Gwen came to the office door and looked at Toshiko and Owen as they arrived together through the tourist office entrance. Toshiko was a little tearful. Gwen knew why. This was Etsuko’s first morning at nursery school. Toshiko had decided that she ought to spend at least half the day among other children, and in natural daylight instead of being down in the Hub with her. But the separation was a wrench. Gwen saw her sit at her desk and sigh as she glanced at the empty playpen beside it.
But this was inevitable, and necessary, of course. It was a day that had to come. Etsuko was walking now, and being kept cooped up in the playpen was no good for her. These half days were a prelude to full days of nursery, which would prepare her for real school in only a few years. Etsuko, conceived in a bizarre alien experiment, born in the Torchwood Hub, spending the first months of her life under a pterodactyl net, and coming to terms with her invisibility, was going to have a normal life as far as Toshiko and Owen could make it.
Toshiko and Owen…. Gwen smiled. They kept it low key in the Hub. She had never even seen them hold hands or kiss. But their body language was unmistakeable. They were an item. It had happened slowly, gradually, quietly. And Gwen was pleased, because she knew it was going to last, and both of them deserved it.
She turned back and sat down behind Jack’s desk. It was a lot tidier than usual. He had put a lot of his personal keepsakes away. The drawer wasn’t locked. She had opened it once by accident and closed it again. She knew there were some big clues about what made Jack tick in there. But she was determined not to look. He put her in charge while he was on holiday with Garrett because he trusted her. She wasn’t going to betray his trust.
Gwen settled down to a quiet morning of almost routine business. So did Toshiko. She had a city-wide scan ongoing for any traces of The Joker’s DNA. They were all aware that the creature with almost unlimited ability to shape change could still be around and they were watching out for it. Owen was working on a miniaturised biological alarm that he could add onto Jack’s wristlet so that he would know if the fiend was near him. Ianto and Alun were at two twin computers indexing a recent collection of alien artefacts that they were adding to the archive.
All was fine.
Just before midday Toshiko came to the office.
“There’s a minor rift surge due in half an hour,” she said. “But it’s nothing the boys couldn’t handle. I’d like to… go and get Etsu and take her out for the afternoon… a treat for her first morning at nursery. Somewhere nice for lunch, then the park for a bit…”
“You’re asking me if it’s ok for you to have the afternoon off to spend with your baby?” Gwen wondered if any single mother in the same position in any other office in Cardiff would dare ask the question. But how many weekends and evenings when other offices were shut did Toshiko spend at her workstation monitoring rift activity or the trajectory of unknown craft through Earth’s atmosphere. Before Etsuko was born, she practically lived in the Hub just like the others. Torchwood owed her this time.
“If it isn’t convenient…” she began.
“Tosh, it’s convenient. Go on. Have a great afternoon and don’t give us a passing thought. Hug Etsu for all of us. We miss her around the place. Without her it’s a bit more like a secret underground headquarters for tracking down alien intelligence and so much less a place for Human beings.”
“I’ve missed her,” Toshiko admitted. “But I won’t expect this every day. After this, I’ll just need a half hour at lunchtime to go pick her up and take her to the childminder for the afternoon.”
“Go on,” Gwen told her. Toshiko smiled and turned and sprinted to the pavement lift. Owen watched her go before he came to the office.
“I need something with Jack’s DNA in it,” he said. “I think I could build in a dampener that stops that bastard from tracing Jack at the same time as giving him an early warning alarm for when it’s near him.”
“A hair follicle would do it, wouldn’t it?” she asked. “He’s got a hairbrush and comb in the drawer here…”
That wasn’t the drawer with his very personal things in, just the personal grooming necessities. The only secret it revealed was that Jack DID use an expensive but proprietary aftershave. It wasn’t 51st century pheromones as he usually claimed. The brush yielded a few strands of dark brown hair that Owen carefully folded into a specimen bag and went away happy.
Everything continued as normal for another half hour. Beth brought coffee and take away pizzas for all and they gathered in the rest area to eat. Ianto kept one monitor active near his seat to watch out for the minor rift surge, but he didn’t let it spoil his digestion when it occurred.
“Barely a microsecond,” he reported. “No more than five millimetres wide – and located out in Cardiff Bay. Assuming no alien fish have slipped through to start decimating the indigenous species, nothing to worry about.” He noticed Gwen’s expression. “Yeah, you’re right. That’s perfectly possible. I’ll take the boat out and do a close scan of the Bay later. Just in case.”
“Just to be on the safe side,” Gwen agreed. “You just never know. After all….”
Gwen forgot what she was about to say next. The monitor screen suddenly began to fill with information and by Toshiko’s workstation a red light was flashing. An alarm signalling major rift activity.
“But this wasn’t predicted,” Alun protested. “I thought Tosh’s programme was near enough 100%?”
“Expect the unexpected,” Owen answered him. “That should be Torchwood’s motto.”
Ianto had already reached Toshiko’s workstation and was reading the data filling the four screens in front of him.
“Four simultaneous rift openings,” he said. “One is near St. Athans… U.N.I.T. are mobilised already to deal with it. One in Bute Street, near the 1869 ground zero. One near Cardiff airport…. And one….” He swung around in his seat as the Hub’s own security system flashed an alarm message on the screen. “One right here… on sub level twenty. There’s somebody there…” He adjusted the internal CCTV to show the camera on the twentieth floor down. In the part of the Hub only he and Alun knew particularly well, there was a man turning around and around in excitement, pressing his hands against the walls as if he was surprised to feel them.
