"UNIT? What's UNIT?" Gwen asked, looking confused. She glanced around and saw that Tosh had gone extremely pale, Owen looked angry and Jack, well, Jack was harder to read.
"Unified Intelligence Task Force," Jack replied coolly. "The military equivalent to Torchwood, I guess you could say." His face was blank, devoid of any emotion, but Gwen could see that his knuckles were turning white from gripping Tosh's chair so tightly.
"The military?" Gwen repeated and Jack gave a curt nod. "I don't get it. Why would the military want Ianto?"
Jack smiled humourlessly at her. "That, Gwen Cooper, is the million dollar question."
"Teaboy doesn't have any more cyberbitches stashed anywhere, has he?" Owen asked bluntly, earning glares from the rest of the team. He raised his hands defensively. "I'm just saying. Tell me you weren't thinking it."
Jack narrowed his eyes, but said nothing. Instead Gwen spoke up again, musing, "Maybe Owen's on to something. Not Ianto having another, erm, cyberwoman but what if UNIT found out about Lisa or something and arrested him for treason!"
"That's highly unlikely," Tosh responded, and only Jack picked up the slight waver in her voice. "UNIT cannot get into my mainframe." She frowned and looked defiant. "Ever."
"And besides," Jack cut in, "the paperwork for that unfortunate incident is seriously lacking. I've always said paperwork is just a waste of trees. And I couldn't be bothered." But really, the others all knew that it wasn't a lack of Jack not bothering, but rather a Jack wanting to protect a certain office boy.
"Okay, so it's got nothing to do with Lisa then," Gwen said, looking thoughtful. "Revenge, perhaps?"
Owen snorted. "I don't think UNIT's in the habit of abducting people for revenge, Gwen. Torchwood London, maybe. But UNIT, really?"
Tosh and Jack exchanged a look that Owen and Gwen missed. Running a hand through his brown hair, Jack finally said, "Right you lot. It's clear that UNIT has Ianto for some reason or another. I want to know why. Tosh – I want you to run diagnostics on the computers. I know we can't be breeched, but I want to make sure. And I want you to cross-reference all the victims against UNIT, including Ianto. Owen and Gwen, you two come up with a list of possible reasons why Ianto was targeted, either for being himself or for being Torchwood. I don't care how bizarre the idea; if you think it, it gets put on the list."
"What about you, Jack?" Gwen asked, wide-eyed. "What are you going to do?"
He looked grimly at her. "I'm going to make some calls."
"What the hell do you want?"
It was not the most eloquent of responses, but it was the only thing Ianto found himself being able to say. He recognised the dark uniforms, the red berets and he was beyond bewildered. UNIT? What did UNIT have to do with the missing homeless? As far as he was aware, UNIT wasn't exactly in the habit of abducting people off the street and murdering them.
The two UNIT blokes looked at each other, and Ianto would have almost called their expressions confusion. They started talking quietly to each other and even if Ianto tried to strain his ears, he couldn't make out what the odd pair were saying. What the fuck was up with these guys?
"Um, excuse me," Ianto spoke up, raising his hand as though he was asking permission. "Yes, hello. Hi. This is your prisoner speaking. Would you, perhaps, mind very much telling me what is going on? I appear to be confused. What has UNIT got to do with any of this?"
"UNIT?" The taller of the two officers looked confused and turned to his partner.
The other whacked him on the back of the head and sighed, much to Ianto's bemusement. "He means the shimmer, idiot."
"Oh, right. That." The taller, and younger looking, UNIT officer raised his arm and pressed down on a small, metal bracelet. He flickered like a static-y television and then blinked out of existence, leaving in his place a shorter, orange figure that was very much non-human.
"Right, not UNIT then," Ianto remarked slowly. Aliens. Well, that was very Torchwood.
Martha Jones, Medical Officer to the Unified Intelligence Taskforce, was sitting on a hard, plastic chair in UNIT London's headquarters and sipping a coffee when her mobile phone rang. She glanced down, pulled out her phone and noted the ID-caller.
