Jack and Toshiko descended the pavement lift. They were both worried. They had just had a disturbing meeting in the foyer of the Senedd and needed to get the team together quickly.
As they stepped off the paving stone, Ianto met them with an urgent look on his face.
“Whatever it is,” Jack told him. “It’s got to wait. We just met David Myers. He’s absolutely distraught. His grandmother is missing. Connie… OUR Connie.”
“That’s what I need you for,” Ianto answered. “Ten minutes ago, a woman walked into the tourist office. She says she IS Connie.”
“What do you mean SAYS?” Jack asked as Toshiko, regardless of the crisis, went into his office to check on Etsuko in her day crib. She came back out, holding the baby in her arms as she listened to what Ianto had to say.
“She…” Ianto shrugged. “She’s in the boardroom. Beth didn’t know what else to do with her. She couldn’t wait in the tourist office. Ordinary people USE that place since she started running it.”
Jack allowed himself a smile at that remark. Beth had approached her role as guardian of the Torchwood front door completely differently to Ianto. She had made the tourist office look inviting and friendly and she actually sold postcards and souvenirs and gave out time tables and tourist maps to people.
“Ok,” he said, getting back to the point. “Are Gwen and Alun still out on that UFO sighting in Welshpool?”
“They called in to say it’s a weather balloon an hour ago. They’re on their way back. But it was a quiet day until ten minutes ago, though, and I told them they might as well take their time. They’ll be hours yet even if I ring them back and tell them they can’t stop for lunch after all.”
“You’d better tell them they can’t stop for lunch,” Jack answered. He smiled at the way Ianto had assumed the role of office manager around here lately. If anyone needed time off or a long lunch it was Ianto who organised that. He had come out of himself a lot since Alun came into his life, and he found a place in the loose Torchwood hierarchy that he was comfortable with, and which was FAR more than filing clerk, tea boy and general dogsbody.
Love was definitely good for him.
Jack stepped into the boardroom. Owen was taking the pulse of the woman who was sitting there. Jack wondered if she needed her pulse taken or was Owen hoping to get lucky. Then he looked at the woman. She appeared to be about twenty-five and very attractive, although her dress seemed not quite fitted right and her shoes looked wrong on her feet and she wasn’t wearing any make up. She looked up at Jack as if she knew him. And she DID. He knew her, too.
“Boss,” Owen said, looking at him. “This is our kind of weird all right. This woman says she’s Connie Myers. I’m running a DNA match using the old Torchwood files. But…”
“She IS Connie,” Jack answered. “I recognise her. Connie, you haven’t changed a bit since the 1959 Torchwood Christmas Party!”
She had looked just like that. Except that her make up and clothes had been so much more immaculate back then. He remembered smooth silk stockings and shoes with a heel that clicked as she walked, an a-line dress with the little slit at the back of the skirt and fitted sleeves, lots of buttons right up to the neckline that made all the men, even a sexually ambiguous one like himself, want to unfasten them very slowly. Luscious, deep coloured lipstick was in vogue back then. And he remembered a butterfly shaped decoration in her hair when she took off her coat and hat, and the one dance he had with her that night at the party.
“It IS her,” Toshiko confirmed. With Etsuko on her knee still she sat at a computer terminal and accessed the personnel files. A black and white photograph of Connie Myers appeared on the screen. She looked very much the way Jack was just remembering her. “But…”
“Oh, Jack!” Connie began to cry. Jack, sexually ambiguous hero to all damsels in distress, was at her side at once, offering her a clean handkerchief and a strong shoulder to lean on. “Oh, Jack, what am I going to do?”
“You’re going to have a good cry, because everyone needs that now and again. And then remember that you’re a Torchwood agent, and a bloody good one at that, and we’ll get down to working out what’s going on.”
“David must be frantic,” she said after she had finished the cry and began to think about the practical side of things. “Oh, my poor boy.”
Toshiko looked at Jack. He nodded.
“We were just talking to him,” she said. “He’s VERY upset. But mostly because the police won’t take him seriously. That’s why he called us. He thinks Jack and I are MI5, because of what happened at the Senedd last year. He’s got an active imagination. And he knows you used to do what he called ‘some kind of important government work’ in your younger days. He is convinced you’ve been kidnapped by enemies of Britain.”
“Oh, bless him,” she laughed. “He organised my financial papers for me, and he thought ‘Torchwood’ on my pension documents was a cover for the secret service. If only he knew that Torchwood is more secret and much closer to home.”
“Should we bring David in on this?” Toshiko asked. “It might be better if he knew she was ok….”
“No,” Connie insisted. “Oh, no, Jack. I don’t want HIM to see me like this. My own grandson. It was hard enough coming to you. But I didn’t know where ELSE to turn.”
“Like Owen said,” Jack answered her. “This is our kind of weird. Don’t you worry one little bit. We’ll sort this out. Let’s start by going over what you remember…”
“I don’t remember anything,” Connie replied. “My mind is a blank for nearly two days. The last thing I remember was Tuesday morning, planning to visit… visit Fergus. OUR Fergus.”