“I’ll get him,” Alun said. “Do you think people will have popped up at all the locations? If so…”
“Yes,” Ianto answered as Alun checked a stun gun from the armoury and headed for the lift. “Reports are already coming in. U.N.I.T. have taken in six men found wandering inside the secure perimeter. And the airport have an old fashioned aeroplane unexpectedly landed on their main runway.”
“All right,” Gwen said, taking charge of the situation. “I’ll ask Beth to see if anyone is wandering around Bute Street looking confused. When Alun’s picked up our own intruder from below, Ianto, you go with him to St. Athans to liaise with U.N.I.T. Then swing by the airport…. Owen… get the medical room ready to process them… they’ll need standard vaccinations and….”
She turned. Owen wasn’t there. The internal security cameras showed him backing his car out of the secure garage. Ianto looked back at the report from Cardiff airport.
“The plane that landed on the runway…” he groaned. “It had a name… Sky Gypsy.”
“Oh, sodding hell,” Gwen swore.
Beth was excited to be asked to do something practical for Torchwood. But she was a bit worried about whether she could do this right. “Drive up Bute Street and see if anyone there looked lost.” That was just a bit too vague. But Gwen had not been able to give her any more instructions than that. She just had to do the best she could.
As it happened, the job proved easier than she expected. She spotted the woman straight away. She was wearing an ankle length late Victorian dress, high buttoned boots and a bonnet. But that demure and feminine outfit was completed by a Sam Browne belt with a big gun in the holster.
Passers by were looking at her oddly, but nobody seemed especially alarmed by her presence. Perhaps they thought she was in fancy dress, or part of a film crew. There was a lot of that around Cardiff these days. BBC Wales was expanding its output and on any given day there could be a street closed off for location filming.
It was a wonder somebody wasn’t looking for her autograph, Beth thought as she stopped the car and stepped out carefully. She approached the woman slowly, her hands outstretched either side to show that she was not armed and was not a threat to her.
“It’s all right,” she said. “I’m here to help you. I know this is confusing, but I’m from Torchwood. Come with me and you’ll be fine.”
“You’re Torchwood?” The woman looked at Beth dubiously. “You look soft… Never mind… you’d better take me there. I have travelled through time, haven’t I? This… must be the future…. Who is the director in this time?”
“Captain Jack Harkness is in charge,” Beth said. “But…”
“Jack Harkness?” the woman’s face changed again - to one of curiosity. “How can he…”
“Please, get in the car,” Beth said. “You are carrying a gun… it is illegal to do so in this country at this time. It would be better if you came with me to the Hub.”
She put her hand lightly on the woman’s arm. She stiffened and looked as if she might hit Beth for deigning to touch her. Then she nodded and stepped towards Beth’s new Mini Clubman. Beth opened the passenger door and helped her work out how to bend her head and get into the seat and then fasten the safety belt. She went to the driver’s seat and buckled up and turned back towards the Hub thankful that her field mission had been so relatively simple.
Gwen sat behind her desk and watched the tall, thin man drain a cup of hot coffee. He looked normal in so far as it was possible to determine normality in anything that concerned Torchwood. He was about forty-five years old, going grey at the temples, but attractive in a sort of 1950s matinee idol kind of way. The sort of man Jack might fancy, she thought.
She looked at the biometric identification card he had given her.
“Emryn Thomas, born July 27th, 2052. And you work for Torchwood… in the year 2097?” she said. “You’re from… the future.”
“I’m from the late twenty-first century,” he said. “If that’s the future to you… then…” he glanced around the office, his eye falling on the state of the art computer monitors. “That explains the retro look about the place.”
“It’s 2010,” Gwen told him. “April, 2010.”
“2010… But… why are you in charge? Jack Harkness became director of Torchwood in 2000…”
“He’s… on holiday,” Gwen answered. “I‘m his second in command. You know Captain Harkness? He’s… still with Torchwood in your time?”
“He’s my boss. And…” Emryn blushed very slightly and there was a look in his eyes that Gwen recognised.
“Jack is on holiday with his boyfriend of this time,” Gwen pointed out gently. “You probably should know that.”
“I haven’t been born yet,” Emryn said in a philosophical tone. “I can’t exactly expect him to wait for me. Besides… we’re not an item as such. Just... when he feels the need… for a little Human warmth…”
Gwen nodded. Emryn, in his time, must be filling the role in Jack’s life that Ianto did before Garrett came into the picture. Of course, even if they stayed together, Garrett would be long dead by the end of this century. Jack would be on his own again. He would need somebody.
“You don’t have to explain anything,” Gwen assured him. “We all know that Jack’s love life is complicated. He’s a complicated man. But it’s probably best that he isn’t around right now, all things considered. Can you tell me what happened to you? Where were you before you found yourself in the basement?”
“I got sucked into an unstable temporal fissure during an experiment with the rift manipulator. I don’t think I came here instantaneously, though. I can’t remember anything in between except darkness... like being in a nightmare… but when I found myself in the Hub, with solid walls, floor, ceiling… I just felt very relieved, as if I’d come a long way and had expected never to get home again.”
“You’re not home,” Gwen pointed out. “Not exactly. I mean, of course, this is Torchwood, in Cardiff. But you’re a long way from YOUR Torchwood, and you must realise that we have no way of getting you back. We don’t have that kind of control over the rift.”
“I know,” he said. “But… wherever I was before I got here… it was so terrifying… just being here… on planet Earth… in any time… was such a relief. It’s good to talk to a real, living Human. “I am so glad to be here.”
