting his findings, he was trying to control his emotions. He didn’t want to sound like he had lost his cool when Toshiko typed the report up later…
Gwen kicked herself for forgetting. Toshiko wasn’t here to type anything up. Of course she hadn’t been for over a fortnight now. But then her absence had been normal. They had all gladly covered her routine workload. Now it wasn’t and it felt like a limb had been severed, leaving a gaping wound in them all.
“The subject was eighteen years old,” Owen was saying. “And in the final stages of pregnancy. She died of severe haemorrhaging after childbirth. The umbilicus was severed while the placenta was still fully attached to the uterine wall and she bled to death. The cut was made with a sharp tool, almost certainly a medical scalpel, but it was done by somebody with little or no knowledge of the Human childbirth process.”
He took a deep breath and added something not strictly necessary for an account of how the subject died, but which he felt needed to be recorded. He hoped he would be proved right at some stage.
“It is my belief that the foetus, if given immediate medical attention, may be alive. But its whereabouts are unknown.”
Yes, he thought. If the cord was clamped and the child was warm, fed, looked after properly, then it might be all right. The mother was full term. The baby could survive outside the womb. He knew that, not from his examination of her body, but from the fact that she was one of Chaulloachla’s alien rape victims from January. She was impregnated the same time that Toshiko was. And Toshiko was about to drop any day.
That was what made him feel so sick as he performed this autopsy. Instead of this elfin faced young girl who barely looked old enough for motherhood, he kept seeing Toshiko lying there, drained of blood, drained of life.
“Owen…” Gwen had moved down the steps and was standing right beside him. He had been too distracted to notice. “Owen, is that true? Somebody, something, took her baby and left her to die… to bleed to death?”
“Yes,” Owen managed to say. He didn’t trust himself to say anything more.
“That is awful. That’s bloody awful.”
Gwen had all the personal details that made the body on the table more than just a cadaver. She knew that her name was Nerys Clyne, born, August 21st 1990, only child of Margot and Robert Clyne. She knew that Robert Clyne had died of cancer two years ago and Margot and her daughter had been left to pick up the pieces of their lives.
She knew this was going to devastate Mrs Clyne. Not only was her daughter dead, but her grandchild was….
“Somebody took the baby. That’s all I know,” Owen admitted. “But when I get my hands on the ones who did it, I’ll wring their bloody necks. This was butchery. Sheer butchery.”
He breathed hard for a few minutes. His nostrils were flaring. He was angry. Gwen knew the signs. You didn’t want to be the wrong side of Owen’s anger.
“I’ve completed the autopsy,” he said when he brought his anger under control. “I’ve retained the uterus for further examination but we can make the body… make her… look decent… and arrange for collection by our usual funeral home. Her mother can see her as she should look.”
That was a measure of just how affected Owen was, Gwen thought. He had NEVER worried before about what happened to the bodies after he was done with them. Yes, they had an arrangement with a funeral director, who discreetly collected the bodies and the death certificate filled out by Doctor Owen Harper with the least distressing lie written in as cause of death. But he had never worried about that side of it before.
“Jack’s gone to see the mother,” Gwen said. “Shitty job. Talking to the relatives. I hated that when I was a copper. And it’s worse doing it for Torchwood because we have to lie so much. At least when I went to them as a copper I could tell them the truth. And being told the truth, the facts, helped them. This job… it makes liars of us all.”
“I don’t think I was the most honest person in the world to begin with,” Owen answered.
“Tell me this, honestly,” Gwen asked him. “Did you find out anything that will help us find Toshiko and the other women – or Nerys’s baby?”
Owen shook his head. That was his honest answer. Gwen sighed and wished he had lied to her.
Like Gwen, Jack had broken bad news to people more times than he cared to remember. It WAS a shitty job. In this case the ordinary police had already been round and done it, but it was to him, the ‘expert’ who had come to investigate the kidnapping of her daughter, that Mrs Clyne addressed most of her questions. And like Owen, he had to make up the best lie he could.
“I don’t understand why,” Mrs Clyne said again. “Nerys was just left in the hospital car park, bleeding to death? Who would do that? What kind of a monster would just leave her there?”
“What kind of monster” was exactly what Jack was thinking himself. He had no answer to that one.
“And the baby…” the woman continued. “Her baby… what happened to it?”
Jack hesitated. Then he told the truth for once.
“The baby is missing. We believe it IS alive. We believe the people who took the baby have no cause to harm it. And we ARE trying to find her. That is why I am here. I need to see Nerys’s room. That IS where she was taken from?”
