Rhys actually ran the last quarter of a mile from where he parked the Harwoods van at the side of the road, reasoning that he would be quicker on foot. He was breathless by the time he reached the police cordon at the top end of Roald Dahl Plas. Beyond the cordon, where a crowd was excitedly gathering, the Plas itself had been screened off by a large black articulated trailer with no identifying markings. It was very deliberately parked across the pedestrian area in front of the Millennium Stadium as a barrier. Within the cordon were police, fire and ambulance service vehicles and their major incident units set up as well as a crane with the Dragon Rescue logo on it. And if anyone thought it was just a joint services exercise, an ominous plume of smoke rose up above it all.
“Sorry, sir, you can’t come through here,” a constable wearing reflective yellow over his uniform told him politely but firmly. “There’s been an incident.”
“What sort of incident?” he demanded. “My wife works over there. I have to know if she’s ok. What’s happened?”
“You can’t come through here,” the constable repeated.
“Tell me what’s bloody well happened,” Rhys insisted.
“Sir, please move back,” the constable said again.
“It was a bomb,” said one of the bystanders. “Around the fountain. There’s a big bloody hole there, apparently. Terrorists must have been going after the Sennad... suicide bombers. Only their packs went off too soon and they blew the Plas up instead.”
“Shit, no!” Rhys swore, his voice rising a full octave. “No. Terrorists aren’t after the Sennad. It’s Torchwood. Torchwood’s been hit. Gwen... Oh, shit! You’ve got to let me through. Please...”
“Did you say Torchwood?” The constable was on the point of calling for back up to deal with Rhys’s increasing agitation when he said the ‘magic’ word that police in south Wales knew all too well.
“Yes, I said Torchwood. And if you know what that means, then you know this isn’t just an ordinary terrorist attack, and I need to be there.”
The constable reached for his radio and spoke into it quickly. He got an answer and then looked at Rhys carefully. “Sir... what’s your name?”
“Rhys Williams,” he answered. The constable spoke into his radio again and then raised the cordon quickly to admit him without allowing anyone else to get through.
“Rhys!” He heard a familiar voice and turned to see Sergeant Andy Davidson running towards him. His uniform was dusty and he looked hot, as if he had been working hard. Rhys didn’t think a lot of Andy. Apart from anything else, he was suspicious of his motives towards Gwen. But right now he could have hugged him because he was a familiar face.
“Where’s Gwen?” he asked. “Do you know... what’s happened? Is she all right?”
“We don’t know,” Andy answered honestly. “There’s an incident room set up over here. Come with me.” Andy held his arm and steered him towards the black trailer. Rhys was surprised to see people in army uniforms inside, not police. They were wearing U.N.I.T cap badges. He had a vague idea that they were in the same line of work as Torchwood, but he had never had dealings with them before.
He didn’t pay much attention to them now. His attention was immediately drawn to Beth sitting on a chair with a blanket wrapped around her and a mug of tea in her trembling hands. She looked up as he approached and gave a sob.
“What happened?” he asked her. “Where is everyone else?”
“Oh, Rhys!” she cried. “I don’t know. I think they might all be dead.”
“No! Oh Christ, no. They can’t be.”
He was aware of somebody, a woman in uniform, putting a second chair in place so he could sit next to Beth and a cup of tea was pressed into his own hands. He didn’t want the tea. But it was something solid to hang onto as his world crumbled around him.
“It... happened about five o’clock,” Beth said, glancing up at a digital clock on the wall that changed from 17:29 to 17:30. A mere half hour had passed since her world began to crumble, too. “I was in the tourist office as usual. There were some customers – real customers - buying postcards. Ray came in. He talked to me for a little bit, then when the customers were gone I let him through the Hub door. He was going to see Martha. It’s full moon tonight and she always gives him a thorough medical before... you know...”
“Ray was down there, too?”
She nodded, barely trusting herself to speak. Rhys, a man not noted for his emotional subtleties, reached out and hugged her gently. Ray meant as much to her as Gwen did to him. And right now neither of them knew if their loved ones were alive or dead.
She was ready to talk again after a few minutes breathing deeply.
“I saw Jack on the monitor. He came in from the garage entrance, with a prisoner. He looked Human... but I don’t think he was, really. Otherwise, why would Jack have brought him into the Hub? Ray passed them on the landing and went down into the medical room. And... and then... then... the prisoner exploded.... I saw it... before the camera broke... I saw bits of him... and Jack... Jack was caught in the blast. I saw... Oh, God, Rhys, Jack’s dead. I saw him torn to pieces....”
“But what about Gwen, or the others? Ray, Martha, Ianto and Alun? They can’t all be...”
“I haven’t heard anything,” she admitted. “I don’t know. I think they were all in the Hub... but... I don’t know. I think... I think they might all be dead.”
“Shit!” Rhys swore. Behind him, he heard Andy echo him. “Shit, shit, shit!”