“We’re glad to have you, Emryn,” Gwen answered. “I’m not sure what we’re going to do with you… but you’re welcome!”
The office door opened. Beth came in with her own lost soul who she introduced as Olwyn Norris. Emryn looked at her and then immediately stood up and offered her his chair. She sat, her gun holster tapping against the edge of the desk.
“Jack’s rule is nobody carries side arms within the Hub,” Gwen said, “Would you mind…” She held out her hand and hoped she looked suitably authoritative. For a moment, Olwen Norris met her eyes defiantly. Then she reached into her holster and pulled out the pistol. She laid it on the desk. Gwen picked it up and noted how heavy it was. She recognised it as a Mauser C96. Jack had one that he kept in the armoury, in a display case. He had told her once that it was the preferred weapon of Torchwood operatives in the early twentieth century.
“You’re Torchwood?” she asked. “You work for Torchwood… in… the past…. What year was it when you were… somewhere you know?”
“It was the year 1899,” Olwyn replied. “I worked under Miss Emily Holroyd.”
“Holroyd?” Gwen nodded. “Yes… I remember seeing her name in the list of past Torchwood directors. You… must know Jack Harkness, then?”
“Jack…” Olwyn looked disconcerted. “What do you know about Jack?”
“I know he can make people feel like that,” Gwen answered as it occurred to her that everyone in the room at this moment had slept with Jack Harkness at some time in their lives. If Ianto had been around they’d have a full house. “Can you tell me what happened? How did you get here… now…”
Olwyn’s story was almost word for word the same as Emryn’s, right down to the feeling that she had been somewhere else before she arrived here in the twenty-first century.
Gwen wondered if they had both experienced very lucid dreams, or was it possible that they had been somewhere else in between.
Gone where? Some kind of rift interchange? A waiting room? They knew so very little about the rift. The few people they had managed to interview who were not wounded in mind and body like the ones they kept safe at the facility on Flat Holm Island, usually couldn’t remember anything about the rift itself. Gwen had always assumed it was an instantaneous transition from one time and place to the other.
“You’re both safe here, anyway,” Gwen told the two accidental time travellers. “We can look after you. When our medic gets back from… his own mission… he’ll want to give you both a check up. Meanwhile… I’ll arrange for food, and if you want to rest, there are a couple of comfortable sofas in the boardroom.”
She couldn’t think of anything else to do. At least not yet. They had a procedure for helping refugees from the rift to adjust to living in early twenty-first century Cardiff. That was the only thing she could actually do for either of them – teach them how to handle the currency, use mobile phones, use a supermarket. It would be a culture shock for both – one from a hundred years in the past, one from nearly as far into the future. But right now the offer of simple comforts – food, shelter – was the best she could do.
Alun and Ianto were admitted to the high security military base with very little formality. Both were known there and their arrival expected. They were quickly brought to the place where the six new arrivals were being held in a comfortable but secure room.
“Wow!” Ianto whispered as he looked at the six men who sat drinking coffee from polystyrene cups. “They’re…”
“Eagle Squadron…” Alun took in the details of their World War II air force uniforms. The design of an eagle with its wings outstretched was familiar enough to him. Jack had a copy of it framed on his office wall.
“71st… Jack’s squadron…” Ianto added. “He told me about it once. He was in a nostalgia mood… he talked about the war, when he was a fighter pilot, with a whole group of airmen under his command.”
“So… these men must know Jack?” Alun guessed.
“It might be better not to mention him when we interview them.”
Beth had just brought a take out Chinese meal to the two refugees in the boardroom when Toshiko arrived in the Hub looking as if she had hurried.
“I got home with Etsu and saw the rift movements on my computer,” she said. “I thought you might need me. I’ve arranged a baby sitter….”
“It’s good to have you on board, Tosh,” Gwen said to her. “But I’m not sure what you can do. The rift is stable again now. We’re just sorting out the victims. It threw out nine people altogether…” Toshiko was already sitting down at her workstation. She noted the reports from the various locations and mentioned that all but one of them were known rift hotspots. Bute Street, of course, was where the rift had first opened nearly two hundred years ago. The Hub itself was an obvious source. St. Athans had been the site of both Torchwood and U.N.I.T. experiments in the past which had left a weak point there.
“I’ve never come across anything happening at the airport before, though,” she noted.
“We don’t think the crossing point was at the airport itself,” Gwen pointed out. “It must have been in mid air. She came through in the plane and looked for a safe landing place. The airport must have been closest.”
“She?” Toshiko questioned. “How do you know…” Then she saw the details of the plane that had made the unscheduled landing. “Oh…. Oh… you mean it’s…. Oh…” She looked around the relatively quiet Hub. “Owen went to meet her?”
“It doesn’t mean anything, Tosh,” Gwen assured her. “Not after all this time.”
Gwen meant that to be reassuring, but they both knew Owen too well to entirely believe it.
Owen heard her voice even before he entered the room. She was remonstrating with somebody about the way she had been detained. She was demanding to see somebody in authority.
“Will I do?” he asked as he stepped into the office. “Beyond the government, above the police... Hello, Diane.”
“Oh, my God!” she exclaimed as she saw him. “Owen… You mean… I’m back in bloody Cardiff… twenty-first century Cardiff….”
“I’m afraid so,” he answered. “Look… I’ve squared it with the airport authorities. You can get out of here…”
“You mean I can fly out of here?” she asked.
“No… I mean… Sorry, but they’ve impounded the plane. But you can come with me. You’re not under arrest or anything. I thought… well, we could grab something to eat… go for a drive… It’s… it’s good to see you.”
