Notes: A shiny new chaptered story for you all. Due to having a busier life now, I won't be able to update so often, but I like this story so I started it anyway. I hope not to be too ridiculous with updates. Anyway: this is a story that spins off after the Children of Earth finale. For the purposes of this story, please ignore any potential future seasons of Torchwood (should they happen).
Cut, Copy and Paste
Twenty-five-ten was a prosperous year for Britain. Business, both human and alien, was going swimmingly. Alien tourism was just beginning to take off, and Britain was its homing centre - mostly because, as Britain was the first of the Earth nations to make confirmed contact with other species, most aliens operated under the false assumption that Britain ruled Earth.
So Jack found that the cheapest shuttles were bound for London itself, and the Torchwood-run customs systems above what had once been Gatwick airport. The trip itself was more painful that he could have prepared himself for - for the first time in nearly five hundred years, he was looking at dark-haired people, and though once he would have called the resemblence poor and inaccurate, now it was like seeing his long-dead team all over again.
Earth had changed little in his five hundred year absence. The cities were shinier, the people just as hurried about their daily business, there were less children, and the first alien tourists and immigrants were openly visible on the streets. But it was still Earth, and human nature hadn't really changed much.
Jack had to admit that he'd missed Earth. It was a charming planet, really – rustic, in a way – and he'd missed that, and the strange differences inside the same species. People were weird: there was no way around that.
He had used the invitation of an old friend as an excuse to return. He would simply neglect to leave again once his assistance with the paper was over.
The paper was about historical flux, or something of that ilk, and Jack's friend (rather correctly) assumed that an immortal man would have an exceptional viewpoint on it. It would, she proclaimed, help greatly with the 'overall contextual impact' (whatever that meant) and Jack had hummed in all the right places and tried to ignore the pang in his chest whenever she enthused like that. Because, really, she sounded like a strange cross between Suzie and Toshiko whenever they had gotten excited about a technological development or find.
Five hundred years and he still missed them every day.
It was pathetic, really. Ordinary people lost their loved ones all the time and recovered. They didn't pine for the rest of their lives – and their lives were nowhere close to five hundred years. Why was it taking him so long to recover?
Sometimes, Jack resented them for dying. He would hate them for leaving him, and then hate himself for thinking something so completely unfair and irrational. They'd not chosen to leave him – hell, in Gwen's case, he had left her. She had never walked away from him. He hadn't even been there when she'd died – which, by now, she would definitely have done.
And Owen, Tosh and Ianto...they hadn't chosen to die. Torchwood had murdered them, like it loved to do, and Jack suspected that if he looked up Gwen in the archival records of South Wales, he would find her death certificate suspiciously vague as well.
Five hundred years and he couldn't put them out of his mind, even for a day.
Torchwood still survived, though now a bloated organisation that had become, essentially, a space-based version of Customs and Border Control. It rarely dealt with the killing of aliens, these days, and even when it did, it had its own minor army to handle it.
For obvious reasons, the British Government was keen to keep Torchwood happy.
Jack, however, both looked perfectly human, was wearing perfectly modern and human clothing, and carried incredibly convincing false papers declaring him to have been born on the North Mars Colony, which was British-owned and run.
He was, essentially, British.
He had sailed through Torchwood's controls without a signal alarm being raised – clearly, his records had been destroyed and his face consigned to the same void of memory as the faces of his dead team. Still, it hurt to walk past all the people who worked for the same organisation he had, and for them to have no idea of the deaths of his team in the interests of their country. It was like being a war veteran to a conflict consigned to only the memories of the very old.
And here was London. It was unrecognisable now, the ancient city buried underneath technology and modernity. The underground was perhaps the only surviving piece of the London that Jack's team would have known. Canary Wharf – never rebuilt – would have been dwarfed and insignificant in this city.
But it was still London. It smelt of fast food. It was rife with pigeons. There were still gaping areas of green parkland for no apparent reason. The locals were rude and curt, and businessmen rushed through the streets and their lives in a world of their own. The yammer of wireless communication still bounced off glass walls. The streets still crawled with tour buses and Japanese tourists.
It was achingly familiar, and Jack took in a deep lungful of clammy air before finding a map and seeking out the New London University.
