Gwen looked down from her workstation at the ‘play corner’ where Sam the Weevil spent his days in surprising contentment. Ashley was sitting with him, helping with the more difficult words to pronounce in his reading book. Difficult words like ‘shore’ and ‘shrimp’. It was a book about the coast, but sibilants were the next hurdle for him to cross. Martha had performed an operation that freed up his larynx and made it easier for him to speak, but it was still a learning curve.
Ashley saw her watching and waved. Sam did, too, calling out her name. Or “Gween”, anyway. It wasn’t a bad attempt.
She wondered if he would have a Welsh accent when he learnt to speak clearly. After all, Ianto and Alun were his main teachers. Beth liked to spend time with him, too, especially on full moon nights when Ray was in the vaults and she stayed near his monitor. Sam heard Welsh voices more than any other. It seemed logical that he would be a Welsh Weevil/Human hybrid.
She smiled wryly at herself for being so fanciful about what Jack still insisted was a wacky idea, doomed to failure, then turned back to her own monitoring job. Ianto was literally the eyes and ears of this operation, with the Torchwood Contact Lenses inserted. Through his view she could see Jack using another piece of alien tech to quietly open the side door to the disused warehouse on Longships Road, one of the few parts of the old docklands not yet either gentrified or industrialised. Strange energy readings had been coming from there for several days - the sort of strange that Torchwood were bound to respond to.
It was the sort of field mission Jack would have brought her on in the past, she noted with a sigh of regret. Her police experience was useful on raids like this to keep any humans under control while the boys dealt with the aliens.
But she was six months pregnant now, and starting to waddle rather than walk. She also got travel sick in the SUV and Ianto’s feelings on that matter were torn between his affection for her and his affection for the car.
So she was monitoring remotely, playing a passive role in what was going down.
“No abnormal readings so far,” she typed onto the visual display that would appear in front of his eyes. “Except for Jack’s testosterone levels, of course.”
“He’s not getting any,” Ianto answered using a small touch pad on his wrist that allowed him to relay text messages back to her. “Garrett’s still away in London.”
“Rhys isn’t getting any just now, either,” Gwen retyped. “What with backache, needing the loo every ten minutes, way too much hassle.”
“Good job Alun and I are keeping the Torchwood end up,” Ianto answered her and added a smiley emoticon. Gwen laughed. Alun and Ianto were still the most ‘normal’ couple in Torchwood. Their civil partnership made them the only legally valid pair. They were without doubt the happiest couple, with far less hangups and emotional problems than anyone else. Jack and Garrett were a close second, but the pressure of their jobs told on them at times.
As Rhys, the baby was keeping a grin on his face at the moment, but she knew there were plenty of practical problems ahead of them, and she just hoped they both had the strength to get through them with their souls intact.
She pulled her mind back from domestic issues as the boys went through the door into the warehouse. The lenses blanked for a few seconds then adjusted to the dim light inside the building. She watched Jack’s back as he took the lead. She wondered why she couldn’t see Alun, then realised he was walking beside Ianto. They all had guns and were ready for anything, but the two sweethearts were side by side as always.
“Uhoh.” She said it out loud. She typed it, too. “I’m getting all sorts of telemetry here. Ion, Gamma and Narth energy readings are going off the scale. Guys, be careful. Whatever or whoever is operating in there, it can’t be good.”
Alun started to say something near Ianto’s ear where the sound transmitter was implanted. He was cut off at the same time that the lenses whited out and those energy levels all peaked.
Gwen yelped in shock and pushed her chair back from the workstation. She heard an anguished voice behind her and turned to see Gray in his school uniform and clutching his backpack. She hadn’t heard him come in as he usually did at the end of a school day. She didn’t know he had been watching the screen where his brother was on a field mission.
“It’s all right,” she assured him, keeping her own voice steady despite herself. “It’s just the lenses. They’re not always reliable.”
Gray looked at her with a disbelieving expression. Her PC Cooper act had failed. He ran to the railing and called down to Ashley that something had happened to Jack. The older boy looked up, startled, then put his hand on Sam’s dark-skinned arm, reassuring him that there was nothing to be alarmed about.
“Dad will be all right,” he called back. “You know that. Don’t worry. Come down here and help me get Sam’s tea.”
Gray glanced at the still blanked out screen, then at Gwen, who was trying to reassure him with all of her body language, then he brushed past her and took the metal steps two at a time to reach Ashley and Sam.
“Martha, Beth!” Gwen kept her composure a little longer as she opened coms and called for the other two adults in the Hub. Martha came up from the medical room and Beth down from the tourist office just as the screen finally cleared again and she got a view through the lenses.
“Oh, my God!” she gasped. She felt Martha grasp her shoulder and Beth her arm. She was glad to feel them there, but sorry they saw what she was seeing, too.
Ianto was on the ground, injured. That much was obvious from the angle of the lens view. It kept blanking out as if he was blinking and tears obscured the image. He was injured and hurting. They heard his voice, weak and barely coherent, begging for help.
