Cardiff : 2009
"I'm approaching the target," Gwen murmured into her microphone, before smiling widely at the security guard that stood in front of the door. Her eyes slid to his hand, which had crept under his long coat.
"Good," Jack said, through her earpiece. "Remember, nothing fancy, just keep him talking while Ianto and I slip in the side door."
"No worries on that score," she muttered, keeping her smile wide. She had her gun pushed into the waistband of her jeans, at the small of her back, but she doubted she'd reach it in time if he decided to pull his piece. "Well, hello there, stranger," she said, in her best sexy voice. How did Jack make this seem so easy? Maybe she should try a bit of innuendo. "Is that a gun there in your pocket, or are just glad to see me?"
"The guards expression grew grim, and Gwen flinched as he pulled his gun out of his coat. "You were right the first time," he said snidely, as he took a step towards her. "Just keep walking, all right?"
"All right, whatever you say," Gwen said, as she spotted two shadows slip down the side alley. Not exactly her smoothest operation, but at least it had got the job done. She rounded her eyes and backed away. "This is me leaving, as fast my legs can carry me!" She hurried back to the SUV and jumped inside, opening up the laptop that Jack had left on the driver's seat. She had visual.
"How's it going?" she asked.
"So far, so good," Jack said. "Who knew that the Master had so many of these splinter groups set up?"
Ianto's voice came down the line. "Time Lord, remember?" he said. "They never think in a straight line."
"Yeah, that's what's got me worried," Gwen muttered. "If the Master thought this artefact was important enough to have a plan for it, even posthumously, who knows what it's capable of?"
"We're not going to find that out," Jack said. "We're going to grab it and secure it, we've enough random elements flying around out there, the last thing we need is another one of the Master's toys making mischief.."
There was a pause, and then, "I have a bad feeling about this," Ianto said. The line crackled.
Unnamed Moon: Third Century of the Second Calendar
Cally looked over Avon's shoulder and eyed the security system dubiously. "I have a bad feeling about this," she pronounced. "Something is not right."
"You heard her," Vila said. "Our soothsayer has spoken; time to leave."
"Not until we've got what we came for," Blake said.
Vila looked at him worriedly. "You've said it yourself, Blake. Cally is rarely wrong about these sort of things. Why should we take the risk?"
"Because, yet again, our glorious leader wants to imperil our necks in exchange for negligible gain," Avon drawled, as he pulled the panel cover off. "I fail to see why you're so surprised by this."
"Thank you for your input, Avon," Blake said dryly. "Succinct as always."
"I do try," Avon said, with a cynical smile. "No, do be quiet; hacking a security system that has 2,000 volts flowing through it, is a task best suited to silence."
"A bundle of laughs, as always, Avon," Vila grumbled.
"Did I mention that the resulting voltage will also run through the flooring of this entire room?" Avon enquired, as he prodded the circuitry with the sonic screwdriver; a handy little gadget he'd picked up in the Orion system a few weeks back. "The Federation believe in defence with extreme prejudice."
"Right, shutting up," Vila said hastily.
The light on the Avon's circuit monitor went green, and he smiled. "We're in," he said, as he tapped his communicator. "Orac, you should be getting the download information now."
"A simple procedure, typical of the generic security systems available in the civilian sector in this system. It will be matter of moments to reconfigure the coding."
"Thank you, Orac," he said. "Let us know when you're ready to open the door."
"Is it my imagination, or does Orac get more patronizing with ever parsec we travel?" Vila asked. Avon turned around to see Vila jumping off a chair leaning against the wall, and smirked. Vila was ever the survivor, maybe even more so than he – and that was saying something.
"Orac is a product of his maker, nothing more, nothing less," he said. "His tone, his manner, is merely an echo of his creator's demeanour. He has no inherent character or mood."
"You could've fooled me," Vila grumbled. "One of these days he's going to go rogue on us, just you wait."
"Blake," Cally interrupted hastily. "You never did tell us why we were here. What could be so important on this distant under populated world?"
"Well, I suppose there is no harm telling you at this stage," Blake said "As you all know, I've been trying to find the true location of the Federation's central control since the debacle back on Earth. To that end, I've been using my contacts to track down a suitable facility. One built in the correct time frame, and far enough away from any large population areas that it wouldn't be noticeable or noted. This facility stood out."
"You think this is where the new control centre is located?" Cally asked.
