Ianto stood by the arrival gate at the local space port on Hevinya Three. The terminal was looking as worn as ever. The planet government was full of good intentions but had no money, so making do was a national obsession. Hevinya meant 'Heaven's Vineyard', although Ianto noted that there was nothing heavenly about the local brew. But this place was heaven as far as Ianto was concerned.
He had once told Jack his days with Liselle were the happiest in his life. Now every moment was filled with the sense that everything was right in his world. And Jack was his whole world. The man was his lover and best friend. Jack's love kept him honest and ensured his feet remained firmly on the ground. In return Jack had Ianto's complete devotion.
Hevinya may seem an odd place to have settled but Hevinya's position on the outer rim was the perfect headquarters for the newly formed 'Minulaya Anti-Slavery Trust'.
As always it was location, location, location; the planet was right on the edge of the 50 planets that made up the Home System. This sector was linked with three other space systems all responsible for the illegal trade in slaves. Many of the Governments within these sectors were 90% agricultural and subject to the wild variations in commodity pricing. As a consequence, selling a stranger and in some cases family members represented hard to come by cash.
One hard lesson they had learned in their naiveté was while people may agree in principal that buying, selling, or even owning another sentient was immoral, even evil, it was a fact of life. For the vast majority of cases slavery's continued existence was down to poverty with all planetary resources going towards survival first and morality second.
The reality was, on planets like Hevinya selling another living breathing being could set up an impoverished family for life.
On top of this were those individuals with no other motive than the desire for wealth and in some cases sadistic enjoyment of seeing others suffer.
Neither Ianto nor Jack were daunted. For, in just two years of setting up on Hevinya they had rescued 187 individuals and set up sanctuaries for refugees and bonded workers who might be exploited on four other worlds, with several more to follow.
Right now they were working on strengthening the local sector regulations as well as planetary laws. Carrot and stick diplomacy, Jack called it. Make the risk so high it was unthinkable and at the same time replacing slavery with something more worthwhile where everyone benefited. If this was achievable then all they had to do was deal with rogue traders.
That was why Jack had been meeting regulators on Thime. Ianto fully understood there were occasions when Jack's charms could be put to the best possible use; he could flatter, flirt, and cajole government types far better than Ianto could. There were times when Ianto's patience left him seriously close to strangling those who refused to listen to all of his reasoned arguments.
Checking the arrivals board again Ianto swallowed down his anxious impatience. This was not just a surprise welcome home moment. He had received some very bad news that would upset Jack greatly.
The news meant the opening of a very old wound for both of them. Suzie Costello had managed to escape the maximum security mental facility on Pentair 5, a planet that specialised in the care of the mentally insane. Worse, she had been missing for months. At first the authorities were not concerned, after all this was a high security prison planet, even if someone escaped onto the surface, there was all the satellite and space station planetary security systems, where could she go?
After weeks of searching the realisation dawned that she had actually gotten off planet. Jack would be upset, hell Ianto was upset.
'Past ache of my groin.' Ianto turned to see John Hart coming towards him.
'John, what a surprise.' Ianto hugged the man with genuine affection. 'How's Jackson?'
John let out a long, contented sigh and a goofy look grew on his face. 'Sublime. That's who I'm here to meet.'
'Here?' Ianto raised his eyebrows in surprise. Jackson was first class all the way and Ianto knew from bitter experience out of season Hevinya didn't have even a one-star hotel. 'You should have said. Jack and I would be happy to put you both up.'
'We're here between missions. We need to catch up, compare notes and to be honest,' John winked, ' I'm not sure we want to keep it down.'
'I'd heard you two really hit it off.'
John grin grew even bigger then gave up another happy sigh. 'We are more than an it, we are a happening. I can't thank you enough, I mean you and I would have been glorious but then you would never have felt guilty enough to suggest Jackson.' Ianto listened, bemused 'It's comes down stamina and Jackson…well, he can even outdo me in inventive desires.'
'John.' Ianto saw a blur he recognised as his cousin seemingly merged with John, like an octopus weaving its arms and legs.
Long seconds passed before the pair peeled themselves apart. 'Hi Ianto,' Jackson said then took John's hand. "Bye Ianto,' and the pair hurriedly headed towards the space port.
'It's been three months,' John called back.
'We'll catch up for dinner?' Ianto called out.
'Call us in five days!' Jackson shouted back.
Ianto laughed as he watched the pair and shook his head in amusement. Jackson and John were the gossip of the family. Ianto was not sure if Charles was ever going to forgive him, on the other hand he had never seen Jackson so happy. John and Jackson were made for each other. John had a lust for sex that matched Jackson's appetite and stamina.
Glancing up at the arrivals board he checked twice to realise Jack's flight was still not showing arrival as it should. An announcement declared the flight to be delayed. Ianto groaned. If the flight was seriously delayed he was never going to hear the end of it.
Being on better terms with his family had unleased something in his dad. Now he openly showered Ianto with gifts but always on a practical level, hence the state of the art strata interplanetary flyer currently sitting in one of the spaceport hangars.
It did no good, it sitting in the hangar. Jack had argued that he needed to use it if he was to keep his pilot licence. And the gift was perfect for short hauls, clearly its intended purpose.
On the other hand, Ianto argued arriving in such a vehicle would bring a huge spotlight of exposure on Jack, who often travelled to do research and would put him at huge risk. Considering how much they were hated by the cartel, arriving on some out of the way place with the equivalent of a huge 50-meter sign advertising you were ultra-rich was asking for it.
He looked towards the arrivals board again. To his consternation it was now showing a one hour delay. There was nothing for it but to endure the diabolical coffee on offer at the local coffee shack.