Jack was dead. She could see his body, or part of it, at least, amidst a dark pool of blood. Ianto seemed to be trying to focus on him, but it was too much of a struggle.
She thought she heard Alun’s voice, too, but it was even weaker and he sounded as if he was in extreme pain.
The lenses blanked completely. Ianto was unconscious.
“We need a way of keeping in contact when the lens wearer is down,” Gwen commented, but technical hitches were not the first thing that mattered right now.
“You stay here,” Martha told her. “Get the medical room ready if you can’t just sit still. But stay here where you and the baby are safe. Beth… get Detective Swanson on the line, ask her to bring a containment unit - an armed unit, preferably. Yes, I know Jack hates to ask for her help, but we need it. Half of Torchwood is down and we don’t know why.”
Gwen was on the point of arguing. She was next in seniority if Jack was out of action. But at the same time she felt a relief that Martha had taken the decision out of her hands. She nodded gratefully and went down to the medical room. She prepared a bed in one of the side rooms for Jack in case his resurrection took a bit of time. She prepared another room with two beds in for Alun and Ianto. They were both injured and it would be comforting for them to be together.
There might be other victims. She prepared two more beds as well as the autopsy table.
Then she went back upstairs. Longships Road was only a few minutes away. Martha should be there by now.
The screen on her monitor flickered then cleared. Martha had taken the lenses out of Ianto’s eyes, cleaned them and put them into her own to record what she was seeing.
Gwen recoiled from the images, resisting the impulse to be sick. She forced herself to concentrate, listening to what Martha was saying.
“This seems to be some sort of laboratory, with experimental machinery,” she said in the calm voice she used for recording autopsy results. “I think it was mean to be some sort of… I don’t know, a prototype transmat I’d have to guess.” She turned at the sound of the police back up arriving. “Take them out of here. Be gentle. They’re still alive. Get them back to Torchwood, quickly. Take Jack, too… take… his… remains.” She had been losing that appearance of calm, but now that the people she knew personally were being attended to she was able to be a little more objective again. She looked at the Human remains slumped by an upright metal shaft belonging to the machinery she mentioned. The body had been turned inside out. The internal organs that had spilled out onto the floor still pulsed slightly, but the victim was dying. He – or she – was beyond any medical help – and hopefully beyond the point of feeling any pain.
Martha turned and looked at another victim. It was a woman wearing a white lab coat. Her left leg below the knee and her arm to the shoulder were buried in the concrete floor. She was screaming with agony. The picture shook as Martha administered a sedative from her portable medical kit. The woman stopped screaming and slumped into unconsciousness while Martha amputated the limbs with a laser scalpel that instantly sealed the wounds. She called for a stretcher. Gwen saw Kathy Swanson step forward to take care of the living victim.
The rest were beyond help. Martha counted the body parts and reckoned there were maybe three more people in total involved in this strange disaster. She gave instructions to the police to ‘bag and tag’ and deliver them to Torchwood, then she turned and walked away. There was a flare as she stepped out into the sunshine and Gwen heard Martha take several deep, ragged breaths, swallowing a sob.
“I’m coming back to the Hub,” she said after she had composed herself once more. “I’ve got to try to help Ianto and Alun, at least.”
“Martha, what happened to them?” Gwen asked, out loud and typing furiously. “How bad are they? You said they were alive. But….”
“I’m sorry,” Martha answered. “Don’t let the kids see. Keep them with Sam. Don’t let him know, either. Oh, God. He’s going to be so hurt. He loves them.”
Martha pulled the lenses out of her eyes, breaking the connection. Gwen turned and ran through the corridor to the garage entrance. Gray’s bike had fallen over. She picked it up and put it safely against the wall just before the SUV drove straight in. The police van was right behind with Kathy Swanson directing her officers to carry in the amputee, but Gwen watched as Martha, along with Sergeant Andy Davidson, lifted a strangely misshapen body from the back of the SUV onto a waiting trolley.
Gwen stared, hardly able to suppress her horror and disbelief.
“I’ve got to get them inside,” Martha said. “Gwen, help Andy with Jack.”
Andy was pulling a sealed body bag from the boot of the SUV. It didn’t look as full as it ought to look, and Jack felt lighter than usual. Andy carried him while Gwen walked alongside him.
Andy brought Jack to the bed Gwen had made ready for him. She unzipped the body bag and Andy lifted him onto the clean white sheets, trying not to notice how much blood had pooled in the waterproof bag. Most of it had drained from his body now. His face was pale, his open eyes glassy, his frozen expression horrified. No wonder. Even sheered in half at the waist, he must have been conscious for a little while before the comfort of oblivion. Even for Jack, that was an awful way to die.
And it would be a damn painful way to come back from the dead. Gwen had never been there through the whole of a recovery of this sort, but she had heard his screams and seen the images on the monitor of new bone growing, muscle, sinew, flesh coming back onto the skeleton.
“I’ll come back to you, Jack,” Gwen whispered. She pulled a top sheet over the torso and gently closed his eyes before leaning over to kiss his lips tenderly. “I’ll take care of you, sweetheart.”