“She was in bed. Last night about ten o’clock. I looked in on her and asked her if she wanted anything. She asked for cocoa. When I brought it… not more than five minute… she was gone. Just gone. She didn’t run away. The police asked me that. But it was ten o’clock. Pitch dark and raining. And she was in her nightie. She didn’t go anywhere by her own choice.”
“No,” Jack agreed, again telling the truth. “She didn’t. Show me, please.”
Mrs Clyne took him to the bedroom. He looked around, taking in all the detail. The bed with a pink and purple duvet cover, the dresser, wardrobe. He noted the signs that Nerys had been getting ready to share the room with her baby; There was a crib in the corner by the wardrobe. It was piled with all the things that would be needed, mostly still in their wrappers. Baby clothes and bedding, toys, a bottle sterilising kit, boxes of disposable nappies. Everything ready.
Mrs Clyne was talking. As he checked the room visually, prior to using his technology for a more complete examination he half listened to her telling him how she had been angry when Nerys broke the news that she was pregnant. There had been hard words said. There had been tears. But then they had forgiven each other and they had set their sights on the birth of the baby, Mrs Clyne’s grandchild. It had brought the two of them together. It was going to be a joyful time for them both.
“The pram is set aside at the store,” Mrs Clyne said as she picked up a large stuffed elephant from the pile of toys and then put it back down again. “It’s bad luck to have the pram in the house before….”
As far as he KNEW, Jack had never been a father. Although given his past, that was not an absolute certainty. He doubted he ever would be in the ordinary domestic sense. He didn’t know much about these little superstitions and rituals of parenthood.
But he WAS a man. He was Human. He had feelings. He felt Mrs Clyne’s pain. When she burst into a fresh bout of tears he felt it deeply. Though there WERE things he needed to do, and urgently, he spared a few moments to put a comforting arm around a grieving woman’s shoulder.
He did what he shouldn’t have done. He made a promise he didn’t know he could keep.
“You’ll be able to collect the pram. Your granddaughter will need it, soon.”
That ray of hope. It was what they all needed. Jack only wished he had something more solid to base it on than they had so far. But that was why he was there. He pulled back his sleeve and pushed some buttons on the futuristic wristlet that most people assumed was a sophisticated diver’s watch. Some of its functions were burnt out. The vortex manipulator would never work again. His days as a time traveller were over. But it still operated as a very powerful scanner that could pick up unusual energy traces even hours later.
Yes. A transmat was used here. That was how Nerys was taken so quickly, without a struggle.
Irresponsible bastards! Using a transmat on a pregnant woman.
It proved one thing. The people who had taken her, and the others, were not of contemporary Earth. Even Torchwood didn’t have transmat technology. Neither did U.N.I.T. Nor, unless he had been lied to by Whitehall, was the British Government funding any project, public or private, secret or open, in any university or military instillation to develop such technology. If Torchwood One had remained in business, with all the resources it had, he had no doubt they would have got it eventually. The Battle of Canary Wharf had set back the development of that sort of technology at least twenty years.
Humans didn’t do this.
Which left one big, obvious alternative.
“I’ll kill them,” he murmured. “I’ll wring their bloody necks.”
“I’m sorry?” Mrs Clyne said. “Did you say something?”
“Just talking to myself,” Jack answered. “I think I have everything I need now. I’ll leave you in peace.” He repeated the promise he knew he should not have made as she showed him to the door. He meant it.
In the driver’s seat of the SUV, before he moved off, he pressed the button on his earpiece and that connected him to the Hub.
“Tosh, can you run…”
He stopped. The habit was so ingrained. Toshiko at her workstation at the end of the communicator, able to call up any kind of data, overlay all sorts of filters on satellite pictures was something he took for granted. It was part of a universe that was spinning around the right direction. This one wasn’t. Toshiko wasn’t there.
“Boss,” Ianto’s voice replied as the static silence continued. “Can I help?”
“If you can’t, nobody else can,” Jack answered, grateful to hear his voice. Next to Toshiko, Ianto knew the computer systems better than anyone. Tosh had trusted him with her passwords while she was away in case they were needed. He could get into those programmes she was so good with.
“I need you to look for any unusual power surges in the past twelve hours in… I don’t know lets try a twenty mile radius. Look for any unusual energy source, or for a spike in the national grid, even. Anything that might pinpoint the source of a transmat. I am certain it’s local, Earth-bound. If there was a ship in orbit with that sort of technology we’d have had alerts all over.”
