Jack ran up the one hundred and seven stairs from Hub Central three at a time. He reached the corridor behind the tourist information office at the same moment that the lift opened and Martha rushed out, carrying an emergency medical kit. They looked at each other anxiously before Jack pressed the button that unlocked the concealed door into the tourist office. He let Martha go through the door first, not out of gallantry but medical necessity. She immediately knelt beside Beth and gently pushed Ianto’s hands away from the stab wound in her side and began to examine it carefully.

Jack saw that Martha had the medical situation under control and turned to look at the man Alun was holding down very firmly on the ground. The knife he had stabbed Beth with lay on the floor well out of his reach. Jack knelt and looked at it without touching it. He looked back at the man. He was dressed in waterproofs. The knife was the sort sports fishermen used. He was one of the people who were always around Mermaid Quay early in the morning, preparing to go out on fishing trips, a part of the background scenery of Torchwood Cardiff’s Bayside location.

Why had a man like that suddenly rushed into the tourist office and attacked Beth as she was organising the picture postcards on the rotating stand just inside the main door?

“Get him downstairs,” Jack growled. “Put him in the vault. I’ll deal with him later.”

Alun obeyed without question. It might have occurred to him that calling the police was the correct thing to do. But this was Torchwood – beyond the government, above the police. He dragged the fisherman upright and pushed him towards the inner door.

It didn’t escape Jack’s notice that the man who had attacked Beth in the frenzied way they had all witnessed on the CCTV hadn’t said a word. He didn’t offer the slightest resistance to Alun.

He turned back to Beth, and to Martha’s first aid efforts. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to.

“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Martha told him. “No damage to any major organs. I’ve closed the wound with the laser suture. Even the scar from that will melt away in a couple of hours. I’m a bit worried about the blood loss. I’ll give her a transfusion downstairs. But she’s going to be all right.”

Jack gave a deep sigh of relief. Torchwood was a dangerous organisation for its field agents, but Beth ran the shop, made coffee, balanced the petty cash. She should have been safe.

The concealed door opened again with a crash. It was Ray. Last night was full moon. He had just been let out of his cage. As a Human, he was a pathetic streak of piss. Jack had never changed his mind about that. When he saw Beth lying there with her blood congealing on the lino, something of the Wolfman rage rose in him, all the same. Enough to make him difficult for Jack to restrain.

“Let Martha and Ianto get her downstairs and comfortable, then you can stay with her,” he said. “Don’t go back to the vaults.”

“You’ve got the bastard who did this down there?” he demanded. “Give me one reason not to go down there and rip him a new one.”

“You’re a lanky streak of piss who couldn’t fight your way out of a paper bag,” Jack answered. “Ripping him a new one is my job. You stay cool and look after our Beth.”

‘Our’ Beth. He said that partly because he liked to remind Ray that he didn’t think much of him, and partly because she WAS one of them. One of the Torchwood team was hurt and he was not going to let that go unpunished.

His intention was to let Beth’s attacker get nicely scared, locked in a cell within sight and sound of two Weevils and something slime green that they hadn’t yet worked out a feeding routine for. That ought to soften him up by the time he was ready to explain himself.

He forgot all about the fisherman when Gwen reported that Garrett had just parked up in the garage and was heading in with a man in handcuffs. Jack was puzzled. Since when did MI5 bring its prisoners to Torchwood?

He was even more surprised when Garrett came through the door from the garage tunnel. The man in handcuffs was his own assistant, Robertson, who was walking along a few feet in front of him. Garrett was using his left hand to hold his side-arm trained on him. His right arm, his gun arm, was in a sling and his shoulder was bandaged. He had a bruise across his left cheek, as if he had been fighting.

Roberston sported some bruises, too.

“What the fuck happened to you?” Jack demanded.

“Shot,” Garrett replied in a strangely matter of fact way. “In the shoulder. Hurts like fuck. Put this bastard in your vault, will you, and I’ll explain.”

“HE shot you?” Alun, coming back from depositing his first prisoner, stepped forward and steered the still unresisting Robertson towards the code-secure tunnel to the vaults before Jack could unload his already heightened state of frustration on him. “How? We had breakfast ninety minutes ago. You were going to your office. You were shot in your office?”

“I could use a cup of Ianto’s coffee,” Garrett said. “And some of those very strong alien-recipe painkillers that Martha has in her medicine cabinet.”