Exiting the café, he checked the arrivals board and he saw Jack's flight number had been removed.
An announcement rang out and he found himself heading towards the space carrier's information desk. He joined about a dozen other worried looking beings.
'The flight has been delayed,' an official looking being declared the gathered crowd.
'If the flight has been just delayed then why have you removed the flight from the board?' one of those gathered asked.
'How delayed?' Ianto asked.
'There has been a glitch,' the being tried to sound upbeat.
'What kind of glitch?' Ianto moved forward,
'We've lost contact which could indicate an issue with the comms array or a problem with the engines. We are trying to re-establish contact as we speak,' the being tried to calm everyone down.
'What do you know?' A woman spoke up.
'Flight 175 transmitted to the Makkan beacon exactly on time, but missed the Ugee transponder.' The being scanned the worried faces.
'If the problem is a beacon failure then why did you tell us it's the engines or communication fault?' one of the others pointed out.
'Why haven't you sent a tracker to see what the issue is?' another of those gathered suggested.
'We only have two, one is out of service and the other is undergoing repair,' the carrier representative told them.
'What are you going to do?' Another person spoke up angrily.
'We asked for help from The Gayan Confederacy but with no distress signal I can't get permission from the Hevinya Space Authority to authorise the request.'
'In other words, it would cost money,' a rotund being at the back said.
'As I said there has been no emergency message picked up by the Ugee Beacon. It's most likely be a communication malfunction,' the official said.
'How can you be so sure?' another from the back said with a rising panic.
'All Flight Nova ships are equipped with emergency beacons. If anything had happened to the ship the Ugee transponder would have transmitted the signal. If there was a true emergency, we would know because the emergency beacon would have triggered,' the representative told them as confidently as he could.
'Unless the ship itself was disabled in such a way none of the emergency signals had been activated,' Ianto told himself thinking back to what happened on the Torchwood.
With a growing sense of unease bordering on panic Ianto left the crowd of unhappy greeters and headed for the charter desk to find it unmanned.
Pulling out his communicator he called the number emblazoned on the wall. After listening to the answering message, he spoke fighting to keep his voice calm. 'This is Ianto Jones at your space port desk. Find me a pilot that can handle a Xhortrok Mark IV and get them to meet me in docking bay 94.' He snapped his communicator shut.
Reaching the hangar, he entered the flyer and began the start-up process. Nothing nearly so grand as the process suggested and only required a code.
The moments ticked passed when his communicator sounded.
'Sorry sir I have to report there are no pilots available.'
'What do you mean, no one? You have a huge sign saying you have chartered pilots available for a visitor's every possible need.'
'With all due respect the tourist season is months away,' the voice replied.
'You must have someone,' Ianto growled.
'We do but they are only certified for atmosphere hopping and none of them have a licence to fly a Xhortrok Mark IV. We can get someone, but it will be seven solar cycles to get them here. Do you want me to send for someone?'
Ianto ended the call without a reply. He only had one option left and he dialled the family emergency number.
'This had better be damn good,' Jackson hissed clearly out of breath.
'Can you pilot a Xhortrok Mark IV?'
'You interrupted me to ask me that?' Jackson grumbled.
'The ship Jack was travelling on stopped communicating and could be in trouble. The planet doesn't have the resources to ask for help unless the emergency beacon is triggered. I, however, I have a ship, but no pilot.'
'It could be nothing an engine or communication issue,' Jackson replied.
'Or something could have happened to the ship that prevented any distress signal being activated,' Ianto replied. 'Now, can you pilot a Xhortrok Mark IV or not?'
'Where are you?' Jackson asked and Ianto heard a groan of disappointment in the background.
'Docking bay 94,' Ianto said and the line went dead. 'I'll take that as yes then.' Ianto set about getting clearance to leave.
'You know coitus interruptus is the cause of blue balls,' John said in greeting.
'I wouldn't have called…'
'Wow I see you got the deluxe model,' Jackson burst out on seeing the luxurious interior.
'A gift from Dad and don't get me started.' Ianto handed the flight plan to Jackson.
Jackson sat down and began to familiarise himself with the controls.
'The flight Jack was on reached the Makkan beacon but didn't make the Ugee intersection,' Ianto explained.
Jackson revved up the engines the ship began to vibrate with understated power. 'I've wanting to get my hands on Dad's since he got his but as you know he's not speaking to me at the moment,' Jackson said in an excited voice then put his hands on the controls. 'So in my enthusiasm I'll try not to scratch the paint.'
'You can wreck the bloody thing for all care, just get me to Jack,' Ianto said and the ship lifted off and screamed towards the atmosphere.
Using such a state of the art modern strato-liner they hit the Ugee Intersection in just under 55 minutes. Immediately Jackson set the ship to retrace the flight plan of the Argos.
'That's strange,' Jackson said after headed towards the Argos' last known position. 'I'm picking up some strange energy readings.'
Ianto took one look at the read out and went pale.
'We've seen this before,' John added now sharing Ianto's concern.
'It's impossible,' Ianto tried to control his anxiety.
'Not as impossible as we thought,' John said.
'We destroyed the technology and I know for a fact all knowledge of the weapon used to take down the Torchwood was classified,' Ianto replied.
'You will need to explain?' Jackson asked.
'It's an energy signature that is left when a ship is hit with a very nasty take down manoeuvre. Last used against the Torchwood.
'You sure?' Jackson checked
'The wave form is unmistakable,' Ianto told him.
'Can't be a coincidence,' John said.
'It's not,' Ianto told John who looked at him curiously.
'Ship dead ahead,' Jackson announced.