“Perhaps I should scan the skies, just in case,” Ianto suggested. “Let’s not rule out ANY possibility.”
“Do what you have to, Ianto,” Jack told him.
“Count on me, boss,” Ianto replied.
They were brought food of a sort. Grey flat ‘cakes’ the rubbery consistency of a raw mushroom but with almost no taste. There was a drink as well, almost as bland. The food and drink was brought by a figure for whom the term ‘bland’ was also appropriate. He wore a grey all in one jumpsuit, and had grey hair and a face that was ageless and expressionless and would defy any attempt at describing any distinguishing features. He did not speak, He just came into the room and left the provisions and turned and walked away again. Even when they tried to speak to him he gave no sign of hearing or understanding them.
“Deaf mute?” Tina suggested. “But even so he must have seen us gesturing to him. There wasn’t even a flicker of recognition in his eyes.”
“I don’t think he’s alive.” Patricia said. “I think… I think he’s some sort of a… what do they call it in films… a drone… a robot.”
“No!” Tina shrieked. “But that would mean… Oh… aliens? We’ve been abducted by aliens.”
“Yes,” Cally said as she lay on her bed quietly. “I worked that out straight away. How else could we have got here?”
“I thought I was in some kind of car,” Patricia said. “It was dark, and there was movement. And then I was here with all of you.”
Toshiko tried to remember. There had been a transmat involved. And yes, she remembered being in something dark and the sound of an engine. Then she was here. She couldn’t remember inbetween. The transmat must have affected her memory. All she knew was she was taken from her home, from all that was familiar.
“Are we in space?” Tina asked. “Is this a space ship? Are we…”
Toshiko wondered why she hadn’t thought about that.
“I don’t know,” she said. “The walls, ceiling, all that grey stuff. Might be a ship. But I can’t feel anything. I always thought a space ship would vibrate. But even if we are…”
If they were, then they were in big trouble. Because even Torchwood couldn’t help them THERE. Her hopes depended on Jack and the others being able to find them.
“I don’t know,” she said again. “Best not to worry about it. Eat this stuff. I know it’s horrible but it looks like some kind of protein and we all need that. We need to keep up our strength.
Cally was trying to eat but she was clearly in distress. She WAS having real, strong contractions now. She WAS in labour.
“When they find out, they’ll take her away,” Patricia said. “And then…”
“We’ll try not to let them see her for as long as we can,” Toshiko answered her. “If we can just hang on a little while longer….”
“Why? It’s not as if any one is going to come for us…”
“Yes, they will,” Toshiko said. “At least… If we’re not in a spaceship… if it’s something they CAN reach. Yes, MY friends will come.”
“Why? What are your friends? Some kind of alien hunters?”
“Yes, actually.” Toshiko knew she shouldn’t have said it. But right now everyone needed something to hope for. And after all, if they WERE rescued by Torchwood Jack would probably Retcon them all. And if they weren’t, if the hope failed, it made no difference anyway. “Yes. I work for an organisation called Torchwood. And that is exactly their job. They track down aliens and stop them harming Human beings. They WILL be trying to find us. We’re not helpless. Not so long as Torchwood is out there. They’ll FIND us.”
She looked at her companions. They all stared at her. She wondered if they believed her. The bit about an organisation that tracks down aliens did sound a bit lame when she said it out loud to ordinary people who led ordinary lives.
“Is it a big organisation?” Tina asked. “Do you have loads of people with guns?”
“We’ve got enough,” she answered. “Believe me.”
She thought about her colleagues, about Torchwood. They weren’t an army. There were just the six of them. The four men and her and Gwen. It was hard to explain to others why she put her faith and her hopes in them. But she did.
The men. Jack, Owen, Ianto and Alun. She half-smiled as she thought of them. All four of them, in recent weeks, had come to her with the same question. Alun and Ianto diffidently, Jack tactfully, Owen brashly. They had all asked her if she would like to put their name on the birth certificate, as the father of the baby, so that it would appear that she HAD a father. Toshiko had responded by asking if they really wanted to be harangued for child support by the CSA. And all four had solemnly promised that they would even put up with that if it made things easier for her.
They all cared in their different ways. But she told them she had already decided what to do about the birth certificate.
She had been happy. She had been looking forward to the birth of her baby. She had only one stipulation. It was to be born in a hospital, NOT at the Hub, beneath the streets. Afterwards, she intended to return to work and bring the baby with her. She knew how she was going to re-arrange her workstation to make room for the carry-cot. But she wasn’t going to HAVE the baby there.