Ianto went to get both of those things. Jack brought his lover into his office and sat him on the sofa. He tried to look at the wound but Garrett told him it was all right.

“It’s a through and through. I’ve had worse. I’ll be ok.”

“I stopped worrying about you since you came off active duty,” Jack said. “You just go to an office all day and send other people to do the dangerous stuff. Then Galen… Now I’m scared for all of you… Gray and Ashley and you. But I didn’t expect you to be shot in your own office by your own fucking assistant.”

“Neither did I. He just walked into the room and pulled his gun on me. He had me right between the eyes. I… ducked, came back up fighting. He planted one in my shoulder before I disarmed him.”

Ianto came in with the coffee and the painkillers. Jack reckoned the coffee sharpened his synapses and made him twice as smart. Ianto swore it was just good quality Columbian beans medium roasted. The painkillers were another matter. They were based on a narcotic confiscated from a Shandian shape shifter who was trying to set up a drug running cartel from a warehouse in Swansea. Martha found that the active ingredient made ibuprofen look like candy, worked ten times faster than any known analgesic, but had no harmful effects on the human liver or other organs. It didn’t even cause drowsiness. She joked that it could make her a fortune if she patented it. Jack told her that any medical breakthrough made in Torchwood laboratories belonged to Torchwood but he might let her in on a percentage if she was prepared to do unpaid overtime for the next five years.

Anyway, between the pills and the coffee Garrett was wide awake and feeling absolutely no pain at all in five minutes. He still had a bullet hole in his shoulder, though, and Jack was out of his mind with worry.

“Jack, you’re acting like Annie did the last time I took a bullet for England,” he told him, curling his good arm around his neck and kissing him on the cheek. “The last time before I went MIA and she decided she didn’t want to be there when my body was repatriated. I don’t need that from you. I need you to be cool, and to use your mind probe or any other alien gismo you have to find out why a good, loyal agent with fifteen years’ experience in the field suddenly went nuts, shot his boss, and then couldn’t remember doing it five minutes later.”

“He was a double agent?” Jack suggested.

“The hell he was. I’d have staked my life on Robertson being clean. That’s why he’s my right hand man.”

“Jack,” Ianto said. He was still standing by the doorway, watching the two men. “The one who attacked Beth… Afterwards, when me and Alun reached him… He was just standing there, looking at the bloody knife in his hand as if he didn’t know how it got there.”

“That’s not the same thing,” Jack told him.

“Yes, it is,” Garrett contradicted him. “That’s exactly how Robertson was by the time I’d pulled him to the floor. He had no idea what he’d done. He…” Garrett stopped and stared at Ianto. “Beth was attacked? Is she….”

“She’s ok,” Jack assured him. “And Martha has a new alien gismo that will fix you up in a few minutes, too. I’m not leaving you bleeding while we’ve got technology like that. But for fuck’s sake, are you saying you think the two incidents are connected?”

“That’s why you should have some of Ianto’s coffee and wake up, Jack. You’re not thinking like you should be. Yes, I think they’re connected. I was shot. The sweet young cailin you have guarding your front door instead of four fully armed men and a big attack dog was stabbed. Have you considered she wasn’t the real target? Maybe he was really after you?”

“Galen!” Jack groaned. “He’s using innocent dupes to get to me. The boys! Are they safe? Where are they?”

“Gray is in school, where he should be. Ashley is at his college course, where he should be. They both have two of my men watching them. I’ll make it three if you stop worrying about them. Though I don’t know how we’d pass off any more than that as OFSTED inspectors.”

“If it’s Galen, then three isn’t enough. Not three ordinary men. Do you know how many Time Agents died trying to stop him?”

“No, I don’t,” Garrett pointed out. “You’ve never properly told me anything about the Time Agency or that part of your life. But even if you had, aren’t Time Agents just ordinary men, too? They can’t be any better trained than we train them in Military Intelligence. I’ve done as much as the Time Agency could do. Gray and Ashley have as much protection courtesy of Her Majesty’s Secret Service as any of Her Majesty’s own family. There’s nothing more we can do except lock them both in one of your vaults until we catch that bastard.”

“Even so….”

“Jack!” Garrett didn’t need to say anything more. The tone was enough. Jack shook his head and smiled weakly.

“I sound like a paranoid woman,” he admitted. “It used to be just me, with my bed down there under my office, nobody to worry about. Then you came into my life… then we got Gray, now Ashley. I’ve got a family, and I worry about you.”

