"Seal the door," said Rose frantically. She ran toward it, the Doctor on her heels, and turned the latch for the dead bolt.
The Doctor grabbed for his sonic and used it to melt a portion of the lock interior. "There, that'll slow them down, but it won't hold forever."
"Well, yeah, they'll come up the other stairs, for one." Rose automatically grabbed for the Doctor's free hand. "That's it then. We're going to have to fight our way up."
The Doctor started to open his mouth to respond, but he was momentarily distracted by the way her fingers were interlacing with his. Jack was quicker.
"No good," he answered grimly. "The second we try to, they'll sound the alarm, and we'll be up to our necks in Torchwood security. But the ghost should still mess with their equipment, so hopefully they won't be able to target the Doctor's biosigns. We'll have to bunker down and hope your security passes are enough to convince them."
"But Jack, the TARDIS," said Rose. "Even if we don't get caught by the sweep, they'll find it, and then they'll know the Doctor is here, and then they'll lock the whole building down." She shook her head. "We should make a go at the stairs. Or maybe the Doctor could get the lift working."
"I think—" started the Doctor, but he was quickly interrupted.
"If the elevator's an option, we could give it a go," said Jack. "But unless you're sure, we should get back to the security office—that's the only chance we have of looking legit."
"No, we're not going back," said Rose firmly, cutting off any comments from the two men. "Look, here's what we'll do. We get to the lift and see if we can get it to move or get access to the lift shaft or something. If we need more time, Jack, you'll go see if you can slow the sweep down."
"Wait a minute, Rose," said Jack, "what about the—"
"Excuse me," interrupted the Doctor, glaring at the two of them. "Who's in charge here?"
Jack and Rose both looked at him and then at each other. "I am," they said in unison.
"No, you aren't," objected Jack. "Rose, I'm the one who knows the inner workings of Torchwood."
"Yeah, and I'm the one with the knowledge of what's supposed to happen in this timeline," she responded, hands on her hips. "Besides, I've been in Torchwood before."
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "If you're both done being ridiculous, do you think you could shut it for a minute and listen to me?" He waited until they stopped glaring at each other and turned to face him. "There's an easy way out. Rose, you ought to know what it is." When she still looked blank, he sighed. Silly little human brains. "Escape pod?"
Rose's face lit up. "The teleport!" She snapped her fingers, turning to Jack. "There's a Traxilain escape pod back in the warehouse with a short-range teleport on board."
"Exactly," said the Doctor. "We just get back into the warehouse and into that pod, and we're free."
Jack nodded quickly. "Let's do it."
It was actually easier getting into the warehouse the second time around, since most of the guards had moved into the security office for the duration of the sweep. The Doctor led the way with Jack and Rose close behind, and he had to hand it to them—they were good, both of them moving quickly and quietly in tandem. In fact, the Doctor could feel the rhythm of how the three of them would fit together, a team.
As they turned down the row with the escape pod, they could hear voices coming from the entrance and the thrumming sound of a bioscanner. Without a word, the three of them broke into a run.
"You're gonna have to get us into that pod fast, Doc," muttered Jack, glancing behind them. "The first sweep team is right behind us."
The Doctor nodded as they reached the escape pod. "It'll be sealed tight. But…" He adjusted the sonic and activated it next to the hatch. A panel of lights suddenly came to life in the black skin of the pod. "Lucky for us, I'm very clever."
Rose was practically bouncing. "You know, I think I've heard that somewhere before."
The Doctor flashed a grin back at her as he tapped at the now-visible hatch controls. A moment later, there was a soft hissing sound of the seal breaking, and the round hatch slid open.
Rose grabbed his arm. "You know, you never answered my question earlier—if it's never been opened before, does that mean the original owners are still inside?"
The Doctor shook his head. "The pod was jettisoned for some other reason, probably some sort of circuitry malfunction. Nobody on board." He cupped his hands, fingers threaded together, to make a foothold for her. "C'mon, then. Up you go."
With a little boost from the Doctor, Rose was soon shoving her pack inside and climbing into the pod. Jack followed her, pulling himself up. A moment later, the Doctor bellied his way through the porthole, struggling to get his larger frame through the small entrance.
The interior of the pod was very austere, and almost everything was a uniform shade of steel grey. There were panels lining three of the walls, and below them, there were built-in benches, set slightly too low on the wall for human proportions. Rose didn't seem to be too picky, though; she dropped her bag on one and took a seat next to it. Jack remained standing, stooping slightly under the low ceiling.
The Doctor sealed up the hatch behind them. "Alright. Let's see about that teleport." He knelt down near the piloting controls and started pulling open the command interface modules. "Looks like there might be some damage to the power systems. Might take a little while."
"Need a hand?" asked Jack, squatting down beside him.
The Doctor paused, considering. "You know anything about cross-wave trionic wave converters?"
Jack grinned. "Oh yeah." He knelt down beside the Doctor and started detaching the modules from the primary drive coupling.
"So when you say 'awhile'…" said Rose, eyeing them both as wires, nodes, and circuitry boards started to pile up next to them.
"An hour or two," said the Doctor easily. "Don't worry—we'll be alright."
"What time is it?"
"3:16," said Jack with a quick glance at his watch.
Rose scooted down onto the floor. "Anything I could do to help?" she asked, peering into the exposed machinery.
"No offense, Rose," said Jack, "but this isn't exactly twenty-first century stuff."
The Doctor looked up from the third electrical inverter in time to see Rose narrowing her eyes at Jack.
"Well, good thing I've been to a few other time periods, then." She bent over the Doctor's shoulder. "That's the manifold mapping drive, yeah?" she asked, pointing to a circuit board with hundreds of small chips inserted into it. "Is the coordinate system spherical or cylindrical?"