She stepped out of the side room, closing the door carefully. Martha had seconded Kathy as a theatre assistant in paper scrubs and mask. She looked up and waved to indicate that Gwen should do the same if she was staying then began her preliminary examination.
“The subjects….” Again she was using her professional voice to record the details, but it wasn’t completely successful. “The subject… Alun… and Ianto… somehow their two bodies were fused together. There are… two normal legs… and one… made up of two compressed together…. The toes… eight are normal, two are pushed together into one. The trunk of the body… all of the organs…. I’m counting double of everything - spleen, liver, kidneys, stomach, heart, lungs. They’re operating separately, but they’re crushed together into an abdominal cavity about the size of one and a half normal adults. Their veins are fused. The blood from both of their bodies is circulating. The double hearts… the blood is being pumped around one body, then the other. The arms… again two are normal. But the other… one arm – from the elbow - is protruding from the middle of the chest. There are eight fingers and two thumbs fused together… clasped together… they were holding hands when it happened. Their hands are melded together.”
Martha took a deep breath as she moved the hand-held scanner up towards their heads.
“This is the dangerous part. I will have to operate. The two skulls have been pressed together. Their brains don’t have enough room. I’ve got to separate them.”
The description was bad enough, but it was worse looking at the deformed shape on the operating table, knowing it was two very special friends who were dying by inches. Gwen forced herself to look at the mangled head. It was possible to see the join where Alun’s head was crushed into Ianto’s. They still had two eyes each but they looked wrong, uneven. Their mouths were pressed so close there was just a tiny sliver of lip separating them. It almost looked as if they were trying to kiss.
“I can’t look,” Gwen said as Martha prepared to save them from permanent brain damage. “I’m sorry. I have to get out of here.”
She ripped off the mask and gown and fled upstairs. She grasped the rail and looked down at the two boys. They had fed spaghetti hoops and toast to Sam and were now plying him with chocolate sponge fingers for his pudding.
A boy who was born fifty thousand years in the future on another planet and one who was created in a cloning tank were giving chocolate sponge fingers to a talking Weevil, and right now that was the most soothingly normal thing in her world.
There was something terribly WRONG with her world.
She walked slowly down the steps and went to sit with them.
“Dad will be all right,” Ashley assured her. “You know he will be.”
“It’s not Jack I’m worried about,” she answered. “It’s….”
The two boys understood from the expression on her face. They turned to look at Sam. He was dressed in a red jumper and blue slacks with plimsolls on his feet. There was chocolate around his mouth. His teeth were less frightening than they used to be. Martha had done a series of operations that changed the shape of his jaw. The prominent incisors had been filed down so that they looked more Human and more suitable for his largely vegetarian diet.
Even so, he was still a Weevil. He was part animal instinct, and how was he going to react when he found out that the two humans he related to best, the two he regarded as his parents, who he, in some strange way, loved, were….
Were what? Martha said they were alive. Their bodies were functioning in some kind of way.
But they weren’t Ianto and Alun any more. They were the remains of some kind of freak accident that had killed four other people, five if she included Jack, and left one permanently maimed.
“We’ll look after Sam until they’re better,” Gray said. “He likes us.”
“I don’t think that will work,” Gwen said. “It was enough of a shock to the residents of Roath Park to have a gay family move in. I don’t think they’ll be keen on Sam becoming part of the equation.”
She made a joke of it for the boys, but there wasn’t much to laugh at right now. She felt so alone and uncertain. She didn’t know what to do to help anyone.
The klaxon horn that heralded the opening of the round door from the tourist office entrance distracted her thoughts. She looked up to see Rhys striding towards her.
“You should have been off duty an hour ago,” he said, not angry, but brusquely concerned for her. He glanced uncertainly at Sam, who drew back, equally unsure about him. Rhys had been introduced to Sam in a carefully controlled experiment to see how he would cope with new faces, but today nothing was under control.
“We agreed, love,” Rhys continued. “Jack insisted, too. You weren’t to work overtime.”
“I know,” she said. She stood and went to him, letting him hug her tenderly. “But this is an emergency. There’s been an accident. Jack is… out of action. Ianto and Alun are….”
She couldn’t say anything else. The sight of Rhys standing there in the midst of all of Torchwood’s madness did what nothing else today had done. She broke down and cried.
“Take her home, Rhys,” Martha said, lending her voice of authority to the matter. “We’ll manage until Jack’s up and about again. It… should only be a few hours. I promise he’ll call you before anyone else.”
“She’ll be on her mobile,” Rhys said. “I’m going to book us into a hotel for a bit of pampering, a nice meal, an en-suite Jacuzzi….”
“Remember the recommended maximum times for a pregnant woman in a Jacuzzi, then,” Martha said. “Have a good night.”
Rhys took Gwen out through the tourist entrance. Beth locked and closed the office behind them and went back down to the Hub. Everything was calm, but it was an uneasy, unnatural calm. The two boys were still looking after Sam. Martha returned to the medical room. Kathy Swanson was still down there with her, but Andy Davidson came and stood with her on the balcony.