Jack looked startled by that, but let her continue talking.
“He’s been living in a nursing home for the past five years. I’ve been going to see him from time to time. He doesn’t really like visitors too often. Or maybe it’s just me… because I remind him… He always seems quite bitter about Torchwood… about the past. But there’s nobody else, so I go to see him when I can… when he’ll let me.” She stopped and smiled wryly. “I’m sorry. I’m rambling on like a… like an old woman. But that was what I planned to do. I don’t remember if I ever even GOT there. I woke up this morning in the waiting room at Central Station. I felt as stiff as a board and there was a transport policeman standing over me, asking if I had a valid ticket. I didn’t of course. Then he wanted to see ID. I showed him my OAP bus pass and he nearly arrested me… And that’s when I caught sight of my reflection in the window. And… I AM Connie Myers. I remember my whole life, except for these two days. But it’s not MY body. I’m…”
“You’re absolutely beautiful, Connie. As you always were.”
“Yes, but it’s not right. I’m not… twenty-five or… whatever I look like now. I’m not this… I have a grown up grandson. I’ve already outlived my own son. I don’t want to BE like this. I want to get back to normal.”
“Captain,” Ianto called to him quietly. “Can I have a quick word… downstairs….” He said it in such a deadpan voice, devoid of emotion, that he could have been wanting to talk about the overtime rota. But there was a look in his eyes when Jack turned to him that told another story. Jack followed him out of the boardroom and down to the floor below where Ianto directed his attention to the case file open at Gwen’s workstation.
“Jack,” he said. “I searched our files for anything like this happening before. I don’t know if you’ve seen this… It’s not one of our cases. It was U.N.I.T. that cleared up the mess and invented the cover stories for the public….”
Jack looked at the file. And he wondered why he hadn’t thought of it himself. Perhaps because that time that the rest of the country had tried to put behind them had lasted so much longer for him. He had more of a nightmare to forget about in the Rise and Fall of Mr Saxon.
“Professor Lazarus’s experiment in Human rejuvenation. But that didn’t work. He died. Gruesomely.”
The U.N.I.T. file included the results of the autopsy that showed the professor’s DNA scrambled until it was barely recognisable as Human. An ambitious man had been turned into a monster. Literally. Ianto hadn’t noticed that there was a secondary encryption on this file, with a lot more detail of who had been involved in Lazarus’s eventual demise. Cover up on cover up. But that didn’t matter now. What did matter was the medical evidence that was included in the main file.
“Connie could…” Jack breathed hard as the horrible idea fixed in his mind. “Oh, no.”
“No,” Owen said. Jack and Ianto both turned to look at him. “No, that’s not happening to Connie. It’s not going to happen. I’ve completed the DNA profile. And I just rechecked it, just in case Ianto was onto something here. There’s no breakdown of the cells, no mutations. She’s a healthy woman in her mid-20s, completely Human.”
“And she really IS in her 20’s? Her body has been regenerated, rejuvenated… whatever?”
“Yes. Skin elasticity, bone structure, teeth and gums… She’s perfect. Probably better than she was first time round. Everybody used to smoke back in her day. Her lungs will be much cleaner now.”
“So what is it?” Ianto asked. “What did it?”
“If I had to guess,” Owen answered. “Somebody got hold of Lazarus’s work and carried it on. Perfected the process. Connie’s a guinea pig… prototype… I don’t know… Some weird shit’s happened to her. I’m running a tox-screen now…. To find out if the amnesia was chemical….”
Owen turned to his workstation as it beeped to tell him the text results were ready. He read the screen and swore loudly.
“What?” Ianto and Jack spoke together, both expecting the worst… that Owen was wrong about the stability of Connie’s DNA, that she WAS in imminent danger of a painful and grisly death.
“The amnesia…” he said. “She’s got fucking Retcon in her bloodstream.”
Jack looked up at the boardroom. Connie was sitting there petting Etsuko and talking to Tosh. Jack grinned at the scene. The baby was a ready made way to take anyone’s mind off their problems temporarily.
“What sort of Retcon?” he asked as his mind turned over this new dimension to the mystery and put it together with what Connie had said.
“There’s only one sort of Retcon…”
“No, there isn’t. I improved the recipe. Got rid of the telltale bitter taste that put people off their drinks. It was invented by Fergus MacManus, the director of Torchwood in the 1950s. Connie’s boss. The man she was going to visit the day she can’t remember. The man we need to talk to. Ianto, find his address in the pension records. Take Owen. Figure out a cover story on your way. Call Gwen and Alun. They can rendezvous with you in the SUV. For back up.”
“We need back up? For one old geezer?” Owen queried.
“Don’t underestimate that old geezer. He had a sharp, devious mind when he was young. Don’t let the fact that he’s in his 80s fool you.”
“You don’t want to follow this up, boss?” Owen asked. “Sounds like you know him better than anyone?”
“Used to. That’s the trouble. If Fergus has gone rogue, best he doesn’t know I’m on the case, yet. Best he doesn’t know Torchwood is on the case yet.”