“Well, that’s bollocks for a start,” Garrett told him. “Even when you did live down there like some kind of crypt keeper, you were shagging Ianto most nights. Don’t tell me you didn’t care about him, and the rest of your team, here. I like that you worry about me. I worry about you. That’s what being a couple means. But let’s keep it in perspective.”

“Yeah,” Jack agreed. “But don’t underestimate Galen. He’s capable of anything. He made Ashley as a weapon to destroy my life. Now he’s using mind control on ordinary people. You and Beth might both be dead right now except that you’re smarter than you look and Ianto and Alun were late for work this morning and still heading up the boardwalk when the other bastard attacked.”

“They’ve had long enough to cool down,” Ianto told him. “Let’s start questioning them.”

“Good idea,” Jack answered. He started to stand up. Then Ianto stepped out of the way as Gwen, followed by DCI Kathy Swanson came into the office.

“If you’re in the mood for interrogating somebody I’ve got the Deputy Mayor of Cardiff for you. She decapitated the Lord Mayor with a broadsword while he was having his morning tea and biccies in his Mayoral chamber.”

“Decapitated?” Jack repeated the word. “Where the fuck did the deputy mayor get a broadsword?”

“It was hanging on the Lord Mayor’s wall,” Cathy Swanson said. “It’s ancient, belonged to Llewellyn the First, or the Last, or Llewellyn the Also Ran, or somebody. I don’t know, and don’t care. What I do know is his secretary saw the whole thing. She was coming in with more biccies and witnessed it. She was still screaming when we arrived. But the Deputy Mayor was sitting there with a dazed look, wondering how she got blood on her silk blouse. She says she has no idea what happened. I’d call that a bloody lousy defence, but when I was bringing her in I got a call to say that my boss, Superintendent Jones, had just shot his boss, Chief Superintendent Jones, no bloody relation, and that’s one coincidence too many for me. So I drove here, instead, because this is your kind of weird shit.”

“Jack,” Gwen said when Kathy was finished. “I just took a call from Andy Davidson. Sergeant Andy. He wants to know if he can bring in the vice principal of Cardiff Community College. He bashed the principal’s brains out with a swimming trophy, and he… Andy, I mean, not the vice-principal - reckons it’s weird enough for us to deal with.”

“Yes,” Jack said decisively. “Tell him yes. When he gets here, put the bastard in the vaults. The vice principal, I mean, not Andy. Kathy, I think the Deputy Mayor outranks all the other homicidal maniacs we know of so far. Let’s deal with her first. Garrett….”

Jack was about to ask his lover to send another man to look after Ashley. He was at the dual language Coleg Glan Hafren not the Community College where a murder had just taken place but he didn’t want to take any chances.

But Garrett had other priorities.

“This is nothing to do with Saul Galen,” he said. “It’s bigger than his vendetta against you. Apart from your nutcase on the boardwalk, all of these incidents are people attacking their superiors… Robertson on me, Kathy’s superintendent on the chief super… the vice principal on….”

Jack had recognised the pattern. Garrett was right.

“It’s not common knowledge, but the Prince of Wales and Prince William of Wales, who are superior to a hell of a lot of people, are flying into MOD Saint Athans this afternoon on a protocol visit. I need to alert my people to the possibility….”

Garrett was standing as he spoke, but he swayed dizzily. The alien analgesics masked the pain but they didn’t do anything for shock and blood loss.

“That’s a code-cleared secure phone on my desk,” Jack told him. “Sit there and protect the future kings of England while Martha comes and deals with that shoulder. I’ll go and find out what the fuck’s going on in this Godforsaken city.”

By the time he and Kathy Swanson reached the door to the interrogation room where the Deputy Mayor had been secured, Gwen had gone back to her desk to discover that the city was even more Godforsaken than he imagined. He looked at the five more police reports she had printed off and brought for his attention - three more murders and two attempted murders that fitted the pattern. The deacon of Llandaff Cathedral had tried to strangle the bishop with the chain from a thurible and a senior cardio surgeon at St. Helen’s Hospital nearly had his heart cut out by an anaesthetist. Those less fortunate included the managers of the Charles Street jobcentre, the inland revenue office in Llanishen and the manager of Marks and Spensers in Queen Street.

“Have you got enough cells in your vault?” Kathy Swanson asked.

“If I haven’t, they can start doubling up with the Weevils,” Jack replied. “Do you want to send them all to us?”