“If I didn’t know this Torchwood lot before, I wouldn’t believe what I’ve seen today,” he said. “The bodies in the warehouse… the bits of bodies… that woman stuck in the floor. Jack…. Not to mention what happened to….”
Beth nodded, unable to speak. She loved Ianto and Alun like brothers, and her heart was breaking at the thought of losing them both. She was certain she would lose them. Martha’s efforts were just to spare them pain until it was over.
“It’s Torchwood,” Andy added. “They’re tough. They’ll survive this. Don’t you worry. I know it looks bad just now, but they’ll bounce back.”
Beth looked at Andy. She knew what the Torchwood team usually thought of him – a bit of a wanker, a plodding copper, pretty much useless. He probably KNEW that they thought that about him. But even so, he believed in Torchwood. He really thought they were going to survive this, all of them.
“Yes,” she answered, letting his confidence wash over her and drive away the pessimism. “Yes, they will. Somehow.”
Gwen did her best to put her worries out of her mind and enjoy the treat Rhys had arranged. She shared the Jacuzzi with him for the maximum recommended time. She dried and dressed herself and went down to dinner in the elegant restaurant and enjoyed a pleasant evening meal. She had told Rhys something of the crisis at Torchwood on the way to the hotel just north of Cardiff City. He had sympathised, but he still insisted that she should leave it all behind and think about herself. He wasn’t being cruel or indifferent to her friends and colleagues. He just put her welfare above theirs completely.
And she was grateful to him for trying. He really did love her, despite all the disappointments, despite so many evenings when she worked late and forgot that he had something special planned.
They had an early night. They didn’t actually have sex. She really didn’t feel up to it, between her pregnancy and her worry about her friends. They cuddled lovingly and enjoyed the luxury of the king-sized bed with feather pillows and a thick duvet as they fell asleep.
Gwen’s mobile rang just before dawn. She shook off sleep and was alert enough to notice that the call wasn’t from the Hub. It was an operator asking her to take a reverse charge call from a Captain Jack Harkness.
Why did he need to reverse the charges to call her?
“Yes, I’ll accept the charge. But it’s going on my expenses this month,” she answered. The operator didn’t pass on the message, but she could hear background noises. He probably heard. “What’s going on?” she asked as soon as she was connected. “Jack, why did you have to…?”
“I’ve got no money,” he answered. “And my phone is in my jacket pocket. My jacket is back at the warehouse. I’m… I’m in a phone box on the A470, somewhere near the reservoir… and I’m naked.”
“But… how did you get there?” Gwen asked.
“I don’t know how I got here. Just come and get me, please, honey. And bring some clothes. I’m freezing.”
“All right,” she said. “But you’ve got some explaining to do. And you owe Rhys a really big apology.”
Rhys drove. He wasn’t happy about it, but he wasn’t having his pregnant girlfriend driving about the countryside looking for a naked man whose libido was enough trouble when he was clothed.
He was a little surprised that Gwen checked her gun and kept it in her pocket, drawing it as she got out of the car beside the phone box on the lonely A470. She could see somebody crouched down inside the box. It might have been Jack, but she was taking no chances.
“Gwen!” A naked, bruised and muddy Jack looked up from his none too comfortable position on the floor of the phone box. He was puzzled by the gun pointed at him. “Gwen, I’m sorry to wake you, but I couldn’t get through to Ianto and Alun, and Martha would never let me live this down.”
Gwen stared at him for a few moments longer then gave him Rhys’s best pyjamas, the ones he had brought with him just in case the hotel caught fire and they had to evacuate in the middle of the night. They were several sizes too big, but the waistband of the pants was drawstring and they covered Jack’s ‘modesty’ as he limped to the car and crawled into the back seat.
“Thanks, both of you,” he said wearily. “I’ve had a lousy time of it. I woke up an hour ago… just before most of my upper body had skin on it. I’m guessing that machine did something lethal and then transmatted what was left of me to a random location. It was bloody painful lying in a muddy field, in the cold, without eyelids, watching the sun come up on Brecon while my body ‘finished’.”
“Your upper body?” Rhys queried. His imagination had shut down before the bit about eyelids.
“UPPER body?” Gwen echoed. She reached for her mobile and rang the Hub.
“Gwen, honey!” She was only slightly surprised when she heard Jack’s voice on the line. “I was going to call you. Martha said you’d been fretting about me. Alun and Ianto… they’re still hanging in there. I’ve talked to them a bit. They’re being braver than I would be. I’m going to interrogate the woman. She’s not looking so good, but she’s perfectly capable of answering questions. If you want to stay in the hotel with Rhys, I can fully understand. But I’d really appreciate your good cop routine to my bad cop. You know how well it works on civilians.”
“I’m on my way in, already,” Gwen answered. “But there’s something else you need to know. The situation is even more freaky than we thought.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I’ll see you in ten minutes,” she said. “Hang on in there.”
