Standard disclaimers apply. One more story after this, kids. So many thanks to Rosesbud who has not annoyed me with all of her corrections : ) Stuff, stuff and more stuff… oh well. On with the show.

XYZ

Fade To Black

Chapter Ten

XYZ

Greg had an idea. He was good for them now and again. This had better work, though, because he'd officially used up his clever idea for the week, and he'd be in a sorry state if this didn't work itself out.

After another small pep talk, he left Violet to her numbers and figures. She'd told him once that most problems were solved by either mathematics or luck. He wasn't sure just how much he bought into that, but she seemed convinced. If she couldn't figure it out with numbers, he just hoped luck was on her side.

If he wasn't there, maybe she'd be a tad more inclined to focus, he hoped. Also, she wouldn't be thrown into a panic again when the call rang through. He dashed out of the building, across the campus lawn, and to the nearest fairly busy street. As soon as he got to the corner, it began vibrating in his hand.

Looking out into the junction, he watched an ugly green VW Beetle turn the corner on a flat tyre, the steel rim thudding against the tarmac every revolution. It continued on, the owner apparently trying to limp the thing to a garage. If he drove much further like that, he'd have to replace the wheel too, Greg noted absently, then accepted the call.

"Your hour's up."

He turned the phone towards the traffic slightly, so the party on the other end would hear some distinctly un-TARDIS-like sounds. "Violet's phone." Attempting to convince the inconvincible seemed like a good a plan as any.

He'd expected the man on the other end to sound annoyed, but there was some strange satisfaction in his tone. "Put her on."

Greg began walking further up the street, away from the residence halls. "I'll have ta walk back to her room. I grabbed her phone by mistake. Anything I can help you with?" Ignorance wasn't always feigned with him, but he put on his best clueless voice.

XYZ

The door was unlocked, which didn't seem all that secure, considering the secrecy of the operation—they were trying to create a controlled opening in the rift in a dormitory, but Gwen was a bit grateful for it as she hauled the oversized computer box through the threshold, especially when the girl at the desk didn't even turn around to acknowledge her presence. She pointed to a spot on the bed, still typing with one hand.

Thunking the box down on the cleared-off spot on the bed, Gwen rushed to shut the door. "Thanks for the help," she breathed sarcastically, still a tad out of breath from the haul and climb. Watching the changing shapes on the screens for a moment, and the girl's eyes flying back and forth between the monitors, she rested her hands on her hips. "How goes it?"

There were a few crumbs left on an oil-stained napkin next to the mouse, and a crushed-up, empty juice box on the floor. At least the girl had eaten something.

It took her a minute or two, but Violet finally acknowledged Gwen's presence, when the door opened and Jack brought in the second box. "Can't find a path through the Void," she muttered absently. "But I figured out why I could never get that other TARDIS to travel in time properly, I've also figured out why the Doctor dumped me here and now—besides having a friend here. Something strange is happening with the Rift. Every time the cracks jump to other places in space, it changes the nature of the connection with the Void. He sent me here specifically so I wouldn't try this. Jerk."

"Great, we'll have more unwanted stuff washing through," Jack grumbled, setting the box down on the carpet at the foot of the bed. "So is this, or is this not going to work?"

Turning around, the girl shrugged. "Dunno. Guess I'll find out when I get in there."

Jack folded his arms over his chest. "You know, I'd like just a little more confidence that we aren't going to be exploded or trapped once we get in there."

Violet walked over to the box on the floor, tearing the tape off. "And by 'we' you mean 'me.' I'm the only one going." Not even caring to see his reaction, she began pulling paper away from the device. Ok, it DID look like a cosmic cappuccino machine. She'd spot him that one. "Oooh, nice work on the miniature dampeners. No wonder you fit it into only two boxes."

Jack pulled the paper out of her hands, tossing it back on the box contents. "I'm offering to help you."

She could see that he was angry, despite his even tone. It was tough to be sure if this was because she was throwing his kindness back in his face, or if he was afraid he wouldn't get his answers, once she left. Especially if this trip ended up being one-way. "Look, you're going to get your answers. I just can't give them to you. Laws of time and space and all that." Hopefully this wouldn't require going into any further details. It was a hope she had—probably wouldn't pan out though.

