"Why should we remain innocent of what lurks in the shadows? How can we live in the world if we don't understand how dark and brutal it can be?"
Peterson stood stiffly to attention beside Jones, the dark office illuminated only by the weak, watery reflection off the Thames. As usual, he could see little of the figure seated opposite behind the heavy oak desk—their employer's identity had remained cloaked in shadow from the commencement of these midnight reports.
"It won't do, you know," came the soft voice. "It won't do."
Peterson swallowed hard—the note of quiet menace was subtle but audible. "Sir, we had insufficient data on the Doctor's vessel. How were we to know the TARDIS was sentient?"
"You could simply have had the TARDIS removed, Peterson," the figure responded calmly, "which would have stranded the Doctor in this point in Time. Instead, you decided to confront him on grounds that were not your own, despite having studied every bit of the Doctor's past available to the institute. You were not to have given him the opportunity to out-think you."
"No, sir." Peterson's expression was wooden, but his eyes gleamed with resentment. "It won't happen again, I promise you."
"Indeed not." The faint creak of a chair was the only other sign of life. "You see, when one crosses swords with the Doctor, one seldom gets a second chance. But when they do... I should say that perhaps they do not always deserve it."
"Sir, I respectfully request one last opportunity to prove myself." They'd warned him, the others, he'd heard all the stories: don't be expendable, not to Him... "Our surveillance has revealed that they'll be in Paris on the 22nd."
"No... the timing is no longer right. I have only a few more months to wait until the Doctor will return his Companions to their proper time-stream." The distant tone softened a trifle, but did nothing to dispel the agent's unease. "Such a pity that you shall not be there when he does."
Peterson's eyes widened, realising far too late that he had been living on borrowed time ever since setting foot back on British soil. Before he could utter a word of protest, there was a shrill whine, the room lit up for an instant by a flash of green light...
Peterson stiffened, then collapsed to the ground, expression frozen in eternal protest.
The man who had ordered the shot did not care to hear protestations from an imbecile. Peterson had been entrusted with a crucially important task, and he had bungled it spectacularly from beginning to end.
Jones reholstered his modified alien weapon, his face itself expressionless but a faint contempt for his target in his eyes. "What about Tesla and Westinghouse, sir—should we continue surveillance?"
The man behind the desk leant back in his chair, steepling his fingers in contemplation. "For the time being, yes. Tesla's newly-acquired psychic abilities are an unforeseen consequence and must be monitored—but quietly. The pair are, after all, in the business of improving mankind's own technology without any extraterrestrial interference, and they should be allowed to continue."
He possessed an acute understanding of the importance of maintaining the balance of things. One did not remove two such powerful assets to mankind's wellbeing unless one truly had no other options.
"Perhaps, sir," said Jones, "that partnership could itself be a valuable tool in the future: provide whatever motivation Tesla might need to rebuild his machine." Jones should have been leading the mission. But even the Torchwood Institute had to play politics, and Peterson had been better connected. Still... Jones's keen mind and ruthlessness were exactly what the Institute needed more in its agents.
The man behind the desk smiled slowly—there was a certain symmetry to the idea... "Quite possibly... Thank you, Jones—you are dismissed."
"Sir." The agent saluted smartly, turned, and left without so much as a glance at Peterson's corpse.
The lone living occupant of the room passed a hand over the reports for the mission. Quite suddenly, the hand crumpled Peterson's report. Twenty-five years, and at last so close... only to miss to the colossal stupidity of a man who had no right to be in the field in the first place. Eight months never seemed so interminable...
To Be Continued...
in Episode 6: Child of Time
Author's note from Sky: Well, as you can see, this is hardly an ending—the fun is only just beginning! Who is our mystery man, and what is his agenda? Keep with the series to find out!
Next up, we have a rather bizarre TARDISode and an exciting adventure following that! Stay tuned!