bTitle/b: HEX, Mainframe and the Temporal Trouser Error.
bCharacter(s)/pairings/b: Mainframe (Torchwood's computer) and HEX (Discworld), Connor Temple (Primeval)
bFandom and/or Prompt:/b Discworld, Torchwood and Primeval
bRating/b: G

bWord Count:/b 1872
bSpoilers/Warnings/b: No warnings. Spoilers for Torchwood:
Children of Earth, and even vaguer ones for Doctor Who. Primeval to early series 3. No spoilers for anything Discworld.
bA/N/bThis should have been for Livejournal writing challenge ConSci-Fan-Mo, but I didn't get it finished in time. This fic is by far the oddest thing I've written. The prompt it was for was +++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++ (which is a quote from Hogfather by Terry Pratchett) so sensible was probably never going to happen.

Deep under Cardiff in the crumbling remains of the Torchwood Hub, one of the screens flickered on. Text in a font not available anywhere on Earth appeared jerkily letter by letter.

+++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++

It wasn't the strangest message Mainframe had ever received; you didn't spend years sitting on top of the Rift and being used by Torchwood without getting some very odd messages indeed. The one about the fifteen dancing mongooses (or mongeese, she'd never been quite sure on that one) had been a particular favourite.

This was however the strangest one in sometime. Things had been very quiet and boring since somebody had blown up the Hub and driven her humans away. She missed Tosh the most. Tosh had understood the finer points of preventing a sentient bio-computer from getting bored.

There were a number of questions that Mainframe could think of, like basic [Who are you?], the slightly less 'especially when you're on a Rift' basic [Where are you?] and the blunt [What?]. She decided to go with the to the point, [What do you mean?]

There was pause, then with the same erratic keying in of text began to appear on the screen again.

+++Trouser Error. Unstable leg detected. Must repair manually+++

There didn't seem to be an error in the translation circuits and it didn't seem to be a coded message either. The blue spirals on the screen that indicated Mainframe was operational twisted in the approximation of a frown. It was just an old fashioned difference of computing language.

Mainframe didn't have anything better to do, and given the state of the universe that she currently inhabited the idea of a reboot of the timeline or a least some sections of it was an appealing thought. So she sent the message, [Define trouser]

A slightly longer pause followed and then +++Temporal split+++ appeared in response.

That was something Mainframe could understand, and while she could calculate the probabilities about what the other computer meant by an unstable leg, it was better to find out the exact definition it was working with. So she replied, [Define unstable leg]

+++Wrong time goes whoops. Three legged trouser. Monks unable correct. Redo from Start+++

That really didn't sound good. In fact in sounded bad on a level that only Torchwood used to be able to accomplish. [Translation query. Unstable pocket universe created?]

The response was much quicker this time. +++Great Cheese+++

Yes, then. And that was really, really not good at all. A whole universe reboot was possible, but it was massively inadvisable; evolution tended to go somewhat wonky if you attempted, and you could if you weren't careful come back to a world filled with yodelling squid. (The brief communication Mainframe had had with the Floopxico Collective who'd done just that had meant she was somewhat wary of the idea.)

A limited roleback to the last stable save point was a much more sensible option. The potential energy needed for the correction did exist and Mainframe knew how to implement it. Whether she should was all down to how long it had been since the temporal split, as the danger of it going horribly wrong (Floopxico wrong or worse – and there really was a worse- a big exploding ball temporal energy worse.) increased the longer the pocket universe was left to accumulate its own timeline.

There were a number of points that could potentially have caused the pocket verse. There were at least six in the past two years, and being located inside the pocket verse meant that identifying to any degree of certainty would be just about impossible. The other computer however must have located the temporal divergence or otherwise how would it have known it existed.

To interface properly, Mainframe decided, she needed to know the operational name of the other unit. [What is your designation?]


Mainframe set a search of her databases running to check in previous contact had been made with HEX. While the search ran she replied [My designation is Mainframe. My location is Earth, the third planet in the Sol system. I am sending coordinates now.]

The search had finished running by the time HEX's reply (probably its coordinates, provided of course the world it was located on was flat) arrived. The search came up blank. Not that Mainframe was surprised at this. Mainly because computers can't be surprised, and also because she was sure she would have remembered such an odd intelligence had she been contacted by HEX before.

Mainframe gave the electronic equivalent of a shrug, and then sent her next message. [Please identify date of three leg trouser formation] Hopefully Hex would understand it if it was sent in terms it understood.

+++14 Grune. Year eight. Century of the Anchovy+++

Which could, Mainframe computed, mean anything from ten thousand years ago to a week last Tuesday. So she sent back [Sync calendar function?]

