Author's Note: I've changed the estimated flight time from Cardiff to New York, putting it at approximately eight hours. I still don't know how accurate this is, but I appreciate the folks who have tried to help me work it out. I like some accuracy in my writing, but I'm still winging it here. My poetic license stands.
Beneath Millennium Square
The email came through just before one-thirty in the morning, and in an ordinary office it might have sat there unnoticed until at least nine o'clock the next morning. This was not an ordinary office, though, and it was never unattended. Within minutes of the soft beep to alert whoever might be around of the e-mail’s arrival, a tall figure in an immaculately-tailored suit seated himself at the computer and read through the short message in silence. He was just about to open up the attachments when a voice spoke behind him.
“I thought you were going home.”
Ianto Jones glanced back over his shoulder, and smiled at the one approaching him.
“Just thought I’d check the email before I go. This one just arrived, from a friend of mine in UNIT. It looks like it could be rather important.”
Captain Jack Harkness grinned and leaned over his colleague's shoulder, taking care to deliberately brush his cheek against Ianto's ear as he did so.
“So important that it can't wait until tomorrow?”
A small smile flitted across Ianto's face, and he deliberately turned so that his breath ghosted across Jack's face.
“Well, that depends. It would appear there is some trouble in the United States, in New York specifically. And, for the record, it is tomorrow.”
The statement was met with a derisive snort.
“New York?” Jack retorted, choosing to ignore the latter remark about the time. “Don't you think we've got our hands full with Cardiff?”
Ianto shifted to one side with some reluctance, and motioned towards the email.
Jack flashed Ianto a grin before turning his attention back to the email. As he read it, though, the grin faded to make way for the serious expression that Ianto knew so well. Reaching across, he hit the button that opened up the attachment. Immediately, a file opened up for them both to read.
“That...” Ianto whispered, only to trail off. Jack finished it off for him even as a second file flashed open.
“Isn't good. And this is in New York? There's no rift in New York... is there?”
“Not according to any information we have,” Ianto confirmed. “Although, there have been so many disturbances around the planet in recent times, there is always the possibility that one may have opened up there.”
“Just what we need,” Jack muttered. He hit another button, opening up a third file from which appeared a photo, startlingly graphic, despite the lack of gore.
Beside him, Ianto felt Jack stiffen, though right at that moment he didn't understand why.
“Sir? What is it?”
Suddenly, Jack straightened up, all hints of his flirtatious side gone in an instant.
“Call the team in, now.”
He was all business now, and Ianto knew there would be no arguing with him. All the same, he couldn't help but stare in surprise as Jack wheeled around and headed towards his office.
Jack paused in his doorway to look back at the younger man. His expression was grim, and his pale blue eyes hard as diamonds.
“I can't be sure, but I think I know what did that.” He motioned vaguely with his hand, indicating the picture of the dead body on the screen. “If I'm right, we're the only ones with the capabilities to stop it.”
Ianto's eyes widened just slightly as he suddenly realised what Jack wasn't saying.
“You mean to say...”
“I'm calling the President,” Jack said flatly. “We're going to America.” He paused, focusing an intent stare on Ianto before adding, “All of us. Call the others in now, and then start packing. Get your ass moving, Ianto.”
Swallowing back the threat of nausea, Ianto hurried to do as he'd been told.
Gwen awoke reluctantly to the persistent sound of her mobile phone ringing; the sound cutting into her subconscious mind and dragging her unceremoniously back into the waking world. Groaning softly, she stretched clumsily across the sleeping form of her boyfriend, grabbing the phone off the side table. A glance at the caller ID confirmed her worst fears, and she answered it with rapidly escalating irritation.
“It's one-thirty in the morning. This had better be good.”
“You need to come in, Gwen,” a distinct Welsh voice stated. “Now. This can't wait. Jack wants everyone here.”
Gwen moaned aloud.
“I'm gonna kill him... All right. I'll be there in twenty, and there had better be coffee there, Ianto.”
“It'll be ready to go,” Ianto promised. “Oh, and Gwen?”
“Pack a bag. We're going out of town.”
The line cut out before she had a chance to query that last remark, leaving her lying there and staring at the phone in dazed shock. Movement beside her told her that Rhys was awake, and she looked down to find him staring up at her in puzzlement.
