"It's all right," Owen whispered, "Really, Tosh, it's all right."
And it was, he supposed. It wasn't like it would hurt, right? It'd all be over and he wouldn't be stuck in this stupid in-between state any more. He faced his oncoming death with half a smile, alarms blaring around him.
Really, it wouldn't be that bad, dying - he'd already done it once, Jack did it all the time, and everyone else died sometime, and Suzie'd always had a flare for the dramatic, it wouldn't be as bad as she'd said… All he really regretted was, well, not taking into account the ventilation system, but more than that, never asking Tosh out, never getting in a relationship again like he'd had with Katie, so long ago, never, never, never….
Fuck that, he wanted to live.
"Owen?" Toshiko's voice came desperately through the speaker. "Owen?"
Owen shut his eyes, but it couldn't completely block out the blinding white light coming straight for him. The alarms were drowned out by a roaring in his ears, a whoosh as if he were sticking his head out the window of a passenger jet.
By all rights, it should have burned. It should have melted his flesh from his bones, torn him to shreds, downright disintegrated his entire body, down to the last brain cell, finally killing him for good. That wasn't what happened, and that's how Owen came to realize something had gone wrong with his death.
A lot of Owen's senses had stopped working altogether after he'd died, primarily touch and taste and fun things like that. With a lot of concentration, he could make out things like heat and pressure, but only barely. He'd even considered that those feelings were just memories, inspired by the sight of physical contact, rather than the touch itself. Really, the only sense other than sight and hearing was balance.
He was pretty sure now he felt pressure around his chest and middle, like a rope around his body was tugging him backwards, hard. And he was definitely off-balance.
Owen stumbled backwards, just barely managing to stay upright. His eyes snapped open; instead of the dull metal of the nuclear reactor or a rush of fire, there were sterile white walls, counters full of unfamiliar technology, flashing lights, and one gigantic gray archway, right in front of him. The center of the arch was sparking, bright white light flickering out, a strong wind making his jacket flutter.
"What the hell?" said Owen, blinking more out of confusion and habit than any need to shield his eyes.
Owen became suddenly aware that he was not alone in the unfamiliar room. It was full of people, dressed in something like white has mat suits, all gesturing and shouting wildly, at the arch, at each other, at their equipment, at Owen.
The arch sparked and sputtered, and the lights at its center grew and shrank. It emitted strange sounds, almost like voices, masked by the cacophony of the room. "…orking?" Owen heard, and he almost thought he knew that voice from somewhere. "…an't tell, try agai…"
"Somebody restrain it!" came a voice from behind him.
Owen forgot the voices from the archway as one of the people grabbed both his arms from behind. He snapped out of his reverie, and instinctively whipped around, trying to see his attacker. It was too fast for him, and his knees were knocked out from under him.
"Be careful with him, he's fragile!" came another voice.
"Don't, I want it undamaged!" said yet another.
Someone else charged forwards, grasping a round, metal device with flashing green lights. He, or possibly she, grabbed Owen's head with one hand, pushing it down, and put another hand on his back while s/he clamped the device onto the back of Owen's skull.
He collapsed in a limp heap into his captor's arms instantly. Thatwastoomanyarms, he thought, irrationally.
One of the men who shouted earlier ran forwards, grabbing one of the others by the shoulder. "What the hell is wrong with it?" he shouted, gesturing at the archway. "Why hasn't it deactivated yet?"
"I'm working on it, my friend," said the other. He resumed his frantic typing at the bizarre console in front of him. "I can't understand what is wrong! Do not worry," he added, "I will fix the problem, even if I have to cut all the power and deactivate the Gate. Please, take our guest to be decontaminated, I will join you as soon as possible.
Decontaminated? Owen wanted to shout, but none of his muscles seemed to be working properly. First no touch, no food, now no movement or even speech. Really, being undead forever was going to suck if he couldn't even make sarcastic comments.
The first man just nodded and backed away, snapping orders to Owen's captor as he stalked out the door. Owen was hefted onto the - creature's, definitely creature, that was a tail down there - shoulders and carried off behind him.
Imustreally,reallysuckatdying, Owen thought.
The door shut behind them with a slam.
Decontamination wasn't quite as bad as Owen had thought it would be, although he wasn't altogether sure that wasn't simply because he couldn't feel pain. It involved being shoved into a device resembling an MRI machine; all Owen could tell was that it glowed an unsettling purple and made a lot of noise.
From his captors' commentary, he deduced that the device was getting rid of any radiation leftover from the power plant. He also put in some serious effort to moving something - anything - but the device on his head seemed to have demobilized him entirely. He couldn't even blink; it was lucky he no longer really needed to. By really concentrating, he was able to look around somewhat, but that was the extent of his mobility. It was rather unsettling.
What was even more unsettling was when he was removed from the decontamination unit. His captors had ditched the has mat suits, and it was now extremely obvious that none of them were human. One of them was rather lizardlike, tall and lanky, with eight fingers on each hand and a long prehensile tail; another was more like a fish, and really didn't look like it should be able to balance on such tiny feet/fin hybrids. Both of these were being bossed about by a furrier specimen, a ruddy brown color, with pointed, cat-like ears on the side of his head, two constantly moving antennae, and a prominent mustache. All three were wearing lab coats.
But Owen wasn't really too concerned with the aliens - really, they weren't unexpected at all any more, even if he they had kidnapped him from his own death. The lizard man carried him into another room at the furry one's orders, and that's when the three of them started the autopsy.
Orisitvivisection? thought Owen silently to himself. Isitstillanautopsyifthesubject,whiletechnicallydead,isstillconsciousthroughthewholething?
It was a very odd experience. None of the aliens showed any acknowledgement that Owen was anything more than an object of study, only occasionally breaking the silence to request a tool or point out something within Owen's body. The doctor wondered if there'd ever been some alien back on earth, paralyzed but aware of everything, terrified as Owen had dissected it, unable to express that it was still conscious.
But then again, Owen wasn't really all that terrified himself. He couldn't actually feel any pain, and he didn't have any working hormones to affect his emotional state, so after the first shock of whatthefuckinghelldotheythinkthey'redoing? wore off, Owen just felt mildly annoyed at the whole ridiculous situation.
He was able to watch the whole procedure on a little screen about Furryface's head, which also displayed graphs and figures in a language Owen couldn't read. He figured they must have been measures of things like brain activity and that strange energy that kept him 'alive'. It was actually very interesting.
Ireallydranktoomuch,didn'tI? he thought distantly, staring at the image of his own liver.
The procedure was interrupted by another alien bursting through the laboratory doors. He looked like a cousin of Furryface, though he was a more reddish brown, much stockier, and had an even fuller mustache. His fur stood up on end beneath his suit.
"What the hell are you doing?" he demanded, stalking inside.
Myhero, Owen thought.
"I am performing the first of my studies," Furryface said calmly, not even bothering to look up from Owen's chest. "Look at this, the lungs are unnecessary, practically unusable, and yet it still retains the capacity to speak. How does that work? How does the air pass through the voice box? It's fascinating."
Fluffy frowned at his friend. "I can't believe you started without me!"
Okay, not my hero.
"You were otherwise occupied. I have already waited months for your silly little project. And I figured you wouldn't mind; biology is hardly your area of expertise."
"Well, yes," Fluffy stuttered, "But it's the principle of the thing! I wanted to be there."
"You're here now."
"Quite." Fluffy made a sort of chuffing sound and approached the operating table. He looked somewhat ill, actually, at the sight of the autopsy. Owen watched him, curiously.
Fluffy looked Owen up and down, and suddenly caught the human's eye, quite by accident. He jumped.
"Good heavens, is he still conscious?"
Furryface glanced up. "Of course," he said. "If we disable the higher thought processes, there's no telling if we would be able to turn them back on. It would rather defeat the purpose of the study."
Nicetoknowtheywantmealive,Iguess, thought Owen. …Sotospeak.
"But… but!" Fluffy was obviously horrified at the thought of Owen being awake. "Don't you have any idea how traumatizing this must be? How awful! Did you even take the time to explain what you were doing? Who we are? The poor boy must be terrified!"
Not really, but thanks for caring, I totally share the sentiment.
Furryface stopped poking around Owen's ribcage and looked up blankly. His assistants hovered awkwardly by the walls, unsure what to do as their bosses argued.
"Do you want me to stop?" Furryface asked, amused. "Perhaps you would like to close all this up then."
"No, no, no," said Fluffy, shaking his hands and head. "I don't mean you should stop your research, I just, well…" He looked around, distressed, and floundered for words. He finally sighed, raising his clawed hands in surrender. "Just keep it quick, all right? And for goodness' sake, at least cover his eyes or something, nobody should have to witness their own dissection!"
One of the assistants covered Owen's eyes with a rag. Owen sighed mentally as he was enveloped in darkness.
Really, he did appreciate the thought, but it was kind of a too-little-too-late situation. And now he couldn't even watch. He listened idly to the aliens' discussion, but it soon turned back to inactive hearts and bullet wounds and fingers and congealed blood and other things Owen already knew. It was just plain boring.
"Doctor Harper?" said the voice Owen was pretty sure belonged to the alien he'd dubbed 'Fluffy.' "Doctor Harper, can you hear me?"
Of course I can, you hairy git, but I can't bloody answer, can I?
"I'm going to let you up now," Fluffy continued, "Please remain calm, I'm going to explain everything, I promise. Just… stay calm."
Owen heard some shuffling as the alien moved around to behind him, followed by a click and soft hissing as the device was removed from his head. He waited a moment, wriggling his toes and blinking before trying any larger movements.
He sat up and caught the rag as it fell from his face. Owen looked around properly, blinking in the sudden light; it was clearly a small laboratory or medical bay, filled with cupboards and drawers and equipment that, although not like most Earth technology he'd seen before, looked medical. The only other occupant was Fluffy, standing back warily, as if afraid of being attacked; Furryface and his assistants must have left earlier.
"Where the hell am I?" said Owen. "And who are you?"
The alien cringed apologetically. "I'm really terribly sorry about all of this, Doctor Harper. It wasn't really supposed to occur like this, you know, but Eskar just got carried away, I think, he's been rather impatient about all this - I can't blame him really, I've been extremely excited myself, just to actually meet you, to have all this work be a success - it's spectacular! Wonderful, really, so good to meet you in person."
Owen stared at him. "Right," he said, "And who are you?"
"Oh! My apologies, I haven't introduced myself; my name is Nerranderot Uquiccax, I'm an historian, and curator of this museum. You can call me Ned, if you like!"
He beamed at Owen proudly.
Owen stared blankly at him. "Ned?"
Ned's grin faltered a little. "Is that not alright?" he asked, "I've met some humans before, they always have dreadful trouble with pronunciation, I looked into vintage Earth names and Ned rather took my fancy. Is that wrong? Should I have chosen something else?"
"No," Owen said, "Ned's fine."
"Wonderful!" exclaimed Ned. "Now, I'm certain you have many questions, this whole thing must be rather overwhelming…"
Owen scowled back at him. "I think I've got the general gist."
Ned looked apologetic. "I'm afraid we've left rather a nasty first impression on you; we really don't mean any harm, my associate - Eskar Xarchac, close friend of mine, really, he's wonderful once you get to know him - he has some difficulty interacting with others, it's quite sad. He's a doctor, yes, a biologist, quite famous in his field. He saves lives, you know, that's what he does. He's found all kinds of ways to increase the lifespans of all kinds of species, even bring some back after death if you can get to them quick enough, it's all quite amazing. And, well, he gets wrapped up in his studies, and well, with your, er, physiology…"
"I'm the perfect lab rat, is that it?"
"Well, yes, I'm afraid so," Ned finished. "But really, that's not all there is to it, you see. As I said, I'm an historian, and I'm currently studying pre-interplanetary civilizations, including Earth, it's all very interesting you know. And, well, you were there; early 21st Century, that's when everything started to change permanently, and, well, I wanted first hand accounts of what it was like! And I've read all the files, all the old reports, it's all so interesting, I've read all about you and your team and - "
"Wait," said Owen. "What do you mean 'was'?"
Ned paused in his babbling. "What?"
"You said the 21st Century was when everything started to change," Owen repeated. "That would imply that I'm not in the 21st Century. I get that I was abducted by aliens - sure, no problem, all in a day's work for Torchwood - are you saying you've kidnapped me through time as well?"
Ned returned to twiddling his fingers nervously. "Well, yes," he said simply. "We have."
The historian got to his feet, straightening his jacket and bowtie self-consciously. "Perhaps you'd better come with me, it might be easier to explain."
Ned handed Owen a garment, evidently the local hospital garb, though Owen was somewhat gratified to find that it wasn't nearly as ignominious as those he was used to; closer to pajamas than a gown. He led the way into the hallway, picking up his narrative.
"What we used to bring you here is something we've taken to calling the 'Time Gate.' It was donated to the museum a few years ago, and we finally finished its repairs. Though it was acting up after we pulled you through, have to have a look at that."
Ned led Owen to a large, empty room. "This is a museum, as I've said. We're currently about 2000 years from your time, and, well, light years from your planet."
He held his furry wrist up to some sort of panel on the wall; both the limb and the panel flashed green, and the wall flickered and turned transparent.
"Whoa." Owen stared out the large window into a vast expanse of stars. Around the edges of the window was brown and grey rock, shedding dust out into space that glowed with the light from the window.
"The museum is built into an asteroid, Adris One," Ned explained. "It takes up about a quarter of the asteroid itself, and is attached to a housing and public area of similar size. The other half is unbuilt upon."
Owen didn't answer. He just stared out into the unfamiliar sky.
Ned coughed, unsure of what to do. "The museum has exhibits for both science and technology and history. We brought you here to, well, be a part of it. As you know, Eskar, that is, Doctor Xarchac, he would like to look into your… condition, and as for me, well, I just want to talk to you, find out what it was like to live during your time, at your job, making first contact before First Contact… it's all so fascinating to me. The things the three of you can teach us about history, well, it's simply - "
Owen jolted and stared at Ned. "The three of us?"
Ned faltered again. "Oh, yes, well, quite. Sorry, I wasn't going to say anything until things had settled down, but… "
"Well, we did use the time gate twice before, you see. We knew it took up too much power to use frivolously, but we had to test it before bringing a live - as it were - subject through, so we brought the others through as well."
"What do you mean the others?" Owen demanded. "You mean like more Torchwood?"
"Well, yes," said Ned. "Part of your team, actually. Mr. Jones and Ms. Sato. Eskar has them set up in one of his recovery systems downstairs, the process should finish by this evening - "
"I want to see them," Owen snarled. "Now."
The equipment whirred softly, punctuated by quiet beeps and boops, measures of heartbeats and brainwaves. Owen stepped silently between the two beds, holding the breath he no longer needed.
"The process still has a few hours to go," Ned insisted.
Owen didn't answer. He just stared at the beds and the equipment hooked up to them, taking everything in. He stopped his pacing between the two, finally leaning over to get a closer look at the occupants.
He stared down at Toshiko's still body. If not for the beeping of the heart monitor, he wouldn't have believed she could possibly be alive. Her lips were bluish, as were her fingers and toes, and the wound that had killed her was still gaping wide in front of him.
"She was shot," Ned provided, still trying to be helpful, "Just before you, well, before we pulled you out of when you would have otherwise died. Amazing story, she kept up her instructions through the whole ordeal, it's really thanks to her that the whole city wasn't -"
"I know that," Owen snarled, squeezing the side of the bed rail. "I was there."
Ned's mouth snapped shut with a click of his teeth colliding.
"Only I wasn't there," Owen continued. "I believed her when she said she was fine. I wasn't with her. She was comforting me. If I had just been there, I might have been able to save her. She must have bled to death, and none of them had the medical knowledge to save her, they'd have just watched, as she died, not one of them able to help. Not Jack or Gwen or Ianto - "
He cut himself off and whirled away from Toshiko. He stared at the other bed, not yet willing to look closer.
"What about him," said Owen. "How did Ianto die? There's not a mark on him."
"Poison gas!" Ned said, rather too loudly. He cringed and coughed again at the reverberation before continuing. "Not too sure on the details, mind you, the report was written long, long after the event, but in negotiations with a species referred to as the 'Four-Five-Six', they seem to have released some sort of toxin or possibly virus into the air, killing everyone in the building. It's quite remarkable stuff, really, according to Eskar; somewhat paralyzing, with a fairly quick kill time, and it's apparently easier for the nanites - that's the name of the little fellows fixing things up - to repair than Ms. Sato's wound."
Owen just gazed blankly at Ianto: he had a sort of respirator hooked up through his mouth, but overall did appear healthier than Toshiko, with some color already returning to the skin and a stronger heart rate. He still didn't look right, though. He didn't have the look of a patient struggling back to life and health, he didn't even look like he was asleep. He looked dead.
"I just saw them a couple of hours ago," Owen murmured. Orhasitbeenadaybynow?"They were alive, and talking to me, just a few hours ago."
His hands trembled. Not for the first time, he wished he were still able to cry, to choke, to do something that was irrational and gross and a physical coping mechanism.
"But they're alive now," Ned said softly back. "And in just a few hours from now, they'll be awake and talking to you again!"
He fluffed himself up importantly, and strode to Owen's side. "Come now," he said, and put a fluffy clawed hand on his shoulder, "Let's show you to your quarters, eh? You can get it all settled for the three of you, and then it'll be all ready and nice for them when they wake up. What do you say?"
"I'm staying here," Owen said simply.
Ned floundered for words. Owen just kept leaning over Ianto's bed, staring down without looking left or right.
Ned looked around as if desperate for an escape, before sighing in defeat. He went back to the corner of the room, pulled out a chair, and sat.
Beep, said the machinery, Boop.
They waited there for a long time. Ned was dozing off in the corner, occasionally falling forwards a little and muttering something in a guttural language Owen couldn't understand. Even Owen's mixture of personal and medical investment in his friends had given way to some level of boredom, and he'd given up watching the two of them lie there in favor of examining the equipment. He was fairly confident he knew what each device was supposed to do or what it was measuring, but he still jolted in surprise when one of them let off a loud blare of sound.
"What's going on?" Owen demanded.
Ned nearly fell out of his chair as he woke. He looked around, disoriented, at Owen and the flashing lights from Ianto's side of the room.
A quieter version of the alarm rang out from his arm. He glanced at the flashing green light on his wrist before waving his other hand over it, silencing both alarms.
"It's nothing to worry about," Ned said, still a little flustered. "Quite the opposite, actually. Just an alert saying the process is complete; Mr. Jones could potentially be awoken now, though the healing isn't entirely finished, it would probably be better to wait until - "
"Do it now," Owen said, already bending over and starting to remove the devices from Ianto.
"What?" said Ned. "No, wait, we should at least wait for Eskar, he's the expert, we should really have a doctor doing this!"
"I am a doctor," said Owen. He carefully removed the tube from Ianto's throat.
Ned floundered for a moment. When Owen showed no signs of stopping, he ran forwards to assist.
"Be careful!" he pleaded, hurriedly typing away at one of the keyboards. "How - how do you even know how to work this?"
"It's medical equipment."
"But it's 2000 years from your time, and from another galaxy, you must be very careful or you could harm something!"
"I'm Torchwood," Owen reminded him. "Thought you said you studied us. Alien and future is our expertise."
Owen stepped back, unsure of what to do next. He'd disconnected everything except the heart and brain monitors, which still beeped reassuringly at him.
"What now?" he asked. "How do I wake him up?"
Ned frowned. He stepped back and muttered to himself, checking off what needed to be done on his fingers.
"Ah!" he said, and walked right up to the back of Ianto's bed. He carefully lifted Ianto's head in his claws, revealing a small, round device with green and yellow lights clamped by little spider legs to the back of it.
"This is the same sort of device we had on you," he explained. "It sends signals directly to the brain - in your case, it blocked access to your motor functions. This one is simply commanding Mr. Jones to remain asleep. It's very useful in surgery, particularly for those who have poor reactions to more chemical sedation methods."
Or,inmycase,nobloodflowforthedrugstotakeeffectin, thought Owen.
"Of course, it can be used for other things as well, which is why these, er, aren't exactly in widespread use in regular hospitals."
"Not illegal per say, at least, not when privately owned…" Ned trailed off, clearly uncomfortable with the subject. "In any case, Eskar finds them very useful - he invented them, you know! - and they don't cause any lasting harm when used correctly."
Owen nodded. He didn't really care about alien legality or even the obvious moral complications of the device. "So disconnect it."
Ned hesitated. "Are you sure we shouldn't wait? The injuries are not fully healed yet, and it would really be much easier to just wait - "
"If he wants to sleep through healing, he can decide so himself," Owen said firmly. "Wake him up."
The device detached with a quiet click!
The effect was not instantaneous. Owen crouched down, watching intently for any sign of stirring or something going wrong, but Ianto lay perfectly still, fast asleep.
After a long moment, his eyelids fluttered.
"Ianto?" Owen whispered.
Ianto murmured at the sound of his name, and turned his head away. He groaned quietly, and his eyes cracked open.
"Jack?" he said, barely audible.
Owen winced at the roughness in Ianto's voice. He brought one hand up to gently brush against his arm, gaining his teammate's attention. "Ianto, can you hear me?"
Ianto turned back to face him. His eyes took a long time to focus on Owen's face. He blinked slowly, wetting his eyes and trying to make sense of things.
"Owen?" he croaked. He frowned and took another glance around the room.
"Stupid looking sort of afterlife," he said.
Owen laughed slightly, in spite of himself. "You have no idea," he said. "How are you feeling?"
"Chest hurts," Ianto answered. His voice was growing stronger, but it was still barely above a whisper, and very rough. "Throat too. Thought I'd be dead, though."
He looked back at Owen. "You're dead," he said. It didn't sound accusatory or confused, it was just a statement of fact.
"Yeah," Owen said. "A few times over, now."
"You were disintegrated though," Ianto said. "Jack couldn't find anything left."
He frowned, staring up at the ceiling. "I thought there wasn't supposed to be anything else."
Owen frowned. "What do you mean, anything else?"
"After death. You and Suzie and Jack, you all said - " he cut off, coughing.
Owen stood up, leaning over Ianto and examining his chest as best he could.
"I told you it would be better to wait!" Ned said, his voice full of concern.
Ianto swallowed, managing to quell the cough. "Whozzat?" he asked, and his voice was no more than a hoarse whisper.
"That's just Ned," Owen said. "He's… the one who brought us here."