His voice was very tight and controlled when he spoke. "Why not?" Oh yes. He was very, very angry with her. "I'm helping you. We are helping you--"

Violet sighed, rubbing her temples. Stupid three dimensional beings. "Because you already have your answers. At least to me. That's my past. Well, technically not my past, I was in another universe when it happened…never mind. Look. It's your future. This Doctor's past. That's all I can say." She wasn't sure how much more she could give up without doing the whole paradoxical time warp (which sadly didn't involve anyone dressing in drag or throwing anything at movie screens).

The Doctor had said something to her, when she'd asked if he was coming to see Greg off. He said he couldn't run into himself, or WORSE, anyone he knew. Which meant, there was business he had already completed here… in his past, but this timeline's future. And if she gave away anything too soon…she'd change that encounter that Jack apparently had (would have?) with the Doctor.

He let her pull the paper out of his hand. She tossed it behind her, like a kid at Christmas. "I know it stinks on ice. But at least you know you are going to get your answers, right?"

Standing, Jack rubbed the back of his neck. "So what the hell am I supposed to do till then?"

Gwen gently grabbed his arm, trying to console him. "You're going to get your answer, Jack. Isn't that enough?"

Frowning, he tried not to let his disappointment show. "It's time travel. I could get my answers tomorrow, I could get them a hundred years from now."

Violet felt bad. No wonder all of her readings in the Doctor's old school texts about how a Time Lord was to behave in the universe always talked about dispassionate interest and impartiality. If you let your emotions get into it… imagine all the mucking about you could do. "Help me get this out of the box." She tried to find some place to get some leverage on it, but couldn't find anything.

Sighing, Jack pulled out a pocketknife, tearing through the sides of the box, revealing half the device. "Lets just get this over-with, then." When he started cutting open the second box, he turned to Gwen, who was watching with arms crossed over her chest. "Can you see what's taking Tosh so long with the generators? I'd like to get this over with before Christmas."

The woman wasn't pleased, but she left without another word.

The door closed, and the room's two occupants worked in silence for a few minutes, bent over the soldered copper connectors, trying to hard wire the two parts of the device together.

Dragging cables from the server to the spout-y looking power adapter, Violet began connecting it to the computer that would drive the computations needed to make the controlled hole that she needed in the rift. "So…you knew Rose Tyler?"

Jack froze for a second, then continued with his setup. "Maybe."

Getting everything secure, Violet stood up and dug around for the keyboard, trying to see if everything was compatible, functional, and talking to each other. "Unless the Doctor has a fetish for people with the name 'Rose,' I think you did."

Punching a few buttons on his wrist computer, Jack refused to look her in the eye. "I don't know, does he have a fetish for people named after flowers in general?"

Violet looked away, turning back to her monitors. "I just… wanted to know what she was like. Back then."

Jack relaxed a bit, his hand resting on top of the monstrous and bulky device that was now taking up the foot of the bed and the floor in front of it. It wasn't the kid's fault. "Look…she was a good girl. Funny, gorgeous. Made a hell of a peanut brittle, if you can believe it. Too brave for her own good, and I'm betting it got her killed. If I know her, she was at Canary Wharf when that whole thing went down—right in the middle of it, and that's something else the Doctor's going to have to answer for."

Putting the keyboard down, Violet wandered the empty space in the room, thinking. She couldn't be governed by her emotions—sometimes hard decisions had to be made for the sake of the universe…

Closing her eyes, she rested a hand on his. "You understand…I never told you this. In fact—you don't know me. We're talking…Void monsters coming to clean up the mess and the whole bit—universe damaging stuff. What the hell am I saying? You're a Time Agent. You know how dangerous it is to muck with timelines, especially if you know what's supposed to happen next. I can't tell you any more about the Bad Wolf, or what's happened to you. The Doctor has to do that. I shouldn't even be giving you this much, but… Well, I may have failed my final examination already, so what's a little bit of a paradox between friends?"

She looked up at Jack, trying to convey just how serious she was about the potential for a paradox. "She's still alive. And I don't mean it in a…retarded Time Lord 'every moment is now' kind of way. She's alive in your timeline. She's alive in mine." Violet looked away. "I didn't tell you that, ok?"

His hand turned and he closed it over her small one. "Didn't tell me what?"

Violet was about to repeat herself, but she saw the grin spread across his face, and she pulled her hand away. "That's not nice. But exactly what I'm talking about."

Jack slapped her good arm. "God, you're so gullible. I used to do stuff like that all the time to--" he blinked and looked away. "Lemme guess, don't ask, because you can't tell?"