“Shit!” Alun swore as he read the data on the computer terminal in the lower archive. “Ianto... I think... Oh, my God... Hub central is gone.”
“Gone how?” Ianto asked. “What the fuck happened?”
Alun accessed the CCTV system as Ianto asked the question. Everything above level two was out of action. There was nothing but snow on every camera. Below that level everything appeared in night vision green because they were running on emergency power with only low level lighting. He checked the vaults and noted that three Weevils and a Gdinik – a sort of humanoid warthog - were in a very agitated mood but were in no danger of breaking out of their individual cells.
“Ray isn’t in his cell,” he noted. “That could be a problem. If we’re in lockdown and he’s out there on the streets...”
He switched from the live feed to archive and found the Hub surveillance for the past hour. He grasped Ianto’s hand as they watched the mere seconds between normality and disaster before the camera went offline.
“Jack!” Ianto cried. “Oh, shit, Jack!” He trembled with emotion and if it hadn’t been for Alun’s arm around his shoulders he probably wouldn’t be standing. “Jack... Oh, God. Jack.”
“I’m sorry,” Alun whispered. “At least... at least it was quick. He wouldn’t have felt it... at least not for long.”
“No,” Ianto insisted. “That might be true of anyone else. But not Jack.... it’s only beginning for him.”
“He’s dead, Ianto,” Alun said equally insistently. “He’s dead. Not even Jack could survive that. We both saw it... he was ripped apart... and what was left... was buried in rubble and debris. He can’t come back from that. I’m sorry.”
“I’ve seen him do it,” Ianto assured him. “He’ll be back. But he can’t go through it alone. Come on. Alun... we have to get out of here and find him. We need to help him.”
“How do we get out?” Alun asked, noting that Jack came high in Ianto’s immediate priorities. “All the exits are on the Hub level and that’s destroyed. Besides, we’re in lockdown. All the bulkheads are down.”
“We can get out,” Ianto maintained. “Come on.”
“Shit!” Gwen swore as she opened her eyes and tried to see something in the murky darkness. She could instinctively feel the lack of space above and around her. She realised she was lucky to be alive. If she had been at her own desk when the explosion occurred, she would have been lumps of unidentifiable charred meat mixed in with the debris.
Just like Jack, she thought and bit her lip unhappily as the memory ran through her mind like a slow motion replay. She had been in Jack’s office most of the day. He was out following up a tip off about sales of alien hallucinogens on the streets of Cardiff and she was in charge of the Hub. She took a call from the Home Secretary on his behalf and felt rather proud of the way she handled it. She might very well have met Cabinet Ministers in the course of her duties as a police officer, but she would never have got to call them by their first names as she did as second in command at Torchwood.
She had seen Jack come into Hub Central with his prisoner. She remembered thinking that it looked surprisingly Human.
Then it had exploded. She remembered with all too vivid clarity the alien’s body turning to bloody chunks and Jack, beside him, ripped to pieces, too. It all happened in seconds, and she was busy throwing herself down behind his desk and covering her head as the compression wave shattered the glass wall of the office. But she remembered seeing his right arm and shoulder and the side of his head turned to bloody pulp. After that, the ceiling falling in on her occupied her thoughts. The desk was a strong one, and it bore the brunt of the collapsing debris. She crawled under it and curled up as small as she could as brick and concrete and twisted metal filled the place where she had been sitting moments before.
“Oh, God, Jack!” she cried. “Jack...”
Could he recover from an explosion like that? Her own predicament was dire enough. She was, after all, buried alive in the remains of Jack’s office. But his fate lodged itself in her mind and she fretted over it for a long time.
She had seen him recover from ninety per cent first degree burns, from falling off the Altolusso, from being hit by a speeding train. She had seen him come back from the dead after throwing himself over a grenade and shielding everyone else in the room from a sudden and horrible death.
But on all those occasions his body was more or less whole, if badly damaged.
This time, there could be nothing but fragments, and those were buried in the rubble of Hub Central.
Her blood ran cold as she remembered talking about it to Gray, of all people, last Friday night. Jack and Garrett had gone out on a date and she had been babysitter. Gray had objected to that title, pointing out that he was far from a baby and could have managed on his own for a few hours. But he liked Gwen and she liked him. She had made popcorn and put on some DVDs for him. Halfway through the film he had turned and asked her about Jack’s deaths, how many times had she seen it happen, and how. She did her best to answer his question without distressing him too much. But he was a boy, after all. The gory details didn’t bother him as much as the mechanics of it all.
“So... nothing can kill him?” Gray had asked. “Not even.... not even being buried alive or.... or...”
Gray had thought about it for a while and then come up with the most unlikely death scenarios that involved his brother being dismembered or beheaded, impaled, gutted and generally messed up in various different ways. He was surprised and fascinated when Gwen told him she had witnessed his resurrection from almost every death he could think of.
“What if he was put in a big mincing machine, and then the mince was cooked in pies, and people ate the pies?” the boy said eventually. “Could he come back to life after that?”