She closed the call and half turned in her seat to look at the pyjama’d Jack. He was, unsurprisingly, puzzled by the side of the conversation that he had heard, but she wasn’t about to give anything away. She had figured out what happened, and a whole set of interesting consequences were piling into her head. Some of them would be funny if the situation wasn’t so tragic. Some of them were problems she wouldn’t wish on anyone, least of all Jack’s family.
The initial shock was exactly as Gwen had expected. Two Jack Harknesses, one still wearing pyjamas and in need of a comb, the other in clean blue shirt and braces holding up his pressed grey pants, stared at each other across the boardroom table. Martha was there to give both of them a medical, checking pulse, heartrate, breathing, temperature. Beth, Rhys, Kathy and Andy didn’t have to be there at all. They were just curious.
“That machine, when it went ballistic and killed all those people and injured Ianto and Alun….” Gwen began. “It somehow transported HALF of Jack’s body to the middle of nowhere and left the other half behind.”
“And both halves regenerated?” Martha queried. “Can that happen?”
“It never has before,” Jack answered her – the properly clothed one. “But I suppose… the best theory we have about my regenerative abilties - if I’m seriously dismembered – the largest remains, the largest piece of my encoded DNA, will start the process. This time there were two pieces large enough to kick start the process.”
“And two of us…” The Jack in pyjamas added. “Two of us were regenerated.”
“Which one is real?” Kathy asked. Everyone had probably been wondering the same thing, but she voiced the question first.
“I am,” both Jacks said at once.
“Well, they both are,” Gwen said. “I suppose… there is a slight case for the one we brought back here. The head… the brain… the heart and everything. He’s even wearing the vortex manipulator….”
The pyjama clad Jack looked hurt and betrayed. The other tried not to look triumphant. But Gwen wasn’t finished talking.
“But it’s not that easy. Look at them. The other Jack has a head and heart, too. And I bet there won’t be a scrap of difference in their DNA. They both know who they are. They have all the same memories. They’re BOTH Jack. They’re both real.”
Both men turned to look down at the play corner. Ashley and Gray were trying to get Sam to eat his breakfast, but he was starting to fret about Ianto and Alun, now, and they were having a hard time of it.
“The boys,” one of them said. “What are we going to tell them?”
“Garrett. What will we tell him?”
“I’d have thought he’d be thrilled,” Andy suggested. “Two of you for the price of one.” Rhys sniggered at the idea, too.
“No,” Jack in pyjamas admitted. “He won’t. He’ll freak about this. He enjoys gay sex, but he’s pretty ‘straight’ in his way of thinking. He’s strictly monogamous about our relationship. He’d never go for anything else.”
“OUR relationship,” the other Jack pointed out.
“Maybe you could work out some sort of rota, for… sharing….” Gwen suggested, then instantly regretted that. Both Jack’s were appalled at the idea of sharing Garrett between them.
“Time was, this would be a kinky dream come true,” Pyjama Jack admitted. “The Doctor always said the only person I could really love was myself. And I know exactly what I like.”
“Not now. Not with….”
The properly dressed Jack stood up.
“This isn’t a joke. What happened to us is serious. And we need a solution. But Ianto and Alun are our first priority. They’re hurting far more than we are. I’m going to question that woman. There might be something she knows – something that will help them.”
The other Jack stood, too. The pyjama bottoms slid on his thighs. He caught them before they actually embarrassed him, but the smirk in the corner of the better dressed one’s mouth was unmistakeable.
“You’d better get dressed properly, or she’ll laugh herself to death.”
Jack sent both Gwen and Kathy to the interrogation room while he went to collect the detainee. The woman was still in a state of shock, and her wounds were horrific enough. Gwen was inclined to sympathise with her. Jack was cold and harsh as he handcuffed her remaining arm to the table.
“We found ID in your pocket,” Kathy said, opening the interrogation in a cool, professional and unemotional tone. “We know who you are. Professor Bronwen Yorath, attached to the University of Glamorgan science department. That wasn’t an official part of the campus we found you in, was it?”
Professor Yorath looked around at her interrogators and swallowed hard before asking where she was and why her ‘rights’ hadn’t been read.
“You’re at Torchwood,” Jack answered her. “We don’t do the ‘rights’ thing. Generally, anyone who winds up here has abused their rights as a Human being already. Everything else is superfluous. But you might as well know that everything you say in here is being recorded. It is also being scanned by a very powerful lie detector. If you’re not completely straight with us you’ll regret it.”
“I… have enough to regret already,” she answered.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jack demanded.
“Look at me,” she responded. “My arm… my leg. And… Ioan is dead, isn’t he?”
“Who’s Ioan?” Gwen asked in a gentle tone.
“My fiancée. Doctor Ioan Lloyd-Maddock. We were working together on the matter transporter. He… I saw his body… I hope he didn’t suffer for long?”
“The one that got turned inside out?” Kathy Swanson asked. If Jack was bad cop and Gwen good cop, she had a choice which to swing towards. Her words clearly indicated that she was going for bad cop. Professor Yorath shuddered as she was forced to remember what happened to her fiancée.
“The transporter machine… based on alien technology? Something you picked up on Ebay?”
