"So what's the plan?" Maera asked once the TARDIS was in flight. "I'm assuming there is a plan? Because, you know I'm good if there isn't. We can just go in and turn the place to space dust, if you want."

"Be calm, Maera," Anna advised her gently. "I would hope the plan would be to avoid blood-shed."

"We go in and find my team," Jack said, pointedly avoiding looking at Anna. "I have their DNA programmed into my manipulator, so finding them should be the easy part. Then, once everyone's safe in the TARDIS..."

"Hold it," Alex cut him off abruptly with a frown. "What do you mean, everyone? What are you planning?"

When Jack shot her a look, she glared right back at him unapologetically.

"I know that look, Jack. Bobby got it every time he was planning to do something monumentally stupid, and he didn't want me caught in the crossfire."

Looking around, Jack took in the unyielding stares of his friends and family, and knew he had no choice but to answer. What they were about to embark on was too dangerous to leave them in the dark about anything, and he knew it. He swallowed a sigh, and prepared himself to be lambasted.

"Once that's done, I want to take just a small team with me to go after the Head of the Agency."

"Commander Dorn?" Anna wondered, temporarily forestalling any discussion on just who that team might comprise of, or of the wisdom of such an action.

"No," Jack answered. "Dorn is second in command. "The man in charge is called Argus Dinn. Everyone thinks Dorn is in charge, and it's a well-kept secret that he's not."

"How do you know about this man, then?" the Doctor asked.

"Because I was unlucky enough to meet him twice. The first time was when I was recruited to the Agency, but I had no idea who he really was back then. I thought he was just another drill sergeant. The second time was just before they wiped my memory. Then I wasn't given any doubt about who he was. He gave me an ultimatum. Give him Eleya or I'd spend the rest of my life as a personal whipping boy for every senior officer that I'd managed to piss off in my career. He meant it, too. When I woke up after having my memory wiped, I found I'd been reassigned as a private assistant to the officers of Omega Squadron."

"Private assistant?" Alex echoed, suspicion in her voice. Jack nodded, looking slightly green around the gills as he recalled the unpleasant memories from so long ago.

"Let's just say that 'personal assistant' would have taken on a whole new meaning with those sadists. The last sorry bastard to get that job lasted six weeks."

"Did he quit?" Maera asked softly, although the look on her face and her tone of voice suggested that she knew better.

"In a manner of speaking. He hung himself in his quarters. I had no intention of letting that happen to me. So between that, being battered and bruised, and having no memory of the last two years, I ran."

"And now you've come full circle," Anna murmured. "Have you decided which of us will go with you to confront this man, Argus Dinn?"

Jack locked gazes with her, and she offered a small, assuring smile. She was not arguing with his choice of tactics, and was putting paid to any protests from anyone else. No one, not even the Doctor, appeared to be willing to lock horns with the Head Elder, and for that Jack was immensely grateful. He'd lost track of the number of times he'd had to fight to justify his choices and actions. Right now, there simply wasn't the time.

"Yes, I have. I want the Doctor with me; you, Anna, and Ianto."

The surprise on Ianto's face was palpable, but also tinged with gratitude, and he smiled warmly at Jack when the Captain's gaze met his briefly. Visibly bolstered, Jack spoke with fresh resolve.

"I don't want there to be bloodshed, but once we get there, it's not going to take long before they'll be after us. Once that's the case, there might just not be a choice."

"There's always a choice, Jack," the Doctor said quietly. Jack didn't miss a beat. He'd expected such an argument from the Time Lord, and was ready to counter it. He hated butting heads with his old friend, but the truth was that he knew the Time Agency far better than the Doctor and a noble resolve to avoid violence wasn't going to encourage their enemies to do the same.

"I agree, and I will not make a choice that will get anyone here killed. That's what it comes down to for me, Doctor. If my only choice is between one of them and one of you, I will choose you."

"Well, then," the Doctor said wryly, "I suppose we just have to make sure that you don't get placed in a position where you have to make that choice."

Favouring the Doctor with a cool look, Anna spoke reassuringly to Jack.

"You know our laws well, Jack. I taught you myself. You know we abhor violence and bloodshed, but what you do now is to protect your child and that should always take priority. You have our support, no matter what you feel you need to do."