Gwen had laughed, because the idea was so absurd. She had asked Gray why he should have thought up such gruesome deaths for a brother he loved so very much.
“So I know I can always count on him,” Gray answered. “He’ll never leave me. Unless... unless there’s a really big mincing machine around.”
“I promise to keep Jack away from mincing machines and pie bakeries,” Gwen told him.
He wasn’t minced, but there might have been more of him left if he had been.
“Gray, I’m sorry,” she whispered tearfully. “I’m sorry I didn’t keep my promise. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect him for you.”
The thought that Jack really was dead this time was like a hole in her very being. It hurt deeply. Not only because she was thinking of Gray and Garrett and how devastated they were going to be, but for herself.
It was true that she had a bit of a crush on Jack from the first time she met him. He was something beyond her usual frame of reference, impossibly good looking, mysterious, challenging, an outrageous flirt and an introvert at the same time. He turned her head and left her feeling dissatisfied with the merely mortal, ordinary men in her life like Rhys and Andy.
He had never openly reciprocated, of course. But she always had the idea he was interested in her that way. He had a twinkle in his eye when he looked at her. Sometimes she was sure he was inviting her to come on to him.
Then there was that time... it felt like a dream, now. That Christmas in the far future, hidden down in the nuclear bunkers, hiding from the Daleks. It wasn’t a fantasy. She and Jack had turned to each other for comfort and some very sweet and satisfying sex had been the consequence. It was the one and only time and it happened in circumstances that could never be repeated even if she wanted to. She tried not to think about it too often. She certainly didn’t think about it when Rhys made love to her. She didn’t think about it when she was working with Jack. It would be too awkward and wrong in either case. But now and again, when she was alone, she closed her eyes and thought about the one good, wonderful part of what had otherwise been a nightmare she was glad to escape from.
A small part of her loved Jack Harkness in a way even he couldn’t guess. And that part grieved for a dead lover, not just a friend and a colleague. That part of her was hurting like an open wound, and that grief overwhelmed her so much she couldn’t even start to think about the danger to her own life, or that of anyone else who was in the Hub at the same time.
“Martha!” The voice that called to her in the half dark had a strange cadence to it. The tone was urgent. She reached out to the moving shadow close to her.
“Ray, are you all right?” she asked.
“No,” he answered. “I’m injured. I’m... I’m...”
Martha reached for the lamp above the examination table. It worked, flooding the medical room with bright light. She immediately saw the debris that blocked the stairs and knew that they were trapped down there for the foreseeable future. She didn’t even try to shift any of the broken slabs of reinforced concrete or the steel girders, the piles of Victorian tiles, that formed such a formidable barrier. Touching it could bring it crashing down further.
She turned her attention back to Ray. He was bleeding from a head wound.
“Lie down,” she told him. “Let me look at that.”
He did as she said. The emergency power allowed her to operate the smaller hand held scanner if not the full body one, and she concluded that he wasn’t badly hurt. The bleeding was relatively superficial and he had a concussion, but he would recover easily enough.
“You got off lightly,” she told him. “Do you remember what happened?”
“The sky fell in on me,” he replied. “As I was coming down the stairs.”
“It... sure looks like it,” Martha commented. She glanced back at the blocked entrance to the medical room at the top of the stairs. Her mind tried to calculate how much debris there might be. If the roof of the Hub itself had collapsed, just how much material was that? How long might it be before anyone tried to reach them?
“It must have been a bomb,” Ray added.
“I’m trying not to think about it,” Martha managed to say in a weak voice. She reached into her pocket for her mobile phone. She wasn’t at all surprised to see that there was no range. “We went into automatic lockdown. We have emergency power, because the generators are all below this level. But outside communications are automatically blocked.”
“Does anyone but me think that’s a design flaw?” Ray asked. “We’re alive, surrounded by technology, but we can’t even send an email.”
“Definitely a design flaw,” Martha agreed. “It looks like we’re ok for air, anyway. No problem with that. So we should just sit tight. An explosion that big... somebody must know it happened. They’ll be trying to get to us.”
Or would they? Torchwood was a secret organisation. That was the point of it. Despite some internet rumours, ordinary members of the public wandering around up on Roald Dahl Plas didn’t actually know that there were something like fifty levels of laboratories, archives, offices and workspace underneath their feet, all dedicated to the observation and capture of aliens who happened to venture onto planet Earth. The number of officials in civilian government or military who knew Torchwood’s physical location was supposed to be limited. Even the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, although they knew of Torchwood’s work, didn’t know where they actually operated from. There were no more than five people in the Sennad, less than a hundred yards away from them, who knew, and that didn’t include the First Minister or any of his Cabinet.
It was possible that the civil authorities believed the explosion and any possible damage to the Plas to be gas mains or something mundane. They might not even realise that people were trapped below. It could be hours before the news of this incident reached anyone who would start a search.