“It was in the university archives,” she answered. “It was found in Victorian times. Nobody knew what it was. Ioan thought he could figure it out. But he couldn’t do it on university grounds without attracting attention. He took a short term lease on the warehouse with his own money. He said the commercial possibilities if he could make it work….”
“Who were the other people who died?” Gwen asked. “We found other body parts.”
“I don’t know,” Professor Yorath answered. “We successfully used the matter transporter on inanimate objects. Even a carton of milk went through intact. Then we tried rodents… it seemed to be ok. So Ioan moved up to Human subjects. He paid some down-and-outs who were hanging around the area. He never asked their names. Neither did I. They were just….”
Jack’s expression was terrible to look at. He wasn’t just ‘acting’ as bad cop. He truly despised what this woman and her partner had done.
“How many of them did you kill before you realised you couldn’t control the Narth energy? Jack asked. “We reckoned three sets of remains. Were there more?”
The Professor hesitated. Her eyes flicked from Jack to Gwen, to Kathy. Suddenly there didn’t seem to be a ‘good cop’. They all looked as if they hated her.
“Did you even bother to count?” Gwen asked. “Or were they just bigger lab rats – just a means to an end.”
“Their sacrifice was worth it. This technology could be so useful to mankind. Pollution could be a thing of the past. Road congestion, airline delays, the carbon footprint of all Human transactions…. Imagine it, freight, passengers, all instantly transported to destinations all over the world. Food for famine countries instantly brought where it’s needed.”
Kathy Swanson tutted loudly.
“I wondered when you were going to pull the ‘feeding the hungry’ card. “It’s the biggest pile of shit I’ve ever heard. If it was even possible… if all other forms of transport disappeared, and you had the monopoly, getting from my house to work by your transmat would probably cost me a week’s wages, and people would still be starving in Africa. Don’t give us that crap. Besides, it DIDN’T bloody well work. Your boyfriend is a pile of offal that we scraped into a bin. Those three souls you suckered in were dismembered and strewn around the warehouse, and you’ve SEEN what you did to those two men who were trying to stop your stupid game. When Torchwood are done with you, I’m going to put you away for the rest of your natural life, you stupid murdering….”
It was Jack who actually put a restraining arm out to keep Kathy away from their detainee. He wasn’t sure if she meant it or if she was just playing REALLY hard cop.
Gwen nodded as if Kathy had said everything she wanted to say to the professor.
“You can’t prosecute me,” she said with a slight edge of uncertainty in her voice, even so. “What judge or jury is even going to believe in matter transmission technology? It’s the stuff of science fiction. And your mates aren’t going to appear as witnesses the way they are. You can’t really do anything to me.”
“Don’t count on it, lady,” Jack replied. “Kathy’s legal route isn’t the only one open to us.” He looked at Detective Inspector Swanson and winked. “Put your hands over your ears, honey, this bit isn’t covered by PACE.”
Kathy did so, but she probably heard most of it, anyway.
“My first option is to hand you over to MI5. They owe me a lot of favours. They can bypass the legal system and send you straight to the nastiest women’s prison we have in this country. Second option, I can call U.N.I.T. – you’ve probably never heard of them. And you’ve never heard of their detention centre, either. It makes Guantanamo Bay look like Butlins and there are no mandatory minimum sentences. Her Majesty’s Pleasure is not to ask questions about the scum they keep in there.”
The professor was looking less sure of herself.
“Third option I could just put you in the cells deep below this facility right here, and come and torture you every day until you regret telling me that the lives of those innocent people were worth the price they paid.”
“I vote for that one,” Gwen said. “I’ll come and watch.”
“Me, too,” Kathy added.
“No, you won’t,” Jack told them. “You’re both too nice to see what I have in mind.” He sat back in his chair and watched the Professor’s eyes as she considered her future in either one of those scenarios.
“I can’t bring back the dead,” she said. “But if you haven’t destroyed the machine, I think I know what went wrong. I might be able to build a reverse programme that could save your friends. Would that… would that be counted in my favour?”
“Don’t believe her,” Gwen said. “She’ll murder them.”
“No, she won’t,” Jack decided. “Because she won’t be working alone. She’s not the only one around here who knows about matter transmission. I’ve been beamed up to more ships than Captain Kirk.”
“Then there might be….” Gwen felt hopeful for the first time in hours. “Oh God, I hope so.”
“So do I,” Jack told her. “That bitch can sit there and think things over while we make arrangements. Kathy, Gwen, come on.”
Both women followed him out of the interrogation room. Up above, where a monitor permanently overlooked the room, they watched for a little while as Professor Yorath broke down in tears that she couldn’t wipe away with her only remaining arm chained to the desk. Neither Gwen nor Kathy felt an ounce of sympathy for her. Nor did Martha who had been watching in case she needed any medical attention. All three women turned away feeling that a kind of justice had already been done.
“Gwen, I’m sorry to completely bugger up your day,” Jack said. “But I’m going to ask Rhys to commandeer a lorry and come back to the warehouse with me. Andy can help, too. We’ll bring that device back to the Hub and install it down in the vaults where nobody else can come to any harm.”