“You sure it’s not so you can get cosy with Connie while we’re out?” Owen joked. “The way you were talking to her, it was like you were sweet on her.”
“I’m going steady with Garrett,” he answered. “Besides, there’s someone else I think Connie would want to be cosy with.”
Ianto and Owen looked at each other and wondered about that statement briefly. But they had been given a job to do. They went to do it, bickering slightly about who was driving, and Owen being forced to concede that Ianto’s more conservative vehicle was more suitable for a visit to an old people’s rest home than his sporty model.
Jack listened to their argument for a moment or two then went up to the boardroom again.
“Tosh,” he said. “Why don’t you take Connie down to the bathroom. I’m sure she’ll feel better after a shower and some clothes she hasn’t been sleeping in.”
“Works for me,” Tosh answered. Connie looked hesitant but came along with her. Jack called Beth and asked her to make some calls for him and then he headed down in the lift to the cryogenic unit.
He wasn’t due to be revived yet. There was another month to the agreed date. But before he went to his year long sleep he had requested that they wake him if anything happened to Connie. Jack had interpreted the anything as meaning he wanted to know if she was on her death bed. This was a more liberal application of anything, but he knew Michael wouldn’t complain.
He didn’t. When Jack told him it wasn’t March yet he was alarmed, but Jack reassured him quickly and while Michael showered and put on clean clothes, he explained what had happened.
“She’s not hurt?” Michael asked. “Are you sure she’s all right?”
“She’s not hurt. Just very upset and confused. But I have a hunch that the sight of you will cheer her up no end.”
He didn’t bring him to the hub. Instead Jack led Michael to what they called ‘the hospitality suite’. It was on the floor above the cryo-units and looked like a nicely furnished hotel suite with drawing room/dining room, bedroom and bathroom. The difference being that hotel suites had windows instead of a two way mirror on the wall and discreet surveillance cameras on the wall. He wasn’t entirely sure what the logic of the ‘hospitality suite’ was. He couldn’t imagine a set of circumstances where they would have a prisoner, alien or Human, that they would want to observe while pampering them. But they maintained the room and a perfect use for it presented itself today.
Beth was just setting out the gourmet meal that had been delivered and opening a bottle of wine. Michael sat on the comfortable sofa and waited, looking, Jack thought, a little nervous. When the door opened and Connie walked in, he stood up. Jack felt a twinge of jealousy and reminded himself that he was going steady with Garrett.
She looked stunning. The dress was modern, but it had a fifties retro look in the a-line skirt and fitted bodice. She was wearing silk stockings that accentuated finely toned calves and high heeled shoes. Her hair was up and her make up was immaculate. She was beautiful.
Tosh had obviously NOT told her anything. When she saw Michael her mouth opened in surprise and her eyes lit with a joy that had been absent before.
“Connie.” He whispered her name and held out his arms. She needed no further invitation from the man she had loved all her life. Again, Jack felt just a twinge of envy, then reminded himself that he had a date later with a man who knew how to push all of his buttons.
“If you need anything, Beth is at the end of that phone,” Jack told the two of them. “But I have a feeling you have everything you need right here.”
Connie stopped kissing Michael long enough to turn and smile and thank them. Jack put his arms around Beth and Toshiko and steered them out of the room.
“Are we going to be keeping them on surveillance?” Toshiko asked, nodding towards the concealed door along the corridor.
“I don’t think there’s any need for that,” Jack answered. “Unless either of you are into voyeurism in a big way.”
Neither of them were. Beth returned to the front desk. Toshiko settled Etsuko in her day crib and got on with her attempt to translate a series of encoded radio transmissions that S.E.T.I. – the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence – thought might be messages from aliens wanting to make First Contact. So far it didn’t look promising, but she kept at it.
Because inbetween the excitement this was what Torchwood did.
Jack went to his office and called up the computerised personnel file for Fergus MacManus. He didn’t really need it. He had a good memory for the people he had worked with over the years. For most of the fifties and sixties, he called Fergus his friend as well as his boss. There were very few people he had been closer friends with than Fergus. He had been in on his ‘secret’. Even within Torchwood that was a rare thing. Fergus had seen him ‘die’ more times than he wanted to count. He had been there at his side, trying to ease his suffering. He had waited for him to ‘come back’. Quite a few of those times, he had taken a bullet, or a knife, or a raygun blast, for Fergus, saving his fragile life.
He had trusted Fergus. Fergus trusted him.
“If Fergus has gone rogue…”
Why had he thought that?
Because he remembered what Fergus had said to him, ten years ago, the last time they had talked. He was an old man, retired, put out to pasture. He was riddled with osteoporosis and was in hospital preparing for a hip replacement that would give him something resembling an independent life. Jack, was young, virile, and the nurses, male and female, were behaving as if he had put on extra strength pheromones instead of aftershave. And they all thought he was Fergus’s son. Fergus had been bitter and resentful. Of course, he was in a lot of pain, and Jack had put it down to that. But some of the things he said at the time cut deep. He had made him feel ashamed of his immortality. Why SHOULD he be young, healthy, forever, while other men got old and sick and died. Jack had tried to make a joke about how his taxes were paying for an old age pension he would never get to collect. But Fergus hadn’t found it funny. By the end of the visit meant to bring comfort, Fergus couldn’t even LOOK at his lifelong friend. Jack had left the hospital and never visited again. The nursing home listed in the pension accounts was only just outside Cardiff, but he had never been there. Jack didn’t want to hurt him by reminding him once more that he was mortal and his life almost over, the adventures they had shared merely a fading memory.