Jack felt some of the tension bleed out of him at her words. He didn't doubt that the Doctor supported him, but there was always that niggling, underlying feeling of needing to prove his worth to the ancient Time Lord. He had proved himself to the Mendyrians once, long ago, and they expected no more of him.

He felt movement at his side, and knew without needing to look that it was Ianto, offering silent support as always. He took courage from it and felt his nerves settle just a little.

"Doctor? How far away are we?"

"We'll be landing in two minutes," the Doctor answered. "Jack, do you still have that perception filter I made for you?"

"Yes, but it's not going to be effective. Time Agents are trained to see through perception filters, and they're going to be looking for us."

"It's a TARDIS key, Jack. It's slightly stronger than your average perception filter. It might only give you a couple of seconds of advantage, but you know as well as I do how much difference just a couple of seconds can make."

Jack conceded to that, and patted his pocket.

"I have it if we need it."

"All right," the Doctor announced. "We've landed."

"We can't have landed yet," Jack protested in confusion. "She didn't make that grinding noise. She always makes that noise!"

"I thought more of a stealth landing was in order," the Doctor said with a quirk of his lips. "Besides... She makes that noise because I tend to, you know... leave the parking brake on."

A ripple of laughter swept through the group at the somewhat sheepish admission. Jack started to speak, only to be stopped by Ianto.

"If you're about to comment on the Doctor's driving skills, I suggest you think twice, or I might feel the urge to share what happened to our SUV last year when you decided a joyride through Splott was a good idea."

Jack went red, much to the amusement and interest of all. Favouring Ianto with a mock glare, Jack promptly redirected the discussion.

"Okay, Doctor, where have we landed?"

"Prison Level G. You said that was the most likely place where they'd be."

Jack nodded grimly.

"That's where they hold prisoners that they want to interrogate. The cells are designed to hold a maximum of two people, and we have no way of knowing whether they'll all be close together."

"I can get into their computer system if we can find a terminal," the Doctor offered, but Anna shook her head.

"No. That will not only alert them to our presence, but tell them exactly where we are. I have a better method in mind. Jack, I want you to shut your eyes and focus on those who were taken. Picture them clearly in your mind. Sight, sound, and even smell, if you can. Focus your mind."

Understanding lit up Jack's eyes and he closed his eyes and concentrated.

"What are they doing?" Alex asked softly as the five Mendyrians drew in close around Jack and laid their hands on him. The Doctor joined her and Ianto, all the while watching the scene before them with bright eyes and a knowing smile.

"They're sharing Jack's memories. When they've completed the process, they'll each be able to track our wayward friends. One of ours to each Mendyrian."

"We'll be able to find them without hacking into the system," Alex realised. "And without alerting them to our presence too soon," the Doctor confirmed. "They really are brilliant."

"Yes," Ianto agreed, thinking of the Mendyrians' complete acceptance of his lover and partner. "They are brilliant."

It was done in less than a minute. The Mendyrians moved away from Jack as one, and Anna looked pointedly to the Doctor.

"Open the doors, please, Doctor. We're ready."

Tosh sat quietly in the cell, cradling Owen in her arms. She would have preferred it be the other way around, but beggars couldn't be choosers.

Owen had woken shortly after her, and in his agitation had either not heard or simply ignored her warning about the electrified walls. She'd thought at first that he'd killed himself after watching with horror as he was electrocuted, but was relieved to find him only stunned. It seemed that their captors didn't want them dead – yet.

"Please, tell me that I just had a really vivid dream, and that we're all still in the Hub, and I just tripped over the power cable to the rift manipulator again."

Tosh smiled.

"Sorry. No such luck."

"Bugger. I'm not coming down after going on a bender?"

"Nope. This is reality."


She expected him to make some effort to extricate himself from her, and was pleased when he didn't.

"I'm getting déjà vu," Owen murmured after a while. "Except, the last time we were like this, I'd been shot, you'd been smacked in the head, Gwen was poisoned and Jack took a swan dive off a roof. The bloody Time Agency was at fault for that, too."

"Not the whole organisation," Tosh reminded him, though she was at a loss to know why she was making even a superficial effort to defend it. "That was John Hart, remember?"

Owen snorted.

"He's a Time Agent, isn't he? Therefore, I hold the entire establishment responsible for our ongoing issues. Shit... I don't suppose that scarily brilliant mind of yours has figured out how to get us out of here?"