Sighing, Violet sat back down at the monitors. "Pretty much. You absolutely cannot tell the Doctor--"

Rolling his eyes, Jack leaned against the wall, hands in his pockets. "I'm hardly a time-travel virgin. I'm not going to tell him anything."

XYZ

"Put her on."

Oh no. Rose had to look back, when she heard that. She caught a glimpse of the Doctor's face twisting when he heard the way this phone conversation was going. Violet was up to something, which was very frightening. They should have known, but… ugh. Who the hell was she kidding? Violet was genetically incapable of staying out of trouble.

The man turned away from them ever so slightly, his compatriot still standing behind the Doctor. "I don't have time to wait for these…antics. Let me rephrase this. Her mother does not have time to wait."

Before Rose knew what happened, the man's hand was wrapped around her hair, the rough worn parts of the glove catching and pulling on the strands he'd ripped his fingers through. He yanked her head suddenly, smashing it off of the high back of the chair causing the world to go a violent blue-black for just a second.

An involuntary gasp escaped her. She hadn't meant to give them even that much satisfaction, but she really hadn't expected it. "Violet, whatever you're thinking of doing—DON'T!"

It earned her another sharp tug that caused her to see stars again.

The second the world came back into semi-focus from the darkness (that slight shade of difference between seeing double, versus seeing nothing), she caught a glimpse of the Doctor nodding. Without thinking, she tore her left hand free of the cuffs, pulling her wrist through the constricted bungee cord and pushed the man away.

The Doctor was a bit better off, both of his hands came free, and he was able to grab hold of the man behind him, hauling him over the high back of the chair.

Rose had been pulling her other arm free, dragging the cuffs behind her, when she heard the Doctor scream out in pain. The man landed on the ground at the Doctor's feet, revealing a small metal handle, like a dentists' instrument, protruding from the Doctor's shoulder, just below the collarbone.

She began tearing her legs free of the elastic cord, digging for the pins on the shackles around her ankles just as the man with the phone grabbed her by the bloody collar of her blouse, yanking her back into the chair. Without thinking, her elbow caught him under the jaw and her other hand found his shirt and she pulled him down to the ground.

The mobile phone hit the ground, crushing beneath the weight of the man, and when he rolled off, she could see that it was in pieces. Rose went through more phones that way...

Finally pulling the pins free, she got to her feet and free of the miles of rope wrapped around her only to find the Doctor's assailant pointing a gun at her from his position on the floor. She froze.

The Doctor managed to pull the thin, sharp implement from his flesh. He shifted his weight forward. A second later everything erupted—a thousand things happening in the bat of an eye. "Go!" he shouted, plunging it into the gunman's arm in a reciprocal fashion.

Rose didn't think—the second he shouted to go, she turned and threw herself around the corner of the TARDIS, feeling a sharp pain just before she hit the ground. Scrambling on hands and knees toward the front, she almost slipped on something she vaguely recognized as blood—her own, apparently.

Damning her height, or lack there-of, she jumped up, reaching for the spare key behind the lit sign on the box—hopefully the ship still recognized her and would let her have it. She'd never known it to give the key to anyone other than the Doctor, but the TARDIS was a clever thing.

Hand wrapping around something cold and metal, she hit the ground and fell against the door, breathing hard. Shoving the key into the lock, she realized it was very slick and coated red, the same as her hand. She almost couldn't turn it, but the door swung inward just as footsteps rushed around the ship, and she felt the man's hands pound on the door the moment it clicked closed behind her.

Leaning against the door, she pressed a palm to the wound--to the area that was on fire. Upset with herself that she wasn't even able to help the Doctor, Rose slid down the door then looked up at the green glowing control console. "Well," she breathed. "I'm open to suggestions."

XYZ

Two dark-haired women were carrying large hexagonal-shaped boxes down the hall and were only a few feet from his room. Greg could only guess they were the power generators, but he didn't have time to confirm. Phone in hand, he rushed between them, muttering his apologies. Barging into his own room, he stopped at the edge of the clutter of equipment taking over his desk, bed and floor space. "Something's happened," he managed to get out as he struggled for breath.

Captain Jack merely looked up from the back side of the server and some extraneous wires he was stripping. Violet leapt up from her chair, and her final set of calculations. "What's going on?"

He tried to explain what he'd heard before it cut out. "I tried calling back, and got nothing. Not even a ringing or a busy tone."

