Jack Harkness looked around the flattened area due to become a building site any day now. He gave a nostalgic sigh.
“I remember when all this was the docklands,” he said. “Miles of it, and between the docks, row after row, street after street, of terraced houses. This was Tiger Bay. They obliterated it when they ‘regenerated’ the Bay Area, when they built Roald Dahl Plas over the coal dock and turned bonded warehouses into select apartments with bay views. Can you begin to imagine how many people used to live and work around here?”
“I’ve seen pictures,” Martha Jones said. Despite her surname she didn’t have any Welsh in her bones. She had never seen the Cardiff Jack was describing, only the modern, glossy version. She had never even seen this undeveloped section before.
“Over there is Porth Teigr Way,” Jack added, pointing to a well made road that disappeared in front of a long, modern complex of buildings. “Where the BBC put their new studio. That’s the last remnant of the past, in the name of that road and these plots of land here. They used to be warehouses. Really old warehouses, going back before the war.”
“The Napoleonic War?” Martha asked with a sly grin.
“World War II,” he responded, answering her grin with one of his own before getting serious again. “They had a very unpleasant use back then… in the war. They stored bodies in them.”
“The ships came back from France or wherever, or from out in the Atlantic when the convoys were hit, with bodies of dead servicemen. They were brought here, identified, put into coffins. Over there, there used to be a workshop where they made the coffins, a hundred a day, plain wooden coffins, no varnish or fancy handles, no cushioned interiors. The names and service numbers were written on the lids in indelible ink and they were nailed down. Most of them had to be by that time. The people they were shipped back to didn’t want to see them, especially the ones that had drowned.”
Martha glanced around at the empty space. The warehouses Jack spoke of were each the size of a football pitch. She couldn’t quite get her head around the idea of the same space packed with coffins.
“They sent them home to their families?” she asked.
“Yes. Most of them. Except one time… when Torchwood had to get involved.”
Ianto and Alun signed the visitors book at Swansea University and were shown the way to the forensic reconstruction department. They were met there by a Doctor Anthony Davies who was handsome enough to make them both grin knowingly.
“You’re the Torchwood people?” he asked. “Thanks for coming.”
“No problem. I understand you have something to show us?”
“Yes, come this way.”
‘This way’ led them into a macabre place that even the archives of the Torchwood Hub would find hard to beat for the creeping horrors. The first thing they saw was a bleached white skull sitting next to a head with unseeing eyes looking out from beneath hooded brows.
“That’s a project we’re doing to the Mary Rose Exhibition. We’re recreating the faces of the sailors who died when the ship capsized in 1545.”
“So… that’s a Tudor sailor’s face?” Alun asked.
“It is. We’ve developed the very latest facial recognition software and use it with a 3-D printer to produce accurate representations of the dead.”
“Creepy, but… I suppose it could be used to identify murder victims, that sort of thing, too?” Ianto suggested.
“That’s the ultimate intention. But there’s something you people need to see before we decide that we’ve been going in the wrong direction entirely with this project.”
“If it’s the rib bones of the Lampeter Worm, those were fakes,” Alun said. “And the Loch Ness Monster is alive and well and living in Scotland.”
“It’s neither,” Doctor Davies assured them, passing over the Loch Ness Monster reference. “It’s these….”
He keyed a six digit code into an electronic lock and opened a cupboard. Alun and Ianto stared at what was kept within.
They had walked the whole perimeter of the area being prepared for development. Satisfied, Jack closed the leather cover over the complicated device that Martha, alone among his colleagues, knew properly as a Vortex Manipulator. Everyone else called it his ‘wrist gismo’. Martha had travelled by Vortex Manipulator and didn’t recommend it on any level, but its other functions were more useful.
“There’s nothing to worry about here,” he said. “Not even an ion residue. No meisson energy or gamma particles.”
“We’re ok, then?”
“I was worried that the demolition of the warehouses might have disturbed the Rift and caused problems. I’ll be keeping watch on the construction work, just in case, but I think it’ll be all right.”
“This is going to be the next phase of the TV complex.” Martha noted. “I’ve heard rumours they’re going to build Albert Square here.”
“Could be,” Jack mused. He had never watched a soap opera in his long life. He had never been that bored with his own activities to need to watch drama of that sort. But he was aware of the cultural significance of the programme. “That’s why we need to keep an eye on things. We don’t need aliens taking over the Queen Vic.”