“You, too.” Diane Holmes stepped towards him. At first it seemed as if they were going to be very proper about things and shake hands of something. Then she reached out and embraced him. Then he found himself kissing her and memories of just how good it had been last time flooded into his mind.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said.
“So…” Ianto recapped the situation carefully. “You were all taking part in a routine drill… in 1941… and then found yourselves here… in 2010.”
“Could have knocked me down with a feather when that plane landed,” said a young pilot who had introduced himself as Deke Curtis. “What was it? I’ve never seen anything like it… hovering in the air and then landing vertically.”
“It was a Harrier jump jet,” Ianto answered him. “The air force use them a lot.”
“Sir, you really shouldn’t be talking about this with the detainees,” said the U.N.I.T. guard at the door. “Classified information…”
“Harriers are hardly secret weapons,” Alun told him. “Besides… these men were fighting Britain’s enemies before you were born. Their loyalty is unquestionable.”
“Can we get back where we came from?” asked flight navigator James Penny. The others all looked at Ianto and Alun expecting an answer to that all important question. “It’s important. We don’t want to be… I mean… they’ll think we deserted. I don’t want my mom to think I ran away from my duty. If I’d been killed in action… at least she could hold her head up…. But just disappearing… we’ve got to get back.”
Alun looked at the names of the six men on the clipboard he had been given by a U.N.I.T. clerk. It listed the six men – Deke Curtis, Gill Manning, James Penny, Benjamin Taylor, Zach Walsh and Michael Young. Their service records were in the archive here at St. Athans. They were listed as AWOL on August 1st, 1941. Mrs Penny would have learnt of her son’s ‘desertion’ shortly after. There was nothing anyone could do to change that. It was a fact of history.
He wished he didn’t have to be the one to break it to them.
Owen and Diane ate at a small restaurant near Saint Donat’s and then carried on along the coast. Owen wasn't even thinking much about where he was driving, except that they were heading away from Cardiff, away from Torchwood.
Away from Toshiko.
His conscience pricked him. He knew Toshiko was going to be hurt by his actions. He knew he was doing wrong by driving this way, taking Diane away with him. He knew he ought to take her to the Hub, give her a full medical, write a report, keep things professional. He knew he ought to explain to Toshiko that Diane’s return didn’t change anything between them, that he still loved her, still wanted to be with her, still saw his future with her and Etsuko.
But something made him keep on driving away from Cardiff.
He stopped the car, finally, in the car park by Southerndown Beach. He paid for a two hour ticket and put it on the windscreen, then he took Diane’s hand and walked down the cliff path, across the gravel foreshore to the sandy beach beyond. They didn’t say very much at first. It was Diane who finally opened the conversation.
“I thought of you a lot,” she said. “I really did.”
“I… thought of you,” he replied. “But…”
“But you’ve moved on, haven’t you? You’ve got over me.”
“You didn’t give me any reason to hope… to expect you to come back. I couldn’t stay miserable forever.”
“So you have somebody special?” she asked. “Or… just a fuck buddy?”
“Somebody special,” he answered. But he didn’t say who. He didn’t want to tell Diane about how things were with Toshiko, or his hopes for the sort of half normal future he had once dreamt of with Katie, before Torchwood.
What he wanted right now was just to spend a few hours here, on this quiet beach. No, not to talk about the past. That was just a bit too raw, too painful, for both of them. Just to savour the present, to be here with her, was enough.
“Where did you go?” he asked. “When you flew away from me… where did you go?”
“I wasn’t flying AWAY from you,” she told him. “I was flying TO… the unknown, adventure. I went to the future… you should have seen it. The year 6043. Everything was so shining and beautiful. People were prosperous, educated. Women really were equal to men…”
“Just what you always wanted. So why didn’t you stay there?”
“It was… boring,” she said with a laugh. “Really boring. Everyone was so peaceful, so content, nothing actually happened. Every day was the same. It drove me mad.”
“So I took off again, into the rift. I arrived in World War One. I nearly got arrested as a spy. Your lot were helpful, at least. I managed to get them to listen to me. They got me out of jail. I worked for them for a while. Uncontracted - when they needed somebody with my kind of skills...”
“You worked for Torchwood?” Owen smiled. “Brilliant.”
“It was all right, for a while. But you know me. I don’t like being tied down. I took my chance and moved on. The next time… the future again… there was another war. Only this time… humans almost went under. These creatures called Daleks… you can’t imagine anything like them…”
“I know about Daleks,” Owen said. “By reputation at least. They destroyed Torchwood One in London a few years ago. Ianto saw them up close. He doesn’t like to talk about them. Jack knows about them, too. I think he’s actually fought them. But he doesn’t talk about it at all. As a general rule… when Jack DOESN’T talk about something, we tend to take it very seriously. The things he brags about….”
Owen stopped talking.
“I didn’t bring you here to talk about Torchwood, and definitely not about Jack.” He gripped her hand more tightly. She stopped walking and turned towards him. He knew he shouldn’t. He thought about Toshiko.
But he still let Diane kiss him.
“His phone is going to voicemail,” Toshiko said glumly. “I’ve tried… eighteen times.”
“Bloody idiot,” Gwen swore. “What is he doing?”
“I know what he’s doing,” Toshiko snapped. “It’s her… Diane… I mean… what do you expect?” She looked at Gwen. “He dumped you for her… now he’s doing the same to me.”
“He didn’t exactly dump me for Diane,” Gwen said. “We were… more or less… over by then. And he hasn’t dumped you. Tosh, he’s mad about you. Even if he is… having a fling… with an old flame… don’t let it ruin things for you. Try to forgive him.”