Rhys was beyond worry, now. He was getting angry. Nobody was telling them anything. Beth had lapsed into quiet sobs having told all that she knew about the situation. Andy had been called away to deal with a couple of teenagers who had breached the police cordon and were trying to get pictures on their mobile phone cams. Around them U.N.I.T were obviously busy, but it looked as if they were busy blocking emails and mobile phone messages and controlling the story the media were putting out about what had happened.
It didn’t look as if anyone was searching for Gwen or the others.
“Will somebody, for FUCK sake, tell me what’s going on,” he demanded loudly.
“Mr Williams, Miss Turner, come with me,” said a man Rhys vaguely recognised.
“David?” Beth said to him. “David Myers? How are you connected with this?”
“Come on with me,” David answered. They followed him, if only because it was better to be doing something than doing nothing.
He brought them both out of the trailer and around a series of tall, steel screens that enclosed the boat shaped central feature of the Plas. The plume of smoke was still rising up from inside the screens. Rhys and Beth both looked at it apprehensively. They looked up at the Red Dragon crane as it lifted a large section of reinforced concrete. It had a broken light fitting dangling from it. They both recognised it as one of the ceiling lights from Hub Central.
There was a loud, raucous squawk from within the enclosed area and some agitated shouting. Then Rhys and Beth clutched hands as they saw an angry pterodactyl rise up over the screen. It hovered over the crane and squawked again as if it thought the machine was a prehistoric creature it had territorial issues with and then swooped upwards into the sky.
“Her nest... in the alcove just under the roof,” Beth said. “It must have remained more or less intact. She’s not hurt.... maybe...”
“Maybe Gwen and the others are alive, too.”
“That’s what we’re hoping,” David said. “Come on. This way.”
They were taken around the front of the Millennium Centre. Rhys noticed that the glass doors at the front of it were all smashed, but that seemed to be the worst of the damage to that building.
The Sennad building was far enough away from ground zero to have been unaffected by the explosion, but there was a major security cordon around it and the general public had been evacuated from the ground floor.
David Myers had the right clearance to bring them all quickly through all of the security, in through the quiet, echoing foyer and through to a room accessed with a coded lock.
Inside the room, Garrett Dunne was pacing the floor while Gray Harkness sat next to the elegant late middle aged woman Rhys recognised as Connie Myers, former Torchwood agent and grandmother of David.
“Is there any news?” Connie asked. “Michael...”
“Oh, shit!” Rhys exclaimed. “The frozen guy. I forgot about him.”
Connie and David both looked slightly put out by his description of her lover and his grandfather as ‘the frozen guy’. Rhys murmured an apology for his tactlessness.
“We’re everyone with somebody missing,” Beth said. “Michael in the cryo-unit, Ray, Gwen, we don’t know where... Jack...” She turned to look at Garrett. He looked worried, but he was holding himself up pretty well. Was it his training as an MI5 agent or was he trying to stay strong for the boy?
“There was a lot of time wasted at the start,” Garrett said in a curiously monotone voice as if he was sifting all emotion out of it. “Some idiot called the gas board. Then, thank Christ, somebody at the fire department pushed the right buttons. U.N.I.T are in charge now. They know this is more than just an ordinary accident. They’re co-ordinating the rescue operation.”
“Rescue?” Rhys sighed with relief. “Then... they know people are alive? Is Gwen...”
“We don’t know anything for sure. Except that the Hub is destroyed. But Torchwood is a big place. There could be people in the lower levels.”
“Could be?” Rhys sighed again, this time in exasperation. “So nobody really knows? They could all be dead?”
“Jack can’t be dead,” Gray said. “He can’t die. He promised me he can’t. Not unless he was turned into pies.”
Nobody else understood what he meant about pies. Even Garrett was puzzled. But they all understood that Jack was a special case. They didn’t need to worry about him. It was everyone else who was in trouble.
“They know,” Garrett said. “They know they’re looking for survivors under the rubble. Everyone involved in the operation has been placed under the Official Secrets Act and they know exactly what they’re looking for. We’ll find them.”
Ianto and Alun weren’t waiting for anyone to find them. The corridors of the archive level may have been blocked off by bulkhead doors to prevent fire or biohazards spreading through the Hub, but there were service hatches set into the floor at regular intervals. They opened one and the two men dropped down into the narrow but navigable conduit.
“The air isn’t good,” Ianto pointed out. “But there IS some. We just need to keep moving.”
“Were you BORN in this Hub?” Alun asked his lover. “You know it better than Jack.”
“Jack doesn’t pay attention to details,” Ianto replied as he bent low and turned on his penlight torch to see the way along the tunnel. “He sees the big, big picture. His mind is full of a whole century of living and dying. His mind can’t encompass small things like service tunnels.”
“And yours does?”
“It’s.... just a knack. Are you complaining? We’re alive, and we’re getting out of here. Do you have your Torchwood ID on you, by the way? We’ll need it when we come up for air.”