"Oh," said Ianto, still looking vaguely around. "Where is here?"
"That's kind of a long story," Owen said. "Why don't you just get some rest for now, Ned'll explain everything once Tosh wakes up."
"Tosh?" Ianto choked on the name, sending him into another brief fit of coughing. "But she - she died right in front of us, she died in Jack's arms, she - "
He stopped, still breathing heavily. "Oh god," Ianto said, "I died the same way, I was with Jack, I was really dead. What - Owen, we're all dead, all of us, we really died, how can I be alive? How can any of us be alive?"
"Ianto," Owen said firmly, pressing him back into the bed. "I need you to calm down, can you do that?"
Ianto nodded, his eyes wide and all traces of lethargy gone in his panic.
"You're right, we… we were all dead. I still am, technically," he added, "But these people, they brought us here, they have technology that can restore people from death. But you're going to be fine, I promise. Okay?"
Ianto stared up into Owen's face with wide eyes. He had grabbed hold of the doctor's hand, clutching it to his bare chest as he panted erratically. Owen stared earnestly back into his eyes; he didn't want to sugarcoat the situation, he needed Ianto to understand, but he also needed him to calm down.
Ianto nodded slowly, still wheezing.
"I was dead," he repeated. "But now I'm not."
"Just... Just like Jack."
Owen smiled a little. "Yeah, just like Jack. And you and me and Tosh, we're all gonna be fine, just like Jack. All right?"
"All right," Ianto whispered.
"Good," said Owen. "Why don't you try and get some rest, okay? I'm gonna be right here, you just stay put until you feel better."
"Right," said Ianto. Reluctantly, he let go of Owen's hand and sank back onto the bed.
The room lapsed back into silence, only broken by the machinery and Ianto's labored breathing. Owen longed for a stethoscope; the medical technology of the space station may have worked miracles, but the doctor still felt the urge to listen and make sure the rasping wasn't indicative of a larger problem. Instead, he stepped back, watching as Ianto slowly fell back to sleep.
It was only half an hour later when the alarm went off again.
Ned was faster this time, silencing the sound with a wave over his wrist after only a few seconds. Ianto jolted from his rest nevertheless, and sat up with an alarmed look on his face.
"What was that?" he rasped.
"Nothing," Owen said, and pushed him back down on his way over to Toshiko's bedside. "It's just an alert, like a timer. Means it's safe to wake Tosh up now."
Owen and Ned ignored him, already on either side of Toshiko's bed. Ned was practically dancing on his toes, apparently over his reservations for waking the formerly dead. He clutched the side of the bed, watching as Owen carefully removed the devices from Tosh's body.
It didn't take long. Despite the severity of her wound, Toshiko hadn't required respiratory support the way Ianto had, and the rest of the devices were easily disposed of. The readings on the heart and brain monitors remained steady, and after a long moment of study, Owen nodded.
Ned reached down and carefully detached the spidery device from the back of Toshiko's head. He put it aside and leaned eagerly over the side of the bed, looking for any sign of life.
Owen watched from the opposite side of the bed, not noticing that Ianto had sat up and was staring over from just behind him.
Toshiko's eyes flickered beneath her eyelids. Ned gasped and held his breath as if he were at the climax of a particularly exciting movie.
Suddenly, Tosh gasped for breath, her eyes flying open and her back arching against the stiff bed. She sat up in one quick movement, and her head collided with Ned's, sending them both reeling backwards in pain.
Ned fell to the floor, surprised, and Toshiko screamed, huddling at one end of her bed and clutching her head.
"Tosh!" Owen shouted, echoed by Ianto, and he rushed forwards, grabbing her hands away from her face.
Toshiko kept screaming, interrupted by sobs and hiccoughs, her eyes squeezed shut.
"Oh God," she cried, gasping for breath. "Oh God, oh God!"
"Tosh, Tosh calm down, listen to me!"
"I was shot!" she choked. "He - he shot me, I died, there was nothing! Nothing!"
"I know, Tosh, I know," Owen said, holding her as best he could from his awkward position, leaning over the side of the bed. "It's okay now Tosh, look at me, look at me!"
Tosh choked again, sobbing, but managed to raise her wide, tear-filled eyes to stare into Owen's face.
"Owen?" she said with a gurgle. "Oh God, Owen, I thought I'd never see you again."
She hurled herself forwards, burying her face in his hospital clothes as she wept. "You were dead," she sobbed, "The radio died and I couldn't hear you and I was dying, and Jack and Gwen and Ianto - oh God, Owen, we really died, didn't we?"
"It's alright, Tosh," Owen coaxed, "You're going to be fine, promise. Your wound's already almost gone, see?"
She pulled away, twisting to look at the bullet hole in her flesh. It was still there, raw and scabbed over, but no longer lethal by any means. She stared at it, not quite comprehending, and reached down to test it.
"Hey, it's not healed quite yet," Owen said with a quiet laugh as she flinched from the pressure. "But give it time, you're going to be fine."
"But - " Tosh paused to swallow nervously and wipe the tears from her cheeks. "But I was dead, I know I was. What happened? How are we still here?"
She looked around the room, bewildered. "Where are we?" she said. Her eyes wandered back to her own machinery-lined bed, filled with the professional curiosity that had defined her career before widening with shock as she noticed her own body.
"Where are my clothes!"she squeaked, and huddled back into a ball as she tried to cover herself with her limbs.
Owen laughed, half in relief and half in exasperation. "Ned, could you get Tosh and Ianto some clothes?"
Ned fidgeted from his place beyond Toshiko's bed. "Er," he said awkwardly.
Tosh jumped and whirled around to face the alien, hugging herself even tighter. He waved back at her with a nervous smile.
"Well, yes." Ned said. "But, well, you know. I probably shouldn't just..."
"For fuck's sake, Ned!" Owen snarled. Tosh flinched again as he grabbed the rail and leaned over her towards Ned. "You can leave us alone for five minutes, lock the door, post guards, whatever! We're on a goddamn asteroid, where are we even going to go? Just go get the fucking clothes!"
Ned hesitated, trying to think of a response, but he nodded at Owen's glare and hurried out the door, muttering.
Owen sighed and slumped over Toshiko's bed, shutting his eyes. He was suddenly mentally exhausted, even if he couldn't' be physically. He longed for the ability to sleep, or at the very least for the comfort of his own apartment.
He looked up to find Tosh staring at him, concerned. She had grabbed his hand, self-consciousness more or less forgotten. He smiled wearily at her.
"I'm fine," he assured her. "Just had a bit of a long day."
Toshiko turned his hand over in her own. "Your fingers," she said quietly.
He looked down at his hand. The fingers he'd snapped still lay uselessly at awkward angles, immobile.
"They must not have bothered putting the dressing back after my examination," he muttered, and if Tosh noticed his hesitation before the last word she didn't comment. "I'll see if I can convince Ned to get me something."
Tosh just frowned, still holding his hand, palm up. Her fingers wandered to his wrist, before reaching up to tug open the front of his pajamas.
Her hand dropped, resting gently just below the hole in his chest.
"They didn't fix you," she whispered. "They brought me back from being dead and fixed my wounds, but they didn't..."
"I don't think they can," Owen murmured.
She let her arm fall away. Scooting back against the back of the bed, she wrapped her arms back around her legs and looked around the room.
"What is this place?"
"Did you say we were on an asteroid?" Ianto piped up.
Toshiko blinked in surprise at his hoarse voice and leaned to the side to see around Owen.
"Yeah," Owen said, and turned around so he could face them both. "We're on an asteroid. And 2000 years in the future."
"Yeah, basically... Ned and his crazy mad scientist buddy snatched us from right after our deaths - well, no, before, in my case - so that we can be studied and interrogated about our time for some museum."
"Museum?" Ianto echoed, but his voice was failing him again, and he rubbed his throat with a wince.
"Not really sure on the details," said Owen, waving his hand dismissively. "We'll have to ask Ned when he gets back. I was a little distracted when I found out the two of you had been dead."
"How," Tosh said quietly, as if afraid to speak up, "Were you killed, too, Ianto?"
He swallowed again and nodded. "Few months after you two," he whispered. "Tell you later. When I can."
"Ned mentioned poison gas," Owen said, and walked over to the other bed to have a look.
Ianto nodded wordlessly. Owen frowned at the raspy sound of his breath, but didn't push any further. Better he save his throat until it was fully healed.
His examination was interrupted by Ned coming back through the door, carrying two more pairs of the hospital pajamas. He hurried over, grinning, and politely handed the first set to Toshiko.
"We do have some other garments available, in your quarters, that may be more to your liking," he said, as Tosh accepted the pajamas with a quiet nod. "But I thought perhaps these would do for now, as you are both still under observation. How are you both feeling?"
"Fine, thank you," Tosh said softly, slipping into the shirt as quickly as she could.
"Bit sore," Ianto croaked.
Owen took the clothes and shoved them in his face. "Don't talk if it hurts," he chided. He turned back to Ned. "Is this thing going to be able to fix their remaining injuries? Or is Ianto going to be whispering insults at me for the rest of his life?"
"Oh, no," Ned assured, waving his hands. "The biggest trouble has been taken care of, the nanites will finish the rest in due time. Everything should be back to full health by next week at the latest."
"What about Owen?" Tosh asked.
Ned fumbled ad he turned to look at her. "Well, you see," he said awkwardly, "That's rather a whole different issue. We don't really know just how it is that Doctor Harper continues to, well, continue, I suppose, and we therefore have no idea how to fix it."
"But you could try," Tosh insisted.
Ned's ears drooped, though his trying-to-be-reassuring smile remained firmly in place. "We would like to, Miss Sato, really we would, but, well, we simply don't have enough information. Eskar would need to run many more tests first, I think, and find out exactly what it is that can be fixed, if it's possible at all. I know he's dying to try!"
"Eskar?" Ianto repeated, and Owen glared at him for talking again.
"My companion, a very close friend of mine, and co-curator. Doctor Eskar Xarchac, brilliant man, invented more than half the devices in here. He's the one responsible for the nanites as well, quite amazing stuff if you ask me."
"But who are you?" Tosh asked. She swung around out of the bed, leaning on the rail to stay upright.
"Oh, quite. I am Nerranderot Uquiccax, but please call me Ned. I am an historian, and I am one of the head curators of the Adris One Museum of Science and History."
"Why did you bring us to a museum?" Tosh continued. She gripped her side as she stumbled towards him, bit waved Owen away when he moved to help.
"Well, I am a student of your civilization," Ned said proudly. "I'm very interested in pre-First-Contact civilizations, particularly that of Earth, as it had so many encounters before the general public was even aware of peoples on other planets. Torchwood in particular really caught my interest, and, well, when the Time Gate was donated, I thought, why not? So I had it repaired and brought you in to speak to you all personally."
He beamed at the three of them. Toshiko glared back.
"What exactly does that mean? You're going to interview us and study us? And then what? Where do we go?"
Ned started fiddling again. "Ah… Well, you see…"
Tosh clenched her fists. "You're not going to let us go, are you? You're just going to keep us here for your stupid little exhibit."
This time, Ned's whole face drooped, ears and antennae and whiskers. "I'm afraid I can't allow you to leave in the foreseeable future. As far as the law is concerned, the three of you are… well, museum property. I certainly don't feel that way myself!" he added, holding his claws up in defense. "But as it stands, the only legal options we have are keeping you here or, um, returning you to your previous state."
They all stared at him as he trailed off.
"You mean, kill us again," Ianto said.
Ned nodded miserably.
"But, really, it shouldn't be too bad," he insisted. "We've got your quarters all set up, you'll have access to the computers and most of the museum… it should all be very comfortable, and I'll do anything in my power to help out."
Nobody answered. Owen stared blankly at Ianto's pajamas, stuck somewhere between blinding rage and logical understanding.
"So show us to our rooms, then," he said, after a long silence.
Ned blinked at him hopefully.
Their rooms were a floor below the medical area. They weren't that much; a desk with a panel for computer access, some chairs, a bed in the back, a cupboard and a toilet. To Ned's credit, the cupboards were all filled with clothes that pandered to their tastes, and the beds were very comfortable.
"They're all connected by the side doors, as well," Ned pointed out, opening one of Tosh's to show that it led straight into Ianto's room. "I know it's a little bare, but if you want anything to make it more homey, please, just let me know and I'll do my best."
They all made vague noises of confirmation. Ianto and Tosh were obviously exhausted, even though they'd only been awake an hour or so, and Owen just wanted Ned to leave so he could get his thoughts together.
"Thanks, Ned," Owen said, since nobody else spoke up. "I think we've got it for now."
Ned nodded proudly, but didn't move. Tosh glared at him again, and sat down on her bed quite deliberately.
"Er, yes," Ned said, finally getting the hint. He slowly backed out the front door, nodding to them each. "Good night then. I'll come by tomorrow morning with your breakfasts. Do sleep well!"
Owen shut the door on him.
Ianto sighed and sat down next to Tosh, his head in his hands.
"How are we going to get out of here?" Toshiko murmured, curling up against the wall.
Ianto just shrugged. "Doesn't sound too good, does it?"
Owen sat down on Tosh's chair. "Well you two aren't going anywhere until you're fully back to health," he said. "We might as well get settled for a long stay."
"He said we'd be fine within a week," Tosh pointed out.
Owen shrugged. "Sure, but we don't have any means of escape, unless you're planning on building a space ship out of bedclothes tied together. Face it, we're stuck."
Tosh banged her head against the wall and stared at the ceiling.
"Better than being dead, though, right?"
Neither of them answered.
"I wonder what became of Jack and Gwen," Ianto mused.
Toshiko's head snapped forwards. "Jack," she said. "He's got to still be alive somewhere."
Owen leaned on the desk, staring idly at his mangled fingers. He hadn't thought of that. Jack was, in all likelihood, still out there somewhere, with a ship maybe.
"It's been 2000 years for him," Ianto said, still staring at the floor. "He probably doesn't even remember us."
Owen and Tosh both looked up at that. He sounded utterly miserable at the thought, but at the same time completely sure of himself.
"Jack was always bringing up things from 2000 years ago," Owen said after a pause. "He probably tells all kinds of embellished stories about us. Probably all kinky too. Bet he brags to all his friends about shagging the tea-boy."
Tosh glared at him. Ianto just shrugged again.
"They were just stories though," he said. "Never mentioned names. Details get lost in time, that's just how it works."
He finally raised his head, sitting back to stare beyond Owen's shoulder at the opposite wall. "And it's not like we have any way to contact him, anyway."
Owen stood up when Ianto started coughing again, putting an end to their cheerful conversation. He tugged the larger man off Tosh's bed and shoved him into his own room. After setting it up so he could have a glass of water right next to his bed and forcing him to sleep sitting mostly upright, he crossed back through Toshiko's room to get to his own.
She had already fallen asleep, twisted at an odd angle with her legs dangling off the side of the bed. Owen pushed her into a more comfortable position, and took the opportunity to pull up her shirt and look again at the bullet wound. It was already looking better than it had, with no sign of infection or oozing of the usual fluids.
He turned off her light and wandered back into his own quarters. He leaned on the closed door, staring at the unfamiliar room. No gorgeous view of the city, no giant TV, nothing at all that resembled his flat back home. On Earth. 2000 years ago.
He lay in bed with the lights still on, his mind filled with death and vague homesickness and Tosh and Ianto and Jack and Cardiff and space and -
He stared at the blank ceiling, wishing for sleep.
The days passed in a long blur of redundancy. Ianto's chest and throat were far better after the first day, and by the end of the week, both he and Tosh were walking around like nothing had ever happened, as Ned had predicted. They had breakfast with Ned, and he explained more about the station and the museum. By the second day, they each had one of the same wrist implants he wore.
"This will grant you permission to various areas on the station, as well as access to the computers. If you need additional access, just let me know, and I can alter your permissions as needed," Ned explained. "They're really very useful, even off the station. Has a built in short range translator."
"And probably a tracking device," Tosh had muttered crossly, but she seemed content to fiddle with it all day, like a new toy.
After breakfast, they all had time on their own, which they mostly spent in Tosh's room. They spent their time talking. Owen told them about his first day on the station, though he glossed over the details of his 'examination;' if Tosh clenched her fists any tighter, she was liable to cut her palms with her nails. In the days following, Ianto related stories that Owen and Tosh had missed, starting with the aftermath of their own deaths, and then the story of his own.
In the evenings, they met with Ned again, and endured his academic interviews as best they could. It came down to more story telling, often repeats of what they'd already told each other, though they didn't quite tell it the same way.
"I shouldn't have gone with him," Ianto confessed to Tosh and Owen in the afternoon. "He didn't even need me there, we both just got caught up in saving the world. As usual." He stared up at the ceiling, blinking back tears. "All I remember after that is telling him… and he kissed me. And then nothing."
"Then the 456 released the gas and killed everyone in the building, including me and Jack," he said calmly to Ned.
"But what did it feel like?" Ned insisted. "What was it really like?"
Ianto shrugged. "It hurt," he said, "A lot. It felt like something was squeezing my chest really hard, and I could barely breathe. It felt like I should have been able to breathe, but I couldn't. And then my limbs stopped working. That's about it."
Ned nodded and marked something down in his notes.
"What happened after that?" Ianto asked. "I assume Jack and Gwen figured out how to beat them."
"Oh, yes, of course," said Ned. "Though it wasn't… easy, to say the least. The records are a bit vague in these matters - they were all written a long time after the fact, you see, and their accuracy is questionable. I can give you access to them, if you like. You might as well look into these things during your free time."
He smiled apologetically at them, obviously knowing they pretty much had nothing butfree time.
"Did Gwen have the baby?"
Ned nodded furiously at Tosh's question. "Oh yes, she certainly did. Lovely girl, Anwen Cooper-Williams. She's really the reason we even have these records, you know. Grew up hearing stories from her mother, insisted they be written down properly. Rather a shame she didn't do the same with her own experiences… then we might know a little more about what happened…"
"What happened with what?"
"Well, the thing is, Mr. Jones, even after your death, Torchwood didn't exactly come to an end. Oh, it went off the map for a good year, but inevitably things started up again. It's your Ms. Cooper who fixed up the whole thing, got it all started again, with off-and-on-again help from your Captain, who was mostly living offworld at that point. But it cuts off," Ned said with an excited flourish. "Not Torchwood itself, that kept going with its new staff and location, nothing strange there, but Ms. Cooper simply disappears from the records after a certain point, as does her spouse."
Owen frowned. "What do you mean 'disappears'?"
"I mean there's simply no mention of her beyond a certain point. There's no mention of death or even disappearance, no vacation or mission on record, they just stop mentioning her altogether. It's one of the great mysteries of my studies."
Owen used his wrist implant that night to look at the records himself. Gwen's records did end rather abruptly, as did Rhys', though he still remained separate from the official staff roster. He got bored with the family after that, as it was mostly just Anwen's grades from Oxford. Jack's records were spotty to begin with (well, after Ianto's death, anyway), but he seemed to have left Torchwood permanently some time within five years from Gwen's disappearance. He moved on to the much older files, from before any of them had been recruited, just reading.
He spent a lot of his nights like that, staring at the panel on his desk and reading old Torchwood records while he waited for morning. Tosh and Ianto usually stayed up as late as they could, but it always ended with Owen alone in the dark, trying not to wake them.
Besides that, his days were peppered with interruptions from Doctor Eskar Xarchac, who did not seem to keep any kind of regular schedule and demanded Owen drop everything to be studied with no warning whatsoever. He was short and entirely disagreeable, irritated by absolutely everything, Ned's polar opposite. Owen hated him.
But it was something to do besides just sit in the rooms, so he welcomed the distraction. Xarchac rarely spoke to him, except to give terse instructions, but Owen honestly didn't care. The study was downright interesting. It wasn't just talking about things he already knew, it was a real, medical study, and he had first hand access to the experiments. Even if there wasn't much of a chance that Owen's condition could be reversed, he liked the idea of the findings being used to save lives, the way Xarchac's other research had saved Ianto and Tosh.
Toshiko also spent a lot of her days at the computer. Unlike Owen, she wasn't looking for time wasters: she researched. The computer told her all about the station, the museum, the universe she had been thrust into, 2000 years beyond everything she knew. It was a fascinating present, with interplanetary politics and alien celebrity gossip, and all kinds of technology with instructions. Nothing that came through the Rift had ever had instructions.
But her purpose was clear, even if she went off topic a little at times. Tosh was looking for a way off the station, for all three of them, permanently.
It wasn't just that Toshiko had sworn, after being freed from UNIT prison, that she would never let herself be imprisoned again. She was worried. Ianto didn't really occupy his time the way she and Owen did. He seemed to spend his time alone just sitting around, and really only humored her and Owen when they tried to get him to open up. He was obviously still thinking about Jack and the life he'd left behind on Earth, and simply didn't care about anything happening right now.
And Owen wasn't much better. He seemed alright most of the time, but he was far too quiet and even polite for her not to worry. His acceptance of being studied and even dissected was terrifying her. How could anybody just go with that, whether he could feel the pain or not?
So she kept looking, scrolling through pages and pages of information, trying to find anything useful for their escape, doing her best not to fall into the same black hole of resignation the others were in.
A few weeks after their arrival, Ned led them all into an area of the station they hadn't had access to before.
"Welcome to the Adris One Science and History Museum!" he announced.
It sure looked like a museum. Unlike back in their quarters and the medical/research floor, it was full of things to look at. Brightly colored signs pointed to various displays and exhibit halls, which contained objects from all across the galaxy and time.
"It has twelve floors," Ned explained, leading them down a hallway lined with clothes in picture frames. "And multiple exhibits on every floor, plus the theater for presentations, and the cafés on the third basement, and the gift shop on the first floor by the entrance. If you go past the exit, that's where the public living areas are, and the hotel. Below all of that is docking. But you'll all have plenty of time to see that later."
He led them around a corner, to a curtain with a sign reading 'Exhibit Under Construction.' Pulling the curtain open, he waved them all inside.
"Welcome," he said excitedly, "to Torchwood."
Tosh stopped in her tracks, staring. Ianto just avoided colliding with her, but neither of them noticed, too occupied with the sudden immersion back home.
"It's the Hub," Toshiko whispered. "You've rebuilt the entire Hub in your museum."