“That happened here?” Martha queried.
“Worse,” Jack answered. “As far as I know the actors in Eastenders are all alive.”
Martha recalled what he had said about the warehouses being used for storing bodies of servicemen in the war and horrible visions filled her mind. She could easily imagine dead men, bloated from being left in the sea for a long time, or with limbs blown off in battle, wandering blindly around this bleak landscape.
“I need coffee,” Jack said. “It’s an easier story to tell with coffee.”
“We’ll need to stop off somewhere, then. You sent the boys to Swansea. The machine will be off.”
“Where were these found?” Alun asked as he stared at what had to be either alien skulls or the results of the most ghastly birth deformities known to Human reproduction.
“Near the Parc le Breos burial chamber,” Doctor Davies replied. “A new archaeological dig by the history department, looking to see if they could identify the oldest pre-Christian settlements in South Wales. They unearthed these buried together – just the heads, no bodies.”
Ianto looked closely at the four skulls. They were all different, but distinctly non-Human. One had a skull so elongated it could only have been hidden under the sort of tall hat favoured by medieval ladies. Two others had foreheads that protruded forward over three eye sockets – the third one sitting above the nasal cavity. The fourth was almost a normal Human shape, but three times bigger than it ought to be.
If they weren’t alien, and not natural deformities, they had to be some very cruel genetic experiments.
Torchwood territory no matter which way they looked.
Gwen was on her own in the Hub when she took a call from her old colleague, Andy Davidson.
“Gwen, there are monsters in Leckwith Woods,” he said.
“What sort of monsters? Three headed ones with tentacles or the sort that show their wedding tackle to small children?” she responded.
“Two people said it was a giant crocodile and four reported a small T-Rex,” Andy answered. “Take your pick, but it isn’t April 1st, and if it’s not a wind-up, then it sounds like your territory.”
“Ok,” Gwen answered. “The boys are all out. I’ll have to leave Beth and Ray in charge of the Hub. You meet me down there.”
“Will do,” Andy promised. He sounded far too pleased about the idea. Gwen put the phone down and let Una know that she was babysitting Sam for an hour or two and could help herself to what she liked for lunch. She made sure their other resident, Gilly, was still in the visible spectrum and making herself useful tidying up the medical room. Everyone was happy for now. She could leave them to it.
She went to the code-key-operated door to the armoury where she selected a collection of weapons, none of which were known to the police or military of the realm. From there she headed for the garage. Jack and Martha had walked around the Bay to Roath Dock, and the boys had taken their Audi to Swansea. She had the SUV all to herself. It took a minute to adjust the seat to her height, but then she was off on her own field mission.
Jack chose outside seats at Coffee Mania near the Plas under which both of them worked and waited until they were served the coffees of their choice – for himself a large straight coffee with a dash of milk, for Martha a long, tall latte. While he was waiting for their orders, he fiddled with his Vortex Manipulator again. Martha wondered what he was doing.
“It’s an aural version of a perception filter,” he explained. “For private conversations. Anyone trying to eavesdrop will hear something completely meaningless about the weather.”
“The Doctor showed me how to do it, when I saw him last.”
“When was that?” Martha asked. “I’ve not seen him for ages.”
“Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart’s funeral,” Jack answered. “He’s regenerated… The Doctor, I mean. Not the Brigadier. He just died of old age.”
“Yes, I heard about that… the Brigadier, I mean, not The Doctor. I never met him. Before my time. I hadn’t heard about The Doctor regenerating. But then… we’ve all gone our separate ways since.”
The coffees arrived in the midst of what would have been a pretty incomprehensible conversation to anyone who had never been involved with U.N.I.T. Jack looked around again at the modern Cardiff Bay and remembered how it used to look.
“It’s hard to remember exactly what used to be here, even ten or twenty years ago,” he admitted. “The change is SO drastic. Before they demolished everything there were old warehouses, boarded up terraced houses, abandoned cranes and dock equipment. About the liveliest place was the fish and chip shop down on Mermaid Quay – the cover for the entrance to Torchwood before we turned it into the tourist office. The anglers used to get their breakfasts and suppers there.”
Martha smiled and let him reminisce for a while before reminding him of the story he was going to tell about the war.
