A New Age Dawns
Word Count: 4047 (51,297 out of 50,000 - 102 to goal)
Disclaimers: Torchwood and its characters belong to the BBC. I'm just borrowing them briefly.
Summary: Set immediately following End of Days but prior to the beginning of Series Two, Torchwood Three's leader is gone. What will happen in the meantime?
She didn't remember falling asleep. The last thing she did clearly recall was sitting down on the too hard bed and leaning back against the too lumpy pillows to work on seeing if she couldn't find a workable solution to the phone problem. She vaguely remembered being frustrated by the lack of one that she could come up with using the materials she had brought here with her. She had definitely not anticipated a need to have to fix a buggy mobile network. Archangel was supposed to be global, as Owen had pointed out in his little pique earlier. As usual, she had overpacked a bit with everything she would need to fix her computer if anything untoward happened to it: screwdrivers of various styles and sizes, screws of every size she had been able to find in her apartment and the Hub on such short notice, a miniature hammer for just in case (in case she needed to flatten a piece or in case of co-workers, it never hurt to be prepared), and plenty else besides that.
But fallen asleep she had, though a quick glance at her watch said it hadn't been for long. Maybe fifteen minutes; Gwen had been asleep nearly an hour. What had woken her up, anyway? It couldn't be the fact there was something else in the room. Yes, she was used to sleeping alone, but there was a good metre or so between Gwen's bed and hers, and apparently the other woman was too exhausted to do more than just lie there: she hadn't moved an inch that Tosh could tell, and she certainly wasn't snoring or sleepwalking to have dragged her from unconsciousness.
From the end of her bed, her computer beeped again. In large red letters over the Archangel logo, the screen read, 'Saxon Broadcast All Channels'. A few keystrokes changed the screen over to the news feed she had turned up earlier. Mister Saxon was just settling in to speak, and she spared a half second to glance over at Gwen, wondering if she should wake her up. But then he started to speak before she could make up her mind properly. "Britain, Britain, Britain... What extraordinary times we've had. Just a few years ago, this world was so small."
She felt her eyes go wide. This couldn't be going where it sounded like it was going, could it? Still, she leaned back and banged on the wall behind her bed, startling Gwen awake as well. The only reason she didn't look over to find a gun trained on her was because she had slid it out of Gwen's back pocket after Owen and Ianto left the room. "Wh-What is it?" the other woman sleepily asked, sitting up slowly, even as a second or so later, Ianto and Owen burst back into the room.
"What?" Of course Owen was surly that was a given. Anyone who knew him knew to expect something like that.
"Shush. I believe Mister Saxon is talking about aliens."
Now that got their attention, and before she knew what to do, there were three more people piled on her too hard bed with its too lumpy pillows, all of them trying to see the laptop as their Prime Minister continued speaking.
"And then they came, out of the unknown, falling from the skies." On the screen, a spaceship flew into the clock face of Big Ben, and she sat up a little straighter.
"That was when I met the Doctor!" she exclaimed quietly, conscious of not overwhelming the audio on the feed.
"You've seen it happen. Big Ben, destroyed. The spaceship over London. All those ghosts and metal men. The Christmas Star that came to kill. Time and time again, and the government told you nothing."
This time it was Owen sitting up straighter, looking utterly affronted. "And it's so much better to start a mass panic and risk hundreds of lives than to keep people in the dark and only risk a few trained people? Please."
"Well, not me, not Harold Saxon. Because my purpose here today is to tell you this: citizens of Great Britain..." Oh, something about this gave her a sinking feeling in her bones; this was not going to go well. To her side, Gwen looked almost physically ill with worry. "I have been contacted. A message for humanity from beyond the stars."
He looked to his right and nodded slightly. Another video overlaid the one of the Prime Minister, this one displaying a small metal ball. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she was categorising it for addition into the records database: not too big, about the size of a human skull, black with blinking lights on around its centre. When it spoke or the recorded message began or whatever, the voice reminded her of a nursery school child: childlike, with a gait and pitch that adults seemed to lose for the most part. "People of the Earth, we come in peace. We bring great gifts. We bring technology and wisdom and protection - and all we ask in return is your friendship."
"Don't buy it," immediately came from Owen. She couldn't help agreeing. They had me so very few non-hostile aliens in their careers at Torchwood that it was easier to believe the worst than the best. A small nod from Ianto and the determined look on Gwen's face seemed to indicate they were united in this assessment.
The camera cut back to Mister Saxon, and frankly she had to grin at the face he was making at the camera, serious situation going on or not. "Oh, sweet. And this species has identified itself. They are called the Toclafane."
She found Owen's attention turning to the rest of them. "Ringing any bells for anyone here?" She shook her head, holding on to hope for a few scant seconds that maybe she had just been out sick that day or something, but then Ianto and Gwen also shrugged in confusion. So an alien race that Torchwood had never heard of. The whole damn thing could possibly have grown more interesting, she was sure, but she wasn't too sure how.
