Consciousness returned with excruciating slothfulness for Captain Jack Harkness. Before death could claim him once more for the fifth time in as many minutes, he reached a hand into the pocket of his coat, retrieved the handy, dandy alien device he kept tucked away for just such situations. With a flick of his wrist he activated the device, pointed it at the rope noose from which he hung, tensing himself for the eight foot drop to the hard ground below. Impacting with a loud groan, Jack felt blackness seep over him and had time for one final reflection. Just who the heck did I tick off and what did I do to deserve this? Jack would spend the rest of the day regretting this fleeting thought.
When life finally returned to his body, Jack took in one strong breath and then lying there, eyes closed, tried to recount justf what had happened. Okay, okay. What was I doing when all this started? Having died nine times in less than an hour, Jack's brain cells were having a little trouble functioning. Well, truth be told, his brain cells were functioning just fine for the task they had set for themselves which was in complete opposition to what Jack wanted them to do. They figured, somewhat selfishly, if Jack was going to spend the day continually dying, their services were not currently required so they could nip over to Altair 7 for the annual Pinky Surprise Drinking Competition and Grand Orgy (somewhat similar to a Grand Ball but with considerably less clothing required).
Jack's brain, wearing a silly Hawaiian shirt and equally silly hat, was all set to hitch a lift when the great party pooper (also known as the frontal lobe) objected. Since the frontal lobe was in control of the Platinum Galactic Credit Card, the rest of the brain quickly realized that today would not be ending with the word priceless.
With a sullen sigh, his brain settled into its task and the memories of the past hour began to seep back with agonizing slowness. I was driving. I was driving while talking on the mobile to Ianto. Jack allowed himself a slow, sensual smirk as the words of that particularly pornographic conversation fired into his thoughts. Oh, yeah, I was driving as fast and as reckless as I could to get back to the Hub. This actually didn't differ too much from his usual driving methods to be quite honest. And then . . . there was a truck? Yep, definitely a truck. A truck with a large carton in the flatbed. A truck with a large carton in the flatbed that hit a bump. A truck with a large carton in the flatbed that hit a bump and knocked the carton onto the road. At this point Jack realized his brain still hadn't gotten over its sulk and told it in no uncertain terms to get back on task or he, and hence his brain, would never, ever get to take another trip to Altair 7 for the Pinky Surprise Drinking Competition.
Instantly, the memories started coming back with shocking clarity. The carton had broken and scattered thousands of nails directly in front of the Torchwood SUV. At the time, Jack had not been concerned about the nails. Sure, with any other automobile, the scattering of thousands of sharp pointy metal objects directly in its path would have been a disaster. This, however, was the Torchwood SUV. No mere Earth-made tires for this engineering marvel. These tires were manufactured on the planet Camarand and had fallen through the rift over a period of eight decades. Jack had traveled to the four corners of the Earth, literally, to collect them all.
The great thing about Camarand tires is that they only needed to be replaced every five million miles (or every two and a half million if Jack was driving). The other incredible fact about a Camarand tire is that it would not go flat unless punctured by at least 4,751 sharp objects at the same exact moment. 4,751, coincidentally, was the precise number of nails currently puncturing each of three of the SUV tires; the fourth tire had taken on an extra nail as insurance.
So I got out to change the tires? I must have. Jack thought very hard, vaguely recalling pulling the SUV off to the side of the road, exiting the vehicle and inspecting each of the formally magnificent Camarand tires he'd been so proud of. He remembered reaching into the back, wrestling out the tire iron from under the body bag containing the alien remains he'd gone to the countryside to collect. The tire iron had caught on the body bag, requiring Jack to pull and tug with great force. When the tire iron finally released itself from the bag, the sheer momentum involved caused Jack's arm to fly back, the tire iron flying end over end until it impacted with a nearby tree.
Jack's disastrous day might have ended there had the conditions not been precisely ideal. The rate of velocity, the angle of descent, the wind speed, even the humidity, but especially the position and bark density of the tree combined together so that the tire iron bounced off and headed, like an arrow, to embed directly into Jack's forehead. That was death number one.
What happened after that? Jack was having difficulty processing the next sequence. Not because his brain was still brooding, though it was. The fact of the matter was that despite adjusting to living in Cardiff with frequent rift activity, numerous alien attacks, plentiful personal deaths, not to mention a stint of traveling through space and time in a blue police box, the circumstances of the second death were rather odd.
I came to and removed the tire iron. He grimaced from the remembered squelching sound that action had produced. I stood up and . . . slipped on a patch of ice? Now this truly puzzled Jack for it was a rather warm day. Actually the temperature was considerably hot, bordering on a heat wave. Not that the extreme temperature had stopped him from donning his RAF coat that morning. Image must be maintained no matter what and Jack knew just how sexy he looked in it.