“That’s not the whole of it,” Doctor Davies told the Torchwood pair. “This is STRICTLY off limits to all but a few key personnel here.” He opened a second key-coded cupboard and Ianto and Alun both stepped back in shock at what they saw in there.
“You found whole heads, not just skulls?” Alun asked.
“No, these are our reconstructions, using the same face recognition software we used for the Mary Rose sailors,” the Doctor explained. “The skin colours and facial hair we’re really just guessing at, of course. With Human skulls there are certain racial indicators, the wider nasal passages in negroes or the eye shape of Orientals, for obvious examples. We can make educated guesses and we’re usually proved right. But if these really ARE alien skulls, then we can’t begin to guess what colour the skin was.”
“That’s a problem, yes,” Ianto agreed. “Even so… this is… incredible.”
The scientists had assumed that these were Celtic aliens and given them light complexions, but the one with the elongated skull had a stretched look to its face as if the skin was a bit too small for the flesh and sinew beneath. The three-eyed ones had thicker skin around the forehead with deep folds that made the hood even more pronounced over the eye sockets. The huge head had skin more like hide and a very wide mouth. They had given it a smile that made it look like a hungry Man in the Moon. If the body was not in proportion to it, then it must have looked something like Frank Sidebottom walking around the pre-Christian Gower Peninsula.
“What I don’t get,” Doctor Davies said. “Is why three obviously different species were buried together. Is it usual for aliens to travel in mixed groups?”
“You’re assuming we have an answer to that?” Ianto replied.
“Torchwood ARE the people to talk to about this sort of thing, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Ianto assured him. “But this IS a new one on us. Aliens DO usually keep to themselves. It’s a mystery.”
“We need to see the site where these were unearthed,” Alun said. “And we need a list of the people who have been in contact with these remains – everyone who had anything at all to do with the excavation, everyone who took part in the reconstruction work. I presume nobody else has seen the skulls or the models?”
“Nobody,” Doctor Davies assured him.
“Good. That means we can contain this situation. Get all the evidence boxed up ready for us to take back to our headquarters, the skulls, models, any drawings, any computer data and hard copies of the same.”
“You want to remove all evidence of them from the university?”
“Yes. We can’t risk some junior assistant wanting to tell the media or a cleaner stumbling across them accidentally. Our archive is the proper place for them.”
Davies looked disappointed. It was like discovering a Viking hoard only to have it claimed as Crown Property and acquired by the National Museum. Torchwood was going to make the most exciting find of a life’s work in forensic reconstruction disappear.
But he knew there was little point in arguing about it.
“My colleague can take you to the site. I’ll get the artefacts prepared for transportation.”
“It was the summer of 1943. I was officially dead to the RAF, having crashed my Mustang on the way back from a sortie over occupied France. I was back with Torchwood for a while, planning on joining up again before the build up to D-Day.”
He painted the image with his words. Martha could picture it easily enough.
“Rift spikes had been a common occurrence. We were dealing with a huge influx of Weevils. There were strange artefacts turning up in all sorts of places. But we were on top of most of that. Then I answered a call from the padre who was in charge of the repatriations. He said that some of the dead men were standing up and walking around.”
“Yikes,” Martha commented.
“It wasn’t the first time the dead had walked in Cardiff,” Jack pointed out. There was a time in 1869… ten years before Torchwood was founded. You’ve probably heard the story from you-know-who.”
“The Gelth,” Martha said. “Yes. He told me. It was one of his – ‘I’m not always right, sometimes I get it wrong and people get hurt’ moods.”
“Yeah, that’s how I heard it, too. I’ve also seen the official records in our archive. Several people murdered, a girl who died in the blast when it all went pear-shaped. Nasty business. I kind of expected the same sort of thing going on. The Gelth wanted dead bodies to occupy. The warehouses are only about a quarter of a mile from where that incident took place. I thought I knew what to expect.”
“But it wasn’t that?”
“No.” He paused and took a long drink of his coffee. It seemed as if the memory was an upsetting one for him.
“It WAS upsetting,” he said as if he had read Martha’s thoughts at that moment. “The sight of all those coffins was disturbing, even for me. I’ve climbed out of a few in my time. I ought to be used to it. But I wasn’t ready for that many. And I wasn’t ready for the men who had climbed out of THEIR coffins.”
Gwen parked the car in a lay-by on the Leckwith bypass beside Andy’s police Peugot. He was waiting in the car and got out to meet her.