Blake shook his head. "No, the logistics don't add up," he said. "But I do believe that there is something here that is…unusual; something that makes even the Federation nervous. It's an artefact, something they discovered on this very planet's moon. They don't know who built it, or what kind of tech it is. All they know is that it somehow taps subspace, for what reason they don't know."
"And so you decided to nick it, just for the hell of it?" Vila asked.
"It's more for the psychological effect the theft would have on the Federation, than any inherent use we night have for it," Blake admitted. "But I think we're all agreed that anything the Federation protects to this degree is something they could do without!"
"In other words, he just wants to stick one in the eye of Servelan," Avon said flatly, as the door slid open.
The inside of the building looked like a surrealist's dream of an old war bunker. The ceiling was arched and ribbed, and looked darkly organic. It didn't even remotely correlate with the outside of the building. A working chameleon circuit, it was the only explanation.
But the security system was uncomplicated, too uncomplicated, a mere keypad on the door, and a bolt on the inside. Jack felt a frisson of uneasiness. He had been the Master's slave long enough to know that what you see is rarely what you get. Ianto was right, there was something wrong here.
He looked down at his feet, half expecting to see a line of string or a pool of marbles to trip them up. It'd be the kind of thing the Doctor would do… and the Master too, he admitted to himself. That thought always made him uneasy.
"Jack, are you alright?" Ianto asked lowly.
Jack smiled. "Not even remotely," he said, "But what's new? C'mon, let's get this artefact and get the hell out of here. This place is giving me the creeps."
There was a single door at the other end of the long room. Guess where they were going? It seemed an infernal age before they reached it, but they did.
Ianto eyed the door's security. "A keypad, again?" he muttered. "How very unoriginal."
Jack flipped open his wristband and hacked into it. "Well, what do you know, Fibonacci's sequence again. Beginning to see a pattern here?"
"Ha, ha," Ianto said, as the door popped open. "Very funny."
"I do try," Jack drawled, with a quick grin.
Avon looked at the object on the plinth. It was a silver cube, about twenty centimetres in diameter. There didn't seem to be any discernible cracks or obvious indentations, but Avon's eyes narrowed. That it was an artificial object wasn't in doubt, whether it was a working piece of technology was another matter. As far as he could discern, it looked just about as useful as an antique paper weight. He passed his scanner over the object.
"No energy readings," he said. "But that doesn't prove anything…" He pulled on his gloves. "Open the case, will you? I don't want this object in my hands longer than is required."
"Aren't you being overly paranoid?" Vila enquired. "Even for you?"
Avon gave him a look. "We're in a high security vault, in the middle of an armed facility and an electronic security system that's programmed to fry all intruders. The words handle with care come to mind."
"Well, they didn't come to my mind," Vila said, with a small pout.
"Vila, the quantity of words that haven't entered your head would fill an unabridged dictionary." Avon smiled humourlessly and Vila pulled a face at him and opened the case. Slowly, Avon reached for the cube and picked it up, letting out a held breath as the object remained inactive. "Not sensitive to motion, either," he said. "I was wary of that."
"You're wary of everything, Avon," Blake said. "It's your defining trait."
"And I thought you admired me for my joie de vivre," Avon drawled. "Now, hold the case steady—"
It had been too easy, Jack had known that, and yet he had done it anyway. He was Torchwood, he took the risks everybody else was too sane to consider. That understanding still hadn't prepared himself for the excruciating pain that ran through him when he picked up the artefact from its bare, plain plinth.
It was as if his entire mind was ripped open and pulled apart, piece by scattered piece. "Ianto," he cried out, but the name never left his lips. Jack collapsed, felt his heart pound painfully in his chest. He could not die, he was immortal; a moment of hope, maybe he was wrong, and then the shame, that he'd give in so easily.
He collapsed, and felt the hard cold floor hit him.
The pain didn't seem to end. His entire body seemed to be caught in some sort of seizure.
"Jack, Jack hold on, we're nearly there…"
Jack, who the hell was Jack? But Avon couldn't make the words come. He felt his stomach heave. The ground seemed to move under him, and then he realised that that part was actually real. He was in some sort of ground vehicle. Damn it, why hadn't they beamed him up to the Liberator yet? Was this some sort of double cross, what had gone wrong? He opened his eyes, and found a young man looking down on him, worry etched into his face.