“Gwen? What's up?”
“I've got to go,” she murmured apologetically, leaning down to kiss him tenderly on the lips. “I'm sorry, love. There's an emergency. Apparently we're going out of town for a bit.”
There was no masking the disappointment on his face.
“We had a date for tomorrow, dinner at Chula's. Had to wait two months for that booking!”
“I know, I'm sorry,” Gwen told him, even as she slid out of bed and began to grab clothes. “Look, why don't you take someone else?”
Rhys stared at her incredulously.
“Someone else? It's supposed to be a romantic dinner!”
“So... Don't have candles. Sorry, love, got to go. I'll call you.”
And then she was gone.
There was just a split second of silence on the other end of the phone at the sound of Owen's irritated greeting. Then, Ianto spoke in the same placid tone that always left Owen wanting to slap him across the head.
“Pack your bag and get in here, Owen. We're heading out of town. There's an emergency.”
“Out of town? What the hell does that mean?” Owen demanded to know. “Where are we going?”
“Just get in here as fast as you can,” Ianto told him. “Jack wants to leave as soon as possible.”
“Shit,” Owen muttered sourly as Ianto hung up. “If this is another trip to the country...”
He let that thought slide away, preferring not to be reminded of that particular incident. Thinking of creative ways of dispatching his boss, Owen climbed sluggishly out of bed to do as he'd been ordered.
Ianto's call to Toshiko found her awake, and apparently immersed in upgrading her home computer. Unlike her two colleagues, though, she responded with enthusiasm to the news that they were heading out of Cardiff on a new assignment.
“Finally,” she enthused to Ianto's equal amusement and irritation. “I thought we were all going to go crazy with boredom. When are we leaving?”
“Jack wants everyone ready to go as soon as possible,” Ianto confirmed. “Hurry in, Tosh. Whatever this is, it seems to have really spooked Jack.”
Those words, more than anything else Ianto could have said, sent chills down Tosh's spine.
“I'll be there in fifteen,” she promised.
Jack was pacing like a restless lion when first Toshiko, then Gwen and finally Owen arrived. Any smart retorts that either Gwen or Owen might have been working on evaporated at the sight of him. To say that the captain was tense would have been an immense understatement. He was like a taut wire, ready to snap at any moment.
As they filed into the conference room, all four expected to be dished out orders without explanation, delivered in Jack's patented 'don't fuck with me' tone. All four, Ianto included, were no less than stunned when Jack spoke in a quiet but urgent voice.
“I'm sorry for the midnight call-out, people, but this is serious, and it can't wait. We're going out of town, and I don't know how long it's going to take.”
“How far out of town?” Owen asked, and his antipathy effectively vanishing in the face of Jack's quietly spoke words. Jack looked Owen in the eye as he responded.
“New York, in the United States.”
Utter silence met that statement, and Jack took full advantage of it.
“I know it's well outside our usual boundaries of operation, but this situation doesn't leave us any choice. Ianto, if you would...?”
Ianto pressed a button on the laptop that was open before him, and the images of seven dead bodies appeared on the large screen.
“These seven victims have all turned up in New York over the last four weeks. Owen, any thoughts?”
For nearly a minute, Owen didn't move or speak. Jack waited patiently, watching his second in command with a piercing stare. Finally, the younger man got slowly to his feet and approached the screen, his expression giving away nothing at all. It was only when he had been standing in front of the screen, staring at each body for a couple of minutes in absolute silence, that Jack finally spoke with only the slightest hint of impatience in his tone.
Owen let his breath out in a long hiss. He knew what he wanted to say, but he didn't dare to say it directly, primarily because it was one memory that none of them wanted to recall. He shut his eyes for a moment, and a disturbing image flashed through his mind of Jack, naked except for a standard surgical gown, ashen in colour and lying stone cold dead on a slab in the Torchwood morgue.
He shook the thought from his mind, and forced himself to speak.
“No visible wounds... Marble white... What's the cause of death?”
“Unknown,” Jack answered soberly. “The New York police are at a dead end, pardon the bad pun. The only trace evidence they have is a fluid that was left on each body that they can't identify. We won't know for certain until we can get a sample, but I believe it is alien.”