She didn’t want to have the baby HERE, either, she decided as she let the thoughts of familiar things fade and she returned to the frightening situation she was in.
A situation that was becoming more difficult. She heard Cally cry out in pain and at the same time Patricia gave a soft groan. She was beginning, too.
Time WAS short.
“I’m sorry,” Ianto said with a deep sigh. “I’m getting nothing. I’ve gone back twenty-four hours and forward again. I’ve tried every kind of scan. There’s no clue that way.”
“Keep trying,” Jack said to him. He put his hand on Ianto’s shoulder and was not surprised that he was trembling slightly.
“I don’t intend to do anything else,” he answered, reaching for the secondary keyboard and bringing up another type of overlay map that told him nothing. “I’ll keep trying until…”
“We all will,” Gwen added. She was running another programme. Jack wasn’t sure what it was, but it was doing some kind of trace. “We won’t give up.”
“Damn it,” Ianto slapped the desk by the keyboard as another long shot drew a blank. “What are we doing wrong? Why can’t we find ANYTHING?”
“We’re thinking about it wrong, somehow,” Gwen said. “We’re missing something very, very obvious.”
“We’re missing Tosh,” Ianto answered her. “She does this stuff usually. SHE knows what we’re looking for.”
“Are we so lost without her?” Jack asked mournfully. “One member of the team isn’t here and we can’t function? We shouldn’t have let ourselves get like that. We need to be more flexible than this. It’s our weakness. And we can’t afford weaknesses.”
“Think,” Ianto told himself out loud. “Think about this the way Tosh would. Think.”
“Are we sure it’s Chaulloachla’s lot?” Gwen asked. “If it is, they could have left the planet long ago.”
“Don’t say that,” Owen snapped. “Don’t even think of it. She’s not. She’s on this planet somewhere. Those bastards have her, but they’ve not taken her away yet.”
Everyone noticed that Owen said ‘she’ and ‘her’ not ‘they’. Of course their first worry was for Toshiko, but the lives of the other three women mattered, too.
“We’re too close to this case,” Alun noted as he watched all of his colleagues from the door. He felt useless, too. The best he had been able to do for them was keep them supplied with coffee. “We’re all too emotional. It’s one of the team who is missing. And…”
“And?” Owen glared at Alun. Gwen noticed his nostrils flaring again. Owen was about to say or do something irrational. Because Alun was right. They WERE all too emotional. And Owen was the most emotional of them all. He always was. He tried to be cool and calm, but if they had a loose canon that would go off too soon it was him. And this time Alun was in the firing line.
“I just meant…”
“I know what you fucking meant. But you’re the new boy. You’ve only been here a few months. You weren’t here when this started. When Tosh and Gwen were RAPED by that bastard. You weren’t here. You don’t know… what it’s like to have some alien bastard hurting our women.”
Gwen could have pointed out that neither she nor Toshiko were ‘their women’ in any possessive sense. Sexual equality was meant to exist in this peculiar workplace of theirs. But she knew what Owen meant.
“Owen,” Jack said calmly. “Hold it in. That rage inside you. Hold it in. Control it, don’t let it control you. Use it when it’s needed. When we catch up with the bastards who’ve done this, rip their heads off if it makes you feel better. But let’s… let’s find them first.”
Owen turned from Alun to Jack. He still looked angry, but the Captain’s words penetrated the red haze.
“When we found out what had happened to Tosh…” he said in a voice that seemed to be holding it in as Jack told him to do. “When we knew what that bastard had done… I wanted to kill him. But there was something else. I felt… JEALOUS. Because he had made her pregnant. And that was… I wished I was the one, not some bloody alien rapist. I don’t mean I wanted to shag her. That’s easy. Anyone could shag a woman. But to create a life with her. I wished…. I REALLY wished it was me.”
Jack didn’t say anything. But there was a subtle change in his expression. Ianto, at the same moment shifted in his seat by Toshiko’s workstation. Gwen looked from one man to the other.
“You ALL thought that?” she asked.
“That was before I decided I liked men better,” Ianto admitted.
“I think,” Gwen said. “This is a conversation that had better not be repeated when Toshiko is back with us.”
That much was true.
Cally was having long, strong contractions every ten minutes. Patricia was obviously in the early stages of labour, too. Toshiko looked at Tina and knew that she was not far behind.
Then she, herself, doubled up in pain as she felt something rising from deep within her. She had not felt anything until now. Or perhaps she had but had been too concerned with the others to realise. Tina reached out to her, and as the pain slowly subsided she raised herself to her feet.