Fergus didn’t want to get old. He envied Jack’s eternal youth. Would that be enough to send him over the edge? Was he THAT desperate to stave off death?
Who wouldn’t be? Jack thought. He was the only person on this planet – as far as he knew – who didn’t fear death.
He could understand why Fergus might have been tempted. But it didn’t excuse him. He still had to be stopped.
“Is this the right address?” Owen asked as Ianto stopped the car by the firmly closed gates of Blaengwynlais Rest Home for the Independent Elderly. “Independent… as in rich enough to pay the fucking bill? But why the security? Keeping out the grasping relatives who want a share of the loot when they pop off?”
“Wouldn’t be where I’d want to spend my twilight years,” Ianto answered. He checked the Satnav. The technology said that this was the right address. Toshiko confirmed that Fergus’s pension record had him living here for ten years, along with twenty other elderly people whose banks and building societies and pension funds registered this as their home address.
“Ok, DSS snoops,” Owen said, looking through his collection of fake IDs. “You look the part, anyway.”
“DSS officers don’t always wear suits, these days,” Ianto replied. “They aim to maintain a friendly, approachable interface with customers.” He got out of the car and stepped towards the intercom system. His conversation with whoever was operating the electronic gate was a long one in which Ianto was clearly being assertive and authoritative as he demanded entry. To look at him neither of those adjectives should go in the same sentence with Ianto, Owen thought. But there were hidden depths to him that were plundered when the time was right.
“Something funny is going on here,” Ianto said as he got back into the car and put it into gear. The electronic gate opened and he slid the car forward. They were neither of them given to fancy, but somehow they felt nervous when they were inside. They both glanced back as the gates slid closed behind them. “Wonder if we’ll get out as easily?”
“Did they buy that we’re DSS?” Owen asked.
“I think so,” Ianto answered. “That bought us ten minutes with the director of the facility. She’s a very busy woman, you know!”
“Ten minutes? Does that include parking time?” They both looked around as they emerged from the tunnel of trees that flanked the driveway. The Blaengwynlais Rest Home was a substantial Victorian country house, with a very nice formal garden, tennis courts, bowling green, golf driving range, and even what looked like a heated swimming pool in a separate annexe. It looked like a good place to spend one’s declining years. But the electronic gate and the heavy set security guard on the main door both made the two young men determined that, should they live to collect their pensions, given their often dangerous occupation, they wouldn’t be retiring here.
“I am sorry,” Ms Aderyn Tibbot, director, said to them as she sat behind her polished office desk and looked over her horn-rimmed glasses at them both. “I am afraid your information is incorrect. Mr MacManus WAS a resident here until a month ago. But his deteriorating health meant that we could no longer accommodate him. He transferred to a hospice in Neath that could better provide for his specialist needs.”
“The DWP should have been informed of his change of circumstances,” Ianto said, his deadpan voice sounding convincing as a civil servant. “You have a forwarding address for him?”
“I could not possibly divulge such information, even to yourselves,” Ms Tibbot replied. “Not without a court order. There is such thing as client confidentiality.”
“Very well,” Ianto answered with just a little hint of menace in his tone. He stood up. Owen did likewise.
“I am sorry you had a wasted journey.” A thin pretence of courtesy continued.
“We’ll see ourselves out.” Owen’s pretence was even thinner.
“Did you EVER see an old people’s home with no old people in it?” Ianto asked as they stepped out of the building. He glanced around at the unused facilities. It was mid-February, but even so it was a bright day and having paid for it all, surely a few hardy souls would be using the bowling green or driving range? And there was no sign of any indoor activity.
“Didn’t even SMELL like an old people’s home,” Owen replied. “There should have been that underlying hint of urine and zoflora.”
“She lied about Fergus. If Connie was going to see him two days ago, then he DIDN’T move out.”
“Doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work that out! Did you manage to plant the surveillance device?”
“Yes,” Ianto assured him. “I’ll call Tosh once we’re clear of this place to see if she’s receiving the data.” He opened the driver’s side door and got into his car. Owen got into the other side and belted up. As they pulled away Ianto looked in the rear view mirror and noted the security guard running towards them. He put his foot down on the accelerator.
“There’s the GATE,” Owen pointed out as he turned and noted that the guard had drawn a gun.
“Yes, I know,” Ianto’s voice displayed so little emotion, Owen could have just told him there was a speed bump, not so many tons of wrought iron ahead. He saw him half turn once and was rather surprised by what he said next.
“Whoever you are in the back, keep your head down and hold tight. This is going to be bumpy.”