“It’s NOT a hoax,” he said. “There’s something in the woods. I can hear it.”
On cue, something huge and angry roared. Gwen turned and thought she saw the tops of the trees move as if something large had brushed through them.
“Ok, that’s definitely weird,” she said. “Torchwood weird. We ought to think about blocking off this section of the by-pass and diverting traffic.”
“DI Temple says no way we’re doing that. He thinks this is a hoax.”
“DI Temple can get down here and see for himself,” Gwen responded.
“You tell him that.”
“Not likely, even if he isn’t my boss anymore.”
She got the weapons from the boot of the SUV. They were short-barrelled laser sighted rifles that fired phasic rounds. That was a space age term for a space age kind of ammunition – basically a bullet made of pure energy. They had, like on Star Trek, different settings - stun, wound, and kill. She explained that much to Andy as she handed one to him and told him it was on stun.
“We don’t want to kill them, then?”
“If these really ARE dinosaurs, they’re unique on this planet in this century. I think not.”
Andy examined the weapon. He had done some very basic weapons training not long after he passed his sergeant’s exam, but he wouldn’t claim to be an expert. Far from it. That was why he hadn’t gone on to the armed response section.
But he understood the principle and figured a T-Rex was a big enough target. Even he shouldn’t be able to miss
“There were four of them to begin with,” Jack told Martha. “Three sailors and an airman who was so badly burnt he ought to have been sealed up already. They all looked absolutely ghastly. You know what a body looks like when it’s been in water even for a few hours. These had been floating for two of three days before a fire-boat accompanying one of the convoys pulled them out. They were grey-blue, bloated – one of them had no eyes. They’d been picked out by fish or birds, I suppose. The airman… his uniform had been burnt onto his body. Seeing him standing there was bad enough. But then he spoke to me.”
“Oh, my God,” Martha murmured. “What did he say?”
“When can I get back to my squadron.”
“He thought he was alive?”
“They all did. The one without eyes kept asking for the lights to be put on. The other two were just confused about why they weren’t on their ship. None of them could remember anything happening to them. They couldn’t feel anything - which had to be a blessing. The airman would have been screaming the place down if he was aware of his injuries.”
“You brought them back to Torchwood, I suppose?”
“We brought them in a lorry, put them in the medical room. They accepted it was part of ‘procedure’. That’s the thing about the military. They know about ‘procedure’. The Torchwood medic from back then, Doctor Roberts, ran every test he could think of. I ran some he couldn’t. All the evidence said that they were dead. They had no heartbeats, no respiration, no kidney function or anything else. The central nervous system was shut down – that’s why they didn’t feel any pain. But their brains were working. They were remembering, thinking….”
“Oh my God,” Martha commented as the implications for those men sank in. They were dead. Their lives were over. But they were self-aware.
“I couldn’t lie to them. Explaining their situation was difficult, distressing. They were all talking about loved ones they knew they would never see again. And, of course, they asked the question….”
“How did it happen?”
“Yes. And another question we couldn’t answer… ‘how long will it last.’”
“You had no idea on either count?”
“None. I don’t even completely know how my own immortality works. Even The Doctor couldn’t fully explain. I understand about nano-technology and how that can ‘fix’ people. I’ve seen that happen. But nano-tech doesn’t just wake up the brain in a dead body. It renews the whole body, makes them whole again. Besides, that was one of the things I ruled out straight away.”
“Naturally,” Martha commented dryly. “So….”
“So, we hadn’t even come up with Idea One about these four when we heard that another six were up and walking around, asking awkward questions. We collected them, then another seven. Then three more. We had twenty-eight of them at the Hub before the military managed to organise extra transport and get the rest of the bodies out of there and on their way back to their nearest and dearest. They blocked any more coming in, which at least stemmed the tide. But we still had those twenty-eight.”
“You figured it was the PLACE they were in that was doing it?”
“There was a pattern. The first four were all in the middle section of the warehouse, then the next were adjacent to them… a circle radiating out, getting stronger.”
“But not so simple,” Martha surmised.
“Far from it.”
Gwen and Andy moved quietly through Leckwith Woods, following paths worn by local people taking short cuts. It wasn’t exactly a nature reserve, skirting the edge of a bypass on one side and an industrial estate on the other, but amidst the familiar urban debris of beer cans and take out cartons there was a carpet of woodland flowers beneath the trees. Neither of them were well-enough versed in botany to identify either the flowers or the trees, but it was nice to find a bit of real nature in the middle of their city.