“With the one Andy’s bringing in, that’s four to be going on with,” Kathy answered. “We can leave the rest to the ordinary police system for now.”

“Fair enough,” Jack conceded. “Let’s get on with interrogating the Deputy Mayor, then.”

He pushed open the door and held it for Kathy. This time he WAS being gallant. He knew it drove her up the wall when he did that, but he’d lived on planet Earth before sexual liberation for much longer than he’d lived after it. Old habits died hard.

He was inclined to be gallant to the Deputy Mayor, too. With blood drying on her silk blouse she looked more like a victim than a suspect. The look on her face was a mixture of shock, disbelief and grief. But he reminded himself that she was a murder suspect.

“Meghan Pendry,” he said. “Do you know why you’re here?”

“I… don’t know,” she replied with a voice that was on the point of breaking. “I mean… I know why I was arrested. They said… that I killed Gryff Howells. But I don’t know why I’m HERE. This isn’t a police station. It’s… Oh my God. This is… it’s Torchwood, isn’t it. I’ve heard of you… there are all sorts of stories. But why? I’m not… I’m not an alien.”

“Actually, that thought never crossed my mind,” Jack said. Martha came into the room just then. She brought an odd looking gadget with lots of LED lights on it and her medical kit. Jack looked at her as she handed him the gadget. “Can you check the Deputy Mayor’s blood to make sure it’s Human before you run any other tests,” he said to her. Kathy looked at him curiously, wondering if he meant that or if it was a psychological thing to put the wind up Meghan Pendry. Martha didn’t bat an eyelid as she began to take blood samples from the Deputy Mayor and then check her blood pressure, heart-rate and temperature before declaring her fit for the procedure.

“Bear in mind I’m not totally convinced that thing is calibrated properly for human subjects,” Martha said. “It was designed for the Utaxian Homeworld Security. By the way, before you ask, both my patients are doing fine. Beth may need oxygen on stand by if Ray snogs her any more, but I’m just getting her to rest up a bit after the shock of her experience. Garrett is high on caffeine and Akkrofen B and organising extra protection for the first and second in line to the throne from your office. When he puts the phone down for five minutes I’m going to fix his shoulder. He’ll be shaggable again by bedtime.”

Martha, you’re the best,” Jack told her, flashing one of his brightest smiles at her. She smiled back at him then took her samples. Alun was waiting to take her down to the vault to examine the other three prisoners. Jack turned back to Meghan Pendry.

“For what it’s worth, I’m inclined to believe you about not knowing what happened. But that isn’t going to cut any ice with the CPS. You’re in deep shit lady. And there’s nothing I can do about that. I still need to find out why you don’t remember slicing a man’s head off.”

Meghan shuddered when he said that. Gryff Howells was a colleague, possibly a friend. She was upset by his gruesome death as much as being accused of killing him.

“What’s that thing?” she asked him. “Some sort of mind probe?”

“No,” Jack assured her. “Our mind probe is much nastier looking than this gismo. I’m hoping to avoid putting you through that. This just sends out a low level psychic wave that detects any trace of recent hypnotic suggestion.”

“It… does what?”

“It checks to see if you’ve been hypnotised,” Jack explained. “That’s the most likely reason for your completely uncharacteristic behaviour. That is assuming it IS uncharacteristic. You don’t usually go around beheading people, do you?”

“Jack, please,” Kathy said to him. “Have a little consideration.”

“I am, he replied. “I’m considering that a very good friend and my lover were both nearly murdered today along with a lot of other people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and there has to be some damn reason why. So let’s all stop stalling and get on with it.”

He turned on the machine. The LED lights pulsated. Meghan tried to look away but Jack told her to look straight at it. As she did, he fired questions at her. Kathy Swanson watched Meghan carefully. The moment when her mind unfolded and she remembered what she had done was horrific. Her eyes just died. That was how it looked to Kathy. She replayed in her head the moment when she murdered a friend in cold blood and her eyes died.

“Jack,” she said when he paused. “You’ve got that stuff… Retcon. For pity’s sake… couldn’t you.…”

“Not yet,” he answered. “Meghan, there’s one thing I don’t understand. How did you get hypnotised. This doesn’t just happen. Who hypnotised you?”

“Jason Reid,” she answered. “Last week. I was at his live show at the New Theatre. I went up on stage. He made me sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot and cheer the English Rugby Union Team. He said it was proof that hypnosis can make people act against their nature.”

“Who the fuck is Jason Reid?” Jack asked.