Owen opened his mouth to say something, but the gate was looming ahead. He closed his eyes and braced himself. He heard a yelp from the back seat and a gasp from Ianto, then there was a jarring crash. He felt the crumpling of the car bonnet in his every bone as he was thrown forward and then back, held in by the seatbelt. He felt the roughness beneath the car as it drove straight over the flattened gate. He opened his eyes and saw the country road ahead. Ianto was flooring the accelerator still. But the car was a write off. There was steam coming from the smashed radiator and the engine was in its death throes.
“Ianto, Owen!” Gwen’s voice over the communicator in his ear gladdened him. The more so when she said they were right behind them. “Do you know there’s a bullet hole in your rear windscreen,” she added.
“What?” Owen looked around. He saw the SUV on their tail. He saw the windscreen with a hole in it. He saw the stowaway sitting up on the back seat. He turned back and saw blood pouring from Ianto’s shoulder as he kept his hands clamped to the steering wheel.
“Fucking hell,” he swore as he pressed his hand against the wound and Ianto turned the car into a narrow farm track screened by hedgerows. “Why didn’t you say?”
“Didn’t want to make a fuss,” he answered before fainting. The next moment Alun was nearly ripping the door off the car and trying to drag him out.
“Wait while I get his seatbelt,” Owen told him. “Put your hand over the wound. Keep the pressure on it.” He turned to the stowaway. “Get into the passenger seat of the SUV,” he said. Then he crawled out of the stricken car and helped Alun carry Ianto to the backseat. As soon as everyone was in, Gwen reversed back towards the main road. She waited until a minivan with “Blaengwynlais Rest Home” on the door sped past then turned in the opposite direction.
“It’s a through and through,” Owen said as he got Ianto’s shirt off and started to clean the wound with the emergency first aid kit. “He’ll be fine. That was fucking good driving he did, with a bullet in him.”
Alun looked relieved and held his lover tightly while Owen tended to him.
“Why were you being shot at?” Gwen asked, getting to the point.
“Because of me,” said the boy in the passenger seat. Gwen glanced at him. He looked about twelve years old, with sandy hair and freckles. He was dressed in hospital pyjamas that looked several sizes too big for him and no shoes.
“And you are….”
“Fergus MacManus,” the boy answered. “And…” He reached for the pull down computer screen and switched it on. The Torchwood logo, the ‘T’ made up of hexagons, appeared. “You’re Torchwood! Thank fuck for that.”
Gwen was used to hearing the word ‘fuck’ at home, at work, in the street. But it still jarred coming from a boy his age.
“Fergus….!” Owen swore. “Oh fuck!”
“I need to talk to Jack,” Fergus said. “Jack Harkness. He is still in charge of Torchwood isn’t he?”
“We’re heading back to the hub,” Gwen answered him. “I don’t know what this is all about, but right now, all I care about is getting Ianto back there so we can look after him.”
“Agreed,” Owen added. He had done the best field dressing anyone could be expected to do in a moving SUV. His patient was semi-conscious, apologising for being such a nuisance, and being hugged tightly by Alun, who didn’t look like he planned to let him go. He looked outside at the streets of Cardiff and told Gwen to drive to the underground garage entrance to the hub. They didn’t want to bring Ianto through either the pavement lift on the busy Plas OR the tourist information centre on the boardwalk. Either would attract far too much attention.
Jack was waiting in the garage when they drove in. He reached to help Alun carry Ianto up to the hub. They put him on the sofa in the boardroom where Owen was able to give him the proper medical attention he needed.
Jack turned from ensuring that Ianto was going to be all right, with Owen’s professional medical care and Alun’s TLC. He looked at Fergus for a long moment then went to the drinks cabinet and poured a double single malt scotch. Gwen was astonished when he handed it to the boy.
“But…” she began.
“You always liked the single malts,” Jack remarked as Fergus swallowed half the glass in one gulp. “It’s… good to see you, old man.”
“I could say the same for you, Jack,” he answered. “You haven’t changed a bit.”
“You have. I think I know how. We’re still trying to work out why. Take a seat and let’s talk.”
Fergus sat. Jack took a seat beside him. Gwen, too. Toshiko was at the computer terminal. She was looking at an infra red display that showed the occupants of a large building as they moved around. Or, in this case, didn’t move around very much. Old people’s home? More like a prison, with people in their individual cells. It didn’t look right at all.
“It’s not right,” Fergus said. “You’ve got to get them out of there. Before she does something terrible.”
“Get who out?” Toshiko asked. “And what does this have to do with… With what happened to you…” She didn’t mention Connie. She, like the rest of the team, didn’t know what to make of this child who USED to be the director of Torchwood. And they didn’t know if he was responsible for what happened to Connie or if he was a victim, too.
“Never mind that for now,” Jack said to him. “I know what this is about. So tell me, when did you steal the Lazarus blueprints? And how?”