When the T-Rex roared close by, Andy jumped visibly and failed to mask the whimper that escaped from his lips. Gwen retained her composure a little better. She had heard stranger things within the confines of her own workplace. She got her stun gun ready. Andy did the same a moment later and they came off the path and pushed between the trees.
They emerged presently into a clearing that had obviously been newly created by something large that broke off branches from mature trees and flattened bushes and smaller saplings.
The ‘something’ reared its head in the middle of the clearing. It looked, for all the world, like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, except that it was only about the height of the tallest trees. Everything both Andy and Gwen had heard about these creatures put them something like the height of one of the cranes working on the next phase of the docklands redevelopment.
It turned its head and roared directly at them. Andy raised his weapon and fired.
It had absolutely no effect on the animal. He fired twice more, then asked Gwen how to change up to ‘wound’.
“It’s the red switch on the side,” she answered. “But I’m not sure it would make any difference. There’s more to this than meets the eye. I don’t think….”
She stepped forward, putting two fingers in her mouth and whistling shrilly. The T-Rex’s long neck craned down until the nose touched the top of her head. Gwen stood her ground, testing her theory.
“Gwen… get back, for heaven’s sake,” Andy said in a loud whisper. “It could bite your head clean off.”
“Bet you it can’t,” Gwen answered, even though the T-Rex opened its mouth and roared loudly. She cringed at the noise so close to her ears, but that was all.
“No breath,” she added. “I noticed that before when it roared. We ought to have felt a hot, foul breath of a carnivore. But there’s nothing. I think this is a fake.”
She raised her gun and fired into the T-Rex’s chest. The energy bullet went straight through, not like a through and through bullet causing a small entry and exit wound, but like there was nothing there to impact upon at all.
“Ever heard of a hard light hologram?” she asked Andy.
“The smarmy bloke from Red Dwarf,” Andy replied.
“Yeah, like that. Let me see…. I’m betting the real target is far smaller.”
She fired again, between the dinosaur’s legs. There was a small fizzing noise and then a bang like a boiled egg exploding in a dry pan, and the T-Rex winked out of existence. What remained was unusual for Leckwith Woods, but far less threatening.
“Moving the bodies out did the trick,” Jack said. “None of them came back to life in the reception centres they were sent to. It HAD to be something to do with the warehouse.”
“That would be the logical explanation,” Martha admitted. “You searched, of course?”
“We went through it with every kind of scanner Torchwood had – and even in 1943, we had some impressive stuff. We ruled out at least a dozen forms of natural and unnatural energy before we hit on the one causing the trouble.”
Martha leaned forward in anticipation of the revelation.
“It was something beneath the concrete floor of the warehouse,” Jack continued. “Something buried there before the concrete was even poured. We brought in equipment to break up the floor and dig down. The energy readings were getting stronger all the time, until we detected something metallic that the energy was pouring out of.”
“And….” Martha was positively agog now.
“That’s where we got the Resurrection Glove from,” he said. “You probably heard about it from Gwen, the artefact Suzie stole and used for her own experiments.”
“Yes, I’ve heard all about it. Pity it was destroyed. I would have liked to have explored its full possibilities. Maybe it could have been used to save people….”
“Spoken like a doctor, Martha. But take it from me when I say that being brought back from the dead is no picnic. Besides, who would we decide to bring back and who do we let die? Most people HAVE to die. Otherwise the world will collapse under the weight of population. Generally speaking, the dead ought to stay dead.”
“Spoken like an immortal who doesn’t have to face the possibility,” Martha responded. “But you’re probably right.”
“Besides, it obviously wasn’t working properly when we pulled it out of the soil. It was ‘leaking’ you might say. It had been putting out enough power to make dead brains tick over again, but not to properly revive the bodily functions. It was only by willpower our victims were standing up and moving around. The memory of being able to do that was driving them. But….”
He sighed as he remembered. It wasn’t a pleasant memory for many reasons.
“Their bodies continued to decompose. Flesh was decaying, the organs breaking down. After three or four days in the Torchwood sick bay they were absolutely repulsive sights, and they knew it was only a matter of time. So did we.”
“They died – again?”