“Don’t you watch TV?” Kathy asked him.

“Not much,” Jack answered. “I have better things to do with my time.”

“He’s a TV illusionist. Magic tricks, big flashy ones like making a car disappear while driving around a test track, levitation, mind reading, hypnosis….”

“And he hypnotises people to commit murder?” Jack frowned. It was just crazy enough to be true. But there had to be something more.

“Keep still again for a minute,” he told Meghan. He switched on the machine again and fired a new set of questions at her.

“I remember,” she said. “How could I have forgotten that? I was given a ticket after the show. It was for an exclusive extra performance… for people who had taken part in the main show. I went back to the theatre the next afternoon. There were about a dozen other people there. Reid showed us a lot of new tricks he was going to incorporate into his show, and then he talked to us all, individually, in a soundproof glass booth that was part of his act. He put us all under hypnosis, one at a time. It was strange. It had nothing to do with entertainment. He talked about ambition. He asked me if I had any ambition to be more than Deputy Mayor… if I’d like to be Lord Mayor, and asked who stood in my way. I remember joking… that it would be Gryff Howells. And then… he told me… if I really wanted it… I should let nobody stand in my way.”

“That’s what he said?” Kathy asked. “Just that? He didn’t tell you to kill anyone?”

“No,” Meghan said. “I would never. I couldn’t do a thing like that. It’s not in my nature. I never could. But… Oh, dear God! I did do it. I felt… Gryff was in my way. I had to get rid of him… I felt it so strongly, that I….”

She broke down into horrified sobs. Again Kathy pleaded with Jack to do something for her. This time Jack went to the water cooler in the corner of the room. He got a plastic cup of water then took a pill from a small box in his pocket. He gave it to Meghan. She didn’t even question what it was. She swallowed it with the water.

“Take her to the boardroom and sit her down,” Jack told Kathy. “Stay with her until she falls asleep.” He picked up the machine. He had three more people to question, and since they were all down in the vault he decided to save some time. Kathy took Meghan Pendry to the quietest room in Torchwood while he headed downstairs.

Ianto and Alun were there along with PC Andy Davidson who was watching the three prisoners with them.

“None of them seem to know anything about what they did,” Alun told Jack. “Some sort of collective amnesia?”

“Something like that. Watch my back. I’m going into the first one.”

The first one was the vice principal of the college. Jack used the alien machine on him. He remembered what he had done, first. That was the horrific part, when an apparently mild-mannered teacher realised that he had hit a colleague so hard and so often his skull had caved in and his brains spilled out on the carpet. Jack took him back before that moment, and discovered that he, too, had seen Jason Reid at the New Theatre, had gone up on stage and performed something foolish and out of character, and been invited to the private session where Reid had put him under the influence again and probed his thoughts about personal ambition.

Again, Reid had not specifically told him to bash the brains out of his immediate superior in the college hierarchy. He had not ordered him to kill. A court would never convict him of any sort of collusion in the murder.

The same story came out with the fisherman. Except that he had gone to Jason Reid’s show in a professional capacity. He wasn’t, in fact, a fisherman. He was a journalist called Neil Anderson.

“What the fuck were you doing dressed as a fisherman on Mermaid Quay?” Jack demanded coldly. He was still thinking of Beth lying so still and pale in a pool of her own blood and even if the man was unaware of his actions he wasn’t ready to forgive him, yet.

“Trying to get into Torchwood,” Anderson answered with an ironic note in his voice and a glance around at one of the least attractive parts of the Hub. “I don’t want to do crappy show-biz articles for the Western Mail all my life. If I could get an exclusive on Cardiff’s best kept secret, I’d be snapped up for one of the nationals. But I’d have to get past the girl on the front desk, first.”

Jack swore in a language that had never been heard of on planet Earth before. That was the connection. Ambition again. Anderson wanted a better job, and Beth stood in his way. Jason Reid told him not to let anyone stand in his way.

But he didn’t tell him to kill anyone.

Jack still wasn’t feeling very friendly towards the man who hurt Beth, but he told Ianto to see to it that he and the college teacher were both retconned. He was willing to spare them the horror of remembering. He moved to the other cell where Garrett’s right hand man, Robertson, was waiting quietly. Jack swallowed his feelings about the man who so grievously hurt his lover and operated the machine.

A similar story came out. The visit to the New Theatre, the invitation to go up on stage and behave in a way that was against his nature, and the invitation to the private event the next day. Like Anderson, he had gone in a professional capacity.