“Six months ago,” he answered. “It isn’t the first time. I’ve been hacked into the Torchwood computer system for years. You know how it is. You never leave this job. It gets into your blood. I retired… remember the party we had, Jack…”
“I told you all I was going to enjoy myself. Play golf… I fucking well hate golf. I’ve never set foot on the range. I… never really left Torchwood. I had all the passwords to the computers. I found all the new passwords when you changed them… when the computers got bigger and smarter. I read every file ever saved on the Torchwood computers. I was with you all the way, Jack, watching you rebuild what was almost lost. I got the blueprints for the technology…” He reached into his pocket and put what they recognised as a lock-opening device on the table. “It’s how I escaped from my room, how I got into the car and hid. But that’s child’s play. The one I wanted… The Lazarus project. The details only came to Torchwood third hand. But I knew it was what I had been waiting for. I studied it. I saw where the original idea went wrong. I corrected the mistake. I… I used it to take just a few years off myself… so I wouldn’t be so ill, so feeble… bought myself some more years. I wasn’t looking to relive my youth… I don’t want to be young again in THIS decade. The music sets my teeth on edge. People are rude, pushy, arrogant. It’s not as if I could get my old job back…” He looked at Jack, who met his gaze steadily. “I just wanted to be healthy. But…”
“But what?” Jack asked. He looked angry, and there was an edge to his voice. “Fergus, you stole technology from us. You broke all our security protocols. You put Torchwood at risk… You betrayed us.”
“Yes, I did,” he admitted. “I did. And worse. I was found out. You met Tibbot, the director. She found out what I was doing. She turned the machine on me, reduced me to THIS, and threatened to keep on going till I was an embryo if I didn’t co-operate. Then she started experimenting on the residents. Some of them DID end up as embryos. She…” Fergus turned to where Toshiko was still studying the live, infra red pictures of what was happening at the rest home. “That room there, the ‘nursery’. She reverted three residents to newborn babies. Most ended up as teenagers. She locked them up in their rooms, dosed with Retcon. They don’t know which way is up.”
“Why?” Gwen asked. “What’s it for? What’s the point?”
“Profit,” Fergus answered. “What would rich people pay to remain young forever? She’s planning to market eternal youth.”
“I don’t think so,” Jack answered him. “That wasn’t a Torchwood secret. It was a Government secret that we were party too. She’s going to jail for treason. And so are YOU, Fergus. And how did Connie end up involved?”
“Connie?” Fergus looked relieved. “Is she ok? Where is she?”
“She’s safe,” Jack answered. “Which is all you need to know for now.” There was a hard edge to his voice, still. That surprised everyone around the table. He saw their expressions and laughed softly. “Yes, I know. He sounds convincing as the victim of circumstances. But remember, Owen, I told you he was devious. I know a cock and bull story when I hear one. And I’m hearing one now. Let’s try again. Let’s try you going into partnership with Ms Tibbot, planning to share your profits and enjoy your good health and vigour for eternity. Only Connie turned up, and she would have blown the whole thing. So you trick her into your machine….”
“That was Aderyn’s idea. I didn’t want… I stopped the process before it was complete. She was going to kill her. Revert her all the way back… Connie would have ceased to exist. I couldn’t let her do that. I stopped the machine, got her out. I Retconned her and drove her into the city. Left her where she would be safe. I knew she would find you guys. I went back to Blaengwynlais to tell Aderyn that the game was up. But she turned on me. Even though I’d taken the years off, and the osteoporosis was gone, she was still stronger than me. I thought I was a gonner, but she decided I might still be useful. My brain… still got all that stuff in here. All that knowledge….”
“Which YOU were prepared to use for profit,” Gwen pointed out.
“Wake up and smell the manure, girl,” he replied. “How do you think Torchwood exists? Profits from alien technology. No, not stupid things like Velcro. I mean, how do you think supersonic flight was ever developed in this country? How do you suppose the Americans got their stealth bombers? The space shuttle. It was stuff we sold to them. Profit pays your salary. It pays for all your salaries. It pays for his bayside apartment and flash car.” He glared at Owen as he said that. “And how much have you earned over the years, Jack? How much will you have earned long after the rest of us are dead and gone?”
“You think I do this job for the money?” Jack replied scornfully.
“Queen and Country!” Everyone turned as Ianto spoke. His eyes were barely open and he was clearly still in pain. Alun held him as he struggled to sit up. “We do our duty, for Queen and Country. And that’s not bullshit. It’s what we ALL believe in. Lisa believed in it. I believe in it. It’s what you should believe in, Fergus. You’re a fucking traitor. I’m not sorry I took a bullet for you. Because that’s our job, too. Protecting the innocent… and sometimes the guilty, too. But I am sorry you were ever a part of Torchwood. You dirty the name of the organisation I’m proud to work for.”
The effort was nearly too much. He was fainting again. Alun made him lie down again, repeating the same mantra – Duty, Queen and Country. Owen reaffirmed there was nothing wrong that a bit more rest and Alun’s attentions wouldn’t cure.
“Nothing excuses what you did,” Toshiko said, turning back to Fergus. “Ianto’s right. You’re no better than Suzie when she went off the deep end. You’ve dirtied what we do. You make me sick. And for the record, I AM sorry he took a bullet for you.”