“No,” she said with a determined note to her voice. “No, I’m not going to have my baby here. We’re going to get out of here.”
“We can’t,” Patricia protested. “Cally, she can’t move. She can’t be more than hour away, and I don’t know how long I’m going to last. Anyway, HOW? The door is locked. The only one of them we’ve seen for hours is that dumb lump.”
“Cally can still walk if we help her,” Toshiko answered. “We’re pregnant, not stupid. We’ve been waiting around, waiting for the inevitable. We shouldn’t have done that. We should have made an effort for ourselves ages ago. Let’s start by getting the dumb lump back in here.”
She went to the door and hammered on it, shouting loudly. It wasn’t long before the ‘dumb lump’ came in, looking at them blankly.
“She needs help,” Patricia said, pointing to the bed where Cally lay. The drone stepped nearer and bent to look at her. Cally raised her fist and smashed it into his face as Tina brought the metal jug that their drink had been brought in down on the back of his skull. The ‘drone’ fell like a stone.
“He’s NOT a robot,” Toshiko confirmed as she checked that he was out cold and not dead or ‘de-activated’ and took a ‘key’ card from his hand that she realised locked and unlocked the door. Tina helped Cally to stand. She was between contractions and could walk with help, though she was not going to do any sprinting. Toshiko looked at them all for a moment and wondered what she was leading them into. But they had to try. They had to do something.
“There’s a corridor out here,” Patricia confirmed. “But I think it IS a space ship, you know.”
It LOOKED like a space ship as far as any of them had experience of one. The walls, floor and ceiling were all metallic. No building they could imagine looked like that. It was illuminated by lights in the floor every few feet, but from the far end they could see the glow of a brighter light inside a room. And there was something else.
A baby crying.
“THAT way,” Tosh said. She locked the door on the drone and pocketed the key. They followed the sound of the baby towards the light source. The baby sounded distressed. They were all first time mothers with no experience of such things yet, but they ALL knew that the baby needed help.
“They WANT the babies,” Tina pointed out. “They wouldn’t harm it, would they?” But none of them were sure of that.
The room was a medical room made ready for childbirth. There was a row of Perspex cribs such as hospital maternity wards used and oxygen and medical equipment prepared on a table. There was a bed being made ready by another of the dumb looking drones. The linen he had taken off the bed was bloodstained. Nobody wanted to look at that. They looked instead at the woman who was standing by the row of cribs, holding the crying baby. They all could see she knew nothing about babies. She was holding it completely wrong and didn’t seem to know how to stop it crying.
“Give her to ME!” shouted Cally, and to everyone’s surprise she moved swiftly from the door and snatched the baby from the woman. Toshiko reacted first and ran in after her, grabbing a scalpel from the tray of instruments and standing between Cally and the woman. The drone started to approach and was smashed over the head with the same metal jug that Tina had kept hold of. She clutched the table in pain afterwards, but her effort had seen off the only opposition they seemed to have. Patricia grabbed another sharp implement and stood at the door.
“Where are the rest?” Toshiko demanded, waving the scalpel at the woman and finding that it proved more than enough of a weapon to give her the upper hand. She looked at the woman carefully. She seemed to be about forty in Earth years, but she was clearly not Human. The face had an alien, stretched quality about it and the features were flattened.
“The rest of what?” she replied in a slow careful cadence that suggested somebody who learnt English from a Linguaphone tape.
“The rest of the kidnappers. How many more of you are there? Where are the rest?”
“There is nobody else,” she replied as Toshiko waved the scalpel a little closer to her face.
“What do you mean there’s nobody else?” Patricia asked as she kept watch at the door. “You didn’t kidnap us all by yourself?”
“Kidnap?” the word seemed unfamiliar to the alien woman. “I brought you here because it is close to the time of birth. You are all carrying the products of my masters experiments. That is all. When I have the infants you will be free. The other one has already been freed. I transmatted her to one of your medical institutions. I will do the same with all of you once you have given up Chaulloachla’s children.”
“You’re not taking my baby.” Tina declared. “She’s mine. I don’t know who the hell you are, or what weird planet you come from. But this is my baby and you won’t take her from me.”
“They are Chaulloachla’s children. He created them. And I will take them back to my world, to prove to the authorities that my master’s work was not insane. I will show them that he was right.”
“You realise that Chaulloachla is DEAD,” Toshiko said. “I saw his body. He was trampled by a medieval knight and his jousting horse. What I saw of what was left of him wasn’t pretty.”