“How so?” Jack asked.

“It’s classified,” Robertson answered.

“Bollocks,” Jack replied. “You shot Garrett. You already betrayed his trust. What the fuck were you doing at this bastard’s show?”

“I can’t say,” Robertson insisted. “Even if you’re fucking my boss, it doesn’t give you clearance to know what his orders are to me or any other agent. Even if you beat the crap out of me… and I wish you fucking well would. I feel so sick about what I did, I wish somebody would… but even if you did, I still wouldn’t tell you. It has nothing to do with this, anyway.”

“Tell him.”

Robertson and Jack both looked at Garrett standing outside the cell. He looked a lot better than earlier. Martha had fixed his arm. He didn’t need the bandage and had put on a clean shirt. He held his arm a little stiffly. The alien gadget that closed wounds without leaving a scar didn’t take away the fact that there was a wound there in the first place. It would ache for hours, yet.

“Tell him what you were doing there,” Garrett repeated.

“I was vetting Reid and his backstage crew because they were going to North Wales the next day to do a charity show at RAF Valley, the base where Prince William works in the Air-Sea Rescue section. I went along to the private session to get a closer look at Reid’s set up.”

Prince William? Jack looked at Garrett. That was the second time his name had come up in the course of this day. That was twice more than it ever had on any other day, and it seemed a curious coincidence.

“Reid did that show four days ago,” Robertson pointed out. “Nothing happened. It’s not connected.”

“I’ll decide what’s connected,” Garrett told him. “You can stay right here in this cell and stew over what you did until I say otherwise. Jack… there’s nothing Kathy or any police officer could call reasonable suspicion. But you and I don’t need it. Let’s go and see Jason Reid. He’s at the Grand Theatre, Swansea. Gwen looked him up.”

“Cross-agency co-operation?” Jack raised a knowing eyebrow.

“Very co-operative,” Garrett replied. “You drive. My arm is killing me, still.”

Jack drove. Despite everything he felt surprisingly cheerful. Garrett was by his side. They were working together. There was something good about that.

As they approached the Grand Theatre in Swansea, Garrett checked his gun. Jack knew his was fully loaded and ready for any eventuality. Neither of them thought they were being over-cautious, even when they saw the gaudy posters for Jason Reid’s show. It seemed absurd that somebody so facile could be dangerous, but they knew from experience that you really couldn’t tell a book by its cover.

Then they remembered how many lives had been destroyed by this man, not only the murder victims, but the innocent people he used as weapons.

They went in through the stage door, and there was nothing subtle about their entrance.

“Torchwood!” Jack cried out to the startled man in the little office just inside the door.

“MI5!” Garrett echoed. “Where’s Jason Reid?”

The man stared down the barrels of two guns. He saw guns from time to time, as props for plays that went on in the theatre, but some deep-rooted survival instinct told him that these were real and so were the men who held them.

“He’s on stage, rehearsing,” the man replied. “Straight down that corridor, up the steps, round the corner and through the curtain.”

“Good man,” Jack told him. “Now stay put and don’t worry. None of the trouble we’re about to cause will affect you.”

They carried on down the corridor, up the steps and around the corner onto a dimly lit wing beside the stage. The curtain in front of them was one that killed sound. The ethereal musical playback from on stage was muffled, and it was likely that the puzzled voices of the people gathered there couldn’t be heard beyond it.

“Torchwood,” Jack said to them. “What’s going on here? Where’s Jason Reid.”

“He’s on stage,” replied a young woman in a figure hugging black dress and stage make up who looked as if she could be a magician’s assistant. “But he’s acting strange. He sent all of us away. We’re meant to be preparing his big finale stunt.”

“As if I give a damn what he’s meant to be rehearsing!” Jack answered. “Hold that curtain and then get the fuck out of here. Jason Reid is cancelled.”

“You mean the show is cancelled?” asked a man with the harassed look of a stage manager.

“No, we mean Jason Reid is cancelled,” Garrett said. “Curtain, now!”

The curtain was pulled back. Jack and Garrett stepped out onto a stage that was dark except for one spotlight beamed onto the lone figure dressed in a black satin robe. He was kneeling as if in prayer, except his hands were held outstretched in front of him with the palms up. He had a strangely serene expression.

He didn’t even blink as two guns were pointed directly at his head.

“MI5,” Garrett said. “You’re under arrest for attempted treason against the Crown.”