Gwen wasn’t going anywhere. She was still breathing. There was air coming in from somewhere. But her world was the crawl space under Jack’s desk – at least as long as the desk held. There were ominous creaks and showers of dust every so often that worried her.
Would that be worse, she wondered. Dying, now, after surviving the explosion itself. It was like people trapped in the aftermath of earthquakes, waiting to be rescued, and dying before any help came. What did they think of in their last hours, sitting there in the dark, waiting, with hope slowly running out?
No, she told herself. She wasn’t going to think about it. Somebody would come. Somebody would rescue her.
“Martha,” Ray said, his voice echoing oddly. “How long do you think we’ll be trapped down here?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I hoped somebody would reach us by now. We’re not THAT far down. But I can’t even hear anything. There’s not the slightest sound that anyone is trying to get to us.”
“They have to be really careful, don’t they?” Ray pointed out. “In case they cause the debris to fall even further. They might be working as hard as they can, but very carefully and quietly. Anyway, the point is... we might not have time to wait. It’s a full moon night.”
“Oh. But... you can’t even see the moon down here. Maybe you won’t....”
But Martha knew that was clutching at straws. Ray turned into a dangerous animal every time the moon rose even when he was locked in a cell in the vault, deep below ground where not even a hint of natural day or night could get in.
She glanced at her watch. It was seven o’clock. It was summer, so it was still daylight. But the moon rose anyway.
“Two hours,” he said. “I checked this morning. Moonrise is at nine.”
Two hours until she was trapped in the medical room with a dangerous animal. After that, she was his evening meal and their rescuers were dessert.
“What if this wasn’t an accident?” Rhys asked out of the blue. “What if... I mean, Torchwood is a pain in the backside of the government a lot of the time. What if it’s a black bag operation to get rid of them all?”
“Then you would be dead, too,” Garrett replied. “And Beth, Andy, Connie and David, too. And Owen and Toshiko and their friends in Scotland, that strange man who calls himself Fox Mulder and passes you tips, the pizza shop around the Bay who has Torchwood as his number one customer...”
Everyone looked at him.
“Yes, the possibility of Torchwood becoming such a danger to National Security that every trace of it might have to be wiped out has been considered. No, not by me. By a faceless civil servant in Whitehall who passed a memo onto my department. I passed one back telling him to get stuffed. This wasn’t a black bag operation by any part of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
“How can you be sure?”
“I’d be dead, too,” he replied. Gray yelped in shock. Garrett reached out and hugged the boy. “Put the idea out of your heads,” he added. “Beth saw what happened. The alien Jack arrested blew up. I’m guessing it’s a group defence method. If one is captured, it kills itself and its captors to protect the rest. Which means when Jack is back on his feet, he’s still got a job to do rounding the rest of them up.”
“When Jack...” Beth shuddered. “But Torchwood is finished. It’s gone... Even if he does... he can’t...”
“Torchwood has faced worse than this,” Connie told her. “It’ll be back. I just hope and pray for the other souls involved.”
“We’re all praying for them,” Garrett told her. “The search is continuing. It will continue until we find them all. You have my promise... on behalf of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. We’ll find them.”
“You don’t need to find us,” said Alun Llewellyn as he and Ianto Jones stepped into the room, escorted by Sennad security who deferred to Garrett’s silent nod and left them. “We found ourselves.” Beth jumped up from her seat and hugged them both tightly. Before Ray, before Alun, she and Ianto had been briefly an item. She loved him deeply. She loved both of them like brothers. Knowing they were alive and well was a partial relief.
She sat close to them both as they drank coffee and told of their walk through the service tunnels and a climb up through three stairwells to find the little known tunnel that linked the Torchwood Hub to the basement of the Sennad.
“So the damage is only restricted to the Hub Central, the top floor?” Rhys asked. “Everyone else could still be all right in the lower floors.”
“We were the only ones down in the archives,” Ianto admitted. “I’m sorry, Rhys. Gwen was up there. So was Martha. I don’t know where Ray was. He didn’t make it to the vault.”
“Emergency power is running,” Alun assured Connie. “We’ve no reason to think Michael is in any danger.”
“I believe you,” she said. “But I wish I could see him, to be sure.”
“It’s time to stop sitting on our arses waiting for others to do something,” Rhys announced. “I’m going to find Gwen... alive or... or... Well, I’m going.”
“Me, too,” Ianto said. “I know Jack’s dead... at the moment, anyway. But...but I have to find him.”
Garrett said nothing. It was possible he realised those were words he should have been saying, not Ianto. He went with the other two men, leaving Alun and David to comfort the women and offer them hope.
“I could...” Martha suggested. “I’ve got stuff right here that could knock you out... sedatives... strong ones.”
“They wouldn’t work,” Ray told her miserably. “When I turn... I’ll wake up again. Owen tried that three full moons in a row. I’ll wake up and kill you. There’s nothing I can do to stop it.”