It wasn't, exactly. The floors were still the grey-green tile of the museum, and the walls were mostly the same beige. But the main area of the Hub was replicated, all of their desks in the correct places, trinkets from 21st century and rift debris lain out atop them, and even the fountain in the back. The biggest difference was that everything had been condensed to one floor, with the Tourist Office off to the left, and the autopsy bay in the back next to Jack's office. It was all labeled, with little plaques saying who worked where and what did what. Against the walls were clear display cases showing off alien weaponry and other things that had fallen through the Rift. Just above eye level was the familiar sign, graffiti and all, reading TORCHWOOD, supplemented by a smaller plaque reading '21st Century Earth - Contact before First Contact.'
"It isn't open to the public yet," Ned continued, obviously pleased by the humans' reaction. "But we've started getting ready for the opening, and we even have your testimonials and background on the Institute available to read. I do hope you'll take part in the exhibit, we've worked very hard to make it accurate."
Ianto had already wandered off, drawn to the familiar sights. He ran his hands over his desk in amazement. "It's all here," he murmured. "How did you get all of this?"
Ned fluffed up again, all too pleased to explain. "We used the Time Gate again," he said. "Much of this isn't just a replica, it actually is the object that was in your Hub. We pulled it out just before the explosion, you see. As it would have been destroyed anyway, nobody missed it. The objects too large for the Gate we had commissions of, replicas by only the finest professionals."
"So you got it working again, then," Owen commented from the corner, all-too-pleased to see his Singularity Scalpel again, even if it was behind a case.
"When you pulled me out, you were all panicking, said there was something going wrong with the Gate."
"Oh," Ned said, though none of the humans were really listening with more than half an ear, too preoccupied with the exhibit. "Well, yes, it's quite old, you see. We don't even really know where it came from, we just got it donated. Sometimes it acts up, musses up the coordinates or starts sparking or something. Haven't quite worked out the kinks yet. It's, er, actually out of order again right now, but since the exhibit's nearly done and we don't have any others planned, it's not a big problem."
Aliensdon'tunderstandit,coordinatesareunpredictable,possiblydangerous, Toshiko noted on auto, sitting down at her desk and picking up her Rubik's Cube. Probablytoodangerousforanescape,butmightworkinapinch.Ofcourse,evenifwemanagedtogethome,we'reallalreadydead.Can'tscrewupthetimeline.
"So what exactly do you mean by take part in the exhibit?" she asked aloud. "You don't mean you want us to sit around out here and act like we're back in the past, do you?"
"Oh, no, certainly not," Ned said. "Not unless you want to, that is. You could! That would actually be quite interesting. But no, you don't have to do anything if you don't want to, really just all your cooperation with my research has been extraordinarily helpful. If you did want to come out in the exhibit itself, you could, I don't know, talk to the patrons? Explain about what you did, answer questions. But really," he said defensively, noticing Tosh's frown at the idea of being on display, "Absolutely nothing is required of you. I just thought you might like to see what it is we've been working for, why we brought you all here in the first place. To see what has been accomplished!"
"When does the exhibit open?" asked Ianto.
"Three weeks," Ned stated.
"We'll think about it," Owen said, slinging on his lab coat. He frowned, and paused to unpin one of his badges and relocate it to the other side. "It's pretty obvious you've got some of the details wrong."
Despite Ned's excitement over the opening exhibit, life didn't really change for the three humans. It was all still long hours of doing nothing with only the occasional interruption in the form of talking to Ned. After three days, none of them could deny the appeal of getting a change of scenery.
"What happened to, 'It's so demeaning, being put on display like animals in the zoo, what a horrible thing to do?'" Owen mocked from his usual seat on Toshiko's chair.
Tosh glared at him sideways from where she lay on her bed. About five seconds ago, she had collapsed into it, bemoaning the fact that the exhibit still had 19 days to opening.
"It still is demeaning," she said. "But being out there with the public means interacting with people who don't work here; we might be able to find someone to help us escape."
Owen just leaned farther back in the chair and didn't answer.
"What do you think of the exhibit?" he asked later, watching as Eskar Xarchac examined yet more readings from his hundredth scan of Owen's non-functioning vascular system.
Xarchac snorted. "Waste of money," he said frankly. "Nerranderot gets too wrapped up in his pet projects. This little obsession of his isn't going to earn anything for the museum, it's not even going to further his research."
Right,becauseyoudon'thaveaproblemwithobsession, Owen thought, watching him review the scan from last week and compare it to the new one. He'd read Xarchac's papers by now, all studies on species with unusually long lifespans or recovery systems. The man was obviously infatuated with the idea of cheating death, maybe even immortality.
"Why are you helping fund it then?" he asked.
Xarchac glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. "Nerranderot and I always find a mutually beneficial way of working. He can study his history all he likes. I do not come away completely empty handed."
He motioned to the full body scanner. Owen sighed, something he knew Xarchac found particularly annoying due to the lack of necessity, and pulled his clothes off for the fourth time that day, shoving them in the corner and dropping his hand brace on top.
"Well, glad to know I'm still good for something, I guess."
Xarchac just snorted again and began the scan.
He wasn't the only person on the station skeptical of Ned's project. Ianto, aware that Owen and Tosh were both rather concerned about his emotional health (making mountains out of molehills, he was sure), had volunteered to help the historian work on the exhibit itself. It wasn't much, but he could stay out in the museum for a couple hours at a time, and the familiarity of the Hub made him feel a bit better. He gave suggestions on how they could better organize the exhibit, which Ned usually took to heart, even if the rest of the museum staff grumbled about it.
The other members of staff were all nonhuman, though they varied greatly in size and shape. None of them was particularly interested in talking to Ianto, which didn't really bother him. He was good at going unnoticed, and they paid him no mind during lunch break, when Ned ran off to take care of an emergency in the Headless Monk exhibit.
"This thing's gonna be a flop," one of the lizardy girls declared, biting vindictively into her sandwich. It oozed yellow all over the floor where she was sitting. "Who the hell wants to look at this crap?"
The greenish bear-crab she was talking to shrugged. "You never know. Uquiccax doesn't usually do anything bad for the museum. It's his whole life. Maybe there's an audience for this we aren't aware of."
"He is putting an awful lot of effort into advertising," pointed out the squiddy-thing, reaching an arm out of his (her?) mechanized water suit to grab a biscuit. Crumbs fell to the floor as she (he?) leaned out of the top hatch to chat. "Audio and video and print, bragging all about the real-life artifacts and first-hand testimonies and all that."
"Nothin' 'bout the Gate though," Lizardy said.
Bearcrab shuddered. "Good thing, it'd scare everyone off. That thing gives me the heebie-jeebies."
"Is it still making noises?" asked Squiddy.
"All the damn time. I swear I can hear it from my quarters. And there's that weird thumping coming from the walls in the passages. They should just unplug it and throw it in storage forever, if you ask me."
"Or dismantle it," Lizardy agreed. "Get rid of it forever."
"With our luck we'd be cursed if that happened. Sure looks like something that'd curse ya."
It was then that Ned came running back in, a Cheshire grin wide across his furry face.
"Our replica's arrived at last!" he announced. "How wonderful, this is all coming together so well!"
Two more lizardy fellows in jumpsuits grunted as they wheeled in the enormous pternodon replica. The three having lunch stared in wide eyed dismay, all too aware they would have to hoist it and hang it from the ceiling.
Ned beamed. "What do you think?" he asked excitedly.
Ianto smiled, impressed. "It's gorgeous, Ned. Great job." Never mind that it was half as big again as Myfanwy had been, nor that the replica was painted a startling green.
Ned fluffed up with pride.
Lizardy and her friends were proven wrong at about ten days prior to opening. The entire museum seemed to have lost its head, all at once. A message alert bleeped out, all across the station, and all the staff stopped to glance at their wrists at the same time.
Xarchac dropped his scanner, which clattered on the floor and snapped in two. He didn't notice. He just made a strange, strangled sound.
"You all right?" Owen asked, interested. His wrist-thingy hadn't made any noise.
Xarchac started, as though he'd entirely forgotten Owen was there.
"Go…. go back to your quarters," he ordered. He began frantically gathering his equipment from the counters, suddenly in a huge hurry. "I will inform you if I need you again. Go! Hurry!"
Owen found himself shoved into the hallway, half dressed, clutching his clothes awkwardly. He turned around to shout back at Xarchac, but the doctor was already sprinting down the hall away from the laboratory.
Owen huffed and put the rest of his clothes back on before wandering back to his room.
He was met on the way by Ned, who looked quite as flustered as Xarchac had been, pulling Ianto along by the arm without looking.
"Oh!" Ned exclaimed. "Good, you're here. I mean, you're on your way back, aren't you? Would you mind, er, just…. just stay in your quarters for the time being. Something's come up, the staff has to take care of it, we'll all be terribly busy…"
"What's come up?" Owen asked, at the same time Ianto said, "Do you need any help?"
Ned floundered, bouncing from foot to foot and glancing down the hall as if he desperately wanted to be somewhere else. "Oh no, no, thank you, I'll let you know if there's anything… hrm. Yes. It's just that there's a very important guest coming to visit, we don't know why, it's all terribly exciting, we have to get everything ready for him. You understand, don't you? It's a rather important time for us, it's really quite amazing he's coming."
Ned took off down the hall, still muttering to himself.
Owen and Ianto looked at each other, confused. The rest of the staff was in a similar state of excited panic, passing through the halls at high speed and chatting breathlessly at one another.
Tosh was leaning out her door, watching them go by.
"What's going on?" she asked as the other two arrived.
"No idea," Owen said. "Some big shot's visiting or something. Got everyone all freaked out."
"Maybe it's the police," Tosh murmured, letting them in and shutting her door to cut off the noise.
"Except it isn't illegal for them to keep us here," Ianto pointed out. It was one of the first things Tosh had looked up; having been legally deceased for longer than the allotted time limit, they were property, not people, resurrection notwithstanding.
"Doesn't mean they haven't done something else illegal," Owen pointed out. "I bet ol' Xarchac's gotten in trouble for something before, morals aren't exactly high on his priorities."
"Did you hear who it was?" Tosh asked, all ready at her panel to look up names. "If it's really someone famous, they'll probably be easy to find."
"Don't remember anything," Owen said, and Ianto shrugged his agreement.
Toshiko sighed and moved to open the door. "I'll just ask someone outside, then."
She raised her wrist to the scanner and waited. Her wrist flashed red, and the door remained firmly shut. She frowned, and hit the manual open.
"They've locked us in!" she said in disbelief. "I can't believe this."
"They must really want us out of the way," Ianto said, and settled back on Tosh's bed.
Owen flopped into his usual seat as well. He raised an eyebrow at Tosh, who was still fiddling madly with the door controls. "Forget it, Tosh. Ned'll let us out when this is over. We might as well just kill time."
Ianto tugged something out of his waistcoat pocket and tossed it to Owen.
"Nicked them from the exhibit," Ianto explained. "Jack's desk."
Tosh leaned her head against the door, fighting back frustrated tears. How could the boys take all this kind of shit so calmly?
With one last angry bang on the door, she turned and stalked back to her place in the corner of the bed. Owen dealt her in.
They played for what must have been hours, every game they could think of until they were horribly bored again. It had deteriorated to the three of them sticking cards to their foreheads (though Owen had some difficulty with that, due to his lack of sweat) and Ianto trying to do magic tricks he hadn't practiced since high school, when the door chimed.
They all looked up, and Ned appeared in the doorway, looking frantic.
"Oh good!" he said, breathlessly. "You're all in here! I checked the other room first and it was empty and I didn't know what - " he coughed, as he tended to do on the rare occasions he noticed he was rambling.
"Anyway, um," he continued. "Would you all mind coming with me? The… the Face wants to meet you."
They were ushered into a sort of observation area, filled with windows that looked down on a large, empty room, that in turn had a window that filled the entire wall, looking out into the stars. Ned scurried downstairs with just a quick explanation, leaving the three of them with some museum staff and Eskar Xarchac.
All of them were staring with one mind down at the room.
"Who's the Face?" Ianto whispered, as they took up an area in the corner.
"The Face of Boe," Tosh elaborated, staring down into the large room below them. "I've read about him, he's some sort of celebrity. Very ancient, very mysterious. Always in the front of celebrity gossip."
"Why, what does he do?" Owen asked, peering over her shoulder. "Which one is he?"
She pointed. "He does a bit of everything, I think. I've come across the name in politics and economics and even entertainment. Supposedly he can also predict the future with amazing accuracy. Nobody knows where he came from, there's no knowledge of any other Boes except his own descendants."
"It's a giant head in a jar," Owen said, staring down.
"Yes, Owen, he's a giant head in a jar."
"The jar is supplemental," Xarchac said suddenly. He had one claw pressed to the window tensely. "They say it keeps him alive, but it's all just show. He's lived longer than anything known in the universe, it's like he's always existed. There's no way he needs that technology to live, he just uses it."
Owen had a feeling he knew why Xarchac was up here instead of down there with Ned, talking to the Face.
"He can't touch him," he muttered as quietly as he could. "He's obsessed with studying everlasting life, and he's got a perfect specimen down there, and he can't do anything to such a public figure."
Down below, Ned nodded frantically at something the Face said, and waved up towards the observation room. The three of them shrunk back as the giant eyes turned to look at them. The Face said something else that made Ned frown, but he nodded reluctantly. He and the rest of the museum staff attending turned and left the room, nodding or bowing politely as they went, until the Face was left alone with his cat-faced attendant.
Ned was back up the stairs within a minute. He gestured to the humans, panting, and they followed him out.
"That down there is the Face of Boe," he explained tersely. "He's an extremely important figure, just his being here will bring all sorts of attention to the museum. He came for my exhibit!"
His fur fluffed up again before he made a conscious effort to flatten it. "He heard about my 21st Century Earth exhibit, and he made a special trip just to see it."
"But it isn't open yet," Ianto pointed out.
"When the Face of Boe wants to see your unfinished exhibit, you show it to him," Ned replied. "We closed down the whole museum to the public, just so he can have a look in peace. And he asked to see you," he said. "I have no idea how he even knew, your names are nowhere to be found on the available materials, but then, he is the Face of Boe, he's famed for knowing absolutely everything, past and future."
He led them into a large entryway, shutting the door behind him. The doors on the other side were enormous, obviously leading into the big windowed room they'd been looking down on.
"What kind of place is this?" Tosh asked, putting out of her mind for the moment that she'd apparently been asked for by name by a big giant head.
"It's the grand ballroom," Ned said, flustered. "It's used for conferences and important guests and sometimes weddings."
"People get married here?"
Ned flapped his hands impatiently. "Is that really important right now? Listen, the Face asked to speak to each of you, in private. One at a time. I've actually closed all the observation windows for him. It doesn't matter what order you go in, but… please, be very respectful and polite when talking to him, this is a very important man, we have to maintain a good impression."
The Torchwood crew looked at each other. It was bad enough having to go talk to a giant alien head, but now they had to go alone.
Tosh bit her lip, unwilling to speak up. Ianto looked from her to Owen; much as he liked to show up the older man, he wasn't really a take-the-lead kind of person, and he was rather hoping one of the others would take that position. Owen glanced at the two of them.
I'dbesweatinglikeapigrightnowifIcould, he thought. Nosweat,noadrenaline,nohormones.It'slikeI'mnotnervousatall.
He took a deep breath out of habit, wishing it actually accomplished something. "Right then," he said. "Guess I'll go first."
The giant door creaked open, and Owen stepped through tentatively. He felt very small, standing in front of a giant door in a giant room with giant window, about to go talk to a giant head about… god knows. 21st Century Earth. First Contact before First Contact. Same old stuff he'd been talking about for weeks now. Right. No problem.
The door shut behind him, and Owen flinched at the sound. The cat-person standing next to the Face looked up at him and smiled gently. He stepped back politely as the giant head rolled upwards in its jar to stare at him.
"Doctor Owen Harper," the Face said, smiling. "It's nice to see you."
"…Charmed," Owen said, and he was unable to stop staring. Comeon,thisisnothing, he told himself. Soheknowsmyname,sohe'sagiantfuckingheadinajar,whocares,you'veseenweirder,nobigdeal.
"Is something wrong?"
Owen flinched. The voice… it wasn't exactly sound, it was almost as if the Face was talking directly into his mind. Which was dumb, he could hear it in his ears, but then he didn't really see the mouth move, did he? But not all aliens had to talk with their mouths, he supposed, OhgodI'velostit,Ican'tthink,it'sagiantfuckingheadinajar.
"Yeah, sorry," Owen forced out. Bepolitebepolitebepolite. Fuck. "It's just that you're a giant fucking head in a jar, it's a bit distracting." Fuck!
The Face stared at him for a moment. Then he chuckled. The sound reverberated through Owen's head like someone had smacked a gong inside it. Owen couldn't help it. He laughed too.
"I was wondering when you would say it out loud," said the Face, still smiling and obviously not offended in the least. "Your thoughts were practically screaming at me."
Oh fuck, he's psychic too?
"Only a bit," the Face answered. "It's easy when you're directing thoughts right at me. I try not to pry."
"Sure," Owen said. "Giant fucking head in a jar, psychic powers. Not a big stretch there. And they say you can see the future, too."
The Face made a motion somewhat like a nod. "They say that," he agreed. "Please, Owen, speak freely. I will not take offense. There is no need for you to be uncomfortable."
Owen smirked back. "Yeah, thanks for that. Ned had us all freaked out in the back, there."
The Face just kept smiling, and seemed content to gaze at Owen from his jar. Owen fidgeted uncomfortably.
"Look," he said. "Ned said you wanted to talk to us, that you asked for us. What… what exactly did you want?"
"I did not ask to talk," the Face said. "In fact, I asked to see the three of you, that is all. If you wish to talk, by all means, go ahead. I shall answer."
Owen frowned, a bit disconcerted by the fact that he'd evidently been called in to be looked at. He grasped for something to say.
"Tosh read about you, online, or whatever it is you call it here in the future. Said you're as old as anything in the universe and can predict the future."
The Face peered at him. "I am very old," he agreed, "Old enough to have seen many events in the universe, sometimes more than once. I have never claimed to know everything, but through experience, I have learned a lot. As for the future, I do know some. Time is not linear, Owen Harper, and what one person considers the future is another's past."
Owen frowned. He knew that sort of thing from Torchwood, it was in the archives and was one of the first things Jack had explained to him about working there, rule 1, don't mess up the timelines.
"Why do you ask?" the Face said, curiously. "Just making conversation? Or would you like to know the future for yourself?"
"I've been getting a bit too much of the future as it is, if you know what I mean," Owen said, glancing out the window at the stars. The docking bay was visible from here, and he watched as a ship landed in the asteroid.
"But this is only one future," the Face said. "It's the universe, it's the museum. It isn't necessarily your personal future."
Owen looked back over at him. "What, you know my personal future? Even if you've seen everything in the universe twice, why would you know about me?"
"I know many things," the Face answered calmly. "You may ask me any one question about your future, if you like. If I am able to answer, I will do so to the best of my knowledge."
Owen raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Oh yeah? Great and powerful oracle, you're going to tell my future?"
"What is your question?"
Owen meant to say something scathing, something about how you shouldn't know your own future anyway or that all fortunetellers were full of crap, but his mouth opened before he could think.
"Will I ever be fixed?"
The Face looked at him curiously, waiting for elaboration.
Owen hesitated. That wasn't what he had meant to say at all, but… "Fuck it, you know what I mean," he said, stepping back and raising his arms. "My heart doesn't beat, my lungs don't take in air, I don't bleed, I don't breathe, I can't feel! You tell me to ask a question, well that's it. One way or the other, I don't care. Am I going to be stuck like this, between dead and alive, for…. forever, I guess?"
The Face stared at him, long and hard. Owen stared back, challenging him.
"Everything comes to an end," the Face said finally, and Owen's heart sank. "Nothing lasts forever, death finds everybody in the end. Even I shall die some day. And for you too, death will come, eventually. There will be a day when you die, permanently."
Owen stared at him, feeling sort blank and empty.
"But before that day," the Face of Boe continued, "Before you die, Owen Harper, I can promise you, you will breathe, and you will live again."
Owen stumbled back into the waiting room and leaned against the door to shut it. He shut his eyes and faced the ceiling for a long moment.
"Well, what happened?" Ianto said.
"Are you all right?" Tosh asked, walking up and grabbing his hand.
Owen looked down at her with a strange look on his face. Then he grinned. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah, I'm fine. Nice guy, Face of Boe. Easy to talk to."
"But what did he say?" Ned asked, twiddling his fingers nervously. "What did he want to see you for?"
"Oh, this and that," Owen said. "Hard to explain. Anyway, one of you should go soon, shouldn't keep him waiting."
Tosh frowned, unwilling to leave Owen after such a strange reaction. She looked over and Ianto and jerked her head towards the door. He nodded nervously, and stepped forward to go through.
"Any advice?" he asked.
Owen stepped back, led by Tosh, to let him through the door. "Not really. Be yourself. Say what you want to, he doesn't give a shit about being polite, whatever Ned said."
Ned made a noise as if to protest, but Owen continued.
"Oh, and pick a good question."
"Yeah, he said I could ask a question about the future or whatever. You guys get one too. Make it good."
Ned made a strangled sound as Ianto passed through the doors.
"He prophesized for you?' he gasped. "The Face of Boe never says anything about the future to anybody!"
Owen shrugged. "Yeah, well, he offered. I asked."
"What did he tell you?"
Owen smirked and leaned against the wall with Tosh. "None of your business. Nothing important for you anyway. He makes it all very personal."
Ianto straightened his suit self consciously as he stepped through the gigantic doors. They closed behind him with a noise a bit louder than he should have liked.
The Face looked up at him as he walked up to the jar. He smiled, and the effect on the enormous, grey, wrinkled face was astounding. Ianto felt like some great weight was lifted from him, relieving him.
"Ianto Jones," said the Face of Boe, "You are beautiful."
Ianto stopped and blinked at him, not knowing what to say. What did you say when a giant betentecled head in a jar called you beautiful? Was he being hit on? It didn't really feel like it, it was more like… he wasn't sure. But the Face was staring at him, admiring him like a work of art, and it didn't really make Ianto feel uncomfortable so much as confused.
"Thank you," he eventually settled on. Then he added, "Sir," because if he's one of the most important people in the galaxy and can bring a whole space station to a grinding halt just because he wants to look at something, he probably deserves to be called Sir.
The Face kept gazing at him, a soft smile on his enormous lips. "It's wonderful to see you," he said.