“Treason?” Jack was puzzled. “Isn’t it enough that he’s a multiple murderer?”

“No,” Garrett answered. “This goes deeper than that. You really did need more coffee this morning, Jack. You’ve missed the point completely.”

“Maybe I have. But I don’t seem to be the only one. Isn’t he being a bit cool about it?”

Reid still hadn’t moved. Jack reached out and shook him by the shoulder. He didn’t even blink. He seemed to be in a trance of some kind.

“Bollocks to that,” Jack said. He pushed the gun closer to Reid’s head, pointing right between his glazed eyes. “You have five seconds before I shoot. And don’t think I won’t. I’m Torchwood. I answer to nobody. Three seconds…. Two…”

Reid blinked and his serene smile widened.

“It doesn’t matter if you kill me now. My work is done. The monarchy is destroyed.”

“The monarchy?” Jack was puzzled. Garrett wasn’t. He didn’t slacken his grip on his weapon, but he reached for his phone and pressed a speed dial number that immediately connected to his office. “What has this got to do with the monarchy? You’ve made five people commit murder this morning, and four more nearly commit it. That’s enough for me to take you apart to see how you tick.”

“They were just dress rehearsals,” Reid replied calmly. “I believe in thorough preparation.”

“Dress rehearsals!” Jack was losing his cool in direct proportion to the ice cold way that Reid explained himself. “Five people are dead.”

“Their deaths are mere footnotes next to what I have just done. Two minutes ago, while you were bluffing about killing me, the second in line to the throne was killing the first in line. Do you know what that does to the so-called line of succession of the parasitic royal family of this benighted country?”

“Moves the third in line up two places,” Jack answered. “Garrett, what the fuck is he on about? What’s happened?”

“Absolutely nothing,” Garrett responded. “The Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge just arrived at MOD Saint Athans in a Sea King helicopter piloted by Prince William himself. All necessary security measures are in place and everything is going smoothly. What was supposed to happen?”

“You’re lying,” Reid said. “I conditioned him carefully. He will have done just as the others did, at exactly the time I instructed him to act. That helicopter is a smoking wreck. Your people are in utter disarray as they try to find out what happened.”

“No,” Garrett said. “Everything is going to plan.”

Jack wondered which of them was right. Had Reid’s insane scheme worked? Was Garrett bluffing? Could this man have engineered something as outrageous as he claimed?

“Give me a few minutes, I can get the Duke on the phone to talk to you personally,” Garrett said. “Nothing happened. You failed, Reid. But that isn’t going to stop me making the rest of your life a misery. Habeus Corpus will be suspended. You will have no trial, just a very cold, windowless cell in a place where nobody will ever find you. Now get on your feet, slowly. And don’t try any tricks.”

He started to obey. Neither Garrett nor Jack took their eyes off him. They did everything by the book, and both of them knew that book well.

But then Reid moved faster than either expected. Jack’s gun span away across the stage and he was being held in a stranglehold. An ornamental dagger neither of them had seen within the folds of Reid’s robe was pushed into his side.

“Get back,” Reid said. “Or I’ll dice his liver while it’s still warm.”

“What a bloody stupid threat,” Garrett responded. “Jack… what do you think?”

“I think you should just shoot this bastard and save the British taxpayer the cost of his room and board.”

Jack was being held as a human shield. Garrett had no clear shot.

“You know I hate doing this to you,” he said.

“I know,” Jack answered. “I forgive you.”

Garrett fired his standard issue Sig Sauer pistol twice. At that range the two bullets went straight through Jack’s chest, pulping his heart and ripping flesh and sinew before exiting through his back with enough power left in them to plough into Reid’s body, too. Garrett stepped forward and caught Jack as he fell forward and kicked Reid backwards onto the floor. With one hand he reached for his phone and called for an ambulance and a secure escort to the hospital.

The ambulance and escort were for Reid. Garrett put Jack in the passenger seat of the car they came in and fastened him in. He woke with a ragged breath and a shocked gasp. Garrett was talking rapidly over a hands free phone to three different people at once, making a half a dozen arrangements at once.

“Did you kill the bastard?” Jack asked.

“No, he’s going to make it,” Garrett answered. “He’s shorter than you. The bullets missed his heart. When they’ve finished patching him up, that cold windowless cell awaits him. It won’t take the great British public long to forget he exists.”

“Good. What about… We do still have an uninterrupted line of succession to the British throne?”