She seemed to speak for them all.
“What happens now?” Gwen asked. “Do we go back to that place and get Tibbot and her armed guards? Shut the place down?”
“Not WE,” Jack said. “We’re a man down. Besides, like I said before, this isn’t just Torchwood business. Alun, Gwen, take him to the cells. The COMFY cells, ok. Out of earshot of the Weevils. But frisk him for any more lock-opening devices, first.”
Alun left Ianto’s side to do that duty. As he and Gwen took Fergus in hand, Jack reached for his phone and speed dialled a number. “Garrett, I’m going to have to take a raincheck on another dinner date this evening. Duty calls. But how do you fancy a nice, juicy act of treason to occupy your time? On one condition. Torchwood gets the technology you find when your boys have finished.”
Mid-morning the next day Alun supervised the delivery of the ‘technology’. Jack had it set up in the bunker where all the dangerous experiments were done. Then he had Fergus brought down from the ‘comfy’ cell. He looked mutinous, but resigned to his situation.
“I know a bit about this sort of technology,” Jack said as he studied the strange looking device. It wasn’t as neat looking as the original one in the blue prints. Fergus didn’t have the resources. But the basic principle was the same. A chamber where the Human body was bombarded with particles that restructured the DNA. “I know for a fact that it can be reversed, to age people. You’re going to do that, so that we can make things right for some of the people you and your accomplice experimented on.”
“Some?” Fergus queried.
“Some of them don’t want to be old again. Even though they didn’t choose to get reduced to teenagers, they don’t mind a fresh shot at life. We’re arranging help for them. The ones you reduced to babies… we don’t think it would do any good to re-age them anyway. The infant brains couldn’t contain them. They’ve lost all that they were. Their memories, experiences. They’re in the care of the ordinary social services. They’ll be adopted. Grow up again, never knowing anything about it. But there are a half a dozen who want their lives back. They have families who they don’t want upsetting with all this. So you’re going to help them. Your co-operation will be taken into account when you go to trial for stealing government secrets.”
“What? I’ll get a slap on the wrist and a stretch in a young offenders institute?” he replied sarcastically.
“You can have a stretch next door to the weevil as far as I’m concerned,” Jack answered. “Tosh and Ianto both said it. You dirtied what we do. And that’s unforgivable as far as I’m concerned. But you can at least do some damage limitation.”
Jack left Alun and Gwen to guard him while he worked. He had spent enough time in his presence. Besides, there was something else he wanted to do.
David Myers had trouble believing it. He stared at the young woman who Jack and Toshiko assured him was his grandmother. He looked at the man he had met once before, who he was now told was his GRANDFATHER, who had spent nearly a century in a cryogenic freezer waiting to belong to the world again.
“They didn’t HAVE cryogenic freezers back then,” he pointed out. “They BARELY had food freezers.”
“Torchwood did,” Jack told him. “It got the technology from aliens who wanted to accelerate Earth technology a century early. Anyway, the reason you’re being told this, is because Connie needs to make her mind up about some things. She can’t decide between being your grandmother or Michael’s lover.”
“Even once a year,” she said. “It would make up for all those lost years.” She clung to Michael’s hand as she spoke. “I know, sooner or later, Michael has to go back to his own life. The one he lost when he was caught in the rift. He won’t be Michael any more. He’ll be whoever he really is, with a family of his own, perhaps. I knew that would happen one day. But I expected to be dead and gone when it happened. This way… It might be that much harder to say goodbye to him, but…”
“But… gran…” David reached out and took her hand. “It doesn’t even FEEL like your hand. I don’t remember you young. You were always… even when I was a boy, you were an old lady. This doesn’t feel right at all. I’m glad you’re alive. I’ve been so worried. But…”
“I’ve got no right to take you from your family,” Michael said to her. “I DO have a life somewhere, sometime. Yesterday, and last night… it was a second chance with you that I never expected to have. But we can’t ask for more than that.”
“Yes, you can,” Jack told them. “You can ask for anything you want. You’ve all taken enough shit without a word of complaint.”
“I want…” Connie took both of their hands. Her grandson and her lover. “I want not to have to choose.”
Jack got ready to speak. Then his communicator crackled. He went outside the Senedd hospitality room to take the message from Alun. Then he went back and told them to come with him. Connie still hadn’t made her mind up, but he had something he could show her that might help her to decide. He led the three of them back through the tunnels that led from the Senedd to Torchwood. At the entrance to the bunker Owen met them. He was smiling.
“It works,” he said. “Re-aging… It hurts like fuck, judging by the screaming, but it works. And he’s absolutely fine. He gave himself forty years and…”
Connie and Jack both gasped when they saw Fergus. Because both recognised him. He looked like he did when he was in his fifties, before his retirement, before his bitterness and his disillusionment.
“You let him be a test subject?” Jack questioned.
“He did it himself,” Alun replied. “We said no. But he rigged the controls INSIDE the chamber. We couldn’t stop it.”
“Ok, it works,” Jack said. “So you don’t need to worry about the young offenders institute now. You can go to an ordinary jail.”