“There’s only one thing you can do,” Ray admitted. “You need to give me an overdose of that stuff. Kill me before I can turn. That’s the only way.”
“Good God, no! I can’t. Not even... I’m a doctor. I swore an oath to preserve life. I can’t... Even if I could... No... What would I say to Beth? That I killed you... to save my own skin? I could never look her in the face again. No, there has to be another way.”
She looked around the medical room desperately. So did Ray.
“How strong are the cadaver drawers? If you locked me in...”
“Not strong enough,” Martha admitted. “They’re not meant to hold anything in that wants to get out.” Then an idea struck her. “Wait, though.... I think... Oh, my God. I think I have an idea. If emergency power is strong enough to operate it... There’s a way I can safely contain you overnight. We’ll be all right.”
Ray didn’t ask her what her idea was. He put his trust in her, as he had put his trust in all the Torchwood team since they discovered his terrible secret and offered him sanctuary. He watched her prepare a small medical bag with drugs and hypodermic syringes, and then go to one of the cadaver drawers. This particular one had a compartment that slid out automatically.
“I should have remembered earlier,” she said. “This one is used to deliver corpses to the cryogenic unit below. It’s like... a dumb waiter for bodies. It’ll be a tight squeeze for both of us, but we can do it. You get comfy while I set a time delay and join you.”
Ray in Human form was thin enough. There was just room to get in beside him. Martha closed her eyes before the drawer slid back, enclosing them. It was a bit too creepy watching it happen from inside. She had a moment of panic when it occurred to her that Ray might begin to change while they were trapped together. She also had a moment of doubt about the maximum weight the ‘dumb waiter for bodies’ could take.
Then it was over. She felt a forward momentum and opened her eyes to see the dim lights of the cryogenic facility in low power mode. She scrambled out of the drawer along with Ray and looked at the largest of the cryo-stores. There were a dozen of them which simply acted as long term storage for interesting bodies, and two individual stores for live specimens not currently in use. They were no bigger than coffins and not very comfortable.
But Michael, Torchwood’s long term frozen resident, had a walk in facility adapted to his needs over the decades. Ray helped her open the door and begin the defrost sequence.
“Will this take long?” he asked. “I don’t have much time before...”
“He’s nearly there,” Martha replied as she gave Michael an adrenaline shot and watched his heart monitor bleep into life. He opened his eyes slowly and looked up at her.
“You’re a lot prettier than Doctor Harper,” he said.
“You bet I am. This is an unscheduled wake up call, Michael. I’m afraid I can only offer you a couple of emergency pack energy bars for supper. But we need your bed for the night.”
Michael listened in horror to her story as he swapped places with Ray and watched her prepare him for cryo-sleep.
“Don’t be scared,” she told him. “Especially when I tell you that these two drugs... they’re two out of three of the ones used for lethal injection execution in the USA. Sodium thiopental is an anaesthetic so you’ll be out of it before it gets really cold and Pancuronium bromide relaxes your muscles. We found with Michael over the years that it’s less difficult to get him up and about that way.”
“Will I change while I’m frozen?” Ray asked.
“I don’t know,” Martha admitted. “I think, maybe not.”
“Make a change to wake up in the same clothes,” he said before the anaesthetic began to work. Martha touched him gently on his pale cheek before completing the operation and sealing him in the chamber. Then she turned and looked at the door to the cryo-store. It wasn’t a bulkhead and it wasn’t deadlock sealed. She opened it and looked at the section of corridor beyond before the first impassable bulkhead.
“In here,” Martha suggested, opening the door to the old Torchwood chapel. “It’s... not the worst place to spend a long night.”
The professionals were doing their job well. Nobody could deny that. Rhys, Ianto and Garrett watched from the top of the crater as huge chunks of what used to be the ceiling of Hub Central were lifted with the crane. Meanwhile, men in fluorescent jackets and a pair of dogs with their own protective coats and boots over their paws were sifting among the rubble still left on what used to be the floor. Pieces of the balcony, twisted bits of metal from the arboretum, hung loosely, some of them creaking ominously. It was heartbreaking to see the place where they had worked, sometimes played, often laughed together, destroyed so utterly.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. One of the dogs barked as it was trained to do and the men in the fluorescent jackets began to dig carefully before one of them called for a stretcher and a body bag. Rhys murmured under his breath, not exactly praying in the strictly pious sense, but hoping that the body parts they were putting into the black bag weren’t all that was left of Gwen.
The stretcher with the body bag fixed to it was winched up. At the top Garrett stepped forward. He couldn’t bear not knowing any longer. He unzipped the bag and looked at the half a torso, upper arm and fraction of a head with the eyeball gone. He reached further into the bag and Ianto gave an anguished sob when Garrett held up a hand, blown off at the wrist, but otherwise intact. He slid a ring off the little finger before placing it back in the bag and zipping it up.