So there was some ice, I slipped, and slid straight into the safety railing. Once again, the science of Physics was against him. The angle of approach, the distribution of his weight, the momentum involved, plus the height of the railing, and fact it was tilting ever so slightly outward assured that Jack, instead of crashing to a stop, flipped tail over head across the top, soaring straight down the side of a steep incline. I probably would have been alright had I not landed smack on top of a boulder. That had been death number two.
It was following death number three he finally realized that someone had a vendetta against him. Before reviving from the second death, his lifeless body had continued to roll down the incline, ending with him splashing into a shallow pond. The impact into the water caused a dead rotting tree to topple over, straight across his lifeless corpse, effectively imprisoning him in place. Jack came to, taking in a deep gulp of what he thought would be air. Unfortunately for him, he ended up with a lungful of water, resulting in a drowning. He had nearly succumbed to death number four before dislodging the tree and dragging his aching body to dry land.
Horses? There was a stampede of horses? Jack carefully lifted himself onto his elbows, opened his eyes, staring down in horror at the pitiful tattered remains of his beloved RAF coat. Hoof prints were clearly visible in parts of the shredded fabric. Ianto is so gonna kill me. Jack had learned very quickly after establishing his relationship with the young Welshman that even the most minuscule damage to the coat had serious repercussions. Every time Jack handed over the coat to Ianto for repairs, there was always a price to pay, usually involving Jack groveling in such a way that Ianto was thoroughly satisfied and Jack ended up blue, in a painfully physical sense. The loss of a single button was equal to one night's worth of groveling. The significant rip caused by the sleeper agent had been a three week ordeal. Jack laid back with a deep lingering groan. I'm going to be blue for the next twelve years.
Unbeknownst to Jack, the destruction of the coat was not really all that significant of an issue for the Welshman. Ianto, being the highly intelligent man that he was, learned quickly there was a much simpler solution to the continuous predicament of keeping Jack's coat in pristine condition. Hidden deep within the bowels of the Hub was a secret room, so secret that not even Jack was aware of its existence. Inside the room were racks upon racks of top quality reproduction RAF coats. These reproductions were of such superiority that Jack was not even aware his original coat had long since been consigned to a dust bin. Whenever Jack handed over a damaged coat, Ianto would give him a slight scowl, disappear for a time and reappear with a miraculously immaculate coat. He'd then sit back, reveling in Jack's groveling, without even a hint of guilt for his subterfuge.
Okay. There were horses but how did I end up in a noose hanging from a tree? He concentrated hard, remembering the stream of horses passing over his dying body and had the fleeting memory of his foot getting caught in a stirrup before finally succumbing to death. I must have been dragged along, somehow got flipped into the air, and ended up in the noose. After the events of the day, this no longer seemed as farfetched to Jack as it would have been under other circumstances.
"You really fucked the pooch this time."
Huh? Jack quickly raised himself to his elbows, looking with bleary eyes towards the source of the voice. Leaning casually against the tree where Jack had recently hung to death four times, was a man, his arms folded comfortably across his chest. The man was handsome in a rugged sort of way though his clothes were at least three decades out of style. Jack felt a twinge of trepidation sweep over him as the man pushed himself from the tree and strode over to crouch beside his body. Jack continued to watch as the man reached into the pocket of his battered tan leather jacket, retrieving an equally battered journal held closed by a thick rubber band. He carefully removed the band, flipped the journal open, and grabbed one of the post-it notes covering the front page.
"You are J. Harkness? Or should I say you are currently using the name J. Harkness?" came the grim yet sexy voice.
Jack could only nod in his confusion.
The man dropped the sheet in his hand and grabbed another. "J. Harkness." This too was dropped while yet another was grabbed. "J. Harkness." As this one was dropped, Jack could see his name clearly scrawled on the sheet with a location where he'd died three weeks ago followed by the letters "E.T.D." and a time. "J. Harkness. J. Harkness. J. Harkness." With that, the man grabbed an enormous clump of the tiny yellow sheets and cast them to the ground. "Let's see some of your other aliases. J. Harriot, P. Blackney, F. Prefect." With the saying of each name, post-it notes were dropped until hundreds were scattered over Jack's body and the surrounding ground.
"You, sir, are making my fucking life even that much more fucking complicated. I'm going to say this just once. You're going to die and this time you're gonna stay fucking dead, you got me?"
Jack was finally spurned into action, his brain coming up with the most intelligence response it could. "Er?"
The man response was to brusquely lift one corner of his lips in a grave imitation of a smile. "My name's Rube. I'm a Grim Reaper and I think it's high time the two of us had a long, serious discussion."