Jack held up a hand the moment he saw the panic threatening to explode in the girl. "Now, this could mean anything."

Violet shook her head. "But I can't be sure. And those people still have my gran. My gran hasn't had anything to do with Torchwood or this alien business. If nothing else, I have to make sure she's safe. Plus mum said to NOT do it, which means it's my genetic obligation as her offspring to disobey—and that whatever it is—it's bad. And…" she looked at Greg, perhaps attempting to judge his reaction to her next words. "It's time to go home."

The young man just nodded. He probably wasn't going to see her again. Even if she made it through the Void, even if she survived whatever the other Torchwood had in store, this was it for them. A week ago, he'd been planning on walking off the TARDIS, never to see her or the Doctor again, and had accepted it. Today, he couldn't fathom not seeing her again. Taking one of the large boxes from the shorter of the two women, he found a spot on the other side of his bed for it, and began pulling the cardboard away. "Captain Jack's right," he said very quietly, "lets get this show on the road."

Jack had already found a spot for the other generator, tearing the packing away from the device—a smooth white metal with some sort of glowing blue regulator on the front. It was a simple matter to hook it back up. Two jumper cables and a few flipped switches later, and the whole setup was glowing like a Christmas tree with all the lights and readouts.

Violet wiped her forehead, looking it over. "Right. Let me just make sure I have all the levels as correct as I can make them—I mean, I'm leaving it up to chance. Don't need to leave it quite SO up to chance. Can someone tell me what the rotation of the wave signatures is on both generators?"

She sat down at the computer while the Asian lady (Toshiko? He couldn't ever remember) read out a series of numbers. He put both hands on her shoulders. Feeling the tension in her neck and back, he began gently rubbing the knots. "I'll miss you," he whispered as she continued typing. "I—You should let me go with you."

A few keystrokes later, one of the monitors flipped to a magenta graph, showing the power draw from both devices as the 'cosmic cappuccino machine,' as Captain Jack had dubbed it, began building enough energy to crack the rift like a walnut. The machine started humming and Violet turned around, putting a hand on his. "Are you ready for the very real chance that you'll never see your family again?" But she didn't let him answer. "I'm not ready for that for you. I—look. I'll call you, alright?"

It wasn't the answer he was looking for, but he nodded. She needed him to have faith in her right now. She didn't need his sudden and belated realization that there'd be a hollow place in his life without her. "Take care of yourself."

When she got up, Jack took her place at the computer. "I'll count you down." When she opened her mouth to ask how he planned on doing that, he grinned. "Don't worry about me—I know very little about many things. Not enough to do any good, but just enough to be dangerous."

A warm smile broke out on Violet's face. "Thank you. For everything. I'll…tell them you say hi." Plying him with another peck on the cheek, she stepped around the second generator. Taking both of Gwen's hands, the girl smiled. "Thanks for being a mother hen." Unable to resist, she put her arms around the woman. One squeeze later, and she scooted toward the equipment at the foot of the bed, holding out a hand to the other woman. "Sorry we didn't really get to meet. But you did amazing work on this thing. Period. I won't even say for a human, because that's just rude. I'd have never gotten it together in time on my own."

Greg tried to keep a neutral look on his face as she turned to Captain Jack, nodding as she turned a dial on the equipment at her feet. "I'm at fifty percent. Bumping to seventy five…" She almost seemed surprised that nothing was blowing up in her face.

An instant later, a pink arc began running from two thin antennae on either side of the device. When Violet declared ninety percent, then a hundred, a field opened up between the antennae, the color of bubble gum, green and purple tendrils of power wisping off the field. She watched it grow for a moment, then turned back to Greg. "Don't forget me," she whispered then looked to Jack for her go-ahead.

Seeing the field stabilize, Jack turned to the only screen bearing readable characters. "Dimensional rip opening in three…two…one…"

Before she could think twice about it (the second thought no doubt would have seen her talking herself out of it), she stepped through the portal that had opened. The world seemed to be on fire for a moment as the light burned her eyes, but then the brightness faded.

It all melted away, every last bit of pink and green, like fireworks on a cool autumn night, shrinking away into a thick, cloudy darkness at the end of the finale. It was thick and metallic, too—pressing in against her like the grave. The last of the light died away and she desperately searched for a pathway…

Just as she saw and felt and heard everything around her…fade to black.

The End…till next time

(in a story with an as-yet-to-be-determined clever name).