“Be careful,” Gwen said. “I don’t want Rhys turned inside out or duplicated. And I definitely don’t want him welded to Andy.”
“Trust me,” he promised.
“I trust both of you,” she answered, reminding him of his other self. They found him in the medical room, sitting beside the bed where Martha had made Ianto and Alun as comfortable as possible. They were both sleeping under the influence of a strong sedative. Their heads lay side by side on a pillow. The surgical separation was successful. They wouldn’t suffer any brain damage. But there were flattened, bald sections where the laser scalpel had replaced the skin over their individual skulls.
They looked like a gruesome Siamese twin exhibition from an old-fashioned freak show. Even Gwen who cared deeply for them both, recoiled slightly at first, then berated herself mentally for it.
Jack, dressed now in a duplicate blue shirt and grey pants from the closet at the back of his office was holding their hands. Gwen was shocked to see that he was crying.
Jack was shocked, too. The other Jack. He reached out and touched himself on the shoulder reassuringly.
“I’ve got a plan,” he said. “You can help. We both have the same skills and the same memories. Two….”
He was about to say that ‘two heads are better than one’, but that was in bad taste on so many levels.
“I’m going to the warehouse. There’s no need for us both to be there. Spend a bit of time with the kids. They don’t know about us, yet. Break it to them carefully. And if Garrett calls….”
“We’re going to have to break it to him, too.”
“Not on the phone. He deserves better than that.”
“So do we. You’re right about the memories. I remember falling in love with him, just like you. I don’t want to lose him. I don’t want him to have to choose one of us.”
“Neither do I… and not just because I might not be the one he chooses. We’ll worry about that when the time comes. THEY come first. We’re doing this for them.”
Jack leaned over and kissed both distorted mouths of his friends tenderly then he walked away. He found Gray and Ashley still sitting in Sam’s play area. They had fed him and got him to go to sleep again on his playmat. They were both upset and worried. They had seen everyone rushing around all night, but none of them had time to talk to them.
Jack sat with them. He carefully explained what had happened to him. Their first reaction was amusement. They debated more than one interesting possibilities of having two Jack’s around the house. But then the uncomfortable reality set in.
“No,” Ashley concluded eventually. “It won’t work. You’ve got to figure something out, dad.”
“I am… we ARE. Both of us. We’ll do our best.”
He would have preferred to send the boys home, but they wouldn’t go. He at least managed to get them to lie down on the sofas in the boardroom and get a little sleep. They weren’t the only ones who kept vigil. Even Kathy and Andy who were off duty long ago stayed. Andy had taken over Ianto’s coffee machine and kept everyone supplied as the anxious morning passed slowly. Kathy stayed with Gwen and Beth, taking turns to help Martha in the medical room.
Jack – both of him – had the busiest time of all. Along with the Professor, ensconced in an old wheelchair that was kept in the storeroom for reasons even he didn’t know, he worked in the bowels of the Hub, in a sealed room with steel reinforced walls. They rebuilt the matter transporter – the transmat as it was known in the fifty-first century when such things were commonplace.
“You got it wrong, you know,” one of them told the professor. “It isn’t alien. This is Human technology from the future. It probably slipped through the Rift from something like the twenty-sixth century.”
“How could you possibly know that?” Professor Yorath asked.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” the other Jack replied. “I’ll tell you this much. Humans aren’t READY for this. You’re proof of it. Your sheer indifference to the misery you caused. Humans can’t have this, yet. Whether this works or not, when we’re done, I’m taking this apart again and putting the components in a steel recycling furnace.”
“The components could be easily replicated,” professor Yorath replied. “The blueprint is in my head.”
“I’ll be dealing with THAT, too,” Jack said. “If you want to be able to remember WHY you wake up in a cold, dark place tomorrow, don’t push your luck, lady. I could wipe out your whole memory and leave you having to relearn potty training.”
Professor Yorath went quiet. The two Jacks carried on assembling the transmat machine with occasional technical instructions from her.
“Which way do these polarity nodules align?” he asked her after another half hour or feverish work.
“Positive, negative, neutral, positive,” she answered immediately. Jack looked at Jack.
“What do you reckon?”
He looked at the leather wristlet. A red LED light blinked.
“Very stupid,” Jack answered him. “Want to try again?”
“Positive, positive, negative, neutral,” she tried again. This time the LED light flashed green. Jack aligned the nodules. There was a whine of electronic circuits powering up. More LED lights blinked on Jack’s wristlet.
“Ion, Gamma and Narth energy readings building,” he said. “The machine is ready to test.”
“Yes,” Jack answered himself. They both turned away and reached for a computer workstation. They opened up a video connection with the boardroom. Gwen was asleep on the spare sofa. Beth was drinking coffee at the table. She woke Gwen, as well as the two boys.
“We’re ready to test the machine,” Jack said. “But before we do….”
“Jack!” Gwen was shocked. “You’re going to test it on yourself… yourselves? I thought….”