"And tomorrow morning, they will appear, not in secret, but to all of you. Diplomatic relations with a new species will begin. Tomorrow, we take our place in the universe. Every man, woman, and child. Every teacher and chemist. Every lorry driver and farmer. Oh, I don't know, every..." he paused for a long breath, " medical student." He smiled broadly, and the feed cut back over the news announcer. Almost immediately, she cut the volume nearly off and leaned back.
All four of them sat in a sort of stunned silence for several long moments, gazing at the laptop like it had done a particularly impressive trick, before Ianto finally gathered his thoughts and spoke. "I do hope Torchwood Two or U.N.I.T. are involved in this. Otherwise it stands to get very out of hand very quickly."
"And if the Americans get involved, it'll just get worse," Owen complained bitterly. "So we have to operate and hunt our aliens in utter secrecy-"
"Except you don't know what that word means," the other man fired right back.
"-but Mister Saxon gets to announce his on television? On his first day on the job at that! Where's the justice in that?"
"Maybe it's because the aliens he's dealing with are supposedly friendly?" she hazarded a guess. "While we have the ones who want to play Jack the Ripper. It makes a difference, I suppose.
"At least they aren't playing at being John Christie or Peter Sutcliffe." Unsurprisingly that came from Gwen. And somehow comparing their aliens to serial killers made the situation that much more bizarre. "Do you suppose he knew about these... Toclafane before he sent us out here?"
Owen shuddered. "I don't even want to consider it. Why take us out of the picture when there are aliens coming, after all?"
"We do have a bit of a reputation of shooting first and asking questions later," Ianto voiced his opinion softly. "If these aliens are as harmless and, forgive the term, child-like as they seem," and good, someone else had gotten the same 'child' feel from the aliens, "then maybe it's so peace can be negotiated. 'Diplomatic relations with a new species', and all that, as he said."
"There will probably be follow-ups, if you want to stay around to watch," she offered and promptly winced to herself. No way Owen would let that pass by.
And of course, he didn't. "Sorry to disappoint you, Tosh, but even I don't sleep with someone on the first date." She winced again to herself; a crack like that was no doubt assured to set Gwen off in turn, and from the way he looked vaguely uncomfortable, she could just bet he realised it as well.
"Is this a new rule, then?" Right on cue, as she had predicted and Owen had clearly anticipated as well. Gwen probably would not appreciate it in the least that she was at least this predictable to them, but in the face of something like it looked they were facing, it was good to laugh; even Ianto cracked a faint smile.
There wasn't going to be a lot of time for humour soon, something told her, after all.
She had deliberately taunted Owen for the chance to lighten the situation some. For a while it had worked like a dream, far better than some of her plans she made when she wasn't exhausted. Perhaps she needed to make more plans when she was only half-awake, she thought in vague amusement.
Shortly after Mister Saxon's second broadcast of the day, Ianto had gone out to try to get them all coffee. They were all definitely too awake now to try to go back to sleep, after all. Once he'd returned, with the promised coffee and a few light snacks as well, though, they had sat down and started going through the files they had with them. There weren't that many, just what they hadn't cleaned out of their bags from other trips and what she herself had had in her bag and hadn't bothered removing before they had left Cardiff. It had also been amusing seeing what files were available: the grave majority were the files she had had on the Doctor, but there were also some notes on disappearing motorists in Brecon Beacons left over from their nearly disastrous trip to the Welsh countryside (They were sure to never get Owen to go camping again, and frankly she had lost a bit of interest in it herself as well, only species in the universe to camp or not), one or two concerning Guy Wildman and Sandra Applegate and missing nuclear fuel rods ("Not our best job there, but at least we didn't let Cardiff flood," Tosh cast in her opinion), and even a few on the rewired pig and Downing Street bombing.
That very last set of files had naturally led to some fairly good-natured teasing from Owen, while she and Ianto sat around the room, files open near them, grinning broadly. "Don't you ever throw anything away, Toshiko?" he was still going on.
Apparently Tosh was taking a page from her book, as she picked up an empty sugar packet and threw it at Owen, sitting on Gwen's bed. It didn't have the momentum to make the distance, though, and ended up falling to the floor between the two beds. "It taught me a very valuable lesson." Tosh's affectedly prim voice utterly did not match her behaviour nor the grin on her face. "If it looks like a pig in a spacesuit, it might indeed be a pig in a spacesuit."
Gwen opened her mouth to speak and ask if that was anything like something looking the Rift grabbing people but really was ritualistic cannibals doing their once a decade equivalent of a midnight snack, when the computer flashed another news update concerning the Prime Minister; it had apparently been a simple thing for their resident computer genius to add a search for the Doctor back on to her already running search after the Prime Minister's first speech. She leaned back on Tosh's bed so she could see the computer's screen, out of the corner seeing Owen and Ianto moving to Tosh's other side to watch - and she promptly felt her blood run cold.