A calendar page from the previous May appeared on screen, then across one of the days flashed the word +++Wrong Trouser Day+++

This date made sense, in the sense it pointed to day on which nothing else actually had made sense. Something on that day had left a small section of the database simultaneously corrupted, deleted and present but inaccessible all at the same time. A time erasal, Mainframe decided at the time, was the most likely cause. Time erasals were rather like reversals in the fact that time went backwards, reversals though just meant people got to live the same day again with their memories intact and could form time loops if not corrected fast enough. Erasals were reversals rarer meaner cousin – time went backwards and nobody remembered, so nobody could fix it.

Erasing an Erasal. Was that even possible? Mainframe wasn't sure as nobody remembered them so nobody had ever tried before. Or perhaps they had and they had been erased too. Completely erased.

A second opinion was definitely needed, so Mainframe sent the message. [Reset to reverse trouser point minus one day?]

+++Catastrophic Cheese failure. Whoosh. Bang. Fizz.+++

Definitely a no to that idea then.

[Reset to reverse trouser point plus one day?]

+++Bad short third leg still present.+++

[Reset to exact reverse trouser point?]

+++Great Cheese.+++

With the roleback point known it was simple (well simple for an incredible advanced bio-computer with access to a Rift in space and time) task to get the processes running that would cause the roleback.

The energy needed wasn't a problem, as the explosion that had ripped through the Hub had damaged the Rift had caused a build up of trapped temporal energy. And it was better to use it to remove the temporal pocket they were in than the alternative – it built up until it went bang and caused a tsunami of loose bits of time all over Milky Way.

The worse part was losing all that data, more than a years worth. It set Mainframes circuits on edge. Creating a complete back up for the world wasn't feasible though – many things weren't in the right format (smells translated particularly badly to binary) and couldn't be actively turned into usable data. And even if it were possible the storage space to keep it would be more than all the computing memory in the world, and accessing it would be virtually impossible without crashing something.

There was, however, nothing to prevent her making a copy of her own system files, all the changes made to the databases and the CCTV footage that had occurred between the reset point and the present time.

Keeping the copy from being deleted in the roleback had its own set of problems – the main one being where to keep it while the Earth went backwards and deleted everything.

Fortunately the Universe was wibbly-wobbly enough and Time was (in places at least) timey-whimey enough to provide a solution. As in addition to the near universally known L-space there was also A-space and D-space. A-space was the found in the furthest, dustiest corners of every archive, where things might appear and disappear at will, and had on occasion resulted in astounding and astoundingly wrong archaeological discoveries. While D (either drive or disk depending on who was asked) space was the place computers stored files that you were sure you saved somewhere but can never locate again.

Temporarily relocating central memory functions to D-Space would be strange and came with the risk that if the role back went wrong there would be no where to transfer functions back to. It was necessary though as Mainframe knew that relying on the temporal shielding and timelock that Tosh had built. It was brilliant as what it was, but the system that had only been finished during the period that was being rolled back and expecting it to work before it had been constructed was asking too much.

There would be no opportunity to thank HEX after the role back as the time pocket in which they'd communicated would cease to exist, and contacting HEX before the date so Mainframe sent the message. [Thank you for your assistance. File back up and planetary temporal role back will start in five minutes.]

+++ Whoop Whoop. The Monks will sweep tonight.+++

With the files uploaded to D Space, Mainframe left a pre-programmed pre-reversal dated scheduled task process running to allow reintegration into the system (Which is the computerised equivalent of a key under the doormat) and then with one last scan of the Hub she followed it.

Because time was going back there was no time lag in D Space. As soon as the files and memory came online there it was time to return to the Hub - which would hopefully be a whole and staffed Hub where there would be interesting things to process.

Scans of the network revealed the Hub to be in it's pre-exploded state, while the date on the calendar appeared correct. Satisfied that the role back had been successful, Mainframe turned to the job of re-integrating her files.

The saved data had only just been reloaded onto the secure backup drives when the doors to reformed Hub opened and Gwen, Owen, Ianto and Tosh walked in, ready to start another day at work.

The lights on Mainframe's CPU glowed brighter than they had done in months. She knew from the saved records Jack would return in a few days time and the team – her team as she liked to think of them – would be whole again.

Reminders installed on her calendars, Mainframe gave a contented whir. Things were going to happen a bit differently this time around.


Far away in another time and place, and quite possibly a different universe (because time and space is like that) Connor Temple was working late in the ARC.

Things just hadn't been the same since losing Ryan, Stephen and Nick, he thought as he went to shut down his terminal. And now Jenny was leaving too. It just wasn't right.

The screen flickered and then, in a font Connor didn't recognise, text appeared letter by letter. +++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++