“Put it in the ambulance, and take it around to the side entrance to the Sennad,” he said.
“To the Sennad?” the paramedics questioned. “But...”
Garrett pulled rank.
“A man called David Myers will show you where you can leave the body,” he said. “After that it’s not your problem.”
He turned back and showed the ring to Ianto, who choked back a sob. It was the Claddagh ring Garrett had given to Jack two Christmases ago.
Rhys watched the two men hug each other emotionally. They had found Jack. Their search was over. He was glad for them.
But what about Gwen?
He moved closer to the edge of the crater and looked down. If Gwen was caught in that blast, then there would be nothing left of her but pieces, and she had no way back. If all that was recognisable of her was her hand with the rings on that he had given her, then...
“Wait...!” he shouted. “Hey... shut off that machine. Listen.... listen. I can hear... I can hear something... I can hear HER! Help, somebody. Please, help.”
The crane was turned off. Everyone stood still and listened. Then the men in fluorescent coats moved towards the pile of rubble that was blocking what used to be Jack’s office. Rhys knelt down, leaning precariously over the edge and put his hands to his mouth as he called out.
“Gwen! Gwen, hold on there. They’re coming for you. Wait a bit longer, sweetheart. Gwen....”
It took an agonising time to remove the debris. It began to get dark as they worked. Big arc lamps were directed into the crater, illuminating the work. Rhys kept kneeling there, waiting, calling out every so often. He was rewarded by responses from Gwen. She sounded as if she was all right. But she was still trapped and he wouldn’t be able to breathe easy until she was free.
At last they broke through. The rescue workers reached into the crawl space they had made and pulled her out. Her skirt pulled up as she emerged, making it a rather undignified rescue, but she was alive, she was whole. She waved at Rhys. He waved back before she was fixed in a hoist and pulled up to solid ground. As soon as she was released from the restraints she ran to where Rhys was still kneeling on the edge of the crater.
“Why are you still there?” she asked. “I’m ok... a bit bruised and battered, and I’ve got pins and needles from being stuck in the same position for hours. But I’m ok.”
“I’m stuck,” he replied. “My legs have gone to sleep. I’ve been waiting so long for you.”
“Oh, you big idiot,” Gwen said, laughing out loud. She bent and hugged him tightly then helped him to stand. They held each other up for a long, long time before Gwen turned and looked at Ianto and Garrett. They were obviously glad to see her, but there was something in their faces that betrayed a deeper anxiety.
“Jack?” she asked.
“They... found...” Ianto managed to say. He couldn’t say anything else. But his expression conveyed the rest.
Gwen was about to say something else when there was a shout from below. They all turned and saw that the entrance to the medical room had partly been uncovered. One of the rescuers scrambled out of the gap and a few minutes later he came to them. He handed Ianto a note. He read it and then passed it to the others.
“Martha and Ray went down to the cryo-unit. They’re all right. They’re going to hold tight until... until Jack resets the lockdown code and comes for them.”
“Then we just have to wait for Jack,” Garrett said. He looked at Ianto with a question in his eyes. Then he turned to Gwen. “You need to get some rest, and something to eat... but when you’re ready....”
“I’ll be there,” she promised.
It wasn’t the first time any of them had kept such a vigil. Jack had been mortally wounded thousands of times. On at least three occasions his body had been ripped apart and his friends had kept a quiet vigil until he was whole again.
Ianto and Garrett never left him. They sat in the room where his body had been taken, watching the body bag on the table, aware that things were happening inside it, but never daring to look.
Alun came in for a while. He brought coffee and sat beside Ianto, holding his hand, showing his support and his understanding of why he felt so strongly about his former lover’s well being.
Gwen sat with them for part of the night. She still looked rough from her own experience, but she cared deeply for Jack and she wanted to know that he was slowly recovering.
“It’s weird,” she said. “The body bag looks like there is a whole body in there, now. A few hours ago it was nearly empty. It’s a miracle. A weird, terrifying, crazy miracle.”
“I’m glad of it,” Ianto said. “I hope... I hope he is. Especially later. When he starts to feel...”
That was the worst part of a resurrection like this. It was terribly painful for him. There was a point when his skeleton was whole again, his internal organs in place, muscles, sinew, nerves restored, when it was always utter agony for Jack. On the last occasions when it happened Martha, and before her, Owen, had been on hand with an anaesthetic to give him peace while his body completed its healing.
This time he had to endure without any medical help. Listening to him scream was almost unbearable for those who loved him. The only comfort they had was knowing that he was alive and that he was recovering, slowly. For Jack, there was no comfort. He was alive, but he must have wished he wasn’t.
Then the closed door of the private room in the Sennad building opened. Ianto exclaimed out loud as Owen Harper strode across the floor and opened up the body bag. Jack’s body was whole, except for a protective layer of skin. His eyeballs were open and staring, without eyelids to cover them, his hairless scalp exposed. He recognised him, though. His mouth almost managed to form his name in the middle of a worldless scream. Owen found a vein and injected a strong sedative into him and he stopped screaming and went quiet for a while.