Right there on BBC 24 was a picture of the Doctor, a little blurry and shot with his head down but definitely the Doctor. Large letters across the screen declared 'NATIONWIDE HUNT FOR TERRORIST SUSPECTS', while the scrolling text continued 'Prime Minister Saxon has taken the terror threat to a maximum, closed all ports and ordered an unprecedented nationwide search for three suspects'. But even that wasn't a third as disturbing as what the announcer was saying: "The ringleader who goes by the name of "the Doctor", with a second Martha Jones, and a Jack Harkness," she had to wonder if this was what people felt like right before they passed out from shock, "who also identifies himself as 'the Captain'. They are known to be armed and extremely dangerous."
When the topic changed, Tosh leaned forward and switched the news feed back to a background program, staring at the screen in undisguised shock. A half glance to her side showed that the two men look equally as surprised as Tosh and as she felt, but she wasn't too surprised that Owen recovered his voice first. No, what got her was that the first thing he did was look over at her and intone, "You might have been right." Confusion must have shown on her face because he elaborated, "That Jack might be with the Doctor willingly. How did you know?"
She shook her head, suddenly all too conscious of all the attention being focussed on her. "I didn't. I just..." She trailed off, trying to think of what to say that wouldn't be a complete lie but would answer the question. She could tell them about Jack's 'right kind of doctor', she supposed, but it was really more Jack's story to tell if he decided he wanted them to know. "It just seemed like that, if Jack was being held against his will, he would have found a way to contact us. It's what he would expect us to do, at least, if the situations were reversed."
Owen nodded as if that explanation was perfectly acceptable, pushing himself to his feet; something in the back of his eyes told her, though, that they would discussing this in greater detail when they were alone. "All right. We need to get some rest for real now, people. Once night falls, we're going back out there to see if we can't find a few aliens; that's not too long now, so we need to grab what sleep we can. Tosh, you'll let us know if there are any more reports?"
She nodded. "Of course."
"And the broadcast with the Toclafane will be tomorrow, right?"
Again Tosh nodded. "Eight o'clock London time, so around noon here. It promises to be interesting."
Gwen was keeping secrets. That was all he could say with any degree of certainty, and that annoyed him. In fact, with everything else that was going on at the moment, with Captain Jack gone and apparently working in collusion with the Doctor, the Prime Minister sending them halfway across the globe the day before he revealed a new and apparently friendly species of aliens had made contact with him, the phones still being down and no amount of persuasion was getting anyone around here to let them use a phone to call internationally for some reason, the utter lack of the aliens they were sent here to locate, and him having to share a room with the tea boy, when he added in Gwen's new-found closed-mouth policy, it was everything he could do not to give into the urge to start raving like a madman and possibly shooting things.
And when had she gotten so good at avoiding him when he wanted to have it out with her, yell a bit, and in general give her hell till she told him the truth, the complete and total truth? He had tried to get her to come with him last night to look for the aliens, but she'd vanished with Toshiko almost before he could even think to ask her to come with him. And of course, now Toshiko and the tea boy were in the room as well, so he didn't want to start demanding answers. It'd end up going sour fast.
Well, that was fine. She could ignore him all she wanted right now. He'd corner her eventually and find out just what was going on in the little mind of hers. It wasn't like there was anywhere she could go: they were in a foreign country, not a one of them spoke the language, and the translator tool was in his and the tea boy's room. So they could sit all piled on Tosh's and Gwen's beds again, eating what pretended to be chips from wherever the tea boy had gone to get them something almost like a meal, and complain as President Winters droned on and on. Seriously it was getting to the point where he wanted to chunk a stale almost-chip at the screen and hope for it to go through and hit the man. Bloody annoying git.
Over on the desk, one of the mobiles - he wasn't sure which of the ones over there it was - beeped that it was through charging. Bit silly to recharge them when they weren't carrying a signal, but all four of them had completely drained the batteries on their mobiles trying to get through to Jack with no luck. He had found himself wishing one of them had thought to bring their personal one with them: they might have succeeded in getting through. After all, if their wildest conspiracy theories were correct, maybe it was just their work phones that were blocked, though that wasn't a theory he really wanted to invest too much time in trying to prove.
A bit reluctantly, he tuned back into the man speaking on the news feed, since he was finally moving past the 'blah-blah-my fellow Americans-blah-blah-historical moment-blah-blah' bits. "…great day for humanity. And I ask you now, I ask of the human race to join with me in welcoming our friends. I give you, the Toclafane."
And there they were, four of them anyway, four small black balls with blinking lights. Gwen reached over him for the complimentary notepad and pen and pen and started sketching them down. "What, don't think we're going to see them again?" he demanded, still a bit peeved that she had managed so well to avoid letting him question her.