“I did not know that,” she answered. “I only knew my master’s instructions that I was to find the results of his experiments and bring the children back. I could not find the earlier experiments. The database was corrupted. But I traced the last five. They are enough…”
“YOU are as insane as he was,” Toshiko told the woman. “And I’ve just about heard enough. But tell me one more thing. WHY this insane plan? Why don’t your people have babies the ordinary way like everyone else in the universe? Not that I give a damn, you understand. But my boss will expect a full report from me and I don’t want to leave any loose ends.”
They were brave words. Now she knew there was only one alien, and that she was the one holding the weapon, it was easy. But as she finished speaking she felt another crippling pain. The woman lunged towards her as she doubled up and their rebellion might have ended there if Tina hadn’t been ready again with the jug.
“Your boss can tie up his own loose ends,” Tina said. “Let’s get out of here. Wherever here is.”
“I don’t think I can,” Patricia moaned as she gripped the door frame. “And Cally…”
“I’m coming,” Cally said, standing up unsteadily, still holding the hours old baby in her arms. “We owe it to Nerys, to get her baby out of here.”
“Let one of us take her,” Patricia said. “You can’t. You’re nearly ready to drop yourself.” But Cally clung to the child and refused to let anyone else hold her.
“Come on,” Toshiko said. “As quick as you can go. This can’t be a very big ship. There’s got to be a way out.”
A way out into what, though, she wondered.
Owen looked over Ianto’s shoulder as he worked fruitlessly. Then something occurred to him. He gripped the chair back as he turned and called to Jack. Jack came at a run.
“That bastard Chaulloachla… his ship… You said it was disguised using the same sort of field as the perception filter.”
“Yes,” Jack answered him. For a moment he didn’t connect the question to their present situation. Then he did. He leaned over Ianto and typed quickly into the computer. He didn’t try to explain what he was doing. He didn’t entirely know himself. It was something that he knew in his soul about the nature of perception filters, chameleon circuits and such things.
“Scan now,” he said. “If they’ve got a ship anywhere in a twenty mile radius it will find it. Start local, around the Plaas. The scan will pick up the pavement lift and that will show you what you’re looking for. If there is ANYTHING else like that around here it has to be them.”
“If the kidnappers came from the same planet,” Alun said as he, too, watched the new development and Gwen stood from her own terminal and joined them.
“Who else would have been interested in those five women?” Owen reasoned. “And who else but a fucking alien would be so unfamiliar with Human childbirth as to have killed that poor woman with a mistake only the most incompetent first year student could have made.”
Ianto said nothing. He didn’t dare to speak. He just did as Jack said, starting the scan very local and noting the unusual resonance around the metal fountain. Then he pulled it out to take in the streets around the Plaas, the bay….
“Wait!” he cried out. “There…” But they had all seen it.
“Christ almighty,” Owen swore. “It’s practically on our doorstep. It’s just around the bay.”
“It’s a bunch of lock up workshops,” Alun confirmed, keying the location into another terminal.
“It might not be…” Gwen pointed out. “Let’s not get our hopes up.”
“It’s something,” Jack said. “It’s enough. Everyone, move. Weapons. We’re facing unknown numbers of hostiles. Be prepared to shoot to kill. If any one of these bastards is standing in the way of us getting to Tosh and the others, blast them.”
Owen looked at Jack curiously. Which one of them had the pent up anger to unleash?
“That’s a door isn’t it,” Patricia said as they reached the end of the corridor and found an otherwise dead end. Yes, it was a door. A big, complicated one.
“It’s the way out.”
“It is if we’re not in space,” Tina pointed out. “If we are then it’s… “
Toshiko looked at the lock. It wasn’t coded. It was intended to be opened in a hurry, in the event of emergency. It was a lot like the manual control of the bulkhead doors in Torchwood. She operated it. The inner door heaved open like something made of heavy materials. There was a hiss of trapped air.
“One of us could…” Patricia suggested. “If it IS space out there, maybe there would be time to stop it. Or… or…”
Toshiko looked at them all. Patricia and Tina holding onto each other. Cally holding onto the baby. They were women with no other choices. But it was a cruel choice. They all wanted to live, to have their babies. But the only way out might be the way to instant death.
“I’d rather die in space than be stuck here,” Cally managed to say. “Please, let’s try. I don’t know how much longer I can hang on.”
“All together?” Toshiko suggested. “We’re either right together or wrong together.”