“I pulled some strings with U.N.I.T and flew down here as soon as I could,” Owen said when he was done. “Is it true? Everyone is alive? They told me there was just the one casualty....”
“It’s true,” Ianto told him. “It’s more than we deserve. But it’s true. We’re all alive. The Hub is wrecked. But we’re here.”
“Then it’s ok,” Owen told him. “It’s ok, Ianto. You don’t need to cry...”
Owen wasn’t usually a demonstrative kind of man when it came to other people’s feelings. He was the last person anyone would turn to for a shoulder to cry on. But he found himself holding onto Ianto as he cried openly and fully, letting out all the emotions he had barely held back for hours. His friends watched without saying anything. He was crying for all of them, for all the pain they had gone through, all the heartache and worry, as well as the relief when they realised that they had come through it intact, after all.
“Come on, now, Ianto,” Owen said, finally. “Help me with Jack. It’s time to get him out of that body bag. Get some blankets to wrap him in.”
“I’ll... go and find some clothes for him,” Gwen volunteered when she saw that Jack’s body had regenerated further. Now, he DID have skin and she felt suddenly and inexplicably embarrassed to be in the same room with her boss and friend when he was naked. “And... shall I tell Gray he’ll be able to see him, soon?”
In fact, when Jack woke again the room where he had spent the best part of the night was crowded. Garrett and Gray were closest to him, right beside the couch where he was lying under a warm blanket, dressed in something clean and dry, but definitely not his own usual clothing. He let them both hug and kiss him gratefully. Then Ianto held him rather longer than a man who was married to another man ought to have held him. Alun didn’t mind. Neither did Rhys when Gwen embraced him and kissed his only newly restored lips. He looked around at Beth, Andy, David and Connie who completed the party and then asked anxiously about Martha and Ray. Alun explained about the cadaver lift and the cryo-store. Jack nodded and smiled.
“I’m hungry,” he said. “What I really want right now is the biggest breakfast Cardiff Bay can supply. But resetting Torchwood lockdown protocols will have to come first.” He pushed himself up into a sitting position and looked at the ‘I ? Cardiff Bay’ t-shirt he was wearing with a pair of tracksuit bottoms and grimaced. He was even less impressed by the pair of open-toed sandals he had to wear on his feet. But he was alive, and so was everyone else he cared about.
The hospitality department of the Sennad provided the breakfast he desired when he and Ianto returned from the Hub accompanied by Martha, Michael and Ray, looking less distressed after a night in cryo-freeze than he did after a night as a wolfman. In fact, as they considered their future options Martha put the idea to the rest of them.
“I think it could be less traumatic for him to spend the full moon nights in the cryo-unit than in the vault,” she said while buttering toast and drinking coffee. “I need to run more tests to make sure... but I think it could be a way to stop the mutation of his DNA. It’s worth a try, anyway.”
“You mean, I’d be turfed out of my bed for him once a month?” Michael asked. Connie put her hand over his and they both looked hopefully at Jack.
“We have OTHER cryo-units available,” he pointed out. “Wasting the deluxe unit on a lanky streak of...” Beth and Ray both looked shocked until Jack broke into a grin. “There really IS a silver lining to this for some of you. Go ahead. Grab it. Martha, I’ll need to see full reports of your experiments. And if there ARE any adverse affects on him, you’ll have to stop it right away. Michael, Connie, I’ll talk to you about how it affects you, later.”
“You’re back!” Gwen said happily. “Jack... you’re back and in charge. We don’t have Torchwood any more, but you’re back...”
“Of course we have Torchwood,” he answered. “Torchwood isn’t about concrete and steel, pavement lifts and water features. It’s about us. All of us. You and Ianto, Alun, Martha, Beth. And Garrett and Gray, Rhys, Ray, Andy, Connie, Michael, David...” He looked around at the crowd eating breakfast with him. “Owen and Tosh and everyone in Glasgow... And even... I’m surprised he isn’t here... our old friend, Fox Mulder. He must have gone ballistic when he heard.”
“I found him down on Mermaid Quay last night in a right old tizz. I told him just like you said. The aliens don’t have us beat. He seemed relieved.”
“So he should be,” Jack said. “We’re not beat. Not by a long shot. Hub Central is out of action for a while. But we’ve got fifty floors below that are still intact. We’ve got generators and computer servers down there, the archive, everything we need. Meanwhile, Torchwood exists by Royal Charter. The government is responsible for the repair bill.” He paused and breathed in deeply, and felt glad he could do so. “Somebody has to go and check on the vault and feed the Weevils. After that, I think we’re all entitled to a day off.”
“Just the one day?” Rhys asked. “I think Gwen deserves a week, at least. After what she went through. Talk about shock and trauma.”
“Don’t push your luck,” Jack replied. “A day off, and then we’re back on duty.”