"Doesn't hurt to be thorough." And while he probably could find fault with that statement, right now he didn't want to, not with aliens on the news. At least the television station here was broadcasting it as well, though he couldn't imagine anyone not picking up a historical event like this, blah blah blah. Dear God, his mind was starting to pick up on Winters' babbling.
"...welcome you to the Planet Earth and its associated moon."
This time he did throw the chip he'd been just about to try to choke down at the television. "Jesus Christ, what a wan-"
"You're not the Master."
They exchanged a worried look among them as the things - the Toclafane - continued to speak. No, 'whine' might be a better word for it. "We like the Mister Master."
"We don't like you!"
"This isn't going to be good," Tosh murmured, biting down on one of her knuckles worriedly. At his side, Gwen had stilled in her very rough sketching attempt. On the other bed with Tosh, Ianto's hand had gone white around his coffee cup he was gripping it so tightly; frankly it was a wonder the paper hadn't torn under the pressure.
"I... can be master if you so wish. I will accept mastery over you if that is God's will." Winters was floundering, that much was immediately obvious. He was completely out of his depth, and it didn't look like there was any way he was getting back into his depth with his dignity intact. Still, he could stand to see the man taken down a peg or two.
"Man is stupid."
"Master is our friend."
"Where's my Master? Pretty please?"
In the history of televised blunders, this one had all the potential to be the biggest and the worst ever. Of course the Americans just had to get involved and now it had all gone to shit. But still... 'the Master'? What did that mean? Better still, who?
"Oh, all right then, it's me!" What? Why was the Prime Minister jumping to his feet and grinning like a deranged clown? What did he mean it was him? "Ta-da!" Or a deranged salesman perhaps instead? "Sorry, sorry, I have this effect. People just get obsessed. Is it the smile? Is it the aftershave? Is it the capacity to laugh at myself? I don't know. It's crazy!"
"What the hell?" And with that, Gwen just about summed up everything he was thinking. Probably Tosh and Ianto too.
"Saxon, what are you talking about?" Winters demanded on the screen, the cameras snapping back and forth between them, trying to keep up with one of the world's weirdest conversations. And frankly, for once, he was in agreement with Winters.
He wouldn't want to be in the man's shoes, though, as Mister Saxon - the Master? Master of what? - turned to stare at him, the camera zooming in on his face. "I'm taking control, Uncle Sam, starting with you." The camera held tight on his face as he glanced to his side at one of the Toclafane hovering there. "Kill him."
Tosh's hands clapped over her mouth as Winters exploded into red confetti, for lack of a better way to think of it; his brain seemed to have frozen, and no description was horrible enough for what he had just seen. For an irreverent split second, all he could think was that he was glad Jack hadn't done that when he shot him. Come to think of it, that was about the same expression Tosh had worn when he pulled the trigger on their boss, though without quite as much of the personal horror. Oh well, that was probably because she didn't personally know Winters. Poor bastard.
The cameras captured guns appearing on people he had just been assuming were dignitaries of some sort, not guards or anything. People were screaming. And Mister Saxon, the Master of something, maybe, was laughing almost hysterically, all but bouncing as he clapped his hands and dashed up the stairs to where Winters had stood a few scant seconds before, yelling for the guards as he did. A moment later, he noted Lucy Saxon - Where did she figure into all this anyway? - hurry up to stand by his side to the tune of said guards ordering people not to move.
"Now then!" The cameras zoomed in close on Mister Saxon, and frankly he found himself leaning back from the screen. Somehow Gwen's hand was in his, and she was gripping it so tightly that it hurt. This was real and it was one of the most horrible things he'd seen in all his time in Torchwood and it was real and they were watching it on tele like it wasn't their job to stop this sort of thing from happening - and by God, it was real. That was all he could focus on.
It was really happening. Their Prime Minister was working with aliens and had just blown up the American President on television. It should be utterly surreal, but the pain from her grip on his hand was just enough to remind him it was real. "Owen," she whispered, almost too low to hear.
"Peoples of the earth, please attend carefully..."
02 August 2007
Well, it's done! No, seriously, it is. I actually got over 50,000 words by 31 July, but I wanted to make sure it got every last detail perfect before I posted it, so I held it for a few days - and see! I added nearly 1300 more words! A New Age Dawns is approximately 93 pages, according to Microsoft Word. Pretty impressive, yeah?
I'm still debating on the idea of continuing it, dealing with the Year That Never Was. Dunno, I would rather like to be certain there's interest first. Still, if I do write it, look for What Rough Beast for a title. Because nothing fits the Year That Never Was like Yeats, really.
It's been a fun trip, this month and two days! Thanks for sticking with! I appreciate all the reads - and all the comments even more! Thanks so much!