They looked at each other then all four of them stepped into the airlock. Toshiko sealed the inner door then stepped towards the outer one. It was slightly bigger but on the same principle. The others stood quietly and watched. She took a deep breath and close her eyes, half prepared for the breath to be dragged from her body as it was sucked into the vacuum of space.
“Toshiko!” She opened her eyes to see Jack and Owen pointing guns at her as Ianto stood by the door, the alien lock picking device in his hands. As they holstered their guns she stepped towards them. All three men reached for her but it was Owen who got his arms around her and held her. Jack looked around and saw the other women and in two strides was at Cally’s side as she stumbled forward into the daylight from what looked, from the outside, just like a small lock up. As he gathered her and the baby she was holding into his arms he noticed the lock up was quite a lot bigger inside.
“Ianto, deadlock seal on that, if you please,” he said as the other two women stepped out and Alun and Gwen ran to their aid. “It’ll keep till later.” He turned and carried Cally to the SUV. Owen brought Toshiko and fastened her in the passenger seat as Ianto sat behind the wheel. He looked at Cally lying in the back and gently persuaded her to relinquish the newborn she was clinging to.
“You’ve got your own baby to worry about right now,” he said as he passed the child to Toshiko to hold. It was against the law to hold a baby in the front seat of a car, but there wasn’t much choice just now.
Cally groaned out loud as her waters broke. He got into the back with her. “Right, we’re not going to make it to a hospital. Ianto, get us back to the Hub. Jack take my car with the other two ladies and follow.”
“No!” Toshiko yelled. “No, Owen. I told you I’m not having my baby at the Hub.” But Jack shut the back door and Ianto put his foot down. He turned around and ran to Owen’s car where Alun was helping the other two into the back.
“I’ve had basic medical training in the army,” he told Jack. “I’ll come with you. Gwen can take my car.”
“Whatever,” he answered. “Just let’s get going.”
Ianto drove the SUV in the lead of their strange cavalcade as fast as he dared. He had two pregnant women and a baby to care for and the road was wet with a drizzling rain that had been coming down all day. He glanced in the mirror and saw Owen doing his best to take care of Cally on the back seat. He wondered if he ought to stop.
“Don’t stop,” Owen called to him. “We’re doing fine here.”
Toshiko heard a sound and turned in her seat to see Owen holding a newborn baby in his hands. He put it in Cally’s arms as he reached in his medical case for sterile scissors to cut the cord.
Toshiko smiled with relief and clung to Nerys’s baby. She wondered if she ought to tell Owen that he was right. They wouldn’t make it to the hospital.
Her own waters had just broken.
Ianto drove straight into the Plas and pulled up near the steps down to the boardwalk. He opened the back door and Owen climbed out, carrying the mother and child. Jack stopped Owen’s car and jumped out. He yanked open the front door of the SUV and took one look at Toshiko.
“Hey, Jack Harkness!” A voice called his name and he looked around at the last person he expected to see, but the one person, except possibly for one other, that he was glad to see at that moment.
“Martha Jones!” he said with a relieved grin. “DOCTOR Martha Jones. You are a sight for sore eyes. Get here. We need you.”
He put the baby in her arms and lifted Toshiko into his and ran for the pavement lift as the others headed to the tourist office entrance. Martha followed him. The reason why she was there, looking for Jack and the Torchwood team went clear out of her head as she quickly assessed the nature of the immediate situation.
Inside the hub, Gwen took Cally and the two babies already born and made them all comfortable in the rest area. Jack brought Toshiko to his office and laid her on the sofa there while he directed Martha and the other two women to the boardroom. Owen brought his medical kit to the office and began examining Toshiko.
“We’re nearly there, sweetheart,” he told her. “Just hang in there.”
“The baby I was holding,” she said. “It belonged to Nerys, the other girl.”
“She’s ok,” Owen told her. “A bit dehydrated. Gwen’s feeding her now.”
“Nerys…what about her. Have you found her?”
“Don’t you worry about that,” Owen told her. “You’re the important one right now.”
“Tell me,” she said. Owen and Jack both tried not to give anything away in their faces, but the fact that they were clearly hiding something told her the worst.
“Oh, no!” she cried. “Oh, Jack, no. No. It’s not fair. She was just a kid herself. It’s not fair.”
Jack held her tightly, trying to comfort her. She was beyond comfort, though. Beyond anything but the world of pain and grief that enveloped her. She clung to him as she went into the final stages of childbirth hardly aware that it was happening. She was so exhausted from the struggle just to survive, so full of sorrow for the other woman who had lost the struggle. She didn’t even seem to know what was happening to her.