“Still so unforgiving, Jack?” Fergus answered. “You’re going to see me rot in jail, while you live on. Will you be there at my graveside?”
“I’m not responsible for your problems, Fergus. You made your own choices..”
“And I’m making them now,” Fergus answered. Then before anyone could react he lunged towards Jack. He grabbed him and propelled them both towards the open door of the aging machine. The door snapped shut behind them, and he must have rigged the door to jam closed.
“I’m not going to jail,” he said. Jack grappled with him, but he managed to get his hand to the control. Jack saw him slide a dial clockwise then push the large button beside it. Then the inside of the chamber lit with a pulsating, glowing light that increased in intensity until it felt as if it was penetrating their bodies. Jack tried to reach the control but Fergus was determined. He fought him back until the bombardment of particles began to take effect. Jack screamed with him. It was painful. And Fergus had done this twice already.
Fergus was changing. He could see it before his eyes. His body was aging rapidly, weakening. His hold on him was slackening. Jack pushed him away and dived for the control. Fergus was crouched on the floor, crumpled up in pain. He looked as if he was suffering every ailment of old age at once, from arthritis to cataracts. Jack looked at the control. He had set it to add sixty years to his starting age of fifty. He had meant to kill himself by rapid aging rather than go to jail.
“You’re not getting away with it that easily,” Jack told him as he turned the dial anti-clockwise. It hurt just as much being rejuvenated. He watched Fergus scream and writhe in pain, but this time he kept a firm hand on the control. When Fergus was young and healthy enough to try to fight back he kicked out at him and kept him back.
After a few minutes he didn’t have to fight. He stopped the machine. He pushed open the door and looked out at his astonished friends. He picked up the crying baby from among Fergus’s clothes and stepped out.
“Tosh, you’re the maternal one,” he said. “Take care of him.”
Toshiko took the baby and looked at it. She held it carefully, but there was an expression on her face something short of disgust. This WAS still the man who had betrayed them all.
“Just so long as you don’t expect me to breast feed him,” she answered and walked away to find some nappies and a babygro from Etusko’s things and call social services to look after one more unexpectedly abandoned baby. Jack turned to look at Connie, flanked by David and Michael.
“After all that screaming, I guess you definitely don’t want to try that?”
“I talked to these two. I think I know what I want to do. If… you’re sure that thing is ok.”
“You turn the dial,” Jack told her. “You decide how many years you want to add on or take away. Fergus made it simple. It takes only a few minutes, but they’re awful minutes. When he Retconned you last time, he did you a favour.”
“I gave birth to David’s father before they invented the epidural. You men don’t know what pain is.” She walked to the door. Jack reached and stayed her arm.
“Are you sure?” he told her.
“I’m sure. I’ll be all right.”
“I’ll come in there with you… hold your hand…”
“Jack, you’ve had enough already. Anyone but you would be dead already.” She smiled and kissed him on the cheek and stepped in. He closed the door and stepped back. David and Michael were right behind him. He grasped both their hands. All three of them cared deeply for Connie in their different ways. They all hoped that nothing would go wrong with this dangerous, insane machine that should never have been built.
They heard Connie’s groans of pain inside the machine, but she never screamed out loud, not like Jack himself had screamed. Maybe there was something in that remark about childbirth, he thought. Even so, it was pain she should not have had to go through, and he hated that it was necessary.
“When this is over,” he said. “When we’ve done this for all those who chose to return to normal, this machine gets taken apart, with an arc welder. Nobody plays with Human life this way, ever again.”
“An easy thing for you to say, Jack,” Michael commented. “You were in there… and it didn’t affect you. Do the usual rules of Human life apply to you?”
“No, they don’t. But it wasn’t my choice. It’s something I’ve had to accept, just as you accepted your lot. I’m still not sure if it’s a gift or a curse. But I accept what I am. We all have to do that.”
The machine stopped. Jack stepped forward. So did Michael and David. He turned to them. They both caught the look in his eye and stood back. He opened the door alone, holding his breath as his mind went through all the horrible possibilities of what could have gone wrong.
Connie stepped out. Not the young Connie, not the elderly but feisty woman they had come to know.
“You look like I remember… when I was a little boy,” David said.
“Fifty-five. That’s how old I was when you were born,” she answered him. “Will that do?”
“It’ll do fine, gran,” her grandson assured her. Jack and Michael agreed. They thought she looked beautiful. Michael stepped forward and took her in his arms. David recognised that a grandson wasn’t needed just now and left them to it.
“He still loves her,” David commented. “They get to see each other once a year?”
“I think they might get some bonus time this year,” Jack answered. “But that’s the plan. I think it could work for them.”
“Something good came out of all this madness, then?”
Jack considered that question. Fergus and his effort to cheat death had caused five people to suffer painful deaths. Four, including himself were reduced to infancy. Six were going to have to go through the same pain and misery as Connie and himself had suffered. It was going to take them months to find all the back doors and traps in the Torchwood computer system that Fergus had exploited.
But there was a happy ending for Michael and Connie.
Yes. That was a reason for satisfaction.