The embarrassment and shame on her face had Owen wanting to kick himself up the arse.

"I'm sorry," Tosh whispered tremulously. "I can't. This technology... It's beyond anything I've ever seen, and I don't know how to shut it down. If I could get out, and find a control terminal, then maybe..."

Feeling an absolute arse, Owen eased himself out of Tosh's arms and gently guided her to lean into him. He wrapped his arms around her, taking an almost guilty pleasure in the feel of her in his arms.

"Shush," he murmured. "It'll be okay. I'm sorry, Tosh. This isn't your fault, love, and it's not on you to try and save everyone."

"But it is up to Jack."

Owen wasn't entirely sure whether that was an accusation, or just a statement of fact. Either way, he felt obliged to say something encouraging.

"He'll be here before we know it, guns blazing and all righteous fury..."

Tosh laughed softly.

"And probably with the Doctor right behind him, wagging his finger and telling him that guns aren't the answer."

Owen snorted in amusement. Tosh giggled again, and a moment later they were both laughing.

"Seriously, though," Owen said with a smile, "he'll come for us. Remember the Brecon Beacons?"

Tosh's smile faded rapidly and she shuddered in Owen's arms.

"God, how could I forget?"

"Remember how Jack crashed through the wall in that bloody tractor? And he took down every single one of those sick bastards. It'll be no different now. You'll see."

Tosh shut her eyes, taking what comfort she could from Owen's embrace. Truth be told, she had no doubt that Jack would come for them. What was really distressing her now was the way being locked up here was reminding her of a previous incarceration in a tiny UNIT cell.

Had Owen asked, she might have just blamed her reaction on claustrophobia. It was a nice, simple excused that wouldn't have needed any further explanation. It would have been a lie, though.

It wasn't the restrictive space, but actually being locked up that was starting to do her head in. Being locked up for no reason, with no right of reply – that was what was getting at her now.

Like Owen, she trusted Jack with her life. She didn't doubt that he'd come for them like some sort of immortal avenging angel. She just couldn't bring herself to wholeheartedly believe that he would reach them in time. Her thoughts shifted to the Time Agent who had so ruthlessly captured them all. Jaydn Taark reminded her vividly not of the UNIT soldiers who had held her prisoner, but of the people who had abducted her mother and coerced her into committing treason. They were ruthless, and willing to do whatever they needed to in order to get what they wanted.

In this case, that something was a precious little girl who only wanted to be with her daddy.

"Do you think she's safe?" she asked, all the while knowing that Jack would never take a risk with his daughter. To his credit, Owen understood who Tosh meant without needing her to spell it out.

"I'm sure of it. They won't get her. They don't have a hope in hell."

"Of all the things to come through the rift," Tosh murmured. "Who would have thought it would give us something so precious? I hope it worked, Owen. I hope Jack got his memories back."

"So do I, Tosh, love."

A soft hiss alerted them to the deactivation of the electrified walls. Tosh breathed a sigh of relief at the sudden openness of their surroundings before registering the people suddenly standing in front of them. Her first, panicked thought was that they were Time Agents, until her eyes found a familiar sight.

"Alex?" Owen burst out, before Tosh had a chance to speak. "Damn, you are a sight for sore eyes!"

"We were so scared they were going to kill you," Tosh admitted as Alex helped her up. Alex smiled ruefully.

"They tried, but the guy they left behind didn't count on a pre-historic guard dog. I owe Myfanwy a very big bar of chocolate."

Tosh abruptly threw her arms around Alex in a fierce hug which the former detective willingly returned.

"I'm so glad you're okay," Tosh murmured. Alex smiled again, and gently detached herself from Tosh's arms.

"The same goes for both of you. Guys, this is Lu and Krandl. They're old acquaintances of Jack's, and they're here to help."

"Come," Krandl told them with a hint of urgency in his voice. "We must return to the TARDIS."

"Old acquaintances?" Owen asked, sounding just slightly suspicious.

"Don't ask questions," Alex warned him. "Save them for when we're all safe."

Owen acquiesced, if somewhat reluctantly.

"Well, if Jack trusts them, then we can as well. All right, then. Let's get the hell out of here."