"Thank you," Ianto said again. "It's very nice to meet you, too, Sir." He resisted the urge to fiddle with his tie again. Maybe it was okay for Owen to be rude, but Ianto was more or less against giving a bad impression to anybody if he could avoid it.
"Have you got a question for me?" the Face asked.
"I'm certain Owen must have told you," he said. "If you like, you can ask a question, any question, about the past or present or future, and if I am able to answer it, I will."
Ianto tugged on his sleeve. "Yes, he did mention that," he said. "I didn't have much time to think about it though."
"You may think now," said the Face, and he seemed content to lapse into silence, simply admiring Ianto from afar.
Ianto thought about it. The truth was, he had an awful lot of questions, all over the map. He wished Owen had told them what he had asked, just so he could have some idea of where to start. All he could think was that he should ask something for all of them, something that the others wanted to know as well, something that could be useful to them. Ask about escape, maybe, for Tosh. He thought of asking whatever became of Gwen - that would settle his and Owen's and Tosh's and even Ned's concerns on the topic, solve the mystery, finish the story of the woman who'd become his closest friend.
But instead he was selfish. He always was, in the end.
"Was I remembered?" he asked. "After I died, I mean."
The Face peered at him for a moment, considering the question. "You were," he said, "Remembered. For years beyond your death, you were remembered."
"Your funeral was very small, but the people who attended loved you. Your sister and her family, in particular. Her children grew up knowing you as a hero, and she thought of you many, many times throughout her life. Gwen Cooper also attended, and made sure everything was taken care of, out of care for you. She kept some of your possessions, a constant reminder, and her daughter, who grew up with Torchwood, took you as a role model, from her mother's stories. You were remembered through the years, as the Institute was rebuilt and grown, until its eventual dissolution and reform when Earth finally reached out to the stars."
Ianto choked, filled with all kinds of mixed up feelings. He wished now he had asked about Gwen, and he suddenly and violently missed her, and Rhi and the kids and…. But he wished he'd been more specific. This was all good to hear, but it wasn't what he was really asking.
The Face stared at him, waiting for Ianto to compose himself before continuing.
"You were mourned, Ianto Jones. For a long time. In the year following your death, Jack Harkness wandered the Earth, searching for some way to say good-bye to you properly. He wanted nothing more than to tell you what he hadn't been able to say back, that he loved you."
Ianto stared up at the Face of Boe in shock, doing his best to control his breathing.
"In time, he recovered. He found other outlets, other friends, other lovers, eventually. But he always remembered you fondly, throughout the long years, after his closest friends and lovers passed through his life. You were never, ever, forgotten."
Toshiko shut the door behind her with a snap, unphased by the sound.
Ianto had come back into the entryway, smiling brighter than she'd seen in a long time and with tears all over his face. He grabbed her shoulder as they passed, flashing her a reassuring smile before he sank against the wall and sat on the ground next to Owen, his head in his arms.
She didn't wait for him to say anything. She just walked through the door. She knew more or less what to expect, she thought, and she was ready with her question, and she wasn't going to let him get to her.
The Face of Boe smiled as she approached. "Toshiko Sato," he welcomed. "The brilliant Toshiko Sato."
Tosh crossed her arms in front of her, unimpressed. She wondered what he had said to the others, to make them trust him. They had both become too trusting nowadays, too easily won by flattery. Tosh was all too aware that the people here were captors, not friends, and she wasn't going to fall for the Face until she was certain of him.
The Face chuckled at her. "You can trust me, Toshiko Sato, but I won't be offended if you choose not to."
"Owen told me you were psychic," she informed him, determined not to appear startled.
"Of course he did. And I know you want to get this all over with."
"You're the one who called us here," she said. "Why are you so concerned with seeing us, if you don't have anything to say?"
"Is that your question?"
The Face smiled at her. "Then I am not obliged to answer. My motivations are not important. Just know that I am very glad to see you, even if you do not understand why, and that I am here to help you."
"Then tell me how we're going to get out of here."
The Face sighed, sending bubbles floating to the top of his jar. "That is a difficult question, Toshiko."
"You said we could ask anything," she said quietly. "You said you would tell us the future."
"I said that I would answer your questions as best as I could. I cannot tell you what I do not know."
Tosh faltered, her arms falling to her side in hopelessness. "Wh - what do you mean you don't know?"
"I do not know how you will escape from this place," he repeated. "Not exactly. The variables are too many, strange and convoluted. All I can tell you is that you are brilliant."
Tosh felt like she was going to break down. "Flattery isn't exactly going to help," she said.
The Face of Boe looked up at her and smiled. "No, Toshiko Sato, I am not flattering you. You are a woman from the 21st Century on a little planet in the middle of nowhere, and yet you've spent your life using technology from distant worlds and different times. You are brilliant, you can use, repair, and even create devices far beyond what should be within your scope of abilities. You have bent time and saved the world, because your mind is amazing."
"And it is that, Toshiko Sato, that will be your key from this prison. When the other variables are in place, you are the one who will make everything work, and it is your perseverance and brilliance that will lead you and your friends to freedom."
Tosh stared at him, tears gathered in her eyes. She wiped them away with the back of her hand.
"You bastard," she said. "You did that on purpose."
Ned wasn't sure of a time he'd been more excited. The Face, having sent the humans away, had requested for a brief walk through the museum on his way out, and the curator had jumped on the chance to lead him on a personal tour. He enlisted four of the museum's highest-rated guides, ready and able to answer any question the Face could possibly care to ask. Ned was ready to the lead the way himself, and he prepared his notes on his implant, just in case he blanked out from pure exhilaration.
He was hurriedly prepping his team of hand-chosen guides when the Face's attendant tapped him on the shoulder.
"Professor Uquiccax?" he said.
"Yes, er, sir?" Ned said, realizing he couldn't remember the young man's name. He must have said it at one point, but with all the excitement of the Face… "How can I help you?"
The attendant smiled politely. "The Face of Boe has asked me to thank you on his behalf for a wonderful experience. Your exhibit is exquisite, and we hope you find much success upon its opening."
"Er," Ned said, accepting the offered handshake. "Thank you? Ah, I was… I was under the impression the Face was planning on taking a tour of the rest of the museum, I'm sorry for the wait, we're just ready to accompany you now."
"That will not be necessary," the attendant said. "I'm afraid the Face of Boe needs some peace and quiet after such an exciting day. If it is all right with you, we will see what we can of your excellent museum on our own, on the way out."
"Oh." Ned's whole face drooped a little. "Yes, of course. That will be fine. If you should need anything, don't hesitate to call, of course, we'll be right there to attend to anything - "
"Of course. Thank you."
The Face nodded politely to the extremely disappointed Ned and his company as he took his leave, his attendant following the slowly moving jar with his tail swishing behind them. They continued on in silence, undisturbed by museum staff and with no need to speak between them.
The museum was strangely silent without the usual crowds filling the hall. The only sounds came from the Face's own equipment and the footfalls of his companion. Other than that, there was the quiet hum of the lights, and a barely audible tapping sound from the walls.
The Face paused to gaze up at an ancient Atraxi wall hanging.
"I can hear you there, you know," he said without turning. His attendant looked up, curiously. "There's no need to hide yourself."
"I wasn't hiding," answered a quiet voice. "I was practicing."
"I see," said the Face, and he turned to see the speaker. She fidgeted under his gaze, and her fur turned from the beige wall color to it's natural blue-green.
"Who are you?" asked the little girl. "The museum's closed."
"It is," the Face agreed. "I could ask the same of you."
"I live here," she said defensively.
"In the museum?"
"In a flat. With my mum. But I got lost."
"Perhaps you would like me to help you find her?"
"If you like," she said, shuffling her furry feet on the floor. When the Face moved for the exit, she followed.
She slowly opened up as they traversed the halls. At the Face's urgings, she began to describe all the exhibits in surprising detail and accuracy. The Face just smiled and listened to her childish voice.
"Thank you," he said, when they returned to the front entrance of the museum. "You make a wonderful tour guide."
"I don' wanna be a guide," she said with a scrunched up nose. "I wanna be a researcher. An ark-ologist."
"Well, in that case," the Face said, "let me give you something."
"A past and a future," the Face corrected, "But a gift for you, as well."
The Face nodded to his attendant. He stepped forwards at the beckon, and delicately pulled something from a compartment in the Face's jar.
The attendant waited for the girl to hold out both her furry blue hands before opening his own padded brown ones. He carefully dropped into her hands a golden chain with a small round marble.
The marble was transparent, and inside swirled eddies of a golden substance, twisting and turning in the confines like a nervous snake.
The girl took it gingerly. "It's amazing," she whispered, her big green eyes wide and locked firmly on the bauble.
"Take good care of it for me," the Face said, closing his eyes. "It's very important to me."
"I will," she said, clutching it to her chest. Then she frowned. "Why're you giving it to me, 'f it's so import'nt?"
"I always intended to pass it on," the Face replied with a smile. "And when the time is right, you will pass it to someone else. Don't worry," he interrupted, seeing that she was about to speak up again, "You will understand when the time comes."
With that, the Face nodded to his attendant, who stepped forwards to hold on to the jar. They both disappeared with a small flash of light, leaving the girl standing alone in the entryway.
She opened her paw, letting the marble dangle from its chain. The golden substance inside swirled up towards her hand in an hourglass-shaped curl of energy, stopped short by the glass.
Her ears pricked forwards at a voice echoing down the hall.
"Moshe?" it called, somewhere between worried and annoyed, "Moshe, are you here?"
At her mother's voice, she quickly tugged the chain around her neck and tucked the marble into her shirt before darting away into the closed off museum, her fur once again a mottled beige.
The exhibit opened.
The Face's visit and glowing review resulted in a surge of visitors for the first couple of days. Ned was thrilled. He started spending his time in the exhibit, personally giving tours to the throng, until his colleagues reminded him that he was the Museum Director, and he had other, more important duties to attend to.
The throng itself petered out within a week. Even with the publicity given by the Face of Boe himself, the exhibit didn't exactly pander to the general audience, so far out from the Earth colonies. Soon, the patrons who visited the exhibit were limited to regulars, the occasional Earth enthusiast, and the usual people who just wandered from exhibit to exhibit, not really caring about anything but fulfilling some urge to visit every place in the museum while they were there.
The team spent quite a bit of time out in the exhibit, but the novelty of it wore off even quicker for them than it had for the visitors. Tosh in particular did not take well to being ogled all day, and Owen just found it somewhat boring. It was all rather dull in comparison to what they had actually accomplished at Torchwood, alien clientele of all shapes and sizes notwithstanding.
Ianto took to it a bit easier. He'd always enjoyed people watching, and his duties at the Tourist Office gave him some experience with working with the masses. He stayed out in the museum proper longer than the others - while Tosh went back to her room to do whatever it was she was doing, plotting, probably, and Owen got called off to be examined or experimented on, Ianto sat behind his desk, answering questions and even making the occasional hot beverage for the occasional curious visitor.
It was satisfying, in a way. He knew that they were still prisoners, being taken advantage of, but it was nice to be useful again.
Toshiko used the exhibit's opening to her advantage. She stuck around with Ianto for the first couple hours (the return of his amazing coffee guaranteed her presence for the morning at least), but then she would wander around the museum.
The exhibits were interesting, to be sure. Under other circumstances, Tosh would be thrilled to learn about alien cultures and new technologies, but she couldn't let herself get distracted. She did her best to memorize the layout of the halls, analyzed which exhibits could possibly be broken into for use as weapons. She couldn't exit the museum itself (yet), so the docking bay and flats were inaccessible, but she knew their general location, and they weren't her top priority just yet. First, she needed to hack into the security system.
Owen was usually back before the other two. Xarchac's examinations hadn't changed much with the opening, but they were more frequent and he seemed even more impatient and angry than usual.
"Waste of time and resources," he spat, if the topic was breached. "The stupid thing's not doing its job. Nerranderot's gotten carried away, as usual, and forgotten our purpose."
"And what would that be?"
All that did was earn Owen a glare, but it did seem to cut the examinations shorter than they would be otherwise. Then Owen was free to go back to his room.
Not that his room was any more interesting. Like Tosh, he took to wandering around the museum. The exhibits didn't really excite him either, and the crowd was frankly annoying most of the time, so when Xarchac booted him from the room, he stayed in the science corridor and looked around. Backstage at the museum was much more interesting.
He found the room with the Time Gate again. It was locked, far beyond his meager security clearance, but there was a window in the door. The archway was dark. It was deactivated, and nobody was attending it, quite unlike Owen's first experience with the thing.
The timer on his wrist implant bleeped. Museum was closing. Time to head back and wait for the others.
Muffled voices emerged from the closed door, words unintelligible. Owen paused, curious. He had been sure the Time Gate's room was empty, but perhaps he was mistaken. His wrist kept bleeping, though, and sticking around wasn't doing him any good. He left the voices behind him.
The computer chimed. An alert popped up on the screen, flashing red. The computer waited the allotted thirty seconds before chiming again and adding a voice alert.
"Warning," it said. "Fuel reservoir at 14%."
The pilot cursed and pushed his chair over to look at the display.
"Where's the nearest place to refuel, then?"
"Nearest refueling station: Kalakkar Alpha, estimated distance one - "
"No, no, no. What's the next closest?"
"Planet Alrassa, estimated distance two point - "
"No!" He sighed and rubbed his forehead. "What's the nearest place to refuel that doesn't have a warrant for my arrest?"
The computer thought about it.
"…Or the warrant's expired, that works too."
"The nearest refueling station with specified parameters is Adris One."
"Tell me about it."
"Adris One is built into an asteroid, and is home to the Adris Science and History Museum. The museum's newest exhibit is pre-interplanetary civilizations, with particular emphasis on pre-First-Contact Earth. Highlights include - "
"Yeah, yeah, I get it. Sounds great. Mute sounds." He watched the muted advertisement the computer had brought on display for about five seconds before turning away. "How long will it take to get there?"
"Estimated arrival time: three weeks."
The pilot swore again. "How much time do we have left with the fuel we have left?"
"At current energy levels, fuel will be depleted in 7-10 days."
"Fuck." He leaned back in his chair and glared out the front window at the stars. "Okay. Listen up, computer. Set course for Adris One, use engines as little as possible. Let our momentum carry us. Turn off all non-vital systems: that includes environmental and life support."
"Warning: disconnecting life support may cause serious injury or death to personnel."
"No shit. Shut it down anyway."
"Turn it back on when we're about three hours away from the station, and set an alarm to go off an hour after that."
"Great. See you then." The display was still showing a view of the inside of the museum, panning around the brand new Earth exhibit proudly, advertising the free testimonies from actual pre-first-contact humans. He shut it off without looking.
The small bed was built into the wall. He pulled it down with a grunt, already feeling the lack of oxygen in the tiny ship. He slipped beneath the blankets, relaxing into them as he stared at the lights dancing behind his own eyelids.
The ship went dark as it powered down. The engines flared briefly, and it drifted towards its destination.
Tosh always fell asleep first. Whatever she was up to all day, it was wearing her out. Looking into escape, no doubt. It was an obsession with her, not that Owen could blame her. Much as Ned tried to make them comfortable, it was hard to forget that they were stuck on Adris One for the foreseeable future. If not for Xarchac's research, he'd be with her all the way.
She was lying sideways on her bed, feet still dangling off the edge, and held loosely by Ianto's arms. He fell asleep not long after she had, as usual not bothering to go back to his room. At this point, all they really had left was each other and Owen... Well, Owen couldn't exactly comfort her like that.
He sighed, leaning back in Tosh's chair and staring at the ceiling. After a few minutes like that he rocked forwards again and stared at the two of them.
Ianto was snoring just slightly, rustling Tosh's hair with his breath. He hadn't shown any signs of respiratory pain since their first week or so, but Owen knew from experience how good Ianto was at hiding pain. He still kept an eye out for any signs of infection or relapse. There hadn't been any.
Tosh had her arms curled up at her chest like she was cold, her right hand gripping her left wrist. Owen frowned, and gently reached over to pull her sleeve up. Tosh muttered in her sleep but didn't waken, just loosening her grip enough that Owen could see what she was favoring.
The palm side of her wrist was raw and slightly bloody. She had apparently been digging into it to get at the implant beneath her skin. The gently pulsing green light shone brighter then it did on either Owen or Ianto, closer to the surface. Owen scowled but didn't wake her. It didn't look inflamed or infected, and telling her off about it would just start off another fight about how Owen didn't even care about escaping, and how Tosh was the only one willing to get her hands dirty any more. They'd done the fight a dozen times already. It was getting redundant.
He sat back and found he was out of medical excuses to be staring at his teammates. That meant he was just being creepy, watching the two of them sleep. Again. Owen wished for the millionth time since his death that he could join them. He stared jealously at Tosh's chest moving up and down with each breath, at her hair rustling with each of Ianto's.
His eyes wandered back to her bloody wrist. He reached over and covered it again with her sleeve.
It wasn't that Owen didn't want to escape. He did. Very much. He was sick of the museum and the fake Torchwood and all the gawking aliens and Xarchac's stupid tests. He'd been taken apart and put back together more than a jigsaw puzzle by now, scanned and examined and scanned again.
He was sick of it. The only thing keeping him from lashing out, attacking the alien doctor, stealing a weapon and running the fuck out of there with Tosh and Ianto in tow was the idea that maybe, maybe this would actually work, that he would live again. The Face of Boe had said he would. Owen only wished he knew when. Or how. Was he just wasting his time here with Ned and Xarchac?
Tosh mumbled something in her sleep that sounded like "muffins."
Owen smirked at her.Oncethisisover, he thought,I'mtakingyououtforthatdate.Maybeevensoonerthanthat.You'vehadenoughwaitingaround.He reached out and fondly brushed her hair out of her face.
Toshiko shuddered as his cold hand brushed her forehead. She wrapped her arms around herself and burrowed backwards, further into Ianto's warm embrace. He stirred a little, mumbling, and adjusted his grip around her.
Owen glared at them, frozen. It'sjustnotfuckingfair, he thought.
He stood up, pushing the chair back in place silently, careful not to wake them even in his temper. He angrily punched in the door's override code Tosh had discovered, gestured at his implant to turn the lights off, and stalked off into the hall.
The only other thing for a dead man to do at night, besides stare at his friends' slumber like a creepy stalker or be bored at the computer for hours, was to walk. Owen had spent a lot of time walking since his death, even back on Earth. He'd wandered the streets and sat in cafés pretending to drink and watched the world go by. He'd even caught the occasional alien miscreant Torchwood would have missed otherwise, asleep as they all were, and dragged it back to the Hub for a mildly disheveled Jack and a very disheveled and slightly limping Ianto to take care of.
There was nothing quite that exciting on the asteroid.
He wandered the science wing again, pausing by the room with the Time Gate. It was still locked. In the grey darkness, a little handwritten sign lay on the floor, apparently fallen from one of the large consoles that controlled the arch.'OutofOrder.'
A bit further down the hall, he found the medical bay. He spent a while looking in all the drawers and cabinets at the equipment, just for something to do. Bandages, painkillers, sedatives, inoculations, tongue depressors, thermometers... It was all pretty typical. Strange how alien medicine was so similar to humanity's.
Back downstairs to the grand ballroom.Youwillbreathe,andyouwillliveagain, he thought. Yeahright. He stared out the giant window into space. The stars twinkled silently at him. He wondered of he could see Earth from here, if he knew how to look for it. The landing lights on the docking bay pulsed red every two seconds, the left and then the right. Some of the flats on the other end of the asteroid had their lights on still.
Back out into the hall, up more stairs, staff living quarters, mess hall, special event rooms, reserved for research, down the stairs again, security office, lost and found... He gave up on backstage and wandered out into the museum.
It was easier to look at the exhibits when they weren't filled with crowds. He'd already seen all of the top three floors on previous bouts of restlessness, so he went down to the entrance to start from there.
Nights on Adris One lasted for ten hours. The days were sixteen. Owen still had five before the earliest risers got up, and probably up to seven before Tosh and Ianto followed suit.
He made it up to the third floor (relative to the entrance, which actually had four more floors beneath it), where he found himself back in the familiar Torchwood exhibit. He sighed and threw himself into his chair. He closed his eyes, facing the ceiling, and willed his brain to go blank.
The room was absolutely silent. There was no hum of electricity from the meager lighting, and with no blood flow to make him fidget, no breath, no heartbeat, Owen was equally noiseless.
That made the footsteps, light as they were, rather obvious.
Owen sat up, curious.
A small figure wearing bright yellow gasped at the sudden movement. It dropped to all fours and scampered out of the room. The footsteps cut abruptly off with a thump and a high-pitched squeal.
Owen stood and followed the figure out to the hall. It sat, huddled at the bottom of the stairs, whimpering.
Its fur had turned the same color as the wall, but its bright dress eliminated any hope of camouflage. It clutched its knee, big eyes full of tears, pointed ears flat against its head, long tail wrapped around its body protectively.
Alien or not, there was something universal about a little girl in a sundress with a skinned knee.
"You alright?" Owen asked.
She looked up, frightened, and scooted back against the wall, lifting one paw from her leg to clutch at something around her neck. "'m fine," she whispered.
Owen raised an eyebrow and knelt down. "Come on, let me see. That was quite a fall."
She shook her head.
"I'm a doctor, you can trust me. Doctor Harper. Or Owen, if you prefer."
She stared at him with wide eyes.
"Come on sweetheart, what's your name?"
"...Moshe," she finally answered.
"Alright, Moshe, it's nice to meet you. Now, are you going to let me have a look at that knee or what?"
Moshe hesitated before dropping her furry hands from her knee. The scrape wasn't too deep, but the fur had been pulled out or embedded in the skin and it was bleeding slightly.
"Doesn't look too bad," he assured her, "But we should get it cleaned off and put a plaster on it. What do you think?"
Moshe didn't say anything, but she nodded.
"Do you think you can walk?"
She shook her head.
That was bullshit, of course. Her wound could barely be called a wound. Nevertheless, he offered her his hand and she cautiously climbed up into his arms. Her long tail hung loosely around him.
"What're you doing out here anyway?"
"I got lost," Moshe muttered shyly. "I can't find my mummy."
"Have you been here all night?" Owen asked, a little skeptical.
"Do you live on the station?"
She nodded again. "We have a flat."
"You come here often then?"
Another nod. "I like the museum."
She thought about it. "Do you work here?"
Owen snorted. "Yeah, well, sort of," he said. "It's more like I'm part of the damn exhibit."