"Jack," he said, with a beatific smile. "You're awake." And then the idiot boy kissed him. As kidnappings go, he'd had worse ones, but he always liked to get a name first.
Eventually, he came up for air, and Avon tried to sit up. Everything felt wrong, his body didn't move as it should. What had that damned artefact done to him?
"Jack?" the boy said anxiously. "Are you okay? Say something!"
Avon cleared his throat, and frowned. Was there something wrong with his vocal chords? His voice sounded a bit off. "I can quite honestly say… that I find myself quite speechless," he eventually said, his hand reaching for his throat. Curious, his head felt like it had been pounded against a Federation prison wall, but he couldn't distinguish anything discernibly wrong with voice – other than the fact it wasn't his, of course.
The vehicle suddenly screeched to a halt, and Avon tensed as the driver , a young woman, suddenly glared back at him. The boy pulled a gun and Avon automatically reached for his. It wasn't there, surprise, surprise.
"Who the hell are you!" the kid demanded.
Avon tried to glare at him, but that only succeeded in giving him double vision. "Who do you think I am?" he prevaricated.
"I thought you were Jack Harkness."
"But you obviously don't think that anymore," Avon drawled sarcastically. "I wonder what gave the game away?"
"Well for one, Jack doesn't have a British accent," he said.
"That's it?" Avon asked. "That is the only thing that seems a bit off for you with this scenario? Who are you and why did you kidnap me? If this is another one of Servelan's rather pathetic cat and mouse games, I refuse to play."
"Kidnap you? What are you talking about? If anybody here did any kidnapping, it's you!"
"And how do you figure that?" Avon snapped, and promptly winced as his head throbbed. He really wished this headache would go away.
"Oh hell," the boy said suddenly, "You really don't know, do you?"
"That you're in Jack's body."
"What are you talking about – and who is Jack?" He looked down and eyed his hands, and the length of his body. "Ah, let me guess," he said slowly, trying to keep the panic out of his voice. "This is Jack." He lifted his hand and stared at it as he sat up. He ignored the boy's wavering gun, and tried to focus on the view outside. "Where am I," he asked shortly.
"Cardiff," the boy said quietly.
Avon frowned. If he remembered correctly, there was a planet in sector five called Cardiff, but it had an old sun. This sun seemed young, like the one on Earth, but…" The artefact flashed into his mind and a thought occurred to him. He looked back at the boy; at his clothing and his weapon. His mouth went dry. "What year is this?" he asked.
The boy's eyes rounded. "2009," he said, before adding, "How far off are you?"
Avon began to laugh. "Does it matter?" he asked. "It might as well be forever."
The boy smiled briefly. "I wouldn't be too sure about that," he said. "I'm Ianto, by the way, and this is Gwen – and you are?"
"You may call me Avon," he said flatly. "Tell me what you know."
Captain Jack Harkness was not having one of his best days. Being felled by an alien artefact was one thing - practically a daily occurrence, in fact - but waking up with a circle of suspicious faces glaring down at him brought back some rather unpleasant memories.
"Hi," he said, and then frowned. "And that came out wrong."
"He is not Avon," one of them said. "He is someone totally different."
"Are you sure, Cally," another one asked, scowling down at him. "He could just be confused."
"He has a name," Jack drawled. "Captain Jack Harkness, at your service."
"You see!" the girl called Cally said, triumphantly. "Obviously this person has somehow usurped Avon's mind!"
"Hey, what this about usurping? There's no usurping going on around here!" Jack tried to sit up but it was not an option. Even if his head didn't feel like the ground had just opened up and swallowed him, there was the small matter of the straps. "Hey, Guys, is this really necessary?" he cajoled. A thought occurred to him as he looked down at his restrained hands and legs. "And what the hell have you done to my body?"
"Is it just me, or does he sound as clueless as we do," said another of the group wryly.
"Do you have a better idea, Vila?" the curly haired one said.
"Hey, don't mind me, I'm just strapped here to the table," Jack objected. "But if you're going to hold me in bondage, the least you can do is tell me is, who you are and where am I?"
The curly haired one frowned down at him and crossed his arms. He was quite cute, in a burly sort of way. "I am Roj Blake," he said. "And this is the Liberator."
Jack stared at him. "Roj Blake?" he said aloud, his mind whirling with the news. Roj Blake, the Roj Blake, a page from his old school text books. "I'm in deep trouble, aren't I?" he eventually asked.
Blake smiled grimly in answer.