“Yes. The thing that chokes me up when I think of it, though…. Before they died, they all wrote letters to their loved ones - while they still had functioning hands, anyway. One of them… his fingers were rotting away even as he held a pen. But they wrote these letters that they didn’t get a chance to write before their ships were torpedoed or their planes crashed and burned. I read them all… they were heartbreaking. And… I promised I’d send them on to the people they were addressed to.”
“You… didn’t, did you?” Martha guessed.
“It would have opened up too many awkward questions. Besides, most of them read like the last words of men facing execution. It wasn’t something a wife or mother or… in one case… a boyfriend… needed to read. No, the letters are all in the Torchwood archive. I broke my promises to them. I was the bastard who lied to them.”
“Not exactly a lie,” Martha said in an effort to console him. “You said what you had to say to comfort them.”
“No, I lied,” Jack insisted. “I lied about the letters. I lied when I sat beside them and promised there WAS something beyond death for them to look forward to. I know damn well there isn’t. But I couldn’t tell them that. The whole thing had been cruel enough already. I sat and talked to them, listened to their prayers, waited for it to be over. But I lied, and even if it WAS the right thing to do, even though I’ve told more lies than you’ve had hot dinners without a twinge of conscience, I have never stopped feeling guilty about THOSE lies.”
“Jack Harkness, you have a soft centre under your rock hard skin, don’t you?” Martha said. She reached out her hand to his and he let her take it.
“Yes, I do,” he admitted. “But if word gets out, I’ll blame you for it.”
“Your secret is safe with me,” Martha promised. “But if you had the artefact in Torchwood, safely locked away in a lead-lined casket or whatever it took to stop the leakage, why did you feel the need to go there again, today?”
“The only theory we had was that the glove was disturbed when the foundations for the warehouse were laid in the 1920s. It had probably been leaking all along, but when the warehouse stored tobacco or whatever, it didn’t do any harm. It was only when dead bodies were kept there that it became a problem.”
“And they’re about to start digging new foundations. Even if it is only to plant a fictional garden for a soap opera, the ground would be disturbed again. And… back when we had the trouble with Suzie, Ianto reminded me of something. Gloves come in pairs. I’ll be keeping a close eye on things until I’m absolutely certain there isn’t another one down there.”
He finished his coffee and pushed back his chair.
“Come on, Doctor Jones, enough reminiscing. Time to get some real Torchwood work done.”
The Parc le Breos burial chamber, set in the medieval deer park, now public recreation facility, of the same name, had been known to archaeology since 1869 and its secrets had been largely uncovered, but there was absolutely no doubt that pre-Christian people lived, worked, died and were buried in the area. There was bound to be more to find.
Swansea University’s team were the best placed to find it, having their headquarters only thirteen kilometres away. The exploratory trenches they had dug between the long cairn popularly known as the Giant’s Cairn and the Cathole Cave which had been used as a Neolithic ossary, was a hive of activity when Ianto and Alun were brought to see it by Doctor Davies’ colleague.
Professor Rhiannon Lloyd, working in the forensic reconstruction department, but with her specialist field in anthropology, was the link between the dig and the work back at the university. Indeed, as she explained to them, she had brought the four skulls back for reconstruction after realising they were not what they had expected to find in a pre-Christian archaeological site.
“We might well find the bodies buried separately,” she told Ianto and Alun as they walked along the planks at the top of the trench and looked down at the four post-graduates working for their credits by sifting through every inch of slightly sandy mud that they dug out for the tiniest trace of something of interest. It could be a piece of ancient pottery or a Human tooth, or something as huge as the skulls unearthed a few weeks ago.
Ianto asked her why she thought that.
“I saw the skulls when they were brought out of the ground. Two of them had very distinctive marks in the lower cranium… marks of an axe used for decapitation. The executioner might have missed the neck and accidentally cut into the skull before taking a second swing at it.”
“Nasty,” Ianto commented.
“Very nasty, but not unheard of in the days when axes were hand-made affairs of uncertain weight,” Professor Lloyd explained. “I think the aliens fell foul of the Human settlers here. They executed them and buried the heads and bodies in separate graves, possibly due to some superstition about bodies coming back to life if they were allowed to lie in the grave whole. Given the nature of these specimens, I should think just about any superstition is possible. Anyway, we’re working on the basis that there are bodies with necks severed by an axe that matches the cranium injuries.”