Toshiko said nothing. She didn’t trust herself to speak. She was too stung by all of this.
It was a good kiss, Owen thought. It pushed all the right buttons. But Diane’s reaction was exactly the opposite to anything he expected. She pushed away from his embrace and stumbled backwards, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Diane?” he stepped towards her again. “What’s wrong? What did I do…”
“You didn’t do anything,” she answered. “It’s me… I can remember… Oh, my God. Owen… we have to get back to Torchwood, quickly. You have to… have to…”
She screamed in pain, holding her head in her hands. Owen reached to hold her again, this time to comfort her.
“Get me back to Torchwood, quickly, and…. I have to go into isolation… whatever facility you have there for that. So does everyone else who came through the rift. We’re all dangerous.”
“Dangerous, how?” Owen helped her to walk back towards the car. As he did so, he listened to her explanation. It shocked and horrified him, and he cursed himself for his own stupidity.
He noticed the eighteen missed calls on his mobile as soon as he picked it up. He quickly hit the recall button. He was driving while using a mobile without a hands free kit, but he couldn’t help it. Every second counted now.
“Toshiko,” he said when he heard her voice. “We’re coming in. You’ve got to get all the others to the Hub, too. You’ve got to do it quickly. Isolate them in the basement, close off the air conditioning, don’t let anything in or out without protection. Oh, Christ, Tosh, if you’re still uncontaminated… go home to your baby, stay there with her. Protect yourself. I’m sorry… I’m really sorry.”
He glanced at Diane. She was already getting feverish. Her words were less and less coherent and she could barely focus her eyes on him.
“Hang in there,” he said. “Diane, hang on. You’re a fighter. You’ve always been a fighter. Fight for your life, sweetheart. Fight it.”
Alun and Ianto reached the Hub with the six airmen. U.N.I.T. had been reluctant to release them into Torchwood’s care at first, but Owen’s news made them change their mind. They couldn’t get them off the base fast enough.
And they allowed their medical officer to come with them.
“These two men started presenting symptoms on the way,” Doctor Martha Jones said to Gwen as they descended in the lift to the isolation section with two of the Eagle Squadron men on stretchers and the rest looking scared for their lives. “The others seem to be all right, so far. But….”
“Owen said it was a sort of biological time bomb,” Gwen said. “The one who did it… wasn't looking to spread disease through the general population. He just wanted Torchwood. He wanted these people here, with us, when they suddenly became symptomatic. They’re… like… computer viruses…. They look like innocent programmes until something triggers them…”
“Trojans…” Ianto said. “That’s what they call those sort of viruses. From the Greek legend of the Trojan Horse… an innocent thing… brought within the walls of Troy… with the Greek army inside…”
They all understood the allusion. It fitted exactly. Of course, anyone who came through the rift was going to be brought back to Torchwood. It was what they always did.
“It must have been precisely timed,” Martha said. “I gave all six men full medicals as soon as they were brought into the base. There was nothing wrong with them.”
“We can be grateful for that,” Gwen told her. “The number of people who work at St. Athans… if they were all infected by a disease we know nothing about… if any of them had gone off the base… cleaners, ancillary workers who nobody paid any attention to… then they would have brought it with them. As it is, if Diane’s information is correct, then it’s just us. The rest of Cardiff… the rest of Britain… is safe.”
“But if we don’t find a cure…” Martha began. She didn’t need to finish the sentence. The implication was clear. When they got to the bottom of this lift shaft, none of them were coming back up again unless they had a miracle.
The lift stopped. The doors opened. Owen was there to help them with the two stretcher cases. The rest walked to the beds that had been prepared for them in a room that had been isolated from the rest of the Hub. They had food rations for several days and every piece of medical equipment they could get down in the lift.
They weren’t helpless. But they were up against it.
“We still haven’t been able to contact Jack,” Toshiko said as she helped tuck one of the Eagle Squadron men into bed. “I rang Cally Bowen… she’s going to pick up Etsuko and take her to her house for the night… the one night. After that…”
Tears pricked her eyes. Gwen understood. She had rung Rhys and told him she would have to work overnight. He had been annoyed about it. She hated the idea that the last words she might hear from him were angry ones.
“Jack and Garrett are on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland,” Gwen said. “I don’t think he planned to be contactable. He trusted me to run things while he was gone.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“But he won’t know that when he gets back and finds the Hub in lockdown and all of us… down here… dead.”
“Gwen… Toshiko…” Ianto reached out and took both their hands. “Owen and Martha are doing everything they can to isolate the virus and cure them… vaccinate us. We’re going to be all right. Trust them.”
“I do trust them. But… I’m going to talk to Diane again. While she can still talk. There might be something…”
Diane was still conscious. But she was clearly very ill. She pushed aside the oxygen mask to talk to Gwen, and every word was a struggle.
“I was in a place… like this… underground,” she said. “They… injected something into me. Then… some kind of machine… memory… modification… only… It came back to me… I remembered….”
“Owen said you’ve been travelling in the rift for a long time, different places. I suppose that it sort of…. made you… immune to the memory modification. Can you remember anything about the people… aliens… whoever it was that did this to you?”
“Human… they were Human… on Earth… They were Human… they… wanted… to hit Torchwood.”
“Why?” Gwen asked. But Diane couldn’t talk any more. She was coughing violently. Gwen helped her to put the oxygen mask back on, but it wasn’t helping.
“Get out of the way,” Owen yelled as he flew to the bedside. Gwen stepped back as he administered drugs that stopped the spasms and relaxed her muscles so that she slipped into a quiet, unconscious state.
