A/N: This is a short preview of my next series of Torchwood stories, "The Wandering Years." One down, eight to go...


New York Nights

30th November 1971. Torchwood Three, Cardiff

Hugh looked up as Hywel dropped the package on his desk.

"You the delivery boy now, son?"

"It's from New York," Hywel said excitedly. "It's from Jack."

"It's probably just his latest report." Hugh closed the file he'd been working on and carefully tore the bulky envelope open. Inside was a set of papers stapled together in one corner, a handwritten note and something that looked like a folded piece of dark material. Hugh fished it out first, unfolding it and laughing.

"He's sent you a present," he said, throwing the object to Hywel. It was a cap, dark blue with a stylised "NY" monogram on the front. "Now go on with you and get some work done."

"Neat." Hywel pulled the cap on, took the empty mug from his father's desk and headed for the door as Hugh settled back to read.

Dear Hugh,

Well, here's the new novel. New York is big, brash and loud, kind of like the people. Hours of fun (remind me to tell you about the boa constrictor), although I wouldn't include the assignment in that. Turns out things can get just as messy over here as they can over there and Weevils aren't the worst of it.

Have heard that Harding wasn't impressed with my last offering, so will hope that this is more to his taste. Have tried to put more between the lines, although I began to run out of room near the end. I'm relying on you to check my typing, by the way.

I enclose a present for Hywel and a kiss for Marion, both of which I'm sure I can trust you to deliver faithfully.

Yours as ever
Jack.

Between the lines indeed. Putting the note to one side, Hugh unfolded the pages of Jack's report. He was sure it would make interesting reading.

From: Captain Jack Harkness
To: Torchwood One, London. (c/o Torchwood Three, Cardiff)
Date: 12th November 1972
Subject: Report on Assignment TW/JH/196.72

Arrived in New York on 15th October after a satisfactory conclusion to Assignment TW/JH/195.72 in Boston. With all the leaves falling, no-one noticed any difference anyway. As Torchwood does not maintain an office in New York, I proceeded alone, acting on the information provided by Intercept. At the location indicated, I encountered several members of federal law enforcement and, despite an initial misunderstanding, agreed that it would be better to pool our resources.


Gingerly, Jack dabbed at his lip with the handkerchief. The ice-cube it was wrapped around helped with the swelling and there didn't seem to be any more blood. Across the table, the rather red-faced FBI agent winced in sympathy.

"I'm really sorry, Captain."

"I told you to forget about it." Jack didn't attempt his usual grin, not wanting to open the gash again, so he settled for a rueful half-smile. "And thanks for the ice."

"No problem." The man stared at the desk again, twirling a pencil between his fingers. "I'm sure Tom'll be right back with the coffees."

"I'm sure. So why don't you bring me up to speed while we're waiting? What took you guys there?"

The agent hesitated, but the memory of the past hour must have overruled his reluctance. "The police have been finding some pretty weird bodies lately. Mauled by animals or something like that, and too many of them. They thought it might be a serial killer, so they passed it over to us. All the bodies turned up within ten blocks of that store, so when a neighbour reported suspicious noises-"

"You put two and two together." Jack dropped the ice-cube onto the table. "Can't say I blame you. Special Agent O'Brien, wasn't it? You got a first name?"

"Sean."

"Should have guessed. Well, Sean, you were right about the store and you were right about the bodies. The only problem is, you're wrong about the animals."

They both looked up as the door opened and they were joined by O'Brien's partner. Tom Jenkins, Jack remembered. He was carrying three mugs of coffee, manoeuvring expertly round the door and putting them on the table.

"There we go. What was that about animals, Captain?"

"Please, call me Jack." Taking his coffee, Jack sipped cautiously. "I was just saying, you were right that what you're looking for came through that store and is responsible for the dead bodies you've been finding. How many was it, by the way?"

"Seven. Some of them were in pieces. One had had its brain eaten." Jenkins shuddered, taking a swig of coffee. "Pretty nasty stuff and we see the worst of it."

"Ate the brain?" Jack thought for a moment. "That's interesting." He saw the two agents share a look and shook his head. "The stranger it is, the more helpful it is for narrowing it down."

"Narrow down what?" Jenkins slammed his cup onto the table, coffee sloshing over the sides. His voice was tight, rising in volume as he spoke. "You turn up, breaking and entering premises that we've got under surveillance, you nearly take my arm off when we try to arrest you, then you produce some fancy ID that's got the Bureau Chief himself showing you the red carpet. Now you're being all cryptic and knowing instead of just telling us what the hell's going on here."

Unimpressed, Jack took another sip of coffee before answering. "Ok, first of all, you had a gun pointed at me, so whatever I did was purely self-defence. Second of all, my ID gets me all the way to the President himself if necessary, so fancy doesn't begin to cover it and you need to know who you're talking to. And last of all, I'm going to tell you what's going on, as soon as I figure out if you guys can take it." He didn't raise his voice or look away from Jenkins' angry face. The man subsided under the steady gaze, glancing at his partner who had remained quiet through the exchange.

"But you don't deny you were breaking and entering?" O'Brien said, breaking the tense silence.

For a moment, Jack forgot his split lip and grinned. "I try not to break things. Leaves so much mess." He picked up the handkerchief and wiped the blood away again. "But yes, I was trying to get into the store."

"Why?"

Jack hesitated, then said, "Because my own sources had told me that something was going on there." He sat up, fishing in his pocket for a small, black object which he placed on the table. "This is an energy detector. It- well, it detects energy, but it can tell what kind of energy it's detecting. And it picked up a specific kind of energy that I'm interested in."

"What would that be?" O'Brien asked. Both of the agents were leaning forwards now, looking from Jack to the scanner and back again. Unable to help himself, Jack leaned in further until their heads were almost touching.

"Alien energy," he said in a half-whisper, and watched the reactions. Jenkins sat back, making a disgusted noise and reaching for his coffee again.

"If you're just going to screw with us-"

"Nothing further from my mind, trust me," Jack said, looking at O'Brien. "Well, Special Agent?"

"How does it detect it?"

"Sean!"

"You saw the bodies, Tom," Sean said evenly. "Did it look like it was done by any animal you've ever seen?" He looked up at Jack. "How does it detect the alien energy?"

"You don't believe a word of it, do you?" Jack said. "But since you've had the manners to askā€¦" He pressed one of the buttons on the bottom of the scanner, making the display light up. "You just have to know how to use it."

"So you're seriously telling me that all those people were killed by aliens?" O'Brien watched the waves on the display.

"Not exactly. I'm telling you that they were killed by alien animals. Someone's importing them from off-world, probably selling them as exotic pets. Only they don't know enough about it and some of the animals are getting out and killing people."

"How do we find them?"

Jenkins exploded. "Sean, would you stop? This guy waltzes in like he owns the place, spins us some fairy tale about alien animals and you just buy it?"

"Not a word," O'Brien said with a grin. "But I love a good story, and you're one of the best I've ever seen." He gave Jack an appreciative nod. "You even bring your own props. So what's really going on?"

"Apparently, you wouldn't believe me if I told you." Jack turned the scanner off and put it back in his pocket. "But if you want to see for yourselves, then stick with me. I promise you the ride of your lives." He got up, heading for the door of the small interview room, pausing to look back at the two men. "Well, are you coming?"