Georgina was a student of history and philosophy, and, as such, was quite easily one of the most distracted and fluffy people that Jack had ever met. Her enthusiasm for everything odd was big enough to rival the Doctor's, and she had absorbed Jack's stories of time travel and immortality like a child.
For the most part, she didn't believe him, but she really had to on the immortality front, or, at the very least, admit that he had a long lifespan. She had known him – through her parents (equally dippy people that had worked on the first space habitats) – since she was a little girl, and now she was a twenty-five-year-old student.
She had met him at the doors of the history department with a squeal and a hug that, respectively, threatened to perforate his eardrums and break his left arm, then had dragged him over to the science labs.
"You came just on the right day!" she told him happily, the smile on her face threatening to split it in half. "You're the perfect source – the university is funding this huge research project into reincarnation, you see, because this research centre in China is finding electronic records of people before they're born, and..."
Jack blinked at her in confusion. Reincarnation? That was silly religious superstition. It was laughed off completely by the time his colony was established, let alone by the time he would be born (oh, time travel was enough to make your brain ache) so he was either looking at a project doomed to failure, or a future cover up. And a fantastic one at that, because the New University of London did not fail at its research projects.
"How are you in on it?" he asked. "What about your paper?"
"The postgraduate who teaches my metaphysics tutorials is on the project," she said, almost dismissively. "And forget my paper! Who cares? Seriously, it's an amazing project and can you imagine the employment potential if I can say I worked on an N.U.L. project? Come on, Jack, you know you want to help!"
Georgina's parents had worked on the construction of the first human colony in space (okay, on the Moon, but close enough) and Jack had met them when the cargo ship he had been working on had decided to investigate this new feature on the rock.
He had been called in to translate, and had befriend Georgina's mother. Purely and simply because she reminded him of Gwen, with her big blue eyes and strict moral code. Although she was far more devoted to her then-boyfriend than Gwen had been to Rhys, Jack had still felt the pull of a woman who wasn't yet cynical about her world.
He had kept up communication with them, and when Georgina's father had been permanently posted to the Moon Colony, Jack had visited several times, the closest he could bring himself to Earth and humanity again. It helped that nobody he found on the Moon Colony physically looked like his team – all of them, for whatever reason, were blonde or redheaded.
Georgina had been born up there, and as a child had been fascinated by his adventure stories. He had even, as she grew older, told her the occasional, faltering story about his team, particularly the deaths of Owen, Tosh and Ianto in the line of duty.
Telling Georgina the stories had helped to ease the pain, so when she asked Jack to come to Earth, he could little refuse. But now, if they were going to be discussing in realistic terms times that had long passed, Jack wasn't so sure that he wanted to be here.
Physics labs had come a long way. In fact, the university laboratory that Jack was shown into resembled the research labs in Torchwood One, and those had been, at the time, state of the art. His history of this millennium was a little rusty, but he was pretty sure this was high tech, even for now.
"We're using the computers to gather electronic data," Georgina was saying as she shepherded him inside, "and running DNA comparison programs and facial recognition software on people with similar looks to find matches."
"You're seriously doing a scientific study into reincarnation?"
"Yes!" Georgina exclaimed. "The funding is pouring in, so it's a big project! Anyway, with such a history of electronic data and stored DNA samples from the past, we can do so much more than the old scientists could. We have almost six hundred years of electronic data to use, Jack!"
"And we will use it!" Georgina carried on blithely.
"But," Jack said, "just because people reincarnate doesn't mean that they will look..."
"It's a theory, and if they don't, we just disproved a theory anyway! Come on, come here and meet Amy – she's leading the team on the facial recognition programming..."
She hauled him over to a far corner, where a woman with long hair and dressed in dark clothes under a thin lab coat was bent over a panel of screens, a pair of glasses in one hand.
"Amy, Amy, take your attention off them for a second," Georgina urged, pulling her around to face Jack. "Jack, meet Amy; Amy, this is my friend Jack..."
But Jack didn't hear the rest – frozen in shock, he didn't even reach to shake Amy's hand. Georgina's voice vanished and the world narrowed to himself and Amy, nothing and nobody else.
Because he was looking straight at a living and breathing Suzie Costello.