“Is she…” Gwen tried to ask.
“I don’t know,” Owen answered. “We’re spinning plates here… we get one of them stable and another goes into convulsions. Martha is working on the pathology… I don’t have time to help her. And… it’s… it’s a fucking lottery… which one of them dies first. All of them are sick… and I don’t know what we can do about it… if there’s anything we can do.”
“Owen!” Alun yelled and he came running. So did Gwen. He was trying to perform heart massage on Deke Curtis. “He just… I think he’s…” Alun bent as if he was going to do full CPR on him but Owen pulled him back.
“Don’t be stupid,” he said. “Do you want to contaminate yourself?”
“We’re already contaminated, aren’t we?” he responded. But he let Owen take over the heart massage. He watched him keep trying until it was obvious there was no point in trying.
“His mother was told he’d deserted,” Alun said, biting his lip sadly as Owen drew the sheet over the dead airman’s face. “That was the worst thing about this for him. And now…”
“I did everything possible,” Owen said. He was unhappy, too. Losing a patient always hurt. He hated that feeling of inadequacy, of failure.
“I know you did,” Alun said. “But… that boy died… we’re all going to die.”
There was a hint of hysteria in Alun’s tone as well as melodrama in his words.
“No, we’re fucking well not,” Owen told him. “You’re supposed to be ex-army. You’re meant to be disciplined. Pull yourself together and if you say anything like that again I’ll punch you in the mouth.”
“Owen!” Beth called him to another bed, where Emryn Thomas was having a seizure. He managed to stabilize him, but while he was doing so flight navigator Michael Young died with Ianto Jones holding his hand and helping him whisper a prayer.
“Diane!” Owen ran from one bed to the other. Toshiko was there already, trying to help her. “Oh, Christ, how many of them do we have to lose? Why her?”
“She’s not dead yet,” Toshiko told her. “Owen…”
Toshiko put her hand on his arm. He turned from examining Diane to look at her. He sighed.
“I wish you hadn’t come back to the Hub,” he said. “You should have been safe. You should be home with your little girl.”
“I’m part of this team,” she answered. “I couldn’t just abandon you all."
Owen touched her hand. It was as intimate a gesture as he had ever made within the Hub. Toshiko didn’t try to pull away. He was about to say something when Martha interrupted. She injected Diane with something. For a moment Owen looked hopeful. Martha shook her head.
“Just a broad-spectrum anti-biotic,” she said. “I still need more time. This might buy us a few more hours. But the virus…”
“I’ll help you distribute the anti-biotic at least,” Owen said. He turned to Toshiko. “Please, will you stay with her? I need to… to be a professional first. I can’t be with her when there are so many others in need…”
“I’ll look after her, Owen,” Toshiko said. “As long as I can. If… If this doesn’t work… we’re all going to be sick, soon.”
“We already are sick,” Owen answered. “We’ve got high temperatures, muscle ache… sore throats. All of us. And…” He looked at Diane, unconscious but quiet now after the fit. “Tosh… I want you to know… In case I don’t get another chance…. Diane and I… we’re not… I didn’t… I just wanted a few quiet hours… but we’re not… she isn’t…”
“I believe you, Owen,” Toshiko said.
“You’re more coherent than that when you lie,” she told him. “Now… go on… help the others. I’ll look after Diane.”
Owen turned and ran to help Martha administer the standard drug that might just help keep the patients alive through the night. Toshiko sat by the patient. She did feel feverish and she ached. She had thought that was just the stress and worry. Knowing it was the time bomb virus at work in her own body was frightening. She didn’t want to die like this.
She cried a little. Self-pity wasn’t something she regularly indulged in, but she was twenty floors down in the Hub, and her little girl was at a friend’s house on the other side of the city.
She looked at Owen as he helped to treat the other patients. He was a good doctor. He was a good man. He would still be a good man even if he had grabbed a chance to reprise his love affair with Diane. He just wouldn’t be her man.
“Tosh…iko…” She heard her name called out weakly. It was Diane. She was awake again. “I need… to tell you something… in case…”
“If… it’s about Owen… I don’t need to know,” she answered. “You just rest. You’re going to be all right.”
“It’s… not… It’s… The place where we were infected… It was here…”
“What… do you mean… here…”
“Torchwood… We were at Torchwood… in the future… somebody at Torchwood… traitor… wanted… wanted to… destroy… destroy the past… wanted to kill all of you… because… because you… you’ll set… wheels in motion… for the future…”
“What wheels?” Toshiko asked. “What about the future?”
“I don’t know,” Diane answered. “But… that’s… that’s the reason…”
“Try to rest,” Toshiko told her. “Don’t worry about anything else. Just rest… we’ll talk about this again when you’re better.”
“I’m… not going… to get better….”
“Yes, you bloody well are,” Owen told her. Toshiko looked up to see him by her side. “Diane, you never gave in to anything before. You’re not going to give in to a bloody alien virus.”
“She said it wasn’t alien,” Toshiko contradicted him. “She said it came from Torchwood, in the future… a traitor who wanted to stop us doing something…”
“Might well have been,” Owen conceded. Who else would have an alien virus? We lost another of the airmen. The other three are hanging in there, but…”
He was about to say something more but Toshiko fainted. He caught her before she slid off the chair. She had a high fever and all the other symptoms they had identified.