When they opened the door to Donna and Gwen's cell, the Doctor allowed Anna to go first. Whilst he had no doubt that Donna would be happy to see him, the simple truth was that he just couldn't put it past her to give him a slap. Kree regarded him amusedly.

"So, you've found yourself a companion who does not... how do the Earthlings say it? She doesn't believe the sun shines out of your shorts."

The Doctor was indignant as he followed Anna into the cell.

"I do not wear shorts, thank you very much."

A moment later, he was nearly knocked off his feet when Donna flung herself at him. He'd barely had time to recover from the unexpected hug when she pulled back and slapped him across the face.

"Ouch!" the Doctor whined, holding one hand to his cheek. "What was that for?"

"For taking so bloody long!" Donna railed at him. "Do you have any idea how long we've been here?"

"As a matter of fact, I do," the Doctor retorted. "It's been a grand total of about three and a half hours!"

"He is right, you know," Gwen offered, only to be silenced by the force of Donna's glare.

"That's not the bloody point! He ought to know better than anyone what can happen in three and a half hours."

The look on the Doctor's face spoke in volumes, telling them just how right Donna was. For several long seconds, a discomforting silence reigned. Then, a smile broke out over Donna's face and she dragged the befuddled Time Lord back in for another hug.

"You dumbo, of course I'm glad to see you."

"All right," Anna intervened, though her expression showed she was equally amused. "If the dramatics are over, perhaps we can be on our way?"

"Ah, and who are you, exactly?" Gwen asked, frowning at Anna.

"Donna, Miss Cooper," the Doctor said with a small flourish, "meet Anna and Kree. They are both Elders of Mendyr."

"And that means exactly nothing to us," Donna retorted.

"Jack and Eleya are our kin," Anna stated simply. "Jack by choice and Eleya by birth. We have come to aid you out of love for them."

"Sorry," Gwen said, her frown deepening. "What do you mean, by choice? Whose choice?"

"That is not my story to tell," Anna answered. "It's Jack's to tell, when and if he chooses to do so. I can see you care for him very much, so I trust you will demonstrate that by not trying to force him to give you answers before he is ready, or by trying to coerce them from others."

Gwen's mouth snapped shut, effectively silencing whatever she might have been intending to say. Anna nodded in satisfaction.

"Thank you. Now, I suggest we go quickly. Company is coming, and I believe we would be better off not allowing it to catch up to us."

Jack felt sick to his stomach when they came to where Maera sensed Bobby's presence the strongest, only to find an empty cell. He hoped it didn't mean what he feared, but he had no other explanation. There was no sign of a struggle, and Jack dared not hope that Bobby might have somehow escaped. He knew his Time Agent colleagues far too well, and hoping only made the loss so much harder to bear.

"There were two in here," Maera said. "One of them was your friend. I don't know who the other one was."

"But they were both taken from in here," Jack said bleakly.

"I'm not so sure," Maera said with a curious tone. "I'm sensing determination, not fear. I think that when they left, they were in charge."

"You think they might have escaped, then?" Ianto asked, voicing the hope that Jack didn't dare express.

"Without a doubt," Maera confirmed, grinning finally. She leaned over and nudged Jack. "Don't be so begative, little brother. Your friend is still alive and strong. Now, let's go find him."

"Little brother?" Ianto echoed in amusement as they started moving again. Jack huffed, but his indignation was tempered by the warmth that spread through him at her affection, and the memories it invoked.

She had adopted him as her little brother, much in the same way that Jal and Kyrii had adopted him as their son. It had been yet another new experience for him, and after the long-lingering trauma of losing Gray, it was a welcome one.

"I'm older than she is," he grumbled, but couldn't quite suppress a smile.

"Only in age," Maera answered back cheerfully. "C'mon, you two. Your friend is close by. Let's get this done, and then we can talk properly. I want to get to know you better, Ianto, if you're going to be my brother in-law."

Ianto nearly choked.

"He hasn't... We aren't..."

"Well, he ought to, and you definitely should be. When we're all safe, you two are going to talk to Anna about a commitment ceremony."

"Maera," Jack interjected gently, "it isn't as simple as that."

She stopped so abruptly that they both nearly collided with her.

"Do you love Ianto?" she demanded of Jack.

"Yes," Jack answered without hesitation. Maera looked intently at Ianto.

"And do you love Jack?"

"Yes, I do," Ianto confirmed. Maera nodded in satisfaction.