“We’re going to take the chance. But first… boys….”
Gwen stepped back and let Gray and Ashley come close to the monitor.
“Dad….” Ashley managed to say.
“Jack….” Gray couldn’t say anything more, either. They both understood what Jack was trying to tell them without any words, but that meant that some things went unsaid that ought to be said.
“You understand why we have to try?”
Gray nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
“Dad, maybe you should wait… talk to Garrett, first. He ought to know.”
“No. If we get this right he never needs to know. If we get it wrong… Ashley, tell him… that I love him, and I’m thinking of him, right now.”
“You tell him, when he gets back from London,” Ashley answered. “I… love you, dad. I want you to know that.”
Jack smiled widely.
“Less of that. We live in Wales, among stoic, no nonsense people who don’t talk that way.”
Ashley laughed softly. He put his arm around Gray’s shoulders in an older brother kind of way. Jack nodded and turned off the monitor.
“We’re ready,” he said to his other self.
They looked at each other and then reached out and hugged. Their four eyes were glassy. They were both scared. If there was anything that really could kill them, this machine was it.
“Let’s get on with it, then. Professor, the only reason you’re still here is to push that button. If you’ve misled us in any way, you stand the chance of losing more of your limbs, or a kidney, half your brain…. We stand to lose a lot more.”
They stood together on the platform. There was nothing else to say. They faced each other and breathed deeply as the energy built up to critical levels.
Then they screamed briefly as their molecules were disassembled.
A few moments later Jack groaned and picked himself up from the concrete floor a few feet away from the matter transmitter. Professor Yorath averted her eyes.
“Where the fuck do the CLOTHES go to?” he demanded. “That’s THREE sets of suspenders I’ve lost in one day. They’re expensive.”
He walked past the professor and opened the video link again.
“Gwen, ask Rhys to bring me down some clothes – just the one set. And tell Martha to wake Alun and Ianto. Tell her to make sure they understand the risk. There’s no guarantee this will work again. But if they’re ready to try….”
“I’ll tell her,” Gwen promised. “I’m… glad you’re… just you again.”
In the background he could hear the boys cheering the news. They wanted to talk to him, too. Gwen told them to wait until he was decently dressed. It was ok. They knew he was alive. That was all that mattered.
Martha brought her patients down to the vault at the same time as Rhys came with his clothes. They were wide awake and looking apprehensive.
“Are you sure you want to go through this?” he asked them.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Ianto whispered. “We can’t live this way. Either it works or… it doesn’t.”
“We’re ready,” Alun added.
“It hurts like hell,” Jack warned. “I can’t lie to you about that.”
“Nice of you to try,” Ianto told him. “Come on. Let’s get it over with.”
Jack lifted them from the trolley and laid them on the platform. He stood back and glanced at the button. This time he would be the one to press it. He ordered the Professor to move right back. Martha waited close to the door. Rhys was on his way back upstairs to Gwen. He had promised her not to let him get scrambled in any way.
“Here goes,” he said. He pressed the button. He heard the energy build up. He heard Alun and Ianto both scream briefly. He visualised what was happening to them – what he hoped was happening. Their molecules should be separating. When they were re-assembled their patterns should be corrected.
There was a dull thud, and two voices yelled out together.
“Cnych,” Ianto yelled.
“Ffwrch,” Alun added.
“Is Welsh the only language on Earth with two words that mean ‘fuck’?” Jack asked as he stepped forward and held out blankets to the two naked men picking themselves up from the cold floor and hugging each other fondly. “Good to see you, both. Shall we get out of here, now?”
“Mewn dau gachiad,” Alun answered. Jack agreed with the sentiment.
“I’m glad it worked,” Professor Yorath said quietly. Then she pushed the wheelchair forward with a strength nobody expected her to have. Jack took one look and then urged everyone to run. He was the last through the door and slammed it shut behind him. In the corridor beyond the vault they could hardly hear the energy build up, but Jack’s vortex manipulator beeped urgently and LED lights flashed on it. They heard a scream cut off abruptly and then a dull explosion that they felt as a vibration beneath their feet.
It was another two hours before the energy levels in the vault were safe enough for anyone to risk opening the door again. Martha came with Jack, in case it was possible to offer any medical help.
It wasn’t. She looked without emotion at the bloody remains scattered around the floor among the bent and broken fragments of the matter transmitter.
“She overloaded the machine – killed herself and destroyed the technology at the same time,” Jack commented. “Selfish bitch. I’m going to have to clean up the mess myself. I can hardly expect Ianto or Alun to do it. They both deserve some R&R after the night they’ve had.”
“You deserve some R&R, too,” Martha told him. “When does Garrett get back from London?”
“Ten o’clock tonight. Cardiff Central.”
“Pity there isn’t still two of you to share the chores,” Martha joked, but Jack’s expression was too pained. He wanted to forget that part of the misadventure.
“Failing that, I guess I’d better give you a hand,” she amended. “As soon as we have the remains bagged and tagged and this room locked up we can consider it case closed. We can all go home.”