NOTE: Sorry about taking so long to update. I've been getting some writing done that might actually pay. Anyway, I love reviews. This chapter is really just getting the story a little further. It will become more exciting in the next chapter!
It was a relief as Jessie watched Cardiff come into view. Jack's friend Gwen had picked up Jessie and Peter in Liverpool and was currently their temporary leader, until Jack and the others returned. Peter and Gwen had made small talk on the drive. Jessie was trying to ignore the taste of seawater that still seemed to linger.
"How are you doing back there?" Gwen asked with a glance in the rear view mirror. Jessie was wearing simple cuffed jeans and all black. Her jacket had been tossed after the run in with the glashtin. Jack and Cole had gotten her back stitched up and wrapped in gauze. She was currently sporting an oversized hoodie that Peter insisted she wear.
"Just tired of my back getting mauled" Jessie replied. Her voice was a little rough, but that was due to the seawater. Gwen gave her a small smile.
"We're going to have bigger things to worry about" Gwen said. The mood in the SUV changed and Gwen shifted into her old role as Jack's #2. "The information that Jack sent over to me this morning appears to be moving north to south. It's going to hit the west side of the whole country, from Scotland to Cornwall. There isn't anything we can do about it."
"I've been keeping an eye on it as much as I was able to" Peter said. "I think it's going to hit the northern areas sometime tomorrow, then slowly move south."
"Any idea where it's coming from?" Jessie asked.
"No" Peter replied.
"Can we back track it, you know, follow the path that it's been traveling on to see if there's a cause? Something has to be the cause" Jessie replied.
"The Faroe Islands are north of us" Gwen replied. "Have there been any reports from there?"
Peter was tapping and sliding his fingers around on his phone. He was quiet for a few minutes. "No reports of anything out of the ordinary."
"That means it's localized" Gwen said. They sped into the outskirts of Cardiff and Peter guided Gwen to their warehouse. She parked in the garage and was led down into the heart of Torchwood 5. Peter and Jessie showed Gwen their offices before settling in and getting a pot of coffee going.
"This is the Warehouse" Peter said.
"What do you think?" Jessie asked. Peter had stayed in his office to get his two computers going. Jessie and Gwen were in the kitchen waiting on the coffee to brew.
"It's a bit impersonal" Gwen replied. "When I started in Torchwood we had a place right off the quay. It always felt like a second home."
"I'm familiar with it" Jessie replied. The coffee pot was almost a third full. "It's one of my special assignments."
"What do you mean?" Gwen asked. Jessie took the pot and filled two mugs. Gwen sipped her coffee, impressed that it wasn't swill.
"I'll just have to show you" Jessie said with a smile. Jessie led Gwen down to the sub-basement. "Jack's office is down here in the sub-basement."
"Where is he staying these days?" Gwen asked.
"In the sub-basement" Jessie replied. She showed Gwen the training room and the small gun range. Jack's office was open and Gwen poked her head in. It seemed to have all new things that she had never seen before, but it was definitely done in Jack's own personal style. Jessie pointed to a plain door. "That is where he stays."
"Never a house or anything like that" Gwen mused. They headed up to the main basement to find Peter.
Peter had one computer running some sort of data tracking software that was producing a live feed of readings in graph form. The other he was perched in front of, typing furiously and switching between various programs.
"Peter, whatcha got?" Gwen asked.
"I think I have enough data to give us a general starting location for the energy wave" Peter replied. He pulled up a map of the United Kingdom and pointed to a spot between Scotland and the Faroe Islands. "It's originating from around here. I was able to get some readings from naval ships in the area. They recorded the data, but the entire crew of the ships, two ships, have been reported AWOL."
"What do you mean AWOL? The whole crew of two ships?" Gwen said with a furrowed brow.
"Everyone" Peter replied. "There's a ship transcript of a radio transmission from Captain Ewling where he reports the entire ship going mad with fear. Just pure terror."
"Are you telling me that the wave of energy that is coming towards us and all of the west coast of the country is fear-based?" Gwen asked. Peter looked up at Gwen and Jessie, glancing between them.
"I think so" Peter said. "I just don't know why. I can tell you that a government group called Unit seems to be involved."
"Any word about someone named Martha Jones?" Gwen asked. Peter shook his head and shrugged.
"Did anyone on the ships report any beings?" Jessie asked.
"Not that I've seen" Peter said. "The reports are sparse as of this morning. It appears to have simply hit them full force without warning."
"Is there an extra laptop around here that I can use?" Gwen asked. Peter looked around and pulled out a slim silver laptop from a small bookshelf. Peter moved an extra chair around to the second desk in his office, giving Gwen a space to set up.
"I'll be in my office" Jessie said stepping out of Peter's office. Gwen waited until she heard Jessie's office door open and close before speaking.
"How has she been doing?" Gwen asked. "Jack called me this morning and told me what happened."
"She's just been quiet" Peter said. "I've just been giving her a little space. She has had a lot of crazy shit happen to her in the last two weeks. I'm surprised she hasn't snapped."
"Do you think she'll breakdown with the wave of fear coming at us?" Gwen asked concerned. Peter spun around in his chair with his arms crossed.