“Look at them,” Tosh whispered, a horror on her face at the sight of the bodies that Jack found oddly reassuring. It wasn't that long ago that it seemed they had all become immune to the horrors that they so regularly faced. Recent events had given them all back their innocence, in a twisted sort of way, he mused. Tosh went on, a grim kind of fascination in her voice as she spoke.
“It's almost as if they've had the life drained...”
She trailed off abruptly, looking sharply at Jack in stricken silence as it suddenly occurred to her what she had been about to say. Jack nodded in confirmation of her words, and though he looked a little on the pale side himself, he still finished off the sentence for her.
“Like they've had the life drained out of them. I know.”
Owen returned to his seat, sitting back down with a heavy thud and looking mildly ill. Jack spoke again, willing his voice to stay even in the presence of his team.
“This isn't the work of Abaddon, but the being that I think is responsible is no less dangerous. The bottom line is that they're out of their depth over there. We have to go. Are you all with me?”
Ianto said nothing, having already made his decision long before the others arrived. Gwen, Tosh and Owen exchanged looked, each one thinking the along the same line.
Jack Harkness, consummate order man, had actually asked them to follow him, rather than simply telling them to go. There was only one way to respond to that, and Owen spoke for all of them.
“We're with you, Jack. Of course we're with you, mate.”
The relief on Jack's face was palpable, and they all wondered whether he had actually expected them to refuse. They had no chance to answer, though, as Jack went on quickly.
“Okay, then. I've already spoken directly to the President to tell him we're coming. A flight is being held for us, and we're being given a clear path through all security checkpoints and Customs. We have fifteen minutes to collect whatever gear we think we'll need, and get moving. Let's go, people!”
Owen snorted as they headed out of the conference room single-file.
“This is going to be great,” he retorted. “Now we get to screw with the New York coppers, too.”
Jack smirked as he led the way down into the central body of the Hub.
“Only if I'm really lucky.”
It was a new experience for all of them – including Jack – to march into the airport and walk through the terminal like they owned the place. And, for all intents and purposes, they might as well have.
Upon arrival, they entered the terminal to find a queue that would surely take at least an hour or more to get through. Rather than join the queue, though, Jack led the way through the terminal, confidently striding past the long check-in queue to the counter, ignoring the aggravated grumbles and complaints from those in the line.
“Sir, I'm sorry, but you have to queue up with everyone else,” the young woman told him with pompous authority. “I can't check you in ahead of all these other people...”
She trailed off as the tall, handsome and visibly impatient man with the body-length military coat and American accent leaned across the counter and cut her off mid-sentence, at the same time holding up identification for her to see.
“We're Torchwood. I'm Captain Jack Harkness, and this is my team. Flight Q796 is being held for us. Now, as much as I'd love to stay and get to know you better, we don't really want to keep that plane waiting any longer than necessary. Do we?”
Visibly flustered by the intensity of his attention, the young woman checked the bags in without further argument – particularly after a couple of UNIT officers arrived to ensure they were given swift passage through the airport to their flight.
“Well, that was an experience,” Gwen commented once they were seated in the business class section of the plane. Tellingly, there was no one else at all in the section. Whether that was pure luck, or whether all business class passengers had been shifted to another section, or another flight entirely, none of them knew and they had no intention of asking.
“Please,” Owen said as he stretched out luxuriously in one of the ultra-comfortable business class chairs, “don't you dare say that we have to spend this flight reading files.”
Jack smiled wryly.
“This is an eight hour flight, people. Hopefully there'll be time to read up on the files when we get to where we're going. For now, get some sleep, if you can.”
The suggestion was well-heeded, and within minutes of take-off, Gwen, Tosh and Owen were all asleep. Only Jack and Ianto remained awake.
“Sir?” Ianto asked Jack softly. “Are you going to take your own advice?”
Jack shook his head, even as he began to read the police files that he'd downloaded while waiting for his team to get to the Hub.
“Too much to do,” he murmured. Ianto watched him with concern.
Jack's breath caught slightly in his throat. That tone was painfully familiar, and he found himself responding to it despite a deeper instinct to ignore it.
“I don't sleep,” he said by way of explanation. The Welshman looked sceptical, at best.
“Do you mean you won't, or you can't?”
Jack looked over at him slowly, his expression unreadable. Ianto went on again softly, quietly hoping he wasn't overstepping the mark.