He put Toshiko into the bed next to the one Diane was already in and set up an intravenous saline drip, all the usual small things that might help give her a fighting chance. Then he sat beside them. He looked from one woman to the other and wondered which one he most desperately wanted to survive. Toshiko or Diane. The sex had been fantastic with Diane, but the relationship was stormy and complicated and heartbreaking. He knew he couldn’t risk fucking his own head up that way again.
With Toshiko… yes, the sex was fantastic now that their relationship had finally reached that level. The relationship was complicated by the fact that they worked together and couldn’t acknowledge it fully in the Hub. But that wasn’t an insurmountable problem.
He loved her. He loved Etsuko as if she was his own child. Whenever he looked at her he remembered the day she gave birth, when he had been the first to hold her, even before Toshiko herself. It was unprofessional of him, of course. But he had regarded that baby as his own ever since the moment she took her first breath. For a long time now he had seen his future as one in which he was a husband and father.
But he didn’t want Diane to be the one who died.
Of course, he didn’t get a choice. He might lose them both. His future, everything, was in the balance right now.
He stood up. He couldn’t sit there feeling sorry for himself. There was work to be done. He went to do it, caring for all his other patients, and for the rest of his team. Gwen, Alun and Ianto seemed to be ok so far. They were tired and they all complained of aching limbs. But so far their bodies were fighting off the virus. So was his. So was Martha’s.
That didn’t mean anything. They might all succumb yet. They would get weaker and the virus would get stronger. There might come a time when all of them were sick and there was nobody left to help them.
But until that time, he kept working.
It was a little after six the next morning, according to the clocks. There was no night or day in the Hub anyway. Owen had taken a brief moment to sit between Diane and Toshiko. He had closed his eyes just once, telling himself he wasn’t going to sleep, he was just resting his eyes.
He woke suddenly to feel somebody pushing at his shoulder. He opened his eyes and exclaimed as he saw Diane leaning over from her bed, rousing him that way. He stood up quickly and made her lie back down as he checked her pulse and temperature.
“How do you feel?” he asked.
“I feel fine,” she answered. “Rotten sore throat and my skin feels like it doesn’t belong to me. I’d kill for a gin and tonic and a nice hot bath.”
“Best I can offer is a shot of penicillin and a shower cubicle,” he answered. He could hardly believe what he was seeing. Her temperature was down. Her skin was pale but otherwise normal colour. He called to Martha. She took a blood sample.
Owen turned and looked at Toshiko. She wasn’t doing quite so well. She still had a high fever. Her skin was waxy and there were lesions on her arms that they had identified as the second stage of the disease. Once the lesions started to form on her internal organs it would be too late.
“Owen…” Diane reached out her hand to him. “Owen, I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what?” he asked.
“For making it through the night while she…”
“Oh, Christ!” Owen turned and looked at her. “You don’t have to be sorry for that. I don’t… you can’t…”
Tears pricked his eyes. That was a rare thing with him. He considered himself a hard bastard. Most people assumed he was. But right now, he felt as fragile as an eggshell. He could break at any moment.
“Owen!” Gwen ran to him. Martha Jones was racing after her. “Owen, Martha has something… it’s… I think… we think….”
“Diane’s body developed its own antibodies,” Martha said. “Her bloodstream is clear of the virus. She’s cured….” Martha took a deep breath, then turned to Toshiko. She injected something into her arm.
Owen didn’t dare to ask.
“It might be because she’s travelled in the rift so much,” Martha said. “Diane developed a natural resistance. She got sick because she had been deliberately infected by the virus. It overtook her for a while. But then her body fought back. And… I can replicate the antibodies. I think I can save the others…”
“You… put antibodies from Diane… into Tosh’s bloodstream.” The enormous irony of that almost floored Owen. His former lover might have actually saved Toshiko, the woman his future was emotionally invested in.
“I need your help to replicate the serum and get it into the others… and all of us still standing.”
Owen didn’t seem to hear her say that at first. He was gripping Toshiko’s hand and looking at her, willing her to start to get well immediately, even though he knew that wouldn’t happen.
Diane climbed out of her bed, pulling a blanket around her as she sat in the chair beside the bed instead. She prized Toshiko’s hand out of Owen’s.
“I’ll look after her,” she said. “You go and be the best doctor you can be.”
Owen gave a half sob and kissed her on the cheek, then ran to do his job.
For the rest of them, there was nothing to do but wait. They waited. Diane sat and waited with Toshiko and watched the Torchwood team, all of them fighting the virus themselves, doing what they could to help everyone else. In quiet moments, she noticed that some of them prayed. Gwen did. She didn’t make a big thing of it. But she sat on a chair and held her hands in her lap, her head down, and she murmured the Lords Prayer very quietly. Ianto prayed, too. He knelt to do it, the way his chapel-going mother from the Welsh valleys taught him as a boy.
Diane put her faith in Martha and Owen and medical science and sat quietly holding Toshiko’s hand as she slept fitfully, now and again saying things, some of them about Owen, that Diane knew she wouldn’t repeat to anyone. But she knew for certain the relationship she used to have with him was well and truly over.
They lost two more of the airmen. Only Zach Walsh, pilot first class, had the strength left to let the antibodies do their work on him.
Later, Owen and Martha formed a theory about why the Eagle Squadron men had succumbed while the rest pulled through. Even back in Olwyn’s time, at the very beginning of Torchwood’s alien investigations, they had always had a programme of vaccinations against all kinds of diseases. Diane in her brief uncontracted period with them would have received the same. Besides, travelling through the rift seemed to have increased her resistance to just about anything.