"It's a tough call" Peter said. "You two have met before right?"
"Briefly" Gwen said. "I don't really know her well."
"Do you know what happened to her?" Peter asked. Gwen shook her head 'no' and sipped her coffee. Peter scratched his head before continuing. "Before I recently signed on, Jess apparently went missing for 15 minutes or 5 months, depending on who you ask."
"Jack mentioned something about that" Gwen said. "What does that mean, exactly?"
"The others told me that she was on some alien prison planet for 5 months, but here on Earth it was only about 15 minutes of our time" Peter said. "Cole said that she has the scars to prove it." Gwen's eyes were big as she imagined the worst. "She doesn't talk about it, but she can handle a lot."
"Or she's almost at her breaking point" Gwen remarked. She shook her head and turned back to the laptop. She held her tongue about Torchwood and death. Gwen thought of the others from the past - Tosh and Owen and Ianto. She thought of her long lost newer friends - Vera and Esther. Gwen sighed and sipped at her coffee, pushing the thoughts away. She had work to do. "I'm going to check some old UNIT contacts."
There was a knock on the doorframe of the office. Gwen pecked away at the laptop and Peter looked up. "Can we create a map of approximate times this energy wave will hit the coast?"
"Sure" Peter said.
"Jess, what are you working on?" Gwen asked.
"I...uh...well, here's the thing" Jessie began. "Jack never really outlined my job description, so I just...kind of...decided to write up a press release about this energy wave."
"A press release?" Gwen asked. Peter had a look on his face that read in the same manner as a coworker speaking up to a boss or a schoolmate getting mouthy with a teacher.
"We can't be all over the west coast. We need to alert the local authorities" Jessie replied. "I'm writing it up as an effect from military testing over open water, gas being blown in creating a possible mass hysteria."
"Can we do that, Gwen?" Peter asked. Gwen thought it over with a concerned look.
"I'm not finished with it yet" Jessie said. "I will let you look it over once I'm done."
"That could be very useful" Gwen said. "We always stayed in the dark as much as possible. We never created any press releases."
"Perhaps it's time we start" Jessie stated.
Gwen had the bulletin in her hands after a half-hour and read it aloud. "Torchwood Emergency Bulletin. Summary: Shifting winds will be redirecting Top Secret military testing from the North Atlantic Ocean south through the Irish Sea. This is an issuance for a Severe Emergency Alert for the entire Irish Sea area including: the western coast of Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, the western coast of Britain, and the eastern coast of Ireland. Additional details: The gas is odorless and colorless. The gas is known to cause temporary hysteria lasting up to 72 hours with fear and anxiety as the main factors. Expect traffic delays, possible rioting, and an increase of local crime. Reports of incidents can be emailed to EA dot System at Torchwood dot com." There were other bits of information on the bulletin so it appeared to be official, but it was essentially filler information. Gwen looked up at Jessie, surprised. "This looks and sounds like an official bulletin."
"We should probably get it sent out" Peter said. He had a map printed out with areas marked with times, approximations of when the energy wave would hit. "Can we get UNIT to assist?"
"I have some people waiting" Gwen said. She handed the bulletin to Jessie. "Send me a copy of that. Peter, can you get that email address set up?"
"Sure thing" Peter replied.
"Jess, get a copy of that over to Sergeant Andy Davidson, local police" Gwen ordered. Jessie left the office. Minutes later Gwen and Peter both had copies of the bulletin. Down the hall, in a small office that had been turned into a copy room, a fax machine was sending a copy of the bulletin to the local police.
The trio was making a special run around Cardiff after getting the bulletin out to all local emergency agencies in the suspected regions where the energy wave would be hitting. Gwen wanted to pick up some emergency supplies and Peter needed to pick up some basic tech for the Warehouse. It didn't take long to get what they needed.
"Anywhere else?" Peter asked starting up the van. They had picked up his things after the emergency supplies.
"I need to stop by the quay" Jessie said.
"What do you need from there?" Peter asked. He moved the van and pulled into traffic.
"Do you mean the Hub?" Gwen asked.
"Yeah, she lives there" Peter stated. He pulled into a turn lane and headed for the quay. Gwen turned in her seat to glare at Jessie.
"That place was destroyed" Gwen said. "I know, I was almost blown up along with it."
"It was actually pretty salvageable" Jessie replied. "Most of the damage went straight up and out."
Gwen was speechless when she stood in the middle of the hub. The clean up effort to this point must have been a great feat. There was still rubble, but it appeared to be contained to certain corners. The glass of Jack's old office was still in need of repair.
"This is amazing" Gwen said with a smile. It felt almost like being home.
"The armory survived the explosion" Jessie said. "The walls were thick and reinforced I guess. There wasn't much damage to it." Gwen walked over to the old, still broken workstations. "Jack hasn't really told me what exactly happened in here, other than there was an explosion."
"Yeah, well…" Gwen said looking at the spot, marked with a cracked floor and permanent black stain. "He exploded over there."
"What do you mean?" Peter asked.
