This is inspired by, and follows on from, Looking For Ianto in All the Wrong Places by Tylluan. After the events in Children of Earth, Jack has been given a way to locate Ianto Jones in alternate realities in the hope of finding one who will make his life complete once more. My thanks to Tylluan for the inspiration and encouragement.
Jack staggered and fell as he emerged from the time portal and shook his head to clear it. Even a seasoned time traveller like himself was disorientated and needed a moment to recover from the molecular transformation inherent in the process. Unfortunately, on this occasion he didn't get that moment.
A fist connected with his chin and Jack fell sideways and down, hands flying up to protect his head. He banged his right elbow viciously on metal and cried as pain shot through his arm. Was it broken? He had no time to find out as a boot connected with his right hip, the one on which he was lying, and he collided with more metal, this time walls. Another kick, to the kidneys for variety, added to the pain. Then a heavy weight pinned him down and a final blow above the left ear brought blackness and oblivion.
He came round some indeterminate time later. He cracked open an eye and found he was lying on a bunk in a cabin. The ceiling and walls were metal, thick and dull and dirty with patched seams where the sheets of metal joined. Dim lighting came from a band running around the cabin close to the ceiling. It took him a moment to recognise the distant but constant thrum of engines then he had it, a dual-core black crystal drive. One that needed tuning. So he was in a cabin on a ship, a spaceship. And not one of the luxury liners or space yachts, a working vessel. A freighter. Slowly, Jack sat up. His body was completely recovered from the earlier assault but he flexed his right arm a time or two to work out the kinks of lying awkwardly; he had evidently been thrown onto the bunk and left to live or die.
Propped against the wall, he surveyed the cabin. A standard three metres wide by three metres long cube, it was Spartan in the extreme. The walls, floor and ceiling were all of the same extruded metal welded and riveted together. The bunk ran down one side, bolted to the wall and floor and with only a thin mattress and one malodorous blanket. On the other side of the cabin was a comfort station that smelt, not overpowering at present but the promise was there. There were no portholes and just the one door which was completely blank on this side, no handle and no release. With a sigh, Jack realised he was in a brig. Again.
He was also naked. Completely naked, even his watch and wrist strap had been removed. Someone was taking no chances. Resigned to his situation, Jack wrapped the blanket round himself for warmth and lay on his back. There was nothing he could do to better his condition, he had to wait for someone to come to him. He closed his eyes and wondered what the Ianto of this reality was doing here.
The door to his prison banged open, hitting the frame of the bunk and rattling Jack's teeth. "Get up." A man stood over him. A large human man with a massive upper torso on which was set a small bullet head. He was dressed in coarse fabric coveralls with a leather sleeveless tunic over the top, both of which were torn and stained.
"Sure." Jack smiled up at his captor and threw aside the blanket before standing. The man was a good twenty centimetres taller than him. "Time for afternoon tea?" His stomach was grumbling and he figured he had been captive for some hours.
The man looked at him curiously before snorting in derision. A beefy hand gripped Jack's upper left arm and he was propelled out of the cabin and along a corridor which joined another wider one. Jack took in everything around him as he was pushed along. The floor was a rough grating that hurt his feet. Pipes ran along the ceiling, hanging down at odd angles and liable to catch unwary passers-by. Luckily his captor avoided these out of long practice. Everything had a coating of grease; he could feel it beneath his feet and when he brushed against a wall. Airtight bulkhead doors spaced at regular intervals confirmed they were on a spaceship even before he caught a glimpse of stars outside a rare porthole. He was taken up three levels, climbing steps obviously designed for humans. Definitely a freighter, he concluded, from the forty-first century or thereabouts from the design. Probably hauling a bulk cargo of minerals - a high volume low profit trade - from the outer colonies to the more advanced centre of the Human Empire.
His speculations ended when they reached the Bridge. This area was better maintained, a large semi-circular space with half a dozen workstations only three of which were manned. There was no sign of Ianto. Jack did not have time to investigate in more detail as he was pushed forward to stand in front of a yellow-skinned man sprawled in the raised captain's chair.
"This is him, sir," said Jack's captor. He was a looming presence close behind Jack.