"Hello, Jack," she said cheerfully, raising the phone to her ear.
"Martha Jones, voice of a nightingale," Jack chimed down the other end, though it lacked his normal lustre and charm. Martha knew immediately something was wrong.
"What's up, Jack?" Martha asked, the smile falling from her face. She frowned. "What's wrong?"
Jack sighed heavily from Cardiff and said nothing. Martha got a little worried, because a silent Jack was never a happy Jack. "Jack?" she asked, concerned. "Talk to me."
"Ianto's missing, Martha," Jack said dully and Martha did a double take.
"Ianto? Ianto Jones? Run that by me again."
"Ianto's gone," Jack repeated, this time flatly. "Gone. Vanished. Disappeared." In Cardiff, Jack narrowed his eyes and accused, "And UNIT has him."
"What!? Excuse me!?" Martha reacted loudly, attracting the attention of the people around her. She glared at them and lowered her voice. "UNIT, Jack? Seriously? Why would we want Ianto?"
"We have CCTV footage, Martha," Jack replied hollowly. "It's definitely UNIT officers that took him."
"I don't believe it," Martha murmured more to herself, but was overheard by Jack.
"Ask Toshiko if you don't believe me," Jack snapped and Martha felt bewildered, trying to think which one was Toshiko.
"What?" She was confused and dozens of thoughts were racing around in her head, and Martha didn't know what to think.
"Sorry," Jack said, sounding just a tad bit sheepish. "Never mind. But please, Martha, I need you to look into it."
"Why?" Martha asked. "Why are you so sure UNIT has Ianto?" Martha didn't believe it, did she?
"I'll send you the footage." Jack's voice had gone hard and Martha winced, feeling bad. Jack wouldn't throw accusations around lightly, so there might be something to it. And besides, if Martha were honest, she trusted Jack a million times more than she would ever trust UNIT.
". . . And I need him, Martha," Jack was saying as Martha finally turned back into the conversation. Jack was speaking softly, painfully and almost desperately, and it nearly broke Martha's heart.
"I can't lose him again, Martha. Not now. I know I'll lose him one day, but not now." Jack was desperate, pleading even, and Martha vowed that if UNIT really were involved, she'd bring them down from the inside.
"Jack, shhh, calm down," Martha said gently, calmly. She could tell that Jack was on the verge of panicking. Jack had told her the story of Ianto Jones and what had happened during the Year That Never Was, and like hell was Martha going to let Jack go through that again.
"Just breathe, Jack," Martha instructed, distracted as she thought about which officers owed her favours, how far she could get into the UNIT systems and whether some old friends might be able to help out.
Jack sounded shaky on the other end of the phone and Martha wished she could just reach out and hug him. Instead she settled with saying, "I'll get straight on it. Don't worry, Jack. I'll see what I can do; I promise. I've got some people that owe me favours and there's kinda an old boys' club here when it comes to the Doctor. Leave it with me."
"Thanks, Martha," Jack breathed gratefully, gripping the edge of his desk so tightly that the wood started to cut into his skin.
Martha shrugged. "No worries. Please just stay calm, Jack, and I'll get back to you in a couple of hours. Ianto needs you thinking clearly so that he can have a heroic rescue I know you're so fond of." Martha smiled fondly as Jack laughed a little.
"I'm being silly, aren't I?"
Martha shook her head. "Not silly at all, Jack. You care about Ianto and what happens to him. That's not silly; ever. I'll get back to you."
Jack and Martha said their goodbyes and with a sigh, Martha put her phone away. She stood, leaving her rapidly cooling coffee on the table, and walked out of the canteen. She'd get to the bottom of this, Martha vowed, because Jack really did deserve every good thing in his life.
"Listen up!" Jack called from the doorway of his office. His voice echoed throughout the Hub, causing his three agents to look up at him. Toshiko was at her computer while Gwen and Own were clustered around his. "Team meeting in five," Jack declared authoritatively, leaving no room for arguments. "Ianto! I want . . ."