Then Owen gave a relieved sigh and straightened up, holding a newborn baby in his hands. He cleaned the mucus from her mouth as she breathed and cried for the first time then he put her into Toshiko’s arms. Jack hugged them both as Owen cut the cord and clamped it and finished taking care of her.
Jack looked at the baby. It was beautiful. Japanese features like her mother. Dark eyes and an oriental nose and tiny mouth. He stifled a sob of joy that echoed Toshiko’s and he remembered the confession he and the others had made earlier. At that moment he really wished the child was his. He knew he was probably just high on the emotions all around the Hub but he was glad to hang onto that beautiful moment for as long as he could. He knew they still had another bit of work to do today that wouldn’t be so pleasant.
Owen helped Martha deliver the other two babies and ensure all was well with them. They made all the mothers and babies sleep in hastily arranged beds in the boardroom. Much later, as dusk was falling on a grey day he joined Jack, Ianto and Alun as they drove back to the lock ups on the bayside. Ianto broke the deadlock seal and they went into the disguised space ship. After an interesting exploration they eventually found the medical room where Chaulloachla’s assistant and the drone were tied to the table by torn up sheets.
“Toshiko tells me there’s a loose end to tie up,” Jack said. “WHY did you do it?”
“We cannot have children,” she replied. “We are sterile. The last children born were over fifty years ago. We have kept ourselves alive with surgery and drugs. But we are doomed. Cloning experiments only produced empty mutes like these who assist me. They have only the most basic intelligence. Chaulloachla’s experiment would have restored our people.”
“Not good enough,” Owen said. “Not good enough to justify the life of a young woman who you butchered. Not good enough to justify what he did to those women, what you tried to do to them.”
“You see how angry Owen is,” Jack said to the woman. “I could just let him loose on you. Even if you ARE a woman, I don’t think he’d care right now. If it was up to me, I’d forget I’m a gentleman myself. But I found your cockpit. There was a message from your planetary authorities. They’ve traced you and they’re on the way to arrest you. I sent them a reply to say they could pick you up at a co-ordinate on the edge of our solar system. I’ve programmed your ship to fly there on auto-pilot in…” he looked at his watch. “Four minutes.”
“No!” she shrieked. “You have no idea what our penal colony is like. I am too old to work that hard.”
“Not my problem,” Jack said. “You’re their jurisdiction, not mine.” He turned to Owen and put his arm on his shoulder. “She isn’t worth it. Let’s get back to the Hub.”
Owen nodded and followed him. His rage dissipated as they walked away. They stood by the SUV and watched as from the lock up turned, briefly, into a space ship that took off vertically very fast and disappeared with a Doppler crash of sound into the night sky. There were only a few people who looked about to see where the noise came from, but it was gone before they had any chance of locating it. If they wondered tomorrow why there was an empty gap in the row of lock ups there would be nobody to offer an explanation.
Tomorrow, anyway, there was one more duty to perform. Jack drove the SUV. Toshiko and Cally sat in the back seat. Three babies slept peacefully in matching Moses baskets. Toshiko stayed in the car and watched two of the babies as Cally walked with one of them to the front door.
Jack stood by her as she handed Nerys’s baby to Mrs Clyne. Jack hugged both women and Toshiko smiled as she saw him kiss the baby before he and Cally turned away and left grandmother and grandchild to make what they could of their future.
“Now for you, Cally,” Jack said. “Is there somebody who can look after you at home?”
“My sister,” she said. “She’s going to come and stay.”
“Right you are then. How do you feel about it all? If you want to forget everything we have a thing called Retcon. Then you don’t need to worry about alien space ships or secret underground bases for alien hunting secret organisations.”
He would have retconned them all already but Toshiko had insisted that he couldn’t take away their memories of giving birth. They needed that. He had talked to them all and none of them seemed inclined to go to the tabloids with their story. He decided to trust them.
“I just want to go home,” Cally insisted.
Jack took her home. Then he took Toshiko home. On the way she made one stop. She wanted to do this as soon as possible. She came out of the registry office clutching her baby’s birth certificate. She showed it to Jack. She had called the baby girl Etsuko, Japanese for joyous child. And in the place where the father’s name went…
“Jack Ianto Alun Owens.” Jack laughed softly. “Lucky man. At least until the CSA catch up with him.
“Stuff the CSA,” Toshiko answered as she cuddled her baby in her arms.