Moshe perked up conspicuously. "You're part of the museum?" she squealed. "Which exhibit?"
Owen jerked his head back towards the fake Hub. "21st Century Earth," he drawled. "A genuine antique, I am."
Moshe squeaked in excitement. He looked back at her to see a huge smile on her furry face. The fur itself had changed from the beige of the walls to a bright green-blue. "That's so cool!" she said.
Owen raised an eyebrow at her. "You like history then?"
Moshe nodded so enthusiastically Owen nearly lost his grip on her. Her tail curled tighter around his shoulders. "I wanna be an ark-ologist when I grow up and find all kinds of ancient things and learn all about ancient history and technology and stuff!"
Owen awkwardly shifted her to one arm as he put in the override for the door again, slipping into the behind-the-scenes hallways once again.
"Will you tell me about it?" Moshe asked excitedly.
"Tell you about what?"
"About your exhibit and stuff!"
Owen rolled his eyes, but he had a small smile on his face. Opening the door to the medical bay, he started to tell her about Torchwood.
"I never thought he was the type to be so good with children," Ianto remarked.
Tosh shrugged, watching Moshe run up to her exasperated mother. The woman thanked Owen profusely, bowing even with the little girl in her arms. Owen took it in stride, waving off the thanks and apologies alike.
Moshe waved excitedly. "Bye bye Tosh! Bye bye 'yanto! Bye Doctor Harper!"
They waved back as her mother pulled her away towards home.
Ianto raised an eyebrow as Owen rejoined them.
"What?" Owen said, already braced for the teasing.
"You were just so cute with her," Tosh said, smiling as she sipped her hot chocolate. Ianto had made it for all of them, insisting coffee wasn't proper for children.
"What, she was hurt. I'm not allowed to have a good bedside manner?"
"You don't have a good bedside manner," Ianto teased.
"I'll have you know I have an amazing bedside manner," Owen said loftily. "I just don't always choose to use it."
Tosh laughed into her mug. "Bedside manner or not, that was an impressive display of babysitting prowess."
Owen shrugged. "Just because I'm rude to you lot doesn't mean I go around yelling at kids. Before I worked at Torchwood I was great with kids. I have a whole drawer in my file cabinet at home filled with nothing but crayon drawings and thank you letters."
"I know," Ianto said uncomfortably. "I saw it when Gwen and I were… cleaning it out."
They fell into an awkward silence, as they tended to whenever the subject of one of their deaths was breached.
Moshe came back the next day, excited to see them all and making Owen come with her to other exhibits. She was back two days later. And the next day. She always seemed to have 'lost' her mother. Owen let her drag him all over the museum, showing him passages and shortcuts he wasn't sure even Ned knew about. Tosh would want to hear about it for sure.
And so the weeks passed.
The museum lobby wasn't too crowded. They didn't have to wait in line for their passes - which weren't paper or plastic or anything like the ones back on Earth, but a small flashing green device that latched on to their wrists and beeped and supposedly would start up a spoken tour when they were close to an exhibit and pressed on it - but the room was full of typical museum-goers milling about, looking at the pamphlets, chatting with each other, yelling at the information kiosk.
Never mind that they were the only humans in the room. The familiarity of the setting was nice. Amy loved museums.
"'Welcome, friends, to the Adris Science and History Museum,'" the Doctor read from his own pamphlet. "'Adris One has many exciting attractions and activities…. Cofounded by the honored professors Uquiccax and Xarchac' - ooh, that's interesting, brilliant fellow, helped invent a prototype Nanogene you know - blah blah blah 'recently endorsed by the Face of Boe' really that's quite a claim, wonder if a little place like this can really back that up…."
Amy plucked the pamphlet out of his hands and flipped it over to look at the map. "Right, that's all very nice, where's that exhibit that was on the advertisement?"
The Doctor peered over her shoulder. "Third floor, I think. Wait, which floor is this?"
"What's so exciting about 21st Century Earth?" Rory asked, looking up from his examination of a severed nine-fingered claw in a display case. "We're from 21st Century Earth."
"I want to see what they got wrong," Amy said simply.
"Quite right," the Doctor agreed, "Loads of fun, they always get the simplest details wrong. Oh, look, there's a shop! Where is that? I love a good little shop."
"Yeah, loads of fun, right," Rory repeated, otherwise occupied with a sign that read MedievalKagarrWeaponry-
"Oh come on, it'll be interesting!" Amy insisted.
"There's the shop!" the Doctor exclaimed in delight.
When Amy turned around he was already dodging into the Gift Shop.
"Doctor!" she shouted after him, to no avail. She whirled back around to face Rory, who was similarly disappearing down a flight of steps, following the signs to the Kagarr Weaponry. "Rory!"
She was left alone in the corridor, her hands on her hips, scowling.
"Boys," she snarled to no one in particular.
"We'll just meet back here for lunch, then?" she shouted, earning her a stare from a green gelatinous-looking fellow with three eyes.
She glared at the map again. "Third floor. To the left. Fine. It'll be great."
"Oh sweet heaven, is that real, honest-to-God coffee you've got?"
Ianto looked up from where he'd been watching two gaseous life forms argue over something in the Autopsy Bay. A human woman with long red hair had somehow made her way over to his seat at his desk without his notice. She was leaning over him, practically drooling over the percolator.
"Had it specially imported," Ianto said, raising his mug. "Would you like some?"
The woman melted. "It's been ages since I've had a proper coffee," she explained, helping herself to a seat on Ianto's desk. "The kitchen's loaded with all kinds of tea, but never any coffee, and Rory doesn't seem to care since he got addicted to those energy drinks back in med school, so I get stuck trying to find something similar on whatever ridiculous planet we end up on."
Ianto smiled. "I know how you feel," he said. "It took quite some convincing to get Ned to both get this thing working and keep it in supply. I eventually managed to convince him it would be an interactive part of the exhibit, tasting ancient and exotic drinks, and all that."
The woman took a deep whiff from her mug before she sipped at the foam on top. "God I've missed this," she said.
Ianto leaned back in his chair. "It's nice to see another human around here for once," he said. "We've had a couple curious passersby but nobody really interested in the exhibit."
"Oh yes, we're rather far out from the… colonies, aren't we?"
"I suppose we are," Ianto said, having no idea. Tosh probably knew. "Ianto Jones, nice to meet you."
"Amy Pond," the woman replied, taking his offered hand with her own. "Likewise."
"You're just visiting, I take it? I haven't heard of any humans living in the flats."
"Just passing through," Amy said. "I'm with my husband and a friend of ours, we just go wherever and see the sights. We caught an ad for the exhibit, and it caught our - well, my interest anyway, the boys left to look and swords and things."
"You're interested in Earth history?"
"Oh, this and that, you know." Amy looked around at the various displays, filled with Torchwood paraphernalia and alien weaponry and anachronistic gadgets. "I can't say much of this looks like the 21st Century I'm familiar with, though."
"The exhibit covers a rather specialized part of the era, yes," Ianto said, finishing his mug.
He offered Amy his hand and led her over to the first display. He didn't have a spiel like the docents, but he certainly knew Torchwood well enough that his worst attempts at winging it were still more accurate and honest than their best-written scripts. He gave her a tour of the whole of the exhibit, while she exclaimed and looked at all the displays and asked all the right questions.
"I had no idea any of this was going on," she said, staring up at the GalleryofIntergalacticFiendsin amazement. "I mean, I heard about some of it, but I just kind of dismissed it as rumors and legends and crazy people."
"Some of it was," Ianto confessed, trying to look like he wasn't trying to avoid looking at the Cyberman mask staring down at them. "But a lot of it was real. Legends and crazy people are just an easy way to cover things up."
"How do you know so much about all this?" Amy asked, turning away from the replica Dalek. "Are you some kind of Earth-alien-relations-through-history expert? Seems like a strange thing to specify in."
"Tell that to Ned," Ianto muttered. "No, I'm not really an expert, I'm just speaking from experience."
"Experience?" Amy frowned. Her eyes widened in realization. "Are you from the 21st Century? How did you come to work here at the museum then?"
"I don't, exactly."
"What, you just traveled through time to hang out in a space station museum and give tours to travelers?"
"No," Ianto said, feeling strangely defensive as Amy put her hands on her hips and glared at him. It was strangely like dealing with Gwen, only that kind of glare was usually focused on an unsuspecting witness/culprit or Jack, and Ianto wasn't certain how to deal with it head on.
So they slowly made their way back to his desk, and he poured them both some more coffee, and he told her all about Ned and Xarchac and their Time Gate and the resurrection machine. Throughout his story, her eyes narrowed, and she gripped her mug handle harder than was strictly necessary, and she started staring around the museum with a hard look in her eye.
"You're prisoners,"she said, when he had finished.
Ianto shrugged. "It's not that bad," he said. "And it's not like there's anywhere else for us to go."
Amy scowled. "They're treating you like slaves! You're working here, and you're not getting paid, and you're not allowed to leave! How is that fair?"
Ianto just shrugged again. He'd already been through this a number of times with Toshiko, and he just didn't feel up to worrying about it when it was obvious they had nowhere to go. He'd do what Tosh figured out in the end, sure, but he wasn't up to arguing about it.
"Maybe you could come with us," Amy continued.
"What?" Ianto said, startled.
"Listen, I'm going to go ask. I'm sure it'll be fine, this is the kind of stuff we do all the time. We can take you wherever you want, no problem, just… get your friends and meet me back here, okay?"
She handed her mug back to him without waiting for an answer, and ran back out into the hall.
Tosh was huddled within a nook in the wall, irritably poking at the device in her wrist. Owen might disapprove, but the only way she could work at it was by digging into her own flesh. It had already started healing over from her last attempt, but it had become part of her routine now, digging in with a stolen knife so she could poke at the device within.
She'd moved from the privacy of her own room for a number of reasons - neither Owen nor Ianto had gotten suspicious when she had begun wearing exclusively long-sleeved tops, and she didn't want them to until after she had a certain way out - and today she was going to test the results of her tinkering.
The nook was right outside the security office. She had convinced the computer on previous attempts that she was actually the head of security, but the doors logged every person who passed through, which meant she had to reset the chip after each try.
Today, she was going to get into the office and begin her escape.
"Come on, work already," she snarled at the chip as she poked at it with a hairpin. "You've worked for me before!"
"That looks nasty! You should get it looked at."
Toshiko jolted, tugging her sleeve down instinctively and staring wide-eyed at the man who had suddenly appeared before her.
He peered down at her curiously.
"I was just…" she started, but had no idea what to say.
"Itchy?" he suggested brightly. "Those implants can be a real pain, I know."
He knelt down next to her and pulled out her arm to look at it.
"Of course," he said, pulling out some sort wand-like device and holding its glowing green tip over the reddened and gently oozing surface of her wrist, "Yours seems to be malfunctioning."
He flipped the wand over with a flourish, and it snapped open further. He peered at it thoughtfully. "Says you're head chef for the little cafe on the fourth floor. No offense, but you don't look much like a Thraanian curry expert. They tend to have more arms."
Toshiko snatched her hand away. "It's just an error," she said.
"Really. Because it looks to me like you've been trying to alter it to break into this very ominous looking door that should definitely not be broken into."
He grinned at her.
"Are you with the museum?"
"Naaaah," he said, flipping his device shut and putting it in the inner pocket of his jacket. "Just passing through. Visiting. Had a nice look around the shop, then realized I don't have any money and thought I'd wander around the exhibits. Only the exhibits didn't really catch my attention nearly as much as an anachronistic humanoid with pilfered cutlery in her arm."
"Are you going to turn me in?"
He cocked his head at her. "Now why would I do that."
He jumped to his feet and stepped over Tosh's legs to get to the panel next to the security office door.
"You see, I love a good escape myself," he said, poking at the panel. "Unjust imprisonment, sneaking around, relying on your own devices to get out, it really pokes all my interests at once. And you're human, I must confess, I've grown just a little biased over the years, humans are definitely some of the most interesting aliens I've met."
He stepped back from the panel and peered at her. "This only grants access to people with the highest security passes. It scans your DNA."
"I know," Toshiko said irritably, back on her feet. "It took me three tries to convince it otherwise."
The man clapped his hands in delight. "Oh you're good," he said. "You got in just by hardwiring that little chip in your arm?"
"It does the job," Tosh said, and stepped forwards to work at the panel herself. The man stepped aside with a little hop. "Only if you mess with it now I'm liable to get caught."
"Sorry to intrude."
Tosh held her arm up to the scanner. It flashed green, and the door opened.
"Oh lovely," the man said. He followed her into the office and looked around. "Gosh, just look at these robots. These are probably worth more than the exhibits they protect!"
He knocked on one of the many robots' deep red shells. Toshiko ignored him, sitting down at the security chief's desk sideways, with one leg through the hole for his tail.
"So what's the plan then? When are you doing your daring escape?"
"As soon as possible," Tosh said, "And I'm not telling you how, I still don't know you won't just turn me in when this is all over."
The man looked hurt. "Hey, I'm on your side," he said, and put his hands on either side of his chest. "Cross my hearts. Anyway, if there's anything I can do for you, you just let me know. I am here to help. I can whisk you away from here in a blink if you like."
Tosh finally looked up at him. He grinned down at her from the other side of the desk.
"Thanks," she said. "But I think I'd rather keep going on my own."
"Oh I understand. Makes more sense not to trust the stranger, I'm sure. I'm not offering again."
"I'm not asking," Tosh replied, but she smiled as she looked back down at the screen. "Besides, I can't leave without the others."
The man nodded his approval, and walked around to see what she was doing. "Docking schedule. Stealing a ship? Stowing away? You'd better make sure you choose a peaceful ship, don't take that one, for instance, Judoon tend to execute for even the most trivial things, I can't begin to tell you how many times I've run for my life because of littering."
"That's one option," Tosh said. "Frankly I'm more interested in the ones heading for the area near the Colonies."
Her wrist bleeped at her. She looked at it in alarm. "Shit,"she said.
"What's going on?"
"Five minute warning. Security's coming back."
The man watched her close everything down silently.
"You've been doing this often?"
"Fourth successful attempt. I only have a thirty-minute window while he takes his break. Half of that is just reprogramming the damn chip every time. If I do it anywhere else it attracts attention."
She hurried out of the room, stopping to tap wildly at the panel to erase the record. The man followed her, watching as she frantically tapped the reset on her wrist chip.
"Isn't it suspicious having that blank every time you finish?"
"I can put the other data back on later, right now I just need it to identify as me again."
The man smirked, pulling his wand device out again. "I think I can help you there."
He shone the buzzing gadget on her arm again, then on the panel. Tosh watched in amazement as the displays changed.
"What did you do?"
"Oh nothing much, you'd have figured it out on your own, I'm sure, I just happen to have a tool quite suited for reprogramming identification chips and security records. It also does wonders with locks."
He grabbed her sleeve and pulled her through the door back into the hall. "From now on," he said, hooking his arm around hers, "Whenever you enter that hallway, you become head of security, Roc Ingersol. Once you exit, you can be yourself again. Should save you a bit of time. And a bit of arm. Good luck!"
He winked at her and gave a little bow before bounding up the stairs.
Toshiko watched him, rubbing her arm absently. The display on her chip blinked, cheerfully displaying her name and ID number. She smiled a little, then turned to head back to her room. There was still planning to do.
Rory, though enthralled with the various weapon displays, eventually realized neither Amy nor the Doctor was anywhere nearby, and started back up the stairs to find them. Within minutes, he was completely turned around.
"You'd think all those years as a security guard would make navigating museums easier," he muttered, trying to decipher a directory. YOU ARE HERE never really helped him as much as he thought it should have. "21st Century," he read. "Third floor. Which is… five floors above this one. Okay."
He turned around again and walked back to the last set of stairs he'd seen. Starting up them, he was shortly bowled over by something small and fuzzy.
"Can't catch me!" it sang, in a young, feminine voice. Rory looked up from clinging to the handrail to see a little blue, furry alien in a dress dancing at the top of the stairs.
"Damn it, Moshe, watch where you're going!"
A man - human, much to Rory's surprise - jogged up behind him. He paused to help Rory to his feet.
"You alright, mate?" he asked.
"Yeah, fine," Rory replied. He pulled his hand away awkwardly. The man's hand was oddly cool and... wrong, somehow.
"Kids're kids, alien or not, right?" he said with a smirk. He wasn't even out of breath from chasing the girl. "See ya 'round, then," he said, and bounded up the stairs after the girl, who shrieked in delight, turned green, and pranced away.
Rory shook his head and followed them up at a more leisurely pace.
The Doctor turned around to find Amy stalking towards him.
"Amy!" he said delightedly. "Just who I was hoping to see. Thought I'd have a look at that Earth exhibit now. Though apparently we only have half an hour, did you hear? It seems awfully early for closing time."
He frowned at his watch as if it might have an explanation.
"Never mind that, Doctor, this museum, it's keeping people like slaves. I met this man, a human, from our time working here, and there're two of his friends, only they're not allowed to leave, and they don't get paid, and - "
"Yes, yes, Amy, I'm well aware of all that," the Doctor said, not really listening. He linked his arm with hers and guided her against the flow of the crowd back towards the Earth exhibit.
"What do you mean you're aware?"
"I mean I already know! Obviously. What else would I mean? I met a lovely young woman breaking into the security office. Brilliant girl. I offered to help, she didn't seem too interested. I lent a hand, of course, but I'll bet you these 'slaves' of yours will be out of here within a week, with or without my help. There's really nothing to worry about."
They both paused as Rory caught up. "Did you see? There are other humans here."
"I know Rory, did you know they're being kept here as prisoners?"
"I already told you, it's nothing to worry about. They've got an escape plan all worked out, and if it seems like they need help then ofcourse we'll step in, but I'm virtually certain they don't need it. WHAT is that?"
The Doctor stopped in midstride, throwing his arms out to the side and bringing Amy and Rory to an abrupt halt. He stared up at the sign hanging just above the official museum plaque of "21stCenturyEarth:FirstContactbeforeFirstContact."
"'Torchwood,'" he read out loud.
He stared at it.
"Yeah, that's the name of the place they all worked before they were brought here," Amy said. "What, have you heard of it?"
The Doctor looked around the exhibit quickly, taking in the replicated Hub and its contents.
"This is bad," he said. "This is very, very bad."
Amy and Rory glanced at each other, then looked around the exhibit as well.
"Why is it bad?" Rory ventured.
"This," the Doctor said, "is a trap."
"A trap?" Amy asked. "What, for us?"
"No, not for us. For someone else. For a very specific person. This whole thing, the exhibit, the ads, the articles, it's all just an elaborate set-up. It's bait."
"Bait?" Amy repeated. "But what about the people?"
"They're probably a part of it too." He whirled around to stare Amy in the eyes. "What did you say this person's name was?"
Amy blinked, taken aback. "Er, Ianto. Jones, I think. He was Welsh."
"Ianto," the Doctor repeated, and his shoulders sank, very disappointed in being proven correct. "Ianto. Jack used to talk about him."
"Sorry, who?" Rory put in. "Who's Jack?"
The Doctor shook his head and spun around again to glare at the display. "These people aren't just a part of it, Amy, they're the part of it. They're all just bait, a lure, a trap. And once the quarry's been caught, hostages, certainly. This is very very bad."
He whirled around again, stalking forwards and grabbing the humans' arms again. "I've changed my mind," he said, "We're getting these people out. Right now."
He stopped at one of the Information panels, and whipped out his screwdriver to hack in. An expanded version of the museum map appeared, with the off-limits areas shown as well. The Doctor stared at it for a moment.
"Amy," he said. "Take this. Go through that door, down a flight of stairs, to the right. Find the living quarters. Find Ianto and whoever he has with him, and hurry back to the entrance. Fast as you can. Go!"
Amy jumped, fumbling as she caught the sonic screwdriver, but obediently rushed off.
"Rory, come with me. Back to the TARDIS. We might need to do a daring-last-second-rescue, I'd rather have everything ready to go. If we're very, very lucky, we'll be able to get out of here before the trap closes, and maybe even stop it from going off at all."
"But Doctor - "
"Attention, ladies, gentlemen, and other: The Adris One Museum of Science and History is now closed. We hope you have enjoyed your stay, and we hope to see you again soon."
The Doctor stopped in his tracks, staring upwards.
"There's no way that was a half hour," he said.
Rory shrugged. "Maybe they didn't mean an Earth hour."
The Doctor frowned, "Yes, but the TARDIS doesn't just do languages, it converts the time and distance differences as well, otherwise we'd never know what other species were talking about - "
"Attention, all museum personnel: There has been a security breach. Please evacuate to your designated emergency waiting areas until Security has eliminated the threat. Thank you, and have a nice day."
The Doctor swallowed. "Ah."
Rory glanced around worriedly. "What exactly does that mean?"
"It means the trap's just closed," the Doctor said. "And we're stuck in it."
"The Adris One docking bay is currently closed. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please come again later, and have a nice day."
"Oh come on," the pilot yelled at the comm, severely irritated with the automated voice. "I have no fuel! I can't come again later! I can't even stop!"
"The Adris One docking bay is currently closed. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please come again later, and have a nice day."
"Arrrrgh!" He slammed his fist down on the console, inputting a line of gibberish into the computer.
"Fuck this," he said, and pulled up a special program on the screen. "You're not gonna let me in, I'm gonna force my way in."
"'Stationwide lockdown due to undefined security breach,'" he read. "Well, if you didn't have one before, you sure do now."
A moment more of typing, and the pilot looked up, triumphant, at the station ahead of him. The docking bay doors were opening.
They all looked up when the alarms went off.
"Security breach?" Ianto repeated.
Owen raised an eyebrow at Toshiko.
"Why would it go off now, I hacked in almost an hour ago," she said. "I haven't done anything since."
"So you did hack in, then?" Ianto asked.
"As I have been since I first got access to the computers," Tosh answered crossly. "I'm not the sort to get caught."
"First time for everything."
She glared at Owen. "It's not me!"
"Maybe somebody's broken in," Ianto mused.
"You think your mystery girl's coming in to rescue us?" Owen suggested with a smirk.
"Could be," Ianto said. "She was very insistent."
Tosh stood up and went to the door. "In any case, we should take advantage of the distraction."
Owen watched her try to open the door manually, fail, and bend over to rip off the control panel and hardwire it. Even with the passcode, she'd learned to open it by force just in case of a lockdown like this.