“When you do, Torchwood need to know straight away,” Ianto told her. “Before you start reconstructing the body. I think I can safely say that we’ll let you DO the work. We’re as interested in what these ‘specimens’ looked like when they had flesh on their bodies as anyone.”
“Meanwhile,” Alun warned her. “Please try not to use the words ALIEN and Human in any more sentences about this subject. We need to contain this incident. We can do it the easy way, by drugging you and all your colleagues and leaving you with several weeks missing from your memories, or we can do it the hard way by trusting you to keep this under wraps while you work with us on the find.”
“AFTER we’ve finished working, do we get our memories wiped?” Professor Lloyd asked.
“That would be up to our boss, and will depend on photographs of the alien head reconstructions not turning up on any websites or the pages of Fortean Times or as subject for discussion in some geek’s mum’s basement,” Ianto told her firmly. “Seriously, you’re all really clever people, and we might well have work for the forensic reconstruction department if we feel we can trust you. You don’t need to lose any of your memories.”
“I understand,” the Professor assured him. “We have made every effort to contain the story ourselves. The department, still less Swansea University, don’t want to be inundated with that sort of interest. We have a reputation for serious archaeological research. Doctor Davies’ work in reconstruction is ground-breaking stuff. That sort of outside interest would do immeasurable harm to our reputations and to our funding.”
“Then I think we all understand each other,” Ianto said. He hated doing the Retcon routine, anyway. He was far too honest for it. Besides, this way, they gained some useful allies.
He only hoped he could persuade Jack to agree to that plan.
Gwen and Andy came into the Hub through the garage entrance with their prisoner. He was two feet tall and looked like a perfectly proportioned Human except for a long, hairless tail and ears like a traditional pixie. He was restrained hand and foot with plasicuffs and Andy was carrying him under his arm. The prisoner wasn’t struggling even though he was coming around from being stunned by Gwen. He was obviously resigned to his fate.
Martha and Jack, coming in by the lift from the Plas watched in amusement as they set the little man down on a table top.
“You didn’t need any help restraining that huge brute?” Jack asked.
“Hahah,” Gwen responded. “This huge brute was using a very sophisticated cloaking device to disguise himself and his crashed space ship from view. He made a slight miscalculation. He thought he had landed in the Jurassic period and used the image of a T-Rex to scare off predators, the very thing guaranteed to bring Torchwood straight to him. I called Rhys and he’s bringing the ship by lorry. We should be able to make use of the cloaking technology even if navigation is pants where he comes from.”
“I’m going to report that somebody was playing silly buggers with a large inflatable dinosaur that accidentally blew away when it was released from its mooring ropes,” Andy added.
“Convincing enough even for Torchwood, ” Jack conceded. “Seems like you’ve had a good morning’s work. The boys have something interesting for Show and Tell, too, so put your midget spaceman in a holding cell and order lunch for everyone. We’ll have something to talk about over the chop suey.”
The take-out cartons were being opened and the prawn crackers emptied into a bowl when Ianto and Alun returned with the skulls and the reconstructed heads in boxes. They set them up on the conference table as a bizarre centrepiece that surprisingly didn’t put anyone off their food. Even Andy had seen everything with Torchwood these days.
Jack was impressed.
“Wow,” he said. “That is something. If they DO find the bodies as well it will be quite a star piece for the archive. The Secundas Rax gang!”
Everyone turned to look at Jack with one question on their lips.
“Yes, I know them. In the fifty-first century they were this galaxy’s equivalent of the Jesse James Gang, pillaging, raping and generally causing mayhem. The last I heard they’d been caught and tried by the Anizonean Judiciary and sentenced to live out their natural lives on a primitive planet. I never realised that Neolithic Earth was the primitive planet they had in mind. The Anizoneans obviously should have done a bit more research and made sure there weren’t any axe wielding natives to shorten their lives as drastically as that.”
Ianto and Alun exchanged glances. The puzzle of how and why the four aliens were on Earth was solved as easily as that.
“Clever reconstruction job,” Jack added. “Apart from the skin colour. Kan Rax was the purple of a day old bruise and the others were dark green. Otherwise they’re as large as life. We can use technology like that again. Don’t retcon those people. Just make sure they know I’ll have their guts for garters if any word of this gets onto the internet.”
“Will do, boss,” Ianto said and reached for the carton of fried rice.