"Then it is that simple. Now, c'mon. We have a rescue to take care of."

As Maera ran on ahead of them, Ianto spoke ruefully to Jack.

"She's quite formidable."

Jack chuckled.

"You noticed."

"She also loves you very much. So do Jal and Kyrii. I can understand why you wanted to stay on Mendyr."

Jack caught Ianto's hand in his own and squeezed it lightly. He could hear the uncertainty in his lover's voice, and was anxious to reassure him.

"Yes, but you're the reason I want to stay on Earth."

Ianto gazed at Jack, as though he hardly dared to hope.


"Don't you understand?" Jack asked, pain fleetingly visible in his eyes. "If it hadn't been for you, I would have accepted the Doctor's offer after that year. I would never have come back. But I meant what I said. I came back for you. I love Owen, Tosh and Gwen, but I came back for you."

Any intentions that Ianto might have briefly harboured of pinning Jack to the wall and snogging him senseless were put on hold when they rounded the corner and were forced to a very abrupt halt. On one side of the corridor there was Commander Dorn and a squad of Agency security enforcers. On the other side was Taark, Bobby and yet one more familiar face.

"Joss?" Jack whispered in shock. Joss met his gaze, and a grin lit up his pale face.

"Now there's a sight for sore eyes. I really thought these bastards had killed you."

"They changed their minds," Jack said, firing a dark look in Dorn's direction. "Decided they'd better keep me around for a while longer."

"That's a mistake I won't make again," Dorn snarled, glaring at Jack who returned the look with one of equal hatred.

"Commander Dorn. I won't say it's a pleasure to see you again, because it's not."

"Where is she, Agent?" Dorn demanded. "Where is the girl?"

"Doesn't waste time, does he?" Maera retorted. Jack ignored Maera for the moment. His focus was on Dorn, and he dared not let it stray.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Time Agency did not look a whole lot different from when Jack had last laid eyes on him. Where the real difference lay was in the eyes. Dorn's eyes reflected the madness, the evil and the all-consuming hunger for power that was absorbing him. The last time Jack had seen anything like it had been when he'd looked into the eyes of the Master.

"She's safely out of your reach, Dorn."

"Is that so? Then why are you here, and not hiding like the worthless coward that you are?"

"He's no coward, you filthy shakkra," Maera snarled. Dorn looked at her scathingly.

"Stay out of this, girl, and if you're lucky you'll be let go with just the last twenty-four hours erased."

Maera bristled visibly at the curt dismissal, but Jack's hand on her should stilled further arguments.

"I'm here to end this, Dorn," Jack answered in a tone that Ianto knew all-too-well, and that never ceased to scare the hell out of him. "You've chased me and my little girl long enough. No more, do you hear me?"

Far from being intimidated, though, Dorn only laughed.

"You arrogant little bastard. You're in no position to be making demands. Your bitch daughter belongs to the Time Agency, just like you. Tell me where she is, or don't. I don't give a fuck. We'll find her sooner or later, I guarantee it. All you've done is sacrifice yourself for nothing." Dorn took a step towards Jack, and his blaster swung around to aim and Jack's head. "You always did think you were the be-all-and-end-all of everything. Well, I've got news for you, you dumb bastard. The Time Agency was here long before you were born, and it'll still be around long after you're dead."

Jack couldn't resist the urge to smirk. He didn't even try.

"I'd like to see the odds on that. Ianto? Bobby? Care to make a wager on it?"

Ianto only smiled, while Bobby uttered a short bark of laughter.

"Not on your life, Jack."

Jack grinned at Bobby's unintentional pun.

"You smug little bastard," Dorn snarled. Jack's grin faded as rapidly as it had appeared, and he strode forward until the muzzle of Dorn's weapon was resting against his forehead.

"Go ahead. Pull the trigger. Kill me. Do it!"

"Jack, no!" Joss yelled. Panicked, he charged at Dorn before Bobby could stop him. The air around them exploded into a cacophony of sound and light as blasters fired all at once. When it cleared, Joss was on the floor, unmoving.

"You son of a bitch!" Jack exploded and lunged at Dorn, any semblance of a plan going out the window at Joss's apparent death. Dorn didn't hesitate. With a feral grin, he swung his blaster around, and shot Jack in the head at point blank range.

to be continued...

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