“If I may be so presumptuous to point out, you used to sleep. Quite well, too, if I may say so.”
“You wore me out,” Jack pointed out with a grin. “You and that damn stopwatch. Trust me, Ianto, very few can lay claim to that.”
Ianto raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. After a moment of silence, Jack's quasi-lecherous grin faded and, for a fleeting moment, Ianto saw a raw pain in the other man's eyes, mixed with a very tangible and deep-seated fear. Then, it was gone again, and Ianto was left wondering whether it had just been his imagination.
“Get some sleep,” Jack told him softly. “There's no telling how much chance we'll have to rest once we get there.”
Approximately eight hours later
When the team disembarked nearly half a day later, it was to an alert that an eighth body had been discovered. Jack made the grim announcement as they made their way rapidly through Customs and past all the security checkpoints.
“So what do we do?” Gwen wondered, almost having to jog to keep up with Jack's long strides. “The New York police will have control of the crime scene by now.”
Jack eyed her with bemusement.
“Simple. We go in there and take it off them. This is Torchwood jurisdiction now, and we've been given a free hand by the US President.”
“Not wanting to put a dampener on your enthusiasm, or anything,” Owen remarked, “but how are we going to get around, exactly? Since the SUV couldn't fit in the plane...”
“And where are we going to work from?” Tosh asked anxiously. “We have no lab, no equipment... Only what we brought with us.”
“Relax, everyone,” Jack assured them. “It's all taken care of. We've been promised space to work in the NYPD Headquarters, One Police Plaza, and we have a five bedroom suite reserved at the Plaza Hotel for down-time.”
He refrained from remarking that the chance of any down-time was slim at best.
“And our transport?” Owen asked with a frown. Jack grinned as they came out into the sunlight and crisp air to find an old friend sitting there waiting for them.
“The SUV!” Tosh burst out at the welcome sight of the Torchwood SUV
“Bloody hell, Harkness,” Owen exclaimed, his voice heavy with disbelief. “How did you manage to pull this off?”
Jack was grinning widely by then, pleased with their reaction.
“I have a friend with a transport chopper, who owed me a very big favour. That's all you need to know.”
“That's all we want to know, more like,” Owen retorted. Gwen smirked.
“Must have been one hell of a big favour, eh, Jack?”
He deliberately ignore them both, concentrating instead on loading their bags into the back. Once that was done, and they were all seated inside, Jack spoke again.
“Tosh, can you access the NYPD system? I want to know where that crime scene is.”
“Just give me a minute, and I'll have an exact location for you.”
Less than a minute later, Tosh had the precise location of the victim's body, and had loaded the information into the Satellite Navigation.
“Sir?” Ianto asked. “Are you sure you don't want me to drive?”
“Thanks for the offer, Ianto,” Jack answered wryly, “but we need to get there today.”
Ianto smiled wryly as Jack pulled out from the curb and promptly stomped his foot down on the accelerator, cutting off a taxi driver as he went.
“I was thinking more in terms of just getting there alive.”
Jack shot Ianto a mock frown.
“Are you saying you don't trust my driving?”
“Not at all, sir,” Ianto replied mildly. “Just pointing out that New York is different to Cardiff.”
“What he's saying, Jack,” Owen called out from his seat in the rear, “is that your homicidal style of driving is fine back home, but it might not go so well in a poncy city like this.”
Jack grinned, unperturbed by the gentle, good-natured teasing from his team.
“You can drive tomorrow, Ianto. Today, we need to get to the scene before the Americans contaminate the crap out of everything.”
“You say that like you're not one of them,” Gwen remarked curiously. Jack smiled.
“I'm not. I told you once before, I'm a citizen of the UK, and proud of it.”
“But you were born in America,” Gwen persisted. Jack pointedly ignored her. Instead, he made a frustrated noise, and turned off the Sat-Nav.
“Tosh, directions, please? Haven't been to this city for... well, for a long time, and I hate the damn Sat-Nav.”
Had he been looking in the rear-view mirror at that exact moment, he would have been amused to see Toshiko rolling her eyes in exasperation.
“Okay, Jack. Just keep going for two and a half kilometres, and then turn right to get onto the bridge. We need to cross the Hudson River.”
“Okay, people. Hold on.”
And with that, he floored the accelerator.
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