The other boys were right, it was all his fault.
When he was fifteen he was caught kissing another boy, a fellow American called Jack Harkness. The other boys had been shocked, they knew that Harkness had a girlfriend in the village and they all blamed him for what happened next. Despite knowing that it wasn't true, that Jack had been just as keen as he was – they'd been holding hands in secret for weeks before they'd risked anything more - the boy took full responsibility and accepted his punishment. The priest who'd found them beat him viciously with the cane, but he didn't cry out. He'd then been locked up in his dorm, alone, whilst the other boys had their supper.
If he hadn't made such a fuss about being starved, Harkness wouldn't have taken the risk. But he had, he'd yelled for all to hear about the injustice and hammered on the door with his shoes. How was he to know that Harkness had stolen some bread and an apple, stuffed the food inside his shirt and had then climbed out of the window of the adjacent dorm, onto the ledge, intent on coming to his aid? The romance of the stories of the crusades and the knights braving all manner of perils to assist their brothers in arms had been a fantasy they'd shared growing up in the orphanage. But that didn't stop it being his fault. He was to blame for Harkness falling to his death.
Looking back, his actual childhood had been almost unremittingly bleak, apart from the adventures sparked by trashy paperbacks that fed the lives he lived inside his head. Losing his parents when he was ten, he'd then been separated from his little brother, Gray. Dr John Smith, the man who claimed to be their guardian, abandoned them at St Francis' orphanage on the outskirts of Dublin. The doctor had turned his back on them at the cast iron gates and never turned back. It wasn't long before Gray was taken in by a foster family and, even though the older boy had desperately tried to hold onto his little brother's hand and not let him go, they'd been dragged apart. That was the last time he saw Gray.
Having lost so much, it wasn't such a hardship to let go of his old identity when he reached the age of eighteen. As the boy left the orphanage, Jack Harkness was reborn, so that he would never forget the price others paid for his foolishness.
On a cold autumn night, a rally was underway in a vast square in the centre of St Petersburg in Russia. Hand painted banners proclaimed 'Vote Saksonski!' and pictures of the man himself were plastered on billboards. Grigori Sahkzonski had made his fortune with oil and gas, yet another Russian oligarch risen to power after leaving behind his Communist Party links. The billionaire had the resources to challenge the Russian President and his own security force to protect him.
"In I917 Lenin stood here and promised a new age. The result? Tyranny. Poverty!" Saksonski declared loudly. "The darkest years in our history."
Standing on a platform behind a cluster of microphones, his image projected on a huge screen above and behind him, Grigori Sahkzonski commanded authority. His appearance was clean cut, his fair hair cut short, but his fierce, dark brown eyes glinted with cunning as his voice cut through the night air.
"In 1987 Gorbachev stood here and promised a new age. The result? An end to communism. Democracy. A free economy. And what else? Chaos."
The throngs cheered ardently.
"The economy run by criminals, the government run by charlatans. And they are in league together! Thieves! Traitors! Men and women of St. Petersburg, citizens of Russia, the salt of this country, this must end! Let's take up the challenge – a beating of drums to match the beating of our hearts."
He rhythmically tapped the podium in front of him, as if beating on that drum, beats of four repeated over and over, growing in intensity.
"Join me then in the song of our forefathers."
As Sahkzonski sang out the first verse of "Mother Russia", the Russian anthem before the Bolsheviks, the crowd joined him. Before long the streets were filled with the sound of the voices of thousands upon thousands of Russians, willing to follow a man who promised them a better future.
Meanwhile, whilst everyone was distracted by the rally, a break-in was in progress. A figure in black: snug-fitting black leather jacket, dark jeans and a dark turtle neck sweater, wearing a back pack. The boy that had taken the name Jack Harkness had grown up to be a hard, self-reliant, con man. There had been a time when he showed compassion and had loved freely, but no longer. The man cutting a large hole in the glass façade of the high rise modern hotel building, using a sophisticated diamond cutter, was a man who gave no quarter. Ever. Even though he gave the outward appearance of a genial, outgoing charmer, he was dead inside.
