Jack leaned back in his chair and smiled up at Ianto as he entered. The conference call system was starting up, and the other offices were coming online to join them, giving them a couple of minutes to themselves before it got going. "Ten says Archie doesn't make it again," he offered.
"I'm not taking that." Ianto scowled and set out the reports in front of them. "We really need him here for this."
"We'll persuade him to retire when we overhaul Scotland," Jack promised. "He won't leave Glasgow; we're probably going to need an office in Edinburgh instead, so we can wrap it all up as modernisation, golden handshake, slide him down the ladder and give him a team to look after him." He picked up the reports and shuffled them. "You could go up there and get the place set up. After all, you've been here in Cardiff for nearly two years now."
"He jokes about it, but he pouts like a kicked puppy when I do leave him," Ianto scoffed. Their counterpart in Australia had come online at the wrong moment, and looked worried. "Don't worry Andrew, I'm not going anywhere. We were discussing the prospect of an Edinburgh office."
"Are you going to be tabling the motion or presenting us with the finished product?" The strident twang of the director of the Torchwood Research Centre, located in the Australian Red Centre, cut through the morning calm. He had only been working there for a year, and was one of the first hires after Torchwood became public knowledge.
Ianto scribbled something on his notepad and looked up again. "I'm going to take a research team up there this week to establish a temporary base. By the time the conference comes around I hope to have a better idea of the scope and power of the Rift, which will give us a guide as to what we need to prepare for. We'll put together a list of requirements and put out a request for tender."
Whilst he'd been talking, the other Torchwood offices had come online, and were now looking curious, so Ianto had to go over it all again. Jack sat back to watch and add in his opinion when it was asked for. He was so proud of the things Ianto had achieved and the way he'd grown into himself. Less than a year after they married, Torchwood had come out into the open, and at the age of twenty six he had been appointed the head of the whole organisation. He now ran it from an office in their newly completed Cardiff base and was streamlining the organisation for the twenty-first century.
Ianto finished summarising the rise in activity of the Edinburgh Rift, and moved on to the plans for coping with it if it opened like the Cardiff Rift had. "In case of a fully functioning Rift developing in Edinburgh, we're going to need a full-time team located there to be able to respond immediately. Captain Harkness and I will travel up there this week with some of the joint research team from Cardiff and London to establish a Hub and begin forming a permanent team. We hope to be able to establish the current spread of the Rift and predict the potential scope. Of course, we have no data for what happens when a Rift opens, but contemporary accounts from Cardiff suggest that the occurrence of Rift-related incidents increases dramatically initially, before subsiding. It would be nice if we could install a Rift manipulator there to moderate the impact of the initial opening, but I am reliably informed that that isn't possible.
"As a result, we're also going to develop evacuation procedures for the city, and set about training the local emergency services to deal with it in case it happens." He closed the file and took his glasses off. "Any questions, suggestions or sarcastic comments?"
"If you two needed a holiday, why didn't you decide that the Bermuda Rift was opening?" Yawende asked from South Africa.
Jack grinned and answered before Ianto could. "We're going to go out and check on it once this is done with. Unless you want to go and check on it before then?"
"Give me another few team members and maybe I'll manage it." She grinned back at them and the discussion moved on to recruitment and team numbers across the branches.
Jack downed the last of a mug of coffee and leaned on the back of Ianto's chair. "Okay, let's go over it again."
"Activity levels have been over the fifty mark for an hour, coming up to two, and are rising consistently." Di Green tapped on the keyboard and brought up a chart instead of the raw data. "The program predicts a peak this evening."
"Okay." Jack squeezed Ianto's shoulders. "Can you draw up a predicted radius, whilst Ianto works out an evacuation procedure? I'll go and talk to UNIT."
He turned away, back towards his own desk, and Ianto watched him go. The air was charged as if with static electricity, like the hours before a storm, and it was wearing on Jack most of all. They were waiting for the plunge, but had too much to do before they got there.
Evacuating a whole city was a logistical impossibility, but the rising Rift activity levels left them with no choice. There was no knowing what damage a spontaneous rip would do, or where the other end of the Rift would open up. He had too many unknowns, not enough time, and not enough flexibility.
"Activity levels just hit sixty," Di called across. "The focus is in the south of the city, between Newington and Morningside. I recommend evacuation of a three-mile radius."
"Noted." He pulled the map across and studied it. "Let's evacuate to Herriot-Watt and the airport." She scowled and he laughed. "You take the airport, I'll talk to the university."
"I hate students," she grumbled. "So glad we don't have to deal with them. Imagine trying to evacuate the university... on second thought, I'd rather not."
Ianto wiped sweat out of his eyes and glared at the tablet in his hand. The coordinates were going wild, as they had been all night and for a good portion of the afternoon, and he couldn't get a fix on where the next spike was going to be. Off to his left another explosion lit the night sky, and someone behind him swore. "That's three so far," Freda said. "We can't keep up with this, boss."
"I know, but we have to try. UNIT will be here soon." He turned in a circle and the scanner finally got a fix. "Got it!"
He didn't know Edinburgh well enough to use short-cuts, so he followed the route that the scanner had picked out for him, rucksack of tools bashing against his back and probably leaving a bruise. His team were scientists, not field agents, so he left them behind to catch up and concentrated on getting to the spike as soon as he could. They would get there, but he needed to secure the area. A battlefield was dropping on them, and they never knew whether a soldier or a bomb was going to come through next. He rounded the last corner and started pulling his rucksack off with one hand whilst he activated his comms. with the other hand. "Di," he hailed the operation coordinator. "I have a Rift Flare on Newbattle Terrace but no sign of anything come through. Can you give me a more specific location?"
"Only if you can give me one. Which end of Newbattle Terrace?"
Ianto sighed and crouched to open his rucksack. "The one with a Rift Flare."
She grunted at him and went silent for a moment before she returned with a location. "The Rift was active at twenty five feet above street level. Look up."
"That's not what I wanted to hear." He stepped back and looked up. The line of the house roofs was visible as a space of darkness without stars, but he couldn't see any sign of anything that had come through. "Okay, we're evacuating." He switched to the open channel on his comm. and grabbed his things up again, backing away quickly. "I need a cordon around Newbattle Street. Set up a radius for an explosion, keep alert for a combatant."
"Do you need backup?" Jack asked, voice crackling over the comms.
"Where are you?" He turned to his team and gestured them to positions at the end of the street. "Are you close enough?"
"Far side of town," Jack conceded. "If you need us, we'll come."
"No time," he decided. Silence blanketed the street and he looked up again, straining to see any sign of the results of the Rift flare. A glimmer of light on the rooftop caught his eye, and a moment later he was engulfed in light, heat, noise, dust and pain and the world went black.