The captain sniffed, looking Jack up and down. Jack took the opportunity to do the same with the captain. Young, around thirty, and handsome he was dressed in standard spacer coveralls but these were clean, neat and well-fitting. A logo for the Hyperion Corporation was emblazoned on his right breast, a flash of orange and yellow on the dark green coveralls. It meant nothing to Jack.
"What are you doing here? How did you get on board?" asked the captain in a higher than expected voice that detracted from the air of authority he was trying to convey.
"I'm a traveller. Got caught up in some anomaly or other and ended up here." He shrugged. "Where am I exactly?"
The captain smiled, a smug smile. "You think I'm going to fall for that? Try again."
"It's the truth." Jack felt a rush of air behind him and moved to duck the blow that was coming but didn't quite manage it. The fist missed his head and thumped into his shoulder instead. Jack went down on one knee, banging into the side of the nearest workstation. He stayed down, making more of the blow than needed. He was dragged back to his feet.
The captain was standing too – he was shorter than Jack by a head - and had moved to the side where Jack's clothes were piled. He gingerly picked through them. "What's this?" He held up the wrist strap.
"A personal scanner." This was true as far as it went. The vortex manipulator may not work but there were many other functions that did and one of these was the scanner. "Not that I need it to hear the crack in your crystal." As he had moved through the ship, the whine had increasingly set Jack's teeth on edge. "Someone do the clamps up too tight?"
The captain shot a glance to the left where a grizzled veteran sat at the engineering station. The air crackled with tension, obviously Jack had hit a nerve. The captain and engineer stared at one another until the latter looked away, cowed into submission. "How did you know that?" The captain was once again focussed on Jack.
"The screech. Can't you hear it?"
"Of course I can!" The captain flung the wrist strap down on top of Jack's clothes. "You think I don't notice something that's keeping us at half speed?" The tone revealed the man's insecurity and Jack filed it away. Was this his first trip in command? If so he'd be desperate for help but unwilling to ask for it. This was an opening Jack could exploit if he played his cards right.
"It needs trimming."
The captain exchanged another glance with the engineer but both looked dubious. "And you can do that?"
Jack shrugged and crossed his arms over his bare chest. If the captain had thought keeping him naked would put Jack at a disadvantage he was wrong, Jack had no such hang-ups and was quite content if a bit chilly. He waited for the captain to continue, watching the hope flare behind the dark eyes.
The engineer broke the silence. "You can't let him loose on the engine," he protested. "We don't know who he is. He could be a saboteur for all we know. Maybe Kendal sent him."
"And maybe she got to you!" snapped the captain. He hated being contradicted by the more experienced members of his crew which made him even more willing to trust the stranger. "You're the one who cracked the crystal and added four weeks to the trip!"
"I told you, the crystal was flawed -"
"So you say." The captain turned back to Jack, taking a step forward to stand closer. "I need top speed. Can you do that?"
Jack met the captain's gaze steadily. "I don't know, not until I've seen your set-up. Even if I can trim it, you'll probably not get 100% but it'd be close." He paused. "At worst it'd be better than what you've got now."
Without taking his gaze from Jack, the captain said, "Feugard, show him the drive. See what he can do."
"This is madness," protested Feugard, the engineer.
"I gave you an order." The gaze was directed at the engineer now. "Kloss, go with them."
"Yes, sir." The large man standing behind Jack grabbed his upper arm and made to pull him away.
"Wait. Here." The captain tossed Jack's clothes across to land on the floor in front of him. "Get dressed."
Bending, Jack sorted the clothes quickly and donned underwear, trousers, shirt and boots. The greatcoat he draped over his arm. Left on the side were the wrist strap, watch, his wallet, mobile and other personal effects and, perhaps most importantly, the wand that would open the portal and get him out of this reality. No point making a big play for it yet, it wasn't going anywhere. "I'll need the scanner."
The captain considered, head tilted to one side then threw the wrist strap to Kloss. "Let him use it but watch him."
Jack was pulled round and pushed forward. With Feugard in front of him and Kloss behind, they were taking no chances. The door to the Bridge opened and a tall, slim dark-haired man entered. With the barest glance at the three other men, he went to the navigation station and sat down. Jack had found Ianto.
How will Jack fare on the freighter? Will Ianto be receptive to his approaches? More will be revealed in the next chapter which will be coming soon.