Silently, with total focus, Harkness swung through the aperture and into one of the prestigious hotel suites. Ignoring the champagne and caviar platter, he moved with purpose to the door, checking that there was no one outside, he slipped out of the room and into the corridor. He was a man on a mission – hired to acquire a microchip. He didn't give a damn what was on it, all he cared about was being paid and he couldn't care less who was paying as long as the funds appeared in his offshore account.
Turning the corner, he smiled as he saw the double doors on the left leading to his goal. Gently pushing the doors open revealed a long corridor with a door at the end, at the entrance, secured in a niche, was a bronze bust of a Roman emperor. Harkness stopped and looked down at the intricately woven carpet running the length of the corridor, he stooped down and lifted the edge to reveal anti-theft pressure sensors. He knew the richly coloured rug was designed as a distraction. From his back pack he pulled out a dart gun and aimed it down the corridor, a steel dart exploded out from the barrel, spooling out a strong cable, and then imbedded above the door at the corridor's end. Yanking the other end of the cable from the spool, Harkness looked around for something to secure it.
"Sorry about this," he muttered as he tied it around the bronze neck of the bust. Then he pulled out a lightweight contraption, with pulley device, attached it to the cable and used it to propel himself down the corridor without putting a foot to the floor.
Hovering at the other end of the cable, Harkness slipped a small black box from inside his jacket and pressed it up against the electronic lock on the door. Moments later a quiet beeping sound indicated that the door had been unlocked. Harkness turned the handle and, swinging forward, entered the room. A long table adorned with ornamental sculptures indicated the regular function of the room. At the head of the table, above the largest chair in the room, hung a portrait of Saksonski.
Removing the painting from the wall revealed the safe. Hauling his back pack off his shoulders Harkness grinned as he pulled out an industrial diamond-tipped drill. Although he realised it was going to make a noise, time was now of the essence. His transit down the corridor would have been detected by now, he'd only been able to knock the CCTV out temporarily, a short freeze would not have been noticed, but after a while, when the guard returned on his routine patrol, his absence from the feed would have alerted security.
Indeed it had, and Saksonski's son, Ilya, had already reached the interior corridor and was glaring at the cable strung over the floor. Using the guard's key ring, he shut off the anti-theft mats and ran down the carpet towards the open door.
Meanwhile, Harkness had drilled through the lock of the safe and had thrown the drill to one side as he tugged open the door to the safe. Amongst bundles of $100 bills and jewellery boxes sat a small metal box. Harkness grabbed it and flipped open the lid to reveal the microchip nestled inside. Satisfied that he had found the prize he pocketed the box. It was a prototype – worth a fortune.
Harkness froze on the spot, this had not been in his plan.
"Turn around. Slowly."
Harkness turned to face Ilya, who was holding a silenced handgun.
"On your knees. Give me the box. Slowly."
Slowly sinking to his knees, Harkness pulled the box out of his pocket and tossed it to Ilya. He waited patiently, knowing the man would not be able to resist checking that the box still contained the chip. As soon as Ilya looked away from him, Harkness grabbed the drill from where it had landed on the ground, next to where he had chosen to kneel, and flung it will all his force into Ilya's face. Startled, he let go of the box which Harkness snatched as it flew through the air. Flooring Ilya with a right cross, Harkness grabbed his back pack and sprinted across the room to the nearest window. Using a knuckle duster to smash his way through the toughened glass, he stood atop the balustrade and turned to watch as Ilya ran towards him, aiming his gun.
With a grin, Jack Harkness jumped off the side of the building. As a stunned Ilya Saksonski looked on, a parachute unfurled from the back pack, enough to help Harkness make his way to safety on the top of the nearest tall building.
Ilya cursed loudly as the security detail finally joined him in his father's boardroom, watching as the only existing version of a microchip worth millions was stolen from under his nose.