Jack trailed off and frowned as he remembered Ianto wasn't here. Moodily, he stomped back into his office as Tosh, Owen and Gwen gave each other awkward glances but purposely didn't look up at Jack. Gwen sighed and said,
"He's really missing Ianto, isn't he?"
Owen rolled his eyes. "Point out the obvious, Cooper." He eyed Jack's office critically. "He's probably just sexually frustrated because Teaboy hasn't been around to give him a blowjob."
Gwen whacked Owen on the arm. Hard. "They really care about each other," Gwen protested, and Tosh nodded her agreement. "And they're good for each other, I think."
"Yeah. Two fucked-up individuals do not make a right," Owen snorted sarcastically. "Ianto's a good-looking piece of arse in a suit. He's practically Jack's walking wet dream."
"Any one would think you were jealous, Owen," Tosh remarked, surprising herself at how forward she sounded. She had been pretty quiet since the whole Ianto fiasco had started, lost in her own memories of UNIT capture.
"Me jealous of Ianto?" Owen spluttered. "Please. Pull the other one. Ianto can have Captain Innuendo for all I care."
Gwen smirked. "I'm sure Ianto will be pleased to know that, when he gets back."
Owen glared at Gwen, but Tosh saved them from any further argument by pointing out that they should probably gather in the conference room for Jack's team meeting. All three Torchwood operatives collected their information and made their way towards the newly-refurbished conference room.
Jack wasn't there when Tosh, Owen and Gwen stepped inside. Silently, they took their normal seats and waited awkwardly for Jack. All three wondered what kind of mood Jack would be in, hoping that it wasn't one of his dark and broody ones.
Finally, ten minutes later Jack swept into the room and strolled past his team, keeping his eyes directly ahead and didn't look at them as he passed. He stopped at the head of the table and turned to the others, giving them a hard look.
Jack barked, "It better be good." And that officially began the meeting.
After a moment of stunned silence, all three launched into explanations at the same time. Words twisted other words and voices became louder as each tried to top the one before him or her.
Jack whistled sharply, bringing the room to silence once again. He gave each and every one of them a glowering look and they all seemed to shrink in their seats, even Owen who wasn't easily intimidated by their Captain. "One at a time," he told them slowly, and they all knew immediately that he was pissed.
Tosh raised her hand timidly. "I ran diagnostics on all the computers," she explained. "And there is no way UNIT has gotten in. Unless they have upgraded their computers since last week with alien technology from billion years into our future, then there is no way they have superior computers to us."
Jack nodded once. "And the victims?"
"Nothing," Toshiko responded, almost apologetically. "One of the victims did attend infant school with a low-grade UNIT solider, but that's it. Nothing interesting at all that would tie the dead homeless to UNIT. Or Ianto to UNIT, other than the obvious Torchwood-UNIT connection."
"Okay." Jack didn't even applaud Tosh on her good work and that was a sign that something was seriously wrong. He turned to Owen and Gwen. "And?"
"We have a list," Gwen announced, holding up her and Owen's sheet of paper.
"I don't have all day, Gwen," Jack snapped.
"Right." She glanced down. "First we have the Lisa thing. And don't protest because you told us to write down anything and that's a possibility." Jack snapped his mouth shut so Gwen continued, "Next is my revenge idea, though we could not come up with a reason as to why UNIT would want revenge on us. After that we had–"
"Nothing to do with Ianto or Torchwood at all," Owen cut in, snatching the paper from Gwen's hand. "I gave you my autopsy report. Something or someone is frying those brains. Maybe UNIT is conducting illegal human testing and failing badly."
"Okay. What else?"
"Information," Gwen spoke up. "Perhaps they want some information about Torchwood or its employees or some of its tech or something. They either think Ianto is the easiest to get talking, which I think is rubbish because look at the whole Lisa mess, or he presented the first opportunity."
"Grab him off the street," Jack mused.
