Disclaimer: Ashley's mine, other than that, no, this stuff doesn't belong to me.
Author's Note: OK, while this story takes place primarily in the Primeval-verse, Ashley's backstory is based off of the shows Doctor Who and Torchwood (mostly the two-part finale of DW series/season 2) so it would be best if you had a little background on that as well. If you don't watch it, there's a summary on Wikipedia and I'll be explaining some bits through the story.
Act One: What Happens at the ARC...
Chapter 1 - Stone In the Water: Ashley Stafford sighed as she waited for her turn with Joseph Mitchell, the man who was reassigning the few survivors of Canary Wharf. Next to her, Dr. Rajesh Singh looked even more upset than she did.
"What do you think they'll do with us?" the Indian man asked his companion grimly.
"No idea, Singh," Ashley replied tiredly. She looked around, and realised someone was missing. "Hey, has anyone seen Ianto?" The Welshman had been one of her closest friends at Torchwood - well, him and his girlfriend, Lisa Hallett. She hadn't seen him since Canary Wharf, three months ago, but she'd expected him to be here for reassignment.
"No," Jane Abbott said, shaking her head. "I think he ran off. Lisa didn't make it; he probably just had to get away."
"Christ," Ashley said, toying with the end of her long black braid. "And then, of course, Micah Trevaine's gone swanning off to the States. He's going to try and get his girlfriend back."
"The one he dumped?" Singh said, frowning.
"I hope she gives him hell," said Jane disapprovingly.
"I met Paula; she used to be an outside consultant for Torchwood. Trust me, she will," Ashley chuckled. She liked Micah, but seeing as he'd been the idiot who'd ended a relationship because he was afraid of being in love, she hoped he got hassled a lot before he got taken back.
"Wait, you're talking about Ravenwood, aren't you?" said Singh.
"He'll be lucky if she doesn't kill him."
Just then the door opened and Will Carey walked out of Mitchell's office. "Glasgow," he said with a scowl. "Means I'm stuck with bloody Archie MacDougal. Kill me now, why don't you?"
They all made sympathetic noises - the head of Torchwood 2 was known for being a very strange person - and then Will stalked out, calling back over his shoulder, "Singh, he wants you next!"
Singh found himself hired to do R&D for UNIT, while Jane would be sent to Belfast, where they were starting a new branch of the program. Ashley was last to go in, something she was hardly surprised about. Mitchell had never liked her.
Sir Joseph Mitchell looked up as the woman entered his office. Stafford looked like someone hired on looks alone, tall and pretty, with long black hair and green eyes. Though a smart man would see the tight-braided hair and the sharpness of those eyes and know Stafford was no pretty toy. And Mitchell was a smart man.
He didn't like Stafford, and he never had. The woman was an astrophysicist, and she was a genius, or damn near one, according to her files, but she was a little too opinionated for his tastes. He was rather glad to be washing his hands of her.
The chance had been surprising. The Prime Minister had called him in to have a talk about the 27 survivors of Canary Wharf. Even they were a disaster. 16 had chosen to be retconned, which meant 16 good people lost. Five of the remaining 11 were military, and had been reassigned by military superiors. Two of the civilians had run off, Jones and Trevaine. Jones had said he was aiming for Torchwood Three, but as Harkness didn't like Torchwood One, he felt he had to get in on his own merits. Trevaine... well, the man was unusual in more ways than one, and Mitchell rather thought they were well shot of him.
He'd expected to be hauled over the coals, and he had been. But then the Minister had told him to listen to some facts, about yet another secret program, one that researched something called anomalies. These anomalies were rips in space-time that apparently allowed prehistoric creatures access to the present. "I want one of the Torchwood leftovers at the Anomaly Research Centre," the Minister had said flatly. "The people there are good, but there's already been one incident of a creature from the future. I don't know what else might use these anomalies, and if an alien does, I want someone on their field team who knows how to react to alien threats rather than animal ones."
So he'd chosen Stafford. Singh and Abbott weren't field-trained, while Carey didn't have enough of an academic bent to fit the bill. Trevaine might have done... but Stafford was better. "Hello, Dr. Stafford. Have a seat."
She sat, and then said without preamble, "So, where am I headed, Mitchell?"
His temper flared at her disrespect, but he didn't give her the satisfaction of seeing that. "Oh, I have something very interesting for you. Tell me, have you ever heard of the Anomaly Research Center?"
One dark eyebrow lifted. "No. Should I have?"
"No, not until now. It's a program being run by the Home Office. It investigates phenomena known as anomalies."
"Hence the name."
"Yes. Don't interrupt. Now, these anomalies. They're rips in space-time, rather like the Cardiff Rift. However, the trouble with these things is that they allow prehistoric animals access to our time. I'm sending you to become part of the ARC field team."
Silence. Mitchell realized this was the first time he'd seen Stafford struck speechless, and was amused by it. Then she regained her ability to speak.
"Hang on. You do realize I know next to nothing about prehistory, right? What makes you think I'd be any good at this?"
"The fact that Yvonne Hartman always felt you were very adaptable. You can handle yourself in the field, what with your knowledge of weaponry, and I'm sure someone of your intelligence can handle some research. After all, you didn't know about aliens before Torchwood, did you?"
"That is hardly the point."
"This decision is final. You get this assignment or you get retconned. Choose."
A choice that was no choice at all, Ashley thought furiously. She'd thought about retcon when it was first offered, and understood why so many of her former colleagues had chosen it. To them, amnesia was better than waking up screaming from the nightmares of that day. But Ashley knew herself well, and she knew that having a blank like that in her mind would torment her far more.
"Fine. I'll take the job."
James Lester had a headache. First future predators and Helen Cutter. Then Nick Cutter returns babbling about some woman named Claudia Brown who supposedly worked with them. Now, not only was the field team dealing with raptors in a shopping mall, but Leek was telling him that the Prime Minister had assigned two new people to the team. One was a PR wizard, and Lester was willing to admit that he wasn't too annoyed about that. It meant someone else would have to deal with the press now. The other was some woman from a top-secret special-ops group. He didn't like that, not one bit.
"I don't like having someone forced on me" he said to no one in particular.
"I'm sure it was for the best, sir," Oliver Leek said. "Incidentally, the information came in on the other new man. Turns out it's another woman. A Jennifer Lewis."
"Wonderful. Well, give me the file." Headache? Make that a migraine.