"Big explosion" Gwen said more matter-of-factly. "Big boom. Over there."
"No, you said 'he exploded'. Who is 'he'?" Peter asked.
"Jack" Gwen replied. Jessie and Peter looked over at the black mark. It seemed unreal to them. Peter had not seen his recuperating abilities and Jessie had a hard time imagining him surviving some sort of explosion. Gwen's phone rang, breaking the quickening silence, and she wandered off to talk.
"I'll be right back" Jessie told Peter. She hurried up to Jack's office and collected a few things to bring back to the Warehouse with her, including a new jacket. "Hey Peter, what happens if rioting occurs all over the city or this energy wave makes people go insane? Shouldn't we find some kind of way to knock everyone out or something?"
"I don't think that's even possible" Peter replied. Peter's phone rang and he answered. "Hello? Oh hey, Jack." He listened for a moment. "No, we released an emergency bulletin." Peter glanced at Jessie. "With the help of UNIT." Jessie couldn't hear what Jack was saying, but the tone of his voice didn't sound happy. Peter looked at his watch. "You have about 39 hours. You should be able to make it back here tomorrow."
Peter's eyes grew big and he pulled his head away from his phone as Jack yelled. Jessie raised her eyebrows and headed into the armory. Peter walked around the Hub and found a spot where he could pace.
"Gwen had a phone call" Peter told Jack. He looked around, but didn't see Gwen and had no idea where she had wandered off to. "No, idea where she is. We're at the Hub getting a few things from the armory." Gwen entered the main room of the Hub with a backpack and a carry-on size hard case. "Wait, here she is." He hit speakerphone. "You're on speaker, Jack."
"Gwen, what the hell is going on?" Jack asked. "You got UNIT involved?!"
"I have Martha involved" Gwen replied. "We can't be everywhere and we needed reinforcements."
"Keep them away from Torchwood" Jack ordered.
"Jack, we need to go. If this energy wave is going to hit us in the next 38 hours, we need to be ready" Gwen said. She reached out and ended the call. "We should get moving. I want us to have a solid plan put together in 30 hours."
"You mean 38" Peter said.
"30" Gwen replied. "We can use the other 8 hours as a buffer. Where is the American?"
"She went over there" Peter replied pointing towards the armory. He called out. "Jess, let's go!"
"I'm coming" Jessie called back. There was a shuffle from the armory before she came out with a hard case. "I was just grabbing some extra stuff."
"Let's go. We have work to do" Gwen said.
By 4pm the nation was up in arms over the severe-level threat heading their way. The authorities were assuring the public that if they remained indoors for the next three days, things would be just fine. People were stocking up on food. The media was regurgitating the oncoming threat, spotted with tips on how to pass the next few days. The police were on high alert, UNIT was setting up various checkpoints along the west coast, and the military was on standby for additional assistance.
In the Torchwood Warehouse, Gwen was perched in front of a half dozen monitors and a laptop. She was monitoring the news and various reports from the police. She had sent Rhys and Anwen to London for a week, to keep them safe. Her current concern was the emerging stream of media claiming the threat was false.
Gwen took a break from the monitors when Peter brought her a fresh cup of coffee.
"Thanks" Gwen said. Her eyes were feeling dry. She felt out of practice.
"Where did Jess get off to?" Peter asked.
"What do you mean?" Gwen asked spinning around in her chair to face him.
"I just haven't seen her in about an hour. I thought you sent her to do something" Peter replied.
Gwen spun around and pulled up the phone program on her computer. She punched in Jessie's number and waited for her to pick up. "Jess? Where are you?"
"I'm almost back. I stepped out to get some things" Jessie replied.
"You can't just leave when we have a crisis going on!" Gwen shouted in disbelief. "What are you thinking?"
"Hey, Jess, it's Peter" Peter said chiming in. "Gwen's just a little worried about you."
"I'm getting us taken care of" Jessie said grimly before hanging up.
"What does that mean?" Gwen asked Peter. "Find her Peter. She sounds like she's breaking."
"I can track her phone" Peter replied. He took out his phone and tapped on it a few times before showing Gwen. The dot on the map showed that she was on her way back to the warehouse.
"Wrangle her" Gwen ordered. "We have things to take care of."
Peter watched Jessie pull into the warehouse. The garage door rolled down and finally came to a halt. She had taken the van.
"I didn't know you were licensed to drive over here" Peter said when she emerged.
"I'm not" Jessie said. She had changed. Instead of her usual retro attire, she was in bootcut jeans, boots, and a black military-style tactical jacket. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She went to the back of the van and started pulling out a supply of emergency food.
"You look different" Peter said. "Are you okay?"
"My wardrobe had to be adjusted" Jessie answered. She pulled out two bags of groceries. "We don't know what's going to happen when that wave hits. My jacket that got trashed in Ballure, that cost me about $125. This ugly thing cost me £20. Grab those emergency rations, would you?"
Peter easily grabbed the four 72-hour buckets and followed Jessie downstairs. "Gwen is pissed at you for leaving."
"Super" Jessie said with a sigh. She stopped at the door lock and punched in her code. "We need to think about locking this place down."