“It could be that,” Owen said to Diane as they both sat with Toshiko and waited with rather more hope than before. “Or maybe it’s just dumb luck… shit luck in the case of those poor bastards…But… I think it’s working. We have to hope it is. We have to hope the others get better…”
“Owen,” Diane said in reply. He looked around. Toshiko looked up at him with her dark eyes bright and focussing on him. Owen completely forgot the rule they had made about not kissing in the Hub. When he came up for air, Diane had left his side. He saw her helping Gwen to make mugs of tea for everyone. That was the best way she could be useful now.
“You look better,” he said to Toshiko.
“I feel better,” she answered. “But… I’ll have to ring Cally. I was supposed to pick up Etsu…”
“Cally will mind Etsu until you’re completely fit,” Owen told her. “You just lie there and don’t worry about anything. We made it… more or less.”
“Who else died?” Toshiko asked. She knew somebody had. He had to tell her about losing the airmen. She was sorry about that.
“Yeah, me too,” Owen admitted. “I feel shitty about it. They… they were the innocents in all this. Olwyn and Emryn, they’re both Torchwood. They accept certain risks. Diane… she chose the rift… She knew what she was getting into. But they… they signed up to fight Germans… They knew that was dangerous. But they knew what sort of danger it was. They had nothing to do with this… they didn’t deserve….”
“No, they didn’t,” Toshiko agreed. “None of them did. Somebody used them all. And it wasn’t fair at all. But… very few things are.”
But it was over. Everyone else was getting better. Martha took blood samples constantly, checking that the virus was completely eradicated. By mid-afternoon she was able to declare the quarantine over.
A few hours after that, Ianto was effectively in charge of the Hub. Owen and Toshiko had gone to collect Etsuko from her minder and go home together. Gwen had gone to placate Rhys after being on duty more than thirty-six hours. Alun was helping Martha to settle the four surviving rift travellers in the hospitality suite.
Ianto was in Jack’s office, trying to write up notes on all that had happened. He was surprised to get a webcam conference request from Jack. He accepted it gladly.
“How did you manage that?” he asked. “I thought you were on a remote island off the coast of Ireland?”
“Ireland is in the twenty-first century, too,” he replied. “Well, most of the time.” He giggled at a joke only he understood and smiled at somebody who wasn’t in the web camera view. “Anyway, this remote island has such things as mobile phone networks and broadband internet. We just chose not to use them while we were on holiday.”
“So why are you calling now? Aren’t you still on holiday?”
“Yes, but you know me. Control freak. I just had to call once to see if everything is ok there. No crises while I was away…”
“Actually…” Ianto quickly related the events of the past twenty four hours. Jack listened. The news about the five Eagle Squadron men shocked him.
“I remember them,” he said. “Good men. I… always had my doubts about them deserting. I’m sorry this happened to them.” He sighed deeply and his eyes told an all too familiar story. He had outlived so many of those brave young men who flew with him in the 1940s. Five more seared his soul, now.
Then he sighed again and moved onto the survivors of the crisis.
“Olwyn… I remember her well. Stop looking at me like that, Ianto Jones. And you can stop looking at me like that, too, Garrett Dunne.” He glanced at his lover off camera again. “She was before your time, both of you.”
“Emryn Thomas… seems to be after our time,” Ianto pointed out.
“Yeah!” Jack grinned cheekily. “He’s good looking is he? My type?”
“Everything’s your type, Jack,” Ianto replied. Then he got serious again. “We thought at first it was something to do with you… people you knew… maybe The Joker was getting really sadistic. But… we think the only thing they had in common was the Rift. Olwyn and Emryn worked for Torchwood. They were around it all the time. Diane… of course. And the airmen were at St. Athans, where U.N.I.T. have done Rift experiments. Something there caused a rip in time that pulled those boys in.”
“That makes sense. Could Diane tell us anything more about the ‘traitor’? Any idea WHEN in Torchwood’s future he is going to strike?”
“No,” Ianto told him. “You have to understand, this was a memory that had been ‘modified’. She only recalled it in fragments. We’re lucky we had that much. Emryn thinks it’s after his own time, though. The technology she described sounded like nothing he knew about.”
“I wonder…” Jack murmured thoughtfully. “No, never mind. There’s nothing to be done about it, now. I’m still in charge of Torchwood in his day?”
“Yes, you are.”
“Well, maybe I’ll be in charge when this traitor gets up to his tricks, too. I’ll have a heads up about him. What’s happening with our rift travellers? Are you going to start with the integration programme? Get them used to life in twenty-first century Cardiff?”
“They have other plans,” Ianto answered. “Diane can take up to three passengers in her plane. She’s proposing to bring them with her, back into the rift. Toshiko has already identified a rift disturbance in three days time that matches their arrival.”
“The chances of any of them getting home…” Jack began.
“They know that. But they’re ready to take the chance. And I don’t think we can stop them. They might get home. They might… they might get back to where they were taken… find the traitor. They might find you and give you that heads up. Anyway, all four of them are prepared to try and… I don’t think we have the right to stop them trying.”
“No, we don’t. I won’t stop them. We’ll be home tomorrow afternoon. Dinner’s on me for everyone.” He glanced off camera again. “Two of my past lovers and a future one at the table… That will prove how strong our present relationship is, I think.” He grinned in response to an unheard remark from Garrett. “What about Owen? Is he…”
“He’s ok, boss. So is Toshiko. I think she could handle sitting at the same table as Diane. I’ll make the reservations, shall I?”
Jack smiled widely in answer to his question.
“I’ll look forward to it,” he said. “This holiday has been… good. But I’ll be glad to get back to the Hub. It feels like I’ve been away for a century….”