“We do.”

“How come it didn’t work?” Jack asked. “If he managed to put the Prince under the same influence as all the others… Meghan Prendy and Robertson, Anderson…. They all did exactly what he wanted. Why….?”

“In a little while you might get a chance to find out,” Garrett told him. “When we get back to the Hub, you need to put on a clean shirt and comb your hair. You’re getting a VIP visit in a little over an hour. Tell your team to be on their best behaviour, too. And ask Ray to piss off for a bit. I can’t get security clearance for a werewolf.”

Jack decided not to ask any questions. When they reached the Hub he took a quick shower and put on a clean and neatly pressed shirt and made himself as presentable as he could. A buzz of excitement was infecting the rest of his team. Garrett, along with Ianto, who always dressed smartly for work, went to the garage entrance to meet the car that brought His Royal Highness Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and his CPOs to Torchwood. When he entered the Hub Gwen, Beth and Martha all managed rather wobbly curtseys. Alun, a military man, saluted him. When he stepped into Jack’s office, he saluted him, too, before inviting him to sit down.

Submitting the second in line to the throne to an alien device that undid the hypnotic suggestion Reid had put him under was possibly the most nerve-wracking thing Jack had done for a long time. He was glad when it was over.

“He actually tried to hypnotise me to crash the helicopter, killing my father?” Prince William was handling it all very well, but he found that the most incredible part. “All those other people did what he wanted.”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Jack said. “But you didn’t. And I think I understand why, now. I didn’t before, but then I remembered that a friend of mine once had a problem with hypnotism. He said something like you can hypnotise a man to walk like a chicken or sing like Elvis, but you can’t hypnotise him to kill himself. The survival instinct is too strong.”

“That sounds like a sensible theory,” Prince William acknowledged. “I should have thought the same would be true of murder. Most people’s natural moral code would prevent them from doing such a thing.”

“But in this case, the hypnosis played on ambitions, and these people turned on those they subconsciously identified as responsible for their lack of progress up the career ladder. The journalist who attacked Beth saw her as an obstacle to the story of the decade. The others attacked their immediate superiors in their work. You were meant to attack those who stood in your way to the Throne.”

Prince William smiled.

“Captain Harkness… that would a captain in the RAF?”

“Retired,” Jack said, glossing over the fact that he left the RAF at the end of World War II.

“You outrank me, nevertheless,” the Prince added with a hint of irony in his voice. Jack made no comment about that. “But you are… or were… a pilot?”


“So you know that feeling… when you’re up in the air, in control of a plane or a helicopter. That feeling that’s… better than sex.”

“You’re not long married, your Highness,” Jack pointed out. “You’re not meant to think that way about sex. But… yes, I know what you mean.”

“So if I were to tell you I’m in no hurry to give that up to be King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and her Commonwealth, you’d perfectly well understand?”

Jack understood.

“I achieved my greatest ambition the day I flew solo for the first time. The succession isn’t something I strive for or long to happen. It’s something that will happen whether I want it to or not. Even under hypnosis I’m not going to kill those members of my family who stand between me and the throne.”

“That was the difference between you and everyone else,” Jack said. “And it was the difference Reid failed to recognise. It saved your life, and everyone else on the helicopter, including your father.”

Both men were silent for a little while as they considered the enormity of that fact. Then Prince William stood. Jack hurried to do the same. Then as one pilot to another, as one man who understood that flying was better than sex to another, the second in line to the throne saluted Captain Jack Harkness. Jack returned the gesture. The Prince’s secretary stepped forward and spoke quietly to him. He nodded and turned to leave. Jack sat back down in his seat and remembered that breathing was important for his species. He exhaled deeply. A few minutes later Garrett came into the office and poured two measures of single malt into two finely cut glasses. Jack swallowed the liquor gratefully.

“None of the people who did the murders are going to be charged,” he said. “It’s going to be one hell of a cover up operation. We might need some assistance from Torchwood to Retcon everyone involved, but one way or another Reid’s crazy plan will never come to light. And neither will he.”

“A lot of innocent people are dead, still,” Jack noted. “He didn’t even care. They were just ‘dress rehearsal’ You, Beth… the mayor… all because he hated the monarchy? Are they really that objectionable that somebody would go to such lengths?”

“That’s why my job exists,” Garrett said. “Because of people who think that way.”

“I’m glad I don’t have your job. Give me a good old-fashioned alien invasion any day. At least that makes sense.”


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