Disclaimer: As chapter One.
Author's Note: Thank you for the continuing interest in this story – I'm about to upload two chapters so there won't be a guessing game. This is as far as this story has got at the moment but I am looking forward to writing more when I get back from my honeymoon so if you have any prompts/suggestions/requests then now is a good time to make them! Have a good summer!
Two hours later the team had settled into their familiar work routines, fuelled by copious amounts of Ianto's coffee to get them through the crash in energy they had all suffered once they were back in the warmth of the Hub. Tosh was diligently reviewing the scans she had taken from the crash site to attempt to find a way to open the pod. Ianto was reviewing files from the depths of the archives, trying to discover if Torchwood had seen anything similar in the past. Gwen was hacking into the Police system to ensure their cover story had been accepted having spent half an hour in hushed conversation with a tired, irritated Andy. Jack and Owen in the meantime had donned radiation suits and with much grumbling and moaning manhandled the stricken escape pod into the Hub via the invisible lift and then down into one of the vacant lower level storage rooms. Now as the first tentative rays of sunlight made their way over the horizon Owen lay dozing on the couch, an empty coffee mug dangling from loose fingers.
"How's it going Tosh?" Jack kept his voice considerately lowered, smiling gently as the technician looked at him with bleary eyes.
"Almost there, I think." A smile lit her face, "Just need this calibration to finish on the scanner, then I should be able to use it to replicate an activation signal."
Jack nodded, how she managed to charm solutions out of these machines remained something of a miracle to him. Her mind made quicksilver links between all the components and their possible functions and her instincts seemed to unswervingly lead her to the correct answer. Not for the first time Jack thanked his lucky stars that he had arranged her release from the UNIT jail.
"Brilliant Tosh," he praised her, loving the delicate pink flush of embarrassment that darkened her cheeks, "Keep going with that calibration, let me know as soon as you are ready to give it a go."
Tosh nodded absentmindedly, her fingers flying over the keyboard so fast that they were practically a blur. With a brief shoulder squeeze Jack left her to her work and crossed the floor of the Hub to stand alongside Gwen, who stretched before turning towards him with a big smile.
"All contained," she reported cheerfully, "Andy moaned, nothing new there. Was very vague about his wedding invite as well but never mind. Fancy a cuppa?"
Jack nodded gratefully.
"Thanks Gwen, Tosh has nearly figured out how to get the capsule open, so grab a break now while there's chance."
She nodded and disappeared into the kitchenette for a moment, returning with four mugs of the previously brewed coffee Ianto had left warming. Smiling she passed two to Jack,
"Ianto's in the archives," she told him, "why don't you take him a coffee?"
Trying to ignore her knowing expression Jack took the two mugs and made his way along the darkened corridor that led to Ianto's domain. By the main door a small note, scrawled in handwriting that looked suspiciously like Tosh's proclaimed "Here be Dragons" and each time he passed it he thought of that weekend Tosh and Ianto had spent painting the Hub wall with the help of a few bottles of beer: a big rift spike had been predicted – which of course never arrived – but still it had been a good weekend.
He paused in the doorway of the room that housed Ianto's desk, watching him at work for a moment. He was completely surrounded by files, and Jack knew he was sorting out relevant information for the briefing that would no doubt occur later this morning. He looked tired with dark circles ringing his eyes, Jack noticed and the part of his heart that belonged to Ianto yearned to send him to bed; unfortunately, the part of his mind that ran Torchwood needed him here working.
Although Jack swore he had remained completely silent, something had tipped Ianto off to his arrival and he sat back in his seat to return the Captain's steady gaze.
"Is that for me?" he asked, gesturing to the mug in Jack's hands, hopefully.
Jack smiled as he crossed the room to relinquish the cup, and perched on the edge of Ianto's desk, mirroring the deep gulp of coffee Ianto took with one of his own.
"Found anything useful?"
Ianto pulled a small pile of papers towards himself, and glanced through them.
"There has been a few of these over the past century, I suppose it's not too surprising – there's a Rift Storm so people bail out of their ships and get sucked in. However, they must have been some kind of mass produced escape pod, there's nothing really linking the pod inhabitants." He showed Jack a series of photos proving his point. Jack nodded in agreement.
"That would make sense; there are some huge planet-wide shipyards out there. They'll sell to huge numbers of planets."
"Like Ford, only in space." Ianto commented.
"One of them is," Jack confessed with a grin, "Anyway, Tosh thinks she's almost got opening the pod cracked, so we'll just have to wait to hear..."
His Bluetooth headset crackled into life, as if on cue.
"Jack?" Tosh's voice was clear in his ear, "I think I've done it."
"Excellent work Tosh, Ianto and I will be there in a moment."
With a sigh at the thought of having to wear a Hazmat suit, and another drag of coffee, Ianto rose from his seat, gathering up files he thought could be useful and followed Jack back into the main Hub.
They stood clustered around the silver capsule, uncomfortably ensconced inside bright white Hazmat suits, their filtered breaths harsh in the silence. Owen was peeved at being woken up – unsurprisingly – but they were all showing signs of fatigue, except Jack of course, nothing really seemed to dim his enthusiasm, especially something so mundane as fatigue. Ianto tried to stifle a yawn, but was stopped short by the clear plastic of his helmet, and smiled ruefully to himself at his momentary confusion. Gwen caught his expression and grinned at him, the expression lighting up her dark eyes and temporarily lifted the shadows that hung beneath them. Owen lounged lacksidasically against the wall, a stance that pushed the helmet of his suit forward and made him look bent in the middle and slightly ridiculous. All of them however had their attention firmly fixed on Toshiko.
She crouched next to the capsule, connecting wires from it to her hand held terminal with quiet determination. Ianto had the distinct impression that if all the Hub alarms were to go off at once Tosh would have no idea that it had happened. He admired her stoic resolution to get the job done, no matter what it was, and found himself smiling down at her with affection. She caught his eye and grinned back, obviously in her element.
"It's all wired up," she told them, glossing over the technical details. Ianto was the only member of the team that would appreciate the complexity of the work she had done, and she could quietly have a quick boast to him over a cup of coffee later, "All I need to do is..."
Her nimble fingers keyed in a command, then she turned to regard Jack with serious dark eyes. At his nod she hit the enter key with a little flourish and gazed expectantly at the metal shell before her.
With an almost ominous high pitched squeal, the capsule began to slowly open, cracking in half at the central groove which ran around it. Involuntarily they all took a small step forward, to better see the contents within, gasping as their gaze was met by a pair of unblinking black orbs which stared fixedly ahead.
"Is it alive?" Gwen whispered, her voice carrying easily in the stunned silence.
As if to answer her, the creature lifted long, slim fingers, six of them, Ianto noted, and curled them slowly around the rim of the now fully opened capsule.