"Spherical," answered the Doctor slowly.
"Give it here. I'll recalibrate the kinematic line chips. That's what you were going to do, right?" She looked at the Doctor and then at Jack. "Reset the mapping drive so that there's no chance of old data left over from a previous jump when you restart the system?"
Without a word, the Doctor handed her the drive. He watched as she detached one of the chips and flipped it over in her hand, squinting at the various connector pins. She selected one and then paused. "This one, right?"
"OK." She pulled it free of the connection port and plugged it back in to the alternate port, before glancing up at him. "Did I do that right?"
"Yeah," said the Doctor with a little smile, feeling strangely proud—there was that timeline feedback again. Satisfied, Rose reinserted it into the board and moved on to the next chip.
"So," said Jack after a moment, glancing at Rose as she worked, "this is new."
"Yeah, funny story—I had to learn a thing or two about teleport and transmat technology since the last time I saw you," answered Rose lightly. "As soon as it won't risk a paradox, I'll tell you all about it."
They worked on the teleport for nearly an hour, and the Doctor found to his surprise that he was enjoying himself. He and Jack repaired the malfunction in the power drive and discussed the pros and cons of various energy conversion systems, and once she was finished with the mapping drive, Rose watched them work, occasionally asking a very clever question or two. It was…nice.
There really was something to be said for having company, he mused. Funny how'd he'd forgotten that.
They were nearly finished when Rose interrupted the shop talk. "Jack, I've just thought of something. What about the security footage?"
Crouching down next to the central panel, the Doctor rolled his eyes. "You and the security footage," he muttered.
"No, but Jack, now you'll be on it helping us escape," said Rose insistently. "Won't you get caught?"
Jack was busy rewiring the power flow modulator. "Not a problem," he said eventually. "There's less security on these upper levels than you'd think—Torchwood's weakness is definitely their arrogance. In any case, I was in the central security office when I spotted you two on the cameras. Once I realized you were here, I dropped a virus into the system that should eat through the footage for today." He glanced back over his shoulder at her. "I have a really good computer person on my payroll."
Rose didn't sound all that reassured. "And what about the security personnel in the office?"
The Doctor wondered again what exactly ret-con was, and he was just about to ask when Jack managed to patch the power through the transportation matrix, and he had to concentrate on rerouting the initial start-up programming to a non-central subroutine.
"Oh, now we're talking," said Jack with enthusiasm. "Systems are go."
"Did it work?" asked Rose eagerly, scooting closer to take a look. She leaned over them, her hand on the Doctor's shoulder.
"Yep." The Doctor grinned back at her, fast and loose. "Fancy a trip upstairs?"
Her face lit up. "You know, I think I do," she replied, putting on an accent a bit more posh than her own.
The Doctor hopped up, nearly banging his head on the low ceiling. "We just need to get the coordinates set," he said, leaning over, fingers dancing over the control panel. "And then we'll hop on up to Floor 38 and pick up the TARDIS." With just a bit of a flourish, he activated the start-up sequence.
With an almost musical hum, the teleport system booted up, illuminating a red square on the floor in the center of the pod. Rose clapped her hands in excitement. She grabbed her pack and slung it over her shoulder.
"Go on, get on the teleport pad," said the Doctor, waving his hand at the brightly lit square, and Jack and Rose stepped onto it. The Doctor keyed in the countdown activation and joined them as the teleport system began beeping. "Ready?"
"Ready," said Jack, grabbing Rose's hand.
"Ready," confirmed Rose, taking the Doctor's hand with her free one.
"And we're off," said the Doctor with a grin. A moment later, the teleport fired up, and they disappeared in a flash.
A moment later, they materialized in an empty corridor, just outside of the records archive.
"Everybody alright?" asked the Doctor.
"Ugg," said Rose, rubbing a hand over her face. "Alright, but I think you might have left my eyebrows behind."
The Doctor leaned over and looked closely at her face. "Nope, still attached."
"Hey, nice aim," said Jack with a grin, slapping the Doctor on the shoulder. "Much better than usual."
"My aim's just fine," protested the Doctor. "Spot-on."
"You know, I think I'd have something to say about that, but we really don't have time to get into it," said Rose. She dug out her version of the psychic paper and ran it over the security scanner on the door. The light blinked from red to green, and the door unlocked. Rose pushed it open. "Let's go."
The hardcopy case file archives seemed like something that belonged in a basement—dark, cramped, and musty, despite the enormous size of the room. There was no one at the front desk, just a bell and a sign directing them to ring for service. Beyond the front entry space were corridors of filing cabinets and free-standing shelves packed with cardboard boxes.
The Doctor paused to nudge open a box on one of the shelves. It was mostly full of files, but there was a paper coffee cup and a used toothbrush, both meticulously, and inexplicably, sealed inside evidence bags. "They're not much for throwing things away, are they?"
"Torchwood?" said Jack wryly. "Are you kidding? Nearly everything's recorded in their electronic database, but they still keep paper records dating all the way back to the nineteenth century. They probably have a file for storing old post-it notes and pieces of alien shoelace."
Rose was checking down each of the rows. "Nobody around. So where'd you park?"
The Doctor closed the box and nodded down the row. "This way."
He led them through the maze of cabinets. Behind him, Jack and Rose were talking quietly—she was asking him questions about his time with Torchwood, and Jack was nimbly avoiding answering—but the Doctor wasn't really listening. As they got closer to their destination, he could hear the faint hum of his ship, and he picked up the pace. One more corner, and there it was—the TARDIS.
At the sight, both of his companions fell silent.