"Is using a security breach as a distraction wise?" Ianto pointed out. "Won't the halls be filled with security teams? We'd just get caught."
"Security's almost all automated," Tosh explained. "I can almost certainly redirect it away from us."
"And where are we going to go?"
Tosh spared a glare over her shoulder at Owen as the door slid open. "I have it under control," she said, and crashed into Amy as she stepped outside.
Amy stumbled and caught herself on the doorframe.
"Found you!" she said, triumphantly.
"Mystery girl?" Owen asked Ianto, jerking a thumb at Amy.
Ianto nodded. "Yup."
Amy looked at them. "Look, we've got to get out of here, the Doctor says this is all some sort of big trap."
The others all cut in at once.
"A trap? For who?" Tosh said.
"It's not like we're going anywhere," Owen put in.
"The Doctor?" Ianto repeated. "Like, Time Lord, two hearts, TARDIS Doctor?"
Amy blinked at him. "Have you met?"
"Briefly. Over the phone anyway. Well, subwave network…"
Tosh frowned. "The Doctor's here," she repeated.
"Yes, he's downstairs!" Amy cried, gesturing. "He sent me to come get you so we can all get out of here in the TARDIS. Before the trap is set off, he says, only the alarm's gone so I'm pretty sure we're running out of time…"
She trailed off, arm out, obviously hoping they would hurry up and follow her out.
They all hesitated a moment. Then Ianto got up from his seat on Tosh's desk and joined Amy in the hall. Owen followed.
Tosh rose from her crouch on the floor and followed them slowly. Amy was explaining that they needed to get out of the museum and back down to the TARDIS, while Ianto kept looking around for danger and Owen just shrugged with his hands in his pockets and looked conflicted.
TheTARDIS, Tosh thought. Cantravelanywhereintimeandspacewithnotroubleatall.We'llbefreeinnotime.
She stared at the others' backs, mildly disappointed. 'Mybrilliance'indeed,FaceofBoe.I'vejustwastedalotoftimeandenergytobesavedbyoutsideforces.
She sighed, jogging a little to catch up. There was no point dwelling on it, she supposed. The important thing was they were finally getting out of there. Whatever happened, she would not be a prisoner any more, and they were all getting out together. They just had to reach the TARDIS.
The four of them turned the corner to get back to the museum proper and stopped as one.
"Oh," Tosh said.
The way was blocked. Four of the robots from the Security Office stood in the hall. Activated, they were enormous. Their dull red shells filled the entire width of the corridor. Their camera eyes swiveled and focused on the group.
"Returntoyourquarters," said one of the robots, in the unmistakable voice of Doctor Eskar Xarchac, "Oryouwillbeeliminated."
The robots' weapons began to glow.
"What do you mean we're stuck in the trap. You said the trap wasn't for us."
"It isn't," the Doctor reiterated, running over to yet another door, opening it, looking both ways, and shutting it again. "Doesn't mean we can't get stuck in it. A bear trap is meant to catch bears, but if you stick your foot in it by accident it still hurts."
Rory followed at a more sedate pace, watching wearily as the Doctor led him through the side passages of the station.
"So what's the plan, then?"
"The plan, Rory, is to get to the TARDIS, find Amy and her friends, put Amy and her friends in the TARDIS, and get out of here as quickly as possible."
"And why can't we just go directly to the TARDIS the way we came in?"
"Because security's been activated and if we just wander around willy-nilly in the main halls they're going to find us," the Doctor said.
"Couldn't we just explain that we're not the person they're looking for, and we just didn't get out of the museum in time?"
"Maybe we could, under different circumstances. But I was just in the security office a little while ago, and it was full of rather large robots with big guns. Speaking from experience, you can't usually negotiate with large robots with big guns. Well, sometimes you can, there was that one time on Coridine, but I think they're more the exception than the rule. Lovely people though, those robots, they make an amazing fruitcake. Ah ha, here we go!"
Apparently finding a door he was satisfied with, the Doctor ran through. Rory followed, and they jogged down a long, darkened hall.
"This station's old," the Doctor explained. "Much older than the museum. It has a lot of disused maintenance tunnels and passages. They're not mapped very well, mind, but this one should probably get us back over to the docking bay."
"We parked in a cupboard though," Rory pointed out.
"Yes, but the cupboard was very near to the docking bay. Pay attention, Rory, these things are important."
They hurried back out another door into the bright hallway that lay between the museum and the living area. The Doctor ran triumphantly past both sets of doors for the docking bay and flung open the door to the supply cupboard in which they had parked.
A mop fell to the floor. The TARDIS was nowhere in sight. The cupboard's interior was filled with the bulky mass of a very large, dark red robot with a big gun.
The Doctor blinked at it. "See?" he said to Rory. "I was right."
To the robot, he said, "I don't suppose you've come to give me a fruitcake."
The robot's eyes focused on the Doctor. It raised its gun.
The Doctor took a step back. "Oh come now, there's no need for that," he said. "We did mean to get out when the announcement was made, really, only we wanted to see one last exhibit first, and we got stuck, if you could just tell us where our ship has got to - it looks like a big blue box, says 'police box' on the top - we'll get out of your hair, no harm no foul, right?"
"I thought you said you couldn't reason with big robots with large guns," Rory murmured.
"I said large robots with big guns," the Doctor corrected, "and it's worth a shot, anyway."
A voice came from the robot. "I'm afraid that won't be happening, Doctor," it said.
"Oh, and why not? I know this is all a big setup, but it has nothing to do with me, I only came because Amy insisted."
"It may not have been meant for you," the voice hissed, "but you'll do just fine. I've had enough of this ridiculous charade. I may have been promised an immortal, but a regenerating Time Lord is just as good."
The Doctor shook his head. "Really, Doctor Xarchac, I'd hoped better from you. A brilliant mind like yours, and you waste it like this. Your time could be much better spent helpingpeople."
"I am helping people, Doctor," Xarchac's voice answered. "I can heal almost any wound and reverse death, but soon I will be able to avert death entirely."
"Right," said the Doctor. "Good luck with that."
He shut the cupboard door in the robot's face.
"Returntoyourquarters," the robot repeated, with the same intonation as before.
It'sarecording, Ianto thought. Theregoesanychanceofreasoningwithit.
"What do we do?" he asked.
Amy took a step backwards, knocking into his elbow. "What is that thing?" she asked quietly.
"It's a security bot," Tosh murmured back. "They're only supposed to be used in cases of extreme emergency."
"Is our getting out of here really such a big deal?" Owen asked.
"The alarm went off before we got out of the room," Ianto pointed out. "They couldn't have known we were going to do something before we did it, could they?"
"The Doctor said this was all some sort of trap," Amy pointed out as the robot repeated its ominous message. "Maybe this is a part of it? To keep you all contained or something."
"That actually seems pretty likely," Toshiko said. Like Amy, she was backing away slowly, her hand grasping Owen's mangled one seemingly without her notice. "But what is it a trap for?"
Amy kept her eyes on the robots. "He didn't say. Well, he said something, but it was all very convoluted and unfocused, like usual."
"Returntoyourquartersoryouwillbeeliminated," the robot repeated.
"You know, that's getting really annoying," Owen chided it. He took another step back as well, trying to give Tosh's hand a reassuring squeeze.
"ESKAR!" shouted a voice from behind them. Ned pushed his way between them all, more furious than Ianto would have thought possible. "Eskar, what the hell do you think you're doing?"
The robot didn't answer, but it and its companions stopped and lowered their weapons.
"Eskar!" Ned shouted again. "What is going on here? Why did you evacuate the museum? Why has security activated?"
"Who's this?" Amy whispered.
"That's Ned," Ianto whispered back. "Runs the museum along with the fellow whose voice is on the robot."
"Eskar, I know you can hear me!"
There was a soft crackle from the robot's speakers.
"Nerranderot," Xarchac said calmly.
"Eskar, what do you think you're doing?"
"I'm executing the plan," answered Xarchac. "I've had enough waiting around, Nerranderot. I've let you go ahead with your little exhibit, even with the drain on resources and the utter waste of space. But now it's time for action."
"Eskar," Ned pleaded. "This is ridiculous, you're not accomplishing anything - "
"Nonsense. I've caught a Time Lord."
Ned's mouth shut with a snap.
"I have something useful to study, Nerranderot, and I intend to do so. Now get out of my way." The robots raised their weapons.
Ianto pulled Amy behind him. Behind him, he could see Tosh and Owen stepping quickly backwards, ready to bolt.
"Ned," Ianto prodded.
"Eskar," Ned said yet again. "Please. This is going too far. Turn the security alert off and let's talk this over. I'm sure we can come to some sort of arrangement…"
"I don't think so," Xarchac said. "You've had your chance."
The robots opened fire.
Ianto grabbed Ned by the collar and yanked him around the corner.
"Run!" he shouted, though the others had already broken into a sprint ahead of him.
They ran for their lives.
They ran. They didn't look back as they heard the cupboard door splinter behind them, nor at the booming footsteps following in their wake.
"Where are we going to go?" Rory panted.
"Dunno. Somewhere. Anywhere."
The Doctor skidded to a halt, holding his hand out to catch Rory as three more of the red robots emerged from around the corner ahead of them.
He looked around. "This way!" he shouted, and ran for the docking bay doors.
The Doctor pressed some buttons on the panel next to the door. It bleeped but the doors didn't open. He frantically searched his pockets.
"You gave your sonic to Amy!" Rory said, backing up into him. He was inexplicably still holding the mop that had fallen from the cupboard, brandishing it in front of him as if it could ward off the incoming line of robots.
"Of course I did," the Doctor muttered. "Help me pull it open!"
There were no handles. They each stuck their fingers in the small crack between doors, leaning backwards and pulling with all their weight and strength. The doors barely budged.
"Come on," the Doctor urged, "Open! OPEN!"
The doors flew open. The Doctor and Rory collapsed to the ground. Rory stared in shock at the man standing in the doorway. He looked back, curiously.
"Um," said the man. "Hi?"
The Doctor got to his feet in one quick movement. "You idiot," he spat at the man. "What are you doing here?"
The man blinked, utterly confused. "…I… was out of fuel…?"
"Never mind that," the Doctor said, pushing him backwards into the docking bay and grabbing Rory's arm again. "Run!"
The three of them stumbled into the docking bay. The Doctor ran to the door control and shut it just as the first of the robots reached them. There was a loud bang from the other side.
"They only locked it from one side, so the authorities can get in if they're called," the Doctor explained. "Lucky for us."
He turned and grabbed both of them, pulling them away from the door and towards the ships. "It won't take them long to break through, though. We need to find another way out of here."
"Why?" the man asked. "Why are those things after you?"
"They're after you," the Doctor corrected, which made absolutely no sense. Rory frowned, trying to puzzle it out, and the man looked just as baffled.
The Doctor sighed heavily, pausing to lean against the wall and compose himself. He looked up at the man wearily.
"Really, Jack, I expected better from you. Falling for such an obvious trap, I don't believe you."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said. "I just came here because I needed to refuel my ship." He paused. "Is that you, Doctor?"
The Doctor looked surprised. "Of course it's me," he said. "Oh, right, you must not have seen this regeneration. How long has it been for you?"
"About 400 years," Jack said. "I like the new look. What's with the bowtie?"
"Bowties are cool. It has been a while then. Look at you, you've started going grey!"
Jack ran his hand through his salt-and-pepper hair self-consciously. "Yeah, well, not all of us can just start over with brand new hair every time we die. The centuries start to take their toll after a while. I kinda like it anyway, looks dignified."
"Um," Rory interjected. "Doctor?"
"Oh right," the Doctor said. "Jack, this is Rory Williams, Rory, this is Captain Jack Harkness."
"Hi," Jack said, turning to grin at Rory.
"Um," Rory said again, feeling suddenly awkward. "Hi."
"Don't you dare, Jack."
Jack looked exasperated. "What, I'm not allowed to say hello? Still?"
"How many times do I have to tell you, no, you're not allowed to say hello. You're barking up the wrong tree anyway, he's married."
"Really?" Jack said, delighted. "What's she like?"
"Don't you dare!"
"Um, Doctor," Rory said again, putting the awkward feeling out of his mind for the moment, "The robots have gotten through."
They all turned back towards the door. One giant red hand was stuck between the crack in the door, and was slowly prying it open.
"Right," the Doctor said. "Jack, give me a boost will you?"
Confused, Jack helped the Doctor step up. He immediately set to work prying open an air vent.
"An air vent?" Rory said, staring at it. "Really? You want us to climb through an air vent?"
"Unless you see another way out of here that isn't full of robots," the Doctor said. He ripped the screen off the vent and dropped it on the floor. He clambered in, with Jack's assistance, then reached down to help pull Rory up. "Really, all you do is complain. Even Sarah Jane had to climb through air vents. She could have been famous for climbing through air vents. It's really not a big deal."
He maneuvered so that Rory could crawl past him into the vent before reaching down to help Jack too. Crammed into the tiny passage, the three of them crawled as fast as they could back into the museum.
The vent screen fell to the floor with a clatter. The Doctor fell shortly after, with a small 'Oof!'
He stood up and dusted himself off, glancing around the room as he did so. Swords, suits of armor, spears, robes, farming equipment - no robots in sight. Good.
"The coast is clear!" he shouted.
"It won't be for long if you keep shouting like that." Jack dropped to the floor behind him, pausing to dust off his hands. "The robots might not have ears, but I bet they can still hear you."
The Doctor just rolled his eyes as Jack turned around to help Rory down out of the vent.
"Er, thanks," Rory stammered. "So, what now?"
"Now," the Doctor said, "the plans have changed. Just a little. We're inserting a step before 'get to the TARDIS' that we'll call 'find where the crazy scientist man has hidden the TARDIS' with a subclause of 'don't run into any more robots.' After that, it's still find Amy, get in the TARDIS, get out of here."
He stalked around the room, staring intently at the displays. He stopped in front of a case, carefully examining the sword within it. He nodded to himself, knocked the glass cover off, and grabbed it.
Rory caught the sword as the Doctor tossed to him.
"Rory," the Doctor said, "Take this, go find Amy. Xarchac doesn't have any interest in you, so the robots should leave you alone."
"So what's this for then?"
"That's for if they don't."
"You… want me to fight giant robots… with a sword."
The Doctor huffed and gesticulated angrily. "Yes! With a sword. 2000 year old centurion, yes? No? Go on, find your wife. We'll meet up with you."
Rory hesitated, resisting the urge to ask how they were going to find each other again, and hurried up the stairs.
Jack raised an eyebrow. "2000 years?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Long story."
Jack stared up at Rory's retreating back. "He looks good for his age. Better than me, even."
The Doctor snorted.
"So what exactly is going on, Doc?" Jack asked. "What's all this about a trap and bait and evil scientists and all that?"
"Basically," the Doctor said, leading the way down the corridor, "Basically, there's this man, Eskar Xarchac. Brilliant doctor, inventor, scientist, you name it. You remember the nanogenes?"
Jack flinched. "How can I forget?"
"He helped invent them. Just a prototype, mind you, but they still heal people, even the recently deceased. He's that good. And he is obsessed with this kind of thing. You know how it is with these types, they just want to live forever, and they'll do anything to extend lifespan."
"And what better subject for a study on cheating death than a regenerating Time Lord?"
"Or an immortal," the Doctor said. "You're missing the point, Jack, this isn't a trap for me. I just happened to wander into it. Xarchac took advantage of my presence but I'm not what he's really after."
"And I am?" Jack scoffed.
The Doctor looked back over his shoulder at him.
"You have no idea."
He turned around, mouth already open to explain, when Jack held up a hand and shushed him.
"Do you hear something?"
They both froze.
It was nothing like the clomping of robot feet or Xarchac's drawl, but a soft sound fell through the museum hallway. Heavy breathing, trying to be quiet, and hiccoughing.
"Is someone crying?"
The Doctor turned around again, searching for the source. He walked quickly down the corridor with one hand on the wall, stopping periodically to put an ear to the wall. The sobbing got louder.
"There's somebody in the wall," the Doctor said.
Jack just raised an eyebrow.
The Doctor took a step back and stared at the wall. "There's a passage here," he explained. "Which means there's a door."
He inspected the wall for another moment. Carefully, he ran his fingers down it in a straight line, revealing a nearly invisible crack. He pushed on it.
The door slid open. There was a small gasp from the passageway.
"It's alright!" the Doctor said. "We're friends. Are you okay?"
A fuzzy little girl sat in the dark, her fur a deep grey and her tail wrapped miserably around her body. She sobbed loudly.
"Hey hey, it's alright," the Doctor cooed, stepping in to comfort her. "It's okay, I promise."
"I couldn't find my mummy," the girl choked out, accepting the Doctor's embrace. "I got lost and then the doors were locked and there were all these mean robots and I was scared!"
"Well it's okay now, isn't it? What's your name, sweetheart?"
The girl sniffed audibly. "Moshe," she whispered.
"Lovely to meet you, Moshe. I'm the Doctor, this is my friend Captain Jack. " He gestured behind him at Jack, who was biting his lip to keep from laughing.
The Doctor glared at him briefly before turning back to Moshe. "Do you know where your mummy might have gone, Moshe?"
"B-back to the flat?" she suggested. She sniffed, wiping her eyes on her frock. "Are you really a doctor?"
"Sure I am," said the Doctor. "I'm the Doctor. You can ask anyone."
"I have a friend who's a doctor," Moshe said. "He's part of the museum. Do you work for the museum? You wear a bowtie like the guides do."
"Naw, I just like bowties. They're cool." The Doctor winked at her and she giggled, sniffing a little more.
He stood up, still holding Moshe in his arms. "Right, come on, Jack. We'll have to take her with us."
Jack still looked like he was fighting off a severe case of the giggles. "Do we?"
"We can't just leave her here, she's lost!"
Jack scoffed. "That's a flat lie," he said. "Doctor, you're being conned."
The Doctor looked scandalized. "I'm what?"
"You're being conned. I should know, I did it for years. But nobody pulls off a con better than a little kid. Isn't that right?"
Moshe stuck her tongue out at him, all signs of tears and distress entirely evaporated. Her fur had turned purple.
Jack leaned in and grinned in Moshe's face. "I bet you ditched your mom on purpose, so you could go explore the museum when it was closed."
"I don't need to explore," Moshe said. "I know how to get everywhere."
"Oh you do, do you?" the Doctor said, and shoved her forwards into Jack, who grabbed her, startled. "Well then, since you're such an expert, do you think you can get us to our friends? They're being held somewhere, like a part of an exhibit or storage, they won't be with the staff housing - "
"I know!" Moshe interrupted gleefully, wrapping her tail around Jack's shoulders for balance. "I know where that is!"
"Can you get us there without any of the robots finding us!"
Moshe nodded vehemently. "I can get anywhere!" she bragged.
"Great!" the Doctor said, clapping his hands. "Lead the way!"
The five of them stumbled down a flight of steps; Amy in the lead, Tosh and Owen right behind her, and Ianto dragging the out-of-breath Ned in the rear.
"I don't suppose these robots have a particular weakness in running down stairs?" Amy gasped.
"The museum's practically nothing but stairs," Owen pointed out. "It'd be pretty ridiculous if they couldn't do stairs."
"I don't know how long we can keep this up," Tosh put in, gulping down air. Her lungs were burning already, long out of practice for this sort of exertion. "We have to stop."
"Ned, isn't there somewhere we can hide?" Ianto asked, pulling the historian along as he ran.
"I don't - think so - it's all - been blocked off," he puffed. "And - Eskar - has got - access - to everywhere - anyway."
"What about weapons?" Owen demanded. "Is there any way we can fight them?"
Amy reached into her jacket pocket. "I have this," she said. "Why aren't you out of breath like the rest of us?" she added with a hint of resentment.
Owen grabbed the sonic from her. "No breath to lose. What the hell is this thing?"
Amy shrugged. "Screwdriver."
Tosh snatched it from Owen. "Good with locks," she said. "Maybe we can get into one of these rooms."
"Then we'll be cornered!" Ned wailed. "These rooms only have - one exit!"
Amy yelled suddenly, skidding to a halt. Another robot had appeared in front of them, apparently patrolling the vicinity. Its dark eyes focused on them, and it raised its weapon.
They all stumbled backwards into each other. Amy grabbed the sonic, still in Tosh's grasp, and pointed it desperately at the robot.
"Don't come any closer or I'll shoot!" she shouted. The screwdriver's tip glowed green and it buzzed. The robot was unphased.
"You can't bluff a bloody robot!" Owen yelled at her.
"Well I can't now that you've told it!" she shouted back.
The robot took another menacing step forwards. Its weapon began to hum.
It stopped suddenly, lurching forwards. For a moment there was no sound but the buzzing of electricity. Then something ripped through the robot's side, pulling out wires and tubing in its wake. The robot slumped.
"I like this sword," Rory said. "Sharp."
Amy ran towards him, leaping over the disconnected security bot and tackling him into a hug. He hugged her back, one-handed, and grinned as she yanked his head forwards into a kiss.
"Well who the hell are you?" Owen demanded, somehow annoyed by the display.
"Did you just destroy one of our top of the line security automatons with an ancient Kagarran ceremonial wedding sword?" Ned put in, staring at the couple.
Rory looked down at his sword, then back up at Ned. "Yes?"
"This is my husband Rory," Amy said quickly. "Rory, where's the Doctor?"
"Still out in the museum. He said we need to find the TARDIS and get out of here, but we split up because he said the robots are only after him."
"Well they're bloody well after us too, mate," Owen said.
"What do you mean find the TARDIS?" Ianto asked. "Have you lost it?"
The sudden wailing of an alarm from the robot drowned Rory's answer out.
"What the hell's it doing?" Ianto shouted, covering his ears.
"Calling its friends!" Tosh shouted back. "We need to get out of here before they show up!"
"I told you, there's nowhere we can go!" Ned yelled, but he followed when the humans started running again.
"All the rooms are dead ends," Tosh said, her mind racing to find a way out of this. "And we can't get out through the museum itself?"
"The museum's in lockdown," Ned confirmed. "The docking bay is closed, and there are patrols everywhere, particularly in the exhibit halls."
"Don't you have an emergency exit somewhere?"
"He'll have thought of that though," Tosh said, brushing aside Ianto's suggestion. "Even if we could get to it unhindered. I doubt one sword is going to take care of a whole army of robots."
Rory glanced down at the blade doubtfully.