"Yeah," Gwen nodded. "Or . . ." She eyed Jack warily. ". . . Maybe it's not about forcing Ianto to give information, but rather forcing us, more specifically you, to give information or tech by threatening Ianto."
"It's a possibility," Jack sighed, sitting down heavily. "But I've always thought we had a pretty civil relationship with UNIT, even if we didn't always see eye to eye. I can't imagine . . ." He trailed off.
"We'll get him back," Gwen promised Jack, though she was trying to convince herself as well. "We won't stop until we do. You know that, Jack. We're in this together."
Jack gave her a soft, ironic smile. "I just hope it doesn't bring us all down in the process."
The other alien had lost his (though Ianto couldn't be sure he was a he anymore) shimmer as well and now Ianto was studying them intently. They were speaking again, using a language Ianto had to assume was alien. They were both short, orange and had pointed noses, ears and chins. They looked a little dog-like, yet they still looked humanoid-ish. The aliens had no hair whatsoever, but at least they seemed to have eyes and noses and mouths in the positions Ianto was familiar with.
"So," Ianto started conversationally and the pair looked over at him, "you're aliens. I'm not sure if I was expecting this or not." He shrugged and leaned back against the wall, still right at the front of the cell. The pain in his head and his arm had dulled and while it was a hindrance, it wasn't affecting his thought pattern too badly.
The aliens blinked at him so Ianto sighed. "Would you like to tell me why I am here?"
"We know who you are, Ianto Jones," one said, though Ianto didn't know which one.
If that unnerved Ianto, he didn't show it. "May I ask who you are then?" he asked politely. "It's unfair that you know who I am yet I don't know who you are."
"You may call me Rac'ctal," the same one spoke again.
"Rac'ctal," Ianto repeated, getting the pronunciation of the alien name exactly correct. "And your friend?"
"Ba'al," the other replied stiffly, and it was obvious then that Rac'ctal was the one in charge.
"Great," Ianto said cheerfully. "Now that we've introduced ourselves, I think you'll find it common courtesy to tell you prisoner exactly why he's here."
Rac'ctal and Ba'al exchanged glances before Rac'ctal spoke up in flawless English. "We believe that you are – acquainted – with an old friend of ours. I believe you call him Captain Jack Harkness."
Oh great, Ianto thought dryly. Another pair of Jack's alien exes. Fan-fucking-tastic. Wasn't Hart enough? How many more conquests did the immortal Captain have floating in outer space? Ianto really didn't want to know.
"We had some . . . dealings . . . with Captain Harkness awhile ago," Rac'ctal was explaining bitterly. "He sold us something, but that something was not as he said it was." Rac'ctal looked angry. "On our planet, where trade is most sacred, that is punishable by death."
"Oh. Right then. Was he, erm, tried for his crime?"
"No," came the curt alien reply.
"So you're here for revenge," Ianto summarised. "What does Jack have to do with the bodies piling up around Cardiff?"
"They were unfortunate accidents," Rac'ctal replied. "And we were not here to get revenge, as you so crudely put it. We are here, actually, to test our newly developed mind probe. I was not – allowed – to test my invention back home, but then Ba'al here told me of Earth and its primitives. A few less on the street and no one will notice." He sighed, almost disappointingly. "Pity we cannot get the trials to work."
"So you killed them?" Ianto's stomach was churning.
"The machine killed them," Rac'ctal corrected him. "As I said, they were an unfortunate accident."
"So what am I? Your next test subject?"
"Perhaps." Rac'ctal grinned and Ianto shivered. It was like the temperature had dropped ten degrees and a gusty chill had seeped across the cell. "Or maybe you, Ianto Jones, are our way into Torchwood and to the good Captain."
Ianto rolled his eyes, though his heart was pounding. He didn't want to die, not now. "Are you going to kill me, then? To get back at Jack and make him suffer?" Ianto smirked. "How very Hollywood of you."
"In time," Rac'ctal replied silkily. "In the mean time . . ." The door of the cell swung open. "What do you think Captain Harkness would prefer? An ear or a finger . . .?"