They turned a corner and Tosh slowed to a stop. "Where are we?"
Owen took a quick glance around. "Science wing," he said. "Where all the labs and stuff are."
The sound of heavy footsteps rang out behind them.
"They found us," Ianto said.
"No shit," Owen added, staring at the robots turning the corner at the other end of the hall.
"Come on!" Tosh said, pulling him forwards. "Which one of these rooms has the Time Gate?"
Ned protested wildly. "It's malfunctioning!" he said. "We had to disconnect it, it either won't activate at all or it starts up on its own! It's dangerous!"
"Do you see any other choices?"
Owen stopped her in front of one of the doors. "This one!"
Tosh ripped off the panel cover and began hardwiring the door controls.
"Hurry!" Ianto urged.
"Get it open! Quick!" Rory added, brandishing his sword at the robots encroaching from the right.
"Oh lord," Ned whimpered, his eyes locked on the ones coming from the left.
"Usethedamnsonic!" Amy shouted.
Tosh whipped the sonic screwdriver out from her pocket and pointed it at the controls. The door flew open.
"Quickly, everyone get inside!"
They piled in. Tosh slammed the button to close the doors. Owen tugged off the door control and reached into the wires with his bare hands, ripping them out and sending sparks flying.
"They'll still be able to get through with brute force," Tosh shouted, already running for the Time Gate's controls. "Block the doors with whatever you can! Ned, help me get this thing working!"
Ned wrung his hands while the humans rushed around him. Amy ripped open a door in the corner; a supply cupboard. She and the men grabbed whatever they could - chairs, desks, mops, buckets, strange devices, trays - and piled them up against the door. There was a loud BANG from the other side as the robots tried to get through.
"Ned!" Tosh shouted, "Help me!"
Ned whimpered and ran to the other controls.
Entirely out of things to block the door with, Rory, Amy, Ianto, and Owen pressed themselves up against the pile. It shook with every impact from the robot's huge red hand.
"You couldn't have been the sort of zombie with super strength, could you?" Ianto said bitterly to Owen. He was clutching a long metal pipe from the supply cupboard as a weapon.
"So sorry about that," Owen said with a half-chortle, "I'll bring it up at the next brought-back-to-life-by-an-evil-glove meeting."
"They're getting through," Rory said, pressing the door as hard as he could. It was already filled with dents as large as his head, and a little too close to it for comfort. He adjusted his grip on his sword.
"Any time you guys want to get that portal ready?" Owen called back to Tosh and Ned.
"Just hang on," Tosh said, utterly focused on the controls in front of her. "I think I've almost got it."
The arch began to spark a little.
"The coordinates won't stabilize," Ned warned her. "No matter what, they just keep resetting themselves, I can't control it. I can't even determine what planet it's set for, let alone what time! We could end up in the vacuum of space!"
"Shouldn't it still be set to Earth?" Ianto asked. The door creaked worryingly.
"I can't tell!"
The arch started to hum. A light appeared in the center of the archway, flickering and sparking as a wind picked up around it. A sound like distorted voices rang out in the room.
"What's it doing?" Amy shouted.
"I don't know! This is why we had to disconnect it!"
"Just hang on!" Tosh yelled over the commotion.
BANG!went the door.
"Hurry it up, Tosh!" Owen called.
"I've got it!" Tosh shouted, ignoring everything else.
The spark in the arch grew into a full-blown portal, a shining whorl of light spinning rapidly in the center. A strong wind blew everything this way and that, sending the lighter parts of the door's blockade flying across the room.
"Toshiko Sato, you are brilliant!"Owen yelled excitedly.
Tosh beamed. The portal flashed ominously.
Rory wrapped his free arm around Amy as the wind blew debris over their heads. They all ducked, seeking cover under whatever they could.
The blockade shifted with the impact, sending it and all four humans sliding away from the door. A giant red hand tore through the metal and gripped the side of the door, pulling it open.
"Tosh, get us through that thing, now!"
"You can't!" Ned roared above the cacophony. "It's not pulling us through, it's bringing something through to here! The controls won't listen! It's only going the one way!"
The portal flashed again and again, sparks of golden energy crackling through the air.
The door ripped open, knocking the debris aside. Four deep red robots began to pile into the room, pushing through the blockade.
There was a deafening whoosh! of wind and a blinding flash of light.
"EVERYBODY GET DOWN!" a voice shouted above it all.
Nobody thought about it. Owen hurled himself to one side, plowing into Ianto and knocking them both to the ground. Rory and Amy clutched each other and ducked behind the pile of broken tables and supplies. Tosh threw herself under the control desk, catching a glimpse of Ned doing the same on the other side.
There was a loud crackle, the high-pitched whirr of powerful machinery, followed by a deep BOOM! and a moment of intense, direct heat through the center of the room; the sound of crashing, sparking, and then an unnatural silence.
Tosh cowered under the control panel for a moment, shaking, disoriented, and trying to find her breath. Cautiously, she reached out, pulling herself out of her hiding spot and to her feet.
Amy and Rory huddled in the corner, still grabbing onto each other for dear life. Ianto and Owen lay in a tangle on the other side of the room, stuck somewhere in the midst of rising, staring wide eyed around the room. Between them, four of the security bots lay like fallen dominoes, enormous holes burnt through the chest of each one, dripping molten metal to the floor.
Debris lay on the floor in all directions. The archway was dark and silent again, but a figure stood in the center of it, smoke curling from the enormous weapon on its shoulder.
Gwen lowered her oversized gun and grinned.
They all just stared at her. It was Gwen. It was Gwen.
She was older. Her hair was different, wavier, longer, no more fringe in her eyes, and the sort of unnatural uniformity to the color that implied she probably dyed it to cover up grays. Her face was lined; her eyes crinkled at the edges and there was a worry line through her forehead. She looked so much older, with a hardness to her that had just started to come out when they last seen her, when they had died and left her all alone on Earth.
But it was Gwen, she carried herself the same, she still wore the tight jeans and dark leather jacket and the same color lipstick, and behind the superficial changes it was the same face, with the same pale freckles. They were the same bright green eyes that always looked too big for her face, darkened by mascara, looking like they were just on the verge of tears, even with that familiar gap-toothed smile.
She lowered her weapon and dropped it on the ground, stepping out of the archway and down onto the laboratory floor.
"Gwen," Ianto choked. He pulled himself out from under Owen and stumbled to his feet, unable to take his eyes off of her, afraid she'd disappear like so many dreams if he looked away for even a moment.
Gwen smiled that strange, uncertain, not-quite-crying smile at him. "Hey handsome," she said, and her voice was almost as choked up as his.
"We thought you were dead," he said, because it was 2000 years in the future and she had vanished from the records and -
"Look who's talking!" Gwen said with a short laugh, and the tears finally appeared in her eyes.
Ianto crossed the room in three strides and pulled her into his arms. She hugged him back, her arms around his neck, kissing his cheek and getting his hair thoroughly wet with tears. But then, hers wasn't exactly staying dry either.
"God I missed you so much," Gwen said, squeezing him tighter before stepping away to look at him. "I missed all of you, so much, I can hardly believe this is happening."
"Gwen, you…" Owen said, starting towards the two of them and utterly clueless as to how he planned to finish that sentence. It didn't really matter though, because she had him tugged into a hug and was planting a chaste kiss on his dry lips before he could finish the word.
Then she whirled around and met Tosh on the step to the control and grabbed her too, lifting her straight off her feet and spinning her around.
"Oh god," Gwen said, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. She let go of Tosh, who stumbled backwards until Ianto caught her.
"God," Gwen repeated, sniffling one last time before standing up straight. "Right. We don't have time for this!" She grinned somewhat lopsidedly at them before walking right past them, stepping easily over the piled robots over to the door. "We've got to get going before any more of these things show up, yeah?"
"What," Rory said, staring after her, "What just happened?"
"Who are you?" Amy put in.
"Come on then," Gwen said to them, rolling her eyes and waving the questions off. "I'll explain while we walk."
"But," Ned said, gesturing helplessly as the rest of the Torchwood team hurried after her, "What about your gun? And the Time Gate?"
"Both useless now," Gwen said. "The gun only has one shot at full power, then it takes a full day to recharge. No time for that, so just leave it. And your little arch is useless now too. Sorry. Probably burnt it out when we redirected it and forced our way through."
"Wh-what do you mean?" Ned shouted, scurrying over the destroyed robots and following the humans out into the hall. "How are you even here? All of the records indicate - "
"You just disappear," Owen finished, slightly accusing. "Vanish, without a trace, from all of the Torchwood records."
"And the rest of the world," Tosh added, "You literally dropped off the face of the Earth!"
"Yes," Gwen said. "I did. I came here."
"I came here!" she repeated. "I disappeared to here. To the future. To this… space station, or whatever it is."
"Timey-wimey," Amy muttered.
"Precisely," Gwen said, pointing at her with a smile.
"But why?" Ianto asked. "Why come here?"
"Well I couldn't exactly leave you, now could I?"
"But Gwen," Toshiko said, grabbing her arm and slowing her down. "How did you manage all this? You literally hijacked the Time Gate's coordinates and forced your way through. How did you do that?"
Gwen shrugged, smiling at her. "Torchwood," she said. "Alien technology. Time travel. All in a day's work, right?"
"How long has it even been for you?" Ianto asked.
"About twenty years," Gwen said with a sigh. "That's… twenty years since we lost you, Ianto. My little girl's at university now, you didn't even get to see her born."
He squeezed her hand.
"In any case," Gwen said, "I think it's most important for us to get out of here, yeah? I can explain everything later, when we're all back together."
"That's right, we still have to meet back up with the Doctor," Amy said. "How are we supposed to find him?"
The Doctor barely managed to get the passageway door open, putting all his weight against the side of it. It didn't help that the 'door' was actually just another part of the wall, designed to be opened by creatures with much more muscle mass than he had. How the hell had Moshe passed through this passage on her own?
"You could help, you know," he said with a scowl at Jack.
Jack smirked and adjusted Moshe's position in his arms. "Hands are a little full, Doc."
Moshe giggled and green flashed across her fur in a quick blush.
The Doctor rolled his eyes and slipped through the small opening into the hall. "Air vents and ancient secret passages," he complained, "I don't normally have to do both in one trip. I'll be stuck in a winding cave next, just you watch."
Jack laughed and followed him out. "So, where are we now?"
"Not sure," the Doctor said. "Not in the main museum. Backstage area, I'd guess, where all the labs and offices and things are. Moshe?"
Moshe nodded. "I'm not supposed to go back here," she said, with an expression that indicated she went there rather frequently. "It's off-limits to the public."
"And you think our friends will be here?"
"Tha'ss where they keep my friends," she said. "They're not supposed to leave either."
"So who are these people, Doctor?" Jack interrupted. "Your companions?"
"Some of them," the Doctor said. "Two of them. Amy and Rory. Only Amy's found people being kept here - Moshe's doctor-friend and two others, if I'm not mistaken - and we thought we'd get them out."
"Being kept for what?"
"As bait," the Doctor said. "You really didn't come here because you heard about the 21st Century Earth exhibit?"
Jack shook his head. "I told you, my ship ran out of fuel. I mean completely out of fuel, I had to turn life support off and float my way here using nothing but momentum. Why would I come for some Earth exhibit, anyway?"
"I like the Earth exhibit!" Moshe interjected. "I get hot chocolates and then they tell stories and we go look at stuff!"
"Their tagline is 'FirstContactbeforeFirstContact,' Jack, it's about extraterrestrial contact with Earth and time slips and things and the humans who had to cover it up. Sound familiar?"
Jack frowned. "Sounds a bit like Torchwood," he muttered.
The Doctor threw his hands up. "Now he gets it!"
"Someone built an exhibit about Torchwood, just to attract my attention so they could kidnap me and study my immortality?"
"That's about it, yes."
Jack glanced back into the dark passageway. "I kinda want to see it now," he said, "Since they went to that much trouble."
The Doctor rolled his eyes again. "Yes, well, maybe once we're done escaping from the killer robots and mad scientist and rescue the others we can all come back and make a nice day trip of it. Now come on, we have to keep going - "
"Stop!" Moshe said suddenly, turning a pale yellow nervously. "Somebody's coming!"
Jack and the Doctor looked around in either direction - the halls were empty.
"You sure?" Jack asked, backing into the Doctor as he kept a lookout.
Moshe nodded. "I can hear voices!" she whispered, "And footsteps. There's a whole bunch of people over that way."
She pointed over the Doctor's shoulder, where the corridor took a turn to the right.
The Doctor frowned. "I think we'd better take her word for it. Much better ears than either of us have. Quick, back in the passage."
Moshe's large pointed ears flattened against her head at their mention. The three of them hurried back into the hidden passage. Jack put her down so he could help the Doctor shut it, leaving only a crack so they could look out.
The three of them pressed up against the crack, listening with their breaths held. Soon, Jack and the Doctor could hear the sounds as well, voices from down the hall, indistinct but clearly present.
"Doesn't sound like robots," Jack whispered.
"Could be staff," the Doctor whispered back.
Moshe's ears perked up and she flushed green with pleasure. "It's okay!" she said loudly, "It's Doctor Harper!" and she slipped through the crack and out into the hall.
Jack turned to the Doctor with a wide-eyed stare. "Doctor Harper?" he repeated incredulously.
The Doctor just smiled.
Moshe scurried on all fours down the hall and stopped at the corner. "Doctor Harper!" she called, grinning.
The group of would-be escapees paused, turning around to look. Gwen already had a hand on the holster at her hip, but Ianto caught her wrist. Owen just sighed and jogged over to the little girl.
"Moshe, what are you doing here? I thought the museum was evacuated."
"I hid in the wall!" she said brightly, already clambering up into his arms. "There were a bunch of robots but I wasn't scared and then I helped us get here because I know how to get everywhere on the station and it was really fun!"
Owen frowned, trying to make sense of her babbling. "Look, just calm down, speak slowly. You're not hurt or anything are you? You really should have just stayed with your mum this time, it's dangerous in here - "
"Owen?" called a shaky voice.
Owen stopped and stared down the hall, where Jack was clambering out of the hidden passageway.
There was a moment where they just stared at each other. Then all at once Jack was running down the hall and Owen was enveloped in arms and a WWII air force coat and there was a hand running through his hair.
Moshe stepped back from where she'd slipped out of Owen's arms when they'd gone slack with shock and bit her thumb.
The cry of "Jack!" was echoed down the hall by a more feminine voice, and he stepped away from Owen just enough to catch Tosh as she hurdled into him, grabbing her around the waist and pulling her in to the impromptu group hug.
Amy and Rory watched curiously from further down the hall.
"Are you guys always like this?" Amy asked.
"Nah," Gwen said. "Only when it's important. The rest of it's all arguing and guns and things."
She nudged Ianto with her elbow. "Go on then, what are you standing about for?"
Ianto stumbled forwards at her push. He glanced back at her with a look somewhere between shock and fear, then back at the still locked-together trio.
"…Jack!" he finally shouted, and Jack looked up, smiling wider than ever.
"Ianto!" Jack shouted back, and he ran forwards without letting the others go, dragging them behind him.
Ianto met him halfway, crashing into his chest and yanking his head down into a deep kiss. Jack wrapped his arm around him, somehow, without letting go of Tosh's hand, and his other one still buried in Owen's hair as if losing physical contact with any of them would make them disappear.
"Ianto Jones," Jack whispered, pulling away just long enough so they could catch their breaths, "You are so beautiful," and he kissed him again.
The Doctor rolled his eyes as he sidled past them to the others, holding Moshe's furry hand.
"You see what I have to put up with?" He said to her. "And these two are just as bad, always all excited just because we nearly died, at least Jack has 2000 years of no contact as an excuse."
"Hey, wehad 2000," Rory protested.
Gwen just laughed. "Hey, break it up you guys!" she shouted. "We've still got to find a way out of here, remember?"
Tosh and Owen managed to disengage themselves from Jack's grasp, though Tosh was smiling and half-sobbing and leaning into Owen for support. Jack and Ianto took a moment longer before separating and turning to join the others.
Getting closer, Jack stared at Gwen. She smiled brightly back.
"What are you doing here?"
"Here to help get everyone out," she said.
"You disappeared. I went back to Torchwood and nobody would tell me where you'd gone. They told me to drop it and not to worry and that was all."
"Yup," Gwen agreed. "That was the plan."
"I disappeared to here," she explained again. "At least temporarily, and we all agreed to cut off my records and not tell anybody where I'd gone, because if you knew where I was it would mess up the timeline."
Gwen shrugged. "We got a contact," she said, "From the future. Told us about everyone being held here and helped us activate our Time Gate. And because it had already all happened for the contact, it was a fixed point in our timeline, and we couldn't change any details. One of which was that nobody knew what happened to me."
"Sorry," she added, smiling sadly at Jack. "I know it must have been hard on you, but we didn't have a choice."
"I had no word from you for 2000 years!"
"Well sorry, I only saw you a month ago though."
"Okay, wait," the Doctor said. "What do you mean you had a Time Gate?"
"How can you have a Time Gate?" Ned asked, bewildered. "We were told there was only the one in existence! And it's back in that room, broken beyond repair!"
The Doctor turned on him. "What do you mean you have a Time Gate?" he accused. "Professor Uquiccax, if I'm not mistaken, I hope you're happy that your little trap worked."
Ned's ears flattened against his skull in shame. "It - it was donated," he said, dodging the second statement. "It was donated to the museum."
The Doctor frowned thoughtfully. "Donated? By whom?"
"Er," Ned said, trying to think of the archaeologist's name. "A woman, human, somewhat famous I think. Doctor Song, I think?"
"Doctor Song," the Doctor repeated flatly. "Doctor River Song. Donated to you the Time Gate, which brought all these people here."
"Er," Ned said again. "Yes?"
The Doctor turned away with a sigh. "Of course she did. I'm probably the one who tells her to donate it. Figures."
He turned back to Gwen. "Now how did you get a Time Gate?"
Gwen smirked. "We built it."
"You built it?"
"Sort of. We didn't need to build a whole Time Gate, just something that could access this one and send me through. We didn't have any time or the resources to make anything fancier than that."
"Even though," the Doctor said. "Even it wasn't a complete time portal, it takes a ridiculous amount of energy to power anything that travels through time. Even a dinky thing like a vortex manipulator has to power itself by absorbing time energy from rifts and stars and whatnot."
Jack put a hand on his wrist strap, slightly offended.
Gwen reached into her shirt and pulled something off from around her neck. "We used this," she said. From her hand dangled a gold chain with a glass marble. Inside the glass, a tiny twist of golden energy swirled around, reaching out towards her hand.
The Doctor took it from her and stared at it.
"What is it?" Toshiko asked.
"Time energy," the Doctor said, squinting at it in the light. "Just a tiny bit. Same stuff that's in the heart of the TARDIS."
"There used to be more," Gwen said. "Powering the Time Gate used up most of it."
"I should think so. This little marble can't hold very much, just enough for a one-way trip. Just this amount is still immensely powerful, though; if it weren't contained it could make all kinds of trouble." He lowered his hand. "Where did you get it?"
Gwen shrugged. The Doctor passed it to Jack to look at, and it went its way through the group.
"Hey!" Moshe said, pulling lightly on Owen's trouser leg as he peered curiously at the gold swirl in the marble. It bounced off the edges of the glass, splintering into tiny threads that reached out as if trying to get to the palm of his hand.
"Hey!" she said again, tugging him. "I wanna see! It looks like what Mr. Face - "
The wall opened up, startling the group. One of the security robots stepped out.
"Run!" Jack and the Doctor said at the same time. Owen shoved the necklace into his pocket, the chain still dangling out the side, and grabbed Tosh's hand to hurry away. The Doctor scooped Moshe up from the floor and led the way, followed by Jack and Ianto still gripping each other's hand, Amy and Rory behind them, Tosh and Owen, and Gwen shoving Ned ahead of her as she turned around and drew her gun.
Three gunshots rang out behind them, but when the robot fell it unleashed the same death wail as the one Rory had decommissioned, calling the others to the area. More soon blocked the way, and they were trapped.
"I suggest you all surrender," Xarchac said, but his voice didn't come from any of the robots. He stepped out from the behind the sea of red metal, smirking at them. "How helpful of you all to gather together. It did make you easier to find, Doctor, with you gravitating to Nerranderot's pets and their helpful tracking chips."
Owen had to grab Toshiko's hand to stop her from ripping her own wrist open to get at the chip.
"I knew it," she snarled, her fists clenched. "You stupid fucking bastards."
Ned flinched at her words.
"And I've finally caught my immortal," Xarchac continued, either not noticing or not caring about the interruption. He leered at Jack. "How kind of you to bring him to me."
Ianto made a sort of lunge towards Xarchac, only held back by Jack's embrace. His fingers dug into Ianto's arm, but he pulled him backwards, unwilling to let him run off into danger to be lost again.
"Eskar," Ned whispered hoarsely. "Eskar, calm down, we can… we can work this out."
"Work what out, Nerranderot? Everything went according to plan. Better than we expected, in fact. You got your little exhibit, I got all the subjects I could need for my studies. We'll be famous, Nerranderot."
"Eskar, this has gone much too far!" Ned shouted. "This is… kidnapping and hostages and endangering the museum! I never meant to take anyone against their will or to hurt anybody."
"I did," Xarchac said simply. "Now, I suggest you all drop your weapons and surrender before I give the order to open fire."
"Just you try it," Jack snarled.
Xarchac looked at him calmly. "I don't see why I shouldn't. After all, the only ones of you I need alive… wouldn't die." He sneered in the general direction of the other humans. "Your little friends, on the other hand…"
"Eskar, you must stop this!"
Ned took a sudden step forwards, reaching out towards Xarchac, pleading.
Xarchac sneered and flicked his hand over the opposite wrist. His implant flashed blue. The nearest robot raised its weapon and fired.
Ned slumped to the floor as Owen, Tosh, and Ianto all cried out. Gwen pulled her pistol and fired wildly at the robots, sending Xarchac ducking for cover. Jack pushed Ianto behind him, propelling him colliding into Tosh as she rushed forwards, and drew his own weapon. The Doctor held his arms out, stopping Amy and Rory, staring down at Ned with a melancholy expression.
"Go," he shouted at them, "There's nothing we can do, hurry, cut a path, we need to get out of here. Rory, your sword!"
Rory paused, just long enough to watch Owen kneel at Ned's side, a pool of blood coagulating around the historian's fallen body. Then he turned away, and with a yell charged at the surrounding army.
"Professor, professor!" Moshe sobbed, and her fur was all colors, green and blue and orange as tears streamed down her face. "Professor, no! Professor Uquiccax!"
Gwen turned as she fired, scooping the little girl up in her free arm and running after Rory and Amy.
"Run!" she shouted, shooting one of the robots ahead of them. Moshe screamed and covered her ears.
"Come on, Owen!" Jack yelled, grabbing hold of his shirt. Owen was staring down at Ned, his hands bloody from examining the wound. He let himself be dragged away, and the two of them hurried after the others, dodging under and around the sluggish robots.
"Security!" Xarchac shouted behind them. "Kill them! Bring me the immortal and the Time Lord and the dead one, destroy the others! Go!"
They all ran, charging through the empty hallways with the constant clang of metal footsteps right behind them.
"Amy!" the Doctor shouted, leading the way, "Screwdriver!"
Amy looked over her shoulder. "Toshiko!"
Tosh pulled out the sonic silently, tears drying quickly on her face, and tossed it to Amy. Amy handed it to the Doctor.
He swung around a corner and stopped, leaning against the wall and fiddling with the screwdriver's buttons. The others piled around him; Jack and Gwen peering around the corner with their weapons at the ready, Rory facing the opposite way with his sword, eyes open for another ambush. The clanging footsteps grew louder.
"Doctor, what are you doing?" Jack asked.
"Screwdriver is linked to the TARDIS. I can use it to find it. Then we can get out. A-ha, there we go, you beauty!"
The screwdriver's tip glowed green and it buzzed, like it always did. The Doctor seemed extremely satisfied with this.
"All right, we have to hurry and get out of here."
"They'll catch up to us," Tosh said. "They're not that fast but they can get around the station faster than we can, using the security passages."
"Is that what those are?" the Doctor said. "What do you know. We're lucky they weren't using that one earlier, eh, Captain?"
Jack just scowled, still staring around the corner at the approaching danger.
"You all go ahead," he said, "I'll catch up with you."
"What?" Tosh exclaimed in horror at the same time Ianto grabbed Jack's arm and said, "We're not leaving you behind!"
"I'm not going to lose any of you again!" Jack said, frustrated. "I can hold them off a bit, buy you some time. They can't kill me anyway. If you can all get to the TARDIS, you can lock onto my wrist strap and come pick me up, whether I'm caught or not."
"Jack," Ianto protested, but Jack cut him off with another kiss.
"I'm not going to lose you all again."
The Doctor was frowning, but he nodded. "Alright," he said, "But don't die if you don't have to. Come after us if you get overwhelmed, don't wait more than ten minutes. Got that?"
Jack grinned at him. "Yes sir."
They had all just started to move when Owen spoke up.
"I'm staying with you."
"Like hell you are," Jack said in an angry growl. "You're getting out of here, safe and sound, with all the rest of them. I mean it, I don't want to lose any of you after I've got you again."
"You may have 'got' us, Jack, but you don't own us. I'm staying here with you. You heard Xarchac, he wants me in one piece for more study. They can't kill me either. I can help you."
Jack looked almost ready to snap, unable to think of any argument besides fuckno,it'swaytoodangerous!
Gwen handed Moshe off to a surprised Amy and walked back to the two of them.
"Owen," she said, reaching into the other holster on the back of her belt. She handed him one of her guns and gave him a quick kiss. "Don't you dare die again."
Jack growled again, swinging around to shoot at the first of the oncoming robots. "Fine," he said, "But you stay behind me at all times, and when I tell you to run, you run, got it?"
"Got it," Owen said, and ducked down behind him, cocking the gun.
"The rest of you, get the hell out of here."
Gwen nodded at Jack's order, pulling the reluctant Ianto away from the arising fray. Tosh hesitated, flashing Owen a quick, uncertain smile.
"You come back to me, you hear?"
He smiled back at her. "Don't you worry, Tosh. We'll be there."
With the sound of footsteps fading behind them, Jack and Owen opened fire on the approaching horde of security bots. Bullets pinged off the walls as the robots fired back, hardly phased by the humans' attack.
"They still use bullets," Owen laughed harshly. "Ned was killed by a fucking bullet, even this far in the fucking future, billions of miles from home."
"They could disintegrate us if they wanted to," Jack said solemnly.
"Yeah, well then I guess it's a good thing they want us alive, more or less."
Jack laughed. "I guess so."
"Thanks for coming to get us, Jack," Owen said, shooting a robot in its eye. "I mean, there wasn't all that much we could do on our own, and we all thought… well, that maybe you'd forgotten us, after all this time."
"It was a fluke," Jack said harshly. "A coincidence. I didn't really mean to come here, except that it was somewhere to refuel."
Owen laughed over the gunfire. "Seriously? You didn't see any of those ridiculous advertisements and shit? Ned went crazy with the advertising, just to set a trap for you."
"Didn't see a damn thing," Jack laughed back. He smiled to himself as he shot down another robot. "But I never forgot any of you, not for a moment."
Owen smirked. "Good to know."
He flinched as a bullet ricocheted right next to his face. "Whaddya say, retreat?"
Jack nodded. "Retreat. Down to the next corner."
Owen backed into the corridor the others had run down, gun still drawn. Jack only backed up as far as around the corner, keeping up a steady fire at the enemy line. The robots kept up their steady march, barely hindered by their fallen brothers.
Owen paused halfway down the hall, taking careful aim at any of the bots Jack missed. He hugged the wall with his right side, his leg pressed right up against it.
Jack spared a glance over his shoulder. "Keep moving!" he shouted. "I'll follow!"
Owen took another step back obediently, and he thought he heard a soft ping! nearby, like something falling to the floor.
One of the robots made it past Jack's fire and took aim. Owen snarled like a hungry weevil and lined up his own sight. The gun clicked as he pulled the trigger.
Empty, he thought. Youcouldn'thavegivenmesomespareammo,couldyou,Gwen?
The robot opened fire, and bullets whizzed past Owen's head, through his hair, rustling his shirt. One of them hit his shoulder.
No functioning nerves and no pain, but the impact put Owen off-balance, and he stepped back with one foot to catch himself.
The marble went crunch under his foot.
Jack roared at fired at whatever was in range. The nearest robot fell to the ground, blocking the others' path just long enough for Jack to put a little distance between them.
Behind him, Owen suddenly gasped, deep and harsh, like a man saved from drowning.
"You alright, Owen?" Jack called, unable to look behind him for more than a second. Something golden sparkled in the corner of his eye. Owen didn't answer.
"Jack, I've been shot," Owen said.
Jack swore and brought down another robot as it climbed over another's broken body. He turned and ran to Owen's side. The younger man was leaning against the wall, clutching his left arm in astonishment.
"I've been shot," Owen repeated.
"I can see that," Jack said, glancing at the wound. "Doesn't look too bad though. It was worse when Ianto shot you."
"Jack, I'm bleeding."
"I know, Owen, it's okay, you're gonna be fine."
"I've been shot, and I'm bleeding."
"You're just in shock," Jack said, and fired again. The robots were getting closer. "I think it's time we went and caught up with the others, huh?"
"No," Owen said, frustrated. "No, Jack, look. Look at me. I'm bleeding," and he let go of his shoulder, lifting his hand for Jack to see.
His hand and arm were covered with warm, sticky blood, dripping down his wrist and elbow to the floor. He stared at the bold red liquid in fascination, watching it ooze down his arm and seep into his clothing.
"I'm bleeding," Owen repeated, and Jack realized he was hyperventilating, sucking oxygen into disused lungs and just barely forcing out words between breaths. "I'm bleeding. Jack, I'm alive!"
Jack just stared at him, his weapon forgotten even as he pointed it forwards, mesmerized by the flush in Owen's face, the gasping breaths, the vein that was pulsing in his forehead. Owen still stared at his own blood, suddenly overwhelmed with feelings of hot and cold and pressure and -
He suddenly lurched forwards, grasping his shoulder and crashing into Jack.
"Aw, fuck, it hurts!"
Jack caught him with both arms, stopping him from falling to the ground in pain. He barked a short laugh, grinning madly as he hoisted Owen up and slung him over one shoulder, pointing his gun back at the oncoming security bot and firing.
"Life hurts, Owen!" he shouted gleefully, and began to back up with a quick hop-step the way the Doctor and the others had gone. "Don'tcha just love it?"
The door slid open and the Doctor swung through, brandishing his screwdriver threateningly. The large, froglike security guard was not impressed. He stood up and bared his sharp teeth, thick tail lashing, reaching for a weapon at his belt.
"So you're the trespassers," he snarled. "You're all under arrest. Surrender now or I'll have to use force."
Gwen fired a shot right past the side of his head. He squeaked.
"Security Chief Roc Ingersol, I presume?" the Doctor asked with a raised eyebrow.
The alien nodded frantically, dropping his gun as he flung his hands in the air.
"Right," said the Doctor. He jerked his head towards the open door. "Get the hell out of here."
The frog scurried out. Gwen took up position in the doorway, pointing her pistol down the hall after him, just as a reminder.
The Doctor grinned, bounding up to the TARDIS, which was standing in the corner. "Oh, there you are, gorgeous thing," he cooed, and reached into his inside pocket for the key.
Ianto joined Gwen at the door, armed with the frog's abandoned weapon. She grinned at him, he smirked back, and they both turned to face opposite ends of the hall, ready for the pursuing mass of robots should they appear.
"What about Jack and Owen?" Toshiko asked, walking quickly past Rory and Amy with the still whimpering Moshe to the Doctor's side. "Are we going to pick them up?"
The Doctor peered at his watch, troubled. "I told them ten minutes," he said. "We'll wait ten minutes for them to show up. Amy, Rory, take Moshe inside, will you, cheer her up a bit. Give her a banana. Children like bananas, right?"
Amy just rolled her eyes at him and carried Moshe into the box. There was a short pause before the little girl's voice rang out; "Wow! It's so big!"
The Doctor grinned, but Tosh ignored him, walking quickly over to the security guard's desk. Her implant flashed as she accessed the computer.
"What are you doing?" Ianto asked her.
"Hopefully, clearing a path for them. I think I can get into security's main system and order the robots to stand down." She fiddled at the keyboard some more.
Her eyes narrowed and she paused, finding something interesting on the screen. "Never mind, I just had a better idea."
The Doctor hopped over to her. "Why, what have you found?"
Toshiko didn't answer, too busy typing.
"I see Jack!" Ianto shouted. "It looks like he's carrying Owen, though."
"Right," the Doctor said, pushing away from the desk. "Everyone into the TARDIS. Hurry!"
"Just a minute," Tosh muttered, still working.
Ianto and Gwen also ignored him, running to meet Jack midway. The Doctor threw his arms up in exasperation, then ran into the blue box himself, tugging and smashing at the controls so they could take off as quickly as possible.
Tosh, finished with the security system, ducked in after him.
"Everyone, brace yourselves for takeoff, we're leaving as soon as everyone's in," the Doctor ordered.
Gunshots rang out from the corridor, supplemented by the whine of the energy weapon Ianto had picked up as he and Gwen brought down Jack's pursuers. The fallen robots were simply replaced by more each time, urged on by the mad shouting of Doctor Xarchac, behind them.
"Can't I just shoot the bastard?" Gwen muttered through gritted teeth.
"Best not," Jack called back to her, "The Doctor'd have our hides. Come on, let's just get out of here!"
"'s not bloody fair," Owen muttered, inaudible to anyone but Jack as he hung upside down over the Captain's shoulder. "Face told me I'd live again, said I'd breathe, didn't say how long. Somehow I thought it would have been for longer than fifteen minutes."
"Shut up, Owen, you're not dying," Jack snapped. "You're just in shock."
"S'ppose," Owen muttered, staring down at the ground as it flashed by. "Lots of people go into shock when they get shot. I'm usually better about it. Bit out of practice. Haven't felt anything like pain for the past year or so. Probably makes a difference."
"Probably," Jack agreed, dodging through the door. "Gwen, Ianto, hurry up!"
He ran into the TARDIS, closely followed by the others. Ianto slammed the door behind him, and the Doctor shouted, "Taking off everyone, hold onto something! Geronimo!"
The TARDIS ground and screeched as it took off, sending the inhabitants lurching to the side and grabbing for support.
"Oh my god! Owen!" Tosh shouted, staring as Jack laid Owen on the ground. The blood had soaked through the medic's shirt and all over Jack's coat, now leaking onto the TARDIS floor. Jack ripped the ruined garment off to get at the wound.
The others looked up as she ran to his side and dropped to her knees.
"Rory!" the Doctor shouted.
"On it!" Rory yelled back, running to grab the medical supplies.
Moshe started wailing again, shaking as Amy did her best to calm her down. "Doctor Harper, Doctor Harper!"
"What the hell happened?" Gwen said, pale as she ran to join Tosh and Jack on the floor.
"I was shot," Owen said, still rather delirious. "I'm bleeding all over and it hurts like hell. And I think I broke your necklace. Sorry."
Rory pushed Jack to the side and knelt down to examine the wound.
"What, 're you some kind of doctor too?" Owen asked.
"Nurse," Rory corrected, cleaning away the blood from his shoulder.
"I always wanted a nurse," Owen said, staring up at the ceiling. "Jack always refused to hire one for me. Tosh or someone had to fill in all the time." He winced as Rory carefully reached into the wound with a pair of tweezers.
Tosh was crying as she gripped his hand. He squeezed back, hard, privately elated at being able to feel the pressure and the heat of her hands on his skin.
"It doesn't look too bad," Rory said reassuringly. He dropped the bullet onto the floor and began to clean and dress the wound. "Definitely nothing fatal. You should probably get to a real hospital as soon as possible though."
"I've had worse," Owen said. He released a breath he'd been holding back with the pain and grinned at how good it felt to breathe. He laughed suddenly, adjusting his grip on Tosh's hand. "Tosh, look, I'm fine, never been better. I'm bleeding and breathing and hurting and so fucking alive!" and he pulled her down and kissed her until his lungs burned.
"We should go on that date sometime," he added when they pulled away. Tosh nodded silently.
"How, though?" Ianto asked, staring down at them from where he was still bracing himself against the TARDIS wall. "How are you alive again? The nanites couldn't bring you back, why are you suddenly… better?"
"Gwen's necklace," the Doctor provided without looking up. "You said you broke it."
Owen winced and sat up, supported by Tosh and Gwen on either side. "Yeah, stepped on it. There was a sort of gold light, I guess, and then suddenly I was breathing again."
The Doctor nodded, finally turning around to look at them.
"Time Energy," he said. Owen was the only one not staring back at him for the explanation, busy removing the cast from his fingers and marveling at how they moved.
"Your necklace was full of Time Energy, the same stuff that's in the heart of the TARDIS, which is, incidentally, the same stuff that got into Rose that one time, which means it's the same stuff that keeps Jack immortal. Only your necklace had a much smaller amount, much much smaller after you used it to travel to the future, just enough to bring somebody back to life once."
"Maybe twice," he amended. "But I wouldn't test it."
"But what I want to know," he continued, frowning harshly at Gwen, "Is where exactly you got a marble full of Time Energy."
"I know!" Moshe said, sniffling and wiping her eyes on her arm. "I have one too! Mister Face gave it to me! It was a present!"
The Doctor stared at her. The little girl proudly pulled something out from under her dress; a glass marble with a swirl of golden energy inside, suspended by a gold chain, identical in every way to the one Gwen had worn.
The Doctor took it from her and goggled at it. "Where did you say you got this?"
"Mister Face gave it to me!"
The Doctor gaped silently at the necklace for another moment. Then he snorted, holding back laughter unsuccessfully. "Of course he did. Why wouldn't he? Good ol' Mister Face. Pfff."
"What's so funny?" Amy asked, frowning. "Who's Mister Face?"
"The Face of Boe," Ianto provided, though he was likewise baffled by the Doctor's private joke.
Gwen stood up, leaving Owen to be cared for by Tosh, and took the necklace from the Doctor's hand. She held it back out to Moshe with a soft smile.
"I think you'd better hold onto this, Moshe," she said. "And you take very good care of it for me, all right? Someday you're going to have to pass it on to someone else, and you need to look after it as best you can until then."
"Tha'ss what Mister Face said!" said Moshe, and she slipped the chain back around her neck.
They landed the TARDIS back in the living quarter of Adris One. Ianto and Gwen accompanied Moshe back to her flat, passing her on to her extremely grateful mother. Moshe waved goodbye with her usual enthusiasm, fur a bright purple, and they left.
The museum entrance was cordoned off and filled with stout soldiers in black armor. The Doctor and Tosh watched them from behind the barrier with mild amusement.
"What exactly were you doing at that control panel?" he asked her.
Toshiko smiled. "It had access to all of the flats and guest rooms in case of emergency. I just sent a message to that Judoon squadron that there had been a murder and attempted theft of museum property by Eskar Xarchac, as well as an unauthorized lockdown of the station preventing all ships from entering or leaving."
The Doctor smiled, watching the Judoon captain vaporize a dark red robot. "That sort of thing's almost as bad as littering to them," he agreed.
He sighed and turned away from the scene. "It's really something of a pity, though. They'll destroy all of Xarchac's work, set medical science back for another century at least. Nobody will want to use things like nanites any more, with the stigma of being invented by a murderer."
"You knew this was going to happen."
"I knew Xarchac was arrested for murdering his partner," the Doctor said with a shrug. "Didn't know the details. Records never said anything about Torchwood or a museum or anything."
They walked back to the TARDIS.
"No luck getting back to your ship?" the Doctor asked.
Jack shrugged. "No big deal. Didn't have anything too important in there anyway."
"Right," the Doctor said, frowning. "Only I was thinking you would take your ship and refuel and… go do things. I can't exactly take you all with me."
Jack glared back. "There's no room in that hunk of junk for five people, anyway, Doc, and I'm not leaving anyone behind."
"I never said you should!"
"Actually, Doctor," Gwen interrupted, "Do you think you could drop us off back in my time?"
"I can," he answered, "Only I thought you said that you 'disappeared' to here. Won't it count as messing up your timeline to go back now?"
"Only if there are records of it," Gwen said with a smile. "I've got it under control."
The Doctor shrugged and went to put the TARDIS in gear.
"What do you think?"
"It's very… different," Ianto said, gazing upwards at the distant ceiling. "And large."
"Well it has been twenty years," Tosh pointed out. She ran her fingers over a nearby computer, gazing longingly at the familiar Torchwood software running.
"Yup," Gwen confirmed, smiling proudly with her hands on her hips. "Also, we're in New York."
"I thought you were sticking with the Hub 2.0 back in Cardiff," Jack said. "Familiar surroundings, closer to Anwen, all that jazz."
"Yeah, well, that was then, Jack, times change."
"Thought you said it'd only been a month."
"It was a busy month!"
"How many Torchwoods are there nowadays, anyway?" Owen asked.
"Well, Two was shut down and started up again, we rebuilt the one in Cardiff, it's now the central office, London's got some small establishments but for that area we mostly liaison with the Smiths if something happens. And then there's the Drummond Clinic out in L.A., which is a sort of hospital, and a few small bases scattered about and this one here in New York."
"Why move to America, though?" Ianto asked.
Gwen sighed. "Because Rex thinks all of Great Britain and especially Wales is out to get him, personally."
"That's because it is," a harsh voice interrupted from above. Rex Matheson glowered down at them from the entrance, his shirt covered in blood, dragging a struggling alien behind him with the help of two others; one human woman and one blue furry one.
"You might have called first," Rex chastised.
"Sorry, not much reception 2000 years from now and in space," Gwen said, and they grinned at each other.
Rex hopped down the ladder to join them, smacking Jack on the back. "Hey old man, lookin' good. Love what you've done with the hair."
Jack glared back. "You come find me in 2000 years, we'll see how you look."
"Yeah, whatever, World War Two. You gonna introduce me or what?"
There were introductions all around, with the rest of Rex's team joining in shortly. The conversation turned to story swapping, then a quick tour through the facility, and a fair amount of hero-worship from some of the rookies that reminded Ianto of what the Face had said about Gwen and her stories, and he thought perhaps she had embellished the truth a bit. Everyone seemed somewhat in awe to meet them.
"You keep aliens on your team, now?" Ianto asked.
"First contact might not have officially happened yet," Rex said, "But with all these guys runnin' around it seemed like a good idea to put some of them to use. Mind you, that one isn't one of ours, she's just a student, stickin' around to see her project through."
He gestured back at the blue furry woman who had helped bring in the captive earlier. She looked up at his glance and flushed purple.
"I was actually just about to leave," she said quietly. She fiddled with the vortex manipulator around her wrist. "I should really return to my own time, get this back to Professor Song."
"Hey, wait a sec," Owen called, catching up to her as she turned to go.
Her fur flickered through a number of colors before settling on the same dark grey as the wall behind her.
Owen looked awkwardly at her. "You're…. a student, then," he said.
She smiled. "Lunar University," she confirmed. "Archaeology."
Owen smirked. "Just like you always wanted, then. Great." He paused, unsure of what to say. "Sorry I broke your necklace."
Moshe laughed. "Oh, I knew I wouldn't be getting that old thing back. I'm just glad there was finally a use for it."
She took a step back and flipped open her wrist strap. "Thank you for everything, Doctor Harper," she said, and disappeared.
"Really though," Jack said, slipping back out of the crowd to stand next to Gwen. "Why'd you have the Doctor take drop us in New York? You said you'd got it under control, what did you mean?"
Gwen smiled and gestured for him to follow her. "This is the only facility large enough to hold this," she said, leading him downstairs to one of the larger storage areas.
Jack stared up at it.
"This is that ship that crashed back in 2028," he said. "You've repaired it."
Gwen nodded. "We've been working at restoring it since the crash, but we put all our effort into it once we found out about my records cutting off in the future. I didn't want to leave everything completely behind, so we put a jump on our space program. Contact with Earth, but no records of it. Our first truly secret operation since I joined up, I think. We'll be the first Torchwood emissaries to the rest of the universe, just the six of us, together again."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Six?"
She glared impassively back. "Rhys' records cut off without a trace, too."
For a moment Jack thought about challenging her, just to get that look on her face he loved so much, before slinging his arm around her shoulders and smiling up at their ship. "Sure, why not. I always wanted someone on my ship to cook for me."
She elbowed him in the side, and they went back upstairs to join the others.